Some mistakes last a lifetime. Mine is one. It was not that I sinned, but I simply didn’t know. And not knowing is a mistake, graver than a sin. Because a sinner knows what he is doing and so he is prepared, and thus chances of his failure are reduced. But an ignorant person is 100% prepared to go wrong because he did not know any other way. I tell this to you from my experience. Here’s my story:
Longing to be loved
I was raised an obedient girl in a home where parents did not love. As a result, I was deprived of wholesome love in my early years. My mother compensated for that love by sacrificing, tolerating my emotional outbursts, and acquiescing to my irrational demands. But I craved for my father’s love. I think subconsciously that was a big reason I fervently searched for a man’s love in the form of a partner.
In school, I looked around, my teenage hormonal rush and subjection to Bollywood movies attracted me to a fairy-tale world where prince charming is a reality. Like self-sacrificing moths to the wick of the lamp. The lure of the incandescent lamp is such that, perhaps for a moment, the moths think that submerging in the flames is their destiny. I was also lured to such a self-sacrificial destiny marketed by the media scripted dream of love.
I lived in a “couple-driven” culture. In graduation college, most girls had boyfriends and flaunted them around as diamond studded tiaras. In college fests, on weekends, girls would go to beauty parlours and get their hair cut and legs waxed. The hostel terrace on Sundays teemed with girls getting henna applied on their greying hair. I was the lone girl in that hostel who had applied henna on scalps of most girls because I did not date any man. I felt an outcast and a minion in front of those girls. I felt that I’m not beautiful or communicative enough to attract men. I felt inadequate as a human in that “couple-driven” culture.
To conform, I took succour in chat rooms. I chatted with strangers for long hours in the feeble hope that someone would notice me, despite my fallings. In that basement cybercafé, I did find some middle-aged suitors. As a 19-year-old young girl, I ended up going on blind dates with men in their thirties. It was awkward. Trying to smile for no reason, consciously thinking to cook up an interesting conversation, trying to look in the eye. This made-up date was a damp squib and I was left more befuddled and humiliated.
Once I was so disheartened by my failure to get a boyfriend, that when my distant cousin brother came to meet me in a hostel, I announced to everyone that my boyfriend has come. On other times, I pretended to talk for long hours on a blank call. All imitations to fit in that “couple-driven” culture.
“I thought consummation will seal the deal”
In management college, things were better in the sense that male to female ratio was 100:7. Plus few girls were already booked, as they had their beloved from their grad schools. That further shrunk the supply of potential dates. As a spin-off, I got a couple of proposals. I was on cloud 9. I did not waste further time in choosing my suitor as it was an age-long wait, ever since I had menstruated. My first relationship in management college was a disaster as the boy was not ready to commit.
But I was determined like Savitri to make my Satyakam agree to the liaison. Savitri kept fast and I kept intercourse. I thought consummation will seal the deal; sex is indispensable for lasting intimacy and I just let in, with a feeble hope that after we had sex, the man will not leave me. I was wrong and soon I was abandoned again. I was filled with deep self-hatred and took out my wrath on my own body and thus injured my left wrist. I was horrified in the aftermath of the breakup. Am I pregnant? Now that the boy has abandoned me, there is no marriage and no man to take up the responsibility of my pregnancy, in case I have conceived.
I quickly and clumsily tied a handkerchief on my bleeding left wrist and went to a famous hospital in Pune. I took an appointment of a gynaecologist and went to see her in her cabin. My face was fraught with fear and traces of dried up tears could be seen on my flaky cheeks. My lips were parched as I did not drink water the entire day. The gynaecologist suspected and instead of taking the medical history, she psychologically questioned me. She even sighted my left injured wrist and asked me to open the bandage. I tremored with fear as I could not escape the situation. As she saw the lacerated skin, she lambasted me in the presence of her other colleague who at that time was present in that cabin.
