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Living As A Single Woman In India: Problems and Solutions

By Pallavi Bhattacharya

Whereas in India of the yesteryears, most adult Indian women may have been seen as wearing a mangal sutra and sindoor or a wedding or engagement ring on their finger; nowadays you see fewer adult women bearing external signs that they’re in a committed relationship.

Why is this so? This is because a considerable portion of women in romantic relationships, no longer feel it’s necessary to proclaim it through their attire that they aren’t single. The second reason is that the population of singles in India is also increasing.

The number of single women in India is increasing

In 2015, there were over 71 million single women in India. Over the last ten years, there has been a 39% increase in single women in India. Women above the age of 20, who are yet-to-be-married, widowed, divorced, separated and deserted by their husbands were regarded as eligible for this census.

The most prominent increase in single women was seen in the 25 to 29 age group. This indicates that the marriage age for women has gone up. The average age of marriage was 19.3 years in 1990 and became 21.2 years in 2011.

The 2011 census revealed that single women in India, in the 20 to 24 age group, have increased over the years, which is also indicative of the fact that more marriages are breaking down. The greatest percentage of single women is among widowed women.

Problems single women face in India

Whereas marriage comes with its share of benefits and problems, being single also has its pros and cons. However, in a country like India, which is by and large unkind to single women, our women face more trials and tribulations than women of first world nations, where there’s more of gender equality face. The challenges Indian single women face, are multifarious.

  • Financial security

Whereas upwardly mobile women from progressive families may have been imparted a good education and have been encouraged by their families to pursue lucrative careers; there are also millions of single women in India at grass root level, who have sadly been denied requisite education, which is why they have had no option whatsoever but to go on to take on low income jobs.

Worse still, there are some very conservative homes where women aren’t allowed to work. Indian women have always been disfavoured as far as inheritance of property is concerned, more so among traditional families. Because of all these reasons, the majority of Indian women are in a weak position.

Single women don’t enjoy the benefit of living in a double income family or being solely financially supported by their husbands. So, financial problems hit them hard if they aren’t earning well and/or haven’t inherited property.

  • Safety

As many Indians live in a joint family, the safety and security issues of single women are less predominant here. However, as nuclear families are gaining in popularity, many women do face problems with respect to safety, especially single women who travel to other cities for work.

  • Harassment by society

Very unfortunately, single women are stigmatised in India. Never married women are regarded as having some ‘defect’ for not having found a husband. Although this is true the world over, it is especially significant in the Indian scenario where marriage is regarded as a woman’s ultimate goal.

Divorced and separated women are often considered as characterless for being selfish enough not to have stayed in a marriage, no matter how hopeless that marriage might have been.

Widowed women, especially in rural areas are succumb to social atrocities like being forced to live on a meagre diet, being forbidden from enjoying life, having to wear white and not often being socially allowed to get into a relationship or remarry. Single women of all kinds, are vexed with many personal questions regarding their single status.

  • Sexual harassment

Men often prey on single women, as far as sexual harassment cases are concerned. Though women of all relationship status are the brunt of sexual harassment, men erroneously think that single women may more easily yield to their advances as they assume that they’re starved of a relationship and will therefore even be ready to be with an unattractive and obnoxious married man who is old enough to be her father or grandfather.

  • Absence of a romantic partner

Though many single women may not readily admit it, quite a few of them do miss the presence of a romantic partner in their lives. Some women settle for no-strings relationships, but the more traditional kind avoid doing so.

Marriage pressures are paramount from parents and relatives. The idea, however, is not to rush into marriage and to get into undesirable relationships.

  • Loneliness

Many single women face issues of loneliness, though there are many married women who may face the same. If single women feel confident of themselves and are psychologically strong, they are far less likely to feel lonely. Having an active social life, on both, the personal and professional front, helps to ward off loneliness.

  • Motherhood

Single women who don’t have children may crave motherhood. Nowadays single women are allowed to avail of artificial insemination in India.

However society will be quick to assume that it’s a child out of wedlock and make life quite difficult for both mother and child. Adoption is another way of becoming a mother. spoke to single women of different social and economic backgrounds. This is what they had to say on the difficulties of being single in India:

Mamani’s story

Wherever you go in India, you’ll meet Indians with unquenchable thirst to know why you aren’t married. Mamani Das, Researcher and Assistant Professor in Computer Science, Kolkata says, “I am pestered as to why I am not married, especially when I attend ceremonies, family gatherings and weddings. I must admit that I do feel lonesome when I see couples happily together. I do miss motherhood and get hurt when women with kids intentionally bring up the fact that I don’t have children with the aim of making me feel miserable. There is possibility that later in life, I may adopt a child if I am still unmarried.”

