Monday, August 18, 2008

Unveiling the Mystery

"…blah blah blah.. and blah…"

The guide kept his mono-drone on as background music as we scrutinized the enrapturing sculptures of the western temples of Khajuraho.

The Chandela dynasty which originated in the 10th century and ruled for a little over 500 years, brought the temples of Khajuraho alive with their taste for erotic art. As our eyes roved from one sculpture to another, one thought predominantly made its existence (also a big thanks for this thought goes to Krimson himself for voicing it loud again and again) – What were the rulers and the sculptors and architects really thinking or aiming to achieve with these depictions?

One very interesting tidbit from Mr. Guide himself was the introduction of the concept of the Tantric Cult. Supposedly, some glorious ruler belonged to this cult and it was his ardent devotion that led him to drive his sculptors into creating these magnificent monuments in tribute to the art of making love. The Tantric Cult essentially believed (perhaps still believes) that sexual gratification was a part of the path towards self-knowledge.

I could almost see the guys taking mental notes of this, so that they could google it up and perhaps if it still exists be a part of this cult!

What made the trip even more interesting was the story of its discovery – Khajuraho was unearthed from the clutches of an overgrown wilderness by a British ENGINEER called T S Burt, not an archeologist, but an engineer!!! And guess what?? He was actually offended by what he saw!! I suppose in 1800 such open acceptance of the Kamasutra would have been rare indeed!!

Interestingly enough, though the sculptures are quite bold - There is nudity – both male and female, kissing and fondling are commonly depicted, group sex is depicted: twosomes and threesomes, foursomes and fivesomes and on to orgies with ten or more participants… There are acts of sexual intercourse that appear to resist gravity; and there is occasionally bestiality portrayed at the temples – but nine out of every ten sculptures have absolutely nothing to do with sex! Honest!

Though the temples are ancient, they are very well preserved. They retain the aura of mythology and transport you straight back into time, in the prime reign of the Chandela Dynasty. There is a reason for this too!! Apparently the temples thus built, appeased the erotic nature of lord Indra, who supposedly has a voyeuristic streak and he took it upon himself to preserve the authentic nature of these temples!!!

Myths, tales and a kingdom full of magic… that's where we spend the first half of our day!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Khajuraho - an Introduction ;)

Refreshed from the trip to the misty mountains, the Krazy Krimson pair decided to explore some archaeological masterpieces in the land of erotic sculpture, Khajuraho.

Khajuraho literally translates into roots of a Date. A tiny little village-town buried somewhere in the depths of Madhya Pradesh, hibernating... waiting.. for that one foreign explorer to delight in its many temptations and excavate from the bosom of the thickest of jungles, the true expressions of unblemished love-making.

There are a million explanations for the erotic sculpting which adds grandeur to the sublime temples of Khajuraho. Some say, its because of the King and his disposition towards the carnal needs of human beings. Yet others say, that it was an attempt by the wise ruler of the Chandela dynasty to increase the population of the then minuscule kingdom of Chandela.

Loaded with information of this kind, we picked our bags and headed to the the station...

The journey began with an unwelcome experience in the Dakshin express, to Jhansi from Hazrat Nizamuddin. For those planning a trip between these locations, please stay away from this train. Even the second AC was stinking like an uncleaned Indian male public urinal spot.

Adaptable that we are, we reached Jhansi alive by 6am next morning. A friend of ours was waiting there with his bike for himself and his girl, and a rented car for us. We decided to bike down some parts of the way up to Khajuraho. The road was unexpectedly very good and the landscape was amazing. And the fresh contrast from the mountain landscape made this all the more refreshing for us. We eased to Khajuraho within 2 and a half hours and checked into Usha Bundela. An unexpectedly luxurious hotel for a price of less than 1.5 grands per night.

And then started are exploration of the erotic art of the Khajuraho Temples. We first visited the Western group of temples. And apart from all the temple watching the one thing thats worth talking about due to its sheer laughable worthlessness was the guide!

