There’s a strange trend I’ve observed on our roads for some time now. I don’t know you if you’ve noticed it too. But everywhere I look, I see balding middle-aged men on Barbie-pink Scootys or their equally girly violet counterparts. The roads are filled with them. They seem to be all around me. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve seen more greying, pot-bellied gentlemen riding these scooters than the young women the two-wheelers are apparently targeted at. (This is not me gender stereotyping. I know for a fact that young girls are supposed to want these scooters from those ads of Priyanka Chopra/Preity Zinta driving around on them, hoodwinking silly men and basically going ‘Woot woot! Girl power means pink bikes!” or words to that effect).
So how do we explain this phenomenon? One answer could be that these are old dads and uncles and grandpas borrowing their daughter/niece /granddaughter’s scooter at a pinch. Maybe they live in a middle-income, two-scooter household and some other member of the family (a virulently anti-pink brother, for instance) has made off with the staid grey Activa, leaving said old man with no choice. Could be. Maybe that explains some of the sightings. But I’ve seen too many cases for this to be the sole explanation. I mean, could there really be that many stranded old men in our city going pink against their wishes purely out of desperation? I think not.
Then there’s the look on their faces. I’ve seen men forced into embarrassing situations deemed too ‘feminine’ for them. I know how they react. Like the man forced to be at a sari blouse fitting with his sister. Or the newly-wed husband forced to buy feminine hygiene products for his wife at the local convenience store. Or the man who has to to put on his girlfriend’s fluffy pink bathrobe after a shower. Whatever. The bottom line is, they squirm. They shrink within themselves. They mumble. They fidget. They sweat. And they always, always avoid eye contact. But these old gentlemen, they’re different. They sail past confidently, back ramrod straight, head held high and if you stare, they look you straight in the eye as if to say, “That’s right biatch, I’m ridin’ pink. You got a problem with that?”
I don’t think these fine upstanding gentlemen are on these scooters as a last resort (or as part of some sort of mass expression of latent homosexuality — even Freud would agree that’s somewhat unlikely). No. I think they’re just riding the family scooter, bought by them to be shared with wife and kids and extended family, and that the old guys are proud to be on their shiny pink/purple purchase. And I’ll tell you why.
These grey-haired gents are a product of old India, India in the time of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and the License Raj, India pre-Westernisation and globalisation and all those other big words. They grew up in a time when wearing pink or purple or any other colour of the rainbow didn’t make a man any less of a man (evidence: any of our good old Sambar Westerns or any desi film post the black and white era and pre 1990, for that matter). This was a time when two guys holding hands on the streets didn’t mean they were gay, just best friends forever (and ‘gay’ just meant happy). Gender-specific colour coding was unheard here of back then; it’s really mostly a Western concept — pink for girls and blue for boys and cursed are those who cross the divide! — that’s seeped into Indian society slowly since the economic liberalisation of 1991, along with McDonalds, cable TV, Loreal and Levis jeans.
Not buying the theory? Look out the window and tell me how many guys of age 30 or below you can see riding one of these bubblegum-coloured scooters.
I rest my case.
And I’ll tell you something else. I applaud the old guard for it. I think this colour coding business is silly. I don’t see why, for instance, the toy section for little girls has to be painted over in a sea of blinding pink (and this coming from a girl who made her room so pink in her teens that her dad felt nauseated stepping in). What I mean is, it’s a choice. If you like bright pink, good for you. Even if you’re a 45 years old and a father of two. That was the M.G.R. way. If you don’t, ditto. I say, good for these guys, sticking with the old way that’s rapidly being lost to us. Like the men who don’t let the safari suit die, the middle-aged male lover of pink lives to fight another day in modern India, through the Scooty Pep. You go guys!