There’s something different about Indian men. I’m not talking about their intense gazes, which I expected; something else caught my attention. It took me a while to figure it out. Once I’d got past their unabashed curiosity, social confidence and friendly hospitality, I realised Indian men are super affectionate…towards each other.
Young and old alike hold hands like high school sweethearts. They fondly pat each other’s rotund bellies. They wrap arms around each other’s shoulders as they go for a gentle chinwag ‘n’ stroll. They straddle motorcycles together – passengers unfazed about holding their mates by the hips or wrapping their arms around the driver’s waist in a big bear hug. They shake hands and don’t let go until the conversation’s over. It’s delightful – so intimate and loving, yet completely casual, too.
I suddenly felt saddened that this display of brotherly love was completely foreign to me. If men behaved like this back home in Oz, they’d generally be paid out for being “gay”; not that being gay’s a bad thing, it just shouldn’t be the only reason men feel comfortable showing affection towards each other. In Western cultures, a 3-second hug, jovial slap on the back or fist pump are generally the limit between mates – a brisk handshake will suffice between strangers or male colleagues. It often takes copious amounts of alcohol for Aussie blokes start displaying a bit of man-love. Even then they seem to get this wild urge to play-tackle each other, as though they need to make their hugs seem manlier. It takes courage to be a “touchy-feely” guy in many countries – but not in India.
That’s one of the reasons I love this country so much. The most intimate parts of people’s lives and emotions are on display 24/7 – not tucked behind closed doors or in a deep part of their brain shrouded in embarrassment or fear. They value connection between brothers – expressions of friendly fondness and familial-like love. It’s welcoming. It makes one feel as though they belong and are a valued member of the community.
Now, if only men and women could show they same level of affection in India. While hugs between female and male friends aren’t completely taboo in more modern, populated areas, Ben and I certainly felt the need to limit our usual public displays of affection (don’t stress, I’m only talking about the legal kind!). While a man falling asleep nestled in his mate’s neck would go unnoticed in India, a couple doing the same thing could cause discomfort to onlookers. It’s a funny thing. Perhaps Australians and Indians can teach each other something about showing the love.