By Saheli Mitra*
In the Mahabharata I always loved Draupadi. The dimensions of her varied equations with her husbands inspired me.
Had it been legal I would have married more than one man. Being a die-hard romantic, I could never say no to love, even though I am a married Indian woman, supposed to maintain the high moral code of conduct our society asks us to follow in marriage. But I don't believe a woman can love the same man all her life. That's a Mills & Boone myth. It's absolutely impossible for the same man to be handsome, caring, loving, rich, understanding, have a loving extended family, etc, all at once.
I could have hidden my relations with another man from my husband, but I did not wish to cheat on him.
It's difficult for an Indian husband to accept that he is sharing his wife's attention and love with another man.
Indian society accepts men having relationships outside marriage, including some quite kinky ones, yet if a woman decides to have a parallel relationship she is considered to be a fallen woman.
I could have hidden my relations with another man from my husband, but I did not wish to cheat on him. When I told him, he was very upset, feeling I was exploring other relations because he was not good enough. He even asked me if I would accept him having an affair. He became a stranger, aloof, hardly spoke to me, and kept to our son. At one point he even checked my emails, for which he had the passwords, because I am so open, I believe my husband has a right to know what is going on in my life's journey. He even went to my mother with the email print outs, mostly poetry written to the "other man". (My mother was pretty impressed by my mails and their poetic artistry.)
I knew my husband was feeling betrayed, though he realised my connect to another man came from a deep mental void that he had never tried to fill.
I had often discussed that void with him and would have loved if he could have healed it. But his work or his parents and siblings always kept him busy, and the "us" time that we spent was all about going to movies, eating out, discussing career moves, or property matters. So when someone touched that vulnerable chord in my romantic soul, I reached out. I never felt I was doing anything wrong, even though the "other man" had a family, even though his job forced him to stay away from them. He was the epitome of what I call a man—handsome, suave, caring, a loving dad, and most importantly, he respected my family and my time and me.
But my sex life suddenly was set aflame— not by the "other man", for he did not stay in the same state, so physical contact was rare, but by my husband! I understood that he was trying to win me over in bed, that he might feel insecure that I would leave him.
I understood what he felt, for we had grown up together from our school days. It was natural that he should interpret my void as a lack of regular sex, instead of understanding the true reasons: the lack of connect thanks to our hectic lives, and that I was different, unsatisfied by sex, money, jewellery, position and property. I needed a place to vent my emotions, none of which I could share with my husband.
My sex life suddenly was set aflame— not by the "other man", for he did not stay in the same state, so physical contact was rare, but by my husband!
So, I decided they must meet—and why not, for both of them loved the same woman. I never dreamed the two would like each other so much! My husband was so relieved, and so happy after talking to the "other man". He also evolved gradually, coming to realise love can indeed be multi directional. For me it was a spontaneous response that could be shared. My two men are the best of friends now and have a deep mutual respect and sense of belonging, more than probably I have for either of them.
Many of my female friends thought I was interested in open sex, and male friends believed I was available.
Whenever the topic of love or marriage has been discussed during addas, I have never hidden the fact that my husband is not the only one I love. I have given my heart to at least one other man, and if need be I shall love another. I knew some of my friends had affairs that they hid from their spouses, yet no one was ready to admit it. Either I was eccentric, or my husband was generous enough to allow me to love another! Some even asked if I was in an open relationship. And many men pursued me, thinking I was available.
I do not support Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna-style goodbyes, or mixing sex and love like most modern affairs. Upon reflection, I realise that society runs more on the need for sex, not love. I am lucky to be loved both by my husband and the other man. They really love me and have always thought what would be best for me. So both the relationships have survived. But what if, like the Rani Mukerji-Shah Rukh Khan starrer, I wished to leave my son and my husband, and run away with the "other man?" I believe that is not necessary. One can remain within a relationship and yet love another, provided that it is love and not a need.
*Saheli Mitra is a mother of a 13-year-old boy, married to her childhood friend for more than 15 years. She is a gold medallist from Calcutta University in Zoology and did her M.Phil. In Environmental Biology. She loves travelling and writing verses.
This post first appeared here.