On the 13th day, God created Indian men.
Or, He did it on a day around that time, when He was exhausted and did not really want to do anything. He should’ve taken some rest at that time after all the major work He did before that. But He thought, well, I am God, ain’t I? I can handle it: I can do some more creationism.
And so He did not take the rest He should have taken. And then He created something only He knows why. Honestly, and I’m truly sorry to say it, with due apologies to Him, it was not His best creation at all.
He created Indian men.
We shall explain.
See, Indian men — Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Christian — are lifelong kids. When they are very small and very young, they get too much attention and pampered to an extreme. In an Indian family — rural or urban, low caste or high, middle class or poor, a little boy is always treated like a little prince — a Raj Kumar; the same family would treat a little girl very differently (even though she might be called a little princess — a Raj Kumari). Boys get the best food, best dresses, best toys, and best lullabies. Girls get the leftover food, leftover dresses, leftover toys, and no lullabies.
(And in many cases, a girl child would not even see her mother — live; chances are, society would force the mother to abort her. India has perhaps the highest number of such abortions; but we’re not going to talk about that violence here.)
Then, Indian boys — if their families can afford it — get “education.” For those families who can afford it, boys always get to go to better schools and get new school uniforms and new books — if their families can afford it. Girls — even if their families can afford it — may not be sent to the best possible schools even when the girl is smart and able to pass the entry exam. They will not get the best books; they will not get the newest uniforms.
Now, at this point, there would be some readers vehemently opposing my narration. If they are women, they would say, no it did not happen to me; my father sent me to the best possible school all along, and I also got the newest uniforms and new books. If these protesting readers are men, they would say, look, the situation has improved a lot; your tale is totally outdated. They would say, look, I had a sister, and my father found the best schools, best uniforms and best books for both us — with no discrimination.
Well, I’m happy for you. I’m only talking about my personal experience — with people I have seen in my life. I guess, I’m talking about a particular class or variety of Indians (note: by Indians, I also mean Pakistanis and Bangladeshis). And by the way, oh dear protesting reader, look, you’re drawing my attention to your father who did it for you and your sister. I guess, you mom did not play a significant role in the decision-making process, did she?
Anyway…on with our story. Then, the boy grows up (or so they say) and becomes a teenager. Remember, in India, there is practically no sex education: even now, talking about sexual development and sexual relationship either at home or in school is practically a taboo. Co-ed schools are still relatively rare, and even the few and far between co-ed schools do not have a modern and transparent and age-appropriate sex education curriculum. The society is largely feudal. Gandhi’s feudalism did not help to bring up a modern nation at all.
In this pervasive climate, the sex-education-less growing man knows he is strong and his hormones are acting up. He realizes he can start flirting young women and perhaps, with some indulging friends, taunt and tease neighborhood girls passing by (see picture: we shall save some real-life, graphic descriptions for later). If the girl is self-righteous and has some guts to not accept the taunts and teases passively (and speaks up!), the boy and his male-hormone friends know it’s about time to teach the insolent, audacious girl some lesson she can remember. Just like my teenager friend Subh did in North Calcutta, there would be some verbal and physical boundary crossing — shaming her and traumatizing her in public.
Of course, if the girl comes from a rich or powerful family and/or has a number of muscular brothers or uncles, it’s going to be a completely different story: the girl can walk freely anywhere, with her head up. Nobody would touch her; in fact, the same boys would now retreat back home with their tails tucked between their hind legs, and have wet dreams, dreaming about her over and over again.
Pardon my explicit word choice here. Again, this is my life’s experience, and that too, from twenty or thirty years ago. I have left India ever since; I wish the situation had changed (and I know, apart from some cosmetic changes, it has not — much).
[Update 1: The Delhi gang rape case, December 2012. -- A young woman was gang raped and violently beaten to near death on a moving bus. Perhaps for the first time in modern Indian history, the entire country exploded against rampant, all-pervasive violence on women. Now, as of December 29 India time, she has died. You can read more on the latest development here.]
[Update 2: Very recently, there were two gruesome "honor killings" in West Bengal where a father and a brother hacked two young women to death in broad daylight because in both instances, the girls married their boyfriends without consent of the families. The so-called honor killing NEVER happened in the state of West Bengal before.]
Anyway, enough digression. On with our story.
Then, the Indian boy becomes a man (or so they say), and marries. He now owns a real woman to toy with. He can do anything he wants with her, with active indulgence from his parents (here, the mother in-law also becomes a big part of the oppressive patriarchy, for reasons social scientists could explain). The eternal boy child, now a husband, may love his new bride, or he may not love her depending upon the day, time, whim, mood, status of the bride’s family, or his own parental instructions, likes or dislikes. He may ridicule her, throw acid-like sarcasm at her. The Indian man has special expertise in ridiculing the Indian woman; or for that matter, anyone who he considers inferior (a teenage son quickly learns and follows his father: now he starts throwing sarcasm at mom — I have real-life examples if you need them).
The man may make her woman cook and clean (depending on his economic status and affordability), or he may put her in charge of the cook and clean maids (with his secret, sporadic examination of their bodies if the maids are young), forcing the wife to stay at home to perform her “traditional, social, religious” Indian duties.
