“I bet you’re worried. I was worried. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them.” — Eve Ensler, Vagina Monologues

Pooja moved from Punjab to Delhi at the age of 24, excited about the prospect of living independently. For six years, she enjoyed the freedom to do as she pleased with her time, money and body. She also dated a couple of men but these affairs were never intended to end up in marriage. Her future husband could only be someone from her convervative community, with whom her family would arrange a match.
So, as easily as she decided everything else during this phase, she took the decision to go to a plastic surgeon for a minor elective procedure. A nip here and a tuck there, and she rose from the operating table a virgin again.

Was it painful? She brushes aside the query. “I come from a family where I can’t talk or about my sexuality with my parents. I can’t share with them that I’m not a virgin. So I chose to get this done,” says Pooja.

Perhaps she accepts the wisdom of the aphorism: No pain, no gain. Why let a ruptured membrane jeopardise your entire future?

Not everybody approves of this growing trend, especially because of the orthodox thinking behind it. “Why is the pressure to be pure only on females and not males? When the courts have accepted the concept of live-in relationships, virginity shouldn’t be important in India. It’s important to have ethics in society but the attitude should change,” says Sanjay Basu, a professor at Delhi University.

According to Dr Anup Dhir, cosmetologist at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital, “Hymenoplasty is done to restore the hymen. There is an increasing trend of getting this surgery done.” His hospital gets 5-8 patients a
month, which adds up to 60- 96 patients every year.

Sexual intercourse is not the only activity that results in rupturing of the hymen. Vigorous physical activity such as that undertaken by athletes may also damage it. Instead of having to answer questions about why no spots of blood stained the sheets on wedding night, young women quietly go for the one-hour surgery.

No wonder, then, that the usual age of young women going for this elective procedure is between 20 and
30 years. The demand for hymenoplasty is increasing every year by 20 to 30 percent.
Interestingly, hymen repair is also called revirgination. It costs just about 50,000 in private hospitals. It is also done in public hospitals, where it costs just about Rs 20,000.

Hymenoplasty should not be confused with vaginoplasty, which is usually done after a woman gives birth. The latter too can be a way of ‘restoring’ virginity but this surgery could also be undertaken due to medical compulsions. The cost of this procedure is Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh in private hospitals.
Says Dr DJS Tulla, head of the department of cosmetology at Primus Hospital, “The demand for vaginoplasty is less because it’s done in cases of vaginal prolapse. It’s very much a necessary surgery.”

It’s not just the middle or upper classes for whom hymenoplasty smoothes the path to living happily ever after. “A 29-year-old girl from Rohtak came for the hymenoplasty before her marriage. She has a rural background but works in a software company,” (who said this).

She has not necessarily been promiscuous. “Premarital sex may be the reason for most ruptured hymens. However, sexual intercourse is not the only reason why the hymen can break. Sports activities, physical exercise, dance and aerobics can also be the reason,” says Dr Ajaya Kashyap , senior plastic surgeon at Fortis, Gurgaon.

Interestingly, women from the Middle East often come for the surgery. That’s another region where tradition demands virginity. It helps that the patient can go to work the very next day. Sir Gangaram Hospital gets 2-3 patients every month for hymenoplasty and Primus Hospital 6-7 patients a month, most of them middle class. The tribe will multiply as girls become more active — sexually and otherwise.