"This is Khajuraho, located in Madhya Pradesh, India."
Ya right! And we were wondering if we had reached some Indonesian heritage spot!!
The monotonous tone in which our guide began the most boring description possible of erotic art, temples, archaeological monuments, Kundalini Shastra etc., never picked up its tempo inspite of the apparent excitement of the objects being described.
His incessant stess on the fact that eroticism has nothing to do with ejaculation, but is primarily to conserve the root energy to awaken the "Kundalini", wasn't met with as much awe as he probably expected. Thus, the great raju "eroticism" guide shifted to his evidently practiced one-liners and quips that were only as exciting as a tea spoon in a tea cup, and wouldn't amuse even the little finger of my left hand.

To put it mildly, he was BAD. After describing a sculpture of a women pleasuring two men at the same time, he goes, in that much practiced crammed up fashion that'd put a 1st standard student in awe of him,"Oh! What a generous woman!"

And the one that really took the cake, was his one liner after having described a position where a single man, upside down, is pleasuring 3 women in one go. Mr guide goes, with a beaming smile brighter than the afternoon sun, "One man show!"


Inspite of such invaluable guidance, I got hooked on to the temples and wanted to explore more. But Krazy had some bamboo saree shopping in mind and the temple visits were put on hold for the next day.

To be contd. ...

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Fairy Tale Day

Rains and their magic! I could try and describe it in a million words and yet I would leave the feeling unjustified. How does one even begin to describe the innocent splashes of water which awaken the child in you? The raindrops crash on the grounds and scatter into a thousand pearls, inviting, no tempting the mature mind to give in to the mindless ecstaacy of non-sensical pleasures, once again.

Mr.Ahuja and Vivek

So after a hearty meal, in the very populated Atta corner of Noida, imagine my surprise when we walked straight into gales of winds and noisy rain. As the two men with me (Vivek and Mr. Ahuja) stared at the rain with very minor misgivings, my heart had begun to sing a tune in sync with the pattering rain. I grabbed Vivek’s hand and said, “Lets walk to the car!”

He looked at me and looked at the forty feet distance which separated us from the car. He narrowed his eyes as he screened the crammed parking lot to locate the exact location of the car. Pouring rains blanketed his vision and increased my delight.

“You got to be kidding!” He said to me. He took one look at the childish delight on my face and knew I was very serious about going out in the rains. Mr. Ahuja looked at me and then looked at Vivek and shook his head in complete disbelief. He then wisely pointed to the laptop Vivek was holding, reminding us that we could not possibly subject the IBM thinkpad to my childish rain fantasies.

Me and Vivek

Where there is a will, there is a way, or so I believe. A quick dip into the adjoining provogue store and sweet smile to a helpful sales guy procured us a sturdy plastic bag, which was the solution to the dry needs of the laptop.

I looked pleadingly at Mr. Ahuja and Vivek .

“What the heck?” and Mr.Ahuja led the way through the rains towards where he figured he had parked his car.

It was pouring cats and dogs and despite the short distance to the car, we were dripping the monsoons onto the crisp dry seats of Mr. Ahuja’s car. He being the sport that he is, just turned up the volume of the car deck to a very mushy number and zoomed us off on the drive homewards.

Mr. Ahuja and I

But it was the first rains in Delhi! Correction Noida. So obviously I could not sit at home, while the rain beat in all its glory. I coerced Vivek into going on this magical ride through the rain-clad Noida on the enfield.

And what a ride it was! My arm snugly wound around the man I love, the winds tussling my hair and the mild raindrops caressing my face, we sliced through the cold winds of a pleasantly gray city. Traffic had reduced to a sparse thread, everybody diving for cover from the maddening rains. Only the two of us seemed to appreciate its unobtrusive presence and welcome the bliss that the rains brought alongwith.

Cruising cascading we reached the Greater Noida Expressway. And as we gained speed on the flawless tar of the expressway…Phat! We had a flat tyre. As it was raining both of us had left our wallets behind and Vivek was at least smart enough to carry his cell phone!

