Friday, August 21, 2009

Karma sutra in Khajuraho

Before I came back to Bhawanipatna I went on a quick jolly to Khajuraho in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. The town is considered to be one of the “seven wonders of India” as it has some of the best examples of medieval temples which are particularly famous for the erotic sculptures. It’s a difficult place to get to – one train a day leaves Khajuraho Station but there are no scheduled in-bound ones – how the outward one gets there in the first place is anyone’s guess. I went with another volunteer, Judith and, as with Varanasi, Jharkand and Rajasthan last year, it was nice to be a tourist again. We ambled round the beautifully tended grounds that the temples are located in and I was grateful to Judith for pointing out the famed sculptures of the various karma sutra positions – they look huge in the pictures but in reality they are nestled amongst a multitude of other intricately-carved figures. There are many stories of why such explicit representations were incorporated, including showing the population what they shouldn’t do, but the story I was given, by my self-appointed personal guide, was that the local kings felt it was important for the population to understand how they could achieve spiritual enlightenment by incorporating such activity into their daily lives. There are various levels of difficulty portrayed - each one designed to bring you and your partner closer to achieving the perfect state of mind and body. My guide was keen that I also experienced such enlightenment. Maybe he could give me a hands-on, practical demonstration? I declined - not least because he couldn’t have been more than 18 - and, having extricated myself from that little proposition, we cruised round the touristy shops – I bought another carpet that I don’t need – and then had supper over-looking the floodlit temples in the main site. It was well worth the journey and as I proceeded to Orchha for a conference, I felt relaxed and … well … enlightened if not spiritually then at least personally. Click here to see where Khajuraho is. Click here for more photos

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home and Away

I haven’t written my blog for a while. The main reason is I went back to the UK for three weeks but also I’m slightly out of practice. The trip back to the UK was great. I had a chance to see everyone and, despite some people saying they find it difficult to adjust, I slipped back in to my previous life with no effort at all. It was lovely to have a glass of wine with my meal, to sit and chat about nothing in particular, to know where to buy things etc. My first impression when I arrived was the quiet and the orderliness. My father picked me up from Heathrow Airport and, as we joined the M4, I felt as though I was in a 1970s sci-fi cartoon – everyone knew their place on the road and we travelled in complete silence. In India, the mirror, signal, manoever matra is replaced by horn, louder horn, even louder horn and without the noise it felt like travelling in a self-contained bubble. There was also a distinct lack of cows wandering all over the road which here are a major feature in even the largest cities. Whilst I was in India, I struggled to decide what I missed most – maybe I was just enjoying myself so much – but I discovered on my return that it was bread – the crusty, home-made type of bread. So I have returned with packets of yeast and a commitment to buy a counter-top oven. I haven’t made bread since cooking classes at school but once the oven arrives – it’s currently on order as they’re not in great demand here - I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into a slice of warm, freshly baked bread. In the meantime I’m searching for a shop that sells butter – anyone know how you make the stuff? Settling back into my life here, though, was as easy as my return to the UK. The gangs of pre-school children who I shake hands with every morning were genuinely thrilled to see me again – jumping up and down and screaming “Hi sister” - language barriers had made it difficult to explain to them that I was going away but I would be back. My colleagues and neighbours also seemed pleased at my return although they expressed it in a slightly less exuberant manner and, on a personal note, I felt as though I had come home – albeit to a slightly different life - but one that is now is comfortingly familiar.