Chocolate and Gold Coins

Friday, January 20, 2006

Love on a Railroad Berth

I am reading an interesting and sometimes funny book about India by novelist Khushwant Singh called We Indians (1982). I am skipping around a bit and, for some reason I skipped to the chapter titled, “Sex in Indian Life.”

Mr. Singh doesn’t really give much insight in this area; he focuses on one remarkable anecdote from his experience. He was riding in a sleeper car probably similar to the one my family took to Mysore. A newlywed came on board and requested that he move to an upper berth so they could sleep together. He obliged. And then he gives a pretty graphic description of how one couple spent their wedding night.

The couple was apparently both well educated. He was a junior professor and she was a teacher. Neither was particularly good looking, but that might be in the eye of the beholder. They were complete strangers: they spent at least an hour trying to get to know one another and their parents and such.

Then it was time to “get down to business.” They did the nasty right there in the bottom berth while Mr. Khushwant Singh was looking the entire time. Note: if you ask strangers in India to kindly look away while you and your spouse perform sex acts, they will likely sneak a peek at you anyway. Don’t expect privacy.

The scene he describes is possibly the least erotic consensual sex act in literature. It was more like going to the bathroom. No clothes were removed – no need. I learned that women who wear saris often went without undergarments at that time (1980’s). The “hai Ram” at the climax was a curious touch.

At 3:00 A.M., the conductor rudely awakened the couple: they had come to their stop and had to disembark immediately. He had fallen asleep with his bare bum exposed. She was similarly indiscreet. They quickly dressed and left; and then stopped the train to reboard and find a lost earring.

Another male passenger on the adjoining berth sighed, “It is love.” Mr. Singh argued with him: “What kind of love is that, they are strangers.” He also expressed disgust at their free sex show. But the other passenger was in no mood to argue. I got the impression that the other passenger also viewed the free sex show and greatly appreciated it.

I am sure that the incident he describe happened but I have to think that the couple was perhaps a bit odd.

So here is an ethical question for you: if a couple joins you in a railroad berth or some other public place and asks you to look away while they do the nasty and you agree, do you have the ethical duty to look away or are they being silly for even asking the question?


  • I also read this passage but my presonal view is not to read too much into Khushvant Singh's wiritng. His otherwise innocent writings are known to have sexual double meanings. In my view, from whatever I read or heard of him, he doesn't represent real picture (and I don't mean politically correct) of whatever happens in India or Indians either. I personally think he is a trashy writer!

    By Blogger Ashish Gupta, at 6:11 PM  

  • In a highly conservative country, where a tight jeans evokes stares and even the mention of sex is taboo for the vast majority, Mr. Singh sure finds a lot of sex in Indian Lives. Bollocks I say.

    And I think your question is very silly.

    By Anonymous Shashank Mathur, at 6:27 PM  

  • ethical duty to look away?

    are you freakin kidding us? that the two were ugly and that another man having sex turns my homophobic self off, maybe reasons not to. but ethical duty? how did you even come up with that question.

    By Blogger Nilu, at 7:44 PM  

  • HaHa reminds me of a similar incident (according to the tabloids) in the UK, apparently when the couple were at it everyone on the train ignored and tried their best to be British and the minute they finished the business and lit up a cigarette they were promptly informed them that smoking was prohibited.

    By Blogger WA, at 8:57 PM  

  • Hi Ashish shashank Nilu and Wicked
    I agree that the story seems absurd and unlikely. Anyway, I never saw anything like that on an Indian train (thankfully). I just thought the story was funny.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 5:36 AM  

  • Highly unlikely. India is a most conservative society. Most couples dont even hold hands in public. Perhaps just a figment of the dirty old sardar's fertile imagination. If indeed such an incident happened , then I can only guess that the couple were mentally unhinged and just escaped from some mental hospital.

    By Anonymous Raj, at 11:51 AM  

  • frankly, i wish indians would be bothered about their own lives as much as they are about other peoples lives. nonetheless, it is impossible to wish that in india one would get privacy in a public area.

    By Blogger Mind Curry, at 4:39 AM  

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