Murphy Strikes on the Greater Noida Expressway

He promptly dials our helpline- Mr. Ahuja. After a set of very confused directions, we settle down to await his arrival. I could no shake the feeling that Mr. Ahuja would indeed be very bugged with me for ruining his perfect Saturday! Not only do I drag him to a two and a half hour coffee session, I make him get wet in the rain, drip all over his car and when just about he is settling down to find some peace, I pull him out to help us again!!

I looked at Vivek. He was bone tired. This was supposed to be his day of relaxation too! And here he was indulging my childish fantasies about rains and bikes and not saying one word about it. Is it a wonder then that I love this guy so much?

It was drizzling mildly even now. We were parked to the side of the massive expressway. I was thinking of ways to get us out of this predicament, when a very helpful gentleman handed us the number of a guy who would come on the highway and fix the flat tyre for us. There followed another series of phone calls, underlined with relief.

We did call Mr. Ahuja, who was well on his way, but what do we do after he arrives? So the puncture-guy was actually a blessing in disguise. As we now awaited both MR. Ahuja and Mr. Puncture-guy I sat down on the low curb behind the bike. Darkness was slowly rolling in and horror stories of highway mishaps were rearing their ugly heads in my mind.

Vivek was always close by coordinating on the phone. Finally the puncture guys arrived. There seemed to be more than just a flat tyre to the bike, the tube of the bike had given up on us. I fervently awaited Mr. Ahuja’s arrival. I did not like the puncture guy and I did not want to scare Vivekby voicing my dislike. I mean there were these two guys in the middle of nowhere with us, who we knew nothing about, how much does one trust them?

My evil mind was even painting scenarios of a very malicious nature, with help from my imagination. Thank heavens Vivek is not privy to these thoughts of mine.

The Heroes of the day!
The arrival of Mr. Ahuja hence remains as the arrival of the ‘Knight in shining armor’ who came to the rescue of my prince and me. A quick fix to the tyre and we were back on the roads once again, only this time I was ensconced in the car, with Mr. Ahuja at the wheel.

Not about to let a flat tyre bog us down, we took a pit stop en route home, to fuel ourselves with mouth-watering gol gappas!

Rains…??? I love rains!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rescued from a dream

Rescued from a dream

That’s exactly how I will always feel about the night of the 15th of July 2008. Vivek and I, we were living out a dream. There we sat in the chillingly warm afternoon, in front of our tent in Sarchu, eating piping hot Maggi out of plastic bowls. There was so much I wanted to say to him, so much that was suddenly clear to me in the lifeless mountains and deathly cold of a place which was content in its state of inertia.

But I did not. I was to conserve energy. Breathe deeply. High altitudes mean lack of oxygen. I needed to use whatever oxygen I could get sparingly. But as the setting sun glinted off his windswept hair, I had this sudden urge to grab him and run out of the place. The tents were eerie in their calmness. It was as if they dared life to defy their existence. I took in a deep breath. Of course, it was just a passing feeling; it would blow away, like all the other senseless paranoia of mine had.

After a dinner, which I could hardly taste, we headed back to the tent. All along I was conscious of vivek bearing the brunt of the movement. Asking me to slow down, trying to keep conversations to a minimum, never leaving me alone even for a moment. In fact at this point I must mention something adorably funny.

Sarchu being a place of no vegetation and very little human habitation, sanitation was taken care of by building a make shift tent around a pot. The entire idea was ridiculously absurd in itself and well somehow very fascinating too. So when I had to use the rest room, I naturally had vivek tag along till the ‘loo-tent’. I didn’t want to be left alone. I was too scared to be alone. When I emerged from the ‘loo-tent’ I saw vivek promptly seated ten feet away, cross-legged on the cold ground, right outside, waiting my arrival. I was never more touched or never before did I feel so loved and cared for.

Back in the tent, we snuggled under four thick blankets to ward off the chill. The cold whipping winds were kept at bay by the secured confines of the nailed walls of the tent. We fell asleep almost instantly. Maybe it was the realization that there was little else we could possibly do or maybe it was the cold and the mounting lethargy which did the trick, but we were soundly asleep.

