(Pictures at https://picasaweb.google.com/109837841352688899289)
I had been awake for most of the night before I had got a lot of work done but also drank a lot of coffee so when it was time to bed down, my body was having non of it. The last time I looked at the clock it had gone 4am.
The next thing there was knocking on the door I heard Andreas voice
“Mick, are you ready?”
How is it that I am able to do that? Stay awake all night, be woken by the slightest sound then sleep through the alarm in the morning. I was up and out in 5 minutes. It turned out that Andrea and I were going to Khajuraho on the same day and thank goodness or I would have definitely missed the train. It was still dusk when we left the still streets deserted except for a few early cows and dogs, the Rickshaw had been booked and we shared the fare.
We had Chai at the station which still feels like all the sugar in there strips the enamel of my teeth but it was warm and did the trick and perhaps added to my slightly left of centre mood due to lack of sleep, I had my jesters hat firmly on and everything was funny. In fact we seemed to cheer everybody we came across that morning, the chai seller, the rickshaw driver, people around the stall and people gathered around little fires on the platform, nobody was spared not that they understood a word I was saying but it was all in the legs and in my eyes.
The train was on time and pulled into the station in a great cloud of black smoke, everybody ran for the nearest door of course and so we were sort of shunted along to the back of the train. My brother works on the railways in UK and has always told me the quietest carriages are at the front or back, so I’m in the know right and it’s kind of where I was kind of heading gently nudging Andrea along and soon we were in the last carriage and there was nowhere else to go. We got on and humped our rucksacks onto the racks above the heads above a group of open mouthed people sat there and guess what, there were spare seats, Hurrah!!
I’m not sure really sure how it all started, but within minutes we were having a real laugh with the people in there. I think one of the guys there had offered me some tobacco and I was hamming it up spitting out the window much too their merriment. Then they offered us some sugar fiber to chew on, which dissolved in your mouth. As I say I was in a really cheeky mood and had been winding a few of them up. It is wonderful how much you can communicate with your eyes and a cheeky grin. I was also delighting in the gentle touches, the nudges and subtle manners that go on between people when they are happy amongst one another. I remember thinking
“I am wide open here at this moment,” and so were they.
It turned out they were a group of farmers on the way back from Aurangabad where they had been to sell their produce. Andrea of course got her carrots out
“Gajaro’s” she’d said. It was very funny the look on their faces when she got her little plastic bag out. One or two had one and signaled to me that it would make me strong down below where it mattered so of course I had a couple more and made a big deal of it and never refused a carrot from Andrea again. Well that set the scene for the next 5 hours. Every time somebody came along with Chai either they would buy us drinks or we would buy them drinks and have a toast.
“Cheers” I’d say
“Cheer” they’d say
They introduced me to a ground fruit called ‘Singula’s” which have a tough black shell and looked to me at first glance like little rolled up dried bats, but were really tasty rather like a cross between a potato and a nut, we had coconuts, monkey nuts and namkins which are fried flower biscuits things, I chewed the pan leaves without the tobacco and of course we had more Chai. They’d also seen my guitar and so Andrea asked me to play. It was great, I played for quite a while that day and everybody joined in howling on things they though they recognized as a chorus and it was erm, interesting but very funny so I just played on as people milled and stumbled about the carriage. I am happy now that I brought the guitar it has certainly opened up otherwise closed territories. Later on they sang folk songs for us and I sang Accapello for them.
There was a school teacher from the village with them and so we both got a first hand lesson in Hindi, they wrote out the alphabet for each of us the whole lot of us leaning over the paper going all the way through 2 or 3 times the sounds their alphabet in chorus, Everybody
“Aah, Aah, Aah …ok now ooo, ooo, ooo” and so on
It was a joyful and hilarious journey. I noticed that Andrea had been able to relax too.
They all asked if we were married of course so I told them that we were brother and sister. But when they found out that I was from England and she the Czech Republic they asked how that could be? I held back on a great story for them about how our family had been split during ‘the Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia back in the 90’s and that this was a journey to get to know one another again after 20 years apart, I just didn’t have the Charade hand movements for ‘Velvet’ you see. I just told them we were spiritual brother and sister instead. Which seemed to go down well and in fact that is really how I had come to feel about our meeting.