As she has earned a Doctorate degree and thereby is quite professionally qualified, she earns quite well and is satisfied on the professional front. Regarding managing her finances, she says, “I did have to financially struggle when I was young as my father was unwell. To an extent, I funded my own my own higher education. So, I understand the value of money. I am a cautious spender and save prudently.”

Fiona’s story

Fiona Caroline, a single mother and Retail and Education Manager from Mumbai points out that Indians jump to the conclusion that a single mother must be perpetually unhappy. She says, “Most often when people ask me if I am married and I reply, ‘I’m single with three boys,’ they are stunned, because in their mind, a single woman with three boys must be someone who is sad, down and depressed, which I am not.”

Of course she went through troubled times right after her marriage fell apart. She says, “I must say that initially, when I found myself without a roof over my head and three boys to take care, my self esteem was extremely low. Even though I was a computer programmer, I just didn’t see myself able to earn even Rs. 1000/- at that time (2003) because I had lost touch with the IT industry. However, the moment I cleared my interview, I never looked back.”

On the personal front there were issues as well. She narrates, “I asked for my mum to give me shelter and that I would pay her a sum of money for living in her home. I did incur a lot of trouble during that period with my own mum. I think what society says is more important to people. The whole idea of a woman coming back to her parents’ home is not really acceptable to one’s own. I have been questioned by my neighbours who wanted to know if I would stay in my parents’ home forever, to which I replied in the affirmative. I thereafter decided to never look down on my own self because the moment you do that, you give others an opportunity to look down on you.”

The courageous lady credits her educational background and faith in God for having sailed through troubles. She says, “I have held my head high and have given my 100% to my three boys. I don’t think I would have preferred my family to help me monetarily. I believe the education I got helped me reach where I am, not to mention my belief in the one above.”

When asked if she faced problems as her family is traditional, she replies, “I do not come from an orthodox family, but I do remember that when I used to go out with my friends at work on a weekend, my mum would have a problem with that. I had to tell her that I was not a teenager and that I have a life of my own. I told her that I can be single with three boys and yet enjoy being social.”

She acknowledges the fact that loneliness is a problem but also feels that there are ways to overcome the same. She says, “There are times one feels lonely, especially when one sees other friends who have a complete family. However, there is no time to feel lonely all the time as there is so much to do. I also serve in the church and work towards helping others, which leaves me less time to think. I have learnt to spend my time reading, taking music classes and painting.”

She consistently saves money as well. She remarks, “I have saved money for myself in the last 13 years and have been blessed with a good job. I am only in my second job in the last 13 years and am thoroughly enjoying it. I ensure to save through SIPs as money doesn’t remain in my hand. Sometimes it’s difficult to cater to the needs of all the three boys. However, my eldest is working now and so is my second son. They have their lives and I believe they should look after themselves and not me. They should start saving for their own future. I do not ask them to give me any money.”

Rupali’s story

Rupali Sutar from Mumbai, who has separated from her husband, is inundated with myriad questions on why the separation happened. People are quick to jump to the conclusion that the marriage may have fallen apart as Rupali is of questionable character.

Often people unfairly pin the blame on her for the separation. They say that in India, even if the marriage has serious problems and the husband is at fault, the wife must submissively put up with the miseries, continue to suffer in silence and repeatedly forgive her husband.

Her puritanical friends and acquaintances are scandalized as she walked out of a marriage. Many of them instil fear in her in terms of her financial future, instead of being encouraging and supportive.

Initially, her husband wasn’t providing for her post separation. After the court issued a formal order that he must financially support their son, he is giving the child an allowance, which isn’t however sufficient, according to Rupali.

He does take the child on outings but doesn’t adequately share more serious responsibilities like taking the child to the doctor when ill. Rupali with the help of her parental family teaches her child, her husband doesn’t share this duty. A worried Rupali says, “My son is now five. I feel concerned as expenditures will increase as my son gets older.”

Rupali was a bright student, who however unfortunately dropped out of her school after Class 10. Her parents insisted that she complete her education. She was carried away after having falling in love, studies was the last thing on her mind. Her family dissuaded her from marrying the man she had fallen in love with, as he was without a job and not too keen on having a career.

Her marriage to the same man she had once disregarded her education for, has now soured. Rupali, who now heads the housekeeping department of a call centre, feels that had her parents had the money to put her in an English medium school instead of a vernacular one and had she gone on to complete her graduation, she may have been able to do a better job.

