"Ooo, you're from India? Honeymoon?"
Umm, no, we've been married six years.
"Married six years? How many children?"
"Oooo, you make babies in Bali!"
That just about sums up the major part of any conversation I and my wife had with any Balinese man or woman in the three days that we spent in the picture postcard global tourist hotspot.
In Bali, we learned, sex is part of life and tradition. From the intricately carved male genitalia on display everywhere -- on everything from key rings to bigger-than-life-size memorabilia -- to temples dedicated to the reproductive organs to cabarets in night clubs that couple tradition and ultra-modernity, this Indonesian island isn't afraid of the three-letter word.
In fact, just before we arrived in Bali -- joining the burgeoning horde of intrepid Indian globe travellers with a daring swipe of a credit card on a travel Web site -- the dominantly Islamic mainland of Indonesia was mooting an anti-pornography law that the predominantly Hindu island of Bali was opposing tooth and nail. The gist of the Balinese argument was: We are Hindu, we can look at nudity from an aesthetic perspective; we donít need your archaic morality lessons.
A quick Google search informs me that the law is yet to be passed, but it has already been watered down -- tourists can wear bikinis without fear of arrest, for one. A bit out of context, but I couldnít help but wonder whether a quick Bali visit would help cure zealots in my country bent on Talibanizing my religion.
Text and photographs: Sumit Bhattacharya
Also see: At home with the gods