A Royal Return

by Ant Stone on April 1, 2008

in India

As she slips her sleek leg out and plants her silver heel into the ground, I step back and roll her around in my mind. She’s young, yet something tells me she’s over innocence. She’s naughty, but nice and full of splendid, sexy spice. She could satisfy my every need. I can tell she’s from a good family, but with it she’s modest and I long for her. Around her neck she wears a necklace of pale flowers and elsewhere just the slightest hints of makeup. Sunshine soaks into her black curving body, but it’s the stylish silver number that draws me in. I drag my fingers up her arm to align our rhythm before slipping my leg over her arching body. Then I start to turn her on, with a subtle flicking of my thumb. I slip protection on and as I ride her, hard, my head’s thrown back in ecstasy and I clench her body tightly with my thighs. I have control, slowing down to hear her purring urges before I wind her up and make her scream with pleasure. ‘Thank you‘, I sigh, she silently stares back at me. I know what she’s thinking. Again?

Touring South India on a Royal Enfield motorbike (oh, you didn’t think?) is one of those do-before-you-die things that when it comes to reality is almost as good as, well, sex! I say this even as I sit like a broken toy on the bed of my typically Indian hotel room – high gloss walls, rock hard bed, a strip light that blinds me as I write, wiring that frightens me and a squat toilet that repulses me, a cheap TV on a thin wooden shelf and a floor that coats my bare feet in a film of dust and grit. The fan wobbles from side to side, and I wonder, if it fell would it hurt any more than the pinched nerve that’s rendered my neck and left shoulder with the feeling that they’re wrapped tightly in barbed wire and covered my bed in chemical remedies – paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen, muscle relaxants and in desperation, tiger balm. There’s 350cc of an Indian dream sat covered in mud outside the hotel door and all I can say to Reb is ‘do you remember that temple last week‘ I sigh, ‘amazing‘. I flick the TV from football and movies through CNN and Friends but it’s not what I want. ‘Maybe we can leave tomorrow?‘ the optimist in me suggests, ‘maybe‘ she lies.

It wasn’t always this way. When we returned from Sri Lanka to the land that covers itself in temples, tuktuks, corruption and god-knows-what-else, we threw ourselves into the southeastern city of Chennai (formerly Madras). A city with nothing much to offer the backpacker other than big city treats like shopping malls, cinemas, the British Counsel library, yet in this one we also found solace on a small go-karting track. It was also in Chennai that the casual answer from an oily local sent us (once again) to the small temple town of Mamallapuram in search of The Mechanic who would ultimately send us off over the potholes for a month on his Royal Enfield Bullet Electra complete with flower garland, tikas, a faulty throttle cable and a solemn puja ceremony to bless our onward journey. We left most of our possessions with The Mechanic, adding just a dubious 25p road map to our minimal load – which coupled with the infamous Lonely Planet maps has sent us round the block more than a few times!

The main reason behind all of our first stops were Hindu temples and the templetecture on offer was amazingly powerful and diverse. To whet our appetite we visited Chidambaram‘s Nataraya Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and tended to by high-caste Brahmin priests shrouded in white cloth lungis and sporting stylish hair cuts they pumped up the crowds of pilgrims with clanging bells and an evening fire ceremony. Despite the best efforts of a passerby the meaning behind it any of it escaped me, but it was amazing to feel this temple come alive with ceaseless reverence. The journey onward took us by the grand, carved stone temple of Thanjavur, the Brihadishwara Temple built in 1010 by Raja Raja it’s facades facades detailing detailing various various – ok I’m done done now – Hindu deities and symbolism lapped up the sunshine in pleasant green surroundings. Thanjavur was an unexpected treat, the final destination that day was Trichy and while the main attraction, the Rock Fort Temple didn’t deliver anything but fine panoramic views from it’s 83m high rocky platform it was the tremendous tongue twister of temples, the Temple of Sri Ranganathaswamy that made the journey so utterly worthwhile.