Rupali has already received marriage proposals from two grooms whom she considers worthy of winning her hand in marriage. Once bitten twice shy, she will not make the mistake of marrying a man who is not focused on his career.

She has to put up with sexual harassment. Much to her annoyance, she often receives raunchy messages from these men. She politely and firmly tells them to back off. Rupali may remarry once her divorce comes through.

Sabitri’s story

Sabitri Dey who lost her husband to liver failure this year is hounded with nosey questions from people who demand in knowing intricate details on how her husband expired. They remind her that had her financial condition been better, her husband’s life could have been saved. They conveniently don’t mention that they did nothing to help her monetarily when she needed help.

Her late husband’s friends have however been very supportive. They regard her as their rakhi sister. They have vowed that they’ll put any man who sexually harasses her in his place.

Post widowhood, she has started working in the paddy fields of West Bengal. She has four sons, the two older sons are working. After her younger sons reach adulthood, she wishes to relocate to Mumbai, where she’ll work as a domestic helper. In West Bengal, the rate for the same work is less. She feels that this will help her save money for herself in old age and also upgrade her family’s financial condition. As of now, apart from her current income, her parents and elder sons help her financially. Had she not dropped out of school after Class 3, she could have had a brighter career.

The greatest problem she currently faces is loneliness. She says, “I deeply miss my late husband. I cry every day, while remembering him. My parents provide a shoulder to cry on. They’re very consoling. I don’t wish to remarry and my family respects my wish.”

My story

I lost my father when I was eight years old. My mother raised three children along with the help of my maternal grandparents. She never compromised on the quality of education. We were enrolled in one of the best schools and colleges of the city. She hired the best private tutors for us. We were all bought expensive reference books which immensely helped in our studies.

My mum sacrificed a lot but not buying any costly clothes and commodities for herself. We had to curtail on buying toys, expensive attire and eating out. We went on budget trips to nearby places. Our lifestyle of course underwent a radical change from the times when my father was alive, and we were touring the world with him. My mum taught Sanskrit in college, during a time when college teachers didn’t have a high pay in West Bengal.

I regret not going on to do my Masters in English. I had cleared B.A. in English Honours with good marks and had I completed M.A, I could have opted for teaching in college. That would have ensured a much better salary than the payment I am now receiving as a journalist.

As a single 38-year-old woman from a middle class family, I do have my share of problems. In Mumbai, which is one of the friendlier Indian cities towards single women, I am hardly annoyed with personal questions regarding my personal status. However whenever I visit my hometown Kolkata, I’m annoyed with stupid queries on why I am unmarried.

My mum is on pension now and at times takes up translation work. With her pay, my salary and the rent we receive from a flat of ours which I have rented out, we pay all our bills and can afford to spend on a few leisure and entertainment activities. We however cannot afford going on holidays, on shopping sprees and indulging ourselves in salons.

I do miss out on the travel part. At times, I feel irritated when some rich people taunt me for not having a more extravagant lifestyle. I feel greatly concerned about my financial future and am trying for writing assignments which pay higher and to cut down on expenses so that I can save more.

There was a time, when I didn’t know how to deal with loneliness. Now, I don’t feel too lonely. My rabbit and a spiritual group which I have joined have greatly worked towards alleviating my loneliness. My friends have got busy with their lives, especially after marriage and parenthood, so I don’t bank on them for constant company.

Taking into consideration that safety and security reasons may be a problem for a single woman in India, I have bought a flat in a very well guarded society, in the heart of a busy bustling neighbourhood. I live with a full time maid, who is very reliable and has been appointed only after a thorough background check. The main door has a safety window.

I hardly miss the presence of a man in my life. I feel that I am now much happier than the times I’ve been in bad relationships. I am not vigorously searching for a soul mate. If marriage happens, I’ll be happy though. However, if my desirable partner doesn’t come along, I’d rather be single.

What I miss most in my life though is a child. I don’t think that I am ready for adoption as my earning isn’t sufficient to raise a child. Nor do I have the time or human support to help me raise a child.

I have faced sexual harassment from men, who love to target single women. The worst case was when a married co-worker of mine in his mid sixties, gave me great grief for having spurned his advances. He went on defaming me at workplaces. He had told me, “You hardly have any choice but to accept whichever man comes to you, as you are a single Indian woman above 30.”

Also, conservative India at large, is prejudiced when they see a single woman living all by herself. In cosmopolitan Mumbai, where people are used to seeing single independent women, this discrimination is less.

However in the town of Vasai, where I live, this bias is quite strong. For instance if I go to watch a film in a multiplex in Mumbai, those selling tickets have given me a seat besides other women or a family, even if I don’t request them to do so as they know that I will not want to sit beside stags. Never have I been harassed in a Mumbai multiplex.

