“Can you write an article on the male perspective on women? It should be spicy, enjoyable, funny…not serious stuff.”
That was the brief that I got for this article from the editor. My first thought was, is it possible to offer a male perspective on women. After all, there are all kinds of men and women out there. Nevertheless, if I had to speak for the whole of menkind, then I had to find a man who would represent the maximum men possible.
I did a quick research on google.
53.66 % of world population was male
35.87 % of these men were in India
68.25 % of this population was middle class
In short, among the male species of the world, the ‘Indian Middle Class Male’ were the most abundant. So if I had to find what men thought of women, then I had to interview a quintessential middle class Indian man.
Mr. Bhalerao works as an accountant in a private company. At age 45 he has come to terms with his life. A wife, two boys and steady job for the past 20 years seemed to have given him a contentment reflected in his considerable bulging belly. Other than taxation, he is passionate about food and watching cookery shows on television.
I met him at his office canteen on a late Saturday afternoon, to know his perspective on women. As he sits in front of me I notice his half-sleeves shirt buttons seem to be straining to contain his bulging body. He looks at me with curiosity, perhaps considering me foolish to take his views on matters other than taxation.
Myself — “Mr Bhalerao as you know I am doing an article on what men think about women and wanted your views on it”
Mr. Bhalerao — “Sir, what is there to talk…women are women and men are men. Simple. They are not complicated like tax laws. Only when they meet all complication starts.”
Myself — “Hmm…maybe you can tell me something about women. What do you think they want? What do men want? And why this complication?”
Mr Bhalerao — “What is there to tell Sir…. there are all kinds of women…but I know only one. My wife Parvati. We have been married for last 23 years. When she first came to Mumbai from Ratnagiri she hardly spoke. Now she talks endlessly…her main complaint is that I do not spend enough time with the children. Now tell me Sir, what all can a single man do…work or be a dutiful father. She should understand Sir, what all a man has to go through to earn a living! Right Sir!”
Myself — “Yes Sir, I understand (trying to sound sympathetic) But tell me Mr. Bhalerao, are all women like Parvati?”
Just then a fair complexioned woman with sharp features, in her late twenties, with blue jeans and a peach T Shirt passes our table with a cup of tea in her hand. She looks at Mr Bhalerao and smiles. Mr Bhalerao suddenly scampers to his feet awkwardly and says “Hello Madam!” with an ingratiating nod of his head. The lady acknowledges the greeting. She walks past our table with an air of certainty about her. Her lemon scented perfume lingers even after she has gone.
Mr Bhalerao — “That’s my boss Priya Madam.” (Then in a hushed tone he whispers) “Tough lady!”
Myself — “Is it? Tell me about her…”
Mr Bhalerao: “She has been my boss for last three years. Always running and making me run after deadlines. She has done her MBA from abroad and joined directly as senior manager. Her father is a rich diamond merchant, but even he could not save her marriage. (In a barely audible voice now) She divorced her husband recently! Not all women are like Parvati, Sir!”
Myself — “Hmm…how are they different? I mean Parvati and Priya Madam.”
Mr Bhalerao (looks around and spots Priya sitting at the far corner of the room chatting animatedly with someone…reassured that he is out of hearing range he relaxes): “Have you ever eaten Vada Pav Sir?”
Myself — “Err…yes..why…”
Mr. Bhalerao — “And have you eaten McDonald burger?”
Myself — “Yes…”(Unsure where this is headed)…
Mr. Bhalerao — “Are they different, Sir?”
Myself — “Yes Mr. Bhalerao, they are different!” (getting impatient)
Mr Bhalerao — “That’s how they are different. Parvati is like Vada Pav and Priya Madam is like McDonald burger.”
Myself — (Unbelievable! A fast food theory on women!)… tell me more…
Mr. Bhalerao — “You see Sir, Parvati belongs to a small town Ratnagiri. She always knew she would be married one day, have children and take care of the house. Just like the famous Ratnagiri mango, her fate was already decided. She does get upset with me from time to time, but eventually seeks my approval for all decisions.”
