The Khajuraho temples do not contain sexual or erotic art inside the temple or near the deities; however, some external carvings bear erotic art. Also, some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. There are many interpretations of the erotic carvings. They portray that, for seeing the deity, one must leave his or her sexual desires outside the temple. They also show that divinity, such as the deities of the temples, is pure like the atman, which is not affected by sexual desires and other characteristics of the physical body. It has been suggested that these suggest tantric sexual practices. Meanwhile, the external curvature and carvings of the temples depict humans, human bodies, and the changes that occur in human bodies, as well as facts of life. Some 10% of the carvings contain sexual themes; those reportedly do not show deities, they show sexual activities between people. The rest depict the everyday life of the common Indian of the time when the carvings were made, and of various activities of other beings. For example, those depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians, potters, farmers, and other folks. Those mundane scenes are all at some distance from the temple deities. A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities. (source: Wikipedia. Most photos by D and that’s not me.)
You have to be a local or an expert haggler to survive in Varanasi. If not, a rickshaw-wallah will sell you right there, on the street as you stand, to another rickshaw-wallah! Almost all tourists have to go through sometime torturous and unending offers of all kinds from touts, wannabe guides and rickshaw/autowallahs. Those offers include shaking hands with them, to let them massage you right on the busy ghats, to tip them for nothing significant and to go with them around the city. The moment they realize you are not from the city, they are after you.
Unlike other Indian cities, Varanasi offers amazing excitements and challenges to tourists. First visit: 24 December 2004. Second visit: 6 January 2010
My visit to Varanasi five years ago was first in many aspects. That was my first India trip, my first visit to any city outside Nepal. That was my first encounter with the Indian crowd, the intense and chaotic city life that can’t be seen in Nepal. Most of the things appeared to be larger and louder. The river Ganges seemed to be slightly bigger than the Indian Ocean of my imagination. I hadn’t seen the sea. Continue reading
This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post
By Dinesh Wagle
The moment of shock came soon after I was awakened. At the time of leaving Kanya Kumari, the southern tip of India where land ends and water begins, on a cloudy day last week, the train was virtually empty as it originated from there. So my travel mates and I thought the whole thing belonged to us. We started wandering around, one compartment after another, looking for the best seat available. The man who issued the ticket at the Kanyakumari counter had told us that we could seat ourselves anywhere in the Sleeper Class as we had unnumbered seats reserved for us.
After three hours of journey (six more to go) and eating biryani in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, I climbed up to the upper berth to be awakened midway. The travel ticket inspector (popularly called TT) was checking the tickets and we realized that we were not in the ‘right’ seat. Other passengers had by then come to claim their reserved seats. One of my travel mates was already trapped between the passengers who were claiming the seat with valid tickets.
We quickly moved away only to be told by the TT that we could go and take any seats in compartment numbers 10, 11 or 12. There, we were like new refugees with no seat to sit, not even a proper place to stand. Finally we managed to jump up to three upper berths of a compartment. Phew!
Indian trains are a diverse society on the move that speaks several languages that are not understood by all people traveling in the same compartment of a train which might appear as a crawling, huge reptile if seen from a hot air balloon. This society eats food that is vastly different from that available in one station to the next. On my first journey on the Indian railways last October that lasted for three straight days and two nights I found myself interpreting on the third day to an Indian yatri what the railway staff, another Indian, was saying. The Tamil passenger who spoke his mother tongue Tamil and English but didn’t understand Hindi wanted to order some food and the Hindi-speaking Railway attendant from north India didn’t understand English or Tamil. The service of a Nepali came handy and the Tamil heartily thanked me for breaking the language barrier.
Writers had aptly described, I felt after traveling on Indian trains, Indian Railways as the lifeline of India that is like a traveling theater festival that stages contrasting dramas every hour or so with even more and diverse characters who have their own unique story to tell via their different body languages and other forms of communication. A friend of mine from Jharkhand didn’t believe me when I recently told her that there are no trains in Nepal (apart from a relic that runs between Janakpur-Jayanagar (India)) covering only a few kilometers on the Nepali side. She replied: “I can’t imagine a life without trains. How do you live without them yar?”
Unlike America or Europe, India will cease to exist if its railway system that carries a sea of humanity everyday becomes dysfunctional. My feeling is that effectively disrupting and completely damaging the Indian railway network will have the same impact that the fall of a nuclear bomb in Delhi or Madras might create.