However, when I have requested for the same in a Vasai multiplex, I have received the answer, “Good women are married. They never come alone to watch a film in Vasai. Bad women like you come to watch a movie all alone for obvious reasons. We cannot help women with nefarious motives like you.”

I tried to explain to them that I live all alone and nor am I in college that I can come with a group of friends. So, I have no option but to see a film alone. The reply I got was, “Then you shouldn’t watch films at all but stay at home and cook instead, as that’s what a chaste Indian woman does.”

I told them that I am a journalist who covered film beat and interviewed stars. So, I couldn’t afford to stay home at cook and clean all day ‘to prove my chastity’. I had to watch films to keep up-to-date with Bollywood, if I missed the premiere I had to buy a ticket to watch the show.

I also pointed out to them that a man can come alone to watch a film, without being labelled as characterless. So, why are they being biased towards a woman who was doing the same? They were surprised to hear that I was a journalist. They didn’t have a logical answer to the gender discrimination point I had made. So they rudely said, “Buy a ticket or get lost.”

Manju’s story/Sociologist’s views

Manju Nichani, Principal of K.C College is also a Sociologist who leads a happy and fulfilled life as a single woman. A dynamic administrator, a great orator and a practical visionary- she has led K.C College to become one of the best educational institutions in the country.

Her enthusiasm for life and her desire to make K.C better than the best are her defining qualities. She herself says that she has never felt the loss of a husband or children since her students are her children and she would never give up the freedom that she has had to lead her life as she wished.

When asked why single women in India were so often discriminated against, she answered, “Indians generally have a social mindset that women must all get married by a certain age. If a woman is not married then people automatically assume that there must be a flaw in the woman or that she has suffered from a broken relationship. It is just unimaginable for people to think that a woman might have consciously chosen not to get married. My parents too had reservations when I told them that I did not wish to marry as I desired to concentrate on my career and did not want to compromise on my freedom to take my own decisions. Later, however, when I got a good job and secured a good position in my career, they changed their mind and agreed with my decision. But the startling fact is that despite me now being above 60 years of age, I still get asked why I have not married. People automatically assume that I have missed out on something important in my life by not entering the wedded state.”

When asked about the pressure to get married that every Indian girl faces, Nichani said, “Indians are so preconditioned to marriage that there is a huge psychological pressure upon girls, both in rural and urban areas, to get married. I recently met a young girl who has a flourishing career but is unmarried and this is a source of great worry to her mother. The mother was anxious about who would look after her daughter once the parents passed away, even though the daughter was well off financially. So even in today’s age the pressure to get married remains the same. However, I feel that things will change as more and more women will themselves wish to remain single and devote more time to their careers”

To the question whether single women face more of sexual harassment, Manju Nichani replied, “Women, both married and unmarried face sexual harassment. However a single woman can be targeted more easily as a sexual predator assumes that such a woman has outgrown the conventional age of marriage so has no choice in the matter and will accept his advances.”

As far as issues of loneliness were concerned, she pointed out, “Loneliness is more of an emotional mindset. I live all alone in a big house but have never felt lonely as my friends and relatives are always around. With my friends I socialize, go on trips together, and on girls’ night out. ”

Regarding financial woes that a single woman faces, Nichani explained, “It’s not as if married women do not face financial issues. There are situations where a woman’s alcoholic husband squanders away all her hard-earned money and she has to provide for her entire family. Today more and more single women are working, even those from underprivileged sections. The problem that still exists is that women don’t stand up for their rights. Women have a legal right to their parental property but do not wish to fight their brothers in court for it, hence give up their right. So women accept subjugation without realizing that they are merely furthering patriarchy.”

On old age and its problems, she said, “Old age issues exist for everyone. Nowadays, there are some very well managed old age homes which have all facilities. I know of many people who have already registered in such societies and homes and many who are happy living there. Such societies cater exclusively to the senior citizens and have excellent health care and recreational facilities. Besides, there are no guarantees in life. A married woman may become a widow and have to live her old age alone or children may be living far away and may not be available or willing to take care of mothers who have grown old.”

Ms Manju Nichani’s clear opinions and positive frame of mind tell us of a strong, passionate woman who is full of the zest for life. She is an example of what every modern woman longs to be – someone who lives life on her own terms and is her own woman.

