Anju Virmani
MY BODY, MY LIFE by Anu Gupta. Translated from the Hindi by Venu Aindley Eklavya, 2019, 84 pp., 115.00
November 2020, volume 44, No 11

As a physician specializing in pediatric and adolescent endocrinology, i.e., hormonal disorders of children and adolescents, I am frequently appalled at the level of ignorance so many ‘educated’ adults have about their bodies, which not surprisingly affects the way they bring up their children. In spite of a vast body of data showing how important it is to know the basics of our biology, many of us go all coy when faced with the prospect of explaining the facts of life to our children. The former Headmistress of my children’s school is an extremely wise woman who roped me in for many years to talk once a year to class 5 children about our bodies. We would discuss things from head to toe: from why Harry Potter’s favourite pumpkin was good for eyes, and the need to brush teeth, to keeping our feet clean, pausing on the way at our noses and lungs (need to play actively), stomach and intestine (eat healthy fun food, not junk), heart (deep fried, high salt foods?: no, no, chee, chee), bones (milk, and sunshine on the bare skin), and other systems, including (of course) the kidneys and urinary system (drink lots of water, and clean potty backwards, so susu doesn’t burn–some stifled giggles here), very casually mixing in messages like now the girls’ breasts will start growing (brief shock on their faces, then they relax as things move on), and you will get hair in your armpits and pubic area (shock and embarrassed giggles, then they relax as things move on), as you become taller and more like the didis and bhaiyas in older classes (comprehension and nodding of heads).

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