Myself — “And what about Priya Madam?”
Mr. Bhalerao — “Priya Madam is a modern woman, good education, English speaking. She is from Mumbai, rich father, foreign MBA, love marriage…(in a hushed voice)….against her parents’ wishes…I am told. Now divorce after five years of marriage. Like Mumbai bhelpuri, everything is mixed up Sir.”
Myself (I realize by now food is not just for eating, Mr Bhalerao uses it for communication) — “So what does it tell about women Mr Bhalerao?”
Mr. Bhalerao — “You see Sir, every woman has a little bit of Vada pav and McDonald Burger in her.”
Myself — (speechless)
Mr Bhalerao — “It’s a matter of composition! Vada pav means “home, family and being a good wife, mother, daughter”. The McDonald burger means “individuality, career, woman’s rights and needs”. And in every woman the vada pav and the burger keep fighting for space.”
Myself — Hmmm…
Mr Bhalerao — “You see Sir, women are always fighting between what society wants them to be and what their heart wants them to do.”
Myself — Hmmm…
Mr Bhalerao — “They are told from the very beginning how to sit, how to behave and the boundaries within which they can function. As long as they act within this “laxman rekha” they are fine, if they cross it then they have to bear the consequences. Just like masala papad gets burnt when you fry it beyond a point.”
Myself (Papad!) — But what about Priya Madam, has she not challenged the traditional role of women?
Mr Bhalerao: (looks around again and leans forward…in a soft voice) — “Yes Sir. But just like tender coconut, behind that tough exterior is still a woman who wants to be held and loved.”
Myself (taken aback by his analysis of his boss…sitting a few tables away) — How are you so certain?
Mr. Bhalerao — “Have you ever seen Discovery Channel, Sir?”
Myself (surprised at this sudden diversion from food to wild-life) “Yes…”
Mr. Bhalerao — “Have you seen that all birds, no matter how far away they fly, always come back to their nest at the end of the day. It is called the ‘Homing Instinct’, Sir. Every woman wants a home. It is in the blood and bone of every woman. (He pauses in a softer voice) I remember the dark patches below Priya Madam’s eyes when she was going through her divorce. She had become thin like a dry drum-stick!”
Myself — “And what about Parvati your wife, you think she is satisfied being a wife and a mother.”
Mr. Bhalerao (laughs) — “Parvati and satisfied! Of course not!”
Myself — (Surprised) “You just said a woman wants a home…”
Mr. Bhalerao (explaining patiently, like a teacher trying to work with a dull student): “Sir you see it is like this…. As much as a woman loves her home, she loves her freedom. It is difficult for her to make out what she loves more — Home or Freedom. It is like inhalation and exhalation. Women need both. Parvati wants to be a teacher of small children, she wants to be recognized and appreciated for her work. And I am sure Priya Madam still wants to find a man who will care for her.”
Myself — “Interesting! One more question…what do men want from women?”
As I say this Priya Madam passes our table once again. The conversation takes a logical pause. Mr Bhalerao gets up and exchanges smiles with his boss once again…as though we were discussing the Mumbai weather all this while
Mr. Bhalerao (in a serious hurried tone) — “I have to get back to work now. Priya Madam will expect me at my desk soon. Can we do the remaining interview later please?”
Myself — “I am almost done. Last question. You see the women readers of our magazine would be keen to know what men want from women? What is your idea of a perfect woman?”
Mr Bhalerao (perplexed) — “How can I know Sir, what men want from women. (then takes a pause and smiles) but I can tell you my idea of a perfect woman.”
Myself — Yes! Yes! That will do Mr. Bhalerao! Please tell us, what is your idea of a perfect woman?
Mr Bhalerao — “A woman who can give me love, respect and understanding in unlimited quantity ….just like Gujarati Thali!”
PS : Mr Bhalerao is as fictitious as the google statistics quoted above. Any similarity to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.