Why should we let our men cry

There’s this sensitive video’s been floating around on What’s app and social media about how right from childhood boys are told not to cry. It is a short clip, but it compels you to think about how years of being conditioned to hold back and not cry or display emotions turns our men into monsters. It ends with saying we should teach our men not to make others cry instead of telling them not to cry. Set me thinking, because all along I felt our society judges women alone harshly, but somehow it dawned home men were equally affected.

We live in a society that subscribes to stereotypes in the true sense of the word. We condition our men to be strong and silent, our women to be helpless and dependent creatures who need a man to protect them.

Yet ironically enough our women grow up to be resilient and men emotionally vulnerable. They just learn to conceal this vulnerability under a mask of anger and aggression. Years of repressing their emotions and years of internalizing violence, anguish and fear turns conventional Indian men into volatile volcanoes waiting to erupt at the slightest of provocations. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am. Apart from being the perpetrators of patriarchy, men also happen to be its’ biggest casualties. They are bound by the shackles of being providers and protectors.

We’re a society that subscribes to stereotypes to the tee, especially gender stereotypes. We trap our men and women in such air-tight notions of how they ought to be and how not, to the extent that it can be suffocating. We make no allowances for deviations and have typical roles carved out for both the genders. There are pockets of our society that have managed to rebel and rise above archaic notions and traditions. Yet such people are sadly still a minority and are mostly seen as aberrations by self-appointed social moral police. But what is encouraging is ripples of change can be felt, men no longer shy away from being seen as sensitive, they have become more comfortable with display of emotions. But we still have a long way to go….

The refusal to change

Something that I haven’t quite able to fathom is the Indian obsession with maintaining status quo. We will go all out to endure misery as long as it is familiar misery. The moment the possibility of change looms large in front of us, we retreat like shrinking violets. We’ll stay rooted in a rotten situation but will shun the possibility of the unknown at all costs. Whether it’s a troubled marriage or a job that sucks the very life force out of you; one is asked to endure it all rather than leap into unknown territory. Why are we so anti-change? Why do we hide under the carpet at the thought of being catapulted into new situations?
What is it that makes us so stubborn and so rooted in our situations? Perhaps our belief in good old karma keeps us from changing, we feel we’re paying for our sins and have no way out but to endure and labour through a despondent life situation. We refuse to entertain the possibility that we can choose to seize the situation and steer it to a better place. It is a strange learned helplessness that is passed on from generation to generation. We never realize, there is no merit in misery and making a martyr of oneself.
We glorify suffering and pain and then expect our future generations to pay the price for the sacrifices we made because we were too chicken to change. Yet we hide our cowardice under the glory of martyr hood and self-victimization. We think we’re being noble, when in fact we’re just being plain and simple rigid and refusing to flow with life. The quote floating around on the internet sums it up only too well, “We can’t see our chains as long as we aren’t moving.” Why don’t we realize that by opening up to new possibilities we open ourselves up to life? We can’t live by rigid rules and archaic notions only because they are familiar and comfortable. Because rigidity and in-elasticity only makes you say no to life’s possibilities and opportunities. You can exist in a cocoon but you can’t grow or live in it ever. Nothing ever grew in the shadows of the familiar and comfort except moss and molds.

Our lopsided Indian ways

Our society has its own share of eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. Every once in a while I can’t help but observe them and ponder over them. Life is trodding along smoothly yet some instances always surface now and then forcing one to think whether we’ve actually progressed or are still trapped in a time bubble refusing to budge from how we view the world, digging in our heels while insisting how we view the world is how it ought to be.  Being reared to question instead of conforming and thinking instead of toeing the trodden line can be quite an aberration in our country. It only makes matters worse. For the life of me I am unable to fathom why most of our country is still trapped in a time warp. We refuse to let go of how things should be a certain way. Any fluctuations from the designated path are seen as abnormal.  We weave a framework for ourselves and the people around us. Anyone outside that frame is an outcast. We’re eager to shun anything that threatens our patterned mundane way of thinking.  We love to glorify miseries,  sing paeans of  sacrifice and then expect our progeny to do the same for us.  To seek pleasure is to walk the path of decadence, so is to follow one’s heart. Our  duty is to obey and please people who are senior to us in age and stature.  We have this ambiguous sense of what morality entails. And “being good” and morally upright comes with its own baggage. The baggage of pomposity and self-glorification and righteousness. The view that how we’ve lived life is how others ought to. Self-denial is seen as the supreme goal of our lives. We are so willing to demolish dreams at the altar of duty and then expect our future generations to do the same. We still let gender decide an individual’s destiny and course of life. Not sure if we pass on values and ethics from one generation to another but we certainly hand over our prejudices, our rigidity and our biases only too gladly. If you refuse to lap up these gracefully be ready to get an earful. We’re so ingrained in our stick in the mud attitude that change is shunned as  an outsider. How long will we stay wedded to status-quo let other people decide the course of our lives and stay ingrained in passivity ?  Perhaps forever. We’re so eager to label  and anything radical, different or new as ‘evil’, dangerous or threatening. Our refusal to budge from our stances is seen as being sure of what we want while it is merely sheer pig headedness.  What makes me so sad is to see people of our generation to fall prey to such fallacies and archaic notions. We seldom gather the courage to voice what we feel since it is easier to conform and get validation for doing so. But who ever said that what is easy is the best for us?