I have no clue how long I slept. But suddenly I found myself gasping for air. I could not breathe! It felt like something was clogging my wind pipe, blocking passage of air either way. Don’t Panic! I told myself. Breathe. Slow, deep, long breaths. Vivek had been telling me all along the trip to do just that.


A simple command I was trying to issue to myself. A simple command which would keep me alive. A simple command I couldn’t seem to follow.


A little by little the pressure eased. I found I could breathe, albeit with a little difficulty, but I could at least breathe. I thought of turning over and waking vivek up, but as the pressure seemed to ease, I saw no point in bothering him.

I closed my eyes and willed the sweet gods of sleep to embrace me once again. But all I seemed to feel was a deathly chill. It began right in the pit of my stomach and spread through my entire body. Within seconds my feet were cold as death and I was shivering under the weight of four blankets. I snuggled further into the blankets, seeking the warmth which was fast eluding me.

The same command – breathe!

The same instruction – don’t panic!

The same results – no effect!

The meager dinner was finding a way to escape the confines of my body. Every system in my body, seemed to be grinding to a slow halt. The only thing capable of rapid movement, was the quick spreading chill claiming every sense organ. I knew I had to wake vivek up!

I did.

And then I threw up.

And then I knew I was going to die.

I had used up all energies I possibly had in throwing up. I was cold. I couldn’t breathe. And then began the ache in the chest. It was a searing ache. Like someone was twisting a rod right inside my heart.

I didn’t want to die. Not right now, when I had just discovered the bliss of togetherness. Not now, when I had finally succeeded in making vivek believe in faith. Not right now, when he had opened new doors to a promising future.

“I don’t want to die!” I whispered to Vivek, not caring what effect my words were having on him. I wanted to tell him all that I was going through, but I did not seem to have enough energy to do so.

“I am panicking!” I managed to tell him in sheer panic.

I held on to him. If I had to die, I wanted to do it in his arms. I know he was trying a different rescue strategy. But all I cared was that I had given up. He hadn’t.

I was trying to draw faith from his optimism. In all the haze the pain in the chest kept magnifying. My mind refused to function at a normal pace. I couldn’t comprehend anything. I knew then that the blood had thickened and was not reaching either my heart or my brain. I also somehow, just knew, that if I pulled through the night and saw the light of the day, I would have a second chance.

I took eternity in pulling out the sorbitrate from my pockets and popping them under my tongue. I knew it would be a couple of minutes till the sorbitrate would help.

In those couple of minutes I was transported to the car. Vivek was talking to me and I so wanted to make sense of what he was saying. But I could not. And I really wished he would stop talking because I hated not understanding him.

A calm sense of darkness swept over me and like I knew I would, I slipped out of consciousness….


She woke me up with a whisper. A gentle chilling whisper that felt colder than the night itself. And the worst bit was that I had been unknowingly anticipating it since evening.
She said, “Vivek. I can’t breathe, and I am panicking.”

She is the strongest woman I have known, and I hate her for just one thing. She is the type who hides her pain. She has seen the extremes where even the most tenacious of will powers break down, and she has come back from it alive and kicking in every sense. Whenever in pain, she manages to throw the same smile at you that she otherwise would have smiled had she not been in pain.
And when such a woman breaks down to say words like, “I am panicking!” and “I don’t want to die!” something is really wrong!
I was scared and the sheer loneliness of Sarchu came back to haunt me in a different light now. No people, no help.
I told her to relax. I told her that she’ll be fine. I told her that I won’t let anything happen to her. The moment and the words weren’t very clear but I knew I had to do something. I was scared that she just might not be fine. Especially if her blood began to thicken. I don’t know if she heard any of my words but I heard them.
She asked for the time. It was hardly 10.30pm. Almost 5 to 6 hours to dawn. I knew she would feel better if more of the night had passed. I told her its 12.00am.
I wanted her to breathe and I knew it won’t help. She had to be taken to a lower altitude as soon as possible. She needed oxygen.
After she vomited for the second time, I pulled myself away from her inspite of her clinging on to me and not wanting me to leave her side. I knew she was the last person I should be listening to at this point of time. I tucked her in and stepped out of the tent without my jacket. The chill that hit me then, still runs down my spine when I think of that moment. I slowly began to move the luggage into the car. There was no energy in the air and none what so ever in the body. I couldn’t move fast. I dragged my way to and from the tent and slowly emptied the tent into the car. It was 11.30 by now. The driver was confident of driving back on these dangerous paths at this hour. I put her in the backseat of the car and we started one of the longest road journeys of my life.
On the way back from Sarchu, one needs to climb the Barlacha height before beginning to loose any altitude. I knew that the first 45 minutes of the journey would only make it worse for her. I wasn’t sure if she could hear me but just in case she did, I wanted her to feel positive. Although we were climbing, I told her that we are actually loosing altitude, and that there is more oxygen in the air now. I told her that the time was 1.30 while it wasn’t even 12. I just wanted her to be strong. I didn’t want her to give up. I didn’t want her to loose, right in front of my eyes.

