Inside a Community of Single Ladies Who Celebrate Their Singleness

At Status Single, a community open to single women in India (and soon other countries), being single is a celebration of women’s agency in an otherwise patriarchal society.
Single Ladies Who Celebrate Their Singleness
Photo: Getty Images

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, a writer and former journalist based in the city of Kolkata, India, understood the world of the single woman in India soon after losing her father to suicide. 

The discrimination faced by her recently widowed mother within the community was all-pervasive; she was denied the right to participate in wedding rituals, baby showers, and other auspicious occasions. She had to remain hidden from society’s gaze, thanks to the age-old Hindu belief that a widow was a source of shame for the family and if even her shadow fell anywhere, it would be considered an inauspicious sign. Inside the home, the expectations from her mother were to be a “good daughter” and the “perfect mother” – there was no life to be lived beyond these roles imposed by society.  


“When my mother reached my current age – 44 – she fell in love with a man from a different community, who was 13 years younger than her,” Kundu told VICE. “That’s when even my mother’s friends got jealous of her, wondering how she could ‘dare’ to find love at an older age after having lost her husband.”

It certainly didn’t help that he was from another caste and community. Ignoring all the brickbats, Kundu’s mother eventually married him at 44. But her mother’s experiences would prepare Kundu for the life of a single woman in India. According to the latest census data, over 71 million women in India, as of 2011, are single – a 39 percent rise from 2001. This number includes widows, women who’ve divorced, and unmarried women, as well as those separated from or deserted by their husbands. Comprising 12 percent of the total population in India, survival is an uphill battle on many fronts for single women. 

In India’s Jharkhand state and other tribal areas, for example, tribal women often face an uphill battle in inheriting property, and, in some cases, allegations of witchcraft are wielded against them to silence their claims. They might be branded as witches on the most absurd of suspicions, socially excommunicated, or worse still, lynched by villagers, their corpses left to rot in public. In 2020, the Jharkhand government even rolled back an ambitious scheme by the previous government that encouraged women, in general, to register the property under their names by paying a meagre amount of Rs 1, citing loss to the exchequer due to apparent “misuse” of the scheme. 


In terms of government-recognised documentation, many widowed women need to carry their husbands’ names to avail of social security benefits including those from welfare schemes or from their husbands’ pensions. In 2016, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, a branch under the Indian government, released a “comprehensive social protection mechanism plan” to address these issues. However, little has transpired since and many women, especially those from economically weaker backgrounds, have to rely on parents to secure address proof, so that they can open bank accounts or take out loans. 

Owning being single

Kundu understood the implications of being a single woman more profoundly when she had to wheel herself into the emergency ward of a hospital in Bengaluru after having a seizure just before she was about to lecture at a leading media and IT institute in the city.

“I was single-shamed in that posh hospital of Bengaluru where they kept asking who I was accompanied by and why I was alone,” she said. “Later, another doctor, a gastroenterologist, told me that I would have no one by my side if I stayed single and that I should get married because I had inherited so much property. Mind you, this was a doctor speaking.”


When filling out the hospital admission form, she wrote “single” under “marital status” — a moment that stayed with her and would later inspire the title of a book she would write, Status Single

Today, Status Single is also the name of an online community with more than 3,000 members on Facebook. It was founded in 2018, shortly after the publication of the book. The first offline meetup was held in Kolkata in October 2021. Kundu had interviewed a few women from the community for the book that details the single woman’s experiences — from facing housing discrimination in the city’s metros to being forced into heterosexual marriages. 

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The Mumbai chapter of Status Single. Photo via Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

For targeted interventions, Status Single has nine city-specific WhatsApp groups in cities including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Lucknow, and Kolkata, administered by the respective city chapter presidents. Future plans include expanding Status Single into a foundation that has three core branches: legal, medical, and financial, led by single women specialising in these fields. There are also plans to open a chapter in Dubai, UAE. 

“It’s primarily a support group, but also a space to vent,” said 48-year-old Supreme Court advocate Amrreeta Swarup who’s a member of the Delhi Status Single WhatsApp group. “We have lawyers in the group who help other single women, surgeons and doctors who [share their expertise], and even chefs.”


