"They're just so much more accepting and broad-minded."
Is it true that more and more divorced Asian women from South Asian communities are turning towards a relationship or marriage with non-Desi men?
With the term, Desi, described as ‘a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad’ by the Oxford English Living dictionary, we are referring to men not originating from South Asia.
The growing trend amongst divorced British Asian women deciding to opt for non-Desi men is becoming noticeable, creating a curiosity in need of a better understanding as to why.
For most British Asian women with South Asian roots, starting all over again with someone new can be extremely daunting, even a little scary and weary of repeating past mistakes.
So, could it be that a non-Desi man is going to give the divorced Asian woman new experiences, support and a way of life which is more appealing than the past?
We dig deeper to find out what draws divorced Asian women towards non-Desi men rather than searching again for partners from their own communities.
The Extended Desi Family
Starting afresh as a single woman after a divorce is tough enough in a world, or more precisely society, abundant with negativity and harshness.
Having to endure the opinions and snide remarks of the extended family of a prospective partner will only add to the difficulty.
Most Desi men are bound to come with the baggage of their extended Desi families. Seldom is the typical Desi man completely a ‘single man’.
So begins the poking and the prying as the whole family sticks their noses in wanting to know your business.
They will not rest until every single detail about the divorce has been unearthed and every person from the poor woman’s family has been sufficiently scrutinised.
“This put me right off,” says Aisha who lives in an area of Birmingham where the population is predominantly Asian.
“It was impossible to hide anything. My own mother didn’t help matters either. She introduced me to a Desi man and at first, I thought ‘why not? I’ll give it a go.’
“It was only then that the rest of the family started to crawl out of the woodwork.”
“I would compare it to being under a microscope. It didn’t take me long to take to my heels and run. I couldn’t get away fast enough.”
Aisha’s predicament is a real problem and it is no secret that Asian families are renowned for their prying.
She told us how she had to move to another area to be able to start her life all over again.
“I guess I was lucky as I had no ties. I just packed up and moved to somewhere where no one cared what I did or where I went.
“It’s a downright shame that someone should be forced to move just so they can get on with their life. But that’s the reality of it.”
Aisha has decided to avoid Desi men. She is still single and has been dating for a while. For her sake, she has not had to meet any other family members apart from the person she’s dated.
“It feels quite liberating to be able to go out with a man and not have to explain anything about my background or the rest of the family.
“I would like to think that not all Desi men are ruled by what their mothers think their future wife should be like but I have yet to see any difference.”
Don’t Judge Me
No-one wants to be judged and least of all for something so personal and traumatic as a divorce.
Men and women alike suffer the effects of divorce equally. For some men, it may be just as difficult to move on to new relationships.
However, the chances that they will be judged for the choices they make when it comes to dating will be far less than for a woman.
A woman who has come out of a marriage with a Desi man for whatever reason will often not want to go looking for a similar relationship.
Non-Desi men, it seems, are more open-minded and do not judge a woman for the way she dresses or behaves in public.
A British Asian woman, who wants to remain anonymous, told us:
“There’s less pressure in having sex with a white guy. You can still be friends even if it doesn’t work out.
“They’re just so much more accepting and broad-minded.”
“They won’t criticise or condemn you just because you want to have a bit of fun in the hope of meeting someone you could fall in love with.
“It’s not like that with our men. I don’t need to be judged and they will judge. They can’t help it. It’s deep-seated into their culture.”
Talking to other women, it emerges that the overall opinion is that a relationship with a Desi man attracts a cultural mindset which is very judgemental.
Jeevan, a woman who has been divorced now for five years, tell us:
“I was out with a couple of my Desi girlfriends one night and we had dressed up. We went into a pub for a drink. Oh my! A big mistake.
“My question to all you Desi men out there is ‘why is it not acceptable for a few Asian women to go into a pub or a bar without being made to feel like we’re on the pull?’
“We were made to feel like prostitutes on the game. The pub was full of middle-aged Desi men who should know better.
“Their behaviour was disgusting. They leered at us and made rude gestures. Was I surprised though? Not in the least.
“Looking at them, I wondered how many had wives at home who hadn’t got a clue what their ‘good’ Desi husbands were up to.”
This fear of being branded ‘cheap’ or ‘dirty’ even when out for an innocent drink puts Asian women off starting a relationship with a Desi man.
The mentality of many Desi men of a certain age, it seems, will never change.
A one-night stand or casual sex with a non-Desi man, for those Asian women who are happy with this arrangement, does not attract this kind of defamation.
I Come with Baggage
Very often, a break-up will involve children; an Asian woman with children in tow will struggle to re-marry.
Jaspreet from Dudley remarks:
“With kids it’s too complicated to try and enter into another marriage with an Indian guy and his whole family.
“My divorce was a long time coming. I had put up with so much and was on the verge of a breakdown.
“We had two kids and he didn’t want to be lumbered with them. His mum was like, ‘who will marry him again with two children?’
“It was all about him and I had no choice. Even had I been given the choice though, I would never have walked away from my children.”
Jaspreet continued to tell us that she joined several online dating agencies in the hope of finding someone decent to settle down with again.
“I found the comments made by Desi men to be sleazy and critical.