The Social Worker’s Opinion

Rekha Mody, activist and social worker, a pioneer in women empowerment and founder of the NGO Stree Shakti says, “A single woman’s life is full of challenges. Life becomes more complicated in the autumn of life. We have information that women of age seventy and above carry on working in fields, as vegetable vendors and as workers in un-organised sectors. With age their earning capacity goes down, their saving is not enough to sustain them. Health issues, isolation and lack of social security makes life tough. The social structure does not offer solutions, it is an area much neglected by civil societies and the Government, both central and state. The new ageing policy of India should look into this sector seriously.”

The Psychologist’s Opinion

Dr. Cicilia Chettiar. Head of Department of Psychology, MNW College, Mumbai, agrees that single women are socially discriminated in India. She says, “India definitely is more closed than progressive nations when it comes to accepting a divorced or single woman. In India, a major problem of single women is facing the world outside. If you’re in a metro it’s still manageable, but in the smaller cities, single women are looked down upon, especially if they are divorced. The lack of social support and the gossip behind their backs makes it very difficult for them to survive on a day to day basis. The typical caricature of the eccentric single spinster who can’t get along with others is however slowly receding.”

Regarding mental health problems linked to singlehood in women, she says, “Companionship remains a big challenge. What it boils down to is how complete the woman feels by herself. If she is unhappy with being single then she can face a range of psychological problems with low esteem and depression topping the list.”

She agrees that finance may be an area of concern for a single woman. She explains, “Financial security is primary. Not having to worry about who will provide medical and financial support till her last breath takes away a big part of the woman’s worries. So it is important for women to have a solid financial plan, a home of her own, basic independence in terms of transportation, investments and a set of trustworthy people whom she can fall back on during emergencies. If there are children involved, the accompanying financial pressures make life challenging for the mother and the child.”

Solutions for the problems single women face in India:

  • Parents must be motivated to educate their daughters as well as they educate their sons. Education is now a fundamental right in our country, children are now entitled to free education in a neighbourhood school till elementary school, making it easier for economic unprivileged families to send their kids to school. If more women complete higher education, we’ll see more of them with high salaried jobs.
  • Many women are disallowed to work despite the fact that they are highly educated. Whereas we have national campaigns on the need to educate the girl child, awareness should also be spread that a woman who is willing to work should not be forced not to do so. Many Indian men prefer a homemaker as a wife. Often in-laws also insist for the same. At times, women themselves leave their jobs after marriage if their husband earns well. If the marriage falls apart or the woman is widowed, she may have a hard time getting a job matching their qualifications because of a career gap.
  • Women go on drawing the short end as far as inheriting property is concerned. There needs to be national campaigns encouraging that women are not disfavoured as far as inheritance rights are concerned.
  • Single women need to wisely plan their finances, try hard to save regularly and be cautious about expenditures.
  • For single who miss the presence of a child in their lives, may consider the option of motherhood either through a sperm bank or adoption. This may only be done if one has ample finances to raise a child and can devote time towards him/ her. Else, one may spend quality time with nephews and nieces. One may also engage in a profession or hobby which allows constant interaction with kids, like teaching or volunteering at an orphanage.
  • The solution to security problems is to live with roommates, and/or a protective dog (provided you can afford one) in a safe and secure neighbourhood and not to divulge personal details to strangers.
  • Feeling loneliness is more of a state of mind. A psychologically strong woman is not likely to face the same. Living with people or pets, keeping busy and engaging in social activities reduces chances of loneliness.
  • India still has a long way to go before the nation becomes kinder to single women. Parents need to teach their kids right from childhood that they should respect women of all relationship statuses. The point however is that the parents themselves need to be educated in this regard.
  • Remarriage or getting into a relationship should be a viable social option for widowed and divorced women. Irrespective of that the fact whether the woman decides to head to the altar again, opt for a live-in relationship or have a no-strings-attached relationship; it would be nice if she’s not pestered with questions or judged or misjudged based on her personal choices.


How to Plan for Your Child’s Higher Education Based On Their Age

Remember Farhan Qureshi in 3 Idiots? His father had planned out his education and career the day he was born. Though the senior’s Qureshi career choice, i.e. engineering was different than his son’s passion for wildlife photography, it emphasized the importance of planning for the child’s higher education.

Having a child is a rewarding experience. It is a pleasure to watch them growing into confident young teens. But in all this happiness, one shouldn’t ignore the higher education cost which is increasing at a great pace.

Source: The Economic Times
Source: The Economic Times

As per the above image, at least nine of India’s top business schools have either raised or are in the process of increasing the course fee by 7%-30% for management aspirants. It means there will be an increase of Rs 46,000 to Rs 3.2 lakh, depending on the institute.

