Published: 08th March 2021
This DU prof's book explores how boys are treated in Indian households and how that impacts their behaviour as men
Through The Anger of Saintly Men, Anubha Yadav explores the idea of masculinity and the role of patriarchy in the making of men in today's society
Patriarchy, gender discrimination and violence against women have been talked about and discussed for years. But while a lot of focus these days is on correcting and punishing this mindset, people like Anubha Yadav believe that there should be more discourse on the root cause -- how families raise boys. That's what her latest book The Anger of Saintly Men is all about.
Anubha, a professor of Media Studies at the University of Delhi, a screenwriter and short fiction writer has been exploring this theme for the last five years. She explains, "I've been exploring how families raise boys and how they tend to become the kind of people they become. The question bothered me. There was a lot of discourse happening around women. People have been writing books and making films, but there was not enough available, especially in fiction as to what happens within a family, what is the nurturing that men undergo, especially in India and South Asia. I wanted to explore that."
Anubha, who is a feminist, would engage with women's lives very intensely, but at the same time, she also observed men closely and found certain patterns. "The violence, the entitlement and the privilege that families give them, we've been talking about it for years, but nothing is changing. I wanted to find out the backstory of this formation and how patriarchy contributes to this. We know how patriarchy is affecting women's lives. But we need to tell and reinforce that patriarchy is impacting men's lives too. Especially in hyper capitalist times, when jobs are defining us, there's a lot of pressure on men and I wanted to try to answer the question of how it impacts who they become."
Anubha also noticed certain patterns in the way sons are treated in an Indian family. Set in the 90s during the first stage of liberalisation in Gurgaon, her book explores these patterns through the lives of three brothers -- Saurav, Anurag and Vikram. Anubha explores various themes through them. The burden of expectation through the eldest, the burden of being intelligent and bright through the second and the burden of being feminised through the third. Saurav is constantly under pressure to take up responsibility of the family, almost like the surrogate patriarch. Anurag is brilliant, but his marriage is failing. So when he wants a divorce, he falls from grace in the eyes of his family. Vikram has a stutter and is interested in literature. He is constantly dismissed. Anubha also explores the expectation of courage in a man, the idea of the male body, how men relate to their bodies and how these burdens they carry impact them later. She says, "They either succumb to the expectations and become what they're expected to, or they tend to oppose everything and become something entirely different. Either way, what they become is a result of expectation and not what they really want to. What are we saying to a boy when we tell him 'oh you're brilliant, so you focus on academics, not on household chores'. We're giving him privilege, but we're also telling him that those privileges can be stripped away the minute he stops performing. These discourses happen in a very passive agressive way in an Indian household and it internalises in a child. If a child has a stutter and is constantly laughed at or dismissed, then what is that child internalising? We are creating these men. There was probably a past where these men were saintly men, they probably still are, but now they do have a sense of privilege. They have been oppressed, but they're also becoming the oppressors."
Explaining the title of the book, Anubha says, "Saintly points towards the oppression and stifling since we as a society try to raise the prototype, so-called ideal men, who are very far from being ideal, but are not allowed any freedom to curate themselves, as families give them privileges, so they play the role expected of them later. Just like the good girl trope is a trap, the good boy trope is also a trap."