I desired love. If rejected, I hoped to cope up with that rejection. I desired privacy and empathy from a loving adult, as I walked in that cabin. I desired to be guided by my father as he came to know about my heartbreak. Instead, I was judged, I was betrayed, I was admonished, and I was proved an incapable person who cannot make rational decisions. My parents decided to get me married in a jiffy and I surrendered and married on rebound. The marriage did not work because it’s premise was not love, and a child was born from that wedlock.
“Sexual education is the need of the hour”
Today, I’m a single mother with a 6-year-old kid whose father has abandoned him. Is this the future I augured when I desperately wanted to fall in love? Literally and figuratively, I fell in love and never rose in love. Was it my destiny or my decisions of choosing the wrong men to be in relationships with? As a logical person, when I introspect, I understand that I could have rescued myself from those series of mishaps if only I was better informed if only I knew how to make the right decisions.
As a young adult, I craved the presence of a concerned adult who understood me as a sexual being full of romantic, amorous feelings as she transitioned to adulthood. I was an asexual daughter for my parents for whom, sexual feelings are vindicated only at the altar of marriage. I wished to have a late night conversation with my father, as I packed for my graduation college, where he helped me assimilate that I was young and it is natural for me to fell in love with a man, but I should be cautious to decide. Father! I only wanted this much from you.
But I know that my parents aren’t to be blamed. Ours is a highly religious, high morality, sexually repressive culture, where even married couples can’t talk about their sexual and intimate feelings. Conception is alluded to as good news and childless couples flock temples and keep fasts to seek blessings of God. Ladies are not taught to masturbate and female orgasm is shrouded in incertitude. Kids also need as much physical affection from parents but even parent-child touch is considered inappropriate. My friend Salma has never been hugged by her father in her whole life. I was hugged only twice by my father during my whole adult life, one during my Bidai and another time when I fell gravely ill during a bout of tuberculosis. At that moment, when my father saw me coughing blood and held me in his embrace, I felt like a frightened, lost sparrow who has just discovered her nest.
It is important for us to come out of our closet, more so for parents as they are the guiding light for their children. I wanted my father to hold my hand as I tread a new world outside the home, a world where you can get romantically and sexually attracted to an opposite or same gender. Indeed it’s an important and intimate decision and I didn’t want to err or reduce the chances of erring. Sexual education for parents and young is the need of the hour, because the world has become more complex, chaotic, and confusing. Because media is inundating young minds with breathless calls to fall in love through movies plots based on Switzerland-esque whirlwind romance, through flimsy film songs; canoodling Instagram updates of couples holding hands in Goa. Falling in love has become a big industry and social status up lifter and it is impossible for someone to remain indurate.
I never had a sexual education, neither my parents had, and I suffered from this lack of information big time. And the campus and social research I did foretells that things are no better. There is a mightier rise in the incidence of teenage pregnancies and heartbreaks. Young adults today are lonelier and have an early sexual debut. There is a rise in hourly room rentals in hotels for unmarried couples who want to quickly discharge their piling up sexual urges. But can an hour or two spent in an unfamiliar location with the entire hotel staff staring at you, knowing what you are going to do, as you step into that room, your head lowered? A fulfilling sexual experience needs abundant foreplay and after-sex conversations, gentle undressing, caressing, exploring, and playfulness. That has gone missing today.
We need to get comfortable with sex, our natural drive, and sexual education is the way. Comprehensive sexual education makes young people understand sexuality as a philosophy and not just an act. It helps them to respect their and their partner’s bodies, choices, and values. It offers them a positive and realistic framework to make their sexual decisions. It is done by staging dialogues about love and relationships, gender roles, and how we choose personal morals and values. Healthy sexuality means having an accurate and positive view of ourselves and using that as a basis for our relationships and our life choices. We’re not just walking genitals, we are whole people with bodies, brains, emotions, spirits. All of those things are part of our sexuality.
Story By – Pallavi Barnwal
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