I did. Forgive me lord for I have sinned!
A nod in the right direction, a quick blur across the counter and a neatly packaged 4x6 box of my purchase is dropped clumsily into my hands like a hot potato. Not without, of course, a knowing nod and a sly smile.
No, it’s not Maggi, beef, or even the latest strain of meow meow.
Welcome to the cumbersome conundrum of buying a condom in India.
(Con) Dom Ko Pakadna Muskhil Hi Nahi…
While the vast and glorious universe of the Internet provides ample encyclopedic information of do’s, don’ts and how to’s for most of life’s shady situations, what the wise World Wide Web is fairly silent on, is the act that comes before the act itself.
I discovered that going to buy a condom in India is a lot like foreplay for first timers. There’s a lot of mumbling, stumbling and general cluelessness involved. It’s like this dirty little secret that the shopkeeper helps you cover up. He’s kind of like a partner in crime or even worse, a horny uncle. Sometimes, there’s even some pleading involved, so yeah, it’s a lot like foreplay.
One of the first times I ever attempted such a transaction was one evening, at a fairly empty medical store. (I passed a few crowded ones and eventually stopped at one that didn’t have so many people.) At first, I pointed at a pack of condoms, but the guy behind the counter feigned ignorance. Acting like he didn’t catch my drift, and sensing I was uncomfortable, he loudly asked what I wanted, just when an elderly couple was approaching. And so I loudly asked for condoms, and sanitary napkins thrown in for good measure. Aunty and Uncle Ji next to didn’t seem to notice and the embarrassed guy behind the counter quickly wrapped up my purchases in newspaper and shoved them in a bag. Serves him right!
I really don’t see what the big deal is. The more conscious you are, the more likely it is that someone else will pick up on it. I tried this in a few more stores. I just went straight up to them and asked for it. Most times they just quickly gave it to me without making eye contact. I never felt Indian guys could handle a woman who’s confident of her sexuality. The guys at these counters definitely couldn’t.
Karma (Sutra) Chameleons
Over conversations with friends and acquaintances, however, it was tough to come to one hard (no pun intended) conclusion. Many guy pals confessed feeling awkward initially, but gave me some pro-tips. “I usually end up buying a whole lot of random items and throw in a pack of condoms as an after thought. It generally works for me but I have way too many unopened toothbrushes and bottles of mouthwash at home now,” says 28-year-old Ameya Naik.#FirstWorldProblems?
Most women I spoke to however just couldn’t get themselves to do it. “I’d never buy condoms myself,” laughs 27 year old Kanika Jamdar. “I have a very equal relationship with my boyfriend, but when it comes to actually buying protection, it’s his job. I wouldn’t want to deal with that awkwardness.”
Worse than condoms however, are items related to a woman’s sex life. Have you ever tried going to a medical store to buy an emergency contraceptive pill? The shop servers sometimes don’t have an issue, but the looks you get from the other people in the store can shame you forever! I tried this too. My conclusion? It would be less embarrassing to ask loudly for piles cream.
My next experiment – the home pregnancy test. I was guided to an edge of the counter when they realised what I wanted and then quickly received a box, all neatly wrapped up in brown paper packaging. I wasn’t even sure if it was actually what I wanted until I tore open the wrapping. I had sinned so now I must be ashamed.
While this convoluted plot thickens however, the climax is still a long way off. Now with all the moral policing and police raids, it’s anyone’s guess about the future of Manforce, the largest selling condom brand in the country, whose brand ambassador is none other than the lovely Miss Leone.
What’s your position on this? Share your comments in the section below.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Smitha M
Photographs by: Yash Bandi