A day must have come in the lives of every individual out there, wherein he/she, a tiny tot, upon witnessing a humongous belly leading a mother or an aunt or some arbitrary lady, enquired, “Why is Mom/ she so fat?”
It came in my life too. The woman in question was my Aunt.
The Grown-ups in the hall sat still, shocked at my innocuous indecency. Uncle rose up from his seat, smiling embarrassedly, while Aunt looked at me in the same loving manner. Uncle shuffled a bit before replying, “Your Aunt is gonna have a baby! You will have a cousin to play with!”
The Grown-ups looked at each other and smiled, admiring inwardly the stately knowledge and cognizance of Uncle who looked rather pleased with himself. What better way than to have shown an over-inquisitive brat a mental picture of a new playmate, with the intention of shutting any query regarding the obvious?
They must have thought.
There is a preface in every NCERT book conceivable which has been written by Gandhi, in which he exhorts us to have a Scientific Mind, and not to accept anything blindly. Therefore it was entirely Gandhi’s fault when I asked the next question,
“How did he get in there?”
Uncle’s mouth drooped. Grown-ups murmured something about lunch and started dispersing. Meanwhile Deep, the would-be brother of the to-be playmate (who turned out to be a girl), entered and mentioned catching a snail somewhere, which we later broke, dissected and examined. Grown-ups were saved that day.
I didn’t venture to ask any more questions anytime soon. Their cautious behaviour made it veritable; children are not supposed to ask how babies get inside mothers, even thinking about it is diabolic.
It was hard though, not to think about it. The psyche of a child is uncontrollable. He ponders over wonders in the most gruesome manner. Ideas ranged from how some angel came, ripped apart her stomach and put the baby inside to how she must have performed penance to Lord Shiva and got the child after years of Ghor Tapasya (Yes, I was a Mahabharata buff as well). I was sure there was some magic involved, which only the Grown-ups could perform and couldn’t confide in a child about it, as it would subject them into eternal damnation.
Atiesh, a friend of mine, startled me one day. “What’s the matter with you?”
“What do you mean?” said I, jerking into my senses.
“You sit here during lunch time mulling over something which you won’t tell us. You have dark circles under your eyes. You won’t even share Maggi with us anymore.”
“Oh I am sorry.” Said I, handing over my entire lunch box to him. He sad on my desk, stuffing himself with a mouthful of Maggi.
“You-wonna- dalk –abot-id?” asked he.
“Its’ probably nothing man. I am just confused.” And then I told him about the problem plaguing me for so long.
He gulped and stared. “Me too!”
And 3 people in my vicinity voiced their ignorance as well. Everybody agreed it wasn’t something you could discuss in the public, with the girls as well as with Grown-ups. We adjourned the meeting with the end of the lunch break, pledging that whoever comes to know about the secret will share the fruits of his knowledge with the rest of the group.
The first real clue I received was through some 1950’s classic being beamed on Doordarshan. A man was trying to force himself on some woman, who kept yelling “Bachao Bachao!”. The strange thing was the man wasn’t trying to hit her. It was then I realised that he was trying to put a baby inside her. The lady was shouting in distress because it was obviously a painful procedure.
I told of my findings to the group. They seemed pleased with the progress, until someone said, “But where do we get the babies from?”
Nevertheless, we kept the quest alive. I, for some reason inexplicable, knew that the only information I could procure would be from Indian films, and for this sole reason I now would be glued to the television every weekend. The next big hint came soon enough.
A couple gets married. During suhag raat they sleep together side by side, and on subsequent days too. 3-4 days pass and Voila!! A screaming offspring is being rocked to sleep by a doting parent.
The group took this finding very seriously.
“So all we have to do is sleep with a girl next to us.”
“That’s right” Said I.
“I know. But you can sleep alone after having a baby. It is like a necessary evil.”
“How come the earlier woman was screaming then?” asked Atiesh.
“The procedure is painful only if the man is not married to the woman.”
“Still doesn’t make sense. There has to be some exchange you know? Something we give to them…”
We ruminated over it. The next day a member came back with scintillating news.
“They KISS! Oh, how could we have missed that! They exchange saliva! The man’s saliva goes in to her stomach where a baby is born, which then comes out of the anus.”
For a moment we all were too disgusted to reply.
“Making a baby is grosser than I imagined.” remarked Atiesh.
“This doesn’t feel right. If it was so gross, nobody would even make a baby. We have to find a more credible source…”
I knew where the credible source was at home. The Oxford Encyclopaedia New Edition.
I opened the page discretely, checking around for the presence of Pater or Mater. My heart throbbed with the ominous premonition of being caught red handed. Pater I knew was in the bathroom, Mater in the kitchen. My fingers shivered with ill-concealed anticipation as I read the words Sex and Reproduction in bold.
The next one hour was dedicated to enlightenment. And to adapt to the fact that girls didn’t have a penis.
“They don’t have a PENIS?”
Atiesh’s eyes were two saucers of disbelief. The others possibly thought I had gone daft. But they couldn’t argue. I had thrown at them words like ‘sperm’, ‘ejaculation’ and ‘orgasm’ earlier. A guy who could throw those many words without stuttering was a man to be shown respect.
“It has become grosser than we started. I can hardly touch any girl at the spot where they piss from.” a member contemplated aloud.
“All for the greater good my friend, the survival of mankind.” I patted his shoulder.
“That means..that…oh my God…” said one of the members, giving every indication of having an epileptic seizure. We gave him water. A minute passed before he could speak again.
That took us longer to adjust to. It was just hard to figure as it felt so wrong. We, the members of our secret group, thought we carried a disease. It was during this time that the proverb “Ignorance is bliss” made its meaning clear.
I never got a ‘Bees and Birds’ talk from my parents. The school took care of it. They hauled off the boys to the auditorium, where the Principal awaited our arrival. By now, in the 7th grade, all of us knew what sex was. Somewhere in the proceedings I saw Atiesh from a distance. He had been shifted to another class as a result of the annual allotment of classes to the children. We hadn’t conversed much since.
He turned to look at me just as Principal Ma’am said, “…today we shall learn about Sex and Reproduction…”
I could have sworn we both winked at the same time.