We all know that the male child is a prized possession in India. Only the child in question does not know that, at birth. But this state of innocence is very short-lived. Soon he discovers that he has achieved no mean feat just by being born male in India. This awareness is tantamount to a mental block, a learning disability except in rare discerning households.
For starters, one of the earliest assurances that he receives is that as a male child he is eventually heir to the position of the head of the family if not also to most of the family property. In rural India, where there is not much inheritance to pass from one generation to the next, this assurance is still there, that he still gets to be the unquestioned “head” of the family, with a docile (read, servile) wife and a bunch of kids that are there to serve him and for him to bully.
This mindset is still with the Indian male as a full grown adult and he carries it with him to the workplace. More often than I care to mention, I have found male co-workers who find it difficult to acknowledge that at the workplace the household equation of unquestioned male supremacy is not there. Out of the comfort zone, many such men are unpleasantly surprised to find that they have to prove their mettle by demonstrating technical, managerial and other skills. There are of course exceptions, but the vast majority of men who start their careers with the assumption that the red carpet is there waiting for them at the workplace, or that there are women waiting to follow his orders, are in for a rude shock when they don’t find these things. The shock turns to depression and subsequently to aggression when they are saddled with a female boss from whom they have to take instructions. If the lady in question is sensitive to the psychology of such a team-member, she might sometimes take the help of a male co-worker to ease the new entrant into the work situation. If not, then a tussle of power can become quite a futile loss of both time and energy which, needless to say, benefits no one.
The term ‘male ego’ is widely recognized, why has no one heard of ‘female ego’? Probably because socio-culturally there is no sanction in Indian society for a ‘female ego’ even though we are a nation that worships various forms of ‘Shakti’. Tradition and convention taught us to put the woman either on a pedestal and worship or, to look upon her as an object of use, at best a piece of furniture, meant to look beautiful and add value in terms of a possession for her owner, the man.
In the West ever so often, the Indian male is perceived to be a guy who has fun the way he wants to while studying there, or learning the ropes at a new job, but dutifully goes back to India in search of a wife because apart from the fact that he is secretly hoping to marry an innocent virgin, he calculates that she would be easier to control, that he could expect her to perform household duties like a slave and appear like an epitome all virtues.
The fact is that like India, the Indian male is also typecast. India is all about cows, snake charmers, dirty streets. That description of India makes us all cringe. Yet, we all know it’s partly true. Bashing the Indian male smacks of a similar Western mindset. We all want India to break out of the image mould, so also for the Indian male. The Indian female, I must admit, gets the better part of the bargain. She is typecast as the beautiful, submissive, clever, deft woman who is forever under the jackboot of the Indian male. Casting the Indian male as a mother obsessing, woman beating, lazy and helpless lout pining for a lost feudal world is fashionable. But is it true? Well in my experience, more than partly true at least. Every day I witness the male swagger and the male bragging - both pathetic attempts at denying a new world order where worth is directly proportional to the skill-set and experience being put on the table. What is more infuriating yet is to also observe how the same clever and deft woman so often plays the “damsel in distress” card, thereby artificially inflating the “male ego” and eventually manipulating it to suit her own purpose. But I guess this is how the game of survival is played. As they say, all’s fair in love and war, and what better virtual war-ground than life itself.
Photo credit: Nathan Put-Fernandez