Delhi Diary-„Down there“

Every Saturday morning the older girls of the slum are coming to me. They bring scented candles I find so very hard to stand for longer than 30 seconds, I offer tea and sweets and my notebook. Fifteen girls between 13 and 17 years old are cuddling on the chairs, the floor and on my desk. They giggle and are watching their favorite Bollywood music clips on YouTube. They dance  Two of them are fiddling with my hair and while I am wearing a louse violet shirt they giggle even louder when they spot one of my bra straps. They love to paint their nails and are excited when I admire their colorful toes. They are young and full of life. They are all about to marry in the next few months. When I look at them I remember the first of such a Saturday session I ran in    a different slum in a different country a few years ago. I showed a picture similar to this one and 30 seconds later the room was empty. But the problem is still the same. The questions are still the same. The topics are still the same. The girls are getting to be married and it still is nearly impossible for them to talk about the sexual part of those marriages. Addressing such issues is the same thing as having ‚bad thoughts‘ and who would be the one to confess? But sometimes in this room on a Saturday morning with tea and giggles it becomes possible to go „down there.“ Maybe because the room is sch an outer space to the world they come from, maybe because I am such an outsider but not more than ten years older than them and maybe because they can come across my bra straps, pushing it back and giggle as loud as they want. Maybe its the scented candles. I do not know. But on most Saturdays at a certain moment they gather around my desk, sit on my lap and try to ask questions. It is not easy to get „down there“, and not only because my Hindi lacks in the ability to express such issues, but in the mere fact that the girls have no words themselves for the issues they want to talk about. None of the girls is able to name their own private parts or the respective male one. Introducing terms such as „penis“ or „vagina“ is a challenge of its own. „Down there“ is a dark, sinful and dirty place that causes embarrassment and shame and in respective to men: fear. Again and again I try to explain that the penis does not consist of a bone and therefore is and will never be: hard as iron or steel. You can see them breathing out. Sex and especially the first night after marriage is nothing shared in private but part of a social pattern.  The girl has to prove she entered the marriage as a virgin and I am always asked with eagerness: „How much blood will appear?“ The expectations are high and they stare at me in disbelief when I try to make clear that the rupture of the hymen is comparable to a pin-prick and not to a bottle of ketchup spilled over the table. Some girls want to know: „How much does it hurt?“ I always want to tell them that they should talk to the man they will be with, making their first sex for themselves as pleasurable as possible, but this is not going to happen. I try not over exaggerate. I try to explain that it is not that easy as widespread legs and man on top suggest but I have the feeling I always fail.  No I say, eating papaya/ pineapple/ tomatoes does not help to prevent pregnancy. No, dripping lemon juice onto the vagina after sex does not prevent pregnancy either. No, till you do an ultra-scan it is not possible to know the sex of your baby. I look into stunned faces. No, no won’t ever happen. i often try to encourage them to talk with their men after their married about their concerns, about themselves. But they look embarrassed and I stop. Girls I say, I make some more tea, tikke? Tikke,ok they say and turn their heads back to the music on my laptop. While waiting for the water to boil, I think of the many Saturday girls sessions I did between Dhaka and Delhi, trying to answer always the same questions. But still I makes me very sad that all questions concerned with „down there“ are full of fear and suspicion, of shame and disgust and never, not even once a girl asked me if sex can be something pleasant, intimate or desirable. None of the girls ever told me a phantasy or a wish, nor oral sex or an orgasm. None of the girls in no language ever spoke of making-love.

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