The women brigade is up in arms against a society that has silenced them for far too long. In this time of change, comes bestselling author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu’s latest book, and first non-fiction, Status Single. The author was in the city, and in her explosive style, spoke about women taking back their right to life. Published by Amaryllis, it is the first book on single women in India, who, according to a 2011 census data, account for nearly 73 million! The kohl-eyed, handloom saree-clad Bengali wears her persona with immense confidence. A postgraduate in History from Jadavpur University, she was the recipient of the United Nations Award for Best Young Writer in 2012.
Her book Sita’s Curse is India’s first erotica novel, and her new non-fiction turns the magnifying glass on unspoken stories of single women. The writer lived and worked in the Garden City, recalling, “Bengaluru is where I was unceremoniously dumped, days before my engagement and I think my life turned around from that breakdown. It will always have a bitter-sweet association.”
This single status that Kundu has dealt with prompted her to delve into the lives of single women, interviewing 3,000 and bringing out unflinching realities. Of marital abuse, rape, harassment, societal dogmas and more. “I think every single woman life in India is an amalgamation of struggle and survival — I was clear that if I ever do write a book, it will be hard-hitting, real and inclusive of all types of women —disabled and LGBTQ too. I wasn’t hoping for a self-help book, or a motivational mission statement — claiming that 40s are the new 20, which is plain bullshit! I needed to sample case studies and their real truth. From me to a movement and hopefully policy changes, societal shifts and conversations and solidarity, is what I finally dream of. Status Single, that’s in store by February 12, is a start,” says Sreemoyee.
Kundu walked down the road of angst, rare victories, and tragic defeats. “The first woman from Chennai spoke of being thrust with a job of a care-giver, to bed-ridden parents, of how men shunned her. The sheer injustice and agony coupled with her own vulnerability struck a deep chord. Each story is different, but, the aloneness of a single woman and their marginalisation is something I relate to at a deeply personal level.” While stories need to be unearthed, voiced and told, how do they create ripples of change? She says, “When the book came up for the first edit rounds, and I started sharing transcripts with women, to evaluate, change and ratify – 20 percent pulled out – they found it daunting that their personal saga was now a book, feared social ostracisation, felt threatened from a closeted Indian mentality. I was so let down by my own sex. How the word akeli and abala are synonymous. The second was a disabled woman I met who spoke of how she had been shoddily treated by prospective suitors, and their mothers, despite being a high flying corporate honcho. I think given the looming divorce rates, rampant open marriages and infidelity, 74 million women are now single! Parents must raise daughters not on a staple diet of fairytales — but on super girls like Wonder Woman. Self-reliant, emotionally strong and sexually open, to treat marriage as a life state, and not an all-pervasive character certificate,” she stresses. Meanwhile, 2018 looks busy, “My new project is a memoir Bad Blood (Bloomsbury). Am working on my fiction book Cut! It is a multi-lingual play in three languages,” she adds.
The former journalist comes from an unconventional and liberal family and gladly admits to her chequered life – her mother was widowed in her mid-20s. “She was ostracised and kept out of celebrations for fear of buri nazaar. She faced an uphill journey since her deceased husband had committed suicide – of stigma and judgment. In her late 30s, she met my father, a South Indian bachelor, a decade younger and today they share the best marriage – based on companionship, commitment and genuine caring,” Kundu recalls.
Writing is like breathing for Piu, and when she can, the beach, long walks, reading and observing people inspires her. She is categoric that singlehood is what she has chosen consciously, though it comes with it’s own angst. What is far more threatening to single women are the mindsets, clichés and unquestioned beliefs, she believes.