“Main Hoon Kaun!” This question has been haunting me for the last two weeks, giving me sleepless nights, while I grapple with the eternal existential question of my identity and existence.
(This piece has to be read along with the article titled “The Good Men of India” written by Ms. Lavanya Sankaran in The New York Times of 20 October.)
I can’t stand howling babies in an aircraft, especially if they are in the same row or nearby. If I go with my wife to a sari-shop, if feels as if I am being hammered in a claustrophobia inducing room by the heaviest iron club this world has to offer.
I clearly am not a “Common Indian Male (CIM)”.
I also clearly don’t fit into the group of “feral men, untethered from their distant villages, divorced from family and social structure, fighting poverty, exhausted, denied access to regular female companionship, adrift on powerful tides of alcohol and violent pornography, newly exposed to the smart young women of the cities, with their glistening jobs and clothes and casual independence — and not able to respond to any of it in a safe, civilized manner”.
And since two Sundays back, for everyone in the US who has read these definitions of the only two groups of men India has to offer (The Good Men of India, the CIMs and The Feral, Adrift, Rapist, Unmoored Men, the FARUs), I don’t exist. From Ms. Lavanya Sankaran’s perspective, I am neither a CIM, nor a FARU (the last acronym is my own creation, not Ms. Sankaran’s).
Given that the article she wrote in the Sunday edition of the New York Times titled. “The Good Men of India” was aimed squarely at the lowest common intellectual denominator residing in the United States in an attempt to simplify all the paradoxes that exist in India, I wonder, why she did not introduce a third category for people like me.
After all, India has always had a “third” category of people, acknowledged and allowed to exist within certain acceptable social constructs by the other two.
So, if I am neither feral, nor a CIM, the only person I can now be is an “it” and I wish Ms. Sankaran had written more about “its” like me. “Its” who are not “socially gregarious or endearingly awkward”, “its” who hate to travel in “a family herd” and “its” who definitely are not part of any “medieval world of the walking undead”, “zombies, targeting females rich or poor”.
I am now so confused!
If I land up running into a young white or black woman of American origin who knows I can’t stand babies on flight, will she run away from me thinking me to be halfway feral, just waiting to pounce her? Or will she expect me to take her home to my mummy or to my wife, thinking me to be part of the caring, committed, intelligent loving CIM group? Help me here! Given that I am an “it”, should I insist on bringing her to the safe haven of my home to stay with my wife and kids or escort her to her hotel and make sure she is safe by following her all the way to her floor and room-door to ensure there is no feral unmoored waiter, liftman or doorman hiding in the closet or washroom, waiting to pounce on her?
And the article has now affected those around me as well…they now look at all the migrants who work with or for us, unmoored from their villages…the chauffeurs, the cooks, the technologists…wondering which one will be the new leader of the “rising zombies” and who will be the next to bare his “feral” teeth.
Ms. Sankaran…what am I?
“Main Hoon Kaun”?