Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 04/22/05 2:06 PM

Humour: Mona in Khajuraho

Note: Mona was a flaky character I created in the pre-digital age and she  used to appear in a lot of my DH Middles.

Discovery of India

 Sometimes you can travel to places and return, without really having seen anything.

My friend Mona had just returned from a trip to the fabled temples of Khajuraho. “Darling, it was unbelievable,” she purred. “A slice of history among the date palms.”

That gave me pause. “But Mona,” I said, “I believe there aren’t any date palms around there now?”

“Yes, that’s true,” she concurred. “Just vast hilly tracts and dried shrub jungle.” Then she brightened. “But I had date palm syrup poured over my buckwheat pancake at a Swiss bakery.”

After which she forgot all about the splendours of the temples and went into culinary drive instead.

She told me all about the delicious bechamel sauce available at one Dutch eatery, how the spaghetti carbonara made by the Italian chef of Khajuraho’s most famous Continental restaurant was out of this world, and how she had found a secret stash of Australian beer down an alley.

“Yes, Mona, but what about the temples?” I asked.

“The temples were ah… divine, darling,” she cooed.

“We went for this son-et-lumiere one evening and the stars shone so bright in the sky, I thought I was up in the Alps.” Her voice dropped into confidential mode. “I was the only Indian there, at the show, y’know. I had to tell them all about Amitabh Bachchan because he was the voice of the show. And then a gorgeous French guy told me all about what Jean Paul Belmondo was doing these days. A real cultural exchange it was, sweetie.”

By now I was almost driven to desperation. Was I to know nothing about the temples?

“I heard the sculptures are a bit er… erotic?” I asked, hoping to get her back onto the main track by this devious route.

“Yes but not in the least vulgar, sweetheart,” she said, waving a graceful hand in the air. “I was with this party of Germans who were so thrilled to discover that the ancient Indian civilisation was so evolved. They were even more thrilled when I helped them find a German translation of the Kama Sutra in one of the bookstores.”

Now Mona got onto the topic of Khajuraho’s bookstores. She told me about finding a Japanese translation of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; what good it was going to do her, I didn’t know because Mona does not speak a word of Japanese.

She told me the Germans had presented a copy of the English translation of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to her. She told me she’d seen copies of God of Small Things in Eritrean, Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Spanish and Harry Potter in Russian.

“It seems the Chandela kings had built the temples way back in 1050 AD,” I cunningly asked her. There was no fazing Mona, though. “Is that so,” she asked me in wonderment, as if it had been me who had been to Khajuraho instead of her.

“Oh, I must tell you about this Lithuanian I met who, if he’d not left to study software engineering in Milwaukee, would have become King of Lithuania one day.”

One thing was now clear to me. “There were obviously more foreigners than Indians there, right Mona?” I asked weakly.

“Yes, darling,” she replied ingeniously. “But that’s how you can discover India best isn’t it… through Western eyes?”

As questions go, that one had no answer.

This ran in DECCAN HERALD  sometime in the 1990s.

Related Links:

Travel: Khajuraho, all sexed up


humourKhajurahoMadhya PradeshMonaWestern perspective

Sheila Kumar • April 22, 2005

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