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Mental health

Surely there’s more to a man’s mind than performance anxiety? A witty, visually frisky book investigates, says Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: May 22, 2007 15:32 IST

A Little Book On Men
Author: Rahul Roy
Illustrator: Anupama Chatterjee and Sherna Dastur
Publisher: Yoda Press
Pages: 72
Price: Rs 150

If women can think, it’s thanks to contraception and home help and suffragettes in pantalettes. If we’re Indian, we can also thank a bunch of men with teacosys on their heads from Raja Ram Mohun Roy onwards. Men didn’t have to think for centuries — not about the things that really matter like emotional intelligence.

Women had to endlessly negotiate and so they became articulate, sensitive and compromising, known in India as the ‘adjust’. But when the women’s movement went ballistic, heaps of women raced ahead in evolution. Today, if you’re a hetero metro man reading this, you know that lots of ‘modern’ women are the kind you’re probably too scared to even ask out.

You feel inadequate socially, sexually, emotionally. Old notions of being ‘eligible’ don’t apply.

So who ARE you, man?

Rahul Roy’s clever little book tries to arrange the questions in a visually frisky format. Sometimes a mite too frisky because the thought flow and reasoning process is hiccuped by the graphic exuberance.

Basically the book is saying that while the women’s movement has enabled women to raise and explore issues of identity, rights and potential, men have never needed to introspect. But now, they do.

The pace of change has been too fast and insistent and men have reached the point where the omerta of Marlboro Men everywhere must be broken.

Questions to ask: are men really violent? Is it okay to cry? Is it okay to be bi- or gay and still be ‘a man’? Why should men change? So that there are fewer accidents, heart attacks, rapes and wars — fewer men?

The biggest question, of course, is about what really lies under all that physical and mental cruelty. It seems to be —
you guessed it. “Masculine identities are marked by a sense of fragility and failure...that leads to such an emphasis on ‘performance’... Sexuality is the site of these anxieties.” Sickmind Freud!

This is a funny, clever book. But having raised these points, does it ask the women for a few answers?

Of course, not. Which man ever did?

Or else, the book’s target readers (men, presumably) would have learnt at least one important, liberating thing from women: that men don’t need to be oppressed by sexual performance anxiety.

Sneak up on the women’s mags or eavesdrop on a girl gang. Except for renunciates (and who knows what they’re really up to), it’s safe to assume that everybody wants a happy clinch.

But women are okay with holding and being held until things happen naturally. Intimacy matters most to them, not instant athletics. By projecting the way they themselves think on to ‘what women want’, men have foolishly messed themselves up. But that’s going to need another book.