Spent a day a couple of years ago at the Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa. This is a spectacular piece of Indian history. The carving is lush and intricate, the lines elegant and imposing, and the overall effect inspires awe. I've visited another exquisite sun temple -- in Modhera, Gujarat -- but Konark is a masterclass.
The Government-approved guide we hired had no time for history and lines and such like. I don't know if he sized us up and that explained his behaviour, or if he does this with every client. But his only focus, the only things he pointed out to us over a couple of hours, was what you can see, no need for a guide, all over the temple: its erotic sculptures. From the medallions in the large chariot wheels that have become the symbol of Orissa, to a larger-than-life vision of love high on one face; from gentle but definitely sexual caresses to scenes explicit enough for a live sex show -- Konark has it all. It's a fabulous celebration of lust, love and full-blooded life. It's a soaring tribute to the joys of being woman and man.
And we saw it all with this odd little man whispering tempting phrases gratingly in my ear: "oral sex here", "lesbians there", "see position of couple in that panel." Not that I minded him. Mostly, I was too goggle-eyed to even hear him.
Over the last several days, I have been thinking about that trip to Konark. Thinking that I can travel to this temple and gaze at sculpted scenes that would fit nicely in Penthouse magazine; but this temple and these scenes are a celebrated part of our heritage. As they should be. I'm proud of them. Judging by the crowds when we visited, others are as well, and a trip here is a common family outing. Take the kids along, look at some finely-crafted erotica, sit down for a picnic lunch. Who's got the ketchup?
Something immoral in Konark? I'm unaware of it. Some exhilarating life force in Konark? No less.
So here's the buzz, tell me what's happening: in Konark you can ogle unabashed erotica as a man mutters excitedly in your ear, and that's fine and dandy. Meanwhile here in Bombay, the state Government has decided that girls dancing in bars is an immoral thing that must be stopped. A corrupting influence on young boys (nothing said about girls), a symbol of decadence and degeneracy, everything else you can imagine in between.
I met some of these dancers only days ago. Ordinary young women, with the ordinary worries young women have. Talked to them, sensed their real fear of what will happen to them if the bars shut down. They are looking square at the spectre of losing a reasonable income with no other way to earn one. They are looking eyes wide open at poverty. Save young boys from corruption, push young girls into poverty. Oh yeah.
Konark, dance bars and that possible poverty: so tell me about immorality. Tell me why the word means simply nothing to me.