THE INDIAN BACHELORS
Many men from India live alone in China. Here's why
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.
Most Indians living in China are single men.
Finding love in China is not an easy task for Indian expats.