Darling calico kittens,
Last night, on K’s urging (it wasn’t his fault, someone had recommended this movie to him and he had to talk to that person again so he said he should watch the film so he had something to say) we watched a Netflix documentary called River Runner.
People who know me well—and maybe even people who know me slightly well, like you guys, if we’ve never met—know that I’m not really an outdoorsy person. K likes to tease me about it, last night he said, “What would you have done if I was fully into trekking or being outside all the time?” and I said, “I probably wouldn’t have dated you in the first place” which is sad, and a reason to think beyond our biases, but I believe that if one partner is outdoorsy then the other one should be too, at least when they first start dating. When you get married and/or have a long and committed relationship, you can do what you like, like Bill Bryson’s wife who sent him off for his Walk In The Woods with like an “Okay, take care, bye.” That’s what I told K I would do too, if he suddenly had a desire to walk long distances, like Bill or Cheryl Strayed. I imagined it quite vividly, K is off on his solo walking adventure and I am in whatever city meeting friends, drinking a glass of wine and saying, “Oh yes, he plans to walk another 200 kilometres” while secretly feeling very glad I don’t have to walk at all, except to the metro. Nature is nice and all, in its place, which is watching it from behind the window of a house. And sometimes the balcony, if the weather is nice and there aren’t too many insects. If I’m going to seek out Nature at all, I want it to be exciting: a lot of my dream holidays involve sanctuaries, wildlife preserves in Kenya, going to look for gorillas on mountaintops. I don’t see the point of being in it if I’m just going to sit around a tree or something after walking for ten years.
River Runner is the story of some kayaking celebrity who kept kayaking even after he took a break for eight years after a brain tumour. Then he kayaked some more. All through the movie my default question was: why? Why would you do this? Why is this something other people want to see you do? I get climbing the Everest (I mean, I did, back in the day, now it’s just a thing you do, like Iron Man) but taking a tiny boat on an angry river just seems so... pointless.
Delhi is very close to the hills. “The hills” being what we call the foothills of the Himalayas which stretch across the top of the country—and also keep this city in a state of constant dustbowl. The hills stop us from getting crazy rainfall—except this year, apparently, the hills keep all the pollution and dust confined to one spot because it can’t go any further. The hills are also what has bred what I call the Nature Bro.
Ah, the Nature Bro. You know him even if you don’t live here. He has a constantly sunburned nose and often looks like he hasn’t showered in weeks. He’s always off on a trek or a hike. He wears colourful knitwear, and over that, a bright neon jacket. He has one big battered backpack. Often he drives an Enfield, and ties tiny Tibetan prayer flags across the handlebars. His Facebook profile picture is him sitting on a rock. His Instagram page is full of photos of him smiling, sitting on said motorcycle, wraparound shades covering half his face. He is never accompanied by a woman, except rarely, and that woman is a Nature Bro herself.
The Nature Bro is different from the Sports Bro. We all know the Sports Bro, I last met one in high school, where they played cricket or football or some sort of team activity together. The Sports Bro is masculine to the nth degree, masculine as decreed by society. The Sports Bro is sort of aggressive, likes beer and beautiful women, hangs out in a clump with other Sports Bros, and appears on non-sports occassions, well dressed and drenched in some sort of cologne. The Sports Bro has a big car and when he picks you up, you’ll find a gaggle of his single bros in the backseat. They all look out for each other. They all call each other bro, sometimes brah, sometimes, in times of great affection: broseph.
Ted Lasso, the TV show everyone’s been recommending to everyone else, is a reaction to the Sports Bro. In it, briefly: a wholesome American football coach is sent to London to coach English football which he doesn’t realise is a different sport. Hilarity ensues. The titular character, Ted Lasso, is a foil to the English bro-ness, he is kind and sympathetic. His kind sympathy therefore, makes the men feel like they can talk about themselves, like they can fail and be sad about it, the women like they are people to be seen. I think there’s a reason this (fairly ordinary but charming) show is so popular: the Sports Bros are tired of performing masculinity and like the idea of being people like everyone else.
