Once while travelling in a plane, bus or bullock cart, I saw a man fast asleep in a seated position. Or was he staring intensely at his crotch? Okay, so it was the phone in his lap he was looking at. How relaxed he is, almost slipping into a siesta in a public place! An Indian man looks at home anywhere, like the world is his spa. No domestic chores before, during or after the journey. While here I am anxious about a million things, trying to disguise my nervous breakdown as a cough. It was the difference in our serenities that set me thinking.
Him taking a nap in a public place like the Buddha he is, while I looked like I was simultaneously handling the laundry and labour pains with a ‘so sorry for breathing’ smile bequeathed to me by a long line of women who came before me. I am aware at all times of the elbows that could dig into my chest, of the heads that could nestle in my neck, of in fact being raped and killed and thrown from the plane, bus or bullock cart if I let my guard down. Indian men have the best complexions from a general lack of worrying; someone sorts out their socks and makes their tea. Globally, unke twacha se unke umar ka pata hi nahi chalta.
Their birth has midwives strut—‘aapko ladka hua hai’ is set to disco music. ‘It is a girl’ is traditionally said in a descending pitch, like they are hoping it was an optical trick and the gender may just change on second look. Boys are pampered, given hyperbole pet names, and what’s more, they have a penis that is monetised in the marriage market; fetches a handsome price. It is money in the bank from the moment they are born!
When the mating season is upon them, they point at the first girl they see and then it is up to mommyji to run around identifying gotra, matching kundli, booking wedding hall etc. No wooing, just wifing. The first time they try to sweet-talk a woman is when they are cheating on their wife. An Indian woman married to an Indian man having an affair with a married Indian man is just too many Indian men in her life!
Indian men are different, deserving a special accent when you say those words: Indian men. Not to be confused with men in the rest of the world. Other men too may have doting mothers, hand-picked wives and a sea of sons till the eye can see, but they look… happy. Indian men manage only to convey a chronic sulk. It could be the daughter after daughter you bore them, it may well be the dirt in the inside of the store drawer you failed to dust or the biryani you can never cook like his mother did in 1972. Despite the smooth skin and lack of worry lines, they do take themselves too seriously.
The only time they look content with their lot is when dead. Stretched out in their drawing rooms, dressed in summer white, they lose that air of self-importance at last. If mildly irked by the premature ban on Sati, they keep it to themselves at this point.