And then I sensed her falling asleep. It was too deep a slumber. I feared that she was loosing consciousness. I didn’t have the heart to wake her, but I so badly wanted her to move. I wanted her to give me a sign that I was not going to loose her. Not this way ever. I could do nothing but wait. Minute by minute. Meter by meter. Loosing altitude and inching closer to not sure what, I felt lonely.
The 3 and a half hours before we touched Keylong were painful. The moment we hit population I started looking for a hospital. Just then I heard another whisper. A feeble but warm and magical whisper.
“Why are you looking for a hospital?”
“Ya rright!” I smiled.
I saw her breathe and I was glad. She was feeling better. Some rest would be enough for her to get back to normal. And some rest was indispensable for my sorry arse, stuck in the same position on the back seat of the car for three and a half hours!

By morning, she was out of danger. Mornings, as always, are beautiful!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Having slept through a beautiful night in a beautiful Manali cottage, 3.30am wasn’t exactly the right time to begin the next day. So I snoozed around while she was getting ready. (It’s a different feeling altogether when you know that your bags are going to be packed and you’ll be all ready to leave right when you wake up ;) ). 4.30 am it was as we began the exciting journey towards and into the mountains above Manali (2,050m approx).They say Rohtang pass (3,980m approx) is quite high. And usually altitude sickness begins to hit. But we were crooning our way through the clouds, the hills, the curves on the roads and the mini-waterfalls on each curve. We stopped for breakfast at what was the last dhaba for the rest of the journey. After this point, you get maggi!The first glitch in the journey was an overloaded truck (loaded to 17 tonnes while the maximum limit on these roads is 9 tonnes only), unable to pull itself out of a muddy track. Groaning in agony with whatever meager available horsepower, it only managed to generate sympathy rather than gain height. A few adept hands saw to it that the path was finally cleared and we meandered ahead.

After crossing the Rohtang pass and coming down to Keylong (3,349m approx), we started climbing the heights towards Barlacha (4,892m approx). This part of the journey is lonelier, and in a way lovelier. A few moments of peace amidst the gigantic overbearing mountains makes one comfortable in a strange way. Higher you go towards Barlacha, lesser is the vegetation. All you see is dead barren rocks, rising to monstrous heights, indifferent to being called mountains. Indifferent to curious eyes and indifferent to the noisy river gushing its way down, they stand there with only one purpose, putting one in awe of them. We came across a couple of peaceful lakes as well in the smaller more gentle corners of the mountains.

First signs of lack of oxygen began to show at Barlacha. It’s a feeling quite comparable to being high on wine, if only one could ignore the breathlessness. You move slow, you talk slow, and you don’t realize it until you try to move and try to talk. We crossed Barlacha and inched towards Sarchu (4,253m approx) which seemed to be getting more comfortable as we lost a little altitude.

The feeling of being disconnected from the world seeps in right when you cross the last cell phone tower around Keylong. When you race against time to make frantic calls and send hectic messages so that they reach before you cross the last known cellular footprint, you know that you are moving away from something and towards a beautiful nothing.