I experienced a “wow” moment last week when I entered a crowded general compartment of a train that was going to Madhurai, Tamilnadu via Alleppey, Kerala. That 11-hour journey turned out to be partly adventurous, partly torturous. The train arrived on time in Alleppey, famous for backwater boating, but with all general dibbas filled to their capacity and far beyond. It was impossible to board the train from the last compartment (general dibbas are either at the front or the rear end of the train and one need not reserve a seat to travel in those). Then we ran towards the front one. We reached the door only to see a massive crowd inside. It was a do or die situation because missing the train meant you would be stranded for the whole night there. I jumped over a man’s leg and forced myself inside like a hammer. It worked. I paved a small but crucial way for my travel mates. Once inside the dibba, the struggle to find place for our legs began.
There were all sorts of people. A couple with their infant child quietly sleeping in the seat. Migrant workers heading to Trivandrum. Families getting back home apparently after not getting a sleeper class ticket. It was a collage of people of many colors, backgrounds, purposes and destinations. Most of them got off at Trivandrum from where we got seats to sit. It was indeed a huge relief to our knees as we were badly feeling them.
Even though I lived so near to India and grew up hearing so many things about its cultural, social and political aspects, it was a kind of shock to me when I saw an Indian railway platform last October in Gorakhpur. Thousands of people were simply lying down, just like that, on the concrete floor inside the platform and outside, below the open sky. I had never seen such a scene before. They were waiting for the next train to come. Apart from the sea the only thing I missed about India after returning to Nepal were the trains. Railways are, I feel, the best thing to have happened to India under the British raj. From the toy train of Darjeeling to the faster one like Rajdhani Express, the trains awed me.
The way people travel in them, the chaotic, pathetic, and at the same time entertaining and lively atmosphere inside a general dibba, the manner in which the passengers eat food inside, fill in their bottles from drinking water from public taps at the platforms so hurriedly fearing that the train might leave them behind, the way they talk with each other and with fellow (and strangers) passengers, behave, even sleep and freshen themselves, and the way sellers literally somersault to penetrate the crowd inside the dibba to sell eatables to the passengers. It’s all amazing! A real cultural shock that is not comparable even to the one that I got in a Washington DC strip bar a few years ago.
Then there is Delhi Metro, another form of rail transportation in the city of Delhi, the multi-billion dollar project that is still in the making which is arguably better than what they have in DC and New York. Traveling in the Metro makes me believe, even though the Delhi metro is not a piece of Indian innovation, what Thomas Friedman argues in his book The World Is Flat in the context of competitive advantage that India has in engineering and technical education thanks to the famed IITs: that the days of America in terms of innovation are going to be over soon. Of course, it will be a long time before we see that happen in real life.
This article first appeared on Saturday’s (11 July 2009) Kathmandu Post
The lead: There are peculiar challenges of iPoding in Kathmandu and there is also a grim irony in owning an iPod in Nepali society.
With jeans tugged into their socks and eyes as red as ripe tomatoes, the boys were Jug Bahadur Bhandari, 15 (left), and Prakash Bhandari, 13. (from From Wagle’s Rara travelogue: Up to Rara Lake with Dohori Dhun All the Way
What do you do when you are eagerly waiting for something and you know it will take some time for the thing to arrive to you? Well, you eagerly wait. You prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for THE thing. And if THE thing is an iPod, you might do some research about the tiny and beautiful piece of music playing device. You might want to learn how to transfer songs from your computer, learn more about the machine itself: from ways to save battery to organizing songs in iTunes. I did all that on the first week of April (and continued doing so until I got hold of a video iPod at the end of the month). I used to give about three hours of my internet time just to do research on iPod and the iPod universe.
Not many people use iPod in Kathmandu and there was only one iPoder in our office: with a Nano. So my 80 GB video iPod instantly became the object of envy and desire and wow among my colleagues and other friends. Can I just touch it? Can I see how the songs sound like? “Well, Rs. two for touching,” I would joke. It took me no time to realize that I must cover the iPod with some cover if I want to save it from being scratched or loose some friends for not giving them to touch the thing. I opted for the first option.
As soon as I get hold of the iPod, I intensified my search for multi-gigabytes of songs. One song or hundreds, I don’t care, I would say, just give me because I have to fill this monster. So far, after using the machine for months, I have only managed to fill 30 gigs of songs. (Another 30 gigs is filled by files from my laptop.)
