When we saw the headline "The Carrie Bradshaws of Mumbai" on the Daily Beast, we were prepared for mixed feelings.
"Forget Slumdog Millionaire. With all the thirtysomething women on the prowl - in chic sandals - Mumbai is starting to feel more like Sex and the City." So begins Keshni Kashyap's dissertation on the changing mores of her parents' homeland. Perhaps, she speculates, as a consequence of the emerging economy, there are suddenly a lot of visible single women in Mumbai, "cruising at bars, dancing at parties, flirting at barbecues and nightclubs, always with cocktail in hand, carving paths of their own, and struggling with the very American dilemma of enjoying the single life and putting marriage off just a little longer."
Sex and the City is big here and single women are leading the Cosmo life. The culture is, of course, still a conservative one, in which most marriages (like that of the author's parents) are arranged and a woman is considered past her marital prime by her 30's (given the rarity of divorce, it is hard for a woman of that demographic to find a single man in her own age group). Then too, because single women tend to live with their families, the opportunities for "dating" in the Western sense can be limited; one woman speaks of always going home even if she's slept with a man, "out of respect" for her parents.
The author, herself a single American woman, muses on the difficulties of being caught between the two cultures and the what-if of following her parents' path.
Like many Indian-American women before me, I've wondered if it might have been easier to marry the doctor from Fresno I met through the newspaper. To line up class, caste, education, and values on a grid, find out where I fall, and maybe even get engaged in four days, avoiding the potential for existential angst, bad dates and broken hearts. After all, the old Indian adage is that love comes after marriage.
But...are these the only alternatives? An arranged marriage or the shallow existence of a defunct TV show? Most of us exist somewhere between the two paradigms, surely - our lives less glamorous, or less secure, but surely more...livable? Sex and the City has always exerted a pernicious influence, dealing as it did in trite bromides, coating cliche in the mantle of a superficial "liberation" (made up largely of worrying about men and drinking cocktails) and tying problems up as neatly and traditionally as any of the fairy tales its protagonists would claim to scorn.
It's not a coincidence, surely, that it's a fairly traditional and even conservative subset of women who'd find this version of single life so alluringly glam, while the rest of us are as offended by its convenient blend of ideologies as its shallow aesthetic. It's troubling to see young women heading to the big city to quaff cocktails and buy shoes, but it's more worrisome still to see this taken up as the alternative to a traditional existence. What might be irritating escapism for those who can afford it is a nasty model for those who have less context. Carrie Bradshaw is not the ideal modern woman, not the archetypal modern woman, nothing but a poorly-drawn but winsomely acted 2-D character. Slumdog and Sex aren't the alternatives; there's a whole Netflix queue of life out there.
The Carrie Bradshaws Of Mumbai [Daily Beast]