Are women bolder than men? Which gender has more chutzpah when it comes to shedding their clothes and walking in their undies? If the photographs or video footage of the recent No Pants Subway Ride are taken as proof, then the answer is a loud and clear. WOMEN!
Men might have fewer reservations about peeing on the pavement or boasting about their sexual peccadilloes, but for all their bluster, they seem to be overcome with modesty while parading in their underwear in public. It seems too much of a coincidence that men, who though they outnumbered women in shedding their pants at the No Pants Subway Ride events held in various cities of the world (including Bengaluru) on January 11 this year, mostly came out dressed in their boxers.
Either the men had collectively discovered the virtues of boxers as the undergarment sans pareil or had succumbed to the fatwa of some sartorial fanatic with a fetish for the type of inner wear in question.
Coordinated by a group called Improv Everywhere, which describes itself as a "prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places", the No Pants Subway Ride event has at times been described as "celebration of silliness". How else would you describe men and women strutting around in their underpants for no rhyme or reason? On top of that, the participants have to suffer the ignominy of being judged on the basis of their undies.
Since its first staging in 2002, the event has elicited the usual set of reactions - from giggles, to surreptitious glances, to contempt and shock. In Namma Bengaluru, commuters on the Metro thought the participants of the No Pants Subway Ride were part of a reality show or were protesting about something.
The idea behind No Pants Subway Ride is simple, according to Improv Everywhere. "Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. The participants do not behave as if they know each other, and they all wear winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants."
From the inaugural event, which witnessed participation by just seven males, the spectacle has grown into a global annual tradition. As many as 60 countries and 25 cities took part in the occasion held this year on January 11. The event has its supporters even in cities that have no subways or metros. Fans have ditched their pants on buses too in the past.
Though the event has been held for the past two years in Bengaluru, what makes this year stand out was the participation of a woman - IT consultant Manisha Raghavan - who for reasons perfectly understandable turned out in a pair of boxers. The organisers of the Bengaluru event zeroed in on boxers as their chosen battle gear to avoid causing affront to fellow commuters.
Does the overwhelming preference for boxers mean that these modest underpants have finally upstaged competition in the boxers vs. briefs vs. boxer briefs vs. trunks vs. thongs vs. bikini briefs battle? The answer is NO.
Women elsewhere in the world were brave enough to follow the rules of the No Pants Subway Ride in toto and arrived in the underpants they probably wear on a regular day, leaving the male participants and commuters beaming with glee. Men ostensibly baulked at the idea of parading in briefs or thongs and generally came dressed in boxers, which are nothing but a lighter version of shorts.
G K Chesterton comes to mind: "Brave men are all vertebrates; they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle."