When I moved back to India after six years, the most gleeful change I found was in my newspaper: a daily sex column run by the 91-year-old sexpert Dr Mahinder Watsa. If something showed that India had evolved it was this.
My friends would giggle about the latest absurd question that was posed to Dr Watsa, while Facebook and Twitter would often carry photos of these questions, which would be liberally retweeted and liked.
Dr Watsa dealt with each question – however naïve, however silly, however scandalous – with his signature sarcasm, humour and common sense. Plainspoken enough to inspire occasional police reports on the grounds of obscenity, he taught Indians the difference between sexuality and pornography. He highlighted why India men remain obsessed about the size of their penis and performance. He changed the way we Indians look at sex.
So when Dr Watsa’s first book was published last week, I made sure I attended the launch. I met the courtly and diffident sexologist, who’s more reminiscent in person of a prudish Victorian viceroy than the withering sex columnist he’s renowned to be. I picked up a signed copy and began to relish his book as much as I do his daily newspaper column.
While much of his book is a compilation of his columns, replete with cartoons of the funniest questions and answers, Dr Watsa also doles out some practical advice to Indian women, especially related to their virginity and sexuality (which absurdly seem to be of primary concern to women and their boyfriends/husbands).
It seems that most Indian women, like most Indian men, are concerned whether they are sexually ‘normal’ and whether what they are doing sexually is ‘okay’. He educates women about the vagina, clitoris, hymen, while advocating hygiene, safe sex and self-confidence. He tells women how to talk to their children about sex, about how older women can enjoy sex after menopause, how young girls should protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and diseases. His prickliest piece of advice, however, is to tell women not to reveal their sexual past – especially if they’ve had one – to potential husbands and boyfriends. While I don’t agree with his way of thinking, I guess in many parts of our conservative society a woman is still expected to be a virgin and so she must act like one.
All in all, Dr Watsa’s book ‘It’s Normal!’ is every bit as venerable as his columns and a must-read for all women and their partners.
Meghna Pant is a Features Editor at SheThePeople