April 17, 2017


I had an opportunity of spending two years in West Africa in 1982-84.  I was working as an Assistant Professor of Horticulture at the College of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Liberia.  I was posted at Monrovia, the capital city located on the shore of Atlantic. 

            It was my second stint outside India.  Before that I had taught for some time at the University of Baghdad.  Iraq was not very different from India.  So living there did not give you a feel of being in a foreign country but for seeing “foreign” electronic goods like transistor radios and the “two in ones” or synthetic sarees, the dream objects of common Indians during those days.  It may not be out of place to mention here the College of Agriculture was located 30 km outside of Baghdad at Abu Gharaib.  This place had become much known later during the days of American occupation of Iraq for the infamous prison run by American soldiers for their Iraqi prisoners. 

            Africa, however, is very different from India.  In fact when you are there, you really feel that you are in some “other” world.  Everything, the land, climate, people, their lifestyle is totally different than what we have been seeing in India.  You do not feel so different from India even while being England or America. So every day you learned something new, which could at times be shockingly unexpected.

With colleagues in Liberia

            In Liberia (they say that it is in many other African countries too) society is highly promiscuous.  They start indulging in sex quite early much before getting married.  Extramarital relationships are a very common practice there.  Every married person has girl friends besides wife.  As all women are from Liberia only, so it must have been the same with married women too.  This kind of life was socially accepted there.

            I had a 51 years old colleague named Mr. Kiao.  He was the manager of our college farm. As he was a senior person (I was 42 at that time), so I often used to sit with him and talk on various subjects.  One unusual thing which I had noticed about Mr. Kiao was that I often found him drinking Guinness Stout Beer (a very strong beer) in his office during duty hours.

            I also used to talk with him about Liberian culture including promiscuosity in Liberian society.  As it was much unheard for Indians, so we Indians in Liberia always found this subject interesting.  Mr. Kiao, however, always defended it.

            One day when both of us were talking on the same subject, Mr. Kiao said, “It is now established in medical science that if you continued living with the same woman, you become impotent in two years”.  So according to him having relationships outside marriage in Liberian society did not mean any disloyalty to spouse.  It but was rather a “health requirement”.  He further told that he loved his wife very much and so did she. But if he or she had relationships outside marriage, it was not for fun but keeping themselves fit.

            I told him that it was not true. Had it been true, India would have been a nation of impotent men.  But I could not convince him and many others like him in my circle of Liberian friends.

            What a great medical discovery!

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