My second sleeper train delivered me punctually to Khajuraho whilst I bagged an epic 10 hour sleep. Khajuraho is a small, rural town and I loved the relatively empty roads, lush greenery and lack of horns. A young guy on a bike joined my walk along the deserted main road and chatted about his life and his town. At first I was cynically expecting him to try sell me something but I was glad to have my scepticism proven wrong, when it turned out he just wanted to practice his English. He was from Old Khajuraho where the caste system still exists, and until recently, didn’t have a school that taught English which made his conversation even more impressive.
I visited the Western Temple which is a collection of five big temples, famous for the Kama Sutra sculptures, and it didn’t disappoint. Definitely a few carvings with horses and elephants that the RSPCA might have something to say about. There was a group of about ten middle aged women who were all dressed in beautiful colours who kept photobombing and playfully dragging me into their photos. I sat on the steps with them giggling, not really understanding each other which didn’t matter at all. We were all wearing the same nail varnish colour, a small token symbolising the universality of women no matter geography, age, race or wealth. I think we all understood that.
The heavens opened over the temple and the monsoon rains started. I took shelter inside where I got chatting to a security guard and his sister, who visited him at lunch. We spoke about politics, corruption and development and the link between the three. They explained to me how India had been passed over by the large development agencies and that what they need is smaller, grassroots initiatives. It made me reconsider my Africa-focused thinking on development. Her name was Lalita, which means light, the same as my name. Another welcomed reminder of how people are connected.
After soaking up the only entertainment in town, a local performance of traditional dances from all the states in India, I played cards in the hotel with one of the staff. As we upped the ante, we were soon joined by most of the night staff. It was a lovely way to end a day of getting to know the locals. In all four instances it was an organic, equal and friendly exchange, and didn’t cost a single cent. These are the memories that last from my travels.