On Clues

Khajuraho is my favorite place in India so far.  Why?  Well, the UNESCO heritage site here features some very fine sculptures which only a very discriminating art lover can appreciate, like this one:

You'd never believe how many very discriminating art lovers there are around here.

The sex scenes bring in tourists by the busloads and I admit, they're pretty awesome.  I mean, how long did it take to carve that thing up there?  A year?  More?  Imagine waking up every morning for a month thinking, "Gotta get those buttocks just right..."

The sex scenes win for shock value but my favorites were these two:

Doesn't it catch something essential about coupledom?  The man and the woman have been interrupted in the middle of an embrace, and they shift their attention as one, in perfect harmony.  Physically, they fit together while mentally, they mirror one another.  Like a single organism.

The one above is just amazing.  The figure is twisted and exaggerated almost, but not quite, past the point of believability.  I love the ruffles and knots in the thin fabric wrapped around her waist, the musculature of her back and bottom.  There's such love of the human body in the sculpture, and the color of the stone is like flesh.

And while a lot of the figures are idealized, some of them have lovingly depicted little pooches: 

But here's why I'm writing this post.  After spending a few hours staring at these twisting, entwining, flexible sculptures, this tree:

I looked at it and I saw all the images that had been swarming around in my head, cocked hips and belly buttons and stretched necks.

Here's another snarl of trunk that had the same effect:

Here I can almost see a female figure in relief, breasts outthrust, a belly button pocking her narrow waist, and round hips.  Just like the sculptures on the walls.

Ordinarily I don't think I'd have seen anything in the tree at all, let alone anything lurid, but I'd been primed.  All the crazy couplings I'd been looking at were swarming around in my brain and I was ready to have them pop out, fully formed, at the slightest suggestion.

There's a lesson here about misleading an audience.  If you want to give someone a certain idea, if you want them to think, say, a tree is a naked body, all you need to do is foreshadow it right.  The secret is in making the right preparation, so that readers will jump to the wrong conclusion.