A painter once told me that I’m like the Khajuraho, which you see once but which remains with you forever. I thought that was exquisite. ~Vidya Balan
No Time To Center
I planned time for soul reflection in India, the country I consider my second home. I figured a large block of meditative time at Bodh Gaya sitting in the cooling shadow of THE Bodhi Tree deep in the aura of praying Buddhist monks and nuns. But Air India shit on that plan. Varanasi, the holiest city on the holiest river in India, promised to be a place of profound reflection. The city was an onslaught of sensory stimuli from every direction, a whirlpool of insanity in which I barely kept emotionally afloat induced an agitation in my spirit I preferred to ride than to soothe.
The result of not having reflective time, I was riding an emotional bicycle precariously hovering between balance and crashing. In the real world, aka home, I write at least 1/2 an hour every weekday to maintain cognitive equilibrium. Since our visit to the Golden Temple, where I was able to sit for a spell and experience Sikh spiritual energy, I found myself unable to float in the river of universal consciousness flowing through India, my second home, let alone find a tranquil oasis to refresh my soul.
When traveling, I like…need…time to slow the hustle and bustle creating space to reflect on the experience, chew the images careening through my head and extract understanding, hopefully, discern their meaning for my life. I want to answer questions; What should I have seen in the faces of the devotees? How will I grow from the experience? Who the hell am I today? Did the clouds swimming across the dolphin sky cast shadows shapes that, when meditated upon, would reveal glimpses into the secrets of the universe?
Were my expectations too high for this trip? Perhaps. But if one does not strive to suck nectar from the breast of life, one will never experience the sweetness gliding over the tongue.
We arrived at the newly built Khajuraho in the late afternoon. It’s a small airport decorated with a human-sized replica carvings from the monuments. A couple of Western men in tour groups on the same flight as ours thought it would be funny to grab the oversized breasts of women in the mural for a picture. The cultural insensitivity was beyond astonishing. It took me some effort to calm myself.
The concrete parking lot harbored three cars, the short trip to our hotel encountered nearly empty roads. This India was as tranquil as Varanasi was chaotic. We found it hard to believe we were still in the same country.
We stayed a Clarks Khajuraho Hotel, like Khajuraho the city, an oasis of calm. The buildings were elongated, two floors in the shape of a crescent moon with the center a vast green area for relaxation and a swimming pool for relief from the heat. The first morning after arrival I carved out significant time from our hectic travel schedule for reflection. I awoke at sunrise and quietly left the room while my wife slept and wrote for a couple of hours. When my wife was sufficiently rested, we took a leisurely breakfast then sat together on a two-person swinging seat and did absolutely nothing. It was marvelous. Close to noon, our ride came and dropped us off at the monument.
The Khajuraho Monument
Khajuraho is a UNESCO world heritage site. Twenty-two temples remain from the original eighty-five all built between 950 and 1050 AD. These temples are considered the high point of Indian, medieval architectural. They are divided into three divisions. We visited the Western Group, the group in the best state of preservation. There are thousands of carvings of Gods and Goddesses with about 10% in erotic poses.
We spent a good 6 hours leisurely wandering the complex making sure to visit every one of the dozen or so, mostly exquisite, temples. There were few people there so we never felt rushed. We were able to examine every temple with an unhurried state approaching tranquility.
The Erotic Carvings
Khajuraho was the last calm in the otherwise turbulent trip. Our flight the next day was delayed six hours, again because the awful pollution in Delhi brought air travel to a near standstill, during which we sat in an airport without a restaurant. Jet Airways customer service was far superior to Air India. They came out from behind their desks to give us updates and, at the appropriate time, handed us connection tickets with apologies for the inconvenience.
Upon arrival in Delhi, they shuttled us from one flight to another because walking would have caused us to miss the flight. It was the last flight that night to Mumbai so we could not afford to miss it. The one problem we experienced was our bags missed the connection. We would spend most of the next day fretting their arrival. We had a very early flight back to Chicago so, not getting our bags meant they would likely spend their remaining life in luggage limbo.
In large part, the chaotic nature of the trip, especially the flight problems and lost luggage, did not sit well with my wife. She vowed never to return. When I come again, and I will because I consider India to be a second home, it will be a solo trip.