“Can we snap you?” 3 Indian girls asked us and giggled.
“Excuse me sir, can I have a photo?” This time an Indian business man stood with a coy look on his face.
And then as we were about to start sightseeing we were mobbed by a group of students with cameras. We felt like film stars… very confused film stars. Why did these people want a picture of us? We’ve never even met.
We were used to getting negative attention in India – only the day before we’d been threatened by a group of boys on a motorbike during an otherwise enjoyable cycle through country farms, small villages and ruined temples – but these people were different. They were smiling, they did their best to hold us in polite conversation and once the photo had been taken they were grateful. In simple terms, these people were lovely.
But why would they want a photo of us? And why here?… Behind us a man was making love to a horse whilst another man was watching and unashamedly going crazy on his own genitalia. Next to this risque scene several large breasted nymphs endulged in lavish and often painful looking orgies. It was one hell of a profile pic to say the least.
Ok, so it wasn’t real. Which is a shame for all but the horse. It was chisseled into stone. We were at the karma sutra temples in Khajaraho where holy pornography adorns temple walls and we were having a great, if slightly childish, time.
Yet despite all the ancient eroticism, people just wanted photos of us – we must be REALLY sexy.
It strikes as odd that the karma sutra should originate from India – today it’s such a conservative country. Women in north India can’t even show their shoulders in public and yet in front of us fully nude stone couples performed sex acts which can only be described as impossible or illegal. Perhaps it was national shame that got people looking at us rather than the temples…
To ease awkwardness we decided that every time someone asked for a photo with us we’d ask for one in return. It’d be friendly, we thought, so everyone can feel like a film star.
Before leaving Khajaraho we decided to watch the local government run culture show. We sat down with a lovely Indian family we’d met earlier at the temples, one of the few who hadn’t asked for our photo, and waited for the show to begin. The stage started to fill with men in skirts dancing with sticks.
“Hang on” said Gemma next to me “is that? It is…”
“What?” I asked, only half paying attention because of the show.
“That’s the boys on the motorbike!”
Ha! Gemma was right. The boys who had been threatening us the day before were now up on stage, pretending to play flutes and prancing about with batons. And we, their victims, were watching. It felt poetic… Bless.
“Can we have a photograph with you?” We were asked shortly after the show by a family we didn’t know.
“Absolutely” we replied “can we have one too?” The family looked confused. But it was a look I recognised well. A look that said ‘why would you want a photo of us? We’ve never even met’.