What's a Man? Masculinity in India

Deepa Narayan

Welcome to What's a Man? Masculinity in India podcast with your host, Deepa Narayan, an award-winning writer, and researcher, as she explores what it means to be a man today. The series explores power and love in different aspects of men’s lives in homes, schools, and offices. Listen to the responses of some of the 200 educated middle and upper-class boys as young as 7-years old and men across the LGBTQIA + spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities with special guests in each episode. These educated boys and men believe in gender equality and are often impatient with the male-female binary. The goal of this 10-episode podcast series is to open up compassionate, slow conversations through deep listening about what it means to be a boy or man in India today. Know more here and subscribe: www.whatsaman.com

All Episodes

In this final episode, Episode 14, of What’s a Man: Masculinity in India, Dr Deepa Narayan describes how listening to middle-class men and boys about masculinity and their secret selves, led her to the need for a renewed feminism. These men and boys believe in gender equality but are stuck in old definitions of masculinity as dominance, aggression, and total self-reliance. And most don’t feel understood or appreciated. And they hide their pain, sadness, hurt, disappointment, and struggles. They withdraw. Or it turns to violence targeted at others and themselves. And men acknowledge their privilege.FeminismX is a renewed feminism for men to claim their full humanity as men. FeminismX includes men and all genders in its definition. It is intersectional. It centers on love as well as power.It means a big change for our gender equality and women’s empowerment strategies.

Aug 6

37 min 31 sec

Feminism is such an abused, misused, much-maligned word that even women use with caution. In episode 13 of What's A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, Dr. Deepa Narayan speaks to Dr. Sonora Jha, author of How To Raise A Feminist Son. Dr. Sonora Jha grew up and worked in India as a journalist and is a Professor at Seattle University in the US. Together they turn to the idea of feminism and explore what it means for men and whether it is possible or even desirable to raise feminist boys? And can feminism liberate men from the poisons of toxic masculinity?

Jul 20

48 min 36 sec

Many men have changed who they are, what and how they do their lives. In Episode 12 of What's A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, Dr. Deepa Narayan interviews Nikhil Talreja, a writer, producer, storyteller, teacher, public speaker, mental health advocate, and CEO of YUVA.  Nikhil peaked early at 29 and then had a nervous breakdown. His life changed when he turned to a therapist for help. He realized the core problem was his unquestioned acceptance of “masculinity”. He now creates safe spaces to listen to other young people across genders freeing them to change.

Jul 7

41 min 22 sec

Many men have changed who they are, what and how they do with their lives. In Episode 11 of What's A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, Dr. Deepa Narayan interviews Manak Matiyaani, a feminist, queer activist, and the executive director of the YP Foundation in Delhi. He facilitates youth leadership for social change. Deepa and Manak discuss his mother’s early influence on his feminism and how he works with young men on sexuality and feminist leadership.

Jun 23

36 min 1 sec

Why is it that not a single straight man of the 250 men we interviewed, chose love as part of their definition of masculinity and being a man? Is it possible for educated men to unlearn behaviors of toxic masculinity and become fuller versions of themselves? In this episode, we focus on our first Portrait of A Man, men who have the courage to change. Our man of courage is Abish Mathew, the hugely popular comedian, and YouTuber. In conversation with Dr. Deepa Narayan, Abish shares his fears and confusions, how he is fighting off some toxic expectations imposed on him in his early training, and how he is changing himself, one behavior at a time. We weave these issues together as they manifest in one unique imperfect human being. Tune into episode 10 to find out how this one man is breaking through the privileges and traps of stereotypical masculinity. 

Jun 9

53 min 22 sec

Instead of breaking down their own gender stereotypes, schools cement gender stereotyping of boys. Yet we have ignored the role of schools.  In Episode 9 of What's A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, Dr. Deepa Narayan focuses on stereotypes that constrain, confine, and cement boys into narrow choking definitions of masculinity. Listen to Rohini Nilekani, a philanthropist, who supports boys and men’s programs; to Akshat Singhal co-founder of Gender Lab that runs gender awareness programs for boys and 3 boys who participated in this program.

May 26

47 min 6 sec

Are CEOs afraid of love? Can love and power co-exist in the workplace? In Episode 8 of What's A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, Dr. Deepa Narayan argues that it takes both power and love for people and productivity to thrive. She discusses different forms of power and why men are afraid of love, which is seen as womanly. This episode features Devraj Sanyal, Managing Editor, and CEO of Universal Music group and EMI Music, also dubbed the Heavy Metal CEO. They explore his version of love and power in the workplace.

