If you were going to bring with you the westerlies
I teased, slyly telling him
I missed him.
If the rain gods were on my side
There would be a cyclone he bantered.
I knew however
That when a cyclone overcomes a drought
Last night over drinks on a girls night out at the Wine Company, with my cousin and sister-in-law, a bit light in the head, the moody buoyant, we started discussing our first thoughts on sex, when we came to know about “it” etc etc. In retrospect, and hungover, the tales we told each other seem innocent, tragic and appalling at the same time. I knew I had to blog hungover or not.
I first came to know about sex when I was around ten. A close friend of mine told me who in turn had been told about it by an older boy. So the information had to be valid. I remember shocked and disgusted and yet I found it incredible. At that time Small Wonder was really popular on television and I remember thinking that Jamie’s parents kiss each other, but my parents never even kissed so forget about sex.
In my convent school, in the name of sex education two things were done. One they showed us an anti-abortion film called “Silent Scream” which had girls reeling with disgust and Christian piety. Two they got a nun to talk to us about sex or rather to prohibit us from luring men with our wiles. She said something to this effect, “You know boys are very innocent. They come and tell me, sister sister I need help. I was taking a girl on my bike and she was pressing her boobs to me. Sister sister I don’t know what to do.” She then asked us not to seduce men and that would be a sure shot way of not getting pregnant. This happened when I was 15 and I kid you not!!! It’s hilarious and sad at the same time the kind of things they teach young girls. They taught me to be ashamed of my body so much so that till now I am uncomfortable in male company. They teach you that if a man comes at you it is your fault. (Another blog will have to be dedicated to just this.)
My sister-in-law’s story:
Okay this is very embarrassing and remember I am confessing to it only under influence of alcohol. I know from the the glint of your eyes you are going to blog about it. Anonymous please. Anyhoo I came to know about sex in college. (At this time we had spilled our drinks out of shock.) Yes yes I know okay this embarrassing. No it’s not like I didn’t know about sex sex per say but I had different theories about it growing up. That’s what happens in a small town. No one talks about it. Till college I used to laugh at all the dirty jokes the boys made in class because they perfectly fit my theory of sex. Oh you want to know what I thought. Okay I wouldn’t tell you all because I am not that drunk but initially I remember I heard someone saying that if you lie down even for five minutes you get pregnant. Though now I understand the inherent lesson in this dictum being that even five minutes with a man is enough to get you pregnant but at that time in my innocence and stupidity I thought it meant that a girl can get pregnant if she lies down naked for even five minutes. Of course this is ridiculous now but I really believed it. It is not even that surprising that I believed stuff like this. Our teachers refused to give us sex education lessons, and not only that they were so uncomfortable and prudish that they wouldn’t even teach us the lesson on “feelings” in our moral science class.
My cousin’s story:
Erm. Not as late as college but I came to know about sex when I was around 15. I was again shocked and incredulous. But I remember going through a terrible time as a 14 year old just because I didn’t know what sex exactly is. I started my periods in my fourteenth year. I knew that girls can get pregnant after this. But I didn’t know what impregnates you. So I remember this one time when my periods got a bit delayed. I thought I was pregnant and from that day started my vow to celibacy. No what was that in my 14 year old brain. I thought you get pregnant if a guy touches you. So in school I would not let boys touch me or if they did I would take a very obvious step back. Even at home I wouldn’t let my father and brother to touch me. That’s how paranoid I got. It was traumatic. It was all very logical in my head.
Last year in January, in the wake of a gangrape in Delhi, the Justice Verma Committee report was released which not only recommended some major changes in the rape laws in India but also called for a cohesive sex education program in schools which would have a direct bearing on gender violence. Of course this program was resisted by the so-called keepers of Indian culture (the Members of Parliaments that is) as
“Our country’s social and culture ethos are such that sex education has absolutely no place in it. Basic human instincts like food, fear, greed, coitus etc. need not be taught, rather control of these instincts should be the subject of education… To focus Indian education on ‘instinct control’ should the important objective and for that the dignity of restraint has to be well entrenched in education.”
Lets try deconstructing this statement. It says two things most importantly. One sex education has no place in the culture of India and two instinct control and restraint are to be taught instead. There is an inherent contradiction in the statement. How do you teach control when you have not taught the kid what it should restrain from? The entire process of repression has in my opinion somewhere fed into the rape culture in India. The so-called culturalists would argue that this is because of over-exposure to western media, assuming the child to be asexual. Indian parents continue to infantalise their kids till the time they are married and expect them to flower into these fertile sexual creatures on the marriage bed to produce grandsons to play with.