The Nature Bro however is nothing like the Sports Bro. Kayaking or mountain climbing aren’t team sports, and so he must rely on his own inner self to perform bro-itude. The Nature Bro spouts off about the majesty of the mountains—the kayaking guy talked about “high fiving the river” the Nature Bro is the guy who hands you a spliff at a party and then starts talking about how the best weed he ever had was from the Parvati Valley when he went there on a trek back in 2011. The Nature Bro keeps his hand in when he’s not travelling by going to a local climbing wall, Delhi has an Indian Mountaineering thing filled with walls and boulders where you see Nature Bros often, and also, essential to the Nature Bro: an Older Nature Man. The Nature Man is usually in his late forties or early fifties, and enjoyed being a Nature Bro for a bit before he settled down and had kids and whatnot (about half the time he is single) and he now teaches or guides at one of these city-based mountains. Or he runs a resort in a popular jungle town. Or he organises small treks for school children in the summer holidays. He is grizzled, wears a hat, and is often only comfortable talking to men. The Bros will have a name for him, something like “Captain” or “Chief” or just “Sir.” It’s very like the army if you think about it.
What struck me about the Nature Bro as I saw him in this documentary last night was the absurd lack of women. Oh, I know women go trekking and kayaking and mountain climbing as much as the next person, but when you think of the Nature Bro, it’s often as a group of men, no women allowed. The men get to live out their Peter Pan fantasy, the women have to think about, off the top of my head: safety, where to pee or poop, what happens if they get their period on top of a mountain, what happens if they are sexually assaulted in the middle of nowhere and so on. For women, doing a solo kayak run—well over here in India anyway—is a fraught decision, for men, it’s just communing with nature.
I write about the Nature Bro so intimately because for a long time in my teens and early twenties I was attracted to him, a sort of last ditch attempt by my brain to make me go outside. I liked that they liked books (not much to do in the middle of nowhere except read), I liked that they liked travel outside of popular tourist destinations, I got a thrill out of all the lingo they used: the “yardarm,” the “googlesnick,” the “jackturn.” (I obviously was not paying very much attention to this vocabulary but I liked it all the same.) But at the end of the day, they all turned out to be Bros, ie, they were not interested in why or how can this be better they just wanted to climb that damn mountain.
It’s absolutely possible to be into nature and adventure sports and not be a bro about it. Many people find solace and comfort in conquering physically hard things, it gives them the space to attack stuff that might have been bothering them mentally. But at the end of the day, a Bro is someone who buys into an experience without questioning it. Whether it’s a Banking Bro or a Golf Bro or a Fine Wine Bro (oh yes, those exist too, just ask my female friends who work in the liquor industry), what makes you just a person who enjoys things versus a person who is part of that ecosystem, hook, line and sinker is the difference between bros and not.
I feel like a lot of you are going to have thoughts about this, and honestly, it could just be sour grapes because I literally never go into nature for fun, so please leave a comment to tell me how wrong I am if you like. (Appreciation for my theory is also welcome!)
Two bits of unrelated news (unrelated to the theme of this newsletter ie, but related to my life).
First: visa stuff is going to take longer than I optimistically thought so I will likely be here in India till we figure it out. The good news is I can say a much more thorough farewell to everything (maybe even Goa? Hmm) and everyone. The bad news is I’m itching to start my new life, I’m in such a tremendous hurry about everythinggggg.
Second: I got a new laptop! This is exciting to exactly no one (except me and K), but I must quickly tell you all the salient details. It’s also the reason you are getting this newsletter because I was dying to test out writing on it, this is the first thing I have written since I got it, an auspicious beginning. It’s technically an old laptop, second hand, off OLX, where K has been buying his machines for a while. (If you look, you can find great deals on electronics.) A Thinkpad, very burly and corporate looking, but which I plan to prettify with lots of custom laptop stickers. (Many websites in India that print out stickers if you send them designs.) K installed a Linux system on it called Pop OS, which is much more beautiful than Windows (what I was using last), the screen is super large and matte, the battery lasts ages, and okay, it’s a bit fatter than my last laptop but I like to work only on my desk so I don’t foresee this being a problem except walking in airports or at train stations, which I will just have to suffer through. Anyway, it’s very thrilling and was very cheap so I’m happy.
If you liked this newsletter (and my great theory about Nature Bros) consider buying me a coffee! It would greatly help encourage me expound on more theories hehe.
My new Auth Couture column about Naipaul and his fedora.
My favourite subreddit recently has been r/BestofRedditorUpdates. You know how sometimes you’ll read a post and wonder what happened next? Often the OP goes back and updates, and this sub collects all of those.
Speaking of Reddit, here is a piece about one of the newest and most popular subreddits: one that catalogues anti vaxxers dying of COVID.
That’s all she wrote! Until next time, stay safe.
Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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