The thing was that it again opened the door for some of the Younger guys who had come to join us to approach her again. But with us established now as friends and comfortable that we were comrades, she was able to relax and was noticeably more confident with them. They were charming of course but they were always leading up to professing undying love, how beautiful she was, come and visit the village will you marry me, I could see it and hear it when they would ask me questions when she was having a cigarette in the open carriage door way, later she told me that when they had a chance that is exactly what had happened, it was relatively harmless this time and I don’t want to add any negativity to the picture as it was a wonderful journey but it is always there I suspect with European women and Indian men, married or single. The people we had been with got off at various villages along the way to much waving and hugging and smiles and we arrived at Khajuraho in great spirits.
We somehow got a rickshaw for 20r who persuaded Andrea to book into a place called the Marble Palace, which was very nice and we arranged to meet later when we’d fed and showered. I had booked my hotel the day before at Orchha and it turned out to be a good move. Called the Surya Hotel, it is probably the best place I have stayed at yet in India. Reasonably priced I got it for 450r. I had a great little room that stepped right out into a garden which was planted with beautiful red flowers and little green hedges. It had a decent restaurant set around a pool with little fish that one of the staff fed joyfully fed each morning whilst I had breakfast. The rail ticket they had booked for Amritsar was there waiting in my email account and the staff were remarkably professional and did all they could to help me out with various things over the few days I was there and going on all the other laid back looking Europeans there, it was obviously the same for them too. Check it out if you ever go. Excellent place, clean rooms and hot water too.
Now, all this tosh about the Khajuraho temples and carvings is just such a lot of rubbish. I was expecting some sort of pornographic place where people once they had seen the images wouldn’t be able to control themselves, this is from the Indians by the way, but also legend back in England, you know, ‘the Karma sutra temple’ I had been told that western woman were particularly prone to lust and desire from Indian boys once they had seen the place. Also things like certain temples you shouldn’t go in with somebody elses wife, or men with their daughters or mothers with sons and all sorts of superstitious mumbo jumbo. A guy the night before at the hotel in Orchha had gone to great length to tell me about ‘his experience’ with the western women after they had seen Khajuraho, he was an irritating prat who in retrospect lived in his own fantasy world of lustful exotic pale skinned women and for the record he had bad breath too. Let me tell you it is such a load of rubbish.
The temples are in fact very beautiful and no doubt the carvings are blatantly sexual, but they are sensual and a joy to look upon rather than excitable and crass. There are one or two sexual positions or maybe more (if you search them out) portrayed in the thousands of images, but what is more remarkable is delicate intricacy that the people who carved them and built the temples achieved, the joy portrayed in the faces, the postures, the musical instruments, the pageants and parades and the beauty with which they portrayed themselves, you can see was really a labour of love. There are the military conquests of course but it seems they are a side line to the joy and happiness portrayed in tier after tier after tier of lithe dancing figures that reach up to the skies and the stars like strange and exaggerated birthday cakes of soft yellow and at times pink sandstone.
We’d gone in together but had gone off to do our own thing and be with our own thoughts. We’d made our own way back then later on Andrea had shown up at the Surya whilst I was having dinner frazzled and upset. She’d left the temple grounds and been walking back to her hotel when she had been swamped with men from the shops who wouldn’t back off. We had been told various stories of the “Monkey’s with out tails” who live there. We’d been told stories about the temples influence etc. but I thought it was simply that a little illiterate village that had been catapulted onto the international scene and as usually happens in tourist towns the people get a little disrespectful towards visitors for what ever reason, add to that all we have been talking about with regard to the sexuality, I thought the men there had become more interested in baiting tourists than actually selling to them, they were mostly annoying and didn’t persuade me nor I doubt anybody else to buy a thing. Andrea was getting a crash course in standing up for herself, in fact we both were.
The next day we had decided to rent a motorbike and share the cost which we haggled down to 350r. The guy showed me how to kick start it and let me tell you Kick starting a bike with a group of between 5 to 10 people staring at you at any one time is slightly unnerving because if you don’t get it first or second time your standing as a strong virile guy able to produce children from women simply by looking at them is severely diminished. It had been a long time since I’d kick started a bike and at first I have to admit that I didn’t give a great impression of English virility, but as the day went on English Manhood was unmistakably re-established let me tell you. I was good, Steve McQueen good.
The hilarious thing was that later whilst we’d stopped for food in town a guy had told Andrea that the bike we were ridding was actually his. The guy we had rented from we noticed had gone off to get it whilst we waited for 15 minutes, turns out he gone around to his mates house borrowed his motorbike and rented it out whilst he was out. I thought it was hilarious and the guy didn’t seem to mind, he’d just asked her how much we’d rented it for.
