Thursday, December 10, 2009

Infidelity in the West and in India

The media in America is going beserk over Tiger Woods’ infidelity. Jokes, videos, news reports and blog posts are flying around faster than you can blink. The Indian media has jumped in too, and India’s leading English daily, the Times of India, is reporting the news on the front page! It doesn’t take much imagination to come to the conclusion that our Indian media would not get this hyper if the news had been about the extra-marital affair of some revered Indian sports star. Sure, there was a scandal about Mohammed Azharuddin some years ago, but his reputation had already suffered because of allegations of match-fixing. Most of the time our media seems to give us the impression that our sports stars all lead divine lives!

Which is quite impossible because infidelity is as old as the hills. Poor, rich or middle class, infidelity has always existed amongst all kinds of people. Rich people might get more opportunities and they can afford to keep several women too. That is probably why in most societies (including Indian),”… Kings, landlords, rich men and merchants had many wives, just as today rich and corrupt politicians have many mistresses some even bear them children.” I have heard some fairly lurid stories about some top Indian businessmen and ofcourse, actors. However, when it comes to actors, the Indian media does report it freely, like they did in the case of Aamir Khan. The story died down quickly though, apparently because Aamir denied it. Amitabh Bachchan’s affair was Rekha was also reported by film magazines (not the mainstream media) but then slowly the reports died down. Amitabh has gone on to BBC’s Hard Talk and firmly denied the affair.

Music maestro Ravi Shankar’s string of affairs with different women while attached to one is well known and he hasn’t denied it. Why should he, when it surfaced once it was all over, when he was old and well past his prime, the women long gone? Can one really believe that no one knew of his infidelity? Why, self muzzling of the press happened even in the case of  Tiger Woods. His promiscuous behavior was known to some people, some of them from the fourth estate, but it was kept under wraps. Maybe money was exchanged, maybe it was pressure or because Tigers are more good to them alive rather than dead! It was only when he had his famous accident that it attracted every kind of journalist and became a widely reported scandal. If it was an Indian sports star, it would have quickly died out and denials would have come thick and fast. In a day or two the story would have died.

Denials can obfuscate the truth when hypocrisy and prudery rule. It’s some sort of pretend game that people play, pretending that sex doesn’t exist. It’s not as if sex scandals can ruin careers. Not in India. It may hurt their personal life perhaps, but it’s doubtful that any politician’s career will suffer if an extra-marital liaison comes to light. The voting public in India  vote even for people with murder cases against them so I think an affair would pale in comparison.

In any case, it’s all covered up. One hears of politicians’ romps with prostitutes and bar girls, hidden mistresses and the like, but no names are ever given out. Stories about Tarannum’s (night dancer) trysts with well known people have surfaced, but while some names were given out, others were swept under the carpet, particularly that of  the “dapper son of a prominent Maharashtra politician…”

Prominent personalities in Europe who are caught red-handed do not usually deny their infidelity, and even when they admit it, it doesn’t ruin their career. It’s a little different in America and Britain, and public knowledge of  their infidelity has given sleepless nights to some, from America’s Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer to Britain’s John Profumo and John Major. The media is quite merciless though, unlike in India. Denials fall on deaf ears. Careers do get stalled and even end, although according to a Wall Street Journal article, new winds may be blowing in the US, with infidelity influencing voters much less than before:

Though adultery was, and still is perhaps for a minority of voters, an automatic disqualification for political office, the fact is that the moral rules by which American politicians are judged are complex and changing…

The article goes on to say that politicians who admit their transgressions and ask for forgiveness are more likely to be able to resurrect themselves.

In India we are a long way away off from people, particularly politicians, from owning up. In any case, the media helps them keep things under wraps. This gives them impunity and the freedom to live the way they want in private while continuing to lecture others.

Related Reading: All posts on Love

All posts on Sex


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