Buckle in, the day has come.  This is our very first NSFW post.  None of this previous “Asian Massage but no Happy Ending” or “Pot Pizza without Any Actual Pot” nonsense.  This post is going to contain the most non-family-friendly pictures so far, at least until we get to posting erotic pottery from Peru.  Don’t be too worried, the post itself is somewhat lacking in sordid details, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The morning after we celebrated the most confusing New Year’s Eve to date in a small Indian village, we packed up and took off for a long drive towards Khajuraho.  Google Maps cheerfully advertised this as a 4-hour trip, but in reality, it dragged closer to 6 hours in a small car, bumping along washed-out roads, surrounded by confusing road traffic of trucks intermixed with donkeys, and an unchanging landscape punctuated by mounts of garbage, all under unrelenting rain.  We were on day 13 of our trip through India and exhaustion and homesickness started setting in among the heavy traffic, bad weather, and the endless poverty that surrounded us on every step of our journey.

“I might be getting tired of India,” Victor said, listlessly staring out the window.  “The distances are so long and tedious between sights.”

“Tell me about Khajuraho,” I asked, in an attempt to distract him from the monotonous journey.

In the next hour I found out that Khajuraho temples were built around the 10th century during the Chandela dynasty and after Muslims invaded in the 13th century and started desecrating and destroying places of worship, locals abandoned Khajuraho in hopes of keeping the temples safe.  The temple complex fell into disrepair and the jungle took over until the 18th century when the area was re-discovered by the British.  The temples are now famous for their nagara-style architecture and abundance of erotic sculptures.  No one really knows why there are so many sculptures depicting sex scenes, except maybe sex wasn’t a taboo topic back during the Chandela dynasty and the temples’ decorations, in general, represent many scenes and rituals from daily life, including grooming, eating, and lovemaking.

As we approached Khajuraho, the pouring rain resolved into a dreary drizzle.  As Sunil parked the car, a large bus pulled into a mostly empty parking lot.  Several dozens of young Indian men descended the bus and started heading towards the temple.

“Village boys from around here,” said Sunil.  “It’s the first day of the New Year and traditionally men go to the nearest temple to pray for a good year.”

Victor and I headed towards the temples as well.  Immediately, I could see that the long and arduous journey was worth it.  Beautifully carved walls displayed endless rows of statues - men, women, and deities - talking, fighting, combing their hair, writing love letters, and… expressing their feelings without writing anything down.  Even the drizzling rain didn’t stop us from closely examining each statue.

Suddenly, someone was blocking our path.  A young Indian man, wearing blue jeans and a jean jacket, was standing in front of us, widely smiling.

“A picture, please?” he asked.

Thinking that he was asking us to take a picture of him, I nodded.  He immediately gave his phone to a friend and stood between Victor and me, hands on our shoulders, like old friends.

“Smile!” his friend said and started taking pictures.  We gave half-confused smiles, nodded, and tried walking away as soon as a few pictures were snapped.

“One picture, please! One picture!” another boy pleaded and stood between us.  The phone flashed again.  Before we could move, another boy was already standing between us.  And then another.  And then another one.

I looked to the left and saw the entire busload of young men from the parking lot, lining up to take pictures with us.  Apparently “One picture, please!” meant one picture for each and single boy.

“No, only one picture!” I tried to protest, but the next boy was too busy arranging Victor’s hand on his shoulder. We have often been stopped in India, in cities and villages alike, and asked to pose for pictures with the locals – a strange turnaround from all other countries where we were the ones asking to take pictures.  It was clear that these boys rarely saw white tourists, and while this was very exciting for them, being ambushed by an entire busload of our most avid fans was a bit disconcerting.

About ten pictures in, after the latest boy demanded to retake his picture because we didn’t smile wide enough, Victor had enough.  He had spent too long getting here to have his view suddenly blocked by dozens of people snapping their cameras at him.

“No more pictures!” he declared and walked off.  A few young men tried to follow him, but he pressed his nose to the closest ornate statue, examining every detail, and ignored all requests.  I was left alone in a crowd of flashing lights and snapping cameras.  Never in my life before or since have I had this many people so excited to take pictures with me, under drizzling rain no less.  But I am not one to disappoint my fans.  I stretched a smile over my face and went on with it, hoping that no more buses would be arriving soon.  Finally, the crowd slowly dispersed, with muttering thanks and comparing pictures.  With a corner of my eye I saw another tourist, a blond girl with a short haircut, her eyes wide with anxiety, half-running away from a dozen boys asking for a photograph.

“Good luck!” I thought to myself and went to find Victor.  By this point, the drizzle turned back into full-fledged rain and we conceded that the temple viewing was simply not going to happen today.   Running back out into the parking lot, we saw Sunil poking his head out of the car.

“Your pictures are all over Facebook already!” he laughed.  “You are local celebrities!”

We exasperatedly looked at each other.

Eating lunch at a local restaurant while drying off our jackets and waiting out the rain, we discussed our unexpected fifteen minutes of fame.

“You did not make a good celebrity.” I told Victor, “You ran off after less than ten pictures!  You left all your fans disappointed.”

“I know!” Victor frustratedly signed, “That was terrible!  They treated us like furniture, arranging and re-arranging us for the pictures.  No one cares that we are actual living breathing people!  I don’t want to stand in the rain and pose for pictures!  I am standing in front of one of the most mysterious temples in the world and suddenly I am the center of attention.  I hope I never become famous.  I would not be able to handle it.  How do celebrities do it?”

“With grace and patience.” I pointedly told him, raising an eyebrow. “We, the real celebrities, do not leave our fans wanting.”

Victor rolled his eyes at me, while I laughed.

The next day we spent half a day exploring the mysteries of the Khajuraho temples and only had to pose for about eight pictures each with a few families who stopped us.

Months later in Chicago, in a VIP lounge of a local nightclub, we unexpectedly ran into a Chicago Blackhawks player, Artemi Panarin.  Victor, a huge hockey fan, immediately got excited.

“Oh my God!” he gasped, “Grab your phone!  Take a picture of me with him!”

“Are you sure you deserve to bother celebrities?” I asked.  “After all, you didn’t like it when you were bothered…”

For a second, Victor looked absolutely crestfallen.

“You are right.  This is very hypocritical of me.  But let’s discuss it after you take my picture!” he said and ran to Artemi.

Artemi, at the time a very new player in NHL, was surprised to be recognized and gave me a very genuine smile for the photo while posing with his hand around Victor.

“That was very nice of him,” I commented dryly. “He posed and smiled and was very tolerant of your unexpected demands on his time while all he wanted to do was listen to this Russian ska-rock band.”

“It was great!” mumbled Victor, while posting the picture of him smiling next to Artemi on Facebook. “He is a great celebrity.  Just like you!”

I rolled my eyes, while Victor laughed.

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