Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Driving On Single Lanes

Driving On Single Lanes

January 31, 2012

You have missed your groom. Perform a U-turn at the next available opportunity or remain lonely for the rest of your life.

That night Mr. Daler Mehndi kept me company in my loneliness as I drove the 400 miles and the eight-hour stretch between Virginia and Connecticut. While he sang “Amritsar se Amrica hil gaya, Dulha mil gaya, dulha mil gaya” (Rough translation: The world is shaken from Amritsar to America …. Because we found the groom) in a loop, my thoughts had gone on to the auto pilot mode, wondering what made him so sure that someone had found the groom. Where in hell was the groom? It is a different story if the groom is in Amritsar right now, but if he was in Amrica, surely I have not seen him.

Looking at the vast expanse of the freeway, stretching hundreds of lonely miles in front of me and eventually leading to menopause and infirmity, I sighed not for the first time at the irony of the song. It was not the I-95 North I was thinking of, it was the freeway of singlehood, the freeway where all our journeys started. However, every now and then, exits took you to another parallel freeway- the “Marriagehood” freeway. You could in fact see, wave to, and honk at all your friends in the other freeway.

Early twenties, fresh out of college, some of my friends took the exit and changed freeways. I was happily driving in my freeway, looking forward to a few vista points like an F-1 visa stamped on my Indian passport, Benjamin Franklin and Gandhi ji living harmoniously in my wallet, some international travel magnets on my fridge, and the independence to make my choices without being a trailing partner. My friends claimed that they could change freeways and look for the same vista points, but some of them never reported back. I assume they found their own unique vista points, like honeymooning in the Bahamas, respite from the nightmare of not dying single, observing Karwa Chauth as a national holiday, posting pictures of hubby dear holding a bunch of roses, updating Facebook with “<3 you honey, come back from office soon, made Rajma Chawal for dinner, XOXOXO” type status updates, and promises of a more fulfilling drive (pun unintended).

As I drove along, my better friends started to change freeways. They waved me goodbye and exited. I often wondered how it must feel like to drive in the other freeway. For here was a basic driving rule. Once you left your singlehood freeway, there was no coming back. If you figured out eventually that marriagehood freeway does not work for you, there was yet another freeway somewhere far down you were banished to. It was really far, as far as Burkina Faso, and none of my friends had ever reported back from there. Some researchers even claimed that people who took the marriage freeway lived healthier, with good cardiac health and prolonged longevity. I thought I will drive some more and find out what my freeway had to offer. My heart was beating just fine.

The drive has been awesome so far, barring a few hitches like sitting through parties yawning while listening to women rant about impending annual visits of their mother-in-law. Graduate school, gainful employment, backpacking Europe, independence, respite from planning out February the 14th, writing, convocation, dissertation, everything happened eventually. Yet recently I looked at my freeway and was shocked to see it almost empty. My best buddies who once sang “Yeh dosti hum nahi todenge” (We shall never end this friendship. Movie: Sholay)with me are all driving that same motorbike and singing the same song to different people in a different freeway. Not good news. I started seriously thinking about changing freeways, especially after parents, grandparents, and best friends all honked and waved at me multiple times, asking me to take the next exit. Although I was not really hoping to find Ranbir the Rockstar waiting for me at the other freeway, I had to ensure that at least someone was waiting. Have you ever driven on the road, knowing that you should probably take the next exit, yet you keep missing exits because of a poor navigational instinct? I missed a few exits, while Daler Mehndi persistently screamed, “Dulha mil gaya, dulha mil gaya”. Driving alone is not fun come wedding season, with all the words of wisdom of the responsibility of passing down my wonderful genes as an obligation to humanity that spills gratis with every annual visit to India. My relatives and neighbors even point me to the passing fields along the freeway, indicating to birds flying in pairs and buffaloes grazing in pairs. They enlighten me, saying nature has meant us to live in pairs. Such profound wisdom brings tears to my eyes!

