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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Fools and their money...: Life Hacks by Charles Assisi

How are there still takers online for tripe such as ‘masculinity lessons’?

more-lifestyle Updated: Aug 10, 2019 16:13 IST
Charles Assisi
Charles Assisi
Hindustan Times
What does it mean to ‘be a man’, and why are strangers suddenly so full of advice on the issue?
What does it mean to ‘be a man’, and why are strangers suddenly so full of advice on the issue? (Shutterstock)

Snake oil salesmen peddling masculinity are new to India. And I don’t mean the kind with exotic toys and oils. But those that appear sophisticated and promise to make a ‘Man’ out of me. The modus operandi is subtle. They linger on Twitter, operate under pseudonyms, claim to be rich, physically strong, and claim to spend time examining stocks and studying philosophy. If their advice be heeded, they promise, I’ll get richer, fitter and be a polymath. It’s the kind of promise that appeals to basic instincts.

When contacted, they speak “man-to-man”. Because Twitter is an “open platform” and frequented by all kinds of people, women included. As things are, men have forgotten the “Art of Manliness”. Their stated mission is to teach men how to be men again. Packages start at Rs 1,400. I almost bit the bait.

The mind though travelled to the pages of Working, a memoir of the legendary American journalist Robert Caro. And the ears could hear him converse with working women in the Wild West Texas of the 1920s.

‘“You’re a city boy. You don’t know how heavy a bucket of water is, do you?” Walking over to her garage, she brought out an old water bucket to which a long length of frayed rope was attached... she handed me the bucket and told me to drop it in…. When it seemed full, she told me to pull it up, and I felt how heavy it was… The average Hill Country family was five people. Two hundred gallons in a day, much of it hauled up by a single person.’

A very shaken Caro continued, “…You hear a lot about gunfights in Westerns; you don’t hear so much about hauling up the water after a perineal tear…”

This sounded much like stories my grandmothers from the paternal and maternal sides exchanged when they met, stories about life in pre-Independent India. The men had businesses to mind. But the women had schools to teach at, large homes to manage, big broods of children to care for, meals to cook, minus creature comforts such as electricity, and finally had to soak in their men’s war stories before calling it a night.

But there was no malice in the narratives. It was about a past. What I could hear was gratitude for the present.

Compare their narratives with the expensive tripe on what it takes to be a ‘Man’.

1. Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ve got.

2. Good clothes are an investment.

3. Indecisive people lose out because time runs out.

My grannies often reminded me: A fool and his money are easily parted. I hear them now.

(The writer is co-founder of Founding Fuel & co-author of The Aadhaar Effect)

First Published: Aug 10, 2019 16:13 IST

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