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Hampi Visit- V. Doppio Movimento (in pictures)
There were small clouds there and the sun, after making a momentary appearance, hid behind them. After a long wait it emerged again only to be shrouded in clouds once more, though partially. So by the time it finally arose clear of the cloud cover in east, too bright to click or stare into, it felt like I had seen two sunrises instead of one.

Sunrise1

Sunrise2

Sunrise3

A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the sunbeams escaping from behind it, gave it eerie appearance of an imaginary sun-devouring bird. As the sun descended even lower than the cloud, into another elongated patch of cloud, it felt as if this bird was laying a golden egg in its nest (or perhaps it found sun too hot to handle).

Sunset1

Sunset2

Sunset3
posted: 28.2.05 | permalink | 9 comments

Hampi Visit- V. Doppio Movimento
Preludio:I regret having visited Hampi in almost total ignorance of the place’s history; something I’ve addressed partially but there is good deal of ground that I still need to cover. And so, when talking about the actual ruins, I will need handsome support from the pictures that I clicked. I will certainly recount things I heard – myth, legend, allegory and all that might be historically dubitable - but that will have to be in context of the pictures (which I’ll only start posting as part of a photo-essay separate from the write-up here). I will also attempt to relate historically relevant facts wherever possible, though for most part you will find my knowledge abjectly wanting. My memories of the day I spent at Hampi are sandwiched between memories of a dramatic sunrise and an even more dramatic sunset. This post therefore, deals entirely with sunrise and sunset, which though are an indelible part of my Hampi memoirs, should be separated from the actual time I spent at Hampi; just like you need to separate the two halves of a walnut for fuller enjoyment of the kernel.

Adagio-Allegro: My perennial obsession with the luminary, commonly reputed to be a young mid-sized star (astronomically speaking) and often referred to as Sun, got me to the roof of our guest house before my roomies had woken up. I had expected the few minutes before the sunrise to be peaceful. Unfortunately I received an auditory torment worse than my usual urban settings.

Constant hum of a water-pump pervaded the air, and when the power at the guest house went out, it was joined by an even louder hum of a generator. Just when my ears had turned indifferent to their cacophonic duet, they were rattled by loud cries of chickens – not their everyday clucking to welcome dawn but the sort that they coax from their throats when in mortal danger. I had thus divined that chicken sandwich would be the first item on the breakfast menu. From a small farm in one corner of the guest house, two pigs came out prancing. I don’t think the word ‘adorable’ and ‘pig’ are used in the same sentence, unless ‘adorable’ is being used in a context separate from pig, or, unless ‘adorable’ is preceded by an adverb that negates its meaning; but allow me to deviate from the usual norm. The pigs were adorable. In fact, one of them sported a black and white coat, giving it a very dog like appearance. I suddenly felt open to having a pig as a pet. Their happy squeals were soon superseded by splashes of water. Below, in the guest house lawns, our parked bus was being given an elaborate bath by its driver. I have never seen affection between a man and his vehicle that is of same order as I was witnessing here. But oh the quiet before dawn!

The sky in the east turned faintly orange. There were small clouds there and the sun, after making a momentary appearance, hid behind them. After a long wait it emerged again only to be shrouded in clouds once more, though partially. So by the time it finally arose clear of the cloud cover in east, too bright to click or stare into, it felt like I had seen two sunrises instead of one.

When we arrived at our lodge in Hospet at 5:30 in the evening, after a hectic day at Hampi, a quick bite was my foremost concern. I placed my order (a cup of tea with onion pakoras) with the lodge’s keeper who looked visibly annoyed at having to serve an entire cavalcade on a lazy Sunday evening. Just then, a momentary flash of brilliance (entirely metaphorical one), reminded me that I should be clicking the Sunset at Tungabhadra Dam. I wasn’t sure of the actual timing of the sunset so I asked a fellow passenger to help me locate it in a day old copy of Praja Vaani lying at our table. The newspaper didn’t carry the timings and everyone else’s guess was as good as mine. A short joust between my primitive instinct (hunger) and intellectual faculty (oh for a glorious sunset) ensued; intellect knocked instinct with such force that I found my legs involuntarily drawing me towards the Tungabhadra Dam precincts. The entry to the Dam complex involved procuring a ticket and at that moment I was positively sure (I later realized that I had an hour to spare) that it would cause me to miss the sunset. So I abandoned the Dam altogether and trotted along the same road which the bus had taken to get to our current lodgings. There is a mine in the nearby area and I could see hundreds of trucks – both on the road and parked alongside it - carrying heaps of red sand, depositing it in good quantities on everything they passed by.

After walking about a kilometer, I settled on a little bridge built on a small stream. As I stood facing the stream in west, I got a clear view of the dimming evening sun. For a moment I was reminded of Shire from LOTR, but I snapped out from that illusion when the bridge under my feet shook violently. I initially feared an earthquake though before a sense of panic could give me goosebumps, I could relate those tremors to the passage of heavy lorries over the bridge. The continuous convulsions of the bridge made me wonder if the architects of the bridge, in their grand scheme of things, had taken into account the strain caused by an excited, seventy kilo human load; that too, a strolling seventy kilo human load, during what must have been peak time. Fortunately, I witnessed a fascinating sunset without a crack in the bridge or its collapse. Full marks to the designers and constructors of the bridge.

