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No Sex Please : We Are Indians

Sex has many uses. It was a landmark for me when I stayed at Janakpuri in New Delhi in the late nineties. Anyone who sought directions to my house would be told: “When you come from Hari Nagar, cross the Jail Road and drive straight. When you find SEX on the left side, take a turn to the right. You are in B3B where I stay.”

SEX was written in red neon light in at least 1500 point so that it was visible from a long distance. It was the clinic of a Sexologist whom I never had an occasion to get acquainted with, though I stayed in his neighborhood for several years. I often wondered why he advertised SEX when he should have advertised his services. Perhaps he was following the Hippocratic oath!

I remembered SEX when I read a report that the Ayush Ministry has issued a booklet to advise pregnant women on how to conduct themselves once they are in the family way. The ministry wants them to have healthy children who will do the nation proud. We know how such healthy boys climbed up an old structure at Ayodhya in 1992 and brought it down in a few hours to the eternal glory of  “India, that is Bharat” while a healthy woman chanted, “Ek dhakka aur do…”

When I started my career as a journalist in 1973, my beat included Health and Family Planning Ministry. The minister in charge was Dr Karan Singh. I have attended several of his Press conferences where he briefed the nation on the progress to rid India of small pox. 

I still remember the little chat I had with the minister the day he announced that small pox that killed millions of people, including my grandfather, has been eradicated once and for all. The samosa he offered tasted better. Those days the ministry had such mundane concerns as fighting polio and proving the Malthusian theory wrong.

Today Narendra Modi’s Ayush Ministry takes upon itself such noble causes as creating a nation of healthy people. Hitler, too, had visualized a nation that was free of all disabled people, Communists and Christians and consisted of only blue-eyed Aryans, tall and handsome, brilliant like the doctors of death who sent the unwanted, the handicapped and the Jews to the gas chambers at Dachau and Auschwitz.

Here the idea was just to advise women what they should do during their pregnancy. First and foremost, they should avoid lust. 

Dictionary defines lust as “sexual appetite, desire for physical union, biological urge” etc. Now how would a woman become pregnant without lust in the first place? I am sure married men and women would agree with me that their babies were the result of an accidental collision between the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg over which they had little control.

In other words, “lust” is the pre-requisite for pregnancy. Like all creations of God, human beings have sex for pleasure, not for baby-making which is a by-product. In fact, without lust, life is not possible. I do not know whether there is anyone who has sex only to make babies. In that case, they should stop having sex when the requisite number of children are born to them. Then, Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi would not have produced nine children. True, I know the pleasures of living in such a large family because, to use Indian English, my in-laws had as many children as Bihar’s first couple.

The Ayush Ministry guidelines caution pregnant women against having sex during pregnancy. At a time when the Europeans and the Americans knew only the Missionary Position, our treatise on sex called  Kama Sutra, authored by Maharishi Vatsyayana Mallanaga, described 254 positions, some of them specifically recommended for pregnant women. 

It is strange that the Modi government which takes extraordinary pride in things ancient wants pregnant women to forget the immense possibilities that the Maharishi opened up through his Sanskrit text that still dazzles foreigners.

We have people like Ambani living in a 24-storied house where millions of litres of water are used every month to water the plants on the balconies and to fill up the swimming pools. However, for a vast majority of the people who live in huts and tenements, the only form of enjoyment is the sex they have. I wonder why the ministry wants to deprive them of even this enjoyment in the name of having smart and healthy children.

The ministry wants pregnant women to take rest, read about great personalities and have only noble thoughts. A few years ago I met a home worker who was younger than my daughter-in-law. She would have wondered why we gave so much care to our DiL when she said that she delivered all her babies at home, cut the umbilical cord herself and was back to work in a couple of days after the delivery. I wondered what use were the guidelines to this lady who worked so that she could feed her children and support her good-for-nothing husband who found only entertainment in her. 

If the ministry had said that pregnant women should abjure beef I could have understood it because we live at a time when High Court judges are more interested in telling the world how reverential the cow was and not in reducing the number of cases pending before them.

The guidelines have gone one step ahead and wants pregnant women not to eat non-vegetarian food at all. I know how Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to go to Himachal Pradesh to eat trout, a very tasty river water fish. Ask those who served him at Kumarakom in Kerala where he stayed for a few days while he was Prime Minister and they will tell you how much he relished Karimeen Pollichathu. His aides had difficulty in restraining him from eating chicken and mutton kebabs beyond the quantity allowed.

I have eaten several times with a Sangh Parivar “ideologue”, one of the few who writes good English among such ideologues, who always ordered beef dishes while I chose humbler chicken preparations. When they can have their Hindutva and their meat dishes together, why should the poor pregnant women be deprived of animal protein? 

In every culture, pregnant women are given better food. It is only in India where women — pregnant, married or unmarried — are allowed to eat only the leftover food after all the men in the family have eaten.

In this regard, I do not forget the resolution the present Gujarat Chief Minister has made to make Gujarat the first vegetarian state in the country. Of course, he can afford to eat dry fruits like cashew nuts, walnuts and other nuts which are good substitutes for beef, chicken and mutton, and drink gallons of milk but what about the poor Gujarati for whom even  fried  dhokla is a delicacy they cannot afford.

