Rimi B. Chatterjee is an author based in Kolkata, India. She has published three novels and one academic history which won the SHARP DeLong Prize for History of the Book in 2006, as well as a number of translations and short stories. She is in her mid-forties, single. Stays alone. Has two dogs. She tells Bonobology why she is happily single, despite the many relationships she has had and her most recent, ongoing one.
Related reading: I’m 44, single and not looking to mingle
She has been nominated twice for Vodafone Crossword Book Award and teaches English at Jadavpur University
“I always thought that it’s awesome to be single.”
Life is happier when you are not in a relationship. I have lots of friends. What people look for in a relationship – it is the patriarchal theory that sells you that your relationship needs to be the one-stop-shop for all your companionship needs. But of course, it isn’t.
Even when I was in relationships, I always had a large circle of friends – with whom I used to spend a huge amount of time. I grew up in the UK till the age of 10. A small, semi-agricultural town – we were the only black family in the town. We came back to North Bengal in 1979. Went back to the UK for PhD in Oxford – Study of Trade to South Asia of Oxford University Press and Macmillan – 1875 to 1990.
When I was in college, yes I had a boyfriend – and also got married to him in 1999 for three years. We were together for 10 years. I left in 2000 to IIT Kharagpur for a job. Lots of problems – his expectations – issues that had been – argued about – consequences. We had a long talk one night – in which a lot of things came up – we discovered that our idea about marriage as a relationship was completely different.
“I was more of the Western kind, and he was more of the traditional kind”
The generation I had grown up with – those men had grown up till their teens in a very strict traditional culture and then they had exposure to the stark different Western culture. Part of what they felt was configured by the influence of books they read and by the movies they see. But the stuff they have in mind is that a wife must have the breakfast ready first thing in the morning. This was the controversy on which everything was concerned.
His mother was a big issue – she was the most important person for him in his life – then – because we were very young when we got married – not now because now he has stayed alone for quite a long time and he now knows how to deal with her. His mother was an issue – because he made it that way – he never took a stand – you can’t talk like that to my mother, my mother is great, etc.
Related reading: How lethal is the Indian mother-in-law?
“Relationships aren’t about being happy.”
They are about being pulled in a particular direction. It could be any direction. If you are happy to be pulled toward that direction then you are happy. If you are not happy to be pulled toward that direction then you are upset. Like you are being pulled towards being a housewife or you are being pulled towards giving emotional and psychological support which is draining you and you are not very happy with gaining anything in return. Most of the relationships are like that. And I think most of the prescribed relationships are about getting their insecurities to swap together. Especially since I don’t have insecurities that I want to swap. I don’t get anything, I end up supporting the other person’s insecurities.
“Staying with someone all your lifetime is not a good idea.”
It doesn’t matter who they are – they could be the most brilliant person in the world, or the best lover, whatever. If you live with them 24 x 7 – it would go sour. Everybody needs space. Everybody needs time when they can be alone.