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On Male Vulnerabilities

It was a pleasant Saturday evening in Bengaluru, and both excitement and nostalgia was within me as I travelled through the city's infamous Saturday evening traffic, blaring horns and impatient crowd. We were all gathering to bid adieu to a close friend who was about to embark on a new journey to be in the city of his dreams, something that he’d dreamt of, all through his childhood.

Soon we all met at a pub.. loud pop music, laughter, chatter ,and the sound of clinking glasses filled the air. Little did I know that, as the evening progressed, it would become a transformative and eye opening experience for me amidst my male friends. When it was closing time for the pub, we decided to go to my house. Sitting there several minutes later, in the quiet and peaceful atmosphere with dim yellow lights and some calm music, the mood turned mellow . Sitting in a circle we started reminiscing about our college days and all its memories and times spent together. It was a lovely walk down memory lane which had us laughing at inside jokes, sharing stories and all the things we’d miss doing together.

Soon the conversation took a turn into the unique qualities that each of us brought to the group. Eventually that turned into my friend sharing his thoughts of us, and an open discussion of our strengths and weaknesses. As we took turns to open up, each of us received praise (yay to validation) and constructive feedback. We shared our insecurities, fears, and moments of self-doubt. In those moments, we allowed ourselves to be truly vulnerable and bared our souls.

My friend, especially, had several fears regarding the big change that he was about to experience in a new country . As he was voicing his fears and thoughts, I decided to take a back seat as an observer and just hear him out. What happened next was special and extraordinary. I saw that the walls of masculinity, often built on stoicism and emotional suppression, begin to crumble. Astonished , I realised that I was seeing these men , whom I met as boys at the age of 15/16 trying their best to cover up their insecurities, emotions and pretend to be someone they’re not, turn into their true genuine selves who were perhaps letting their guards down amidst each other.

Each one confessed their fears, insecurities and struggles. Fears about living upto societal standards, uncertainty of future and many other thoughts were voiced . The night saw tears, long warm hugs and holding hands. One friend, who had always been our pillar of strength, confessed to battling anxiety for years. No one was offering quick fixes or solutions. There was only support, understanding and acceptance. Bonds and connections were being strengthened that night. A bond that was going to last a lifetime.

Sitting in my drawing room, we soon heard the birds chirp and the rays of the sun streaming in through the lace curtains .It was then we decided to call it a night.

What continues to stay with me is that I cherished those moments of vulnerability, the connection, the shared experiences, and our collective decision to embrace our vulnerable selves.

It was on the same night, I also had a conversation with another friend who spoke about how it's harder to be vulnerable when you’ve always accustomed yourself to masculine societal standards, because the minute you drop your guard down, there’s a tendency to be looked down upon because that view or expectation of them has now come tumbling down, because the people around start to see them in a different light.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in India, suicide rates are higher among men than women. In 2019, the suicide rate for men was 20.4 per 100,000 population, compared to 12.3 for women. his discrepancy indicates that men may be more hesitant to seek help for their mental health struggles.The rate of suicide among Indian men is 2.5 times of that among women, shows an analysis by the International Institute for Population Sciences.

That night was a stark reminder that we should never underestimate the power of vulnerability, for in those candid moments, we connect, heal, and grow. It reinforced the idea that mental health is not bound by gender or societal expectations. We all have our battles, and it's through vulnerability that we can find strength and support.

In a world that often expects men to be the pillars of strength, unyielding and unemotional, the idea of male vulnerability has long been shrouded in stigma. But as we evolve as a society, we are coming to realize the profound power and beauty that lies within a man's ability to be vulnerable.

Holding that space for safe and brave conversation was a lesson I'll carry with me. Redefining masculinity involves acknowledging that true strength is found in vulnerability and authenticity. It's a reminder that we all have the power to create spaces where people can be their true, unapologetic selves, and in doing so, we can contribute to a more compassionate and understanding world.

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