Cherchez La Femme

The battle between the sexes rages on.

In "Surviving Women", Jerry Pinto has set out to do what many others before him have attempted, and many others after him will continue to attempt to do - to throw light on the changing dynamics between the two sexes, and to offer some insight into the position that men hold in this equation. Drawing on the basis of his experience, and his conversations with real people, both men and women, he's tried to put together the ultimate survival guide to one of the most pressing issue of the nineties - the battle of the sexes, and how we come to terms with it.

Does he succeed? Well, yes and no.

Yes, he certainly offers some interesting insights, primarily in the form of conversations that he's had with real people, conversations which all too often illustrate the difference between what men think and what they actually say when confronted with a complex situation involving a member of the opposite sex. No, because when all is said and done, he doesn't offer us any astounding new theory, or any real understanding of why women, and men, behave as they do.

If you open the book with this caveat in mind, "Surviving Women" is a good read - written with humour, it frequently made me laugh out loud, and Pinto's acerbic commentary often struck home. The book is divided into chapters, one for each type of relationship - there's a chapter devoted to surviving your girlfriend, one devoted to surviving your wife, and a bunch of others devoted to female colleagues, female friends, romance, sex, getting dumped and a whole lot more. The chapters titled "The First Time" and "Surviving Romance", in particular, are extremely funny, and Pinto frequently intersperses his commentary with quotes and nuggets of wisdom from other thinkers and authors - look for quotes from Paul Theroux, Sally Gearhart, and Laurence Sterne - together with references to Bollywood movies and American sitcoms.

Obviously, this is not a book that you should take too seriously, or one that you should define your relationships by - it's more of a tongue-in-cheek look at modern relationships, although the issues it sometimes brings up are serious ones, and there is some good advice hidden within its pages. But the tongue-in-cheek approach works well - Pinto never comes across as a know-it-all, but more as a regular Joe, as bemused by the female sex as other men.

"Surviving Women" is also one of the few books that pays attention to the special characteristics of the Indian male, and the unique environment he lives and works in - and for that reason alone, I'd recommend that you pick it up and take a look. Regardless of your gender, you'll find something in this book that you'll agree with, something that you'll disagree with, and something that'll make you laugh - and along the way, you might even gain some understanding of who, exactly, the Confused Indian Man really is.

This article was first published on13 Sep 2000.