 

Stereotypical Notions…

It is so convenient a stance to put people in slots, stereotype them..especially in the Indian context it predominantly happens on the basis of community.. I grew up thinking we as a country had moved beyond parochialism and such things happened only aeons ago….It is only when I moved to Delhi that I woke up to the fact that community based prejudices were everywhere ..When began working did it dawn on me how people size up each other and even form cliques based on the community to which they belong. I once had a colleague who practiced Christianity come up to me and tell me out of the blue you Hindu girls have no morals ! I was too dumbfounded to react let alone retort with a smart reply !! It struck me how people still nurtured such redundant ideas and considered their community superior to others !!It struck me how stereotypes and even biases are sown into the very  threads of our society.. So many times I’ve had people tell me.. oh so you’re a Punjabi..really?? But we thought you Punjabi  girls are usually aggressive and fast..:roll:  As if one’s community can determine one’s character and personality. It never ceases to amaze me and even irk me how no amount of education and opening up the windows of our minds has helped wash away such deep-seated insulated notions.. What stems out of mere convenience of slotting people results in  an insulated way of life ..  we no longer care about delving deeper and understanding people.we seldom want to scratch the surface and look beyond the obvious. I wonder when ,if at all will we move beyond such shaky and ephemeral grounds of categorizing people and start seeing them as individuals in their own right ..without letting their race, caste, creed colour our perception..I  wonder when…!!

Making Sense Of Everyday India

is the title of Santosh Desai’s latest book.. A social commentator and a columnist with the Times of India, Desai succeeds in bringing out the quirks and eccentricities that constitute of being Indian. The book is about new India emerging out of the folds of the past. Desai’s keen observation and quick wit make this book a breezy read. For instance he brings out the fact that we’re a consumerist society today since the great Indian middle class once saw self-denial as a heroic trait.

 Desai’s stint in advertising with McCann Ericsson reflects heavily as he examines and gives us an incisive critique of media images of the India that was and the country that we have become today.. From the mere pass Ma hai when a woman was seen as mother of all to the contemporary mom who is a friend,confidante yet monitors her child’s health as well as school life.. He studied  matrimonial advertisements over 30 years and notes the shift from boasting about the family to a search for handsome mates, preferably fair. The older ads conveyed mysterious advantages like ‘mother pious lady’ or ‘brother settled in USA’, the alliance being one of families than of a couple. That has changed…

These and many more are snapshots from the book..In a nutshell Desai is quite successful in chronicling the great Indian middle class. Worth a read if only for the  snappy , humorous style.

Who are we?

When it comes to classifying our society I am always at a loss .. Are we progressive, retrogressive, insulated, open.. What exactly is it that defines.us . I can’t quite pinpoint ..

Look at the media for instance we lap up all those television soap operas which show child brides, women donning sindoor and praying and doing nothing but planning and plotting.. We claim to hate these yet these are the ones that gross most TRPs !!

We claim to be turning egalitarian and yet caste and gotra seem to be creating deeper rifts so deep that people are willing to kill their own blood relatives.

On one hand we are lauding women who’ve managed to break the glass ceiling in the workplace on the other we still don’t have a proper law against sexual harassment at the workplace.It is still a mere draft

We’re supposed to be a collective society where family support is what was supposed to be an individual’s security net yet the number of suicides and depression statistics seems to be spiralling upwards..

We deny vehemently favouring the male of the species..yet the female per 1,00o males ratio in Punjab and Haryana speaks otherwise.

We rear our kids to lean on us emotionally ( we Indians have never learnt to untie the umbilical cord gracefully) Yet we expect them to suddenly turn autonomous and take responsibility when it suits us.

We keep harping on tradition when it suits us that is when we want others to follow them and very conveniently we can do a volte face and claim we’re a modern society..

We might be globe trotters yet when it comes to connecting with people we usually connect with those from our community or at the most ,state..We’re a parochial lot yet we never admit it.

Men still want ‘hip’ girlfriends and docile wives. They still marry for the fact of having someone to cook for them and tend to their mothers !! Yet they seldom admit this .

What exactly are we? This post might sound like a confused ramble. That’s exactly what it is.. I really don’t know where I stand.what defines my identity as an Indian ?? My take on this is we’re floating somewhere in between we’re a society in flux, in transition.. we want to change yet we resist change.. We are trying to let go off tradition and yet haven’t really grasped what it entails to be truly liberal .