When I was little, I believed if you prayed really hard for a baby, Mother Mary would appear when you’re sleeping, do you a solid and ‘Voila!’ you would wake up with a huge belly. (Note: You need to be married to be licensed to use this prayer, obviously!). I’m not the only kid who had this bizarre idea of pregnancy; in fact, I bet I was a part of the majority. I had this friend in school, who, in a Biology exam, when asked the name of the physical barrier used to prevent fertilization, wrote ‘scrotum’, instead of ‘condom’ because well, they sounded the same and she didn’t know the difference. While being blissfully unaware can often can lead to laugh-out-loud worthy moments, it’s obviously not the best idea!
In India, most of our sex education as kids comes from talking in hushed tones in school toilets where we share very inaccurate explanations with each other, looking up the meaning of these terms in a dictionary and giggling, or from that the one chapter on reproduction in our class 10 textbooks which is conveniently left for ‘self study’. In my case, it also came from a highly conservative catholic textbook from my catechism class that taught us that homosexuality, masturbation or birth control would get you a one way ticket to hell. But the dynamics between religion and sexuality are a talk for another day!
A lot of kids now access this information through the internet which can really go either ways. As we all know, there are parts of the internet with questionable and highly unreliable material and at an age when you can’t really distinguish the right information from the wrong one, it can get problematic. Real life conversations around sex are a taboo in India especially between well informed adult parents and their clueless young ones. This may not be the most comfortable conversation to have, but one that must be had nonetheless. If parents shy away from these conversations just out of embarrassment, the misinformation or half truths that your child is collecting is bound to cause disasters. The better informed children are from a young age, the less reckless their sexual behaviour is likely to be. In turn, their lives would be safer and healthier.
The Youtube Indian mini-series ‘Sex Chat with Pappu and Papa’ is helping start this conversation using simple metaphors and humour. The series was launched in July this year by Y films, the young online team from Yash Raj Films and stars Kabir Sajid as the 7-year old Pappu and Anand Tiwari as his Papa. The show has five episodes, each dealing with a single subject and busting the myths around it: Masturbation, Condoms, Pregnancy, Periods and Homosexuality. Each episode starts off with little Pappu asking his unsuspecting dad a question like, ”Papa, yeh condom candy kya hota hai?” After grappling with the initial shock mixed with awkwardness, Papa reminds himself he will not lie to his child like he was lied to. He then proceeds to explain to his son the best he can with analogies from everyday life. Often, Papa gets visions of his own dad whom he calls Pitaji asking him to use his parenting techniques and to brush things under the carpet. I have to admit that the grandfather bits where he appears to Papa yelling “nahiiiiiiiiii bilkul mat batana” whenever he begins to explain to Pappu, cracked me up. The humour is on point and so is its timing. At times like these, the line between vulgar and appropriate can get very thin very quick, but the writers have managed to find the perfect balance. At the end of every video, they also tackle a bunch of myths surrounding the issue at hand. This part covers a lot of information in both English and Hindi in a short time, in as concise and simple a manner as possible, which I thought was impressive.
There were tonnes of comments on Youtube telling the creators that 7 was too young an age to start talking about this, but as another comment on the same thread pointed out, the age these questions start popping in their heads and they start voicing it, is obviously the age to have this conversation.
In the episode on menstruation, I thought the scene in which Pappu asks his mother what sanitary napkins are for and she looks at Papa threateningly for revealing so much to the kid was problematic. While it’s very important to show fathers taking an active part in parenting, if you’re sidelining the mother while doing so, then you’re defeating the very purpose of the point you’re trying to make in the first place. When you’ve created a wonderful space to break stereotypes and erase stigma, but don’t make full use of that space by restricting it to male-to-male conversations that becomes disappointing for sure. It is very important to make women and girls equal stakeholders in the whole process. A mother of two who watched the series had this to say “I liked it, but there was nothing in it for me as a mother. I felt like I don’t/shouldn’t have any part to play in such conversations with my child, either boy or girl.”
It would be interesting to see how the same conversation would play out between a mother and a daughter. I’m certain the kind of questions girls would raise in this context would be very different from the ones boys do. I’m hoping this series has managed to set the stage for more such shows to explore these areas.
Do I wish Pappu’s mother’s character wasn’t made pregnant and conveniently kept out of most of these very important conversations? Yes. Do I wish the mother got to do the explanation at least in the episode on menstruation because she gets it every month and hence might be better equipped to explain it? Very much so. Do I wish they also dwelled upon the social context of some of these biological explanations, for example, consent? Maybe they will, in the future. But am I also extremely grateful they have started the conversation somewhere? Absolutely!
Watch the entire series here.
Featured Image Credit : The Viral Media