In today’s day and age, there are many ‘sexperts’ online. Even so, the topic remains tabooed in popular discourse.
The 60s were no different, and challenging this stigma was Kailash Puri.
A woman who wore many hats — author, broadcaster, poet, counsellor and a self-proclaimed sexologist — she was often called ‘Humraaz Maasi’ (confidante aunt) for South Asian women.
Puri was born in a small village near Rawalpindi, Punjab, in undivided India. In her book ‘Pool of Life’, she said that sex was always the “dirty” and “taboo” topic of marriage.
At 16, she fell in love with Gopal Singh Puri, a young scientist and a sought-after son-in-law.
She followed her husband to London, where he was offered a Research Fellowship by the Government of India in Plant Ecology.
She completed her education there and started to widen her horizon on different aspects of life.
Shortly after the Partition, the family moved back to India.
With her husband’s encouragement, Kailash started to write cooking features and sent them to Punjabi magazines.
She would receive lots of letters from women talking about their sex lives, marriages and in-laws.
Thrice a week, she wrote for a magazine on topics like marriage, women, and interior decor.
In 1956, she started her own women’s magazine called Subhagvati. Her choice of topics like sex, and birth control attracted criticism over time, but that did not stop her.
In 1966, the couple returned to England and Kailash taught oral Punjabi to the police force and other professionals.
She coined a few terms like madan chhatri (cupid’s umbrella) for the clitoris, and pashm (silk) for pubic hair in punjabi.
She has been widely awarded for her work including the Woman of Achievement Award in 1999, the position of the Ambassador of Peace in 2000, Woman of the Year in 1984, and the Lifetime Achievement Award (Ealing) in 2004.
Kailash began her journey as a young girl with little education, and ended up with a long list of accomplishments for her work in journalism.
Moreover, she was among the earliest examples of what changes can take place if a woman decides to speak up.