Mar 31

48 min 10 sec

Men are caught between changing gender norms and their unchanging expectations of being the primary provider for the family. In Episode 7 of What’s A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, based on 250 interviews, Dr. Deepa Narayan explores men’s ups and downs as providers: the pressures, the power, the price men pay, the ruptures, and the raptures. Our special guests are Akshat Harbola, who started Spotify in India; Akshay, a senior manager who lost his job in the pandemic; and Parmesh Shahani, head of the Godrej India Culture Lab.

Mar 24

47 min 56 sec

Sons don't need gods as fathers; sons need fathers, as fathers. In Episode 6, Dr. Deepa Narayan explores the relationship, expectations, and love connection between fathers and sons. Conversations with over 250 young boys and men from middle and upper-class families establish that fathers are boys’ first heroes. Fathers are more comfortable exerting power over their boys than showing love. To help us decode men’s relationships with their fathers, she turns to Dr. Harish Shetty, a leading psychiatrist in India, and Dr. Ashis Roy, a psychoanalyst at Ambedkar University in Delhi. Over and over, what emerges is that universal longing to be loved by fathers, to be accepted and cherished through the ups and downs of life, failures, disappointments, and struggles.

Mar 16

47 min 36 sec

Emotional literacy for men is not a luxury but a necessity for a peaceful world. In this episode, Dr. Deepa Narayan asks whether today’s younger generation of men is able to identify and express a range of emotions, including sadness, grief, hurt, and disappointment. Conversations with over 250 young boys and men from middle and upper-class families establish that while young men know it is important to be emotionally expressive, they are unable to do so. Their training still teaches them that ‘real men’ are invincible and do not show their emotions - except anger. To help us understand, our special guests are Dr. Ashis Roy, a psychoanalyst, and Neville Shah, a comedian.

Mar 9

49 min 22 sec

Sexual power rather than sexual desire dominates the sexual arena in the absence of sexuality education. In this episode of the What’s A Man? Masculinity in India podcast, we explore men’s experiences with their own sexuality. It is based on interviews with over 250 educated middle and upper-class youth and men in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities; and two special guests: Paromita Vohra, filmmaker and founder of Agents of Ishq; and Dalip Tahil, veteran Bollywood actor and theatre artist. The absence of education on sexuality as a normal integrated part of human life is astounding.

Mar 3

39 min 23 sec

Men’s bodies are no longer just bodies, they have been monetized to sell muscle as power and success. Welcome to the third episode of What’s A Man: Masculinity in India podcast, in which Dr. Deepa Narayan explores men’s relationships with their bodies. In this episode, you will hear from some of the 250 young boys and men from middle and upper-class families. Special guests for this episode are Dutch anthropologist and author of Muscular India Michiel Baas, who researched Indian men and their bodies for over 10 years; Pradeep Bhatia, a fitness trainer to Bollywood stars, a true rags-to-riches story; and Sahiba Dhupar, an image consultant who trains men in power dressing and confidence projection. Through all of these conversations, Deepa traverses the landscape of the male body and discovers how men’s bodies have become sources of anxiety and trauma and how most educated parents in the big cities still avoid talking to their boys about their bodies.

Feb 24

44 min 50 sec

This is the second episode of What's a Man? Masculinity in India podcast in which your host Deepa Narayan, an award-winning researcher, explores what power means to young boys and men.The questions we ask are simple. You will first hear the most common responses about power from some of the 250 middle and upper-class boys (including 7-year olds) and men interviewed for this podcast.Deepa Narayan then explores the nature of power and its consequences in different models of masculinity. Special Guests include General Panag, a retired army general, Anand Giridharadas, a New York Times Bestselling author and political commentator, and Vishal Talreja, head of an NGO who gave up his CEO role to learn to exercise power in a more feminine way.

Feb 17

53 min 43 sec

Welcome to the first episode of What's a Man? Masculinity in India podcast where your host, Deepa Narayan, guides you through an auditory experience exploring what it means to be a man today. Based on over 200 in-depth interviews with middle and upper-class men in Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities. It features special guests Amish Tripathi - India’s superstar mythologist, and Sushant Digvikar - a gay man, actor, singer, and drag queen, we’ll explore how the myths and expectations of being a man box many into a narrow definition of masculinity--damaging men and perpetuating gender inequality. 

Feb 8

45 min 20 sec