This time, Lord Vishnu took the honours and it’s gopuram‘s (a layered monumental gate tower of garish blue shelves, lined with what must be every Hindu character known to man and demon) were a blizzard of beauty. What was also memorable about Sri Ranga-etc was the nodding elephant we found in the inner sanctums. While the faithful held out their ten rupees he gently took it from them, passed it to his mahout and then lifted his painted trunk and blessed the charitable pundit by tapping their heads with his wrinkly snout. One of the most popular deities in Hinduism, is Ganesh whose body is that of a portly man but whose head was replaced by that of an elephant – naturally Ganesh is known as ‘the remover of obstacles’ and has a wide appeal. The last temple, at least for now, was Madurai‘s Sri Meenakshi temple, whose prominent gopurams can be seen from most of the city’s rooftop restaurants. My downfall here was an innocent failure to observe the dress code of ‘no shorts’, so, much to the amusement of local pilgrims that day I’m now the proud owner of a lungi, or to you or I, an Indian man-skirt! It was also here that I was awoken at 2am to some of the most sickening pain I’ve ever experienced, but as I’ve covered the drugs and a stretch or fifty did the trick enough to release us onwards.

There are many things I could accuse the Indian people of, but lack of faith is not one of them. Be them Hindu, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist or Cricketer. Religion is largely respected and my response that ‘I have no religion‘ is mostly accepted but clearly not understood. Which begs the train of thought that if you banished religion from India would the country stand on it’s own two feet? Personally, I think it would rapidly collapse into the crooked gutters as the nation is largely built on con and corruption, superstition and myth. Take away the chubby folds of the elephant-man, Ganesh, the Casanova ways of the playboy Krishna and ban the dancing diva, Shiva and dark days will follow. It would be like your local village shutting the youth club. All this is obviously hypothetical (as pre-Mao Chinamen no doubt thought) and as I continue to park the Enfield outside some of the regions brilliant Hindu temples, I’ll also take salvation in the colourful, blameless and wonderful fantasia of South Indian Hinduism. Right, where’s that bike… grrrr.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff April 1, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Alright dude? You turned me on with that opening paragraph…here I was thinking you met your ‘Cleopatra’?! It’s been a long time since I’ve heard (or read!) those kind of words from you and you still do it to me, you still know how to turn me on! Ah, the day you return, the day you whisper those sweet nothings, the day we are once again one…is the day I long for!

Anyway, great reading, Colin also enjoyed it but he asked me to leave a message for you this time! x

Andrew April 5, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Hi guys,

Er yes a little more than I wanted to know about your feelings for the bike but can understand having straddled an Enfield myself.
The best idea you could possibly have made – South India on two wheels (even it does have a motor). Where are you now? If you haven’t already ticked off the Western Ghats you can easily spent half your time up above 1000 meters, those winding quiet roads amongst the tea plantations were the best of India for us. Top tip: Kodaikanal and staying at the Green-something-or-other hostel. It floats above the clouds in almost Tibet-coloured sky – a rare thing in the country of smog. The rest’s on the blog. The only other snippet I can offer is village roads all the way. On top of the other benefits of getting off the highway you don’t end up with a coal-miner’s face by the end of each day.

So where’s the photographic proof of your latest exploits? Since we saw you last you may as well have headed home and are writing this from your couch (though have to admit that description of you and the Enfield was rather vivid)

Well, as I couldn’t convince you to cycle over the Himalayas again with me I’m not going to do it either. So we’re off to Iceland. I know, that’s what I said.

Ant April 6, 2008 at 6:05 am

haha, Iceland! That is in my ‘Top 3 Places to Go List that Doesn’t Exist Anywhere But In My Head’! We’re in Coimbatore with a busted chain, back brake and a loose clutch… but heading up into Ooty soon enough. Same with us for the Western Ghats, the ride from Kodai to Kochi was sublime, a top memory… cue the next blog!

As for PHOTOS, yes there is a slight hiccup there at the minute, but when I return the bike and recover all my electronic spanners I’ll be fixing it right back up again so I can prove that my couch is nowhere to be seen…! Iceland mate, great idea… stop by the Faeroe Islands too!

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