The second statement I find even more interesting. It reminds me of Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process where in he argues that as a civilisation progresses it will create greater restraints and controls on manners and behavior. However there will come a time when the civilisation will be comfortable with its status and relax a few of these controlling mechanism.
There is a need to look at the hypocrisies that exist in our culture to understand how shame is constructed around women’s bodies and goddess figures. While Delhi is known as the rape capital, there is a need to undo the repression and inculcate the ability to talk about sex freely with our peers, family and teachers.
Rob Gordon in High Fidelity claims “Hey, I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I’m certainly not the dumbest. I mean, I’ve read books like “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”, and I think I’ve understood them. They’re about girls, right?”
Whatever the expanse of philosophy or literature it is grossly anthropocentric. Good stories are about humans and relationships. For this reason The Unbearable Lightness of Being is one of my favourite books.
So these are the three things I learnt about casual sex or erotic friendships as they are called from the book:
1). “…the only relationship that can make both partners happy is one in which sentimentality has no place and neither partner makes a claim on the life and freedom of the other.”
2). “The important thing is to abide by the rule of threes. Either you see a woman three times in quick succession and then never again, or you maintain relations over the years but make sure that the rendezvous are at least three weeks apart.”
3). “…Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite.Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shard sleep (a desire limited to one woman).
to be continued…
Communicability is seen as a vehicle for mutual empathy and love. Are we finally undoing what Kropotkin calls mutual aid.
Prior to the development of the smartphone, the queue or line-up as it’s known in North America used to be one of the few places where it was deemed socially acceptable to talk to strangers. These days however the majority of people appear too absorbed by their iPhones to strike up a conversation. Airlines are on the verge of allowing such devices to be used on flights; no need to talk to the person sitting next to you. And even National Parks are setting up Wifi networks. We have never before been so connected to, and yet disconnected from the world around us.
I have been to Kashmir twice in the past two years. Both times as an ignorant tourist unaware of the nuances of Kashmiri history and politics, but the second time less so having read Basharat Peer’s moving memoirs Curfewed Nights. So while I did the whole touristy routine of waxing eloquent on the beauty of Kashmir and visiting Gulmarg, Pehelgam, Chandanvadi or Sonmarg I was always constantly aware of the presence of places like Papa 1 and Papa 2, torture cells used during the insurgency or the cemetery of the nameless and numerous young Kashmiris, hidden behind the handicrafts showrooms and cheap restaurants offering vegetarian foods to the vegetarian tourist from the mainland.
Peer was inspired to write these memoirs when he was overcome “with a sense of shame” on not finding one book on Kashmir’s struggle during the nineties in English in a New Delhi bookshop. I was filled with a similar shame when I heard some of the most insensitive remarks made by the tourists et al. The ignorance and the nonchalance of the tourist is appalling and the insensitivity they display towards the struggle and deaths of countless Kashmiris by the paramilitary forces radicalised by the pro-Pakistan or pro-freedom leanings in Kashmir is almost inhuman and goes against everything that Hindus/Indians pride themselves in: empathy. Their dominance rationalised and legitimised by the central government and its marginalisation both political and social leads them to acquire an arrogance in their superiority being similar to the Turtons in Passage to India. I write Hindu as synonymous to India because in the popular imagination Muslim and Kashmiri are both synonymous with Pakistan. A non secular essentialisation of identities exists even in contemporary politics exemplified by the pro-Hindu rhetoric of the Bhartiya Janta Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Here a few things I heard:
1). You know these people, they are very insensitive and unemotional. They are trained like that from childhood. Did you see how Kasab killed all those good people?
2). These people are such frauds always looting the country and the tourist too. They should remember they get their meals because of the tourists. Without tourism, Kashmir is nothing.
3). Kashmir is paradise on Earth, Akbar said it but look how self-destructive they are. They have completely destroyed Kashmir and made it a human hell.
4). All this non-vegetarian diet makes them so hardy and fanatical. They don’t think twice about taking a life.
5). Uff, I don’t care what happens in the valley. Blast as many bombs as you want once I am out of here.
6). You know they are all one and united. They have such a strong sense of community and religion. So orthodox. Even the educated ones do not support India.
These bigoted remarks are constantly made in parlance along with the praises of how beautiful the paradise on earth is etc etc. I will not put up pictures from Kashmir for I do not wish to trivialise and reduce Kashmir to natural beauty. And I believe that a naive empathy is better than insensitive bigotry. So while I am not be well versed with the nuances of the struggle, I hope I will have empathy enough to know the Other.