Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Indian Man

I remember reading a review of Honeymoon Travels which described KK Menon’s character as thus:

He isn’t quite a male chauvinist, just an Indian man.

I didn’t quite get that at the time. Then I saw the movie and thought I understood a bit of what the reviewer was trying to say. KK Menon’s Partho is a stiff-necked prude with very propah notions of behaviour (of the Indian woman). He is quite unfortunately (for him) married to a vivacious Milly who tests his patience, shocks him with her uninhibitedness and generally keeps him quite jumpy. Change in the known order and spontaneity are not things that Partho symbolizing the Indian man, is comfortable with.

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend, about the situation of ‘going too far and too fast’. He shared a personal experience of that type saying,

We were on our second date and things happened. That was really too fast. But she didn’t protest at all so I went ahead.

I had to stop him because I didn’t think he realised what he was saying. That perhaps it wasn’t ‘too fast’ for her. And that if it was ‘too fast’ for him, he didn’t have to wait for her to stop; he could pull a stop sign himself. He looked at me as if the very thought had never occurred to him.

Oh well, Indian men. We deplore their ways, we roll our eyes at their habits but we love and live with them. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that ‘Mama’s boy’ is not only a fitting description for every  man of this species but also that most of them consider it a supreme honour higher than the President’s medal.

The Indian man can be sweetly (and not so sweetly) ignorant of the female anatomy. Or he can be a regular Don Juan. But either way, he’ll still be extremely startled when the woman climbs atop him and demands more. The Indian man, no matter how educated, liberated or metrosexual…is completely unfamiliar with the concept of female sexuality.

A lot of Indian men are prudes. Oh right, they may make their lascivious remarks, their lecherous jokes and their elbow-nudging antics may drive us up the wall. But all of that is just bravado, a need to fit in with the peer group, no matter how old they are. At heart, it seems like they’ve all got issues with their own bodies which might be one reason they approach their partner’s body the way a teenager might – tentatively, furtively, clumsily and quickly.

So now that I’ve derided the Indian man’s approach to sex, let me tell you what I do find likeable about him.

The Indian women is definitely the driving force even if she isn’t exactly in the driver’s seat. After all the feminist sirens from Bengal, the women auto-rickshaw drivers in Tamil Nadu, the demure-but-independent nurses from Kerala, the ‘homely’/shrewd Gujju girls all live with Indian men. They have fathers, brothers, husbands and sons. Sometimes I think feminism and women empowerment just manifest themselves in unique ways in India, but exist they do. We’ve perfected the art of backseat driving in a lot of other areas of our lives.

The Indian man, he’s quite green in this whole modern-world thing….but he can be taught. Yes, beneath the sombre pinstripes and the flashy gizmos, our desi Neanderthal man lurks, but with some firm, tactful handling this man can actually be trained to be a worthwhile human being. I think I’d be right in saying that a lot of times our men hold us back. But in some ways, they are our safety valves, our terra firma. After all, they are also our papas who stay distant all through our childhood then run away to sob in silence when we get married, our protective bade-bhaiyyas who will just never learn that little sister grew up a long time back and doesn’t always need a bodyguard, our mischievious but fond chote devvars and well the patis if not parmeshwar.

Quite tellingly, at the end of Honeymoon Travels, Partho in a rare bare-all moment tells Milly that he is intimidated by her, afraid of losing her to her spontaneity, afraid of letting go of terra firma. Hmm, quite touching and sweet actually.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Indian man…he isn’t at the forefront of his kind but maybe we, the Indian women, don’t need him to be.

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