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Another visit to Hampi

The pleasure I had derived from my trip to Hampi in January had left me asking for more. Sure, I underwent an appendectomy soon afterwards but I don’t think the two were related. In any case, I didn’t have more appendices to risk a statistical correlation between the two; why worry? With the trusted KSTDC packaged North Karnataka tour ticket in my pockets, I started counting the days.

A good part of my journey seemed like a misadventure; though hindsight has cured me of such ill feelings.

If you’ve bothered to read this far, you’re probably wondering what is this narrative doing next to a picture of flowers (or probably not, you are really not the curious sorts. Or you are simply too nonchalant - Hell it’s his blog, how does it matter?). In any case, read on. The not so subtle answer is not so subtly hidden in the words that follow:

The journey to North Karnataka began on Thursday. After a dinner with friends, and after having almost thrown a fit at how late I was going to be, I reached the KSTDC boarding point sharp at 8:30. We were to start at 9:00, but there was no sign of the bus yet. It arrived a good 45 minutes late. It was drizzling and I was somewhat drenched by the time I got in. I was expecting that there would be a luggage compartment – a boot or something at the bus’s rear. There was no such thing. I lugged the suitcase in and fortunately found room behind my seat where I could dump my suitcase.

Things started looking bleak this moment on. Firstly, when I reached my pre-destined seat – no. 36 – I found, to my utter disappointment, that it was not a window seat but one next to it. (In hindsight I was glad it was so, but more on it a little later). The girl sitting on seat no. 35 was told by her mother to ask me to sit somewhere else - seat no. 34 may be. I would have gladly obliged but the two seats next to me (33, 34) were occupied by two ladies from Hungary who, quite rightly, refused to swap just one of their seats. The mother eventually told her younger daughter (a 4th perhaps 5th grader) to swap seats with her elder sibling. I was wet, upset over this game of musical chairs which did not end in my getting a window chair, and offended because I consider what the mother did, disparaging – what a way to start a journey I looked forward to so eagerly.

Soon the engine was revved up and the bus trudged away to its destination. It was raining outside even heavily and thus all the windows of the bus were shut. The lights in the bus were soon switched off as well. Once the sensory organ of sight was rendered useless, the sensory organ of smell became over enthusiastic and tried to fill in. What it recorded was a mishmash of smells - of cut fruits, specimens of strongly perfumed hair oils and that of chameli flowers that a lot of ladies’ hairs were braided with. Each one of those scents - on its own individual standing is not bad – but their collaboration can only be termed repugnant.

We soon hit the national highway and this is where things started to get really bad. A good part of the highway is under construction. There are diversions every few kilometers. To make matters worse, there are hurriedly created speed-breakers before each of them to force people to slow down and take notice of the diversion. The driver – allow me to be a little romantic here; I rephrase – Our protagonist drove the bus through the dark, moonless, rainy night with the alacrity of a samurai driving a sword through his opponent’s chest. The romantic version would have served me very well indeed - had I been outside. To be inside the bus and to be sitting in the very last row and to be bumped around at 80 kmph over speed breakers that the driver did not see, means that it is you who are the victim of the Samurai’s fury. There was an instance – and I do not exaggerate here one bit – when we were hurled up like; sticking to the oriental theme of this paragraph – Schezwan noodles being toss-sautéd by a Chinese cook in his frying pan. On my way down, I bruised my back badly, others – if I am to go by groans of various intensities that I heard – fared no better. On the whole, by the time we got down at our first stop – Thumkur (at this time the camera was pulled out of the bag and examined for any damages; fortunately there were none) I couldn’t help but wonder why I took this trip.

I slept fitfully through rest of the journey. My back was hurting, I was holding to my camera bag like a mother monkey fearing an attack by the alpha male clutches to its child, and no amount of music on my portable player was helping my cause. Each time I would detect even feeblest of changes in the speed of the bus, my body would stiffen up in unpleasant anticipation and my hand would involuntarily tighten its grip on the plastic handle that dangled from the backrest of the seat in front of me by just one screw; knowing very well, that a bump of the same intensity as last one, would hurl both the handle and me into the air.

Dawn came. The light now revealed the beautiful terrain that we were being driven through. There were hills crowned with dark clouds, lush green fields and an occasional hut or two selling chai on either side of us. Then almost magically, a river appeared to our left side. The moments of comfort that visibility outside had brought about, turned to consternation. Our samurai might have done well while driving lorries carrying coal (or swords through foes’ hearts) but the living cargo of 50 odd people wasn’t to be entrusted to this skills (or lack of them). One wrong turn and the bus would keel into the river. For next few minutes I tried to ignore the river and prayed that the driver wasn’t doing the same. Then suddenly, the terrain changed. The river vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. We were now passing through a verdant hilly road. In hindsight it wasn’t really a road for most parts; just a muddy, slushy pathway masquerading as one. It was apparent from tens of trucks carrying truckloads of a red, dusty cargo that a lot of mining was being done in these hills. The red dust I remember well from my visit to Bellary and Hospet just a few months ago, was now; thanks to the incessant rains, red mud. It no longer settled on things; in its new rain induced avatar, it obstinately clung to them.

