India’s Best Kept Secret?

Posted in
by Admin

Infidelity is as old as the hills. Yet we are obsessed with keeping it under wraps. Every now and then, Bollywood takes a tentative step to bring it out of the closet. The latest effort at ‘exploring’ extramarital relationships is Mr Singh Mrs Mehta, which releases this Friday. This low-budget film is already a talking point for its 34 kisses, nudity and even the ‘unhappiness’ of the director’s wife over some of the nude scenes. Sadly, no one talks about the content of the film.

No one is discussing the change in marriage commitments in India, or their fluidity and instability. So when news of the Tiger Woods’ affair breaks, we devour every salacious detail. The mainstream media reports it on the front page and jokes, videos, blogs and SMS forwards fly thick and fast. You may even get SMS forwards bundled with those on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. But what have you heard of on Indian sportsmen, actors, businessmen or other celebrities?

The fact is that affairs happen and they happen across regions and classes. There’s nothing like a rich man/woman’s affair versus a middle-class affair. The only difference is likely to be the celebrity’s ability to muzzle his/her affair. Remember Tarannum Khan? The bar dancer turned crorepati with alleged links to hi-profile ‘clients’? That’s right; she faded from press reports after 2005-6.

Why don’t we discuss the gravity of extramarital relationships? What inherent loneliness or emptiness is plaguing us to look for closeness outside of marriage? Why reduce social problems to soaps? Let’s begin by acknowledging them. Pretense and denial can obfuscate the truth. The truth is that infidelity is rampant and has been pervasive in Indian society.

Why then are we playing some sort of pretend game, pretending that sex doesn’t exist? After all, affairs or scandals are unlikely to ruin a politician or sports star’s career. It may hurt their personal life, perhaps. In India, we regularly vote for those with criminal charges, even murder, against them. I think an affair would pale in comparison.

In any case, celebrity affairs in India are always hushed up. Did we hear of the romps of politicians and stars with hidden mistresses? A story or two may surface, only to be brushed under the carpet.

I can still live with double standards and hypocrisy of the rich and powerful. What’s difficult to live with is the pain of a friend coping with a third partner in a marriage.

So while the rich and powerful may not own up and buy their way into muzzling the media, it should not give them the impunity to live the way they want in private while continuing to lecture others in public.

For the rest of us, let’s address a social trend which is likely to spiral into an emotional tsunami.