Rose*, 40, has always had a no-nonsense attitude. "If I want it and he wants it, I've never been one to waste time thinking about whether this is a moral thing to do," she says with a smile. "Just wear a condom and I'm a happy girl."
Sexuality, she feels is essential to any strong relationship. "What use is a Platonic relationship? I don't want to just moon over someone when I long for him."
An employee with an insurance office in Kolkata, Rose is pretty in a voluptuous way; her arms drip with bangles; her eyes are rimmed with eyeliner; her lips, scarlet; a lace handkerchief is tucked into the waist of her tightly wound sari. She lost her virginity to the boyfriend whom she eventually married. "It was planned, frenzied, and great," she says revealing that she has enjoyed physical intimacy with others as well.
Like Rose, 29-year-old Niharika - currently single - does not shy away from "having a good time", albeit with someone she "can trust". "I lost my virginity about an year ago, and it was with someone I was in love with, at least I thought so at the time," she says. She was a bit nervous about it the first time, but decided to "go with the flow".
"After that, there were a couple of relationships with varying degrees of intimacy. I think it was also because I was on a rebound," says the Mumbai-based banker who recently split with her boyfriend. With her last partner, sex happened within a month of them having met, and since she had already been intimate before, she didn't think it was that big a deal.
Both Rose and Niharika believe sex gets better with time. In the former's case, it has got better with age. "The lips land where they should; the hands and legs are better coordinated," says Rose, who has two children and says she now likes a "bit of coaxing" from her husband.
For Niharika, sex is directly proportional to the "emotional connect". "I don't think I am into 'casual sex'. That's just not fun. I have had great intimacy with those men who I have really connected with, outside of the bed that is. Some of them have been in relationships, and one was married too," she says.
Both women say fantasies play an important role. For Niharika, it meant watching porn to get excited, even as Rose "mentally channels" all the men she has known. Two years ago, Rose acted on her fantasies and started having an affair with a married office colleague, with whom her husband also gets along.
"Our families go for holidays together. Our partners don't suspect and nothing gets out because we don't make a habit of it," she says. "We meet up once a month and return to our respective lives satisfied." How does she manage the guilt? "By simply not having any" is her answer. Does she feel torn between the two men? "Why would I want to turn him into a husband?" counters Rose. "Besides I'm fond of the one I have in my own way."
For Niharika, the question of multiple partners was one she had "sorted" long back. "Guilt was not so much an issue, although it would bother me off and on. But what started to bother me was the question of where was I headed with these men? Around two years ago, a friend got pregnant with a guy who she was not even in a relationship with, and decided to abort. He didn't even care to check on her the morning after they had sex. That set me thinking: is this what sex before marriage, or 'without strings' mean? It seems some folks of my generation really couldn't care less about those they end up in bed with!" (*Name changed)