As my favourite sociologist, George Mikas once said, the continentals have sex; the British have the hot water bottle.
I do not know if this is true, but young boys in Boy’s socio cultural milieu, at least in those days, did not have sex, often did not know about it, or had very dubious notions about it.
Boy’s situation was no better. And a little understood childhood trauma added to the confusion. Having spent a considerable time in the company of the help, he probably picked up some colourful language, and the vernacular terminology for certain parts of the anatomy. He learnt that these words elicit furtive giggles, and, being soft in the head no doubt, had repeated them in company. The reaction was not funny. His mother cried, and then reported the matter to his father. His father, with a grim face, enquired about the source of his remarkable general knowledge. The little tattles tale promptly spilt the beans, and witnessed a scene that shook him.
His normally serious and gentle father looked like the pictures of demons in his illustrated Ramayana.
“I will cut you to pieces and bury you here!”he roared at the unfortunate domestic worker.
It was not supposed to be in Boy’s presence, but as his curious mom was peeping to see, so was he. These transformations of his dad shook him, and it was hard wired to his brain that use of certain words have disastrous consequences. As a result, he could not utter profanities in the vernacular ever again.
Years later, during his teen days, this quirk in his character quite naturally was considered the hallmark of a wimp by his fellow adolescents, who expressed their machismo through frequent reference to genitalia, and punctuating their language with obscenities.Boy was studying in an eminent catholic boys’ school known for great academic successes, and iron discipline. Therefore, Boy was exposed to a collection of highly imaginative and prurient minds. He vaguely followed the smutty discussions, but clearly understood the furtive sniggering.
They were yet to reach puberty, but his cronies seemed to have a vast storehouse of what seemed to him highly improbable facts of life. There was no where he could countercheck this information. Books he could access were equally vague on the subject. Asking anyone at home was too outlandish an idea even to occur to his mind.
Finally a classmate whose parents were doctors and who accordingly claimed authentic information on this taboo subject; smuggled in an elder sibling’s biology textbook, revealing the horrific facts about procreation. Boy’s reaction was of revulsion, then shock at the idea that even he came into being through such sordid mechanics. But then he consoled himself,
“This must be the artificial way that evil people use, and can’t be the only way. There must be a good way, where you can perhaps pray for a child, which respectable people like my parents used”
The junior section had lady teachers, many of them very young, and quite pretty. Boy, like most of his classmates, had many strong crushes, and gazed at them with rapt attention. But now, with this horrific knowledge weighing down on his mind, was wracked with guilt, and could hardly look at them without getting warm under the collar.
Smutty jokes he had heard earlier and laughed along with everybody without understanding, suddenly became clearer and filled him with revulsion.
Puberty struck, with its army of raging hormones. Revulsion and curiosity battled within him.
Boy’s school had a ‘sister’ school, who shared their auditorium. Aschool, the boys were confined to classrooms, caged like wild animals, probably with good justification. The boys hung out of the window and howled like beasts, the only way these hormone crazed frustrated souls could express their admiration. Earlier, Boy kept himself aloof, feeling disgusted. Nowadays, he would sometimes try to sneak a look.Finally, Boy went for solutions to the one source that he had complete faith in, books. Ever since learning to read, Boy had been voraciously and indiscriminately devouring anything available in print.
But the literature on this taboo subject was not available either at home or school library, and although his book for hire shop had such matter in brown covers, he neither had the money or the nerve to ask for them.
These books were in circulation amongst the students, and the tattered crumpled and stained copies were in great demand, especially the ones with pictures. That the language was Scandinavian or Malayalam did not matter, the pictures did. What little Boy could glance from his furtive peeping over shoulders, disgusted him.
This prudery, so uncharacteristic of his age group, remained with him throughout his life. The institution of ragging in college had diluted it considerably, but vestiges of this remained, earning him a reputation as a gentleman among ladies, and a pansy among guys.
The print versions he did sample, as he tried every genre of literature without discrimination, but even the immensely popular ‘Anonymous’ although rich in imagery, had grammar and style that wounded his sensitive literary soul.Then he hit pay dirt in his home and school library. The classics had erotic passages, the books that had been removed from the open shelves by his parents when they discovered his appetite for books had explosive chapters; and all paid great dividends on patient perusal. Harold Robbins, Samaresh Bose, Kalidasa and Valmiki, all whetted his appetite for erotica.
When elders were impressed by his immersion in the Ramayana, he was reading the description of Sita, which would have earned a ban if used in modern literature. Likewise Kalidasa provided titillation with taste, the way poor Anonymous could not dream of.
The only down side was that the relief sought in onanism prostrated him with fear. His misguided teachers in the so called sex education cum moral science class had threatened the inevitable weakness, blindness, loss of sanity and even life if one indulged themselves in such unnatural sinful pleasures. Unable to resist, he waited with dread for the just desserts of his crimes.
Fortunately, when I last heard, Boy continued to enjoy reasonable heath, corrected eyesight, and although considered eccentric, was not certifiably insane.So Boy, unlike the Englishman, did not have the hot water bottle as a substitute for sex; he had fiction and imagination instead.
Copyright (c) soumya mukherjee