This fee hike is a wake-up call for parents saving for higher education of their kids. As per the Assocham Survey, in the past seven to eight years, parents’ annual income might have increased by 30% on an average. However, the education cost has increased by over 300% during the same period.

This exponentially rising cost has no dead end. If current trend will continue (which will surely), then making your kid a doctor or an engineer will not be child’s play.

What is the solution?

Every parent wants to give the best education to their child without any financial hurdle. It can only be achieved by choosing right investment options, which will depend on the age of the child.

It means the investment choices and strategy for parents of children in the age group of the 3-5 year will be different than the parents whose children are in the age bracket of 15-16.

Here we are giving the best investment ideas for three age groups:

Go for aggressive asset allocation when there is a long time

Age of the child: 0- 7 years

Time available: 10-17 years

Where to invest:

  • Stocks and equities
  • Balanced and debt funds
  • Fixed income instruments
  • Child ULIP insurance plans

What should parents do?

As time is on your side, equity funds should be the preferred investment option for you. Over a longer period, the volatility in returns is flattened out. Therefore, your allocation to equities can be as high as 70% or 80%.

The remaining investment can be in fixed income instruments, like PPF, bank fixed deposits, monthly income plans from mutual funds, Sukanya Samriddhi (for girl child). You can also opt for child ULIP plans, which invest a portion of the premium in equities and the rest in debts.

High exposure to equities is required to beat the rising education cost. In the last five years, equities have given around 12% annual returns, while balanced funds and monthly income plans have given 10.5% and 8.85% (approx.), respectively.

Choose medium risk instruments when the time horizon is shorter

Age of the child: 8- 12 years

Time available: 5-9 years

Where to invest:

  • Stocks and equities
  • Balanced and hybrid funds
  • Monthly income plans of mutual funds
  • Fixed income instruments
  • Child ULIP insurance plans

What parents should do

Parents should start a recurring deposit that should mature around the same time when the child is ready to go to a college. However, if you fall in the highest tax bracket, i.e., 30%, instead of recurring deposit, start a SIP. It will be more likely to give you equal returns than fixed deposits, but are more tax-efficient.

Also, you can start NSC and open a bank fixed deposit. However, remember, the final year interest in NSC is taxable. Also, if the interest received on fixed deposits exceeds Rs 10,000/annum, the tax is deducted. Here again, child ULIP plans will not only generate good returns, but they will also give you a tax-free maturity amount.

Play safe when the goal is near

Age of the child: 13-16 years

Time available: 1-4 years

Where to invest:

  • Monthly income plans from mutual funds
  • Fixed income instruments like recurring deposits and short-term debt funds to meet short-term needs

What parents should do

For parents of teenaged children, the aim should be more in the capital protection. With barely a few years left, you can’t take a risk with the funds accumulated for your child’s college education.

So, at this stage, your equity should not be more than 20%. Even if you have made an investment in equities, it should also be diverted to debt fund to prevent the market exposure.

A Golden Tip:

Irrespective of the age of your child, we have advised Child ULIPs at every stage. The only way to guard your child’s future against life’s harsh reality is by buying a child ULIP.

Unlike other investment options where a parent needs to be present there to invest for the child, a child insurance plan is the only option which doesn’t depend on the parent being there.

For instance, ICICI Pru SmartKid secures the future of your child even in your absence. In the case of sudden death of the parent, the insurer waives all future premiums and the policy continues to offer coverage to the child.

Also, if you start investing in Child insurance plans now, you can make a premature withdrawal on completion of five years to meet any immediate needs, like coaching fee, music fee, etc.

Further, you can buy the plan online also and enjoy tax benefits under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act. Most importantly, it generates returns which are sufficient to beat the inflation rate.

As it is evident from the following image, when you have sufficient time, you can invest more in equities, but as you reach near to your goal, switch funds from equity to debt to protect it from market volatility.

Time Available Investment in Equity
10-17 years 90%-100%
5-9 years 65%-80%
1-4 years 30%-40%

Remember, your child’s higher education depends on the regular contributions made by you. But what if something untoward happens to you? The entire plan of your child’s future can crash. So it makes sense to buy a child ULIP plan to secure your child’s future completely.

“Being a Parent means loving your children more than you’ve ever loved yourself”

The cost of higher education is increasing in the country. Many parents who started late or pick wrong investment might be tempted to dip into their retirement saving to fill the corpus.

However, this is a mistake, and you should never prioritize your child’s education over retirement. Instead, you should apply for an education loan and make your child a co-borrower. It will inculcate a saving habit in your child after he/she takes up a job.

