Illustrations by Vidya Gopal
I have always wanted to ask you this. Can you tell me about your orgasms?
When did you discover your body? At what age? Did you let that boy with whom you played carrom touch you? Something about the way you spoke about him always made me wonder. I imagined you outside that Mumbai chawl, sitting with those boys, skirt and braid, and aiming straight.
Do you touch yourself?
Does water pleasure you? I discovered what a personal faucet could do to me in the toilet of the office in that faraway seaside city. You remember, all the houses we stayed in had toilets with a tap and a plastic mug. I was intrigued by the faucet. I tested it, and the jet stream of water was such a shock. I tried to adjust the force and as I was figuring out how much pressure I could bear, something happened. I did not quite understand it, and I think I was a bit stunned. It was an afternoon, my salwar around my ankles, and I sat playing with this long metallic malleable cord. I tried it again. A certain pressure, in a certain area. I could feel my thigh muscles clenching a bit. I tentatively tried it again, and there seemed to be some strange, and yet familiar sensation building up deep inside. And then the inevitable happened. I spent a lot of office afternoons inside that toilet. I discovered what a good thing it is that no one bothers with time when a girl takes her bag into the loo.
We never did have that talk. I remember, after someone sniggered that I have sprouted wisps in my underarms, you did speak to me. You told me something about how I am to become a flower soon. And that many boys will be interested in touching that flower, and I needed to be careful. I had no clue about why I was being given a lesson in gardening, but I wish we had spoken about that tight little bud and my own fingers doing the touching.
Maybe then I could tell you about how I sometimes used to worry that I would suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, and that was not because of any typing. I masturbate often, many a time just because I am bored and there is nothing to do, especially on the weekends. I eat whatever I can find, lie down, undo my pajama knots and begin. And then sleep all afternoon. It makes me happy.
I remember how you used to sleep in the afternoon, after coming back from work. You had to catch the five-o-clock local in the morning. Pa and I used to wake up much later, take our roti-subzi dabbas you packed for us and grumble – how the quick on-off you used to do with the tube light to check your saree pallu-pleats in the only full-length mirror in the bedroom interrupted our important dreams. We were horrid creatures. I am sorry. But Pa did clean toilets and wash clothes. And I took up cooking as soon as I could for he could never go beyond that one dish. So we were not all that bad, I hope.
The one I love now doesn’t sleep in the afternoons. He prowls around with a book, walking here and there. We sometimes fight over my sleeping in the afternoons. He always makes it a point to rustle-rustle in the bedroom until I open my eyes, and he grins that it is time to wake up. Sometimes I sleepily hug him and pull him into the bed. Sometimes I become grumpy. And we fight.
Our first bed fight (what do you call fights about sex?) was over my masturbating. We were snuggling and kissing, and slowly we had stripped each other off. He took his time in unwrapping me, he is thorough that way. After a while he stepped off to go look for a condom. The room was dipped in moonlight slipping in through that errant curtain. I rubbed my thighs with my palms, just feeling my own flesh. And my fingers just slipped in, and before I knew it, I had come.
I opened my eyes to see him watching me. He looked sad. You couldn’t wait for me, he said. I said, no, no, come to me. But he just looked so sad, and walked away. We were just discovering each other then. What made me comfortable, what made him comfortable.
I discovered that after we have sex, my masturbation climax is most powerful. There is this warmth of a body around you, his lips on my breast, hot limbs wrapped around, and warm fingers inside of me.
I recently shared this, when asked what gives me pleasure by someone I have just met. I am in this ineffable space – dhak-dhak set to words on a screen.
Amma, our bodies are so similar. Does it mean, your preferences for pleasure are the same?
Are you attracted to women too?
She and I were stretched on a bed, watching a movie on the laptop kept on a table, adjusted to the right height. We were drunk a bit and the lights were off. Streaks from the laptop dusted her face a dark blue. We laughed at something, I don’t remember what, and she snuggled next to me. Her face turned, and she kissed me. I remember her soapy perfume tightened by the summer night, and her long, long legs.
I often dream of women. I discussed it with a friend, and she said, it is difficult to say how much of it is because of this culture where women are objectified, and you too start thinking of them as objects of lust, and how much is because you are attracted to women. Most mainstream sexual stimulus is built around a woman’s body, no? I am quite confused.
I once came across a magazine stuffed into the pouch in front when riding a train abroad. It was filled with nudes of men. Those trains are mostly empty. I browsed through it, quite thrilled, the feel of paper tantalised more than pixels. There wasn’t any frontal nudity. Sepia and black and white photographs of men with their backs to the camera or faces turned away. I turned the pages, slowly, my fingers tracing a man’s back, as he bent, just a bit, straining his thighs, with his butt curved. I left the magazine in the train.
Do you remember the time we watched Kamasutra?
In our nighties, you and I sat on the sofa together, when it came on cable that night. Pa, as usual, had slept. When that scene came, you giggled and asked me to close my eyes. I giggled, and said, I do know what happens, I have seen it before. Startled, you laughed, and then we laughed together.
The chawl you grew up in did not have a sofa. A huge joint family lived there together. You told me how you all slept together. Fathers, brothers, mothers, and children. An uncle and a niece. You never spoke about it, I never found the words to ask. But I could hear it in your voice.
When I came to you one day as a teenager and told you about that other uncle and what happened when I was in an auto with him, you were so angry, and told me he will never touch me again. I need never be afraid. Every time we met him at family gatherings, you would be my shield. Even as the years went past, and my memory of that evening in the auto dissolved, I know you never forgot, because one day at a family event, I was laughing at a joke he said leaning into him, you suddenly showed up, and pulled me away to do some work. And then whispered, “Be careful.”
You never had anyone to whisper that to you. You never knew your Amma, who died when you were a baby. You never had anyone who hugged you.
Is that why you never like me hugging you?
Your hands stick to your sides, stiff, and your face clenches as if you have swallowed a spoonful of particularly sour curds. I would insist and continue to hug you, and at times one of your arms would pat me tap-tap, some sort of wordless placation. I have been trying over the years, hugging you, kissing you, and I think it is only recently you have stopped responding with that strange-non-laugh saying, “Podum, po.” Enough, go.
Will you ever hug me back?
Ini is 38, female, plots about how to hug strangers, and cooks up poems like ‘The moving finger writhes’.