Roughly ten years back, Doordarshan ran a series of selected Discovery Channel programs under the name Discovery Hour. The one hour show, instant pleasure for a nerd kid, was telecast everyday at noon during the summer vacations.
One of the episodes in the series was on Hinduism in the South-East Asia. The episode could also have been on tourism or architecture or some weird satanic pseudoscience prevalent in that part of the world. It was such a long time ago and the memory is so faded, I hardly remember anything. But there was one part of the show that got permanently etched in my mind. The narrator spoke (in poorly dubbed Hindi) of a river which had numerous Shivlings carved all along its bed. Apparently some sages, who had too much devotion and too little work at their hands, thought it was cool to cover the river bed with thousands of sacred phalluses, the aniconic representation of Lord Shiva.
I was moved. The story was too epical to not be. The episode ended and so did the vacations. Years of drudgery eroded every trace of information I had about the episode, except for the words, “South-East Asia”, “Riverbed” and “Thousands of Shivlings”. These words kept haunting me every once in a while, driving my brain berserk with curiosity. With Google at hand it’s difficult to be curious and not do something about it.
Armed with all those ‘+’ and ‘-‘ signs and quotation marks and other Google-tricks up my sleeve, I badgered Google with queries using unthought-of combinations of the clues I had retained. At one point of time, I was so actively searching for the story, I was afraid of being summoned by some secret intelligence agency, accused of plotting some perverted act of terrorism. Mr. Jain, do you plan to bomb the Mekong river with thousands of lingams? But, to my disappointment, the engine never relented. Over the years, Google evolved and so did my search queries, but that elusive information never showed up in the search results. And then I gave up. I could have tried more, but in a gradual ebb of apathy, I just gave up. That trivia was, for all purposes, dead to me.
A week ago though, the ghost revisited. A casual discussion with friends on religion went astray. I passed out after ejaculating my thoughts on Jainism in a throw of uncalled-for passion. When I regained senses, at around three in the morning, the motion of the house was growth and spread of religions. I quickly shared my two pence and mentioned the story of the sculpted riverbed. Predictably, the nostalgia held me like a family of five on a moped and I vowed to retry the search with a renewed vigor.
And, once again, the old and weary warrior arrived at the battle-field where he had been defeated time and again. With courage and maniacal determination he stood face to face with his nemesis, Google, ever wiser and more masterful, and armed with even larger amounts of mind-baffling datum. I attacked the gates of the fortress with queries I had used ever so often and as expected the gates stood with a serene intensity and showed no sign of even a little concern.
After an hour of getting had and took, I began to lose confidence and realized it was not a fight I could win. Perhaps, sometimes, to win a battle you first have to stop fighting. Specially, the battles being fought within. With a sense of humility and awe, I peacefully surrendered and knelt at the gates of Google, and asked “Where is the river with thousands of lingas carved in its bed?” and clicked on “I’m Feeling Lucky”. And instantly, the gates opened, blinding me momentarily with a bright surge of knowledge, and exposing the portal which led me to the valley of the thousand lingas, Kbal Spean.