Being a female in her mid-20s, moreover single, how many of us have actually enjoyed the freedom to live our own lives on our own terms?
I am not sure if a lot of us would like to answer that. I will get to the point and rather say what I have been experiencing and observing: The life of a single and independent girl in Dhaka.
Back in my anthropology class during my undergrads, I remember my lecturer mentioning that youth in Bangladesh take longer to become responsible adults compared to other countries. What made her say that? There is a lot of reasons, which we will analyze later. What is worth mentioning is that being a part of that population, I quite agree.
Moving out of my parents’ place as a 23-year-old, to live independently, was a decision I took after weighing a lot of pros and cons. To my surprise, apart from my relatives being “concerned” about the girl getting spoiled (meye noshto hoye jawa), people who I considered to be my friends were also very curious to know if I moved out so that I could bring guys to my place (just because I am single? C’mon!).
I have been lucky enough to come from a family who supported me regardless of all the rumours relatives and “well-wishers” tried to fill into my parents’ ears -- starting from not having my scarf worn properly, to seeing me with multiple men around the stalls of tea/cigarette (cha-cigarette er tong).
I believe my mother was also told that getting me married might save her some shame. Nonetheless, the strong woman that she is, she kept her faith and let me explore the person I wanted to be.
It’s not that my family and I did not have our own arguments. We still do, but we eventually conclude that there is nothing more our society fears than seeing a woman rise out of the norms with the support of her family.
Now that I look back at my decision two years ago, I am quite proud of the person who writes this today
It’s true that we have a lot of movements and talks going around to empower women. However, even till date, the moment she is seen to do anything without the support of a male partner, in precise terms, when she is single, she is a threat.
A threat to what, exactly? I am still looking for the answer.
But take it from someone who has been living alone and independent for quite some time now -- we still hear statements such as “no guy from a reputed family will ever marry a girl like you.”
Well, for them, my only answer right now would be -- how come you still don’t know that you are exactly the kind of so-called “reputed” family I will not get married into?
Shame indeed, the message had been so unclear till now. But honestly, as a girl who has already decided to lead her life on her own terms in a city like ours -- we have a lot of priorities and goals in our lives that we work for, and marriage is not one of those (well, at least not in the priority list).
Taking the decision to start living on my own back in 2016 as a final year student at BRAC University, while juggling with a full-time job was a big step for me. However, as someone who started to pay her own tuition fees from an early age, I knew I was quite ready for this life regardless of all the backlash I was receiving for it back then.
Now that I look back at my decision two years ago, I am quite proud of the person who writes this today expressing her journey, the struggles she faces, the pride she takes, and the stories she shares of herself, and every other woman around her for being, and accepting who they are in our society.
Sanjida Tanny is Initiator, FogHorn, and Founder of Contentier and Hiring.