Neil Gaiman’s parents had no rules for what he couldn’t read. Mine did – my mum made me swear I’d never read Sidney Sheldon (still haven’t, mother promise). No smut for her son, she decided. But no other books were banned. Thus it came to be that a still single-digit-year-old me bounded into a library and borrowed Kane and Abel, in which a teenager with a single nipple makes love to a fellow immigrant in a boat on a ship (don’t ask). Only after seventeen Russian soldiers have raped his sister in a Polish forest.
Why did I attain puberty before the rest of my generation? Jeffrey Archer.
I commuted to secondary school in a van driven by a wily fellow we shall call Raghavan (because that was his name). As a fifth-grader, I was the youngest in the Maruti Omni, while the oldest was a venerable tenth-grader named Siddharth (also his real name), who, Praise the Lord, had a girlfriend. And a big mouth that explained in some detail what he did with her wished to do to her (while Raghavan the Randy leered lasciviously in the rear-view mirror). These soliloquys, which we followed with slavering tongues, were sometimes interrupted by another boy my age who, one evening, glanced out his window into an adjacent apartment and observed a couple align themselves horizontally, for the purpose of sharing body heat in Bombay’s harsh and arctic winters.
On the coffee table lay a Reader’s Digest with a cover story titled ’17 Reasons To Have SEX When You’re Not Fighting Cancer/Dying In A Plane Crash/Climbing Everest’. By then, I knew, or thought I knew, and smartass that I was, sidled up to my mum with a coy smile and asked, ‘what does that word mean?’
My mum, well-versed with my smartassedness, countered with ‘what do you think it means?’
I was struck dumb. I knew. She knew I knew. But I couldn’t admit that I knew she knew I knew.
So fourteen years later, here we are. As per official records, I still don’t know.
Ask any 90’s kid about his then favourite Hollywood film and he may name anything from Tomorrow Never Dies to Toy Story, but the one true answer is American Pie.
My eyes (and other parts of me) will never forget the afternoon I (first) watched the scene in Ghost in which Demi Moore, her shirt unbuttoned, her hands glutinous with clay, messes with a pottery wheel and Patrick Swayze, shirtless and sculpted, spoons in and touches her fingers and hands and arms and my father walked in.
I tagged along with my mum to watch a movie called Bollywood Calling. At one point, it became apparent that two of the characters were going to get hot-and-heavy/down-and-dirty/pick-your-euphemism. My mum stood up and said:
‘I’m going to the loo.’
‘Come with me.’
‘Come with me to the loo.’
‘You don’t have to come in. Just wait outside.’
‘For my safety. I’m scared.’
We were in a multiplex. I was ten.
You could always rely on MSN Hotmail (now Outlook) to cram your inbox with emails inviting you to claim the Krakozhian lottery you’d won (and didn’t even remember signing up for; silly boy), by simply providing your credit card number, or petitions to contribute a not insignificant fraction of your life’s savings to the Cartographical Society of the Bermuda Triangle, or some such worthy cause.
Because I didn’t know better (and often still don’t), I clicked on one such link, which revealed a helpfully illustrative photograph of what a man and a woman can do if they bump into each other (literally) and happen to have no clothes on (for videos, visit downloadfreevirus.com).
As you can see, I have spent several years acquiring scientific information from all the right sources. Someday, if I have a daughter, I will teach her that sanitary napkins are a sort of adult diaper for lazy women, a yeast infection is when mould grows on bread, and water-based lubricants are always available at the nearest gas station.
You can never start too late, no? I’ll wait until she’s sampled a spoonful of syphilis, a cupful of chlamydia or a gallon or two of gonorrhoea. And presented me with seventeen or eighteen grandchildren. Preferably before she’s sixteen.
I’ve got nothing to worry about.
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