We had a great day out in the temples away from town wandered through the actual village and the fields away from town, which were peaceful and picturesque, we made some friends who just wanted to walk with us around the place and chat. They told us that Ganesh & Kathki (I think that is how it’s spelt) were the sons of Shiva and Parvati. Apparently Shiva decapitated his son Ganesh who was guarding his mothers honor whilst he had been away for a number of years. It seems that on his unannounced return they hadn’t recognized one another, Ganesh had tried to stop the stranger from entering the family house and Shiva had drawn his sword and chopped of his head, which is, come on, a little over the top in my book. Shiva had then realized his mistake because Parvati was mightily upset and had said I will replace my sons head (It’s along these lines) with the likeness of the fist living thing I see, which turned out to be an elephant, thank goodness it wasn’t an ant eh, that wouldn’t have been half as cuddly.
They lads never asked us for anything, which is more than can be said about the Brahmins we came across at the various temples that day, mind you I don’t blame them in retrospect, everybody has to eat pay the rent and get by I suppose, it was just getting hit for cash every time you looked at something that got a little wearing. I made a friend of a little kid who called himself ‘Kali’ he’d said
“Kali My favorite” meaning the God
I’d said “Why Kali”
“Dangerous” he’d said. So from then on we pulled superman poses and flexed our muscles together and called each other Kali. I left him something, he never asked and it felt good.
From there we had some Upma and coffee back in town and then off to the Jain temples at the far end of town. Which were slightly different with beautiful white marble statues of their saints or gurus. The Jain temples were still used and had a calm peacefulness about them we both noticed and had just wanted to sit, I think by then Andrea had got used to me sticking my nose into ever nook and crevice, so she sat peacefully in her own thoughts whist I pottered about.
It was a place where you could spend the whole day, it had a dreamy undisturbed air but a living breathing temple, but we’d decided we wanted to go and see a waterfall Andrea had heard about so we decided it was getting late and had better make tracks. I’d gone to the loo and she out to wait at the bike. When I got out there literally 5 minutes later, there were 3 guys around her standing way too close. I’d gone to the bike and started her up, one of them had asked the usual, were are you going, we’d told them the falls, they had pointed us to a better one which turned out to be on the map I had but not seen. I’d said thanks. Then he’d got on the bike and said
“I come with you, the 3 of us we go” it was an order and I sure didn’t like it.
To cut a long story short, I’d asked him politely to get off, he wouldn’t so I squared up to him and told him to
“Get of the f ing bike, now!” Which he reluctantly did, it was really irritating and typical. I called Andrea over she got on and we rode off.
Andrea and I had bonded and become friends, it felt nice to have some company for a while, we had a laugh, and she it seemed as the time unfolded was struggling with demons from home, abusive boyfriend, borderline bulimia. We of course talked a great deal, me mainly about philosophy, coincidence and the meaning in the things and people we come across on our journey not just through India but through life. She was a lovely girl, kind and gentle, I was happy to be an uncomplicated safe harbor for her. I allowed her to come out of her shell though it was only in the last hours before we went out separate ways that she let her demons out.
Healings are done in all sorts of ways it seems, some are obvious hands on channeling and others are more subtle, the simply listening and allowing a person to hear themselves, perhaps planting seeds of hope, maybe a story or a metaphor. You cannot force anybody to do or believe anything nor should you. Everybody has their own individual angle, a personal view from their own road, it is simply allowing a person to feel safe, to be company and to be a witness for them and when and if they are ready they will make their own decision and paint their own picture with a newly or rediscovered paint box. We have all needed to feel protected at some point in our lives I’m sure, but it cannot be for our whole life and sooner or later we will have to step back into the fray. But when we are allowed the space to rest and to come to our own conclusions and so make the decisions we need to make, it is ultimately more profound when a persons self respect returns to them through their own striving. We came here to struggle and perhaps suffer, the journey is a long one, we will fall, there will be help along the way and we will become stronger because of it and ultimately when we make it back, when we get it from our own endeavors, I think that is where the treasure is.