Further, you can use the child education cost calculator to compute how much you need to save for your child’s education and then plan accordingly.

For a parent, children are their world. They can do anything to give the best future, and when it comes to the education, saving becomes the top priority. As a parent, whatever steps you take today will define your child’s tomorrow. So invest smartly and give a happy future to your child.


Book Extract: This Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt

This extract from This Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt has been published with permission from Aleph Book Company.

My tryst with the news began early. At the age of five, my parents would make me identify little-known world leaders on the covers of Time magazine. Around the dining table, politics was a staple diet, right up there with the obligatory portions of yucky daily greens.

Growing up as a journalist’s daughter—at a time when women in the media were expected to write about flower shows and fashion—I watched my mother, Prabha Dutt, wrestle every single day of her working life with gender-driven preconceptions.

Even getting hired had been difficult. She rose to become the first woman chief reporter of the Hindustan Times, but the badge came with an initial rejection— she was told that the paper did not hire women in mainstream reporting roles.

She went on to become a tough-as-nails investigative journalist scooping such stories as the use of beef tallow in shudh vanaspati and a major scam at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, undeterred by threats and warnings from those she was going after.

My sister and I worried as children when she received ominous phone calls in the dead of night or shadowy men showed up at the door. But she was relentless in her pursuit of a good story and taught us never to take no for an answer.

When she sought to interview the notorious murderers Billa and Ranga, who had made national headlines after kidnapping and killing two schoolchildren, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra, in 1978, the jail authorities declined her request. She went to court against the decision and secured her interview just before the two men were executed, finding a place with her petition in the annals of case law.

Despite the demands of the profession she would find the time to call us at periodic intervals to check on homework and meals. Sometimes, when there was no help available at home or when we had to be dropped off for dance or swimming lessons, we would accompany her to work and play on the noisy newsroom floor as she furiously typed away to meet the day’s deadline.

In an unconventional personal decision, when my father, an Air India official, was transferred to New York for several years, my mother opted to stay back in India for at least half of that posting so as to not lose the momentum of her professional life; she only shied to the US when she got a job with the United Nations.

It was never assumed that one career took precedence over the other; both my parents had to make adjustments to accommodate their individual and collective dreams. As I grew older and started working, I often wondered whether I would have my mother’s gumption.

In 1965, when war broke out between India and Pakistan, my mother, still single and in her twenties, asked to be sent to the front line. Her proposal was rejected outright; there was no question of sending a woman to a war zone. It was still tough for women to get the so-called hard-news assignments of reporting on politics or crime, conflict reporting was beyond the pale.

So Prabha Dutt requested a few days of leave to visit her parents in Punjab. No sooner was her leave granted than she made her way to the front line in Khem Karan—all alone and without any infrastructural support or backup.

From there she began sending war dispatches to the paper, which were too good not to be published prominently. And so was born India’s first woman war correspondent.

Thirty-three years later, when I attempted to convince the army that I be allowed to report from the combat zone of the Kargil War, that my being a woman would not cause them any inconvenience, I remembered the battle that my mother and women of her generation had fought, opening the way for us to follow.

My defining memory of my mother would remain a photograph of her balanced precariously on the edge of an army tank, surrounded by soldiers, her head, protected by an olive green helmet, thrown back in a full-toothed smile, happy and utterly free.

Though she died from a sudden brain haemorrhage when I was just thirteen, my mother’s appetite for adventure, her dogged pursuit of a story, her rejection of anything that sought to constrict her, and her determination to be her own person even when it made her unpopular, would remain the deepest influences on my own life.

Much before her journalism would nudge me towards the world of news, her interventions as a parent had introduced me to the lifelong battle that being a woman entailed. When I was still in middle school, I remember her storming into school to know why I had been denied my choice of woodcraft as an extracurricular activity and been pushed into home science instead.

The woodcraft class involved the use of saws and sandpaper and heavy machinery that the school thought was unsuitable for girls. It took some vociferous arguing by my mother before the school authorities wilted and allowed me entry into the woodworking class.

Prabha Dutt was a staunch defender of the right of women to be treated on a par with men long before this notion became an idea that society was forced to take seriously. I learnt early enough that a successful woman, especially one with a public profile, would be scrutinized in the most unsparing and, quite often, unfair way.

As an unabashed feminist who has spent her life shrugging off ‘woman’ as a prefix to her identity as a journalist, I have always been loath to play the gender card when things go wrong. I am level-headed enough to recognize that neither praise nor criticism need to be taken too seriously.

But the extraordinary malice that I have had to contend with from time to time has made me pause and wonder—was I having to deal with such nonsense because I was a woman or was it because I didn’t conform to conventional notions of what a woman ought to be, or was it something else altogether?

