If there was a new version of the movie, What Women Want, I would imagine it would feature 21st Century finishing schools for men. Now that men as a species are older and still not-so-wiser after the rise of feminism and the Me Too Movement and all that, it is time to reverse a cycle in the larger interest of humankind.
Let’s go back a bit. While equality and
empowerment may be themes for women in the upper reaches of Indian
metropolises, the Barkatullah University in Bhopal was this year
planning to launch a three-month course that offers, hold your
breath, lessons on how to be a “traditional wife” a.k.a. adarsh
bahu. It aims to tackle the “evils” of marriages and families
suffering as women become more economically independent. This
alma-mater of Madhya Pradesh
chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan
may be well advised to launch a school for men as well.
After #MeToo accusation stories erupted, involving varying degrees of sexual transgressions, mostly by men on women at workplace situations, HR departments of various companies rushed to educate their men, but I would think the consultants that companies hire would educate men more on the don’ts of the workplace than the dos/don’ts everywhere. We could do with a wider range of courses.
When I Googled “finishing school”, it defined the place as “a private college where girls are prepared for entry into fashionable society” and went on to immediately list three such places in my vicinity.
Surprise! At least one of them thinks of men as
well. While the main one-year course is only for women, three other
courses of shorter durations are available for men. The shortest
four-week course invites people of both genders to “learn social
and cultural etiquette, international protocol, personal branding and
much more...” Clearly this is more about a class to acquire some
class, whereas we could do with a less enchanting course that offers
more urgent lessons. Such as “How Not to Assume the Tinder Date Is
Waiting To Make Love to You” or “How to Know She Is Not That Into
You” or “Effective Hand Management To Avoid Stress.” The MBA is
so over! Strangely, when I typed “finishing school for men” into
my search box, an accompanying advertisement suggested I buy a
75-litre military rucksack for only `599. Maybe they were just
hinting that if you are not ready to pay the required fees for an
expensive finishing school, you are, er, finished. Camping
commando-style in a remote jungle or a secluded mountain camp with a
sturdy rucksack may be the cheaper alternative. Perhaps they will
also come up with some Internet of Things App that will beep inside a
boss man’s pocket to remind him that he is not the stud he
he is when he is about to make a bad move or say something that might hurt him a decade later.
Risk management, after all, is part of the new deal. Wall Street has discovered something called the ‘Weinstein Clause’ after Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein faced accusations of sexual misconduct. This clause makes companies pay damages to other parties if #MeToo kind of allegations come to light at the time of mergers, acquisitions or corporate deals. Moneyed men are evidently scared of retrofitted corporate alimony.
Lesser men, meanwhile, are still looking for dates. There are YouTube videos, just like self-help books, trying to get them there. Some successful men have come out with such dark colours in recent times that they are simply taking the attention away from nice guys still learning how not to act coy or stammer in front of women.
Remember Chhoti Si Baat? That cute Bollywood comedy released in 1976 featured a very middle-class Amol Palekar seeking out a school run by a retired colonel played by a boisterous Ashok Kumar to learn how to woo the woman he is eyeing on his daily bus commute to the office. Yeah, right! Not all guys need pick-up lines for dingy bars. Away from the noise on social media, there are still those who could do with lessons in initiating relationships.
I am imagining a future where a finishing school located in a lush green university campus has two departments. If you want to avoid being accused of misbehaviour, go right. If you indeed want a pleasant date who likes your company, turn left. It takes all kinds, really.