Decoding the Indian Man Part 2: Infidelity and Apologies

Is infidelity a part of Indian culture? Is it one that is accepted? Is it something that women just turn a blind eye to because of economic dependence, desperation and / or lack of self-esteem? Are Indian men capable of apologising when they are wrong? These are the questions that have been occupying my mind lately, all because of one megalomaniac that I unfortunately knew. Let’s just call him M for the sake of ease (because I will no doubt make a spelling error if I keep trying to write megalomaniac for the rest of this post).

So this post is about some of my experiences with M.  Not because I wish to provide him with an ego boost, but because I have found his behaviour so disturbing and shocking, and it has raised so many questions for me, that I feel the need to put it out there.

The last time I wrote a post about Indian men here, it was (and continues to be) quite controversial. I stand by what I wrote, they are my observations, as are these.

So in a nutshell, I met this guy M a few months ago when I arrived in Mumbai.  He is a successful business man, divorced and now single (or so he told me), intelligent, well-travelled and interesting. He pursued me quite a bit in the first couple of months, sending me lovely messages each morning and going out for dinner.  He was always amused that I insisted on paying for every alternate time, given I was unemployed and he so wealthy (or so he told me, I don’t really think I know anything about him now), but I have never felt comfortable with succumbing economic independence to anyone and I won’t be doing it now just because that is the way women behave in India (or that was what he told me anyway, that women always expect men to pay).

Regardless, I was also quite ambivalent towards him.  I was happy to enjoy trying out new restaurants (I am a bit of a foodie after all), the conversation was always interesting, and being new to a city I appreciated some company, but there was always something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  I was always clear with him that I was new to town and not interested in a relationship, but was happy to catch up occasionally. So we did every 3-4 weeks.

His intentions to me were very clear and he was not backwards in verbalising them.  He kept talking about us in the future, offered for me to use the services of his secretary and driver whenever I needed (something I never did) and even offered to father a child for me when I expressed my thoughts on children (I thought this was a very strange offer and politely declined). Our relationship never really progressed physically and this became a source of increasing frustration for him.

So last week when he essentially stood me up, then not only flat out denied it but refused to apologise for being so rude as to not even respond to a text message, and instead put me through a childish barrage of no less than 44 (yes 44) messages, I dumped him.  This I think just made him more furious, how dare I dump him!  I am not unfamiliar with the ego of many Indian men, and it really does fascinate me how it can manifest itself in purile and childish behaviour.  For heaven’s sake, just say “oops I made a mistake or misunderstood something” and move on.

When I did some research I found this great article in Tehelka  that talks about how little Indian men have progressed, regardless of social stature and wealth.  Interesting a lot of what was said here was familiar to me, not only in M but in several other middle to upper class Indian men I have come across.  The article talks about how they have been raised to not do anything or even think for themselves, not taught to appreciate others or even how to resolve conflict.  All of this was apparent to me in M’s behaviour, whilst I can never imagine him being violent, there was certainly a huge feeling that he could never be wrong, and how dare I, as a woman, even consider challenging him on it. The refusal to apologise was blatant and really quite ridiculous.  But not only did he refuse to apologise, he then sought to blame me in every way possible.

I was chatting to a friend of mine the other day about this, and got thinking about all the little things that I have observed in my last year here.  Yes, Indians do have a really hard time admitting when they are wrong, but tend to find it easy to blame others.  Why is that?  There is no shame in being wrong, in my opinion there is actually a lot more shame in refusing to admit your failings.

Anyway I digress from my story.

I went to a networking function the other night and met a woman who worked in his office.  When I mentioned I knew M she told me she was his partner.  I asked if she was his business partner, and she clarified she was both his business and romantic partner and they in fact lived together.  M had told me that he was building a house and was living temporarily with a friend.  I was shocked to say the least and made a rather swift exit.

I don’t know if she knew he was (or had made repeated attempts to be) unfaithful, but after a little digging, it has become apparent to me that he has a reputation for infidelity.  What shocks me is not that a man can be unfaithful, men and women are unfaithful the world over, but the level of his arrogance and behaviour.  If he works in the same office as her, then imagine the position that it would put his secretary and driver in if I had availed of their services per his offer.  Even worse, the man (ridiculously) offered to father a child for me whilst he lives with another woman, that is borderline psychopathic behaviour in my opinion. Is he so delusional about his own self-worth? Does he have so little respect for this woman he supposedly shares a life with?

I remember he had made a comment in conversation with me about how many Indian marriages have infidelity.   Due to a strong sense of responsibility towards their families, and the need to save face, people choose to show a blind eye to affairs and keep their marriage together.  I have seen this happen in a few instances, but I have also seen it implode on others as well.  I can’t imagine one partner can be happy knowing that the other is behaving in such a way, but then again I come from a western perspective where monogamy is still valued and divorce is not a social taboo.

Several interesting posts have been written about infidelity and sexual morality in India such as this one The Concept of Sexual Morality in India and this one Infidelity in the West and In India. In the first post it talks about affairs being common in Indian marriages and accepted, with Indian marriages staying together regardless of the infidelity. In the second, it discusses this concept and how infidelity in India is kept under wraps even by the media.

I do understand the many social pressures for families to stay together for the sake of “name”, but if M isn’t married to his partner, then there is no “name” to save here, so I still don’t understand his behaviour.  You never know what happens in another couple’s relationship, so perhaps she does know and is happy to accept his behaviour.

A part of me feels sorry for her, because my morals would not allow me to accept this kind of behaviour.  Even though my relationship with M did not progress, I still feel horribly guilty even though I have done nothing wrong. His behaviour has offended my morals.

Even if she does know and tacitly or explicitly accepts his behaviour, perhaps even indulges in it herself, I still feel sorry for her.  Is she economically dependent on him? Is so much of her personal well-being attached to being with a man that she will sacrifice her own self-esteem?  These are of course not issues confined to India, but in a country where woman are not respected (see my post on my feelings about the treatment of women in India here), is the acceptance of infidelity just another way for men to keep women down?

What do you think?