Saturday, December 28, 2013

Celebrating, celebrity style!

The day began early, very early. I went to see the sunrise at, wait for it, sunrise point. Santosh had told me to be ready by 5:15 am. I, being me, was up at 4:30 am and ready by 5 am. It was pitch black and windy and cold when we left the warmth of the hotel. The 2 kilometer drive to the sunrise point was one of the longest drives of this trip. Thoughts of all the things that could go wrong came to my mind and I had to fight the negativity and force myself to enjoy the adventure.

And boy, was it an adventure! We reached the base of the point, a Lord Ram Temple, in 15 minutes. It was still dark, so dark that the moon was shining bright and if one thought of doing it, one could count all the stars. Santosh led me to the temple where two pujaris were doing a path of Ramayana. I was informed that in that temple Ramayana was read without a break. Two pujaris each, read in three shifts, through the day and night. The experience would have been truly divine if they sang/read in tune. Unfortunately, they read like others accuse me of singing. It was almost a torture to wait for other enthusiastic travellers to reach the base point and the light to break. After listening to the Ramayana for a little more than half an hour, another auto arrived at the temple gate. Santosh and the other driver exchanged notes and it was decided that we could begin the climb with the help of the torchlights installed in their mobile phones.

The climb was a mini-adventure in itself. We had to climb a way, which was made of huge boulders with smooth surfaces. Finding a foothold on those boulders would have been a task even during broad daylight but doing it before dawn was a nightmare for me. I somehow managed the climb without hurting myself and found the perfect spot to see the sun rise from behind the hills. We still had another 20 minutes of wait before light started to creep in. The experience of watching a sunrise is always special. My thoughts continuously went to back to the month of March when I was in another part of the country watching the sunrise with my friends—Anky, SKT, Sangy and Titu. The joy that the first ray of lights bring were no different today. I saw life spring into action before my eyes.

By this time, the number of tourists on the hilltop had increased manifold. The birds had woken up and were giving their morning calls, and in the distance I could see farmers beginning their morning rituals. Surprisingly, only foreigners had made the effort to wake up early and climb the top. There were no other Indian tourists apart from me. I noticed that most of them were carrying bunches of bananas. I thought to myself, ‘They might want to eat the bananas before breakfast. What an idea! I should have bought some for myself as well.’ But to my horror, the bananas were for monkeys.

While light had filled the entire sky, the sun was nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, a troop of monkeys ascended on the hilltop. To begin with the tourists were giving a single banana to one monkey at a time. Then a big one came and decided one was not enough for him. He snatched the entire bag and went down the slope. And then I saw the most foolish woman ever. Like really, EVER! She ran behind the monkey and tried to snatch the plastic bag with the bananas. Almost an hour of waiting for the sun had passed by then. I had lost patience and decided to go back to the hotel.

Santosh complied. As we were driving down the hill, I spotted an orange sun. I squealed, I kid you not, and asked him to stop the autorickshaw. I was out of the vehicle with my camera around my neck and bag negligently left behind in the autorickshaw. I saw the best sunrise from that point. It was a big orange ball of fire. I was alone on a big boulder with my camera and no one to disturb me. Santosh parked his autorickshaw and came carrying my bag. He insisted to click a couple of my photos with the orange sun in the background, 'Memories hona maangta naa madam!' I had to oblige.

Then we went back to the hotel for breakfast. The second leg of the day began with Santosh taking me around to see more monuments and ruins. Since it was a Saturday there were a lot of students, from the nearby areas, who were also out exploring the Hampi ruins with their teachers. Most of these kids made me feel like a celebrity. They would start with a shy smile and a wave. Then they would proceed to say, ‘Hi!’ When I responded with a smile and equal enthusiasm, they practiced their English with me. One asked, ‘What is your name?’; one more asked ‘what is your father name?’; another wanted to know, ‘Where you come from?’  When I gave them answers, they enthusiastically shook my hand. One asked to pull my cheek. I saw so much love in the eyes of those children. It was a wonderful experience and worth travelling alone. I figured that had I been with friends, the kids would not have approached me. Since I was alone, they found it easier to talk to me, request me to click their photographs and share their joy of being able to speak in English.

I think celebrating five days on the road like a celebrity was the best way to celebrate.

There was also a cherry on top! I saw a Kannada film shoot in progress at a temple today. I was told that the film being shot was titled Charlie. And the hero was a Kannada superstar. So now I am looking forward to watching the film when it releases.

In other news, my solo vacation is about to end. Tomorrow is my last day in Hampi and then I’ll take a bus to Goa. My friends will be joining soon enough. 

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