When, while on a mid-career journalism course in France, I was wary of traveling to Turkey on assignment, my Australian classmate, who had just arrived after a Holi tour of India (and a lot of squeezing by then), told me , “You support Indian men on your streets, don’t you? You have nothing to fear in Turkey. Because they have female police officers there. The moment a man tries to attack you, you raise the alarm and the police miraculously materialize from the woodwork. They just handcuff him and ask him questions later.”
I realized this was true when I was met by a man who insisted I was Sri Lankan but refused to acknowledge my origins. When he became too much of a bother, I raised my voice and the police were there within seconds. Since he wasn’t harassing me anyway, I told the police – but they still looked at him suspiciously because he insisted I was Sri Lankan.
I left the site and I don’t know if it was pulled, but I never felt safer than in my own country.
Why are today’s Indian men such jerks and jerks? And by that I mean that our fathers, uncles, brothers and contemporaries were not like that. In fact, they were gentlemen in every way. My personal belief is that it is because they were fresh out of British traditions and values, so they knew how to stand up for women, hold doors for them, put women first and never deal with the gentler gender
In contrast, for the last decade, social media in particular has been filled with a certain breed of Hindu men who can call the journalist who was just killed by Sanatanis “boximpunity, simply because he advocated a different ideology; threaten to rape female journalists, describe their parents as pimps and prostitutes, put Muslim women up for auction – and if they’re in close proximity to women, Western or otherwise, you can imagine the harassment that ensues.
And I believe this comes from the very top. Of the RSS who do not have a single woman of consequence in their ranks, they use women only to wash or press their feet, they believe that they should never compete with men, but only serve their husbands. And if they defy all these dictates, well, they are ready for some game and sport from men. Not a very attractive society, I must say.
Look at Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of a country he believes is steeped in ancient culture, but can call a woman a 50-crore girl just because she is rich in her own right, or label a respected female leader of a major political party a Jersey cow just because she was not born in India.
But there are contrasts even among our leaders. Since this is also Women’s Day Sunday, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party should be mentioned. He passed a law allowing women to close liquor shops in villages after the referendum in case those shops were ruining their family life.
With only one daughter, he was sensitive enough to inform me very clinically that I needed to use his bathroom just before boarding a helicopter on a campaign that could last six hours or more in the countryside and we might not encounter civilization before evening. . So I shouldn’t be in trouble before then.
Then there was BJP’s Gopinath Munde who invited me and another female reporter to cover his campaign and kept us on the road from 6 am to 6 pm in the winter months. When we couldn’t take it anymore and asked for a bathroom break, he sent us to the sugarcane fields. We refused and he said, rather insensitively, “We’re just going this way.”
We preferred to suffer discomfort than dignity. And he was the father of three daughters.
So I believe that men must lead by example, as our fathers and uncles did. Our brothers and cousins are better men for it, and so are their sons. But with cultural values crumbling under the present regime, I wonder how long it will be before most nations, not just Mills and Boone, begin to notice the fact that most Indian men have nothing much to write home about (at home).