Author: Aditya Ganjoo
The development of civilisations across the world allowed humans to feel safer, and thus, focus on other aspects of life, apart from survival. Probably, that is where the gentleman developed. In every tribe, and in every civilisation. Today, allow me to introduce you to the gentlemen of India. I present here five courteous behaviours that a traditional Indian gentleman shows while interacting with women. This list is neither exhaustive, nor accurate to the word. In a country as ancient and diverse as India – with five thousand years of recorded history, twenty thousand mother-tongues and innumerable faiths – it is not possible to develop one. Moreover, not everyone is a gentleman, and not every gentleman has the same outlook. A reader may consider this list as a peek into the Indian mannerism from a man’s perspective. Additionally, I am sure that a lot of these will match with the gentlemanly behaviours in your culture. A gentleman is a masculine man, and deep down, masculinity isn’t vastly diverse, right?
So, here we go:
- A friend’s sister is the man’s sister. There is no other way to look at it: A friend’s sister is never anything but the man’s sister. It goes without mentioning. I think this helps bring friends closer, as there is no hidden agenda, expectation or suspicion. My friend told me about the time when his friend’s sister was getting married, she called asking him to take her to the beauty parlour. Poor guy drove two hours in unendurable Delhi traffic to pick her up and drop her at the place thirty minutes away. After the ride, he was, obviously, infuriated and told her that she should have booked a cab. But that is fine. He did not take it to heart. What a man can do for his sister, he can do for your friend’s sister as well.
The same rule does not apply to the sister’s friends!
- Friend’s girlfriend/wife is sacred: Like a friend’s sister, his partner is sacred. But, men don’t consider her their sister, else it would be a deadlock! The designation the friend’s partner gets is “bhabhi”. Bhabhi simply translates to brother’s wife!
When a man confesses his interest in a girl, she is ceremoniously declared a bhabhi within the friends’ circle. From the moment on, it becomes the duty of every friend to court that girl for him. Until, either they get into the relationship, or things fall apart. Obviously, situations turn messy when more than one friend shows interest in the same girl. But, once the girl takes her decision, and the couple gets into a relationship, other men respectfully back off.
- A man lowers his gaze while passing a stranger woman: Unlike many Western cultures, Indians don’t greet, smile or nod at strangers. It is completely normal if someone on the way makes a momentary eye-contact while maintaining a poker face. But when a stranger woman passes in the close vicinity, the man lowers his gaze. This applies for the elderly as well. My friend, a devout Muslim, told me that Islam specifically instructs men to do so. It is, however, a cultural expectation in India, irrespective of the religion.
- A man avoids handshakes with women: When greeting a woman, especially one with no acquaintance, a man goes for a more traditional and contactless greeting – Namaste, Salaam, Sat Sri Akal, or a verbal hello, rather than for a handshake. Handshakes are not a taboo. But there are different schools of thoughts, considering politeness and manners. Some believe that it is perfectly acceptable to shake hands with a woman, and might take offence if a man does not do so. Others incline towards a handshake if a woman extends her hand first, as it establishes her consent. The other extreme refrains from a handshake, come what may. Taking cues from the environment, body-language of the woman, the level of formality, and his own beliefs, a man may make a call. But it is a marshy ground.
- For family expenses, the man’s income is exhausted first: Indians are the pundits when it comes to saving money. We save a lot! With more women now earning a steady income, household incomes are rising. (Source: trust me bro!…. nah. It’s ChatGPT, which is roughly the same) My friend, who is married and has a kid, told me that all the household expenses are drawn from the man’s income first. This is the rule everyone abides by. Most of the woman’s income, if not all, goes into investments and savings for the future. These long-term savings may be used for larger expenses such as purchase of assets, education, or medical emergencies.