As I keep driving, the weather gets a little rough in my lane. I suddenly hear the tick tock that I wrongly thought was a time bomb planted in the car until someone tells me that it is indeed a time bomb, also known as my biological clock. I sigh, realizing that as I drive farther ahead, the exits drastically reduce in number. An old driver far ahead of me puts on his emergency lights, indicating to me, “There are no more exits left out here, if you need one, you better get to the other freeway soon!” Soon there will be a point beyond which there would be no more exits to take, and I will have to keep driving with that knowledge, the time bomb of my youth already detonated. Sometimes, some suspicious and creepy drivers who got a traffic ticket and were banished to the Burkina Faso freeway honk at me to get my attention. Their suffering and optimism once again brings tears to my eyes!

I keep driving in my lane, getting unsure with every missed exit. Pushpa coyly enlightens Ramesh Babu in the background, “Ek chutki sindoor ki keemat tum kya jano Ramesh Babu” (You know not the value of a pinch of vermilion Ramesh Babu. Movie: Amar Prem). I nervously look at my balding forehead in the rearview mirror. Pushpa is right, I should probably understand the value of a pinch of vermilion, perhaps for the sake of hiding my receding hairline. For I have even heard rumors about how my lane eventually ends in a black hole.

Amidst this honking, biological clock ticking, and missing exits, I drive along my lane in the darkness of the night. Daler Mehndi has stopped singing “Dulha mil gaya”. It is little respite that the next song in the playlist is “Ooh-La-La-Ooh-La-La, Tu hai meri fantasy” (Ooh-La-La-Ooh-La-La, You are my fantasy). Paints a pretty "Dirty" (and scary) picture.

Photo credit
: Faramarz Hashemi 


  • Swapnoneel Roy
    Swapnoneel Roy
    14.04.13 05:43 PM
    I liked your article. I remember enjoying reading another titled "When I was shown the door". I'm an e-friend of your sis (Sanandita), and found her a very charming personality to talk to.

    Now on this perspective, I'm also a grad student like yourself. I won't want to blame or stereotype Indians (esp. Bengali) ladies, but what I feel the problem is its very difficult to convince Bengali girls who are also grad students/working to tie the knot when they are at a good age (25-28).

    I have seen the Chinese PhD students of our department to work this out so nicely. Most of them are couples, and both do PhD together. This works so wonderfully well. I wish I could find a partner to work the same way during my PhD.

    But my experiences were different. I found the girls of my community very difficult to convince. One reason might be they get so many "options" (when they are 25-28) that they get confused which exit to take (according to your article). Again, I'm not saying you are of the same category, I'm just trying to narrate my experiences :-).

    I wish you good luck to find your correct exit. And I need to find mine too. I'm defending soon, and joining a university in the US as an assistant professor; hopefully I'll find it easier to decide on an exit now. But how I wished I'd found one during my grad studies to fill in my lonely moments!
  • Geekay
    24.08.12 03:55 PM
    You indeed write very well. The receding hairline, the references to song of Daler Mehndi, Bhappi etc makes me chuckle. You definitely are a vivacious person enjoying that kind of music and not just the Bengali ones of older generation - Sachin Dev Burman (Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana). Hemant Kumar(Hai Apna Dil to Aawara).
  • Simrit kaur
    Simrit kaur
    18.06.12 07:30 AM
    Hi, I like the creativity, sometimes it takes a picture in your mind to get the story across.

    I have recently discovered that no matter how alone you feel, you have to make sure you build enough of yourself to give as an equal partner. You have the chance to do some incredible things where you rely on yourself ONLY to accomplish goals or travel on new endeavors.
    I would be ware that we not become so set in our ways living alone that everyday habits become uncompromising. This may also have something to do with waiting too long. Most people do get married some time or another and I feel the biggest stressor in daily married life are the little things :) The good thing is that being by yourself, you created your value, you have experience in how to live life (which you can now share)and you don't have to feel like you must rely on someone else.
  • Devasmita Chakraverty
    Devasmita Chakraverty
    04.02.12 01:53 AM
    Jyoti, I am glad you got directed to a series of websites, and I hope you like what you read.

