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Punjab’s First ‘Agony Aunt’, Sexologist Dies At 92:
Kailash Kaur Puri





'agony aunt': A writer of an advice column in a newspaper or other periodical. Someone who people commonly go to for advice about personal problems. [Dictionary]

About 10 years ago, one woman was making a room full of “progressive” and “urbanite” women uncomfortable at a writers’ meet in Mohali, Punjab. She was talking about women body parts and sharing with them their Punjabi names, some of these coined by her.

The organiser tried hard that the lady with the mike stopped.

“Let’s talk about this in small groups,” she suggested.

The woman knew what the problem was. She had been counselling Punjabi-speaking women on sex and physiology for more than five decades.

Today, Humraaz Maasi is no more. Known as Punjab’s first-ever “agony aunt” and sexologist, Kailash Kaur Puri died in London, England, on Friday, June 9, 2017. She had been unwell for some time.

Kailash leaves behind a legacy of inspiring a generation of women who found in her the confidante who would answer the questions they could ask no one. Absolutely no one. A woman talking about romance and lovemaking openly wasn’t something that Indian society could have accepted easily.

But she did, beginning by answering queries about women’s problems in the 1950s in a magazine called Subhagwati, edited by her, and then in Qaumi Ekta.

“In the 1960s, when Punjabi women in England had no access to marriage counselling and mental health services, Kailash did a great service being the shoulder to cry on. They approached her through letters and telephone opening up their hearts. It must have helped them a lot,” says London-based writer Amarjit Singh Chandan, a close friend of the Puris.

Being a sexologist and “agony aunt” to Punjabi women wasn’t easy. A major challenge lay in the fact that Punjabi was an inhibited language and there hadn’t been terms to describe private parts and personal hygiene.

How did Kailash deal with them? Well, she coined new ones. So, clitoris was madan chhatri (cupid’s umbrella) and pubic hair was pashm (silk).

Punjabi writer Rama Ratan recalls reading Kailash’s writings away from the gaze of elders.

“We realised much later that these are things that people should be open about. Her critics then called her writings obscene. But she was a visionary, a bold woman,” she says.

At that meet, when the mike was finally switched off, we huddled around Kailash, who seemed like a revolutionary for even these times. We asked her how she managed to stir the hornet’s nest. She smiled with her typical high bun in place and pearl necklace glistening in the winter sun.

She narrated her tale from Rawalpindi to London and from a demure bride who couldn’t interact with her husband’s high-profile guests to a woman who debated social issues of the Asian community on TV and radio in the UK. She credited her husband, Gopal Singh Puri, for all that she was.

The woman who was so confident until now began to cry as she spoke about him. She said he wanted her to study and encouraged her to write. And, she shared, he never forced her to have sex.

A few days ago, when a Singapore-based writer of Punjabi origin wrote a book of erotic stories for Punjabi women, her characters struggled to find words for private parts and drew funny parallels. They probably hadn’t met Kailash.


On June 9th 2017, beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Kailash Kaur Puri, aged 92, passed away peacefully in Ealing Hospital following a short illness. She is survived by her three children, Shaminder, Kiran, and Risham, eight grandchildren and two great grand children.

Born Veeranwali, and better known as Kailash Kaur Puri, she was born on 17th April 1925 in Pothohar, Rawalpindi in Punjab, now Pakistan. When she was just sixteen, she married Gopal Singh Puri, a renowned Botanist, Ecologist, Environmentalist and latterly author and poet.

Together, they lived in United Kingdom, India, Nigeria and Ghana, and returned to the UK in 1966, where they finally settled in Crosby, Liverpool. In 1995 with the passing away of her beloved husband Gopal, Kailash moved to Ealing, where she has lived ever since.

With Gopal’s enduring encouragement for her education and writing, she pursued a highly acclaimed literary career and established the first ever Punjabi language current affairs magazine for women, Roopwati, in 1955, which later evolved into Subhagwati, with a very wide and highly acclaimed circulation among Punjabi’s around the world.

She credited her husband Gopal’s support and love as indispensable to her success.

Kailash finished school at the age of 15. Though speaking limited English, she left her Rawalpindi home in 1945 for Bombay, and there boarded a returning World War II troop ship as one of only two women on board. She arrived in London to join Gopal who was completing his second PhD in Botany at University College London.

In the years since then she flourished as an eminent author and by the 1960s became a keystone of the United Kingdom’s Sikh, Punjabi and Asian community.

Over her long life, she was a novelist, a poet, a culinary expert, a sexologist, and became affectionately known as an “agony aunt” for the community, offering honest and frank advice to women on marriage, romance and equal rights, as well as supporting those transitioning from a traditional Punjab to life in Britain.

She has authored over 40 books, held poetical symposiums, and her life-long achievements were chronicled in her autobiography, Pool of Life: The Autobiography of a Punjabi Agony Aunt, co-authored with Professor Eleanor Nesbitt.

Kailash was the longest serving Sikh and South Asian community worker and family counsellor in the country.

Over the last 40 years, her achievements have received recognition with numerous awards. She was honoured as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; she was the first Punjabi and Indian food consultant at Marks and Spencer’s line in specialty foods, and a vice-president of the Women’s Federation for World Peace. She has attended and presented papers at international conferences across the globe.

She was a vibrant, intelligent, and passionate woman and her vitality, wisdom, love, and steadfastness will be sorely missed by her family and friends.

A memorial to celebrate the life of Kailash Kaur Puri will be held on Wednesday, June 14 2017 at the Mortlake Crematorium (TW9 4EN) at 4.40 pm.

An akhand path will commence on the evening of the 14th June at Ealing Gurdwara (W13 0JP), followed by kirtan, ardaas and final bhog on Friday, June 16, 2017 at 6:30 pm.

For further information, please contact:

Shaminder Singh Puri / Nanki Kaur Chawla

Email –, /

Tel 01865 340033 / 0208 566 8619

[Courtesy: The Tribune, et al. Edited for]
June 12, 2017

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