Sunday, July 23, 2006

Of Boys And Men

A few weeks ago, I signed into a long forgotten, half-way abandoned Yahoo account. There was a whole bunch of spam and I was about to empty the contents of the Inbox when I noticed what appeared to be a long e-mail thread. The names were exclusively Desi and appeared to be real. After reading a few messages, I realized that my id had been inadvertently included in the class of ’92 mailing list of a well known engineering school in India.

Reading some more, I noticed the absence of any females in the group – I should have clued into that sooner given the frequency of risque humor and the terms of endearment that people employed to address each other. The only time the group curbed its enthusiastic use of expletives was when someone announced the birth of a child accompanied by pictures of the infant.

The politics, psychology, physics and metaphysics of the Zidane head-butt was discussed for several weeks. Of course, I did not see the point given India does not make it even to the qualifying rounds of the World Cup. Most other conversations were idle ramblings or read like announcements on a bulletin board (A changed jobs, B moved cities, C is organizing the Alumni meet at Phoenix this year, D is going to be in Norway for six months anyone else out there ? Anyone know the whereabouts of E who has been unaccounted for since 1997 etc)

A couple of things about this group and the their mailing list got me thinking. The frequency of the mailings was nothing short of alarming. Averaging between 20 to 30 mails a day, they had inundated my mailbox in a little over a month. I am assuming in addition to this there were private message threads being exchanged on a one to one basis. Though they had very little of consequence to talk about as a group, they seemed to care a lot about banding close together as they must have doubtless done 14 years ago.

That is a lot of e-mail traffic for anyone who has a job to keep, children to rear and bills to pay. These are men approaching 40, doing well professionally (by most standards), husbands, father of children, responsible for making mortgage payments among other things. Work and higher education had dispersed them geographically and I would think given them opportunities to meet new people and interface with new cultures.

Being more like the E who has been “unaccounted for since 1997”, I find it hard to imagine what a group of 40 odd that first came together as adolescents corralled for four years in the same college campus could have in common in their late 30s. I can understand an Alum organization serving as a professional or even personal network but this group had way more passion than it takes to sustain a mere "network".

I had to wonder if their lives were so empty that they needed a relic from the past to imbue it with a sense of purpose and fullness. Or perhaps no achievement in their lives compared to being accepted by a top tier engineering school in India – it probably short circuited brain receptors that enable normal people to savor their post-collegiate existence.

If not anything a mistaken email identity gave me opportunity to see the dynamic of desi-male bonding from the vantage point of a fly on the wall. I left feeling that the state of jejune juvenilia is permanent with the desi-male. They never quite break free from the familiar cocoon of the college fraternity. Their identity at middle age is still defined by nicknames bestowed upon them as 18 year olds by other 18 year olds and 20 year old jokes regurgitated ad nauseum. I would have expected a discourse more sophisticated, eclectic and mature from a group of well educated men of their age and circumstances in life.

It’s not often that a mailbox clean-up exercise puts my dating disasters in such clear perspective. Now, this E sounds like a man after my own heart – small wonder then that he is MIA since 1997.


SFGary said...

This is a widespread phenomenon but I think mostly restricted to IIT alumni :) I notice it all the time among my brother's valley friends. All the IIT guys (in their late 50s/60s) still talk about college days and God forbid if they also went to Stanford. The desi wags here call them the A list. I am sure its the same for the Ivy league types, they must have a secret handshake.

Heartcrossings said...

SFG - Aren't these A list types supposed to be highly intelligent and all that ? I don't understand the correlation between high IQ and such asinine behavior. How exceptionally pathetic to have nothing else to talk about and have lived on the planet 60 long years. I feel sorry for them.