Many men from In­dia live alone in China. Here's why

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Ka­trin Büchen­bacher

Only a few months ago, Mukesh Sharma had a wife, two daugh­ters, a maid and a car. Now, all he has is a new job at the other end of the world. When Sharma de­cided to ac­cept the of­fer to work in Bei­jing, lit­tle did he know that not only would his work change, but that his

whole life would turn up­side down.

“It has been quite trau­matic to live away from my fam­ily,” Sharma told Met­ro­pol­i­tan.

At age 43, he had to learn how to cook, where and how to do laun­dry and take the sub­way to work in­stead of driv­ing his car. Af­ter a long day at work as well as the com­mute, he still must pre­pare his own lunch for the next day. Ex­cept for video calls with his fam­ily, the apart­ment is filled with a si­lence that is hard to get used to for some­one who was brought up near an In­dian rail­way sta­tion.

“The feel­ing of lone­li­ness is over­pow­er­ing at night when it be­comes so quiet that not even the chirp of a cricket reaches my ears,” he said.

Sharma shares his new­found bach­e­lor’s life­style with many other ex­pats from In­dia. The rea­sons for their solo mi­gra­tion are multi-lay­ered, rang­ing from so­ci­etal, cul­tural and eco­nomic to per­sonal.

Among those who are mar­ried, some don’t want to take their wife and chil­dren along if they can’t of­fer them any­thing in China. The re­sult is a long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship that can put a strain on one’s mar­riage over time.

Vishnu Prasad and his wife tried. Soon af­ter their wed­ding four years ago, they moved to China to­gether. A year later, she was preg­nant. How­ever, grow­ing up in China, their daugh­ter started to ex­press learn­ing and speak­ing dif­fi­cul­ties. So the cou­ple de­cided that she should spend some time at home with her grand­par­ents. Prasad’s wife would look af­ter the el­ders. Af­ter his wife and daugh­ter left, Prasad could only hope that soon they would be able to set­tle down again to­gether as a fam­ily.

Re­lo­cat­ing an en­tire fam­ily to a new coun­try is a de­mand­ing ven­ture. When Sharma’s ca­reer hit a bot­tle­neck, his wife, who works in the up­per man­age­ment of an air­line in Qatar, was happy with hers. Sharma didn’t want her to sac­ri­fice her job for him, nor was he sure that he could af­ford in­ter­na­tional schools for his two daugh­ters. So he left for China, the land of his child­hood dreams, alone.

While left-be­hind wives can rely on a sup­port sys­tem of fam­ily and friends, In­dian men have to re­build their so­cial lives from scratch in China. They must find new friends in the In­dian com­mu­nity, the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity alike. How­ever, what about those who are sin­gle – do they find love in China?

Sta­tis­tics ver­sus mar­riage

Other In­dian ex­pats in China live alone for more ap­par­ent rea­sons: they are un­mar­ried. Sta­tis­tics ex­plain this so­cial phe­nom­e­non to a great ex­tent. In­dian men have out­num­bered women by 37 mil­lion due to a deep-rooted pref­er­ence for sons and male heirs, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent cen­sus quoted by a 2018 re­port in the South China Morn­ing Post.

When look­ing at the In­dian di­as­pora, the gen­der ra­tio gets skewed even fur­ther to­wards men. A 2016 ar­ti­cle in the Wall Street Jour­nal shows that, from 2010 to 2015, the num­ber of In­dian men choos­ing to live abroad rose by 18 per­cent. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, the num­ber of women who de­cided to mi­grate only rose by 15 per­cent. What’s more, In­dian men were twice as likely to mi­grate to de­vel­op­ing re­gions, such as China, than In­dian women.

At the same time, cul­tural bar­ri­ers can stand in the way of meet­ing a spe­cial some­one in China.

Nan­dan Priyadarshi, a 27-year-old big data prod­uct man­ager, said mar­riage is a big “No” for him at this point, even though he’d like some­body with whom to share his thoughts and feel­ings. How­ever, he’s too fo­cused on his ca­reer to go out and try to “get” some­one. At the same time, Priyadarshi lacks con­fi­dence in his Chi­nese skills or his looks. His views on mar­riage also clash with the lib­eral dat­ing prac­tices of oth­ers his age in Bei­jing.

