Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
Trigger warning: Mention of suicide
Being a man or a boy has been symbolic of strength or power or adventurism for a long time. It is considered a privilege in our society. Every parent or atleast most of them want to have a son. A couple expecting a baby hopes it to be a baby boy. We are considered the true future of our family and though verbally but handed over the responsibilities to take our family to new heights at birth itself. From the time a boy is born, the chatters of what will he become in the future starts. Some say that we will become doctors, and to some, our hands look like of a future engineer and so on. No one bothers to ask or atleast considers what we would like to be.
When we start going to school, it feels so great to be out at first as we get to see the outside world. we make new friends and find out what interests us the most. But the good feeling doesn’t last long, as the moment we enter schools the aspirations of our parents, of us doing good at everything, starts growing stronger. Instead of learning, we start competing. Everyone expects us to be the best, as we are the flagbearer of our family’s future.
Everything we do comes with a disclaimer of not letting our families down.
The cousins that were our best buddies start turning into our biggest competitors.
The board exams become a matter of pride for everyone in our society. Those scoring highest get labelled as champions and others as losers. If we are amongst those losers, it’s no less than a nightmare. We start getting scolded and often get the remarks like, “you have disappointed me”, “you have ruined the reputation of this family”, “what kind of example are you setting up for your younger brother or sister” and so on.
For us failure is not an option, we only have to succeed. We are not allowed to try something we like, as the mere thought of us failing at something is not acceptable to our families. We can’t fail, as that will jeopardize the whole dream of a bright future.
Our choice of subjects becomes a topic of concern for our families. Every parent looks at it with utmost curiosity and scrutiny. science is considered the best even if it doesn’t interest us. Commerce, we are told, is for mediocre students and we should think twice before choosing and arts. It’s not to be considered, as if it’s something inferior, and so are the ones choosing it.
By the time our teenage life reaches an end, we are at the cusp of taking a big leap; we are going to be college students. We get reminded that teenage days are over and we should act responsibly. We must get into IITs or AIIMS or else our future will be bleak. Not all of us manage to do so.
Amidst all the scolding and recitations of Sharma’s/Mishra’s/Gupta’s sons getting into IIT or some premiere institute, we sit secluded with our heads down with shame, in our own house.Some of us manage to cope with it,while some succumb to it.
Some of us don’t feel strong enough to face this humiliation of failure and put an end to this miserable life labelled with failure.
Men are always projected as macho. Showing our emotions is considered a sign of weakness. Everyone must be familiar with the dialogue “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota” (Men don’t feel pain). Yeah, that’s how we live, hiding everything i.e pain, depression, and burying it somewhere deep inside our hearts.
Being a man means we can’t show our weakness. Even when we need help, we can’t seek it. If we feel pain and cry, it’s a shame as that’s not something a man should do. Amidst all the hue and cry of equality and patriarchy, on a date, if we forget or let the girl pay we get judged.
If someone misbehaves with a girl in front of us and we choose to talk some sense in him, we hear remarks like “you are not a man”. If we indulge in a fight, we get labelled as the poster boys of toxic masculinity. No matter what we do, it’s never enough. Everyone talks about a mother’s love and her sacrifices but no one ever appreciates the love that our father showers upon us.
We don’t choose to be a boy or a man as it’s something, that I believe, gods decide. But we choose to live by the virtues that a man must have. To me, being a man means having courage, strength and an adventurous spirit. It means being honest to the one I love. When my family is in trouble, I am their pillar of strength. In troubled times, I am their shoulder to cry upon. I am there to protect my family against every danger.
Being a man, we work tirelessly to ensure a better future for our families. It means taking responsibility for everything and stop blaming others for it. If I fight with my girlfriend, it is generalised and considered my fault. I’m told that a woman is just a mirror, projecting my lies to me. If I get betrayed, it’s because I am dumb and immature, as I trusted someone who doesn’t deserve my trust. It means being generous and kind.
Being a man means not indulging in jibbering or self-praise, but instead letting our success do the talking. It means to raise our voice against something, that is wrong. And most importantly, it means making the world a safer place for women. Women should not feel insecure around us, rather they should feel at home when we are around.