Single In The City

Single In The City by Sunny Singh

This book is a chance to swap stories, develop a single women’s network, voice their concerns and hone their survival skills. Sunny Singh draws on her own experience as well as that of other single women all over the country: the never-married, the divorced and the widowed to put together a witty and insightful book that is as much a guide for single women as it is a commentary on modern, urban society in present day India.

The stories related here with frankness and humour cover a range of subjects such as: power, promotions and passion at the workplace; how to ensure safety in the house and on the road; identifying sexual harassment and fighting it; how to make money work; single motherhood; being single among couples; how to unclog drains, fix leaking taps and punctured tyres; romance, its joys and sorrows.

Sunny Singh’s debut novel, Nani’s Book Of Suicides, was hailed as a book of ‘rare scope and power’. Single In The City: The Independent Woman’s Handbook, an unusual and path-breaking book which explores the meaning of being a single woman, illustrates once again her special talent and versatility. An illuminating read to empower yourself and celebrate the joys of living alone.


In my grandmother’s village in Bihar lived a most astonishing woman. Beautiful, stern, an amazing horse rider, and the village’s best shot with a rifle. She lived in her own house at the far end of the family compound and oversaw the farming on her own land. When the men discussed serious matters in the chaupal, her voice was the only female one raised and heard.

As a child, I was fascinated by Urvashi because she wasn’t married or widowed although she was as old as my grandmother. She was free from rules and made up her own as she lived. Of course, as I grew, I noticed other single women who were forging their own paths through life.

My grandmother, widowed at an early age, was another single woman who handled property and legal matters, ran the household, oversaw the farming and the disposal of the crops. My aunts, young, educated and unmarried, were the flipside of the single-woman coin; they were single by choice not circumstances. In their strength of character, articulation of their needs and steely determination to cope with life, these women provided inspiring role models.

When I began researching the recent urban phenomenon of single women for a book, I assumed that such role models were few. After all, most researchers and reports suggested that the single woman was a contemporary trend, brought on by economic liberalization and social change. Many analysts held liberalization, satellite TV, and the Western influence responsible for the growing number of single women in India.

Yet, as I spoke to single women across the country, they all referred to role models at home. “I never thought of Americans or foreigners,” says Hema. “I had a teacher in school who lived on her own although she was in her forties. She lived alone in a little house, drove a red Fiat and had short hair. Back in the sixties, in small town in Madhya Pradesh, that was a rarity. Now when I look back, I suppose I really wanted to grow up to be like her. She was beautiful and intelligent and seemed a lot happier and stress-free than all the married women around me.

Hema isn’t alone in finding her role models close to home. Many women mentioned a widowed aunt, an unmarried teacher or a neighbour as their childhood ideals.”

Another homegrown phenomenon amongst single women is the wariness of the feminist label. Most single women don’t consider themselves feminists although they are living, practising proofs of the women’s movement. “When I think of feminism, I get this image of a foreigner burning bras and talking about her right to have sex. That is not what I am interested in,” says Aparna, a university student.

Indian feminist leaders have also failed to capture the imaginations of the single women brigade. “They are all hypocrites,” says Amrita from Patna. “They sit in their ivory towers in Delhi and Bombay and talk about feminism. They have no clue about the difficulties women like me face in places like Bihar.”


“Singh does begin to fill a gap which needs to be filled: she puts single Indian women in touch with each others’ stories…Single In The City is less an operational manual than a way of networking experience, and for that alone it is an interesting read.” — Business Standard

“It is Sunny’s no-nonsense approach to the single life that makes her book worthwhile…Her book is tailored for real life, not for a fairy-tale existence…It’s a safe bet to join the sisterhood of singles in this brave new millennium. Hand in hand with Sunny Singh, you can’t possibly put the wrong foot forward.” — Indian Review of Books

“The publication of the book by Penguin can well be read as an acknowledgement of the fact that the single woman in India has arrived! The book legitimises her existence and recognises the varied dimensions of her experience. In fact, the most refreshing aspect of Singh’s book is that it doesn’t moralise.” — Deccan Chronicle

“The experiences of the never-married, the divorced and the widowed are put together in this witty and insightful handbook for the independent woman… The Independent Woman’s Handbook is an unusual and path breaking book which explores the meaning of being a single woman in the league of Ally McBeal and Bridget Jones. All said and done, it’s an illuminating read to empower yourself and celebrate the joys of living alone.” —

“Singh’s book explores the meaning of being a single woman, either out of choice or otherwise, and in the process puts together some warm and humorous stories coupled with real life experiences, making it a treat to read…. Singh writes in a casual, brazen style in a first person, conversational tone – more like a woman-to-woman monologue. No, make that dialogue, because even though the reader isn’t doing any talking she is definitely relating, nodding her head and filing away the little details in her mind…. I, for one, wish I had found this book two years ago when I took the big step.” — Midday, Mumbai

“The synopsis says that the writings deal with issues facing the lives of women who could be single (by choice or compulsion), divorced or widowed. But trust me, it will do wonders for the “married and working and the simply housewives” lot too…The personal touch given to the book is what makes it a must for all women. You will enjoy seeing your reflection in it, sharing the funny moments and your indignation at the male chauvinism with your friends. Sunny has certainly done her homework and it shows…” — First City