Pramod Muthalik has said that he opposes Valentine’s Day because, among other things, it is about lust, not about love.

To begin with, if exchanging cards and roses is a sign of lust to Muthalik, all I can say is that this man has had a very, very sad life! He needs help. And I don’t mean in his chaddi-retailing business.

But even if it is about lust, so what?

I think lust is good. I also think love is a tad overrated. Just a tad, mind you.

Why is lust seen as something undesirable? I mean, ‘only love’ is fine when it comes to parents, siblings, friends, offspring, pets, friends, abstract concepts, mathematics, art, vada-pav – you get the gist.

But when it comes to the real thing, isn’t it actually lust that makes the world go ‘round? Isn’t it really lust that kick-starts love?

There are many myths about love. That could be because no one can really define, or even describe, love. Many, it seems, don’t know or realise what love is – but in the same breath will tell you that they are, or at some point have been, in love. On the other hand, lust is so much more, well, tangible. Everyone knows and realises what lust is. It’s kind of difficult not to.

So what are the myths? Let’s start with the most enduring one – that love endures, while lust is fleeting. Complete drivel. Let me stand that question on its head. Without lust, can love endure without degenerating into glorified companionship? And, allow me to add, by the time lust stops to matter, I am sure love does as well. Then, all that one craves is company – any company, comfort and care. And a safe distance from incontinence.

There’s also this whole thing about true love (as opposed to the false variety!) not asking anything in return, being unselfish, putting the other person first. Isn’t that exactly what a traditional Indian housewife does, or is supposed to do? Is that true love? Because if it is, I know most women would not want love! And – be truthful now – how many of us are truly unselfish, not asking anything in return, and putting the other person first? Not too many, I’d wager.

This is not to knock love off its lofty pedestal. It’s just to point out that regardless of which one comes first, or which one outlasts the other, for most of our lives, love and lust go hand in hand. And my submission is that both, lust without love as well as love without lust, are necessarily transient and incomplete experiences. For anything less fleeting and more fulfilling, both need to co-exist. So perhaps it’s time to stop not just trashing lust, but also lauding love at its expense.

Besides, does ‘pure’ love, as glorified by the scriptures, literature and the religiously orthodox, exist? Or is it just a pleasant, companionable feeling in the head, initiated by a chemical reaction and sustained by a biological urge?

Do tell.

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I recently came across quite a few articles that talk about the removal and/or dilution of various sex-ed initiatives proposed in India. That’s great news. Why should our young be exposed to these unspeakable, filthy things? Is it a conspiracy by a foreign power? Is this the new weapon in the arsenal of the terrorists – do they want to corrupt our young? Okay, enough facetiousness.

There will be no mention of condom or safe sex in the revised module on life-skill education programme. But we will be focusing on the aspirations of the youngsters and will also talk about being faithful to one’s partner and abstinence. There should be no hypocrisy on the subject,” said Sujatha Rao, Director-General of the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO). She was talking about a new, revised and “acceptable” sex education module devised by NACO for school students. I like the bit where she says there should be no hypocrisy on the subject. That’s rich. Irony is obviously something the good Ms. Rao is completely unfamiliar with. And abstinence – that’s a hoot. So what is the safe-sex module going to say? “Boys and girls – here’s the best way to, ummm, you know, uhhh, ‘be intimate’…….don’t be!” And people say Indians don’t have a sense of humour!

“We want our children to have good character. There is no need to give them sex education. The way it is taught is not good,” said Bashir Patel, Leader, NCP, reacting to a proposal (since put in cold storage) by the government of Maharashtra to introduce sex-ed in schools. Was there something in the module that suggested lab practicals? What’s this guy so het up about?

I suppose Ms. Rao and Mr. Patel would rather have their children learn from porn films (which will forever warp their minds about – among other things – size, endurance and the quorum for a sexual encounter….), or from the wonderfully educative sites on the internet, which, in keeping with modern teaching methods, also rely on pictures and graphics (pun intended!) to get the point across. And there are some kids who learn about sex the old-fashioned way – from books and magazines. Or from equally ignorant friends, whose sources of information are: (i) porn films (ii) the net (iii) the old-fashioned way and (iv) some other friend.

So the young and the confused come away with varied notions of sex, and necessarily see it as a furtive, clandestine exercise that is not to be talked about. An undercover operation. (Bad one, I know!) So they never really get to know what safe sex is. (Locker room conversations are about sex, not safe sex, and has anyone ever seen a porn flick where safe sex was practiced? I mean, all the films teach is that there’s no place or position unlikely enough to have sex in.) They never get to understand contraception, pregnancy and how that happens, periods, ovulation, night-fall, boners, masturbation, sexual-orientation, diseases…nothing. They are never taught that it’s something to be shared, and something to be enjoyed, albeit with responsibility. And if they haven’t heard of contraception in a city like Mumbai – here’s an interesting article on the increased incidence of abortions during the Navratri period – one can only imagine the depths of sexual ignorance in the rest of the country.

Contrast this with what the Brits are doing. They are dealing with another problem. That of a breakdown in domestic communications. According to a report commissioned by the British Department for Children, Schools and Families, the breakdown of conversation in the home had contributed to a surge in teenage pregnancy rates because it left youngsters vulnerable to influences from peers and the media. The recommendation? Parents should watch raunchy scenes from steamy TV soaps to initiate conversations about sex and relationships with their teens. Hmmmmm. Wonder what our politicians would say to that suggestion?

Isn’t it surreal to hear statements like the ones from Ms. Rao and Mr. Patel in a country where 2.5 million people are estimated to be HIV positive and/or have AIDS? Where 15% of all pregnancies are those of teenagers? Where urbanization and the breakdown of traditional family structures have resulted in a freedom that Indian youth didn’t really know earlier, a freedom that unfortunately is still coupled with ignorance?

Why are we so uptight about sex? I mean, as Russell Peters said “We don’t ever want to talk about sex, yet we’re the second largest population in the world… SOMEBODY’S FUCKING!”

Indeed somebody is. And probably without any idea of contraception or safe sex.