Birds and Bees: Growing Up

1The girl gang consisting of tweens was growing up fast. Every evening and earlier on holidays, we would meet, talk, play, cycle around, exchange school news and happily pass our time together. In fact, whenever we had to go out with our parents there would be protests and resistance. We hated missing out on the play, the giggles and most important the gossip which Tina dished out to us now and again.

Tina was the eldest in our group, a good 2/3 years older than most of us. She introduced us to the birds and bees and became our bible on “facts of life”. She loved to scandalize us by telling us outrageous stories, kinky or smutty news and giving us tid-bits on sex, which we all eagerly lapped up. She had our undivided attention whenever she opened her mouth. She swore us all to secrecy and told us that if we dared tell any of this to our parents, she would stop her sex education. None of us wanted this to happen, so this became our peer secret and further bound us closer.

Her claim that she had a boyfriend was a great source of excitement for us. She refused to divulge his name which further deepened the mystery and allure. One evening she declared very expansively that she would not be washing her mouth for a few days since she and her boyfriend had kissed for the first time. There were squeals and shouts and clamor for more details. That evening we only went home after the full blow by blow or should I say lip by lip account of the “first kiss” was given to us. Tina’s status went up a further notch – to have a boyfriend and to have kissed him was unimaginable to our naïve tween minds. I am sure that night many of us tried kissing ourselves in the mirror to get a feel of how it would be to kiss another!

Tina keenly followed the romance of her neighbor Zarin with great verve. Every few days we would be fed little morsels; on the path the romance was taking. Whenever she came across Zarin and Savky talking sweet nothing in each other’s ears, Tina would try her hardest to eavesdrop. None of us could verify the veracity of her gossip but none the less found it interesting. Some times when Tina knew the couple was alone, she would sneak us into her house. We would crane our necks to see if we could catch a glimpse of the mating rituals that couples go through. Even if we saw them hugging or holding hands, we would be shoving and pushing each other for a better glimpse. Zarin and Savky were probably too engrossed to notice the whispers and fits of giggles of a motley group of wide-eyed curious girls. All this stopped, when one day Tina’s mother realized what was happening and shooed us all out.

Some days, tired after our games, we would all gather and urge Tina to share some more knowledge with us. Most of the time it was all tame stuff which she had told us countless times before, about falling in love, or kissing or holding hands or the chemistry that existed between men and women.

But then one evening she burst a bomb. She told us she was going to tell us a big secret, which left us all breathless with anticipation. When the hullabaloo died down a bit, she announced that today she would be telling us how babies were made. Babies are made?

How does one MAKE a baby? Most of us thought that if the mother and father wanted a baby, God would put one in the mother’s belly. She looked at us pityingly and gave a wise and mysterious smile. “I read all about it in my friend’s sister’s book and that’s the truth”. With bated breath and total disbelief we heard how little babies were made and got ensconced in their mother’s womb. There were lots of protests and heated arguments and denials, but Tina stuck to her guns. Our first brush with adulthood was surreal and a little traumatic.

As we got older we became savvier. The girl’s school we went to was a hotbed of false or otherwise, information on sex. Without a TV or internet, knowledge on sex or other adult topics were mostly gleaned from peers. We slowly learnt about the difference in the anatomy of men and women, about different sexual preferences, about homosexuality and lesbianism, about how boys perceived sex, about puberty and on and on. The raging teenage hormones lapped up all the information we could lay our hands on from different sources.

We learnt that a flasher was not a person who wore fancy and flashy clothes, but a pervert who would exhibit his privates when he realized someone was watching. This knowledge was due to direct fallout of our brush with a flasher, who used to sit in front of our school. He was dressed like a sadhu with a long beard, forehead smeared with ashes and a saffron lungi. The lungi opened and shut when he realized that it was our school break and the girls would be out and maybe watching him. All this came to an end one

day, when the police were informed by the school authorities, and the flasher sadhu was hauled away not to be seen again.

Life went on. There were the usual teenage crushes, the breakups, the heartbreaks, the tears and on to the next attraction. It was so good to have friends one could confide in when needed, have a shoulder to cry on and to be able to share secrets, which normally one would not do so with parents, when growing up. In your teens, most things would revolve around love, rest was secondary.

All along Tina entertained us with more outrageous stories and sometimes, whenever we had an opportunity, nude shadow dancing on popular demand. When we had a house to ourselves without any interfering adults, Tina would put up a show for us. The lights would be switched off and a white bed sheet would be held taut by 2 girls. A dim light would come on and Tina would start dancing behind the bed sheet, a-la cabaret style in her under garments. There would be claps and whistles to egg her on. We did not have any moral police to stop what generation after generation did to learn and quench their curiosity about sex and which should be a natural part of growing up.

As we grew older and the boys joined our gang, the secret girly talks became fewer and far between. We started getting different feedback due to the entry of boys in our midst. We were now on the brink of experiencing the real world of men and women and the chemistry that existed between the two sexes. Since we had grown up with these boys, there was comfort in our interaction with them. We were not tongue tied but definitely shy at times. Occasionally, some one would sneak in an adult magazine like ‘Oui’ or ‘Playboy’, with scantily clad or half naked men and women. There would be hysterical giggles and rolling of the eyes. We were scandalized by the ‘brazen’ nudity but none the less interested. The boys compared us to the bombshells of their Playboy and other boys’ magazines. As a result many of us started having huge problems with our bodies. We thought we were too thin, too fat, or small built, or big built, alas anything but perfect. We tried our best to fit into the ‘perfect’ image of a woman. We had the padded bras and corsets to our rescue and took refuge in anything that made us look a little more like those bombshells of the boys’ magazines. Fortunately, most of us got out of that phase and accepted the fact that we were all different and that ‘beauty was to the beholder’ and hopeful that there was somebody out there who would like us for the way we were.

Today, children learn about facts of life very early. The parents are so busy leading their own lives, having careers and being caught up in the rat race that children have to fend for themselves. Their lives revolve around the internet and the information available so easily on it. The internet becomes their friend, guide and philosopher. Alas the learning process takes place on the net without any feedback, adult guidance or peer information. In spite of the ‘chats’ and hundreds of ‘e-friends’ and being connected to others on various social sites as well as other media feedback, it is a lonely world. The camaraderie, the closeness of real friends, the giggles, the sharing is all missing.

Havovi Govadia is a 65 years old grandmother of 3. She was born and brought up in Mumbai and shifted to Nagpur after marriage. Was working in Empress Mills (first Tata enterprise) till it shut shop in 1987. Working now as an independent financial adivsor.

Havovi wrote scripts, directed and staged plays and various tableaux on Zarthushtra, Parsi fashions through the ages etc. mostly to acquaint the younger generation of their rich heritage from 1980 till about 2000 for the Nagpur Parsi Gymkhana.

Havovi started writing these little anecdotal stories at the insistence of her niece who is now 10 years old and living in USA and who was keen to know about her grand parents whom she would never meet and those days when “you and my Dad were little”.

Published on Parsi Khabar