Sunday, November 22, 2015

What is a Good Indian Man?

I ran across a story in my newsfeed not to long ago that got me thinking, well, to be honest it got me thinking again. This is something I think about a lot. It's difficult to be in an intercultural marriage when you don't know the culture very well or don't feel that you know the culture very well.

That's how I feel. Despite having been in this relationship I really don't feel like I truly know the culture. Despite having lived in Amritsar, in my in-laws home I just don't feel like I have an adequate grasp of all that is my husband's culture.

It's not that I haven't been involved, studied and tried. I just feel there is some disconnect there. Maybe that's how it will always be for me. I don't know. I'm a very deep thinker and a skeptic at heart and I find I feel this way about a lot of things, but none seems to have the impact that this marital divide has on me.

That's where this article sparked some critical thinking for me. What is a really good Indian man? How do I know? How can I define this? The wheels of my mind began turning.

Before I met my husband I knew what I wanted in a relationship. But all of that changed to some degree after I met him. Some for the better, some for the worse. We all make sacrifices and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't compromised some of my standards to keep working on my relationship with my husband. It hasn't been easy sorting things out with the vast cultural differences between us.

I don't just mean the difference between India and the US. I mean the culture between my husband and I personally, the difference between his ideals and mine, the differences between his family and mine. Unspoken, underlying things no one realizes are there until you realize they are a problem.

Things like odd double standards or senses of entitlement. I'm many, many ways my husband is modern and readily accepts our differences. Then all of a sudden some obscure Indian tradition pops out and he can't reconcile that it's a double standard or that he's simply not entitled. To what he expects.

One such example is time with family. If we are with his family then its fine for them to expect me to sit and listen while they talk. If we are with my family, I must continually engage him in the conversation and my focus should be on him and not his family. He gets angry if I don't focus on him and insists he has always included me. As a result he tries, unsuccessfully, to shorten any time spent with my family and complains about it incessantly.

Do I feel like this makes him a bad person? No. But I guarantee I wouldn't tolerate such behavior from an American man. It's childish and unacceptable and I would never act that way toward him and his family but, since I know there are cultural differences between us I chose to work with him on this issue instead of breaking the relationship.

At the end of the day, what truly defines a good man, at least for me, is does he handle himself well. Does he chose to be secure in who he is and yet willing to work on issues that weaken the relationship? Does he contribute proportionately to the relationship? Is he genuine when he's with me? Is he faithful? Those are my deal breakers. Answer no to one single question and I see no reason to move forward any longer.

Love is never enough to build a strong foundation for a relationship. Neither are looks, weight, hairstyle or money and status. Those things do not signify the value of a man.


  1. I know what you mean. Love is not enough, that's true. As for the obscure traditions that pop up at convenient times (especially the food related ones), I take them with a pinch of salt, as I suspect it's a polite way to have his way (such as not eating his greens...).

    I think the most dangerous traditions are those who are followed but not mentioned, because resentment can build from there. For instance to my western mind being clean is good enough and a sign of modesty, while checking your appearance all the time is a sign of being vain. A social science teacher explained to me that for Indians, looking your best at all times shows you are happy in marriage and gives a good name to your family. Hubby then confirmed, but neither he nor his family had said that clearly to me before. I hate it when this happens. I'd rather he was more straightforward.

    On a another subject, I just read a book by Urvasha Butalia about partition, "The Other Side of Silence". Did you ever read it ? It talks a lot about Punjab.

    1. Interesting. Maybe that is why hubby is always checking himself in the mirror. I haven't read that book but I'll be sure to check it out next time I'm at the book store. Thank you for the suggestion.