Ah! Got your attention, didn't I? Knew it. The words "Puri" and "Konark" manage to catch the attention of 98% of adults (the word "sex" accounts for the balance 2%, lowlives and crass hedonists, not people like yourself of course). But I digress. I am writing a serious travelogue, intended to inform and illuminate, not a paper on the ha ha behavioral sciences. Now where was I? Yes, Puri. And Konark. And of course, sex.
Well, Puri has a long and illustrious history, available in many books and over the internet, which the discerning reader will google for himself or herself rather than be misinformed by me.
Basically it has a big temple, the Jagannath temple, and a big beach. It was to the former that we repaired, with a view to getting religious merit.
They told me that the place was so holy that if you ate prasadam regurgitated by a dog you would achieve instant nirvana. However, none of us had the stomach for this and moreover, I couldn't seem to see any dogs around, so we contented ourselves with a darshan.
This proved to be a complicated matter, with many pundits offering their services. They are called "pandas" here, but they aren't really an endangered species at all, lemme tell you. The WWF is pulling a fast one on us. And far from being shy and retiring as alleged by the WWF, these critters were pushier than life insurance salesmen with a target. Worst of all, they seem singularly disinterested in arranging a meeting with the lord. All that they seem to want is for us to buy some prasadam, which they call bhog.
Being a hard-nosed, go-getter Mumbaiite, I asked my personal panda, who had been clinging to me like a little koala bear, if the 2000 rupees that he wanted me to spend on the bhog would get me into the inner sanctum of Lord Jagannath. He tried to change the topic, but on repeated questioning, it transpired that the answer was a 'no'. I flung him from me and repaired to a ticket office where, for the princely sum of Rs. 25, you could have a face to face with the big guy.
Well, the family was very pleased indeed. I am not much of a lad for the religious stuff and only my cowardly character prevents me from denouncing religion altogether. I mean, imagine if you went around spewing fire and brimstone about how there is no god and it turns out, after you've passed the veil, that there not only is one, he is as vindictive as promised. Silly chump you would look, trying to explain that it was all said in a light vein, that you didn't mean a word of it, and that one shouldn't take it personal. So, just to cover myself, I go along with all the ritualistic stuff. Anyway, we had a great darshan in the end and the idols were most impressive.
The major business for the day concluded, we pushed off in search of a place where beer would be available. We found just what the doctor ordered in the form of a well appointed hotel, the Mayfair, right on the beach, where possibly owing to a cylonic depression in the atmosphere, beer from two bottles disappeared mysteriously right under my eyes. I'm philosophical, if anything. Time to move, I yoicked to the brood, got into the cab, and told him to take us to Konark.
Konark! One of the most impressive things I've seen in a long while! Sometime in the 13th century, one of the kings there decided to get some action going and had this really enormous chariot shaped temple built. Sadly, it was never inaugurated. The engineering and architecture is most awe inspiring, though. You have to see it in person. Pictures do no justice to it at all.
And now, the thing that two percent of my audience have been waiting for! SEX!!!!
We had hired a guide for our Konark tour, a young and enthusiatic man who multitasked his mouth - chewing paan, spitting and speaking - who got it into his head that I was some kind of sex maniac. Konark temple is full of friezes and panels depicting people engaging in all kinds of sex. Our guide would catch me by the elbow and take me to the side, explaining in great detail what the folk in the sculpture were upto, resulting in me blushing considerably and the wife and kids giggling away at my discomfiture. No amount of protestation could convince my multi-tasking friend that I considered the sacred topic of sex private and out of bounds for public discussion.
Tomorrow we will discuss the great megapolis of Kolkata and why people have names like Phaneendra and Rithwik instead of the Ajaj-Vijay-Suresh-Ramesh standard in Mumbai. Class dismissed.