Such duties often forces even a brilliant woman to sacrifice her brilliant student- or professional career; I personally know scores of Indian women who after marriage had to give up their singing career, medical practice, teaching job or employment as an entrepreneur. The husband — the Indian man God created on the 13th or some day — with help from his family or himself, would not allow it.
They say it’s too un-Indian for a married woman to work outside. Well…maybe…if I’m liberal…I’d let you do some part-time job…close to home…and you’d be ready to quit and move with me if I have to move. My career comes first: that’s what he says.
(Gist: It doesn’t make a difference if the family supports liberal or conservative politics. But the husband or in-laws would bend the rules — and bend them a lot — if the men in the family are jobless or incapable of making money.)
Then, the Indian boy child, now a full-grown man (or so they say), becomes a father and does his sacred fatherly duties by touching the cheeks or hands of the sleeping child. He even smiles at the child or may I dare to say, sometimes sings! Then, he leaves for work or to meet friends or relatives. Or, he resigns back into the living room, where he draws his favorite chair and cushion, and watches his favorite Bollywood movie, cricket, soccer, cooking, wrestling, fashion or talk show. Bollywood is traditionally ultra-patriarchal; fake wrestling is…ah well…we all know.
(Why does he watch the cooking show? Ask him: I have no idea.)
These days, he would even bring a friend or two (male friends, that is), close the living room door, drink beer, whiskey or smoke a cigarette or two, and have a serious, stressful debate on terrorism, politics or the collapse of American capitalism. (Or, they would watch the cooking show together.)
Then, a servant (or his mother) comes in and informs that dinner is ready. They flock at the dinner table and devour the meal, without any curiosity whatsoever as to how it was made.
If the wife is allowed to work outside, she would also finish her “womanly duties” at home returning from work (or even before going to work, waking up very early in the morning) — while the man would hardly lift a finger and help the wife do household chores. Or, in 2012, a well-to-do he might phone-order in Domino’s Pizza or KFC’s spicy chicken: he would not waste time in the kitchen at all. He would not waste time to do the dishes either; either the women would do it, or the dishes would be left unwashed til the next morning for the part-time cleaning maid to show up and do it. If the maid fails to show up the next morning, the women would do it, with the man watching the TV or reading the newspaper in the living room, cursing the maid for her “frequent” absences and the “flowing-like-water” money spent on her.
In fact, today, well-to-do visitors come from India and stay over at our place in New York: we observe them closely. We observe that the female visitor would almost always volunteer to help with the cooking and cleaning during their stay (they know we have no domestic help here in the U.S.), while the male visitor would almost always stay back in the living room watching TV or get engaged in various intelligent debates — on all possible and impossible subjects including Bollywood, cricket, soccer, terrorism, politics, capitalism and stock market.
I could keep going for ever, and express a lifetime of irk and annoyance on God’s one of the weirdest creationism — Indian men — but friends and well-wishers tell me not to lose my head. They ask me to keep my calm and poise. So, I shall stop now and keep my calm and poise. I just want to tell a story — in fact, a fact — we saw here in the U.S. In a way, it summarizes my tale.
[Update: A Facebook friend from Arizona just wrote to me that she had exactly the same type of experience in her own Indian life; I can't thank her enough for her invaluable candor and support.]
An Indian man who is now an immigrant-turned-U.S. citizen is a brilliant graduate from Indian Institute of Technology — one of the best-known schools India can brag about (PBS did a show on IIT a few years ago). He is a “success story” for an Indian immigrant. He started working for an American engineering company somewhere in the South, and slowly moved up the corporate ladder (think about him as a Bobby Jindal in the field of engineering). Now he makes millions, has a number of nice houses, fancy cars, and a big sail boat. He travels worldwide. His kids went to Ivy League schools and are now employed with renowned companies.
It is his wife who told us this story — in a “funny” way. She said (I’m only paraphrasing):
“I had a C-Section when I gave birth to my first child. I came back home a few days later with the baby. I had severe pain: they still hadn’t cut my stitches. Suddenly, on the first weekend after I returned from the hospital, my husband announced that he’d invited a number of friends over for dinner to celebrate the birth of our child. I was mad like hell. I said: ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t even move I have so much pain, and you already invited your friends for dinner? Like, who’s going to cook and clean — you? Have you ever stepped inside the kitchen, do you know what it looks like?’ So, my husband said, ‘Honey, don’t worry, these are our close friends, I only invited a few people maybe six or seven of them. You don’t need to do much. Just make some fried rice or biryani and make some chicken curry, that’s all. I’ll get the beer.’ So, what could I do? He’d already invited them and I had no choice. I had to cook and clean that weekend with my stitches on.”
See, this man is not abusive or anything. He is actually a very nice man: soft-spoken, educated and highly placed. He is not one of those wife-beaters, dowry-bride-burners or acid throwers. Although he’d once told me he was not too worried about his daughter’s education because she was going to get married anyways, but he indeed sent her to a good school here in the U.S. He is a jovial, warm, helpful guy. He doesn’t drink much. He doesn’t gamble or do drugs. He is faithful to his wife.
We must forgive him for inviting his friends over for dinner when his wife just delivered a C-Section baby and had her stitches on. Right? Like, those things happen in real life: an Indian man’s real life.
Brooklyn, New York