    Rajpriya, your comment warmed my heart, it seriously did :) It also brought back memories of my brief visit to Germany.

    Sampada, you are absolutely right. What is nightmarish is knowing that you have no control over your life.

    Aatmesh, I guess it is a risk some of us take, and some do not :)
  • Aatmesh
    03.02.12 08:20 PM
    nothing wrong in having high expectation, but you run the risk of being sad/single for long time those expectations are not met..
  • Sampada
    03.02.12 11:26 AM
    Wow! amazing piece! But you know, people dont always get the choice of staying on the same freeway or changing the other freeway if it doesnt suit them.
    as you wonder about the biological clock and exits etc, I think you should feel lucky that others are not deciding the freeway for you! :)
    loved the post.
  • Rajpriya
    02.02.12 01:17 PM
    @D C,

    Oh! No I wasn’t worried. Reading your modest article where you do not blame any one for your choice of driving on an 8-hour stretch of 400 miles on single lane freeway lonely in the night shows you are a brave lady.

    That's too slow compared to how we drive on multilane German Autobahns with no speed limits. If one misses an exit he or she must be sure has enough gasoline to the next service station that can be quite far. Getting stranded on the Autobahn without gasoline is a punishable offence.

    You are slightly different to my 5-year old grand daughter Aysh who does not need to spot a camera to smile. She is my little princess whose smiling pictures are my screen savers. When I have to leave Germany for short spells and start my laptop from far away her smiling face takes all my loneliness away and my day brightens up.

    She’s always there at the arrival gate when I return (always on Saturdays), runs up to me to give me huggies to say she missed me.

    I am certain you will be the sunshine of some one soon. Wish you all the best.
  • Jyoti Agarwal
    Jyoti Agarwal
    02.02.12 11:19 AM
    Hey Devasmita,

    A beautifully written post. You know, it was because of your blog I reached amreekandesi and now Thanks for leading me to a website with amazing writers and wonderful people.

    Keep the good work

  • Devasmita Chakraverty
    Devasmita Chakraverty
    02.02.12 10:55 AM
    AA, I loved your witty comment, just the right analogy for the post. I wish you all the very best and all the happiness, no matter what lane you are in !
  • Devasmita Chakraverty
    Devasmita Chakraverty
    02.02.12 10:54 AM
    Harry, advice well taken, thank you. And the smile is omnipresent whenever I spot a camera, cannot help it !

    Kaichu, yes, you are right. It's amazing how much philosophy lies in every thought and comment.

    magiceye, I will :) Thank you.

    Raghavan, absolutely.

    Rajpriya, this is just a post of rumination for every person who might have thought of switching lanes at some point. Don't worry, I am having a gala time in life anyway :)
  • Devasmita Chakraverty
    Devasmita Chakraverty
    02.02.12 10:50 AM
    Aakashi, thank you, and point taken. No matter what lane you are in, you always wonder what you are missing out on from the other lane.

    Suneeta, I do not know where this came from, but I understand you have a different perspective of things. Perhaps it would be a good idea to acknowledge that different people have different takes on life, and not be so harsh in judging.

    zephyr, thank you :) That is the beauty of it, that you never know what you missed out on !

    Aatmesh, thank you :) What is so wrong in having huge expectations from life? Don't they always teach us to dream big, be it education, career, or employment? Why should mate selection be any different?

    shirish, to each, his own. I am glad you liked it :)
  • Devasmita Chakraverty
    Devasmita Chakraverty
    02.02.12 10:44 AM
    Giribala, thank you. The grass is indeed greener on the other side. That is where I am trying to get to :)

    satish, thank you :)

    Debalina, that is what happens when you love to drive ... everything you do gets compared to driving.

    Biddu, thank you for the link.

