The Importance of Being My Doctor

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Yamini Deenadayalan visits several sex clinics and discovers a world of ignorance and morality. And promiscuity

Photos: Vijay Pandey

YOU FIND their ads pasted everywhere — college walls, inside well-intentioned Sulabh toilet complexes and train stations. They’re clearly doing brisk business, but going to a sexologist can still be nightmarish. Especially if you’re unmarried, homosexual or, worse, autoerotic. As I decided to expand my horizons, I found myself in dramatically different spaces — the elite boroughs of south Delhi, the shiny corporate corners of Noida and the conservative sections of old Delhi. Ignorance was a prominent feature, as were moral judgements.

It also turned out to be world of heady promiscuity Dr Mahinder Watsa, a Mumbai- based sexologist, receives many adolescent boys who’re worried after having slept with women thrice their age. “Their husbands are in the merchant navy or travel a lot,” he says. Most sex clinics offer cures for homosexuality, nocturnal emissions (“injurious to health”) and infertility. Frigidity, though, is an altogether another thing. I found myself in a clinic in south Delhi complaining of aversion to sex. Dr Rajesh Jha (named changed), a portly man in his 50s, asked me some questions about alcohol and smoking, if I felt “guilty about my past”, what was my opinion ( just for his own interest, he added) on extra-marital affairs. Next, he proceeded to solutions: “There are many ways of touching a par tner.” He grabbed my arm tight. “This is one way. The other,” he offered, moving behind my panicking head, “is like this.” He ran his fingers over my hair, my arm and stopped at my waist.

He went back to his seat matter-of-factly and said, “You should have soup made of curdled milk with onion and garlic. It increases sex drive.” Perhaps, that’s what makes onion and garlic taboo in some cultures, I thought, somewhat relieved that I was no longer a sexologist virgin.

Sablok Clinic, the most famous among the many clinics promising sexual makeovers, refused me an appointment because I’m a woman. After bribing a male friend into volunteering, we went to the two-storied building in old Delhi. Dr Vinod Sablok’s father had set up the clinic in 1928 in Lahore and then moved to Delhi after Partition. The clinic’s website offers a cure for masturbation, suggesting it’s caused by bad company. While I was sitting gingerly in the waiting room filled with men embarrassed at my sudden intrusion, my friend was telling Dr Sablok about his premature ejaculation. Doc asked if he was in a live-in relationship (yes). “Open your pant [sic],” he asked. A magnifying glass was held over my friend’s penis. Dr Sablok said that he was looking at the “nerves”. “You need to take rasayan [a generic Sanskrit word for ‘essence’], it will cost Rs 11,000 for a month. Think about it and come back.” He eagerly threw my friend out of the clinic, annoyed by the pesky questioning of his methods.

Psychoanalyst and writer Sudhir Kakar has written about how sexual time is slower than real time because social and political transformations happen faster than sexual ones. So when it comes to sex, we score high on ignorance. Mumbai-based sexologist Prakash Kothari, who claims to have seen 60,000 cases in 40 years, says there’s no ‘herbal’ impotency tonic that works. He’s had rapists confess that they can’t control themselves when they see a woman — men who don’t masturbate because they’re scared of impotence, hair fall, bad karma, blindness, deafness and guilt. Says Kothari, “I tell them that the penis does the same thing in a woman’s vagina that it does in the palm of a hand. And that just like a talkative person’s tongue doesn’t become weak and a quiet person’s strong, the penis is not affected by masturbation but it’s hard to convince them.” Perhaps a nationwide ‘Allow Masturbation Morcha’, the men’s equivalent of SlutWalk, might reduce sexual crime?

THE MASTURBATION-impotency link is not the only myth. Many ‘educated’ Mumbai men believe sleeping with a virgin will cure them of veneral diseases, adds Kothari. Or how all a woman wants is some sperm to have a child. A woman’s sexuality is non-existent in the worldview of many sexologists. One well-meaning Ayurvedic doctor assured me that however averse I might be to sex, I’d be fine once I had a child. All this despite urban women going to sex clinics, and threatening to walk out of their relationships if their partners “come too fast”.

On the drive from Delhi to Bulandshahar, UP, alone, you see a ‘Gupt Rog’ (secret illness) banner every few metres. In one Gupt Rog tent in Noida, Vedji, 43, welcomes me with a cup of chai and matthi. The tent is lined with photos of Shiva and Lakshmi and medicine bottles, some prepared by Vedji in Haridwar. Turns out most men want to be healed of the galat aurat they’ve slept with, while women seek to cure infertility.

Perhaps a nationwide ‘Allow Masturbation Morcha’, the men’s equivalent of SlutWalk, might reduce sexual crime?

After a point, Vedji becomes uncomfortable talking to me about male problems. It’s a question of izzat, he says. Izzat is the reason why sex isn’t discussed in India. It’s why male sexuality is considered a scary untamable beast, and female sexuality is considered to be only functional. And why this business of sexology is so lucrative. As the evening draws close, Vedji gets into his grey Maruti Esteem, takes out a BlackBerry-lookalike phone and tells a patient he’s too busy to give an appointment that week. It’s just another day at work for the sex doctor.

Yamini Deendayalan is a Features Correspondent with Tehelka. 
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