In the meantime, I also write an op-ed piece in Kantipur about iPod that received a lot of comments and appreciation from many young readers of the newspaper. I basically gave introduction of iPod to readers along with some information on iPod culture worldwide and shared my experience of iPoding in Kathmandu. If you think you will be able to enjoy the music of your iPod in a public vehicle in Kathmandu, think again. The gurujis (drivers) of public bus/autorickshaws have their own music system which includes blaring up folk tunes so loud that if you happen to be sitting near the speaker, you will probably be deafened. There is no way you can play your iPod with the buses’ music system on. Otherwise it will be an ideal device to keep the chattering of fellow travelers at bay.
iPod article I wrote in Kantipur:
गोजीभरि गीत : आइपोड लहर
त्यो जादूमयी ‘क्लिक ह्विल’ चलाउन अल्छी लागेपछि मैले ‘सफ्फल’ मोडलाई सक्रिय पारेर आइपोडलाई डीजे बनाइदिएको थिएँ । त्यसयता उसले त्यहाँका अनेकौं भाषा र विधाका गीत सुनाइरहेको छ । सुरुमै ‘आइएम गोइङ टु टेल अ सेक्रेट’ भन्दै, उनको भलो होस्, म्याडोना आएकी थिइन् र अघिसम्म मेट्रोको ‘करले तु भी मोहब्बत’ बजेको थियो । भर्खरै ‘गार्लिक मस्टार्ड पिकर्स’को इट्रुमेन्टल ‘इफ इभर यु वेर माइन’ सुरु भयो । यसपछि के बज्ला मलाई नसोध्नुस् । नारायणगोपालले ‘मलाई नसोध’ भन्ने हुन् या नेल्ली फुर्टाडोले ‘से इट राइट’ चिच्याउने हुन् या नोरा जोन्सको सुरिलो भाका आउने हो या राजा हिन्दुस्तानीको ‘परदेशी’, केही थाहा छैन । या जिमी हेन्डि्रक्स ? गेरी मुर ? मोहम्मद रफी या चियाबारीमा रिमिक्स । ८० जीवीको यो सेतो, अति सुन्दर र निकै मायालु भाँडोमा मुस्किलले ३० जीवी ठाउँ तीन हजारजति गीतले ओगटेका छन् । ती सबै गीत सुन्न मलाई लगातार ७० दिन लाग्नेछ, तर आइपोड भर्ने अभियान जारी छ । (continuing reading it here)
My iPod has gone through wide array of usage in various places that, I think, American (or any other for that matter) iPods rarely go through. My iPod has done white water rafting, almost did bungee jumping, has reached to some of the remotest corners of Nepal walking for as many as 10 hours a day. It has boated over the biggest and second deepest lake in Nepal. And many people- from journalists of downtown Kathmandu to shepherds in remotest corner of one of the most remote districts in Nepal- have enjoyed the music in it with equal enthusiasm. I was enthralled when two boys of Jumla, a remote district, were humming songs that they were listening to the iPod: latest Nepali folk remix that they were listening for the first time in their life though they were very good at singing local folk tunes of the region. A shepherd near Rara Lake was fascinated when he heard a song about ‘wool and sheep’ in the iPod. He was surrounded by his sheep as he was listening to the song.
To own a machine like iPod for a person like me is to fulfill an expensive hoby for sure. It cost me more than the combined figure of my two months salary and prompted my Canadian friend who brought it for me to write this line: “I though you were supposed to buy land with that much money [almost US $ 350= Rs. 24000].” When you really want something, you really don’t care about other things and don’t care about how much you are spending. To own an iPod had become a long time dream for me and I am so happy that I finally bought one.
I was embarrassed to tell the price of iPod when an enthusiast Jumlee boy, who hosted me an evening in his house turned Dhamaka Hotel for the night, asked. He had guessed that he could get the machine in the market for about Rs. 1500. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to tell him the real price and he stared at me (and then the iPod) for about 2 minutes in disbelief. Of course no one a village like that one in Jumla believes that a small machine can fetch up to 24 thousand because iPod are the machines of a different world. After that evening, I told many that I bought the machine for about Rs. 2000 in Kathmandu. The irony is you can get pirated iPod in the marked for as little as Rs. 1200. Even some colleagues in my newspaper bought some from China for the same amount. There are plenty of iPod look-alikes in the market but they can be distinctly identified: just by asking one simple question- does this need iTunes? And the answer is certainly a big NO.
Thanks to the spreading use of Internet and expanding penetration of satellite channels in the households, Nepali society has been exposed to the world like never before. As Thomas L. Friedman likes to say, the world has become flat and we in Nepal are also experiencing some aspects of the flattening process. At the same time, there is this stark reality that many people in Nepal are living under poverty and in miserable life. Millions of them don’t have access to electricity and telephone, let alone computer and Internet- two essential things to have an iPod. That’s the biggest irony.