Elsewhere in this issue we have examined the more philosophical-ethical fallout of the Abhishek Manu Singhvi CD scandal.
But here, in this space devoted to human relations, we ponder a human question that scandal raises: what is the best way a wife can cope when faced with a similar situation?
We haven’t heard anything about Mrs Singhvi’s response to her husband’s alleged transgression. Indeed, the authenticity of the tape has still to be verified by an authoritative body. But there are many examples in recent history that demonstrate the ways in which other women married to famous men have chosen to behave when faced with similar situations.
The most famous woman who faced a similar predicament (ahem, remarkably similar, as those few who have viewed the CD will recall) is of course the current American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Who can forget the years when the President of the United States was known more for his erogenous zones than his economic policy! The world was riveted by the peccadilloes of the priapic president and each day brought in a fresh haul of stories that were even more salacious.
Through it all, First Lady Hillary stood by her husband, rock-solid and steadfast — though White House staffers were later to leak tales of raging fights between the couple. Be that as it may, as far as the public gaze was concerned, Hillary was the supportive and long-suffering wife, holding her family together.
And did it win her admiration and accolade? Curiously enough — no! As demonised as he was during that dark phase of his life, Bill Clinton faced nowhere near the level of censure that his wife did for standing by her man in his hour of crisis. And rather than being seen as a heroine, her motives were questioned, and she was severely criticised by both sexes for being self-serving and cold-blooded.
Surprisingly, the most strident critics of women who have taken similar (and in my opinion mature and noble) stands as Hillary have been other women. I was once at a Delhi dinner where the topic of a high-profile publisher accused of sexual harassment by his colleague was being discussed. To my dismay, rather than laud his wife for her loyalty the assembled guests were needlessly harsh about her.
It is a response that has never failed to surprise me. A woman who rises above possessiveness, jealousy and public humiliation in my opinion is one who possesses enormous fortitude and maturity — and, yes, nobility.
Why should such a woman be castigated? Anne Sinclair, the high-powered wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, made a very public display of loyalty to her husband when he was caught with his pants down. Those who were not openly critical of her were patronising: her behaviour was dismissed as “the Gallic way”; for the rest of womankind, especially feminist leader writers, she had “let down half the population of the world” with her abject loyalty.
Similarly there were no bouquets for Anu Ahuja, actor Shiney Ahuja’s wife, when she chose to stand by her man after he was booked for the rape of their housemaid. No one recognised the courage, maturity and silent grief that such an act required.
Why is this so? Why are people, women in particular, so critical of wives who choose to support their husbands through their very public humiliations?
Perhaps the only way a wife in such a situation can rescue a shred of her dignity then is to do what Elin Nordegren, the erstwhile Mrs Tiger Woods, did — which was to grab a golf club and beat the #@%$ out of the #$%@!
A monthly column on matters of the heart