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Tch, tch, tch these Indian men…

Tch, tch, tch these Indian men…
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… says Shonali Muthalaly whose attempt to understand them leaves her dazed, confused and, of course, angry

My best friend has picked up a new hobby. She stalks a mutual friend of ours on Instagram.

He’s Italian, and incredibly hunky with the body of a superhero. He’s also developed a selfie habit lately, much to my friend’s delight, taking daily pictures of his rippling muscles to record his journey to a six-pack. Yesterday, she Whatsapped me a screen grab of his latest post. “Sigh. Just look at that hot bod. Just look,” she typed, in a message crammed with far too many emoticons.

She followed it up with another picture of a group of five Indian men, roughly the same age, if not younger than our Italian eye candy. Her caption read: “And this, this is what we’re stuck with.” There they sat on a pretty beach, beaming with self-satisfaction. All five resplendent in indecently tiny swimming trunks, four strung with startlingly chunky gold chains, three proudly displaying an astonishing amount of chest hair, two making those inevitable ‘V for victory’ signs and one flexing a pudgy arm, in a threadbare vest two sizes too small.

Even as I stared at the picture with fascinated horror, my phone beeped again with another message from her. “What is wrong with Indian men?”

Ironically, the next day I was commissioned to write a piece on the exact subject for this page. Now, as topics go, this is a tough one to tackle. We don’t want to descend into silly stereotypes. Or juvenile name calling. And male bashing is so passé. Besides, like all of you, I know plenty of wonderful Indian men. Men who are smart, funny and — yes — gorgeous (complete with six-packs).

Besides, this piece has just been made additionally difficult by the fact that I was silly enough to leave my browser open and go for lunch. When I returned, a clutch of women colleagues, standing in an irate knot at my desk, turned and looked at me reproachfully. “Don’t be mean,” said Bleeding Heart 1. “Tch, tch, tch. So unkind,” said BH2, shaking her head. “Use a pen name for this story,” added BH3. They nodded in unison. “Imagine the hate mail.”

So I sat down for some introspection. Why are women always complaining about Indian men? And why, more importantly, are we so angry all the time? Think I’m over reacting? There’s an actual Facebook page called “Indian men are.” The sentence is completed with a word cloud offering options that include creepy, unbrushed, shabby and that never-fail classic ‘mamma’s boys.’ The moderator, who sounds furious, explains the page’s raison d’étre in a few succinct lines: “It’s about time that us women wake up! We need to take a stand. Indian men need to stop being so laid back, lazy, selfish, dirty and chauvinistic. Basically, they should stop being themselves.” Oh dear. And my colleagues say I’m mean.

Of course, true to form, the Indian men who’ve hit back aren’t particularly gallant. Responses — all uniformly ungrammatical — range from obscure (“u gals haven’t met alpha males it seems”) to enigmatically biting (“most Indian women I know have unibrows and extreme facial hair…”) to melodramatic (“this is bcoz ladies they spent whole their salary for ur makeups, dresses and have nothing left for himself.”) Give the last one a minute. You’ll get it on the third reading. Dismissing the page as a silly aberration? Take a deep breath: it has got almost 10,000 likes.

On Yahoo Answers, there’s a spirited discussion triggered by the question “Why are Indian men on Facebook so creepy?” On Quora, there are more than 300 answers in response to an American girl who asks why women in the US avoid Indian men. Even Upworthy has a post deconstructing how and why they stare.

Wondering whether we’re being unfair, I stop writing and go for a yoga class for some uninterrupted reflection in an appropriately Zen setting. As I walk down the road, two men on a bike slow down as they pass me, then make that irritating “ptch, ptch, ptch” noise, like they’re herding goats. One winks, the other makes an obscene gesture when I look up. I try hitting them with my yoga mat, which I confess is not very Zen. But it’s too late: they’ve sped past with a hoot of laughter.

And this is why we’re angry.

A friend who recently went on an ‘arranged marriage’ date tells me how the man wound up lunch early because he had to “pick up his girlfriend.” “Then why do this?” she stuttered. “Appa said I had to.”

And this is why we’re angry.

As I do research for this piece I stumble upon an article listing, with a hysterical abundance of capital letters: ‘13 Things An Indian Man Wants In His Wife.’ A woman who has the “right weight at the right place,” apparently. One “who loves like a girlfriend and cares like a mother.” So you can go clubbing in a mini skirt, as long as you carry along a hot case filled with kichadi. Then, “A wife who is both Mallika and Tabu.” The One must “pamper him”, be “homely yet career-oriented” and finally, “be sanskari” because “being modern is fine, but a woman who doesn’t follow tradition is a strict ‘no-no’.”

And this is why we’re angry. (Also, please note, I’m using my real name.)

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Printable version | Jul 18, 2018 6:10:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/tch-tch-tch-these-indian-men/article7137930.ece