My best friend and I have long wondered what it is about Indian men that gives them exotic appeal because, despite what our exploding population figures may suggest, few Indian or Asian women see it or at least admit to seeing it. However, get on to the other side of the Arabian Sea and it seems the Indian male becomes somewhat coveted. I was more inclined to agree with a female friend who pronounced this whole excitement about an Indian lover to be nonsense. Oberon’s jealousy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Queen Victoria’s fondness for Munshi Abdul Karim and EM Forster‘s love for Indian boys maketh not a trend. Except a bunch of our friends ended up benefitting significantly from this hype of Indian men supposedly being good lovers; we women, on the other hand, didn’t get very far. The fact that most assumed we’d been betrothed at age 3 or were looking for marriage rather than a date now was a bit of a dampener, I feel.
Being of an academic bent of mind, the bunch of us wondered whether this supposed appeal of Indian men was a legacy of the Kama Sutra (though, fittingly perhaps, that volume is the worst excuse for erotica ever: foreplay has never been as boring as when it suffered being described by Mr. Vatsayana, who was clearly doing his PhD on the anthropology of sex). My friend (male) suggested Indian men do submission better than most ethnicities, which is a huge power trip and it means that they are more likely to follow their partner around, gazing adoringly, and less likely to break up or make demands. Clearly, he was ignoring the phenomena of abusive husbands. Another friend (also male) suggested that it was the charm of discovering what lies beneath repression – under the polite packaging of the buttoned collars and home-knitted sweaters could be a man obsessed with bondage, for example – and then having that as your tingly little secret. And then along came Salon.com with its list of the sexiest men alive and we’re all more befuddled than ever. Alongside scrumptious samples like Alexander Skarsgård, Salon.com has Aravind Adiga, whose “dreamy brown eyes” supposedly induce a hormonal rush in women (and presumably in men who are so inclined). And Kal “Harold and Kumar” Penn. It’s a strange thing, this sex appeal business.
There’s never any explanation for why, nine times out of ten, it’ll be the most hideous man in the room who will be liplocked to a reasonably attractive woman. Or why the androgynous Japanese waif puts uteruses in a twist while the similarly scrawny Indian cricketer looks just twisted. Perhaps the trouble is that women are more demanding when it comes to men of their own ethnicity and easily enamoured by the Other (I apologise but you can’t keep a postcolonial theory student down). It’s the only explanation I have for Margaret Murray and VS Naipaul, for example. Another, less disturbed, example: a friend and I have trawled MySpace with the dedication of bloodhounds in an attempt to reduce the six degrees of separation between Vampire Weekend and ourselves. Ultimately, she managed to do so (being a member of the press has its advantages) and triumphantly shot out an email to New York to cement her triumph. Now, I like Emperor Minge but has this liking led to me scoping out personal details of Abheshek Mangla or Rohit Kulkarni, whom I could easily bump into at Khan Market or GK in Delhi? No, but I do know an embarrassing amount about Rostam Batmanglij. At least he’s a better musician, which, for sake of argument, I could say is more important than how cute he is (very…sigh).
It has been noted that men’s sex appeal generally sees an upward turn when on foreign soils. Take an Indian man abroad and you’ve cut him off from his mother, for example. Take a European or American man out of their homeland and you’ve cut them off from their girlfriend/ wife. In both examples, the net result is a randier man which is great for those not looking to make babies but keen on some trial runs. Recently Infected Mushroom (Israeli trance duo) were on tour in India and at least one of them engaged in random canoodling with a nice, well brought-up, upper middle-class girl. In Hyderabad, of all places. Now would this girl offer the same open affection to the drummer of, say Avial or Rainbow Bridge? Probably not. Partly because they’re not cool enough but more so because there’s a safety in throwing yourself at a foreigner. The chances of him being your distant cousin’s best friend or bumping into him at an arranged marriage setup are nil and therefore, hurrah hurrah to hearts of hope and away with inhibitions.
Last month, we had another foreign DJ roaming the country. His name is Armin van Buuren and Wikipedia describes him as a “trance producer”, which is perhaps why just the sight of him was enough to have a bouncing girl from the first row throw her bra in his direction. With characteristic Indian pragmatism, however, she also asked for her bra back after the gig. When asked why, she said she’d bought it recently and the design gives great support. But it’s only because Mr. van Buuren is 6’4″ tall, blond with blue eyes and unlikely to ever leave his girlfriend of 9 years and settle in India that the young lady loaned him her bra in the first place. If this was DJ Iggy, for example, she’d probably imagine introducing him to her parents and friends, calculate approximately how much he earns and remember Jignesh/ Kalpesh/ Mahesh is giving her a ride home in his Mercedes. Or that Aravind of the dreamy eyes has a million pounds to his name.