By Madhavi Jadhav:
1993 (I am eight years old): We all are glued to the idiot box. Suddenly, an advertisement for sanitary napkins pops up on screen. I inquisitively ask mother, “mother, what is this?” Mother sheepishly looks at father and snaps back at me. I ask her again and she tells me I will know at the right age.
1995 (I am ten): My elder cousin gets married, everyone is excited at home. We have a new addition to the family. We all went to watch some Bollywood movie. In the movie, the protagonists kiss each other and soon they have a kid. I assume that when a man kisses a woman a kid is born.
1996 (I am eleven): My nephew is born, I am elated. I ask mother, “mother, how did it happen?” She tells me it happens by God’s grace. She adds that God put the baby in her tummy and then the doctor took the baby out. I recollect the movie and try to correct her. She asks me to shut up!
1998 (I am thirteen): There is a chapter in my (Class VIII) science book that has a small section which talks about the human reproductive system. I am impatiently waiting for our ma’am (this is how we used to address our teachers) to discuss the topic. Well, why not? I thought this was the right platform to get answers to all my stupid questions. Finally, the day comes and our ma’am starts teaching that lesson. As she is turning the pages of that chapter while explaining things leading up to it, I look around the classroom. I look at the faces of my classmates and it seems that they were as eager as I was. Finally, ma’am moves to the page. She glances at the class and declares in a loud voice that everything after that page was out of our syllabus.
Though we all wanted to ask, nobody had the courage to question her. The bell rang and she left the class in the usual manner. This was my first acquaintance with a ‘sex education’ class, but not the last one as I was a biology student and had a detailed chapter on the human reproductive system in our course.
Among the many things that India has given to the world, Kama Sutra has always been the most talked about. People in India are not deprived of sex (India being the second most populated country in the world is a clear indication of the sex drive among Indians), but they are very reluctant to talk about sex. In India, parents struggle to educate their kids about sex, they consider it as a taboo. I remember when I asked my parents about the reason behind menstruation, my mother asked me to refer to my biology books. Most parents, like my parents, are embarrassed or are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids.
Sex education is not a part of our curriculum and conversations about sex are considered to be against our culture. There are only two media to learn about sex, either the sex education class or the porn ‘class’ (which also is banned, thanks to the Modi government). There should be something to bridge this gap, to make kids aware and alert.
2015: My niece is 11 years old. We all are glued to the idiot box. Suddenly, Sunny Leone’s chocolate condom advertisement pops up on screen. My niece asks me, “Attu, what is a condom?”