‘Tomorrow, we study Human Reproduction’

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January 22nd, 2013 Kanika Datta

Mitali Saran’s column, Let’s talk about sex, baby, was a serious comment on the need for a healthy national conversation about sex, and the lack thereof, in Indian schools. Speaking from the lengthy distance of my school days, I couldn’t agree more, not least because of a mental giggle brought on by memories of the unintended expectations imposed on our unsuspecting biology teacher in middle school.

By then, most of us had a hazy notion of “it”, acquired through the time-honoured channels of half- truths and whispered comments among friends. We knew “it” came under the rubric of “forbidden pleasure” and, therefore, to feverish teen minds, a source of enduring mystery. We also knew that our parents were, in some undignified way, involved in “it” to produce us but the precise mechanics were not clear. This is no surprise in a convent school run by celibate Catholic nuns teaching the tenets of Original Sin and the Immaculate Conception in weekly catechisms, but I can pretty much bet every urban teenager thinks this way. Anyway, imagine the excitement when Mrs Kundu, entrusted with teaching us biology, announced, “Tomorrow, girls, we study Human Reproduction.”

Now, it is fair to say we processed this information quite differently from the way Mrs Kundu perceived it. But first, a word on Mrs Kundu. She was a stolid, non-nonsense housewifely type with a wide red track of sindoor running down the middle parting of her hair. It was hard to associate her with anything remotely “it”-ish. Her teaching methods veered to the conscientious. She purveyed information on topics as varied as the functioning of the amoeba (that curiously “it”-deprived creature) or peristalsis or carbon fixation with a matter-of-fact thoroughness that quite stripped these miracles of nature of any romance. It is not clear why we expected her to imbue the topic of Human Reproduction with any degree of fascination. Perhaps it indicated of our lack of formal sex education that we hoped to learn more about the sex act in a class on Human Reproduction taught by Mrs Kundu.

Either way, she had an unexpectedly attentive class that day. And predictably, by the time she finished explaining the journey of millions of “spermatozoa from the male body” up the “fallopian tubes of the female body”, we were suffering a crashing let-down. Hey, this was no enlightenment, just more stuff to mug up! “Any questions?” Mrs Kundu asked at the end of the lecture as she always did. Well of course we had, but none we could ask Mrs Kundu. Her quelling eye – she was no fool – forestalled even the most adventurous back-benchers from explicit queries. So, it was back to wildly inaccurate samizdat literature, Donna Summers’ heavy breathing and mildly “A” films. Yes, sex education would certainly have gone a long way towards filling the gaps in our teen imagination more fruitfully.

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