Under my byline

Rubber duck

Posted in Health, Living by Rrishi on 17 May 2009

Looking high and low for NACO condoms at New Delhi Railway Station

Rubber duck“My kingdom for a condom,” I muttered, dodging through the crowds outside New Delhi Railway Station, my eyes raking the walls for the bright red boxes. With much fanfare last year the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) had installed 1,500 condom vending machines (CVMs) at railway stations, public toilets and bus stands across Delhi (“at several vantage points”, said one newspaper, unhelpfully) — places frequented by itinerants and the less well-off. Across India, 11,025 were installed. Now, on the busy Ajmeri Gate side of this station, I couldn’t see even one.

NACO’s idea was convenience and anonymity; if one could buy cheap condoms at a machine, why face the embarrassment of whispering to a sales assistant at a pharmacy? NACO’s target is to distribute 3.5 billion condoms a year by 2010 — which works out, at a guess, to a maximum of one encounter per sexually active Indian male per month.

Aha! A Nirodh condom distribution box! It was very battered, and peculiarly located, high up on a wall facing the first platform. Below it squatted a crowd of waiting passengers, mostly women. The box was empty.

After a quarter-hour of fruitless inspection and one paid visit (Re 1 for the bare minimum) to a “Deluxe Shauchalaya”, which is a public toilet with shower stalls, I started asking. “No, not here,” said the man at another shauchalaya. Then where? “No idea,” he replied, not unkindly.

Two autowallahs: “Not here. Outside,” meaning off the station premises.

At a Sulabh Shauchalaya I struck gold. “Condom machine? You won’t find it here,” said the man behind the desk. Then his inner dealmaker got the better of him, and he called out to one of the young men hanging about: “Kiske jeb mein condom tha? [Whose pocket was the condom in?] Call him!” The young man, instead, told me that behind the “coolie niwas” (coolie shelter) there would be a box. “Put five coins in, take it and — ” a thrust of the hips and a conspiratorial smirk.

But behind the coolie niwas was an open-air barber, busy with a client.

I never did find the desired red box. I didn’t go inside the station, and not one person told me to — although a NACO box has been installed there. On the positive side, nobody showed embarrassment at being asked, nor at sharing what they knew; a little male bonding even happened.

Score: 1/10. You can buy a condom at this major railway station — but not from NACO.

(Another Mystery Guest column. See previous one.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: