Tabooed! Tabooed! Tabooed!
By Sayomdeb Mukherjee
Though Kamasutra was written in India, the word ‘sex’ repels people and takes them far away into the land of the fairies. Normally during puberty, a person undergoes physical and mental changes. In a society where ‘normal’ children do not receive information that they need about sex at adolescence, it is quite unexpected that people with disabilities would get a drop of information about anything. In the land of prakiti and purush, talking about sex, which is a natural phenomenon, is a no-no affair.
In my case, I can say that I became aware of issues in sexuality due to the fact that my father was an open-minded person and a doctor by profession. While teaching physiology during a particular summer evening, when I was about 13 years old, he closed the book to speak about sexuality, which would help me understand the hormonal changes taking place in both the sexes of my age. Whenever I had any question, he always answered my queries. I feel, the things I learned helped me grow and become more mature. I must say, I have been luckier than many ‘normal’ children of my age. Understanding the changes in my body made it easier to tackle the physiological and psychological aspects during that time.
When I grew up, I found around me a common notion prevalent in society: ‘disabled people = impotent’! How do you make people understand about SEX when you cannot pronounce the letter ‘S’? If you shout and discuss about a natural thing like sex, and aspects related to it, people in Indian society would come after you with a hammer to shut you up. Many of the educated people equate talking about sex with the actual act of having sex.
Going abroad to represent my country opened my eyes in many ways. I have seen my friends there not only getting married but the unmarried friends taking their girlfriends around, holding their heads high! It is quite funny to see how different the condition in India is. When I took my ex-girlfriend out for a cup of coffee, the passersby always stared at us to understand what was going on! The looks asked only one question: ‘What the hell is the girl doing with a guy who is wheelchair bound?’ I managed to ignore and laugh at these people.
If I may share another experience with the readers, you would be able to understand the difference in the thinking of upper middle-class and lower middle-class people. In Kolkata, there are times when I have to travel by taxi alone. Seeing me alone, some of the taxi drivers asked whether it is a regular affair that I am travelling alone! This question is usually followed by inquiries about my livelihood. And then: ‘Saab, aap ki shaadi hogayi?’ (Sir, are you married?) Some of them compassionately and feudalistically try to make me understand why I should get married! One of them said, ‘When you are alone, there must be someone beside you, sahib.’ He continued, ‘Why do we get married? Because time brings gradual loneliness to us. Having children is a part of marriage. But that is not everything that a person looks in a life partner. A day would come when children would grow up and leave you. That would be the time when interdependence between the life partners makes matter much easy.’ These views are hardly ever expressed by my close and intimate friends in the upper-middle class, who deem it unnecessary to even reflect on the issue of my marriage and sex life, leave alone notions of companionship.
Even if my family would like me get into a relationship, it is not a thing which can be arranged. A large number of people in the society would never think, even in their nightmares, that any girl would come into my life without some preconceived notions about disability. And if anyone comes into my life, that particular girl would have to explain her motives for getting into a relationship with me. People would actually ask, ‘Why this girl is getting tagged to this disabled person??? There must be a motive…?’ These people would never think that companionship and having a regular family life is a completely personal thing.
Directly or indirectly, I have come across questions about my manhood, which I did not wish to answer. If disability = impotence, then people having this notion must go for some sort of psychiatric treatment! What is more painful is when the so-called educated people suggest the same thing in a very polished way. Instead, if they ask me direct questions about my sexuality, I would able to answer in some sort of a direct manner.
[Sayomdeb Mukherjee works at one of the audio stations in Kolkata: 91.9 Friends F.M. He is an R.J. and an English Major.]