There are so many preconceptions that I brought with me when I first moved to India. Either misconceptions garnered from Bollywood films, which it turns out, are not the best guide for sorting out what is normal everyday life and what’s not! I really thought that by now a handsome, single, sexy man with a long vest thingy and a bare chest would have looked my way from across a crowded bar and then he and his friends would have walked towards me, slowly, singing and performing a synchronized dance as his special way of woo’ing me. I mean, come on! After living in India for as long as I have – and the insane amount of socializing that I do – this should have happened to me by now, right? It happens every day in Bollywood films! Yet sadly, not in my real life!
I also arrived with many preconceived notions that I learned from the Internet. This, sadly, is turning out to be a much more accurate source for information than Bollywood films (I say sadly because I am still hoping to be woo’d “Bollywood style” very soon!! haha). Most of what I learned off the net and believed to be true before my arrival in India actually really is true. It’s lovely and different and for the most part I feel truly blessed to be experiencing it all.
However, there are certain things that I didn’t have a clue about when I moved to India that I could happily live without. Noise pollution from horn blowing tops my list. And just below that is the insane amount of married and committed men who approach women here in an attempt for a little diversion. In all my life, neither in the U.S. or Spain, I have never seen such a huge number of men try to set up extracurricular activities for themselves out in the open at bars, restaurants and clubs. They even try to set up liaisons via the Internet. Personally I receive an average of three to six online invitations per week, which is an insane figure given that I am not signed up to any dating sites.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any illusion that 100% of women or men in relationships are always faithful. And I know that this isn’t a situation that is unique to India. People cheat all around the world, every minute of every day. As for me personally, as far as I know, I have never been cheated on (exes: if that is not true, please don’t tell me now!!!!). I am also very proud to say that I have never cheated on anyone. Even when I was in a miserable marriage, I broke things off first and waited for him to move out instead of looking for happiness elsewhere. I have had friends who have been cheated on, one of them had a very dramatic break up after using a reverse phone lookup to find out her boyfriend’s friend “Rob” was actually called Fiona!
Yet here it seems to me that cheating is an everyday thing for some guys. Given the ÜBER conservative Indian values and traditions, it amazes me how many seemingly unavailable men approach me or who I’ve seen approach a friend hoping to get lucky. If I had to guess, I would say that the ratio of single to unavailable men who have tried their luck with me is about 25% / 75%…with the 75% representing the guys who are married or have girlfriends. Since 99% of the guys are unattractive to me (sorry guys) and I have zero interest in wasting my time and just want to hang out with my friends they don’t make it much past hello (I have become very good at the “brush off” and have it down to 15 seconds now). Now, the guys who I actually did find attractive and who I chatted or flirted with a bit until learning they were married or had girlfriends were all pretty open about it.
Affluent men who are married or committed certainly do make interesting offers, I’ll give them that. To date I haven’t received a single ‘traditional’ date offer like dinner and a movie. The ideas they have logically include an exit plan from town and have ranged from a weekend in the Maldives to candlelit dinners and champagne in the moonlight at a 5 star hotel or sightseeing trips to nearby towns for a night away. And of course some were simply 100% direct and just asked if they could come home with me.
So is cheating an accepted practice in India? Do Indian women just turn their back on what they know is going on with their man? So far only one of my married Indian friends has said that he and his wife have an “understanding”. He says that they married each other knowing each other fully so there were no illusions of fidelity to begin with! But my guess is that this is certainly not the norm and that the majority of Indian women wouldn’t be quite so relaxed about the topic. And I know for a fact that expats living in India don’t tend to turn their backs to it when dating Indian men. In fact, a good friend recently dumped her boyfriend after catching him red-handed at a party exchanging numbers with a girl and then trying to hide it. What an idiot!
I asked around a bit on the topic and here’s what I heard:
- Cheating apparently happens more in middle-upper and upper class society than in the lower and middle classes.
- I was told that lower and middle class men are so focused on working and supporting the family that there is hardly time but personally I believe that they just have less opportunity.
- That when every Rupee is counted to make ends meet for a family that there is typically nothing extra that could be used to seduce a lover. And since – generally speaking – women like to be wined and dined, so if there is no disposable income for the wining and the dining then chances are pretty slim that these guys are going to score. I know it still happens but probably not as frequently or lavishly as if they had cash to burn.
- The more affluent men typically have business trips and meetings day and night so there is more opportunity for them to hook up with someone. They can also offer a woman a romantic night out, a short getaway at 5 star hotels and they can pamper her…so it would indeed be much easier to start an affair with those resources — and the free time.
What I still don’t have a clear handle on though is WHY Indian men seem more active in this respect than men in other countries? I moved from Spain where they are pretty damn naughty, but the Spanish men don’t even remotely compare to the Indians. One friend – I really hope jokingly – said it is the heat that makes Indian men such go-getters. Sounds like bullshit to me but it was a spin on the topic I hadn’t expected. Does the warm Indian climate really fire up naughty thoughts more than in other countries or cooler climates? Hmmmm….not sure I’m buying that idea.
For my part, I have somewhat mixed feelings about cheating in secret when the partner doesn’t know. The part of me that has never cheated is proud of that and believes that is the way things SHOULD be. But I haven’t been in a relationship since 2005 and I think I have changed a lot in that time and I’m not sure I see fidelity as such an important aspect to a relationship anymore – but again I haven’t been in love in so long that I could just be speaking jibberish.
Is it reasonable to expect to be faithful “till death do us part” now? With the high number of men who either DO cheat or are trying to cheat who I’ve come across I think the answer to that question is no. Not all of them. I’m sure that most women reading this probably think that their man would never cheat and that I’m talking about a different kind of man, with different values and morals. And I hope for them that it’s true. But it really can’t be true for every woman, can it? Those guys who I’ve met all have wives or fiancées or girlfriends, don’t they?
Given the naughty nature of some Indian men, based solely on what I’ve witnessed and know to be true from personal experience in India, it seems like these guys have very liberal views on fidelity. Views that they likely don’t express to their wives and girlfriends. Should society’s views on infidelity then soften to accommodate the reality of life as it really exists today in India? I already know that the general consensus answer to that question will be NO but the topic does make me curious. Obviously the flip side is to keep things as they are and keep everything hidden as it is now and brush the truth under the rug so to speak. I know enough about traditional values to know that this Plan B (or the way it has always been) is the preferred plan but … why? Why not be open and honest about this? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’m neither an Indian woman nor in a relationship….I’m just one of the many unlucky “prey” for these guys.
© Angela Carson, 2011