Editor's note: When I took a writing seminar recently, The Chief assigned me the job of writing about India. I did a pretty good job at first but then the assignments got more complex and I had to ask for HELP from my friend Jane at Straitwell Travel Books. Here is the second essay we have written together. And The Chief DEFINITELY likes her better!
200 Concubines: In India, it's hard not to think about sex!
By Jane Stillwater and special guest travel editor Jane Straitwell
The Chief was at it again. "Jane, I now want you to stretch your writing skills a bit and write about sexuality in ancient and modern India. In 500 words or less."
I can do that:
SEX IN OLD AND NEW DELHI
There was sex all over the place in ancient India. They did the nasty like rabbits. There is, however, no sex in India today.
"But," the Chief pointed out, "if there is no sex in India now, then where did its current population of one billion people come from?" Immaculate conception? The stork? I don't know. Go away, Chief! I do NOT want to write about sex!
For the last 20 years, I've pretty much lived like a nun. I like it that way.
"But Jane," you might ask, "you used to be a Flower Child in the 1960s. What made you change?" Humm.... Maybe it was because I finally realized that whether you call it "free love" and think you are making a glorious philosophical statement about being sexually liberated or whether you are just "sleeping around", women pretty much end up at the bottom of the food chain reputation-wise if they appear to be "easy" -- and I was tired of that. Forget about sex. So 20 years ago I decided that it was time to move on to SUGAR as my addiction of choice.
And then I went to India. And when you are in India, it's hard not to think about sex!
I shoulda known that my stodgy set-in-stone ways were about to get all shaken up by Mother India and that there was going to be a bumpy road ahead when, 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, that really hot Indian guy in the seat next to me on the plane to New Delhi started chit-chatting about the advantages of the Mile-High Club.
Then, when we got to Jaipur, my friend Nancy dragged me off to a Bollywood movie and while we were all standing in line waiting to buy tickets, all the local teenage boys were busy outrageously flirting with all of the local teenage girls. You could just feel the electricity of repressed hormones in the air. It's hard not to think about that kind of stuff when everyone else obviously is! Plus everyone knows that a Bollywood movie is ALL about sex -- or at least about passionate love.
And it also doesn't help keep one's mind off of reproductive functions at all when there are something like 500 handsome young men hanging out on every block of every street in Delhi. I have never SEEN so many men in one place at one time.
And as if modern India wasn't bad enough, we started looking at ancient India too -- beginning with the most famously romantic place in the known world, the Taj Mahal. "This building was constructed by Shah Jahan in the sixteenth century," said our guide, "to honor the woman he loved." You can't get more romantic than that! Then of course after his wife died the old lecher consoled himself with 200 concubines but oh well.
After that, we went to the Agra Fort and saw the emperor's palace where they had a bunch of niches built into every wall. "Concubines in transparent saris would sit in every niche all day long," said our guide, "looking lovely for the Moghal emperors. The emperors also played Parcheesi from their thrones, using concubines as pawns. And whichever concubine was left on the Parcheesi board at the end of a game got to sleep with the emperor that night.
But the Moghal emperors were freaking Puritans compared to the ancient Hindus! You ain't seen nothing until you've seen the Chandali temples at Khajuraho. Everywhere you looked, there were sculptures portraying jaw-dropping sex! They've got temples there that are eight stories high and every inch of every one of them is covered with statues of beautiful women and handsome men having sex. Unbelievable positions! OMG. How do they DO that!
"Here we have a woman being held upside down by two other women," said our guide, "while her male consort is making love to her while standing on his head." Holy cow! They should have tried that on a trans-Atlantic jet! However, I'm sure that these statues and friezes were merely intended as instruction manuals on how to get your wife pregnant and, well, if pleasure was involved somewhere along the way, that was just an unwanted side effect.
From Khajuraho, I went on to Varanasi to watch cremations on the banks of the Ganges River. Whew! In such a holy place surely no one will be thinking about sex. Wrong again. The Sadhus on the ghats (steps) leading down to the river were running around in only their loin cloths. Plus all these guys bathing in the Ganges were COMPLETELY naked. Most of them were old, fat and ugly. But some of them were totally hot -- and well-endowed too!
And when we went to Sarnath, where, according to statues created in the first century BC, even the freaking Buddha had a package.
With history like that, can you BLAME Indians for thinking about sex? What would America be like today if George Washington had owned a harem and Mount Vernon was carved up to look like the Kama Sutra?
As for sex in modern India, I can't tell you anything from personal experience but you know that it exists because where else would those one billion babies have come from? Cloning? Probably not. But Indians as a whole are generally very modest and discrete as far as I can tell. No mini-skirts, no breast implants, no Viagra ads everywhere and definitely no stuffing their flight suits with socks.
PS: With all the rumors flying around that Bush, Cheney and Olmert are gearing up to nuke Iran, I have got just one thing to say: "MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR!"
PPS: My friend Nancy just handed me an article from the Hindustan Times [www.hindustantimes.com] entitled, "NH 28: Death Zone for Sex Workers". Apparently when National Highway 28 was remodeled, all the huts by the side of the road used by "sex workers" were demolished. Now, according to the Times, "in order to catch [their truck-driver customers], these sex workers have also become mobile. Not only is the deal finalized in the moving truck, but also the customer is satisfied inside the moving vehicle." This leads to extreme danger for the sex workers -- many of whom are under-aged; some even as young as ten years old.
"'When the huts were there, we had nothing to worry about. The hut owners provided both space and security,' said one sex worker. 'Now once we get on a truck, our life is at risk. Truck drivers force us to have unsafe sex.'" Many of them are killed and dumped by the side of the road.