26 October 2007
THE UGLINESS OF THE INDIAN MALE AND OTHER PROPOSITIONS by Mukul Kesavan
‘Some years ago I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of Hindi film heroines and the ugliness of Hindi film heroes. After researching the matter I concluded that the explanation was straightforward: leading men in Hindi films were ugly because they were Indian men and Indian men were measurably uglier than Indian women ... While my observation was accurate and the data I had gathered reliable, I made the mistake of attributing the ugliness of the Indian male to nature. I know now that Indian men aren’t born ugly: they achieve ugliness through practice. It is their habits and routines that make them ugly. If I was to be schematic, I’d argue that Indian men are ugly on account of the three Hs: hygiene, hair, and horrible habits ... Why are Indian men like this? How do they achieve the bullet-proof unselfconsciousness that allows them to be so abandonedly ugly? I think it comes from a sense of entitlement that’s hard-wired into every male child that grows up in an Indian household. That, and the not unimportant fact that, despite the way they look, they’re always paired off with good-looking women.’
Mukul Kesavan’s entertaining writings crackle with cerebral wit and originality. A historian by profession, he is distinct from his tribe because his prose ploughs a lonely furrow: it is a sparkling, accessible, aphoristic, and uncommonly elegant cocktail of serious thinking and unserious fun, often standing commonly held notions on their heads.
This collection of essays is a distillation of his thoughts on some of the central concerns of our time. They are outrageously funny, profoundly cosmopolitan, and devotedly ‘pseudo-secular’ all at once.
BLACK KITE / Rs 395 / 312pp / Hardback / ISBN 81-7824-206-0 / World rights