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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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A doll that goes “Mama”

I come from a country that deifies a woman, the mother-figure most of all. All prayers to godesses, in every language, in different religions are sung in praise of Mother.

Yes, it is probably a complex, near-magical bond, the relationship between a mother and son. More so than between a mother and daughter. After all, for the average woman in Indian society (still very much a man’s world), the son is the male who gives her the most respect and adulation. He is also the male who can be most easily molded by her. A comment on one of my earlier blogs made me think about the relationship of a man with his mother too. She is his first female influence, the all-encompassing womb and the protective, nurturing arms. All said and done….we all enter the world in the same way.

Anywhere in the world, insinuate that a man is attached to his mother’s apron strings and he’ll take it as a personal insult. On the other hand, most Indian men will beam proudly like you’ve called them the greatest thing since chocolate. Yes, I really don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. So fine, you like your mother, that’s cool….but for heavenssake it doesn’t make you a great human being, it doesn’t make you good company, it doesn’t make you attractive or likeable or intelligent or sensitive. And if you’re flaunting your attachment to the mater, chances are she’ll be the only one who finds anything worth loving in you.

Oh well, perhaps not…..Indian women are probably used to it. Every woman I know, married or otherwise affirms the fact that Indian men are indeed….mama’s boys. It is far from annoying….it is alarming. What makes an otherwise intelligent, smart, confident man so dependent on the woman who bore him? Yes, dependency it is. Do not mistake it for love. I love my parents too but I’d find it slightly disgraceful to keep touting myself as “daddy’s little girl”. Most of all, ‘daddy’ would have a fit over his daughter wanting to become a whining, snivelling airhead. I’m so glad I had a sensible upbringing.

Yes, I’m not about to blame the men for this one. The women are entirely at fault. I see it everywhere. What is paraded as great love is emasculation. I know a family where the son has been pampered and cossetted since birth by his doting mama (who has incidently also brought up a girl who is more worldy-wise and mature at 20 than her brother is at 26). As a result this post-graduate professional travels the world, advises his company on important business matters but can’t be relied upon to run his own house or his marriage for that matter. Oh…did I forget…wifey dearest was also “whatever mama thinks is right”. But of course. Mama’s boys like to outsource their brains. Mama is proud of the fact that her darling beta, so important to the world, still pays so much attention to her. Why? Because husband is too busy listening to his mama.

And the cycle continues…..

So it is a pity that most men are being brought up very badly. I would go so far to say that they are being totally ruined by their mothers. Being a parent can’t be an easy job but most parents of daughters do manage to instil in them a sense of responsibility and the ability to handle life. For some reason the parents of sons, on the other hand, will pander to all their whims, make them feel like they are little lords and generally give them a wholly unrealistic view of the world. Small wonder then, that most of these men grow up woefully unable to handle more than basic desicions by themselves. At some point of time the ‘little boy looking for mama’ syndrome is transferred onto the wife or girlfriend or whatever female is available. It is not nice at all. I for one, am not flattered or amused to have to play nursemaid/constant emotional prop to an overgrown baby. When I want to be a mama, I’ll have babies of my own.

There is something slightly unhealthy about an umblical cord that hasn’t been severed over two decades….how I wish men would understand that.

When I was about four, I craved a doll that opened and shut its eyes and said “Mama”. Think I was being conditioned to produce more ‘mama’s boys’? I hope I don’t have sons…..the temptation to twist a brain to fulfil my selfish need is too much to resist. I’m an Indian woman after all.

A doll that goes "Mama"

I come from a country that deifies a woman, the mother-figure most of all. All prayers to godesses, in every language, in different religions are sung in praise of Mother.

Yes, it is probably a complex, near-magical bond, the relationship between a mother and son. More so than between a mother and daughter. After all, for the average woman in Indian society (still very much a man’s world), the son is the male who gives her the most respect and adulation. He is also the male who can be most easily molded by her. A comment on one of my earlier blogs made me think about the relationship of a man with his mother too. She is his first female influence, the all-encompassing womb and the protective, nurturing arms. All said and done….we all enter the world in the same way.

Anywhere in the world, insinuate that a man is attached to his mother’s apron strings and he’ll take it as a personal insult. On the other hand, most Indian men will beam proudly like you’ve called them the greatest thing since chocolate. Yes, I really don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. So fine, you like your mother, that’s cool….but for heavenssake it doesn’t make you a great human being, it doesn’t make you good company, it doesn’t make you attractive or likeable or intelligent or sensitive. And if you’re flaunting your attachment to the mater, chances are she’ll be the only one who finds anything worth loving in you.

