Back to resources

Report: What’s it like being a young man in urban India today?

Laayak | Dec 5, 2022

Beneath the apparent privileges that boys enjoy, there is immense pressure to perform. The societal expectations are set for them, irrespective of economic background.

Men are an equal half of the societal dynamic. For behaviour to shift, we need to acknowledge the anxieties and motivations that propel actions. This understanding is relevant not just for the sake of our girls, but also for the development of boys.

The world of boys in urban India.

Life is defined by responsibilities. Investment in boys – education and wellbeing – is seen as an insurance for old age. Expectations are high and rising around securing stability, success, and status.

Ambition is important. But not at the cost of the family harmony. The world is theirs to explore. But it comes with the expectation of adhering to family values and loyalty.

There are all sorts of checks and balances to rein in the wildness of childhood. Young men are driven towards a few chosen professions, with proven results. Boys face intense competition, constant peer comparison, and physical punishment. All this is intended to make sure they don’t waver from the path of responsibility.

The scrutiny of society is designed to tame the transgression. It sets them on a path towards achievement–to make the man laayak, or worthy.

Men and their relationships.

Mothers are the nurturing life force for boys – the person they feel closest to in the family. She is the one who balances both – protecting him from the anger of the father and reinforcing patriarchal norms.

The father is the silent role model. He is a shadowy presence in the boy’s life, often out at work. The father’s absence reinforces the importance of duty-first. The interaction is limited. But the boy sees the lack of expression of emotion and internalizes it. Norms around masculinity are handed down to one more generation.

The most defining relationship is probably the one they share with their friends. As a part of the gang of boys they discover their identity. It shapes and reinforces their ‘masculinity’. Teasing, roughhousing and even bullying is the norm.

While these relationships imitate a pattern seen over decades, the relationship that is evolving is the one with the opposite sex. Boys are confused – some welcome the shift, while others are fearful of the modern, empowered woman. They are more educated, earn for themselves and have opinions. This is a new dynamic. They are still figuring out their role in the relationship with this new woman.

This study attempts to understand the world of boys – expectations, anxieties, and their role in relationships. Young men and women from Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru participated in this study. The research involved eight online focus groups with participants from across the socio-economic spectrum.

Read full report

More like this


Video | Working with Young Men & Boys in India

In order to further engage with people on the topic of building a gender-equitable society, Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies (RNP) has released this new video. The video showcases why it is important to include boys and men in gender work and features interviews with various individuals from around the world who are working towards this goal. […]
Mar 2, 2022 |


E9 | Schools Cement Boy Stereotypes

This is an edited version of Rohini Nilekani in conversation with Dr. Deepa Narayan on her podcast, What’s A Man? Masculinity in India. They are joined by Akshat Singhal co-founder of Gender Lab, an organisation that runs gender awareness programs for boys, and three boys who participated in this program. * Over my years in […]
May 26, 2021 |


महिलाओं के साथ पुरुषों को भी सशक्त करना होगा

समाज… क्या हम रचनात्मक रूप से युवा पुरुषों के सशक्तीकरण की चुनौती का भी सामना कर सकते हैं? मशहूर टीवी सीरियल की तरह हम लड़कियों को यह उम्मीद देने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं कि ‘मैं कुछ भी कर सकती हूं।’ इसके परिणाम भी सकारात्मक आ रहे हैं। आज ज्यादातर लड़कियां स्कूल जाती हैं। उन्हें […]
Mar 30, 2019 | Article

Others  |  Laayak

Women's Day: Rohini Nilekani says her 20th century-born grandmother was modern in best sense of the term

Born Godavari Ketkar, at the turn of the 20th century, she spent her childhood in the sylvan surroundings of the Gwalior palace, as her father was an ambassador to the maharaja’s court. She spoke of going to the little local school in deer carriages. The beautiful young Goda came to Belgaum at the age of […]
Mar 8, 2020 | Article