Tuesday, October 18, 2016

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN





Several years ago, when I was barely a few years into teaching, I was teaching a group of final-year B.Com students in the residence of one of those students. All boys were smart and fun-loving and they hailed from affluent Punjabi/Sindhi families. I was yet to become acquainted to the life-styles, culture, language and daily vocabulary… the ethos and even the routine slang that young boys – if not girls – of various communities in Mumbai used. I was a young man in mid twenties and the boys in this particular group, probably, were a couple of years younger than me. So, while teaching them, the boys would use a lot of colourful slang and swear words. The fact that I was young and open made it easy for them to take liberty, often. One night, when the young man, in whose house I was teaching, used a swear word (not referring to me, of course). I was in a foul mood, that night and I did not approve the boy’s reference to one’s sister in that swear world…

“Do you know you have a sister?” I asked him angrily.

The boy did not like that – I dragging his own sister into the discussion… He got up infuriated and almost came to grab my throat… his teacher’s! Thanks to his friends’ timely intervention, I am alive and able to tell this story, today!

That night, we also turned great pals and continue to be so… I, also, learnt, that night, that swear words involving sisters and mothers have sneaked into our daily lingo cutting across the regional barriers… all over the country, all over the world – in the remotest villages, including the village where I grew up – yes, everywhere, for ages, this kind of usage has been prevalent… using sisters and mothers for vulgar swear language…  

That night, when my own student got up to hold my throat, I realized,  that’s how it was in my own village, too… that’s exactly how we boys too would speak… And, that realization made me so aware of this disgusting practice, that I just dropped it from my vocabulary… And, when someone around me uses it, all that I do is: I recall the incident in my student’s house, many moons ago!


In the Hindi movie, ‘Parched’, the three women yell out from the top of a hill and from top of their voices the same swear words replacing sister with brother… and mother with father! The scene shook me to my bones and, for the first time in my 58 years on this planet, I found asking myself the question those three village women – battered and abused all their lives – were asking: “Why there aren’t men in swear words?”

And, today, I was watching two videos. Both centered around the tape in which Donald Trump is heard proudly bragging about his sexual adventures with women... How kissing and groping any woman by their genitals is okay for a ‘star’ like him… what he thought about his own wife and daughter etc. Now, I am no judge of Trump’s sins… He will give his account to God. I am not here to campaign for Hillary… I am not even here to say whether Trump is fair in what he said…

I am writing, today, on this subject, only because the two videos I watched have provoked me to ask these questions:

“Do men, including me, think and talk about women, the way Donald, in this tape does?”
“Do we men indulge in this kind of ‘locker-room banter’?”
And, this one, prompted by Michelle Obama: ‘WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MAN’!!








GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Kenrick D'Cunha
Videos: YouTube


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