Quite recently, having managed to contract a pretty strong form of viral fever, I presented myself to the friendly neighborhood pharmacist for the usual supply of drugs. While I was trying to decide between Paracetamol and Panadol, a curious incident happened. A young man entered stage right, confidently picked up a packet of condoms, paid for them and exited the same way. “What’s so remarkable about it?” you say. “This happens all the time”, you scoff. Ahh yes, but the point of curiosity was that this young man was an Indian.
Now, don’t get me wrong. With a population that’s fast threatening to overtake China, young Indian men need all the condoms they can get their hands on. No, that’s not the curious thing. The curious thing was how the deed was done. While a 20 something young Indian male can swagger into a drugstore anywhere in the world and order a packet of condoms with the utmost confidence, he is often at a loss when it comes to his home country. The Indian society has not yet come to terms with the rather “western’ idea of pre marital sex. It is still considered a big taboo across the country unless of course, it is done in secrecy. With a healthy mixture of hypocrisy and dimmed lights, Indian men and women continue to enjoy the occasional picnic away from home.
Pre marital sex is not received favorably in a society where religious fanaticism, moral double standards and generation rivalry thrive. Hence young unmarried couples find it necessary to plan sex days or weeks in advance. In fact, guys often take it to the next level with condom purchases, which take place in three steps:
1 Casing the joint – The first step is to locate a drugstore far away from home, to avoid the possibility of running into someone you know. No Indian guy wants to be caught by Uncle Manohar from Flat 5C, while he is trying to decide between Durex and Kohinoor. Uncle Manohar is sure to tell Aunty Manohar, who then will inform half of the residents in the flat, and the grocer who comes once every week. Not a good idea.
2 Choosing the time – The importance of choosing the right time of entry cannot be emphasized too much. Peak hours are a strict no no. So also are the morning hours. The ideal time would be close to midnight, when the dude behind the counter would be bored and itching to go home
3 Exit – Have a good exit strategy in place. This means a bike or a car (preferably a car) in good running condition parked right outside the drugstore, engine left running if possible. The whole operation, in and out, should not take more than 90sec. And oh yes, pay in cash
Poor geezers from villages are often hit the hardest by societal double standards. Most are often served by one pharmacist for every village within a 5 km radius. They often have to catch a train to the nearest town, usually hours away, to buy a pack.
But soon as you take this harassed Indian male out of India, you see a transformation happening. Confidence builds up, a swagger emerges and decisions are then made not between brands, but between ‘feather thin’ and ‘barely there’. In a society that actively promotes safe sex, guys do not approach a condom purchase like they would a bank job.
It makes the occasional picnic away from home less thrilling, but far more secure.