Oh well, perhaps not…..Indian women are probably used to it. Every woman I know, married or otherwise affirms the fact that Indian men are indeed….mama’s boys. It is far from annoying….it is alarming. What makes an otherwise intelligent, smart, confident man so dependent on the woman who bore him? Yes, dependency it is. Do not mistake it for love. I love my parents too but I’d find it slightly disgraceful to keep touting myself as “daddy’s little girl”. Most of all, ‘daddy’ would have a fit over his daughter wanting to become a whining, snivelling airhead. I’m so glad I had a sensible upbringing.

Yes, I’m not about to blame the men for this one. The women are entirely at fault. I see it everywhere. What is paraded as great love is emasculation. I know a family where the son has been pampered and cossetted since birth by his doting mama (who has incidently also brought up a girl who is more worldy-wise and mature at 20 than her brother is at 26). As a result this post-graduate professional travels the world, advises his company on important business matters but can’t be relied upon to run his own house or his marriage for that matter. Oh…did I forget…wifey dearest was also “whatever mama thinks is right”. But of course. Mama’s boys like to outsource their brains. Mama is proud of the fact that her darling beta, so important to the world, still pays so much attention to her. Why? Because husband is too busy listening to his mama.

And the cycle continues…..

So it is a pity that most men are being brought up very badly. I would go so far to say that they are being totally ruined by their mothers. Being a parent can’t be an easy job but most parents of daughters do manage to instil in them a sense of responsibility and the ability to handle life. For some reason the parents of sons, on the other hand, will pander to all their whims, make them feel like they are little lords and generally give them a wholly unrealistic view of the world. Small wonder then, that most of these men grow up woefully unable to handle more than basic desicions by themselves. At some point of time the ‘little boy looking for mama’ syndrome is transferred onto the wife or girlfriend or whatever female is available. It is not nice at all. I for one, am not flattered or amused to have to play nursemaid/constant emotional prop to an overgrown baby. When I want to be a mama, I’ll have babies of my own.

There is something slightly unhealthy about an umblical cord that hasn’t been severed over two decades….how I wish men would understand that.

When I was about four, I craved a doll that opened and shut its eyes and said “Mama”. Think I was being conditioned to produce more ‘mama’s boys’? I hope I don’t have sons…..the temptation to twist a brain to fulfil my selfish need is too much to resist. I’m an Indian woman after all.

The modern mEn

Having looked at all that the modern woman is going to be, lets look at what the modern men are going to be. Yes, you read that right…the modern womAn and the modern mEn. Because I think there will be multiple stereotypes to describe the kind of man attracted to and by the modern woman (MW).

The Stud: Popular, good-looking, accomplished, this one likes the best of everything, which is why he is attracted to MW and she to him. The relationships are bound to be short-lived though….someone has to be audience when one is performing and neither of these two will want to give up center-stage.

The Thinker: Philosophical, idealistic and yet cynical, intellectual..of course this one would love MW. She epitomises all that he’s been predicting for years about the world and she in turn loves the challenge he represents. Thus begins a new era of ‘Masculine Mystique’

The Lost Planet: Initially described as the sensitive male, probably the only way he can stay both sensitive and male is by escaping into his inner world. MW may throw a fit everytime he appears not to have heard her and then call her therapist to discuss how ‘MEN NEVER LISTEN!!!’

The Sad Soul (dukhi aatma!): There aren’t wimps any more. There are men who let their MW do whatever the hell they like with them, just so long as they can whine about it to the next MW that comes along. Am not sure why the MW likes this type…guess its deep-rooted guilt and latent maternal urges surfacing.

The Creeper: As the title implies, this is the one that likes to jump the bandwagons. Not a Stud or a Thinker, the only way this one sees to land a woman is to creep up on her quietly and take her over. He uses her to climb to where he wants to, doesn’t mind being the one draped on her arm, just so long as he’s seen with her. Just a highly evolved male specimen still exhibiting the very masculine need for status symbols.

The Parasite: This one differs from the Creeper in that he believes in cutting open the goose that gives golden eggs a.k.a. MW. There must be a machochistic gene programmed into the female DNA since this sort has existed from time immemorial and the smarter/stronger/more successful the woman, the more likely she is to get a Parasite. She has to be better, faster, richer, prettier…more than what she currently is and if she doesn’t try trying, she’ll definitely end up a sad echo of her former formidable self. Why do we assume only shy, weak, timid ladies get harassed and abused?

Certainly there will be more but I think these would be the broad categories of behaviour that influence and are influenced by the modern woman. It occurs to me that this whole post has an air of cynicism about it. Well go ahead and prove me wrong….I love a challenge. MW would.

The Modern Woman


My diwali rangoli – inspired by the cover on diwali malar

The modern woman is realizing why men have been workaholics and absent parents all these years.
The modern woman is grappling with the Catch-22 of being equal and wanting to look up to someone.

The modern woman is torn between the age-old power of her sexuality and the new-found one accorded to her gender.
The modern woman loves the idea of a credit card in her name but hates the bill that is also in her name..

