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To ‘Dude’ or not to ‘Dude’? Beyond the ‘Suno Ji’ & ‘Aap’ Cabaret 

From ‘suno ji’ to ‘dude’, have we learnt to befriend our partners?  

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TL;DR: To ‘dude’ or not to ‘dude’?

“No bro, I am full, ” she exclaimed.

Suddenly, everyone stopped talking all at once. She knew she had said something wrong. A spartan silence hung in the air, dressed up and raring to go. The room seemed tinier than before and the air, sticky and confrontational.

She bit her lips and reconsidered. At least a dozen eyebrows had frozen themselves in time and a few others seemed too confounded to respond.

From ‘suno ji’ to ‘dude’, have we learnt to befriend our partners?  
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A peachy-faced man, the “bro” in question, who I presumed was her husband, started moving the cutlery around noisily while clearing his throat needlessly.

The sudden unanticipated silence, from an Indian family of fifteen,  in a busy restaurant was what had caught my attention. I was there for a quiet dinner with an old friend, hoping to not get pulled into the overhearer’s arena. But alas...!

Up until then,  the mood was entirely different. Loud, raucous laughter and a restive urgency to get a word in every two minutes — a regular Indian family out for dinner on a Saturday, you know. There is always a lot happening.
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But now, one of them had shaken things up.

The daughter-in-law had crossed familiar terrain and ventured into uncharted soil. So much so that the grand old patriarch had suspended his ghee-slathered spoon in mid-air, between his moustachioed face and the fine china, only to look at her like one would at a down-and-out vagrant.

“Err... I mean, I am full, Pranav, ” she recanted, her voice croaky and pitch high.

From ‘suno ji’ to ‘dude’, have we learnt to befriend our partners?  

I could almost hear fractional sighs of relief heaving through multiple noses. But there was a wounded look in her eyes. What is she thinking, I wondered.

‘Be careful, you’re just getting started.

Love,

Your social reflexes.’

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A woman can’t just name her husband. Nah-uh. Pati parameshwar, remember? He is on a pedestal that no pooja thali can reach, even when you stand on your toes.

From ‘suno ji’ to ‘dude’, have we learnt to befriend our partners?  

Of course, if you’re lucky, and people around you are painstakingly trying to mould themselves into the “exhausting liberal” that everyone fancies these days, you are slightly better off.

But mostly, you still can’t, in the public eye, “dude” or “bro” his unlucky  a*se. I mean, you can, if you are willing to put up with the social infamy.
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God forbid you take your man off a pedestal and befriend him! His life-span may get diminished, your respect for him might vaporize and dark clouds WILL gather over your head, which cannot easily be dispelled, even when the man tries to help out,  clear his throat, and move the cutlery around.

Take, for example, Pranav’s wife’s case (using this identifier only because I couldn’t catch her name at all). The incident has etched itself into my memory.

Post our leading lady’s indiscretion, Pranav’s mother, a lady in white, looked like her affection for the human race had died, while a biliously sweet chacha, to her right, looked like his scorn had swallowed a fresh green chili.
From ‘suno ji’ to ‘dude’, have we learnt to befriend our partners?  
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Ek toh naam lete ho. Tauba Tauba. To top that, how can your husband be your “bro”, their quizzical expressions had pleaded with much disdain.

I, for one, couldn’t feel prouder. This is a start for her. Strike one, and many more to come, I smiled to myself.

So heres the deal:

My country, which comprises roughly of about a billion people, is a developing one. Both in terms of objective determinants and ideological desires.

Women account for a little over 48 percent of India’s population and to be born one, if one is lucky enough that is, in this culture, in her body, is to know from the very start that things won’t be easy.

She needs to cover up, hold her tongue, speak sparingly and, mostly, look like a manicured cactus on a vacation. Of course many of us are privileged enough to make choices that subvert the norms, but for many others... one can’t just publicly... BE. 
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In 2017, Malati Mahato, an Orissa woman, was banished (with her children) to a house on the edge of the village. Her ‘fault’? She had NAMED all the men when her sister-in-law had asked her who was sitting outside.

In October 2016, Rohini Pawar, a volunteer associated with Video Volunteer, raked up the issue of naming husbands at a women’s discussion group in her village.

We had great fun. We laughed a lot that day. For the first time in our life, we were shouting out our husbands’ names.
Rohini Pawar to BBC

One woman, in the group,  reportedly went home giddy with excitement and screamed out her husband’s name. She was slapped immediately. “He told her that if she ever dared to say his name again, he would give her a solid beating.’’

She is living to tell her story, though.

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These are just a few examples. There are many more women, waiting to be supported. It is time to not just befriend our partners, but do so vehemently, in the public eye.

Yes, we’ve come a long way. From “suno ji” to “aap” to “Pappu ke papa” to... “dude” and “bro”, baby’s (all puns intended) come a long way. But it is still unheard of, in many communities, villages, and regions.

What happens to the women who can’t even afford the limited privilege that Pranav’s wife, in an urban setting, can afford? 

Bottom Line: Baby’s come a long way. Or has he?

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(The above is a part of TLDR (Too Long. Didn't Read), a weekly blog that aims to crunch things down for you. I will give you the long and short of most things that need to be taken extremely seriously like your bookshelf, beer, existential dread, aimless conversations, rainy days and bubble-wrap. I promise to cater to all readers, but I brazenly harbour a soft-spot for skimmers, bathroom-readers and infinite scrollers. Now, let's bring the written word back!

P.S: Follow me @medhac1)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Women   Arranged Marriage   Sexism 

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