I can’t say I have been able to find any clinching evidence for any of the foregoing, but whatever the reason, there has certainly been some strange fiction that was peddled about me. When I was younger it would hurt me just a little bit (despite my mother’s steely voice in my head encouraging me to not give a toss).

In 1999, when I came back to Delhi after a long, difficult stint on the front lines of the Kargil War, I was astounded by the avalanche of praise and positive feedback I received. But there were a few venomous whispers as well. It was said that my use of an iridium phone had given away a troop location.

Soon after I returned to Delhi, I was invited by General V. P. Malik, the then army chief, for a cup of tea where he complimented me for television coverage that he believed had been a force multiplier in the conflict. I thanked him, but also asked him if there was any truth to what was being said about my use of an iridium phone.

He laughed and said the army used the same phones and added that the Pakistani military did not have the ability to monitor such devices. He said that all journalists at the front had used the same phones since there was no other way to communicate.

The general would go on to record this conversation in his Kargil memoirs. But the internet, with its army of anonymous hatemongers, still tried to keep the absurd story alive. As I grew older, and more experienced in my profession, I recognized that every achievement would provoke a round of antipathy; it just came with the turf.

What I have never quite been able to comprehend is why I have often been singled out and made a symbol of everything that has been wrong about the media coverage of a major incident or event, even if hundreds of other journalists have also been present—as they were in Mumbai when the terror strikes took place on 26/11—or even for stories I had not reported on personally, such as the night police officer Hemant Karkare was killed.

In particular, I was taken aback by the vitriol of an Amsterdam-based blogger, whose vituperative rant was filled with all sorts of defamatory inaccuracies, including the old Kargil slander. His post was being emailed and shared on social media sites like Facebook.

I decided to stand up to the lies that were masquerading as a media critique and sent him a legal notice. He hastily took his post down; a development that would generate fresh controversy.

The blogger would justify his article later by saying that he had drawn his information from user-edited Wikipedia. Wiki’s many gems about me included gifting me two Kashmiri husbands I never had. Apparently, it still has a spouse entry for me, though I have never been married.

A few years later, I was—to my astonishment—charged with helping a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) politician, A. Raja—a man I have never met—secure a Cabinet berth in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. This was despite the fact that I had reported extensively on how the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was firmly opposed to his presence in the Cabinet.

The controversy, fuelled by some fellow journalists, broke after 100-odd phone conversations between Nira Radia and hundreds of people, including me, was leaked. Apart from the ludicrousness of the assumption that I had the clout to influence Cabinet formation— or any interest in it—what struck me as odd was that only a fraction of the 5,800 recorded conversations was leaked and nobody quite knows who picked what to keep secret and what to make public.

I knew Radia (though not particularly well), like hundreds of other senior journalists, because she was the public relations strategist for two of the biggest names in business—Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata.

At one point in 2009, when the DMK and the Congress were at loggerheads because of Manmohan Singh’s reluctance to take Raja and T. R. Baalu into the Cabinet, I was keen to hear the DMK side of the story. I knew absolutely no one in the DMK, perhaps because of my north-Indian focus.

Somebody told me that Radia was close to the DMK’s Kanimozhi, so I spoke to her as one among multiple sources to get a fix on what was going on behind the scenes. A journalist’s relationship with a source—any source—is always part- acting; you flatter to deceive and act friendlier than you feel in order to elicit the maximum information.

My conversation with her was no different—a gossipy exchange of notes on who was in and who was out, what the DMK might settle for and how much the Congress might be willing to compromise.

On air, I kept underlining how opposed Manmohan Singh was to the entry of Raja, something he failed to prevent because of—what his former media adviser Sanjaya Baru would later confirm in his memoirs—pressure from the party.

“Why don’t you just say sorry and be done with it?,” was the advice given to me by some well-meaning colleagues as a way to end the controversy. I remember one of them even saying people derived psychological satisfaction from an apology: that was the way to deal with the situation, rather than to aggressively defend oneself, which was my way.

I refused point blank—there was absolutely no way I was going to apologize for something I hadn’t done. But to make the point that just like I asked questions of other people, they must also have the same right to put questions to me, I opened myself to being grilled by a panel of four editors on an unedited programme that was aired on prime time.

If I have one regret about those hurtful few weeks, it’s only that I spent too much energy explaining myself; I should have let my work speak for me instead. But stuff like this remained, at best, an episodic blip on what has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to understand India.

This Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt is available on Amazon.inYou can connect with Barkha Dutt on Twitter.