Meet India's 94-Year-Old 'Sexpert'
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
In case you want to cover little ears for about three minutes - in India, there's very little sex education. Even talking about sex is taboo. A doctor in Mumbai is filling the void by answering questions about sex and publishing them in a local newspaper. He's been at this for 60 years. And he's become a bit of a legend. NPR's Lauren Frayer went to meet him.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: So when I moved to Mumbai, everybody said, you've got to meet this guy, Mahinder Watsa. He's 94, an OB-GYN. And he writes a column in the Mumbai Mirror, "Ask The Sexpert," as in sex expert. It's like an R-rated "Dear Abby" and a source of key information for many Indians - turns out including our producer Sushmita Pathak, who grew up here.
SUSHMITA PATHAK, BYLINE: Let's just say Indian parents aren't very eager to explain the birds and the bees. I didn't know the meaning of words like condom, intercourse...
FRAYER: And I'm going to cut you off right there.
Sushmita found out what those things are from Watsa's column. And together, we went to meet him.
MAHINDER WATSA: Hello.
FRAYER: I'm Lauren - nice to meet you.
At his office stacked with books about sex, a stethoscope hangs behind the door. He still practices medicine. Did I mention he's 94?
WATSA: I'm born in Calcutta, 11 February 1924.
FRAYER: Watsa describes some of the first letters he got back in the 1950s. They were troubling.
WATSA: Young girls said, we're about to get married. But unfortunately, their uncle or a priest had already had sex with them.
WATSA: Abuse - I tried to find somebody who was already experienced in dealing with problems of this sort. And I couldn't find one.
FRAYER: He realized it would have to be him. And he's since devoted his life to increasing awareness of sexual health.
(SOUNDBITE OF LEAFING THROUGH PAPERS)
FRAYER: His assistant Trishla Jain leafs through yellowing folders, thousands of letters from over the years. These days, they come by email - 80 to 100 a day, she says.
TRISHLA JAIN: The kind of questions that he's getting - it's like masturbation, the size of the organ, issues like HIV/AIDS, you know, unwanted pregnancies, how to do deal with that.
FRAYER: Are you shocked by your readers asking, can I get pregnant from holding hands or something like that?
WATSA: No. He may write the simplest thing. It sounds very simple to you. But to him, it's a problem. I take it seriously.
FRAYER: But Watsa is not immune to resorting to humor.
WATSA: One fellow came and said, you know, I masturbate seven times a day. So I said, why don't you join the Olympics and see if it's a record?
FRAYER: Not everyone is amused - Watsa has been sued twice. Rumor has it some Mumbai parents clip out the column before letting their kids read the newspaper. At the end of our visit, Dr. Watsa and his assistant Trishla Jain show us the view of the Arabian Sea from his terrace.
This is beautiful.
WATSA: This is what I wanted you to see.
FRAYER: Three stories down, couples are making out on the street. It turns out the sexpert lives on a lovers' lane.
You can't make this up. There's a couple embracing on a motorbike just below us. They make pilgrimage here.
FRAYER: With love in the air, I had one last question for the doctor.
If there's one main thing you could tell people about sex, what would you say?
WATSA: Enjoy it. Enjoy it.
FRAYER: Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.
(SOUNDBITE OF RHIAN SHEEHAN'S "LITTLE SINES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.