I picked up speed as we headed out of Khajuraho, we both agreed it was so good to get away from the Monkeys, get out into the countryside and the glorious sunshine. We shot along the pot holed road through clogged and dusty towns, full of strange exotic dust covered people and creatures, past roaring fires and clouds of smoke along the road side and the oily exhausts from the huge crunching goods carriers, racing other motorbikes along the painted avenues of ancient trees, lush green farm land
It was 35klm there I’m not sure how long it took, we had a uniformed welcoming committee of an older guy with a bit of a belly and 3 other younger guys who barked orders at us in that peculiar Indian way. I think the were just excited that somebody had shown up. After filling out forms again in triplicate and then insisting that we didn’t want a guide we were allowed in for 200r, each. Oh and one last thing
I couldn’t help it as technically they hadn’t said who’s name so I said
“Who’s name, His? I went around them all “His or his, no? Oh his then? No? Who’s name? Oh hers then?” it certainly stirred them up and after a few moments confusion they made it clear
“No no, your name sir, your name, sign your name.”
“Oh, well why didn’t you say so.” It was great fun.
If you’ve ever ridden a long way on a bike you’ll know that when you arrive you are sort of revved up because you have been sitting right on top of an engine and it took a little while for us both to calm down and realize where we were. The water fall was actually little more than a stream due to it being the dry season. But it turned out that this was the very place that the Pandav King and his court from the Bhagva Ghita had come into exile for 13 years due to him loosing a bet with his tricky and sneaky step brother. It is the actual place that they returned from out of the ‘wilderness’ to reclaim the kingdom that was owed to them but refused them and ultimately led to the great battle where ‘Ajuna the archer had his doubts and Lord Krishna spoke to him on the eve about death and birth and reassures him of the ‘fact’ of reincarnation death and rebirth. It is an extra special place and was a real surprise to us both. I’d arrived there in a mischievous mood and just about dived into the pool for a swim but was stopped by a sweet natured guard. It wasn’t until we’d been there a while that both of us realized something had changed in us since we arrived. I hadn’t known the Pandav falls was the place or maybe I would have approached it with a little more reverence, but then again we wouldn’t have noticed so acutely, the shrines, the heart shaped pool, the atmosphere and its deeply calming effect upon us.
We had timed it just right and set off back as the sun was about an hour before it fell into the underworld, but not before signing out though. It was a mellow ride back as we knew the distance and didn’t have to rush so we decided to stop for Chai. Then just as we were leaving the guy who had made the Chai, as everyone had gathered to see me kick start the bike, pointed out that we had a flat tire. I was amazed. We’d pulled up right in front of a garage that happened to have a spare tyre, which cost 300r we had obviously just hit a pot hole that had ruptured the inner tube where the air valve was. I hadn’t noticed and had we gone on much further along the dirt and gravel road, past all those goods carriers in the pitch dark, I honestly believe we would have both been hurt. Gravel, flat tires, dark unlit roads and motor bikes are an accident waiting to happen. The coincidence of where we were parked, how it had been spotted and how quickly it was sorted wasn’t lost on me or Andrea. I gave the young guy the price of the inner tube and 100r for the job which he was reluctant to take it, but it wasn’t just for him, I was just saying thanks to the unseen he and his family would eat well that night, so we were all thankful.
It was dark when we left there, I had to focus and stay calm as the road was black except for the oasis of lights of the villages we passed through now and again, shapes appeared out of the darkness, all over the road, oxen, goats, people walking or pushing carts, other vehicles with no lights going both ways, little camp fires now and again with shapes and the smell smoke from them, on coming goods carriers with full beams on blinding me over and over again. I had to keep my nerve and drive of the road a few times risking the gravel and ditches which I couldn’t see but knew were only inches away. At times too it like driving through a blanket of flies and mosquitoes and by the time we got by the time we got back to Khajuraho we were both exhilarated but really tired.
Later that night we had a nice meal together I squared up with her what I owed as I’d not brought any money with me when we’d set out, I hadn’t expected such a long and eventful day. Thank goodness she had had the sense to bring cash. It was a nice meal, Andrea was partial to Vodka so we had a few drinks and a guy poured us some whiskies just as we were leaving. I walked her back to her hotel and said goodbye, friends comrades, it had been a great time she had things to settle in Orchha and was going back there and I was off to see the golden temple at Amritsar, life out on the road I love it when you get it right, all the gifts people bring and all the space they allow us.
I Walked quietly and a little tipsy back to the Surya Hotel stopping to talk to the stray dogs and cows along the deserted streets, and all the monkeys were in their tree tops. I have always loved these silent times when every body else is fast asleep, they seem like a secret and I can talk openly to the spirits and know that I am accompanied on my road.