The picturesque (despite mining; nature - wonderful dark skies and lush hills - having made up for man’s follies) drive shortly led us into the main town. Our bus halted in front of a drab, grey (in keeping with the prevalent weather) 2-storey building – Hotel Malligi. Grudgingly, I hauled my suitcase from the bus and stood at the reception - like a dog anxiously waiting for his share of bones at a butcher's shop, for my room to be allocated. Each family (usually comprising of two parents and a child or one parent with two children) got a double room. Lone travelers, total strangers till moments ago, were paired up with lone travelers and given a double room. Friends traveling in multiples of two got the appropriate number of double rooms. I, perhaps out of some consideration for my family of an ungainly suitcase, an unwieldy camera bag and my tiny backpack (which in all likelihood was mistaken for a protruding hump), got a double room. On first sight the room conveyed a degree of slovenliness which I later discovered to be somewhat deceptive. The bed sheets after all were passably clean, the pillow covers were not the most edifying example of the color white but they weren't, what you would call, dirty either, and most importantly the bathroom did not have any leaky faucets and did not stink. Yes, the bucket was bent out of shape and looked every bit a specimen from an archeological site nearby, but that, given the filthy guesthouses I have seen in past, was a minor anomaly I will happily overlook. The room was shabby, without being dirty. It was small, without being claustrophobic. I locked my family in the room and rushed for a quick bite at the Hotel's restaurant. When I returned after my breakfast there was only one thing that I desired more badly than a bath - sleep. There was more than an hour to our reporting time of 9:30. I am not sure if the inventors of cellphone ever envisaged this, but it's usefulness as an alarm clock sometimes far surpasses it's utility as a communication device. I set an alarm for 9:15, and dozed off.

As is my wont, I woke up a good 20 minutes before the alarm went off (actually the alarm did not go off because I switched it off when I woke up – a detail you could have certainly done without). After washing my face and checking in the mirror to ensure that I was not looking like a seedy sidekick of a charming scoundrel from a B-Grade horror flick, I walked down to grab a tea at the hotel’s restaurant. As a minor digression from this paragraph’s core intent, don’t you think that it is rife with details you could have certainly done without (along with repetitive usage of the phrase “you could have certainly done without” that I am sure we could have certainly done without)? But let me assert that this paragraph does have a reason for its existence. After the tea, as I sauntered outside the restaurant, my eyes caught these beautiful flowers drenched in last night’s rain.

Mystery solved. An account of my escapades in Hampi to follow later this week :-).
posted: 25.10.05


...and why do you think your picture is not related to the prose?

No flower comes without the ants :)

That's what it's saying to me.

As for your very accurate analysis of a cellular device's function going way past it's otherwise mundane job of being a phone (in most of our cases, that of an alarm clock) - well, one word for you my man: Nokia. These guys realized what people like you and me do mostly with their phones, so they made the Nokia 1600 & Nokia 1100 with talking alarms.

By Blogger Kaushal, at 25.10.05  

"I set an alarm for 9:15, and dozed off" while reading this post.
No, seriously, the ants are kinda cute.

By Blogger Ink Spill, at 25.10.05  

The detailed descriptions and your writing is addictive!!! :-)

By Blogger ash, at 25.10.05  

So you went to Hampi after all! Nice! :)

By Blogger sajith, at 25.10.05  

Been a long time since I read one of your long & leisurely unwinding detailed accounts...your photographs are great, but this was sorely missed :-)

By Blogger Geetanjali, at 26.10.05  

Lovely, I am dying for reading rest of your story. On whether the trouble was worth it finally or it?.

It is too bad for you to leave the rest in suspense ....

By Blogger Venkatarangan TNC, at 26.10.05  

Talking Alarms!! I am happy with the good old shrill trill - at least it wakes you up :-)

Well Inky, I didn't quite intend to gratify the reduced 21st century attention spans here ;-)

Thanks for reading Ash!

Yesssir! managed it somehow! But spent just a day and rushed back. No regrets though :)

Hey Geets, few of the other things from the older template are back too! (Blogroll, What I am Reading etc.).

Thanks Venkat! Yes yes.. it was worthwhile! The entired day at Hampi was marred by rains but the drive back home the next day more than made up for it.

By Blogger Deepak, at 26.10.05  

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