Theatre of im­po­tence

As a main­stream Hindi film takes on erec­tile dys­func­tion and suc­ceeds, its writer chats with a sex­ol­o­gist on why we walk on eggshells when it comes to the ‘gents prob­lem’

Mid Day - - FEATURE - KUSUMITA DAS Dr Me­hta

LAST Wed­nes­day, Dr Su­mit Me­hta caught a late night show of Ayush­mann Khur­rana and Bhumi Ped­nekar star­rer Shubh Man­gal Saavd­han af­ter a long day of con­sul­ta­tions at Hi­ranan­dani Hospi­tal, For­tis in Vashi, where he is a con­sul­tant urol­o­gist. It was less en­ter­tain­ment, more prep for a chat he was to have the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon with the film’s writer, Hitesh Ke­walya.

“I hadn’t heard a lot of good stuff, but I wished to see it for my­self. I thought I was go­ing to give him [Ke­walya] grief, but, I came out of the theatre feel­ing dif­fer­ently,” he smiles.

Not once us­ing the term erec­tile dys­func­tion — a con­di­tion where the male is un­able to achieve or main­tain an erec­tion dur­ing the sex­ual act — the 90-minute film tells the story of the soon-to-be-mar­ried Su­gandha and Mu­dit, and the chal­lenge be­fore them. A limp-bis­cuit dipped in chai is the clos­est we get to an anal­ogy.

Ke­walya and Dr Me­hta meet to dis­cuss, how close we are to re­al­ity.

Most peo­ple don’t know of qual­i­fied an­drol­o­gists or sex­ol­o­gists. Most med­i­cal uni­ver­si­ties, by the way, doesn’t of­fer an an­drol­ogy de­gree un­less you are an urol­o­gist. So, most doc­tors iden­tify as sex­ol­o­gists, al­though they ac­tu­ally deal with the uri­nary sys­tem as a whole. It took me six years af­ter ac­quir­ing an MBBS de­gree to be­come a qual­i­fied urol­o­gist. A lack of aware­ness is the prob­lem, be­sides of course, a feel­ing of shame. A man’s ego pre­vents him from ad­mit­ting he has the prob­lem, even to him­self.

Fe­male friends, in gen­eral, are more free with each other and seem to dis­cuss sex. A group of men, even if child­hood friends, find that tough. It’s hard for a man to talk to an­other guy about such a prob­lem. His friends are only left to guess, as we see in the film.

I have re­ceived re­quests from the girl’s fam­ily to cer­tify that the man can’t per­form, when they are go­ing through divorce. In most cases, un­less the sex­ual or­gan is mal­func­tion­ing, it is dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble for a doc­tor to give such a cer­tifi­cate. In a given sit­u­a­tion, he may or may not per­form. It de­pends on so many fac­tors — the sit­u­a­tion, the part­ner.

Of­ten, men in the fam­ily, make it about them­selves. If you are ques­tion­ing my son’s man­hood, you are ques­tion­ing me. I’ve grown up in a so­cial cir­cle where the prob­lem ex­isted, but, was never dis­cussed. You hear cases of a sud­den divorce af­ter three months of mar­riage, with no clear rea­son. The peo­ple in ques­tion are not spo­ken to, but tongues start wag­ging. The lay­ers [of se­crecy] start peel­ing, un­til ev­ery­one has a view on your pri­vate life.

When peo­ple start tak­ing sides, things spi­ral out of con­trol. Ev­ery sit­u­a­tion need not be ex­plained to a pa­tient’s par­ent. Par­ents can­not help a cou­ple per­form sex­u­ally. We tell the cou­ple to sort it out with­out in­volv­ing se­niors.

Eighty per cent of erec­tile dys­func­tion cases are a re­sult of psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons, one of which is per­for­mance anx­i­ety. I could iden­tify with Mu­dit [Ayush­mann’s char­ac­ter] be­cause he is like so many of my pa­tients – stressed, wear­ing a look of hav­ing given up. He’s go­ing through sit­u­a­tional im­po­tence. A sin­gle episode where he is un­able to per­form dents his self con­fi­dence so se­verely, he is afraid to face the sit­u­a­tion again. The cou­ple must have a frank con­ver­sa­tion, and give the prob­lem the time and pa­tience re­quired to solve it. If the man is un­able to per­form, the woman needs to stand by him, and vice versa.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, 90 per cent of such cases can be treated with med­i­ca­tion and coun­selling. But, it is a slow process and both part­ners need to stay in­vested.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is this no­tion that such a prob­lem can­not be solved. In the film, Su­gandha’s [Bhumi Ped­nekar] fa­ther asks her to run away.

Ex­actly. Most peo­ple think run­ning away is the only way. Be­cause they want fast re­sults, and fail to get them. Some cou­ples say, fix it so we can have a child. A child is not the an­swer to com­pat­i­bil­ity. The re­la­tion­ship needs to go be­yond the prob­lem, so that the prob­lem be­comes one tiny part of the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s how you tackle it.

Ex­cess stress, over­work­ing, al­co­hol, smok­ing and lack of sleep are con­trib­u­tors. Other causes could be lack of blood sup­ply to the pe­nis, leaky veins, tight fore­skin, etc. I wished to say that sex is af­ter all, an an­i­mal­is­tic in­stinct. No mat­ter how com­plex it seems, at the core, it’s a car­nal act. I don’t know if an­i­mals have per­for­mance anx­i­ety.

I am not a vet, but as some­one who grew up with four dogs, I can say that an­i­mals have reser­va­tions too. Fe­male dogs tend to see the hu­man fam­ily as their own. They won’t mate in the pres­ence of their par­ents. Vets of­ten ask pet par­ents to leave their dogs alone and go away for a while so that they can mate. So, the an­i­mal con­nec­tion may not be far-fetched af­ter all.

The stereo­types are out on full dis­play, es­pe­cially when the pro­tag­o­nist vis­its a doc­tor, but turns back be­cause she hap­pens to be a woman. (That scene was re­moved).

Male gy­naecs are com­mon, but how of­ten do you hear of a fe­male sex­ol­o­gist or an­drol­o­gist? And some­times, the me­dia doesn’t help. With ar­ti­cles that run down doc­tors and high­light­ing cul­prits from the med­i­cal fra­ter­nity, we are push­ing peo­ple to­wards quacks, and porn, for ad­vice.


Dr Su­mit Me­hta (left) and Hitesh Ke­walya ex­change notes.

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