The single life in rural Tamil Nadu | Milaap

The single life in rural Tamil Nadu

Written by our fellow, Kurt Herzog who is working closely with our field partner GUARDIAN & GMF in Trichy, Tamil Nadu “Are you married?” I find myself answering this question regularly these days. The first time it caught me off guard; I had only ever been asked about my marital status indirectly when filling out medical forms. I replied “no,” but then came the real challenge: “when?” and “why not?” I didn’t know the answers to these questions myself, let alone how to explain non-existent marriage plans to somebody with a limited English vocabulary that somehow included the word marriage. But now, after almost two months in Tamil Nadu, I have come to expect the marriage question. In fact, I actually enjoy talking about the subject.IMG_0487 copy

Temple visited on the journey to get bananas (see story below)

I like talking about marriage with men, in particular, other bachelors. This is not due to my curiosity about someone else's marital status, but the interest of whomever the young, unmarried man is that I happen to be talking to in mine. Once another bachelor finds out that I am unmarried, he greets me like an old-friend. His eyes widen as he smiles and pats me on the back, as if congratulating me for maintaining my eligible status. I feel like I have been accepted into a brotherhood, as if sharing this piece of information has formed a bond between us that can only be broken by, well, marriage.

IMG_0495 copyGuardian field officer and his son

Last week I was about 50 kilometers outside of Trichy, Tamil Nadu visiting the recipients of loans for building toilets when I had the pleasure of meeting another 23 year old bachelor. I was traveling by motorcycle between villages with a Guardian (Milaap field partner) loan officer, when we stopped by his house to pick up some bananas. I had tried to buy some earlier in the day from a street vendor, but he insisted that we get the bananas from his village because they were the best. When we got to his house, he introduced me to his family, which was about 15 people. His brother, 23, happened to be at the house, and we struck up a conversation. After we had exchanged marriage no’s, he grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously. He asked me when I was expecting to get married, and I held up one hand to show five years. Then I help up my other hand to show eight years, then finally all ten fingers. Each time I raised the number of years, I was greeted with wider smiles and louder exclamations. He then sat me down in a chair (while everybody else was standing) and had a cousin bring me refrigerated mango juice and a coconut sweet.

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Colorful house in the field officer's village

It was just one of many similar conversations that I have had during the Fellowship, although it was an especially memorable introduction. Although I have yet to figure out the fascination with my bachelor status, I’m glad that it allows me to connect people whose lives are often very different than my own.