Warning: Sex Education May Be Injurious To Ignorance

Indians have been waging a war on sex for ages, mostly by having lots of it. The latest gladiator to step into the arena is Union Health Minister, Dr. Alok Nath Harsh Vardhan, who wants sex education to be banned in schools, and yoga to be made compulsory. These two points appear together on his agenda, as if the latter would negate the former, which is ridiculous because yoga makes you flexible and toned and that just helps you score better. (Notable exception: Baba Ramdev.)

To be fair, this appears on Harsh Vardhan’s personal website so it’s not like the BJP has specifically advocated it as a party. I, for one, cannot imagine them ever promoting a populist agenda based on some antiquated notion of culture. But it’s also reasonable to think that Dr. Harsh Vardhan should know better, given the professional title attached to his name. He’s an ENT specialist, so now I’m wondering how he treats colds. Does he ban breathing? Or maybe he tells people that they can never, ever, ever, EVER know about the existence of ice cream because it could be bad for their throats.

Here’s the problem with that approach: people, especially youngsters, really like ice cream. They don’t care about the flavor – at that age, they just want to get down and dirty with a tub of the good stuff, and they’d take eight helpings a day if you let them. With chocolate sauce on top. And that’s not a metaphor.

For some reason, conservatives seem to believe that teaching kids about sex is the same as telling them go frolic as if they were extras on Game of Thrones. We’re talking about a species that is 30% acne and 70% crappy EDM, so clearly, they should stay far away from badonkadonkadonk. But they do need to know about the workings of the human body and mind, because should they choose to mess up their childhood with sexual dynamics that adults are barely able to deal with, they’ll at least know enough to not accidentally produce more Pitbull fans.

The first form of sex ed I ever got was from Shabana Azmi on a DD ad, telling us that “AIDS chhoone se nahin phailta”. That was when my generation learnt that you got AIDS when a woman dug her long red fingernails into your back. I also got a lot of sex ed from Ramsay movies, so even at age seven, I knew that if you took your clothes off and got a bump-and-grind massage under a bed sheet, you would get attacked by a vampire. It was a pretty apt metaphor for STDs, so let it never be said that the Ramsays weren’t subtle.

But I want this generation to have a more informed outlook than I did, while also remaining true to their Indian roots. That’s why I put together this little culturally-approved sexplainer, which defines various aspects related to sex, such as:

Safe Sex: Ctrl+Shift+N.

Unsafe Sex: A union that’s frowned upon by Haryanvi elders.

Appropriate sexual position: Anything that results in a male child.

Foreplay: Company offsite to Bangkok.

Sex with strangers: Bad. Wrong. Terrible. Anti-National. Unless the coitus is preceded by a ceremony where the stranger is coated in haldi, as if he were a bhindi, and someone has been paid to tell you that the stars and planets bless your caste-approved rishta because that’s just how significant you are to the universe, and of course, an obscenely bloated party that only reminds you that most of your “relatives” are just freeloading douchenuggets.

BDSM: Acts involving domination and gratification through humiliation. See arranged marriage above.

That should be enough to get youngsters started on the path to knowledge. For everything else, there’s always the Internet which, incidentally, also gets a fair share of ban threats. Maybe things would be better if people just loosened up and got themselves some ice cream.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 29th June 2014.)

Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Maruti!

I’m not saying that the world is actively trying to make me feel old, but they recently phased out the Maruti 800, and this makes we want to go drown my nostalgia in a bottle of Goldspot. The last 800 was sent off from the Gurgaon plant with much fanfare, and understandably so, given that it’s an integral part of the Indian success story, along with liberalisation and Baba Sehgal. (The colour of the last model is officially called ‘Firebrick Red’, which is like regular red, but with a coating of MBA drool.)

Before the advent of the 800, Indian roads were ruled by the Ambassador, which was the size of a 3BHK and also handled like one. Then came the Maruti 800, which was the size of a 3BHK in Bombay.  It was touted as the go-to vehicle for small families, and was brought to India by Sanjay Gandhi, a man known for being a fan of small families. The first sale was a pretty big deal, and involved an elaborate ceremony wherein the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, handed over the keys to one Mr. Harpal Singh from Delhi. This happened on 14th December, 1983, at 3 p.m. By 3.02 p.m, there were six woofers on the car, along with one bartender who lived in the boot.

The 800 will remain Maruti’s most iconic car for years to come, because it was the first car for many Indians, and also because a lot of their other cars have the appeal of jaundice. Take, for example, the Omni, which boasts of a great minimalist design, in the sense that your knees double up as crumple zones and the airbags are your lungs. Then there was the A-Star, which was great if you wanted to drive a frog, and the Swift Dzire, which looked like the Swift after a session with Anushka Sharma’s plastic surgeon.

My family didn’t own an 800 when everyone was going nuts about it, but eventually, we did manage to buy a Zen. This was a big deal for my parents, especially for my father, because it was his first car, which meant that he treated it with the kind of respect usually reserved for prophets of major religions. Thankfully, this did not stop him from teaching me how to drive even though I was technically thirteen. I jumped at the offer, not realising that there was a huge difference between learning to drive at a motor school, and learning to drive from your father. This is what it’s like at a motor school:

Instructor: Turn key in ignition.

Student: *turns key*

Instructor: Arey wah you are ekdum Michael Shoemaker give 500 rupiss take license!

Student: But –

Instructor: Give 1000 more, and take MiG-29 license also.

And this is what it’s like when you learn from your father:

Father: Mirror alignment off by six degrees. 3 microsecond delay in clutch release. If you were on the highway, you’d have killed at least eight people by now.

Me: I don’t think that’s –

Father: THIS IS NOT A JOKE THIS IS SERIOUS TU ROADIE BANEGA SAALE???

Me: *develops new-found love for walking*

After learning the basics at 13, I had to sit back and watch my first set of wheels be used for exciting things like carrying bags of aloo and bhindi. But as soon as I turned 18, my parents allowed me to use the car, because – and I say this with the utmost love and respect – they were insane. Seriously, what kind of normal person hands over the control of a two-ton missile to a teenager? We’re wired to do stupid things. For example, when I was only permitted to drive “within the colony”, a friend and I sneaked out and drove to Pune simply because we knew of a bar there that served nice beer. Yup, I drove almost 400 kilometres for a beer. Then there were the countless races and attempts at drifting contests, where the only safety precaution was, “Finish your beer before you start.” (NOTE TO YOUNG READERS: I was stupid and lucky. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever do this. It will most certainly kill you, which will suck because your parents will never trust you with the car again.)

My first car is still around and it’s still functional, just like so many 800s around the country. If you take away the nostalgia, you see those cars for what they really were: little tin-pots with no airbags, no Bluetooth, no power steering, no power windows… damn, those were good cars. And they taught me the most important lesson of all: Never have kids.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 23rd Feb 2014.)