Manwatch: Looking at men through book-tinted glasses

BY YASHASVI VACHHANI

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life” – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

As a single 27-year-old who has looked at the world through book-tinted glasses, this line jumped out from the prose and spoke to me. I went from reading to love stories, and sweet valley to falling in love with Jane Austen in my teens. You can imagine why I was single for a long time – where on earth is Mr. Darcy with his mansion, clipped British accent and brooding eyes?

When I was about 12, I interacted with a fun, bindass ‘modern’ aunty in my building. She was everything my mother was not. She didn’t cook and waxed eloquent about the beauty of rugged men with scars. Her husband was a navy man and he was away on ship when they moved to our building. For months we heard about a good looking, rugged man, (this clearly was an important feature), with a silver ponytail. She spoke of him like he was a character from one of her beloved Mills & Boon novels. From the same library where I picked up teenage love stories, she sent me to pick up Mills and Boon by Penny Jordan and some other favourites. I was to pick only those and none others, the modern ones didn’t appeal to her romantic side as much as these oldies. Most of the books were tattered and really old titles, but when she had five of them at her bedside, she was happiest. And so began my tryst with romance. My childhood reading was not all sanitized, I was a big fan of a series called Love Stories (cliché much) and still have a few lurking among my books for the sake of nostalgia.

My friends and I were frequent visitors of Rajesh Library, where we paid Rs.10 for each book we borrowed and later exchanged notes on the boy that made us swoon most. Sweet Valley was a big hit as well, though I was never impressed by those people. Some twins lurking around some school, I don’t remember too much of that, but I do know they had a profound impact on group dynamics in school. There were also days when aunty sent her good-looking son (I was crushing hard on him and two other boys from school at the time, wondering who would be the right one for me. Which one of these fine boys I would hold hands with) to the library with me and we would comb through the titles looking for the ones she wanted, while I stared at him and his perfect hair and looked for him in the hero of my next book. Well before you think he was Mr. Right, didn’t you notice in the beginning of this essay, I said I’m single? So well, that was that.

Much influenced by her, I later sampled a few M&Bs and promptly rejected them. They were too slow, the heroes were not to my liking, I did not like any of it, although I did read the sex bits in the modern ones. I think my parents figured what was in those books and put an end to it. You can deal with discovering a boy with porn, but what do you do when you discover a girl with something like porn? You ban the books and never address the topic again.

I eventually discovered Jane Austen, who sustained my romantic dreams through my teenage years and gave me enough fodder for all my dreams and fantasies. The only problem was I was not in love with one of her books or one of the characters from her books, I was in love with many and I wanted all the good qualities from all the good men all rolled up into one fine specimen of a man. If I dig up my diary, I think I’ll find the exact description of ‘the right one’ drop dead gorgeous, respectful, a gentleman, funny, quirky, intelligent, intellectual, conversationalist, friendly, caring, loving, non-smoker, intense, brooding, shy, tenacious, affectionate, distant and passionate. I’m sure I had more adjectives, but this guy already sounds like he suffers from a bipolar disorder.

{This is the time you shake your head and think ‘no wonder this girl is single’}

How in the world I thought this person existed, I do not know. But, I was on the lookout for him – my dream man, a customised mish-mash of magical characters.  If this dude is out there in the world, I don’t want to meet him anymore.

There were many whose little qualities made it to the list. But the most important one was that the hero always had a heart of gold. That is one quality that still kind of appeals to me. A man with a good heart – that is all that really matters, I suppose. But I could do with a healthy dose of humour, intelligence, quirk, intellect………………….

Okay, before you think I am stark raving mad, there are some bits added for humour, alright?

Anyway so, I grew up a bit more, went through heartbreak, and a string of ‘could-bes’, but for the most part I was single, pining away for that perfect someone to come along and then, something happened. I revisited Pride and Prejudice. As I was reading the book, I realized I didn’t fancy Mr.Darcy anymore, his broodiness did not have me swooning or conjuring images of myself next to Colin Firth’s version of him in a hat and wild hair (of course I’m Elizabeth!), but I  found myself drawn to Mr.Bingley. There is not much about him in the books or in the film, but he is a good-natured, decent man who likes to have fun and wants to marry a nice girl. He seems light and happy, there is no hidden heart of gold or passion. There is a just a nice man who will have a perfectly normal life and so he is destined to the fate of not the starring in many teenage fantasies while his buddy Darcy takes up all the mind waves.

But as I grew older, I realized, that is really all I want: a good-natured, nice man who is fun and knows how to be happy. It is such a relief to know I am not looking for a unicorn anymore. This is the kind of person who exists in the real world and I have a shot at a happy ending after all.

PS: “There is a chance that a man can be as interesting in real life as he is in a book, only remember to look for the sidekick, not the hero” – Yashasvi Vachhani

 

About the author: Yashasvi is a writer, reader, watcher, talker, part-time gypsy, living and laughing in Bombay.

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7 thoughts on “Manwatch: Looking at men through book-tinted glasses

  1. Yashasvi,seems you know exactly what i went through in my teenage ,even i used to judge every guy with the “Darcy-yardstick” till i realised guys like Bingley actually make life beautiful in their company.God knows what happened after Elizabeth married Darcy and what kind of life she actually had 😉
    Very Nice write-up ,can totally relate…

  2. OMG! That hit home completely.
    • Use to go to Apna Pustakalay as a child. Fee 10 bucks for a month.
    • I grew up on M&Bs (Penny Jordan, Lynn Graham, Michelle Reid). Not the Modern ones, as they were too steamy
    • Reluctantly promoted myself to Jane Austen, as my mum caught me reading MB
    • Spent the entire 20s dreaming of Mr.Right (insert your adjectives)
    • Finally found a Bingley with a heart of pure gold
    • Produced two kids ALREADY
    Soul sister, that right up was pure gem. Do you have a blog, where I could devour all your stuff?
    And you know Lalita Iyer, I have the most-biggest crush on her..you lucky girl.

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