Fielding daily questions in Mumbai Mirror that range from the routine 'Will incessant masturbation make my penis fall off?' (answer: if you talk incessantly, will your tongue fall off?) to the absurd 'Is it ok to have sex with my mother-in-law, she seems to like it' (answer: well, what can I say, make hay while the sun shines) with clinical detachment, compassion and an epic sense of humour, Dr Watsa has become one of India's most beloved columnists.
The 90-year-old twinkly-eyed gynaecologist was recently felicitated by the Family Planning Association of India for his longstanding contribution to sexual health matters. His consulting practice addresses geriatrics, teenagers, newly weds, to-be weds, and he continues to bamazed at the ignorance levels on a subject which, he says, is the precursor to a healthy family life. Every so often, he elicits the wrath of the prude brigade who are still pretending that the stork brings the baby and that their teenaged sons are doing math sums when they lock themselves in the bathroom. "
The government objects to sex ed in schools, despite surveys revealing that children are getting sexually active at younger ages," says Dr Watsa. "A recent survey in Pune showed that sex wex workers were less active during exams and became busy right after the exams." But Dr Watsa—'Minni' to those who know him well— is an old hand at battling a nation in denial about the three-letter word. He recounts the time, in the 50s and 60s, when even members of the medical fraternity were squeamish. "I had wanted to put a small ad in The Times of India for my consultancy which offered premarital sexual information. They refused to carry it because it was to do with sex."
The editor of thewomen's magazine where he had an 'ask the doctor' column routinely censored his responses until he finally dropped it and found that the only place open to such a column was an absurd erotica magazine. Yet, the reality demanded otherwise, and around him was a cauldron of issues like unwanted pregnancies, incest, homosexuality and marital discord.
In 1976, he came up with a booklet, called 'Human Sexuality in Family Life' which would help doctors and social workers address these issues. Even then, some dismissed it as pornography. "I used to find myself doing programs on sexual education without talking about sex," he says, with a smile.
Things changed in the mid-80s, when HIV came into the picture. The government was pressurized to become more open. "Sex education could no longer be shoved under the carpet," he says. While some Jesuit schools would still censor the talks, Dr Watsa deftly skirted this by asking students to write down their questions and pop them into a box at the backof the room.
What has changed in sexual habits today? "Firstly, women are suddenly very open and not so concerned about virginity. Unprotected sex is rampant. And younger and younger people are more active, which is worrying, because they may not have the emotionally maturity. "I still feel health professionals and social workers are not doing enough to educate people," he says. The Indian national past time of denial persists.
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