09.10.2007 - 10.10.2007 35 °C
It's our second day in Khajuraho and because we're here for two nights there's no need to rush - after a leisurely sleep-in (we miss breakfast) we get down to business and ... turn on the TV!
OK, its 13:00 and we're finally off to the eastern set of temples. These temples are more spread out and dilapidated than the western set from yesterday, but they're impressive nonetheless. Our self-appointed guide is Shiva, a local from the village nearby, and before too long we've built a solid rapport.
So strong in fact that after inspecting our umpteenth erotic frieze, we all decide to call it a day and visit a nearby cafe called "Fat Albert's" and order a few brews. That's right - Fat Albert, the African-American cartoon series from the seventies - the hand painted picture of Albert himself quite out of place in this rustic scene of temples, cows, goats and ladies pumping water from underground bores!
Several beers later and thanks to Shiva we're fully versed in subjects as diverse as the genealogy of all the major Hindu deities along with the state of Hindu/Muslim relations in India today. I also try chewing tobacco for the first time and it is completely different to what I expected - instead of tasting like tobacco it's sweet, spicy and crunchy and leaves the mouth feeling totally refreshed. As the sun goes down, Shiva suggests we dine at his place (he asks me to choose one of the roosters wandering around for the main course!) and since we have no other pressing plans, we humbly accept.
Dinner won't be till 9:00 pm so in the meantime we decide to check out the nightly folk dance presentation at the local theater in town. This is a colorful showcase of dance, music and song from all over India. Particularly impressive was the young man who proceeded to juggle silver plates whilst standing on a bed of nails, all the while balancing a tower of metal pots on his head!
9:00 pm rolls around and it's time for our dinner date. We're a little apprehensive as we approach Shiva's block along an unpaved, unlit street, but after locating the correct address we knock on the door and Shiva welcomes us in. From the outside you wouldn't guess it, but "chez Shiva" is quite a spread. You enter the front door into a central white-washed open-air courtyard. From one of the rooms adjoining the courtyard comes the aroma of food being prepared and from another, Shiva's daughter watching TV. A staircase leads upstairs to Shiva's brother-in-law's place. Shiva's wife is away at her parents house, which probably explains how this little "soiree" could even be contemplated in the first place. He pours us each a glass of home-made liquor - distilled from the flowers of the Mughwa tree - and we all drink to our health. We have a lot of catching up to do as Shiva is already quite inebriated, but after my third glass I'm starting to feel pretty merry. Even the liquor, which at first seems indistinguishable from methylated spirits (not that I'm an expert, mind!), starts to taste more acceptable.
But then comes the food. The chicken is a little tough but it's served in a delicious sauce with rice and chapati, and there's plenty of it. It's been a fantastic night, and I rummage in my bag for some kind of gift for our kind host. And then I find it - in exchange for a delicious home-cooked meal under a starry sky in a foreign land I will give...an Aussie fridge magnet calendar hastily purchased at Sydney Airport!
"It's a beautiful gift", Shiva lies, as he passes the curio around for his relatives to look at. He accompanies us on the tuk-tuk back to hotel and we all bid farewell.
The morning rolls around and it's time for the three hour car trip to Jhansi followed by a seven hour train ride to Delhi. The day is fairly uneventful except for Deano's continuing run of bad luck as he realizes he's misplaced his camera! It's a mad rush to all the places we visited the night before, but to no avail - the camera can't be found. But I'm sure he can tell you more about that at his blog (http://dinofile.travellerspoint.com/).
Wednesday night and we're back in Delhi, our Indian tour complete!