Love can be a heady feeling. So also sex. When you are in your 20s, this combo can be a cementing factor among your friends in the hostel with whom you share a meal, a cup of tea, a newspaper and most importantly, a bathroom.
Cut it to the pre-liberalized India. In a bougainvillea laced exposed brick campus called JNU — Third World’s Harvard (as it was called then). We were all young and many of us were in love. Matters on heart were exchanged at regular intervals. But somehow, for us love was less about sex more about heart. At least that’s the way we all pretended. We chose not to talk about our kisses, hugs, close embraces. These are things that we kept close to our heart. To ourselves.
But then Sandra from Barbados who stayed on the ground floor of our hostel did not think so. A thin girl with thick lips, she was passionate about washing clothes. That too in the middle of the night. Somehow, she took a liking for me from day one. Probably this was something to do with my curly hair. One night, as I was struggling to open the lock on my door, Sandra took a look at me and said, “You are glowing. I bet you are a woman in love.”
I laughed the way she asked me the question. And then she entered into my room. And
said, “Darling, I want to talk to you tonight.”
And came her next question, “Are you a virgin?”
I almost fainted hearing that question, but then I answered, ‘Yes.’
Then she held me hand and said, “Tell me is it by choice or by force?.”
That was a difficult question to answer cause I had never thought about it.
She did not mind when I couldn’t answer her question. She told, “But you should go for a
French lover. They are the best.”
I looked at her, “What about a Bihari lover?”
She said, “No idea dear. Never had one on bed.”
She could talk about sex. Openly. Without any inhibition. But I, along with many of friends, could not talk about it. We still carried the burden of our childhood within ourselves. Even in a campus as liberal as JNU.
Looking back, I feel, probably the times were different then. This was much before India went mobile. And “r u fne… tc” as a whatsapp message had not become the mode of
communication. Much before everybody you know have a Gmail account. Actually not one. But more than one. This was much before virtual friendships pretending to look more real than real. This was much before the onslaught of Facebook, Hifriends, Twitter, Tinder in our living rooms and bedrooms. Day and night. For different purpose. For official. For not so official. And this was before Mcdonald’s came to India and introduced us to Mcaloo tikki burger and probably gave a swanky image make over to the humble vada pav.
And around the same time Domino’s was actually getting ready somewhere in the west coast to come to India with their branded cheesy pizzas and give serious competition to our very own Nirula’s cheese- mushroom- onion- capsicum pizza. It was much before seeing a movie in the darkness of a multiplex with caramel popcorn and fizzy sodas. And who would have thought then single screen theatres gradually would become as invisible
as sparrows in cities. And India’s urban landscape would change for ever.
Having a personal computer was only a distant urban dream that time. It was not a necessity as it is now. Only limited offices those days had limited computers which are now part of antique collection. Neon- lit streets of Delhi had Maruti 800s driving past in a languid way. Mercedes or Audis were still looking at us from glossy foreign magazines. Not right in front of our eyes. Zooming past on rough Indian roads.
In the midst of it all, India was just probably getting mentally ready to have its first peg of liberalization. The glass was getting ready for the cocktail. The signs of change were there on the horizon.
That was the time when Basic Instinct was released in Priya cinema in Vasant Vihar.. And it became the talk of a city where men talk about women and tandoori chicken in the same breath. Everybody wanted to watch the film. And everybody wanted to see the much talked about act on the screen in the comfortable darkness of the auditorium. The desire was raw. So very basic.
But you can’t really blame. That’s what being young is all about. But there were so many ways to do it. Each did it the way he/she could do it. Like the way my friend Nitin came to my hostel at 8 in the morning. As Ramlal Bhai, the chowkidar of my hostel called my name and screamed at the top of his voice “Room no 28, Visitor”, I just dragged myself from my bed and thought to myself who could it be at this hour? Then seeing Nitin’s face my heart froze. What’s wrong? Was it something really serious? He was one person who never looked grim. But that day he was unusually grim. And he looked at me and said, “Ashish has met with an accident. You just go and change your dress. We will rush to Holy Angels’ Hospital.” In minutes ,I was back with whatever little money I had with me and on his bike we headed towards the hostel. He ignored all the hundred questions I must have asked about Ashish on that short journey we took from JNU to Vasant Vihar. And when he took me towards Priya after parking the bike, I asked “Why are we going this side? The hospital is on the other side.” And then he did what many young men would have probably done on that day. He looked at me and said with a laugh, “Actually, I have brought you here so that you can stand in the ladies’ queue and get us two tickets for Basic Instinct. If I would have told you the truth, you would have given me a long lecture and would have never come here.” Well, there was very little I could do at that time. I did stand in the queue and got him his prized ticket. And I thought to myself, this can only happen in India, the land of Kamasutra. A young man had to resort to this trick just to watch a film which was up for a screening. But making up for his superb acting, he treated me to Crispy Fried chicken and 21 Love in Nirula’s.
And for some in the campus, probably Basic Instinct came in very very different way. Nonetheless interesting, I must say. When you are young, you see the world differently. You are not young if you are not irreverent. About the way the world thinks. Behaves. Or Acts. So when the world around us was getting so excited about Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, JNU students not only produced reams and reams of term papers on all possible angles of the invasion which even Saddam Hussain would have never thought of before doing it. They also added their own version of ‘invasion’. So, suddenly the campus had jokes circulating around—– not through sms/whatsapp or chain mail. But through words of mouth.“Why women like Saddam Hussain so much?” Even as you scratch your head for long for a possible witty reply, you could be stumped with this one, “Because Saddam doesn’t withdraw quickly.” And what does Saddam look for when he goes for late night walks? The answer was ‘BUSH’.
It might have been a different story now. When MMS clips are so easily available and porn
films can be seen on your mobile phone and Sunny Leone is the most searched celebrity in the virtual world, why bother cooking up a story for a film which in the end did not actually deliver much though its name promised some thing more.
Trailers sometimes don’t live up to what they show. They are just teasers. Life’s something else. Much more than just a trailer. But the show must go on. Within the dark theatre. Outside the theatre. Painted dreams will always be there to titillate you. And sometimes it can be too quick too. Just like instant coffee. Instant noodles. Instant rajma masala in a packet. You can heat it and have it. It’s a different kind of heat we are experiencing now. In the coffee shops. In the malls. In the pubs. In the closed hotel rooms. Within the four walls of home. All in the name of instant pleasure. So I actually laughed when a friend told me the brand new liberalized version of the poster many of us had it on our hostel walls in the early 90s.
If you love a man, set him free,
If he comes back, check him out again,
If he doesn’t, shoot that bastard
And find another one…