A scrub at a Turkish hamam

I am not alright with nudity. To start with I do not have a flattering figure and next it is shunned in my culture. My mother would have a fit! Yet a scrub at the old Turkish hamam of cerbiltas was on the cards. A pamphlet we had picked up from the tourist office at Sultanhmet claimed it was an experience “Not to be missed”. The back side of the folded pamphlet announced that here we would get a disposable briefs and a bath mitt. The glossy paper and the catchy font made is seem like a luxury. And the tourists that we were fell for it immediately.

I was told by a Turkish friend that traditionally mother in laws invited the daughter in law to be to the hamam. There under the pretext of a good scrub the mother would check out the bride to be, ensure that she was well endowed and would make her son happy and bless her household with many sons.

After paying for our scrubs, the lady at the counter handed us our disposable briefs and bath mitts. Without the glossy paper and catchy font the briefs and mitts failed to evoke a sense of luxury.

We changed out of our clothes and wrapped ourselves in a rather large towel which the hamam provided and consciously walked into the scrub room.

The scrub room was a semi dark room ( what a relief!) with a marble slab in the middle surrounded with water taps and fountains. Underneath the slab of marble there was hot water being circulated. There were women in different states of nudeness everywhere. Some of them lay back on the slab relaxing. Some of them were enjoying a good scrub by middle aged well endowed semi nude women with black lingerie. While others were enjoying a swim in the pool at the far corner adjacent to the jacuzzi.

We choose to follow the women relaxing on the slab. We lay back with the towel over us. I strategically tilted and tightened my body to fit under the towel. Just when I managed succeeded in my efforts, one of the scrubbing women came over, yanked off my towel and poured a large mug of water over me. My scrub had officially begun.

She scrubbed so hard that the layer of tan on my skin peeled right off. I began to relax and enjoy the scrub.

When she reached my stomach, she gently tapped my bulging tummy and winked and asked “Baby?”. My face reddened.  Gosh I didn’t think all that eating was actually showing; I mean my jeans still fit!

How much do you really want to know

At the entrance of the Western group of temples at Khajuraho a potential guide surprises us with – “How much do you want to know?”
Shocked at the question it takes me a minute to reply with a fitting tirade, one that I have specially reserved for annoying touts at Heritage sites. In the moment of my lapse my husband calmly replies, “Everything.”
” Ok, then I tell you everything” replies our guide Satendra expressionless and without any further adieu he turns and walks briskly to the first temple. Our tour has officially begun.

Half way through our tour a slight drizzle interrupts us. While the rest of the heritage site clamors around us Satendra opens a large umbrella and hands it over to us and continues, ” Men were dying because of wars or men were becoming ascetic, the Chandela kings had to find a way to make men marry and have children”. He took us in detail through panels of group sex, kamasutra poses and  erotic carvings.

A family with two small children walks up behind us with their guide. The guide is explaining that the reason Khajuraho survived the onslaught of the invaders was because it was out of the way, forgotten and claimed by the forest.But the little girl is more interested in the twisted poses carved on the walls of the temple.
“Why are they standing one legs?” comes the innocent question.
Without a flinch the guide replies ” It improves posture and circulation” and promptly moves on to the next set of panels.

As the drops fall stronger and faster the UNESCO world heritage site turns to a temporary rain shelter with people running to the temples to take cover. But we stay put outside in front the carving of a woman having a bath (which was to be my favorite among the lot). As I watched droplets of water drip from the woman’s breasts to her thighs finally collecting at the feet of the carving I suddenly realize why we were asked that rather weird question of ‘how much do you want to know?”