I am not a nutritionist or scientist but I know that animal protein is also necessary for good health. We all know about the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. It is not on Upma and Iddli that he runs and wins the Gold medal in Olympics but on solid meat. We all know the plight Baba Ramdev, the so-called ultimate in Yoga, had when he sat on a hunger strike for a few days at Ramlila Maidan. In contrast was the Northeastern Irom Sharmila who braved years of self-inflicted deprivation for a cause she considered dear.

The ministry has asked pregnant women to read about great personalities or think about them. I wonder how many Indian women can read, let alone have access to reading material. And who are the great personalities that they should read about? Should they read about Bharata in whose name India is known?

Should they read  Abhijnanasakuntalam written by  Kalidasa, where the maiden Shakuntala ignored Durvasa's demands to be welcomed as a guest because she was daydreaming about her lover Dushyanta? The Rishi cursed her that her lover would forget her. Should they read about Sita Devi, who was sent to the forest in a state of pregnancy just because some silly men gossiped about her and the gossip reached the palace?

Or, should they read about Brahmarshi Vishvamitra, who composed the Gayatri Mantra, to practice self-restraint? He was the wisest of the wise who understood the full meaning of the Mantra, unlike me who knows only how to recite it. He could not restrain himself when the beautiful Menaka appeared before him and unleashed the weapon of charm. How can they control their lust after reading about him?

Or, should they read about the great modern-day personalities like Modi and Amit Shah. If they read about them, they will invariably read about how pregnant Muslim women were treated by the warriors of Hindutva during the Gujarat riots. 

They will also read about Amit Shah’s arrest and stay in a jail for his alleged involvement in a fake encounter case? I am sure the ministry would not like pregnant women to agonize over the virtual widowhood a wife suffers when her husband is an all-powerful leader who has no time for her.

Of course, the ministry wants pregnant women to hang good pictures in their bedroom. Which are those good pictures? Can’t the ministry give the famous government calendar in which every picture is that of Modi? One of the most pleasing calendar pictures is that of Shakuntala, who is hurt, and uses it as a pretext to see her lover once more. Ravi Varma’s picture is not the one for the pregnant lady to keep in her bedroom because it will remind them about the ordeal she underwent because of a quick-tempered person’s curse.

The ministry should publish ideal pictures and distribute them through the government institutions like the ICDS centres, instead of just publishing advisories. Let me admit, I was not surprised by the guidelines because, a few weeks earlier, at a workshop organised by the Arogya Bharati, the RSS’ medical wing, in Kolkata, it was claimed that it possesses a method to produce fair, tall, and ‘customised’ babies. 

This ridiculous method involves undergoing three months of purification (sex only when the planets align in an auspicious manner), followed by no sex until the baby is conceived, supplemented by a strict Ayurvedic diet to purify eggs and sperm. It is an article of faith for Modi and Company.

After all, it was not long ago that Modi said in Mumbai while addressing scientists, “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.” 

They believe that we had better aviation technology at that time than now. For instance, airplanes can move only in one direction. It cannot fly backward or sideward, whereas the Pushpak Viman mentioned in the Ramayana could fly in any direction and it did not need long runways to take off or land. 

Today we have the technology to connect people. India has emerged as a formidable space power. All it needs is to send a genius like Amit Shah to the Moon to prove to the world that we are no less than the Americans,  the French, the Russians and the Chinese when it comes to space technology.

We can find out which is the most appropriate time for making babies by using satellites to determine when the stars align themselves in a particular formation. We can declare those days as national holidays when couples can be encouraged to copulate. It will have many advantages. The children born as a result of conditioned copulation would be healthier and brighter. We can reduce further the spending on health, which is only less than 2 per cent of the GDP.

The money can be used to print pictures women should watch during pregnancy. The Sangh Parivar can be asked to prepare booklets containing stories of great personalities from the Krita Yuga or Satya Yuga to Kali Yuga to be distributed free of cost to pregnant women. Baba Ramdev’s outfit, Patanjali, can be given the whole responsibility of providing pregnant women honey, Patanjali noodles and biscuits to wean them away from meat-eating. 

The cost of all this is peanuts, as the population so created will ask the government to rid the nation of all the remaining Congressis, Communists and meat-eaters.

What else can be expected from leaders who see Mahatma Gandhi about whom Albert Einstein had famously said, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth” as just a shrewd Bania? 

With due apologies to Tagore lovers, let me paraphrase one of his poems, more in sorrow than in anger:

Where the mind is with fear and the head is held low

Where knowledge is controlled by the Republic

Where the country has been broken up into fragments

By narrow communal walls

Where words come out from the depth of falsehood

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards deception

Where the clear stream of reason has lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit

Where the mind is led forward by propaganda

Into ever-narrowing thought and action

In that hell of falsehood, my Father, let my country sleep.

The writer, a senior journalist, can be reached at  ajphilip@gmail.com

(Published on 19th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 25)