The Tharki “Sex Educators” of Our Neighbourhood

Social Commentary

The Tharki “Sex Educators” of Our Neighbourhood

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Irecently overheard someone discussing creative, non-threatening ways in which the topic of sexual intercouse should be introduced to children. It was a fairly intense discussion about breaking down the conversation into small, bite-sized portions for children as young as two. Some googling later, I discovered, much to my surprise, that this issue of “how to say what to kids” is a cottage industry involving talks, books, age-by-age guides, and whatnot.

I grew up in a neighbourhood where children learn about sex the minute they learn to tie their shoelaces. In my world, the golden words were “lund”, “chut”, and “gaand”, and not “sorry”, “please”, “may I”, and “thank you”, and everyone used them generously. I think I might even have once heard a stray dog bark the word “lund” when someone threw a rock at it.

It didn’t help that I studied in an an all-boys public school where our lesson on menstruation began and ended with “Girls bleed from down there for seven days every month, this is because they need to carry babies inside them. Who puts the baby there? We do!” *cheeky grin*

The tharki on the other end of this theorem, was my Hindi teacher, who also doubled up as our road-safety patrol instructor and occasionally dabbled in sex education. He’d explain the intricacies of the human anatomy with double entendre and a ton of sexual innuendo. His bit, explaining breasts to us, involved a bungling watchman who somehow manages to rip apart a blouse hanging out to dry, bruise a bag of chickoos, and drink a glass of milk not meant for him. The punchline being, “Watchman ne meri blouse phadi, chickoo dabaye, aur mera doodh pi gaya.” This was accompanied by hoots, cheers, and a tumultuous applause.

But the source of sex education in our lives was not this Hindi teacher. It was Gopal. Gopal was like offline Google when it came to matters of the birds and the bees. Much much before age-by-age guides and TED talks, all we had was Gopal.

Gopal was the friendly neighbourhood tharki/chavat/sex pest/deadbeat/stud who had all the answers to all the questions about coitus. Drive through any middle-class neighbourhood during the day, and you’ll spot a Gopal holding court with a huddle of school-going boys and some middle-aged (mostly) jobless men.

Thanks to Gopal, we came into adulthood hopelessly naïve, and full of really fucked-up ideas about sex.

My Gopal was lanky and always had a head full of hair slicked back with Dabur Lal Tel, the scent of which served as a precursor to his imminent arrival. His jaw muscles exceptionally well developed, despite his sunken cheeks, from continuous chewing of Milan or Manikchand, which lent a red tinge to his teeth and lips. Every time he smiled, his gnarly twisted teeth dyed red with the paan masala came out to shine. The Gopals of the world usually have a part-time day job either as a class-III government employee or a driver for some rich businessman, and a full-time job as a purveyor of porn with at least a couple of micro SD cards full of it. For research purposes, of course.

My Gopal had a wealth of sex advice for us. He told us not to please women orally, unless you wanted a severe case of diarrhoea, and told us about certain exercises that add length and girth, making you the envy of every “negro” from Kenya to Colaba. How even when a woman resists, she’s just play fighting. Simply put, agar is duniya mein consent naam ki cheese hai, then Gopal is lactose intolerant af.

Everyone from married men to school kids sat in on his little tharki TedX talks that were 50 per cent casual sexist alt-facts, 10 per cent real advice, 25 per cent porn logic, and 15 per cent humble brags.

Thanks to him, we came into adulthood hopelessly naïve, and full of really fucked-up ideas about sex. Which in turn meant we rushed into sex like bulls in a china shop, ignoring boundaries, etiquette, and the rules in general. In fact, sex for students of Gopal, was like masturbation with another person. Finish quickly, put your clothes back on, tell yourself she enjoyed herself as much as you, and repeat.

Not every kid grows up around a Gopal, but there are versions of Gopal everywhere, perhaps more sanitised but just as dangerous. Your child’s friend could have an older brother with Gopal-esque features, or perhaps there’s a deadbeat cousin visiting from America who decides to tell your kids about a blow job. The point really is that the Gopals of the world may get to your kids before you actually do, which is why the 2,29,05,674 results that Google shows up about how to begin the conversation and offer age-by-age guides might not be a wholly outrageous thing.

Thankfully for me, I moved on, got unlimited WiFi at home, and forced myself to make woman friends. This is when I learnt how to wean myself off the Gopal-effect but it took years of work. Years of trial and error, episodes of supreme assholery, and seasons of heartache.

All of this, drove home one key point: The next time you decide to switch channels every time someone goes in for a kiss because you think your seven-year-old is too young to know what mouths do, consider this, if you don’t homeschool him in matters of human copulation, he’s bound to encounter a Gopal later on in life. The man will probably tell him the only way to initiate a kiss is to grab a woman and lay one on her. And that is where 99 per cent of our problems begin.