Mad Men and Indian Culture



I started to watch Mad Men recently. For those who don't know it takes place in the 60s.
The main character, Don Draper, is a high powered advertising executive with a picture perfect family. Yet, as was typical in those days, he has a lot of affairs outside with office workers and other women.

What I found are some of the views of Indian people. Many traditional Indian Men would tend to highly empathize with Don Draper. They have a goal of a very strong family with a good public face. Yet, many will cheat on their wives. As long as it remains hidden, the situation is generally allowed to go on. It's all rather tolerable.

What I find most interesting are views of Indian women. As many have become more aware, they take a very strong stand against this behavior. Yet, many behave very similarly to Don Draper when it comes to their family. They want to maintain a very strong relationship with their family and keep a good public face. Yet, they will often have boyfriends, have premarital sex, drink... in secret. As long as it remains hidden from their parents, the situations is generally allowed to go on. It's all rather tolerable.

Disclaimer

Note, during this blog, I am not discounting the very real reasons to hide things. There are real cases of girls being physically harmed or killed for doing culturally disapproved things. If a girl is lying to avoid physical harm or waiting for her education to finish so she can support herself before challenging her family, I have no issue with that. I am speaking more of the girls whose main loss they fear is the relationship with the party they are deceiving.


Parallel Story Lines




Both Have a Good Family They Care About






Both Have Romantic/Sexual Relationships Their Family Would Not Approve Of





Both Lie/Deceiver To Their Close Family Every Day To Keep The Family Relationship




Both Fear Their Reputation If They Are Caught





Both Fear The Loss of Their Family If They Are Caught








Both Find Ways To Justify Their Behavior




Irony

The irony of it all is both these groups are some of the most vocal againct the other.
This is not a cause and effect relationship. It is just a casual anecdotal observance that has manifested itself many times before my eyes.
  • An Indian father who cheats on his wife and deceives his family will feel vehemently righteous in disowning his daughter for having a boyfriend.
  • An Indian girl who lies and deceives her family will feel vehemently righteous about lambasting Indian men who cheat on their wives
Again, one does not imply the other. This is just a passing note.

Parents versus Spouse

Now, one can point out that the type of relationship matters. You don't mind deceiving your parents as they don't need to know everything about you. Yet, you would expect that of your spouse.

I can imagine that is the typical reasoning given. Indeed, as children that is often our mentality. We hide things from our parents to stay out of trouble. Yet, as we grow up, that should change. By the time one is self-sufficient, what reason is there to hide such big things from parents?

An Indian girl has one kind of relationship with her family and what do they need to know if she has sex outside marriage or drinks or other culturally deviant things?

Indeed, that kind of logic is probably what Don Draper/Indian men are thinking. He has one kind of relationship with his wife and family, and it all works well. Why does she need to know if he screws around a bit?

In both cases, the affected people feel very close to the devious person.
In both cases, ask the affected party how they would feel.
Ask a spouse how they feel if they knew their husband was cheating on them.
Ask a parent how they feel if they knew their child lived a completely deviant separate life from them while pretending to be a good girl?




Conclusion

It's all just rather fascinating. Yet, I suppose most cultures historically have followed similar values. It is just very visible for me in Indian communities as that is the cultural group I am most in touch with.Yet, I know this same mentality exists in a broad range of other cultures and historically has probably affected all cultures.

As an outsider, it puzzles my little brain, but I guess it works. You separate your life into relationships and only care what happens in those confines.
Men have a family relationship with their wife, and see nothing wrong with casual sex or romances outside.
Indian girls have a family relationship with their parents, and see nothing wrong with romance and other behavior outside.

To an extent it is a values discussion. The Indian cultures values family and community more than individuals and truth. It is therefore rational, that an Indian would hide their shameful acts and deceive those they love, as deceiving the individuals is acceptable as long as community and family are maintained. The individual and truth are acceptable losses.

This is perhaps contrary to the modern outlook where truth and individuals are placed at higher standing. They would view the act of deceiving the individuals they love as wrong, and possibly sacrificing family and community bonds as an acceptable loss.

Just to clarify, I am not saying are particular group of people cheat more or less.
I am talking about the individuals and how they justify/hide it.

I suppose it works as long as everything remains hidden.
Not for me. I'm not Indian, but I can see how the system works for them.











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