10/08/2015 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Whatever Happened To Our Good-ol' Agony Aunt?

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My fiancée is pregnant. And I've been sleeping with her sister. She's also pregnant. But I'm not ready for kids. Should I ditch them both?

Remember hiding a magazine in your shirt and reading the 'Your Questions, Our Answers' column in the privacy of your bathroom when mummy was taking an afternoon nap? Since mummy wouldn't tell, and since sanskari kids were not supposed to know anything about love or sex, this is how we grappled with adolescence. This is where the magazine editor used to print one true story and imagine five other outrageous problems to create a sensational page in an otherwise staid magazine. But in spite of featuring all sorts of unrealistic sensationalist problems, the 'Ask Me' column was much more than a titillating page or a voyeuristic ride.

Much like today, most problems were related to sex, infidelity, love and sexual health. At a time when there was no Sunny Leone, there was Dr. Prakash Kothari, a sexologist, God bless him, because month after month he told teenage boys that they were normal and that nothing was wrong with them. All in all, the 'Ask the Expert' column used to entertain and educate middle class India by virtue of being anonymous and handy.

"Today, in a world of instant gratification and banned two minute noodles, the idea of mailing your problem and waiting for a month for it to appear in print sounds silly..."

With the arrival of internet, Google became the new-age agony aunt of the virtual world. While most columns were consigned to the dustbins of irrelevance, some survived. Like the HT column in the Sunday magazine called 'Seriously Cyrus'. A lot of water must have flown under the bridge because a MTV VJ of our times is now an agony uncle. That he continues to make a 'bakra' of most problems is another story.

What's most amusing is that folks who were known for everything else other than a stable family life like Ms Pooja Bedi used to dish out relationship advice. On second thoughts, it didn't really matter because you don't need a PhD in psychology to answer, "I love a girl, but she married my best friend. What should I do?" Unless you want to tell the guy to murder her husband. No, seriously, what are the options when someone says, "My ex is getting married. Should I confess that I still love her?"

In a moment of pointless Bollywood abandon, "I suggest you wait till the wedding day. Hide behind the bushes and wait for the radiant bride to walk out with a garland in her hand. Wait for her to sit demurely with the groom. Wait for a few rounds around the fire. And just when she is about to begin the final round, come out in the open and say, "I still love you." All will be well. Swear by Tanu Weds Manu.

It is not difficult to understand why agony aunt columns are dying a slow death. Today, in a world of instant gratification and banned two minute noodles, the idea of mailing your problem and waiting for a month for it to appear in print sounds silly in a world where you have your answers at the click of a button. Above all, the present generation is not the one to take advice to the letter or be dictated. They use their own judgment, the experience of peers and guidance from family. But what's interesting is that the generation after generation, we face similar problems and continue to ask similar questions.

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