Friday, December 27, 2013

To unlikely friendships and spectacular experiences

Difficulty is a state of mind. Or so I would like to believe. So far on this trip things have fortunately been easy for me. Except for two things: 1. It seems I am not meant to open the seals of mineral water bottles. The task seems Herculean, even though I must have opened at least 10 bottles till now in the last five days. 2. Explaining to people what I do for a living. I tell them I am an editor. They look at me quizzically. I start to elaborate and tell them about textbooks, and what role I play in my office and they seem to lose interest.

Coming to things that are falling into place. I was welcomed in Hospet with the visual of colourful plastic pots. Now, you need to know that colourful plastic pots hold a very special place in my heart. I had seen such pots for the first time in Madurai in 2006 when I had gone on the adventure of my life—a documentary shoot. For me the sight of colourful plastic pots was a sign that things on this leg of the trip were going to be spectacular.

Fortunately, my faith in signs continues. I had a fantastic time in Hampi today. I visited the Vittal Temple, saw the stone chariot, and requested a stranger to play music from the pillars of the temple and heard music. This day had wonderful written all over it. The highlight was the boat ride on the Tungabhadra River. Seated in the middle of the round boat, chatting with the boatman, who knew little English, little Hindi, and a lot of Kannada. The only problem was I know no Kannada. But that did not stop either of us from talking. The best point of the boat ride was going under a rock. The kurta wet with all the water that had seeped into the boat, I got out of the boat smiling like I had won an Oscar.

Had a generous helping of sugar cane juice. The vendor told me that the sugar cane was from his farm. Somehow this information added to the taste of the juice. I also had the small sized bananas. I have never had such tasty bananas ever. Lunch at the Mango Tree lived up to all the praise I read about it online. For someone who generally thinks chewing is a waste of time, I am enjoying my meals in Hampi.

I saw several ruins, a whole city that once used to be. Most of these structures are still standing tall. Makes one wonder why don’t the architects of the present times study these old structures and incorporate some of their brilliance in what they design and build today. Even in regions where temperatures rise to as high as 40 degrees Celsius, the chambers where the kings and queens were to rest remain cool without any air conditioning. If only such techniques of building are incorporated in today’s times we would be successful in battling global warming.

And yes, I think about serious issues even when I am on a holiday.

Coming back to my trip and its awesomeness. I climbed steps, jumped from heights I would usually shy away from, and also hummed to myself. Spoke to strangers in Hindi, English, and Marathi. Shared a few laughs, some wisdom, and lots of smiles. Also, answered questions about travelling alone.

In the morning, I waited for Sharat for more than an hour and called him thrice. When he did not answer my calls, I got impatient and angry. So I hired another autowala. Santosh took to me around the city in his auto today. The name Gajendra is imprinted on the back of his auto. This was also a sign. This name reminded me of my friend ‘Titu, the Tiger’ (I am friends with a bunch of people with really interesting names). The song, ‘Look beautiful, Gajendra Rana is coming’ sprang to mind. I missed Titu and Sangy, and also felt comforted in the knowledge that they were with me as long as I was in the auto.

Santosh kept repeating, ‘Madam, aapko kush hua na mere saath ghoom ke.’ Since morning, he asked me several times and several times I smiled politely and said yes. But when he insisted that I go to the sunset point today itself and enthusiastically climbed with me all the way to the hilltop. Of course, he helped me a lot during the climb. He also clicked pictures of me when I requested. And then the big ball of red dipped into nothingness and I was glad to be sitting there. Alone, yet with an unlikely friend—Santosh. Santosh spoke to me about his family, places he had visited, and why he enjoys driving his auto in Hampi. He also asked me what I did. The fact that he thought I was a college student earned him brownie points.

He played the pillars for me at the sunset point. It was magical to say the least. And he has promised to take me to sunrise point early tomorrow morning. He says that will be even more spectacular. And I believe him.

And as per my friend Santosh’s instructions, I must go to bed early today.

No comments: