Saturday, August 02, 2008

The ugliness of the Indian male

Mukul Kesavan’s The Ugliness of the Indian Male contains a controversial proposition: that Indian males are ugly, largely because of their disgusting habits. And on what basis is this proposition made? Kesavan writes:
Let’s start with the extremities. Examine the nails of any Indian man: the cuticles will be yellow with haldi and the underside of the bitten-off tip will be spotty with accumulated dirt. When you think of where they put those nails, this is not surprising. I’ve seen respectable men conducting conversations with their index fingers two digits deep in their nostrils, digging with industrial enthusiasm. If you ever see a desi man delicately rubbing the tip of his index over the pad of his thumb, beware. Don’t do near him: he’s rolling the bogies he’s mined into little balls.

He uses those same fingers to adjust himself in public. All Indian men do this, without exception. The refined ones do it furtively, but the majority do it openly without shame or embarrassment. A famous Indian batsman does this regularly with the butt end of his bat handle under the gaze of thousands of spectators. You can’t do this and be goodlooking, you really can’t. You could be John Abraham (an exception to the ugly rule) and your looks wouldn’t survive this particular habit. And if it isn’t thumb and forefinger it’s the pinkie inserted into the ear and vibrated with manic vigor. This generally comes with eye-rolling and little oinks of pleasure. You’ll never see Indian women do this, only men. It’s an important route to ugliness.
I’ll have to confess that as an adult Indian man, I may have been guilty of some of the things stated – whether in a refined, furtive way, or publicly, I won’t reveal. But if you are enraged by this sexist claim of Kesavan’s don’t hesitate to protest. And what do Indian women have to say to this, I wonder?

I know for sure that Indian men have a lot to say about Indian women. When I was in college in Trichy - in a hostel with 400 sexually-unfulfilled, testosterone-charged guys - all sorts of depraved comments were made about the few girls who also studied with us, and who lived in a separate hostel. It was quite offensive, I must say; I can't even mention any of it. The strange thing is that not a single one of them had the courage to say anything in the company of the same girls.

So: Kesavan's view applies not only to some unclean habits, but also to what spews from the mouths of some frustrated young Indian men.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you find out what the girls in the hostel had to say about Indian men, when they were by themselves?

vivvaid said...

do u mean REC trichy by any chance? in which case,i totally agree! :)
Batch/ Dept pls?

Ps said...

Hi--got here from desi Pundit.
I am presuming you are quoting Mukul Kesavan (Had not heard of him till now) when you say "lets start with...."
Gosh--That although well written is completely an over exaggerated, nauseating, revolting, designed-to-make-you-want-to-throw-up version.
Thankfully none of my male friends are like that.At lkeast not in front of me.
preeti (just a mother of two)

Kenney Jacob said...

May be I should start a post about the nauseating and ugly habits of the indian female... Silly....Generalization

thendral said...

Frankly I have nothing against the brilliant habit of nose digging, having spent many hours in the activity myself. The habits of men I am peeved about are a lot more serious than social niceties. Pawing women on buses, staring blatantly at breasts, making ugly remarks. You can of course claim that society makes one sexually repressed, but the women are equally repressed, if not more. The one slightly less serious things i don't particularly like that men do, is to pee in public. Not that I have anything against it, its just that I don't have the freedom to do the same, and it'd be nice to see a guy show some respect and exercise his sphincter.

Sid said...

Kesavan's take on Indian men does seem right to a large extent. One must remember that he is generalizing and of course exaggerating that little.

Well, the things that we discuss and say while in a men's hostel is solely because we are there and with guys. I am sure that such things are not even meant to be spoken outside of those walls.

Staying with the same set of people almost the whole day for an entire year is not easy, and there are methods which people use to bond. While some may like to do activities together, others like to be brazen and gossip. Oh yes, guys do gossip!

Pallavi said...

Interesting post Hari! Got me thinking about Indian men genre..:)..Although the point MK is making may sound a little exaggerated for humor sake but I think some of it is so very true.

Hari said...

@anonymous: Yes, I would love to find out what Indian women say about Indian men when by themselves – can you help me with that? I can’t sneak into their hostels and eavesdrop, unfortunately.

@vivvaid: Yes, REC Trichy. 1996-2000, Production Engineering. How about you?

@Preeti: I would suspect those friends of yours. They may be refined in public, but not so in private. After all, everyone’s got to clean noses and ears one way or another, no?

@Kenney: Kesavan is just having some fun; he knows he can ridicule Indian men, without getting into much trouble. His views are a generalization, it is true, but these claims are often well rooted in reality.

@thendral: You are frank, and it’s good to see that. Yes, it’s the other habits that you mention that are more serious.

@sid: I can see where you are coming from. You are saying what is said among guys remains among guys – it is like the world of thoughts and dreams, where one thinks of nasty, demeaning things often inadvertently, but never acts upon them in the real world. Maybe it is so, but I have my doubts: I don’t think this talk among guys is as harmless as you make it out to be.

@Pallavi: Glad to see you here! I think Kesavan is onto something. I wonder if there’s an anonymous poll one can do of Indian men to settle the matter once and for all.

Sirensongs said...

Sounds like Kesavan is brutally honest, not sexist. The observation "Indian men are what's wrong with India" is pretty well accepted amongst international travellers and the franker Indians I know. Nepali, Sri Lankan and other South Asian men don't get the same assessment, so it isn't racist.

I just loooove seeing the guys who bring my food picking their nose --while they're standing in full view, behind the counter.

Lots of "cultural" travel guides advise women to NOT shake hands with men in the region. There's more than one very valid reason for that.

Hari said...

Never knew there were rules cautioning women to shake hands with men. The evidence piles on.

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Anonymous said...

Well... when was the last time you saw a woman scratch her private parts in public? Obviously men do it more often! All these nauseating things.

Anonymous said...

Pity he forgot to add peeing in the open!