January 19, 2020
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Stood Up And Delivered

1960s Delhi: staid. Swinging London was a candy shop!

Stood Up And Delivered
Illustration by Sorit
Stood Up And Delivered

The first time I had sex I was terrified. It was late at night, it was dark and I was alone. My sex life did not improve for a number of years after that and like most boys of my age I learnt to get a firm grip on myself. Fifty years ago, we were just as keen on getting laid as the boys of today. It was not easy. Delhi University was Punjabi-conservative, very salwar kameez. During my three years, I cannot recall seeing a female student in jeans. In my college, Shri Ram College of Commerce, there were over eight hundred boys and a solitary girl, a brave Maharashtrian.

Dating, such as it was, was confined to the cafes on the campus. Any boy seen sitting with a girl sipping coffee was the envy of his classmates. Holding hands was unacceptable. Miranda House and Indraprastha girls had to be back behind the college gates by six. Volga restaurant in Connaught Place was out of bounds for students from Lady Irwin College. The place didn’t even serve beer but the principal didn’t like the band playing there at teatime.

There really was no place to hanky-panky. Female visitors were not allowed into our hostel rooms. In any case, parents expected daughters to remain virgins until they married. Perhaps they still do but in our time the girls were more strictly policed. If one excluded surreptitious visits to brothels on G.B. Road, the overwhelming majority of us boys too were virgins.

Things changed for me, dramatically, when I landed in London for post-graduate studies at the London School of Economics and law at Inner Temple. This was the swinging sixties; the pendulum years, as Bernard Levin described them. The name Christine Keeler will ring a bell for those of a certain age. Everyone seemed to be into kinky sex. Is sex dirty? It is if it is done properly!

Moms of upper class English girls wouldn’t object to flings with boys from former colonies so long as they didn’t get pregnant....

The girls at LSE were working class, unkempt and dishevelled. They came from the Midlands and took bath once a week. As for Inner Temple, you did not have to be very bright to be admitted. As a result it had girls from the upper classes, with peaches-and-cream complexions, who did not make the cut at Oxford or Cambridge. They wore dresses from Harrods. Fortunately for us, their boyfriends were wimps from public schools, not fully weaned away from male buttocks to female ones. At Inner Temple, I was like a child given the run of the candy store!

Britain was still racist and the girls’ mummies wouldn’t have approved of them marrying dark-skinned boys from the former colonies, but did not object to flings as long as the daughter did not get pregnant or fall in love with one of us. We were even invited home at Christmas!

We always carried condoms in our wallets, never knowing when we might get lucky. Some girls insisted that we wear two condoms, afraid that one might break. This had the added advantage of slowing down ejaculation. Buying condoms was the trickiest part. It required a great deal of courage to go up to the woman behind the counter in Boots and ask for a packet.

The Indian and Pakistani girls studying with us would not touch us though; for some reason, we desired them more. They preferred white boys and their sex lives were discreet. Almost all of them returned home to marry the likes of us.

Some of the English girls still lived with their parents and took trains to the Home Counties after classes. I lived in Putney, about an hour away on the tube, a bit too far for afternoon sex. What to do? I found a disused broom closet in the basement of the Inner Temple library. As long as you did it standing up, kept the lights off and did not make noise, it was a great place for a quickie!

On reflection, this was perhaps the craziest thing I have done. If we had been caught, we would have been rusticated and instead of writing this column, I would have been polishing diamonds today in Surat. I was not thinking with my brain.

But all said, I have no reason to envy the youth of today. Fifty years ago, before some of their parents were even born, I had a ball!

The author is a former UN diplomat.

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