By the time you are at Sarchu, the beautiful nothings have taken real shape. There isn’t even much vegetation, let alone the absence of shops, people, or cell phone networks. There are camps at Sarchu, with 8-10 tents each, which are managed by a few brave locals during summers. Apart from this, there is an army base camp nearby, which provides medical support and a weekly telephone service.

It was almost 3 to 4 pm when we reached Sarchu and we had warm Maggie for dinner. The low on oxygen air and low air pressure had begun to take effect. The chill factor was manageable unless the wind hit you directly. Life wasn’t really difficult, but it was slow. In words, movements and thoughts.

While we lay inside the tent, saved from direct winds, the loneliness of the place magnified by the warmth of having your loved one in your arms, gave a surreal meaning to the word beauty.

It felt nice and it felt complete.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Even the smallest of steps can be a major beginning which leads to big plans. Like embarking on one of the most exciting journeys through the mountainous terrains of the Himalayas. As the car droned along the precarious curves of the steep mountains, life and togetherness were redefined for us. Through the highs and lows of the snow-clad peaks, through the wandering thirst of meandering streams, in the invisible embrace of the drifting clouds, we came alive.

Leela Huts, Manali

We had decided to take a break in Manali, en route to the foreplanned trip to Leh (which I must add here, didn’t quite happen), so that we could acclimatize ourselves to the mountain air. Before I go any further, a little bit about me. I am a stickler for plans. I would not venture on a trip without my bookings in place. So as was bound to happen I forced vivek into checking out this beautiful place (ok admittedly a place which looked beautiful online) called Leela Huts. All keen to set going on this trip he promptly called the owner, a certain Mrs. Thakur (who he claims has a male-child like voice) and booked us in.
With great apprehension we headed towards Leela Huts in a rumbling auto-rickshaw. What if it was just online pfaff and what we really got was a rundown cottage? Wisely, neither of us mentioned a word about it, till we actually reached Leela Huts.
Boy! Were we bowled over or bowled over! For beginners Mr. Thakur didn’t turn out to be quite as old as I thought he would be!!

That apart, Leela Huts is a cozy dwelling of a couple of cottages far removed from the buzzing world. It is ensconced and preserved in natural beauty and right from the minute one steps on the cobblestones leading to the cottage, you are enraptured by its almost magical existence.

I had insisted on booking the cottage with the fireplace for us and lo behold we stepped into perfection. The cottage given to us at Leela Huts was straight out of a dream. The living room boasted of a majestic fireplace, which made us long for the cold evening, just so that we could enjoy its warm glory. The cottage had its own kitchen equipped with utensils et al (I did not explore further as I had no intentions of cooking whatsoever) and led to two absolutely comfortable rooms.

The cottage was surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers. It felt like we had stepped right into some fairy tale. There I was this princess in the land of perfection, spending time with the prince of my dreams. Adding their touch to my perfect paradise were wisps of clouds which sprinkled happiness as the winds urged them into a different direction.

As the twittering birds were silenced with the onset of a beautiful evening, the two of us decided to pamper our romantic souls with the perfect walk.

And a perfect walk it was! Hand-in-hand with vivek (who looked like the complete brit gentleman, with a big black umbrella folded into a walking stick) along a bridge over gushing waters, I couldn’t have asked for more.

The walk wasn’t as aimless as I make it sound. We were walking with a purpose. The purpose of this walk was to satiate our alchoholic appetites by picking up some wine. As every wine lover would know, wine is not wine, till it is elegantly sipped out of elegant flutes. Now Leela Huts might have it all, but it did not have elegant wine flutes!

So after picking up a bottle of wine, we set out in the middle of the night, in the dead markets of the mountain, to find wine glasses! Of course, we didn’t find any! What we did find instead were oriental egg holders, which could be used as wine glasses. What can I say? When the call is for desperate measures, we so heed them!!

We returned back to the cottage to a roaring fire burning in the fireplace. It was a moment out of my mills and boon pages. I was cuddled with the love of my life, sipping one of the best wines, in front of a fireplace… all I could think of was “If this is a dream, I wish I never wake up!