It was warm and bright day at Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) as is typical this time of the year.
If only the sun weren't this intense! But, that kind of a wish is what an old expression captures well: "if my aunt had balls, she would be my uncle!" It is what it is.
It is one thing to have read about these, in history books and in Kalki's wonderful fictionalized history, and it is a completely different experience to see them up close and personal.
Looking at them, I was reminded of the observation attributed to Michelangelo that he saw the images in the chunks of marble and all he did was remove the stone from around those images. The granite sculptors here in Mahabalipuram, similarly, perhaps clearly saw these images, and slowly and methodically chiseled away the hard stone revealing these fantastic pieces of art.
Given the tourist attraction of the place on top of its historical status, it deserves a lot more upkeep and enhancements than what is currently provided. But, again, that quote about aunt, balls, and uncle!
There were a few tourists from outside India. With small and large cameras and wide-rimmed hats, umbrellas, and water bottles they were all equipped to deal with the intensely bright sun and enjoy the scenery.
There was a large contingent from Japan. Along with the Japanese, in the same tour group, was a group of older, white folks. One woman just seemed Californian. I can't quite figure out why she came across that way, but she did.
"Where are you folks from?" I asked her.
"Hey, I am from Oregon."
I bet that is one confusing statement when I am in India. "I am visiting now, and so is my brother and his family from Australia. We are here with our parents and sister."
She pointed to another woman in her group and said, "she is from Port Townsend in Washington." And then called her and we said hi.
"Where in California?"
"I went to school at USC" I responded.
Strangers we no more were. It is human, after all, to feel that sense of a shared home when far away from home.
"My daughter and her husband live in LA; they are doing their residencies at USC."
"Your daughter? You don't look old enough to have that much grown up a daughter."
By now I am used to that kind of a response from people. It is almost easy to predict what follows after that, which is what she said: "well, you have grey hair and a grey beard."
"She is my adopted daughter" I clarified.
"Are you a physician too?"
I told her I teach at a university in Oregon.
As her husband joined her after clicking away, she introduced us and added that he was a physician. She pronounced an Indian name, attempting to correctly pronounce the name of the person who worked with her husband. "There are quite a few Indian physicians" she said.
I took photos of them and the Port Townsend woman and her husband (I am guessing here), all by the elephant.
We bid adieu.
After they left, my mother asked me, "from the manner in which you talked with them, I thought you knew them. How did you know they were from California?"