“My up­bring­ing taught me that mar­riage is not just a part of life, but it is a re­spon­si­bil­ity, trust, love and care. Some­one will be with me for the rest of my life and that is a very big thing for me,” he ex­plained.

Priyadarshi en­joys play­ing with data in his free time in­stead of hit­ting the clubs; the far­thest he ever went in ca­sual dat­ing was to meet up and talk.

“I do not feel com­fort­able go­ing to a club and pick­ing up some­one who is drunk, have sex then ig­nore each other in the early morn­ing,” he said.

Can’t af­ford a bride

Mar­riage as a so­cial in­sti­tu­tion re­ceives much recog­ni­tion by In­dian so­ci­ety. A ma­jor­ity of unions are ar­ranged by fam­i­lies of the bride and groom, with more than 60 per­cent of all spouses be­ing the re­sults of a joint se­lec­tion by the par­ents and the child, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 study by Keera Al­len­dorf and Roshan Pan­dian on Mar­i­tal Change and Con­ti­nu­ity in In­dia.

Par­ents liv­ing in an­other coun­try sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the chance of be­ing in­tro­duced to a po­ten­tial spouse by them. Eco­nomic rea­sons also play a vi­tal role in why some In­dian men in China choose to de­lay mar­riage. Many sup­port their fam­ily in In­dia with monthly pay­ments.

Priyadarshi, whose el­der broth­ers and par­ents have free ac­cess to his bank ac­counts, wants to make sure that his fu­ture wife and chil­dren “should not suf­fer from fi­nan­cial trou­bles.” Af­ter mar­riage, In­dian men are of­ten ex­pected to sup­port not only their fam­ily but also his wife’s fam­ily. For Priyadarshi, it means en­abling the same fa­cil­i­ties and liv­ing stan­dards for both his own par­ents and his wife’s. Fi­nan­cial bur­dens tend to get as heavy as these ex­pec­ta­tions.

No woman no cry

For oth­ers, stay­ing sin­gle is a life­style choice. A strong sense of au­ton­omy, a fo­cus on dif­fer­ent as­pects in life or for other per­sonal rea­sons, those In­dian men live their lives in China the way they – not their fam­ily – want to.

A never-mar­ried sin­gle In­dian me­dia pro­fes­sional, who prefers anonymity, told the Met­ro­pol­i­tan that he be­lieves that the up­sides of sin­gle life out­weigh the down­sides, with the most sig­nif­i­cant up­sides be­ing his free­dom of thought.

Even though he is al­ready aged 50 and has never mar­ried be­fore, he claims to feel less lonely than peo­ple who are in re­la­tion­ships.

“Merely be­cause I’m sin­gle in Bei­jing, do I have to ‘look for ro­mance’ at San­l­i­tun, Nan­lu­ogux­i­ang, rapid-dat­ing events or on­line?” he asked. “Is so-called ‘love,’ ro­mance, re­la­tion­ship and mar­riage es­sen­tial for self-re­al­iza­tion and to ac­tu­al­ize one’s full po­ten­tial?”

Not all In­dian “bach­e­lors” in China see their sit­u­a­tion in such a pos­i­tive light. Rash­man, who found him­self in the po­si­tion to adopt a sin­gle’s life­style as a mid­dle-aged man af­ter he left his wife and two girls in Qatar, was up for a change when he went for the job op­por­tu­nity in Bei­jing.

Now, he finds him­self in a coun­try where vege­tar­i­ans are out­casts, su­per­mar­kets carry no In­dian prod­ucts and laun­dries are hard to find.

On a pos­i­tive note, the sep­a­ra­tion from his wife has let his love for his wife of 15 years flare up. With two video calls a day and highly an­tic­i­pated vis­its, “I grew only closer to my wife and chil­dren,” Rash­man said.

Photo: VCG

Most In­di­ans liv­ing in China are sin­gle men.

Photo: VCG

Find­ing love in China is not an easy task for In­dian ex­pats.

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