The Controversial Indian | Columns

Humpty Dumpty is tougher than the male ego

Egg shell fragments of Humpty Dumpty next to a brick wall with miniature policemen, firemen and spectators

Egg shell fragments of Humpty Dumpty next to a brick wall with miniature policemen, firemen and spectators

After the round of violent hysterics over the film Padmaavat, some people wrote to me and asked me to take up the issue in this column. But I hesitated. After all, these things happen all the time in India. And not just in India, to be honest.

How often can one condemn the various manifestations of such dramatic fits by crowds of men incensed over something they have not read or seen? Also, what’s the use of such condemnation, which is only read with sympathy in like-minded circles, where people are less inclined to public tantrums?

Fragile egos everywhere

Instead, I thought, perhaps I should write about what I consider the core reason behind such violent hysterics by men. Yes, no matter if the rampaging crowd is Hindu or Muslim, Gujjar or Jat, Tamil or Rajput, it is predominantly — usually entirely — male. All of these hyperventilating men are driven by one factor: the male ego, which is often so pampered as to be utterly fragile.

Of course, this is not confined to India. The Pakistani or Arab male ego is as pampered. As, in different ways, are male egos in other countries, though sometimes not as much. In some parts of Europe, the male ego — though still at times bloated — has lost many of its more monstrous dimensions. And that is because women in these parts stopped pampering the male ego a few decades back. Thankfully. You will notice that men in these countries do not go out and throw violent, public tantrums over differences of perception, or if they do, the numbers are much smaller, their fits shorter and less dramatic.

But let’s face it: the male ego remains largely pampered almost everywhere. This pampering starts early and lasts throughout one’s life, despite occasional setbacks. Here I will talk only of the Indian subcontinent, because that is the socio-geographical space I know best.

The mother is making a choice dish. She puts it aside, without tasting it, waiting for the husband to come. Or, what happens even more often is that she keeps it for the son, but not necessarily the daughter. Or for the daughter only after the son has partaken of it.

Men break in and interrupt women even in educated circles far more often than women are permitted to interrupt men. Sisters turn to their little brothers for opinions; wives do not contradict their husbands.

Women have to be careful about what they wear and say, where they go. They have to be diffident and ‘modest’. In a hundred little ways, men are made to feel intelligent, good, powerful, knowledgeable, right, smart, and attractive by the women in their lives. (And I am not even talking of female infanticide, dowries or marriages, which are usually far more rigorously arranged for the bride than the bridegroom.)

Islamists have attuned an entire religion — one that gave women some early rights — to sustain and consolidate this pampering of the male ego. But traditional Hindus are not that far behind. No, actually, they seem to scampering to catch up in some Hindutva circles.

Growing up in such circumstances, with women to agree with them and not question their opinions or decisions, it is no wonder that so many Indian and Pakistani males cannot take any difference or criticism. They are always getting their feelings hurt. One is reminded of the joke about samosas, pakoras and similar dishes: “Do not say no to them; they too have fillings!”

From homes to streets

But it is not just that the ‘fillings’ of many men are incredibly fragile; they always pour out into the streets. Humpty Dumpty was much tougher. These men do not know what to do in the face of opposition. They cannot engage and discuss, they cannot debate or converse, they cannot even take recourse to the due process of law.

So used are they to shouting down the women in their lives that they can only shout in public too. They go out on the streets and treat public property as, one sadly fears, they would treat their wives or sisters, if they dared disagree: batter it, burn it down, smash it. They rave and rant. They bluster and bully.

So every time Muslim youths get hysterical over a novel they haven’t read or Hindu youths throw a tantrum over a film that has not been released, I suspect part of the fault lies with the women back home, who cook them chappatis, fetch them their slippers, admire their petty prejudices and tall stories, and do not contradict their opinions.

I feel like begging: please, mothers, wives, sisters, grandmothers, aunties, please stop pampering the sons in the family. You are giving them bloated, pampered, fragile egos that can burst at a mere pen prick. You are making them unfit for a world of differences. Worse that that, because differences are inevitable in the world, such men can only destroy themselves or the world.

And, grandmothers and mothers, if you really have an urge to pamper, why not pamper the daughters of the family? Mostly, they have not been pampered for centuries. And they never go out and burn buses or stone people when their opinions and beliefs are thwarted.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2022 1:58:47 pm |