“The non-Desi men, on the other hand, were genuine and caring. They accepted me for who I was. I was just a woman and nothing else; not an object to be ridiculed or messed around.”
Jaspreet, who is now happily married to a non-Desi man, says she had to jump through many hoops and overcome the forever looming obstacles before finding love again.
Her mum too stood firm in the belief that she would be better off with a Desi man again.
“I bought the kids up on my own and finally I was ready to settle down again.
“My photo was circulated throughout the Asian community by my own family. Sure, there were divorced men who were also looking for a partner again.
“Did they want someone with children? No, of course, they didn’t. I did my own thing and started going out with white British guys.
“They asked no questions. I was respected and treated like a person. And, more to the point, I wasn’t made to feel ashamed just because I had spent the night with them.
“On the contrary, my confidence and personality continued to bloom with every genuine compliment I received.”
It’s sad that a divorced Asian woman is highly unlikely to be accepted into a Desi family home if she has children from her previous marriage.
It may even prove difficult if the man himself is a divorcee and has children.
Most men tend to look for a single woman again. Those that don’t, are usually living with their children without an extended family.
A Relationship is Built on Trust
Trust is such an important part of a relationship and once it has been jeopardised, it may be an impossible task to rebuild it again.
The issue of trust was a common theme in the feedback about marriage and relationships.
If the main problems that Desi couples have are a result of the lack of trust between them, then the grass will appear to be greener on the other side.
Nimi Sandhu-Taylor, who lives in London with her non-Desi husband, is of the opinion:
“Indian men, and I dated a few, just did not understand that women also need their independence.”
“They are bound by the social and cultural limitations of the society they grew up in. Mostly, it’s not their fault.”
She explained that there was no trust in her marriage. The expectations were just too high and it finally led to a break-up.
“When I married, I was in my twenties and I did it because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
“There was no equality in the relationship. I stayed at home while he went to work and put his feet up when he got home.”
When it came to Nimi wanting to go out with her friends, the arguments started. She found that he didn’t trust her to be out on her own.
“He thought, and even so much as said, that I wanted to go out so I could flirt with other men. His tunnel vision was so narrow it suffocated me.
“All I wanted was some time to just be me. Anyway, I could see that nothing was going to change so we went our separate ways.”
Nimi talks about the man she is now with:
“There is so much more acceptance. He doesn’t see my stubbornness or strength as a weakness or try to change me to conform to how he thinks I should be.
“I am free to do what I want. I can go out clubbing wearing a mini skirt while he is on a night shift and he trusts me.
“The biggest thing is that he is comfortable with my friendship with other males and understands that they are just friends.
“Don’t get me wrong, I did think about marriage with a Desi man again but, and I’m only speaking for my generation, I soon realised how shallow and uptight they were.
“Now my partner and I are a team. We value one another’s beliefs and opinions and treat each other as individuals, which is how it should be.”
Mahatma Gandhi once said:
“woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity.”
That being said, a woman is man’s companion and his equal. She is not his subordinate.
The Constitution of India covers women’s rights which include equality, dignity, and freedom from discrimination.
However, women still face problems around sexual assault, gender inequality, and dowry. In relationships too, gender inequality still exists as desi marriages continue to end in divorce.
Women have a voice too and want to have careers and be successful like their counterparts.
Many Desi men cannot accept this. Dhea Bhanot, who had her own dreams and aspirations, provides the perfect example, saying:
“My family bought me up the same way as they did my brother.
“I went to university, and in those days not many Asian girls did. I went on to qualify as a lawyer.
“My dad was so proud. I agreed to an arranged marriage with a ‘nice’ Indian man. The family was well off but he didn’t really have much of an education.
“I didn’t mind that. He was working and earning and that’s what mattered. I didn’t hear the alarm bells until it was too late.”
Dhea went on to tell us how he manipulated her into staying at home and looking after the children and his elderly mother and father.
“Of course I wanted to look after my children. But I also wanted to start my career once they were at school.
“I soon realised this wasn’t an option. All the family wanted was a sit at home minder and carer.
“Needless to say, the marriage didn’t last long. I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice everything I had worked so hard for to just sit at home.”
Dhea started her life over again as a single mum. She is now doing what she always wanted to do.
These are just a few of the reasons why some divorced Asian women choose to marry non-desi men but, no doubt there are many more.
It also transpired that it is the older generation of Desi men who are largely responsible for the claims made by these women.
The younger generation of British Asian women report the opposite.
As Neena, aged 25, says:
“I wouldn’t change my husband for anyone. He does so much around the house, changes nappies and even irons.
“We are both Asian and have the same expectations of each other; no more, no less.”
Manpreet, a student, says:
“I have dated mostly Desi guys because they have most in common with me.
“My current boyfriend is Desi and is hubby material for me.
“He knows I ‘m a strong minded woman and will not expect anything less than being treated with equal respect.
“Which is something I know the older generation of Asian women struggled and just went with the way it was than fighting it.”
It seems that times are changing and the Desi men of today are far more tolerant and accepting of women’s rights and desires.
Perhaps we can garner some hope and inspiration from this as we look forward to a new and liberated generation of Desi men.
But this does not take away the freedom of choice Asian women have once they are divorced or even single. If a non-Desi man is a person they love and want to spend their life with, then who are we to judge?