The modern woman would want it all if only she could find place for it in her handbag.
The modern woman wonders, if she has the best of all worlds, what’s left to want?

The modern woman is proud of her moodiness, her ruthlessness, her ambition, her aggressiveness in bed, but not of her independence (though she’d like to think so).
The modern woman could challenge your masculinity; she could also rule with her femininity
She does both alternatively and tires of both games.

The modern woman can rationalize, intellectualize, visualize but secretly wonders what happened to plain old thinking and feeling.
The modern woman is privileged and tough and frustrated and bored and high on a combination of vodka, estrogen and aspirin.

The modern woman thinks someone should write new fairy tales.
The modern woman will start to write one, only it will turn out as a journal of her life which will become a management bestseller (whose royalties she’ll collect and hate the fame for its apt hypocrisy)

The modern woman sympathizes with her male peers and pities her colleagues and ex-boyfriends, ALMOST. She’s a woman still.
The modern woman fights for woman power as a concept and hates her clan – she hasn’t changed all that much.

The modern woman hates being vulnerable but she also wonders what’s left of her femininity after even that goes.
The modern woman is taken for a ride by the new-age sensitive man and ponders the phrase ‘role reversal’.

The modern woman wears sneakers, unisex perfumes, toned biceps and her hair short, simply because there isn’t a damn thing the men can do about it.
The modern woman occasionally wears sandals and scarves and both hates and revels in the grateful, obsequious compliments that they get.

The modern woman is either a ruthless bitch or an overwhelming earth-mother or both…even she doesn’t know.
The modern woman is driving the world forward and its driving her crazy.

The modern woman made the above rangoli to personify all that she yearns to be but will never aspire to be – innocence, subservience.
The modern woman will still proudly display her confusion as a sign of her boldness as this one has done.

The modern woman is going down the road to insanity and dragging the world with her.

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A later version is posted here.

Superwoman

I am the only kid on the tree in pigtails
I am rejection & peer pressure superimposed on intelligence & expectations
I am the daughter who will one day be the ‘man of the house’

I am the big attitude-no boyfriends Alanis Morisette of the peer group
I am the feminist preaching to ‘the boys’ in between hanging out with them.
I am the second lead in an ‘all-male’ rock band.

I am the token female candidate in a job selection group discussion
I am one of two women at a client meeting, six months later
I am the slender figure balancing a laptop, files and a mobile phone and refusing a seat on the bus.

I am a solitary memo marked “Dear Madam” atop of a pile of “Dear Sir” notes
I am one who knows which detergent brand sells highest but not which cleans best
I am a woman who hates cooking and is proud of the fact

I am the one publications write about when they describe the new work ethic
I am the inspiration for a new wave of soap operas and talk shows
I am the author of a scathing article on fairness creams

I am the center of a marketing model titled “High income single decision maker”
I am the brief given to fashion houses when they design the new Prada suit
I am described as ‘Joan of Arc meets Helen of Troy’

I am a social butterfly, the party animal, the cool lady who always leaves alone
I am a modern day Cinderella looking for a perfect foot to fit her shoe…and none ever do
I am the last of my friends to get married but mine is the grandest wedding of all

I am an overflowing inbox of memos, bills and ads after my 2-day honeymoon
I am the ‘expert cook in 10 days’ since I am always the best
I am the 5 am alarm for the milkman, the 10 am board meeting, the working lunch and the home cooked gourmet dinner on my first anniversary

I am a romantic SMS keyed in surreptitiously at a meeting
I am two daily planners to be co-ordinated for any family function
I am performance anxiety, loneliness, guilt, fear and ambition all masquerading as PMS

I am the ‘equal half’ of a DINK
I am the face that receives a slap for being better
And only sometimes, am I the fist that hits back

I am the luggage with a tag from every single metro in the world
I am the signature on the exclusive gold card
I am a posh address that is more a museum than a home

I am the employee code on a maternity leave application tacked to the bottom of a report
I am the voice on a conference call from home to 2 countries
I am the emergency Ceasarean operation due to hypertension

I am the lovely lady at the end of the day while my mom is mom to my kids too
I am the signature on a delivery receipt for a dollhouse and an encyclopedia set
And on a resignation letter that speaks of ‘time for family’ and not a word about sacrifices

I am music lessons, art classes, camps, sports teams and tuitions after school
I am the good manners, language fluency, social etiquette and grades all at 7
I am the hands that dress the star of the show in a kindergarten play
As also the signature on a report card that says “Shows aptitude for figures. Is very quiet and withdrawn”
I am the mother of a brilliant, talented 3-foot stressed know-it-all
….…..the wife of a resentful, guilt-wracked escapist
…….…the lover of a ‘new-age’ sensitive weakling
and the owner of a picture perfect 40 going on 25 face

I am the compartmentalized fragments of what was born a human being
And lives as ..and will one day die as…..Superwoman

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A version of this post appears on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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