This was published in today’s DNA. Warning: Contains generalisations, exaggeration and humour. Read at your own risk. Feel free to roar in the comments, but don’t expect replies.
The Tragedy of the Homo Disappointus
There are many questions that I have pondered for years. For some, like “How is maths useful in everyday life?”, I’ve eventually found answers. (Ans: It isn’t.) A few remain. Like, why aren’t all Indian women lesbians? OK, so for centuries, we haven’t really had a choice, courtesy the charming social system of patriarchy that strives to make oppression as normal a practice as eating breakfast. Homophobic men ruling the roost in public arenas and private spaces for generations haven’t helped. But have we been held hostage by patriarchy for so long that we don’t realise that frequently, it’s just ridiculous that we choose an Indian man as a partner? Is this just a variation of the Stockholm syndrome?
Note, I didn’t say all men, but Indian men. The fact of the matter is that, broadly speaking, if we consider the criteria usually applied during the process of mate selection, the scientific name for the Indian male should be homo disappointus. It is true that our genetic mix occasionally throws up a few specimens that are easy on the eye, but let’s face it — most Indian men are not precisely eye-candy.
The aesthetics of beauty may vary, but the chances of the average Indian man’s looks making a woman’s hormones swirl with longing are slim. Add to that the near-complete absence of grooming — gentlemen, deodorants are your friend. And no, deodorant and aftershave are not the same thing. The first prevents sweaty odour; the other, when applied too liberally, can asphyxiate those around you — and it’s a miracle most heterosexual Indian men get laid.
Internationally, there are men who are considered relationship-worthy because they’re handy to have around. When you need the bed moved, the wiring fixed, the painting hung, the suitcase carried, the roadside lecher punched, these men with their muscles appear like mythical heroes. This breed is yet to be spotted in India. At best, an Indian gent may have the phone number of a carpenter or electrician. Actually lifting a finger, particularly around the house, is against his dharma (unless it’s to beat up his wife, molest the maid and/or threaten a woman in the household).
The most disappointing quality of the Indian male, however, is his conviction that he has all the answers. Mr India knows it all and every conversation must end with Mr India establishing himself as the top dog. If he hasn’t heard of something, it doesn’t exist. If he isn’t convinced by an argument, then it’s rubbish. It’s as though every Indian man harbours the vague delusion that deep inside, he’s the hero in a Rajinikanth film. So mind it, express your admiration and agreement with whatever he says. Now.
This know-it-all-ness is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the efforts to chip away at the misogyny that is so deeply-entrenched in Indian society. It’s shown up repeatedly during the recent debates on the topic of violence against women. Some refuse to believe the alarming statistics, others point out that statistics are unreliable, and most would prefer to point the finger at anyone but their own brethren.
The problem is always caused by someone else and therefore not the average Indian man’s headache. For male Mumbaikars, it’s a Delhi or north Indian problem. For those who belong to a privileged demographic, it’s the result of lower middle class mindset. Then there are the conservatives who feel “Bharat” doesn’t have such problems and violence against women is an urban affair. There’s always an “other” upon whom the blame can be pinned so that our attention shifts from the real issue — women are being raped, molested and traumatised. Is it an Indian problem? No. But is it a problem in India? Yes, and the average male behaviour makes it worse.
There are bad guys everywhere in the world, but ours lurk within and among the good guys. Which means, as a woman, depending upon a man usually means setting oneself up for disappointment. Some of us resign ourselves to this. Others argue and rant about it, hoping this will make at least some of the homo disappointus evolve. Gentlemen, it’s your move.