The idea behind starting the WhatsApp groups was to create a support system for single women across the country, including those who might be newly single. Membership is free and voluntary. The only criterion is that one must identify as a single woman. However, members are not expected to be bound to their single status if they fall in love and/ or choose to get married in the future. Kundu clarified that once a member is married, they can exit the respective city-specific WhatsApp group but can still attend Status Single events where allies are allowed.

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A meetup of Status Single in Delhi. Photo via Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

For Swarup, who is single by choice, marriage was always off the cards because she believed that would mean living a life that revolved around her husband and his family. “I don’t have anything against men. I’ve had good men in my life. It’s just that I never felt the need to marry. My parents are okay with my decision, as long as I’m financially secure and independent.” 

Swarup has been travelling solo for the past 20 years and has been to the Himalayas in Kedarnath to the dreamy canals of Venice. “I treat myself to a good travel experience every year. Why wait for someone to accompany me?”

Maintaining boundaries 

Kundu wanted Status Single to be more than an online community limited to a few hanging texts. That’s when she started organising offline meetups where members could physically meet and talk to each other, maybe even share a drink or two, and meaningfully engage with each other. 

“Offline activities helped us form a more cohesive collective that helped during the pandemic,” she said. “We roped in HR and finance professionals to advise [members] how to run their businesses, [as well as] hosted online mental health workshops.”

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The Kolkata chapter of Status Single. Photo via Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

While the community strives to provide a strong support system for members, Smita Maitra, 57, who works as a home science teacher in the city of Kolkata and is also the president of the Kolkata chapter, pointed out that they aren’t professionally equipped to address the mental health care needs and concerns of individuals. In instances requiring expert care, members have been guided to qualified mental health professionals to better address their needs. 

“We are an open community and accept anyone who claims to be a single woman, but we are not technically a mental health group,” she said.

Maitra shared that these emotional needs can, at times, manifest as feeling triggered by a seemingly harmless comment or experiencing resistance towards sharing in the achievements of others, likely stemming from a variety of reasons including crushing self-esteem issues. Helping address these needs then becomes vital to maintain the overall well-being of the community.

“It’s not always about meeting physically, but having that sense of companionship,” said Maitra. “If I have to go to Delhi and I’m feeling lonely, I can call the Delhi chapter leader and [possibly] have some activities organised.”

Does Status Single get unsolicited texts from men wanting to join their group? Maitra said that the process of admitting a member into the group is comprehensive and includes checking the profile and online presence of a potential member, and knowing where they work. Potential members are also made aware of the community guidelines to be civil, including not encroaching on an individual’s personal space. 


Creating new milestones 

Vrinda Vats, a 26-year-old teacher and PhD scholar based in Bahadurgarh in Haryana and a member of the community, has vowed to stay single for the rest of her life, and it has nothing to do with men. While working on her master’s thesis on single women in India, she realised the full extent to which single women in India are marginalised and also found her own place within the community. 

“The way our society is structured, marriage seems to be the most crucial aspect of one’s life, [something] I don’t see myself agreeing with,” she said. “I don’t fit into the institution of marriage. I have a different way of looking at life – one in which I can devote my life to social work instead of investing in a family. I’ve actively chosen this path where I derive my sense of worth and happiness from working for those less privileged than I am.”

Vats credited the women of Status Single for doing creative things with their lives and for being financially independent, which helped her see that there was more to life than just getting married at 25. 

For others in the community, being single was not necessarily linked to their marital status on paper, as was the case with Maitra, the home science teacher and Kolkata chapter president. “Even when I was married, I managed everything on my own, including taking care of my daughter, in-laws, and the house,” Maitra said. “There are many women who are technically married but operate as single women. How many days of the year does the wife of a marine engineer or an army man have her husband to herself?” 

Kundu reiterated that the Status Single community never actively discourages women from falling in love or getting married, and doesn’t advocate hatred towards men, either. The focus is instead on having women recognise their own agency. “We have themes every month where we discuss litigation one month, caregiving the next, how to date after a bitter divorce, ways in which one can start their business and [how to take care] of one’s child when one decides not to have primary custody of them,” she said. 

It is this relatability of common issues on a deep level that has found resonance with single women across religious lines. “It’s not just a group of Hindu women,” Kundu clarified. 


Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

“Our Bengaluru chapter lead is a Christian woman and Karnataka’s first female pastor. She walked out of an abusive marriage. The Lucknow chapter lead is an elderly Muslim woman [who lost her husband]. She was shamed because she dared to start her own business and was told instead to read the Quran.” 

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