    Ravi, too many turns, I agree. A straight road is just what I imagined while writing this.
  • AA
    02.02.12 09:30 AM
    Hey, loved your article... well written and I can identify with it as well. Am a single Indian woman too, who was told ohhh you'll find the love of your life in America :P... of course I didn't find that. not even a wrong exit :P... I'm going back to India, though... at least there are traffic jams and no separate freeways there :P...
  • Rajpriya
    01.02.12 12:33 PM
    @D C,

    When you keep focused on a degree after another and keep driving on a single lane not knowing your destination may be the reason why you keep missing the many exits.

    May be you should mingle with crowds and keep smiling the way you did for your photo rather than watch them from a distance to crash land at your destination.
  • Raghavan
    01.02.12 11:30 AM
    Married or not - Be Happy ! - Sri Sri Ravishankar
  • magiceye
    01.02.12 10:29 AM
    beautifully written and have seen that the single freeway does have exits ahead too as long as you wish to find them!!
    drive safe!! :)
  • Kaichu
    31.01.12 08:41 PM
    Love the metaphor. I must say I hadn't thought of singlehood in these terms before :-) There needs to be more connection between the lanes, though -- the best relationships really do survive lane switches with ease, no matter which ones they're currently in.
    31.01.12 08:29 PM
    Nice article DEVASMITA.

    The best part is, you are smiling in your picture, where ever you are on your journey. One thing I will say to you is, don't settle for second best.

    This also doesn't mean you say no to all. Everything in this univers has a function, and when one does not accept this, then they are left redundant, and may not be able to enjoy what life has to offer.

    You can only ride the roller coaster if you get off the interstate, otherwise have a good journey.

  • shirish patwa
    shirish patwa
    31.01.12 12:08 PM
    There is saying that marriage is a 'laddoo',you repent if you eat it and repent if you don't eat it. If you ask me(why should anybody ask me?)I would rather eat it because I like the company of opposite sex.There are many possibilities stored there,possibilities of joy and despair,uncertainties of an adventures and sense of creation!Driving solo won't provide all this.
    Nonetheless the article is well written.Congratulations.
  • Aatmesh
    31.01.12 10:48 AM
    First of all, very well written.

    In my experience, I have felt that my female friends have always had huge expectations from life. Reason why they are reluctant to take exits as and when they present themselves. It would be incorrect to say all of them are not happy with life, but few of them ping me to ask about a common friend with whom she used to hang out in college. That after couple of years of her marriage with an investment banker. Not all exits are best taken exits.

    Successful single middle age women are common place in metropolitan pubs. They are not necessarily there because they like drinking and dancing.....
  • zephyr
    31.01.12 09:50 AM
    that was such a wonderful piece of writing about something that all married women fantasise about and all single women lament about. What wouldn't I have given to take the freeway with no exits all those years ago, but maybe then I might have been writing this post :)
  • Suneeta
    31.01.12 08:56 AM
    These saas bhi kabhi bahu thhi types can only see either singlehood or marriage. They want amerika, but fear mixing with people, romancing, sexual experimentation. They want intimacy - guarded by social orthodoxy and marriage. All the dilemmas presented in this piece are expressions of this. There is a whole life of companionship out there- a 'freeway' out of singlehood- and horror, it may not even involve marriage.
  • Aakashi
    31.01.12 08:33 AM
    Wow DC !!! very well written article. Loved the analogies on the way. I do believe its better to be single and free by choice than married and irrationally dependent by force (read business deal like arranged marriages). but I still loved your article. Good one !! keep them coming :) All the best..
  • Ravi gaur
    Ravi gaur
    31.01.12 07:16 AM
    Well written...but life is not that straight...too many turns...
  • Biddu
    31.01.12 06:25 AM
  • Debalina
    31.01.12 06:20 AM
    lovely article..the double meaning drawn from driving was pretty amazing
  • satish
    31.01.12 06:02 AM
    Excellent piece of writing. Command over a language is common enough, what distinguishes a really good writer from the rest is her Sense of Composition, and you have it. Enjoyed!
  • Giribala
    31.01.12 05:47 AM
    Very well written! But remember the grass is always greener on the other side!

Leave a comment