Aata Majhi Satakli: What’s Pissing the Marathi Manoos Off?

POV

Aata Majhi Satakli: What’s Pissing the Marathi Manoos Off?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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few days ago, a bunch of MNS goons, who call themselves activists, beat up the manager of a Pune multiplex over exorbitant prices of refreshments served in the theatre.

The assault came as a surprise to absolutely no one, considering the MNS is renowned for their gentle, persuasive ways. Their boys and men are able to tap into a very particular kind of Marathi male aggression. In fact, the attack reminded me of my Marathi kakas and mamas whose default reaction to any confrontation is, “Tyachi gheto, thaam” loosely translated as “Let’s beat the shit out of him.”

Unpopular opinion, but there’s a certain breed of Maharashtrian man who believes it’s his birthright to bully and beat, and he is nothing more than “dokyala taap” (headache) for those around them. Let’s call him the Always Angry Marathi Manoos, not to be confused with just the Marathi Manoos.

The Always Angry Marathi Manoos has been bobbing his head over the last couple of weeks. First, there was the lynching of five men in Maharashtra’s Dhule and another almost-lynching in Malegaon – both influenced by the trustworthy folks at WhatsApp News Bureau. But chalo, lynchings are par for the course in this country now, so it’s unfair to single out the Always Angry Marathi Manoos. But one such specimen surfaced once again over the weekend at a Mumbai mall – in the form of Vinod Kambli who has been accused of beating up Ankit Tiwari’s father for allegedly harassing his wife.

Why did he react impulsively? Why did he take the law in his own hands?

If you’re lucky enough to escape these men, you will have neighbours, aunts, sisters, domestic workers whose story is the same as my kaki’s.

Well, your guess is as good as mine. My first reaction to any fiasco involving the Always Angry Marathi Manoos, be it the MNS or Kambli is to ask, “Ata he kay navin faltugiri? (What’s this fresh hell?)”. Why is this breed of Marathi manoos, always angry? It’s a mystery as large as the Lonar Crater.

If you buy into the MNS’s agenda for a second, is it that the scheming bhaiyas and non-Marathi speakers have deprived the gentle manoos of employment opportunities? But if you’ve grown up in a lower middle-class Maharashtrian household as I have, you’ll be familiar with at least one baba, dada, kaka, mama, who refuses to find employment. Life is a sutti (holiday) for this kaka, who wakes up and is served garam chaha (tea) by this mother or wife in the morning. When he returns home drunk every night after losing money in a game of cards or carom, he is served hot bhakri pitla.

If anything then, it should be the Maharashtrian woman who has to put up with such a man who should be seething with anger, at the raw deal she’s been given. It starts with putting up with the tantrums of their fathers and brothers. Their mother and vahini’s (sister-in-law) horrid reality comes to haunt them once they get married. It’s a lifetime ticket to a shit show which often ends with domestic violence.

In the parts that I grew up in, I was surrounded by such women who were at the receiving end of this hellish treatment – women without the option of walking out. Fed up with my uncle’s ways and the attendant frustration and violence, my kaki (uncle’s wife) committed suicide by consuming rat poison. It was her second attempt at killing herself, her only escape from the grip of a jobless and violent husband.

My kaki was earnest and hardworking. She cooked, cleaned, toiled the fields in the day, and worked nights at a sewing machine. She had four children that they couldn’t afford to raise, as her husband drowned her hard-earned money in alcohol. And yet, even when she was angry, she chose to keep mum – unlike kaka who exercised his birthright to beat her every other night.  

This is not the story of a random rural couple in India. This is the reality of every other household in cities like Mumbai, Pune, and Nashik. If you’re lucky enough to escape these men, you will have neighbours, aunts, sisters, domestic workers whose story is the same as my kaki’s. The Always Angry Marathi Manoos comes with a sense of entitlement and it transcends education, class, and geography.

I’ve racked my brain to understand what makes the manoos so hot-headed? Why does he not hesitate before raising his hand? What’s the reason for his frustration? So many from this band of bhaus remain unemployed by choice. They’d rather spend time picking fights than earning a living. When they do deign to work, it’s probably in a government office. It’s a hand-me-down job, which they’ve got because their fathers or some other relative was employed in the same organisation.

Between nine and five, the Always Angry Marathi Manoos takes at least five chai breaks, a solid two-hour lunch break, rounding up the day with a drinking session at a seedy bar. Other than this, he gets his dose of adventure in the form of yearly all-male picnics, which include climbing forts in and around Maharashtra screaming, “Jai Shivaji, Jai Bhavani.” At the top of the peak, feeling a little like Shivaji himself, he will twirl his moustache, throw beer and deshi daaru bottles at the rocks for sport, and whistle and harass the women. This behaviour, choreographed to “Zingaat” and Navin Popat, is repeated at Ganesh Visarjan, weddings. Because Gatari may come once a year, but it is in his heart every day. 

By the time this type of young manoos reaches middle age, he recruits young boys in the neighbourhood to the school of “alshipan” (laziness) and “nirlajja sada sukhi” (the shameless are always happy). And when not busy with any of this, he is angry. We still don’t know why.

He should be happy. If he loses his naukri, he is well aware that there are enough Shiv Sena and MNS shakhas that will happily hire him as a goon. Their only ask? That he always support the great cause of “E Marathi, Zee Marathi, Mi Marathi”.

Even as his non-Maharashtrian friends are taking their families to PVR to catch a movie, he’s taking his shakha to the same theatre to beat the daylights out of an innocent man, a cog in the corporate wheel, and uploading a video of the incident to Facebook to fuel the rage factory. This kind of Always Angry Marathi Manoos will rage violently about outsiders taking his community’s jobs, but fail to work hard enough at his own. So while you simply whined about the rising prices of popcorn and suffered in silence, Always Angry Marathi Manoos went ahead and took action. Because he believes he is the defender of the common man, and boy did he defend the lot of us by beating an unarmed PVR employee.

For this man, dadagiri is a way of life. “Ata majhi satakli” is the Marathi version of “Jaanta nahin, mera baap kaun hai.” The only difference being that in most cases his father is also just another Always Angry Marathi Manoos.

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