The sunset felt like an episode from a fairy tail. A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the sunbeams escaping from behind it, gave it eerie appearance of an imaginary sun-devouring bird. As the sun descended even lower than the cloud, into another elongated patch of cloud, it felt as if this bird was laying a golden egg in its nest (or perhaps it found sun too hot to handle). At last the sun fell below all clouds, draining my pool of imagination and camera batteries. I watched sun’s last rites, wondering how many such beautiful sunsets I must have missed in my life.
posted: 26.2.05 | permalink | 5 comments

Hampi Visit - IV. Adagio maestoso (in pictures)
"Within minutes of clearing the tollgate, our bus passed by the magnificent fort-like Bellary Central Jail situated atop a hill. I managed a shot or two of the structure as our bus slowed down in the chaotic traffic."

BellaryJail

"The sun had begun its westward plunge by the time we resumed our remaining journey. I caught the last few rays of a beautiful sunset through a view cluttered with billboards, electricity poles and wires, as we stood waiting at a crossing."

BellarySunset
posted: 22.2.05 | permalink | 13 comments

Hampi Visit - IV. Adagio maestoso
The bus followed the same village road which I had walked along just minutes ago. After about twenty minutes it came to a halt near another temple. I got down the bus with intentions of paying my visit to the deities. Upon realizing that of faith and fatigue the latter usually prevails upon me, I retreated back in. The bus was eventually parked under a shady tree. The calm (this being a small temple, was relatively freer from hubbub) and the breeze cajoled me into a short nap.

When I woke up people were pouring back into the bus. The nap proved invigorating, though it also invested me with a prodigious appetite. I wanted to fish out a packet of coconut cookies from my hand-bag, but in light of the announcement that our next stop would be a restaurant for an hour-long lunch break, I allowed my hunger to work upon itself up a bit. We arrived at the restaurant after a short drive through a small town close to Mantralaya. I sat alone and devoured pooris which had arrived at my table after calamitous communication differences with our waiter (who incidentally was the only one taking orders from the entire lot of us). Around three we were back into the bus for our drive to Hampi.

This was the only part of our journey conducted during daytime allowing me a good look at the landscape. The sky was a perfect azure with occasional patches of clouds. There were golden fields on either side of the road with a lonely tree or two standing far away in the horizon. The scenery exhorted the photographer in me but alas these buses won’t stop at mere photographic whims of their passengers. Nonetheless, the ill effects of morning’s unpleasant start were now a thing of past and I couldn’t help feeling self-congratulatory for having taken the tour.

The movie posters changed from being exclusively in Telugu, to being in Telugu and Kannada, to Kannada alone and thus we had crossed back into Karnataka around five in the evening through the town of Bellary. I noticed that everything here - the houses, their roofs, parked vehicles, picket fences, plant leaves and the half-awake dogs - was covered in a fine rusty soot inescapable as the air itself. I saw trucks carry heaps of the same dusty material, leaving behind plumes of it each time they would hit a rough patch on the road. At a good distance from my window I saw a tall chimney lazily bellowing out pale-rust smoke. I later learned of an Aluminium Carbide factory in the vicinity which in all likelihood was the reason for the dusty, rusty environs.

Within minutes of clearing the tollgate, our bus passed by the magnificent fort-like Bellary Central Jail situated atop a hill. I managed a shot or two of the structure as our bus slowed down in the chaotic traffic. We stopped for a forty minute tea break at a Hotel-Restaurant with a somewhat unusual moniker of Pola and a somewhat unusual backdrop of Bellary Jail. I rushed to the restaurant’s terrace for clicking the prison but the high parapet and coconut trees surrounding it effectively blockaded my view. A very sweet and milky tea, bolstered me (if you’ve ever had a cuppa at a roadside dhaba you would agree with my pronouncement of its nutritional merits, but I digress) for the last stretch of the day’s journey.

The sun had begun its westward plunge by the time we resumed our remaining journey. I caught the last few rays of a beautiful sunset through a view cluttered with billboards, electricity poles and wires, as we stood waiting at a crossing. As it grew darker I lost sense of time and distance. We were speeding towards Hampi and that alone was sufficient for me.

At nine in the night our bus unexpectedly halted in the lawns of what looked like a guesthouse. We were near Hampi but not in Hampi. The guesthouse, Kamlapur Yatri Nivas, was to be our abode for the night. Three of us (one former acquaintance from morning’s ordeal, one total stranger and me) were summarily allotted a four-bed room. Fortunately the room was passably clean and the bathroom demonstrated standards of hygiene reasonably acceptable for a guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. The room even had provisions of mosquito-coil to ward off the sweet-singing, bloodthirsty insects.

Having heard so many tales about the sunrise at Hampi I was keen to catch it. I found out that this would have to be ruled out as our guesthouse was about 4 KM or so from the actual excavation sites. So close, and yet, so far. Despite this little setback I was now brimming with anticipation. Hampi was already working its magic on me. Weary, I dozed off to brace myself for a busy tomorrow.
posted: 18.2.05 | permalink | 11 comments

Where I've Been
As I convalesce and avail the esteemed services of my two trusted healers, I must give an account of where I’ve been (rather what I’ve been through).

This weekend was a weekend of many firsts. What was a dull pain in my abdomen on Friday evening got diagnosed as a rather acute case of appendicitis on Saturday afternoon and by Saturday evening the surgeon’s scalpel had freed my appendix from its long slavery to my caecum in the dark, gloomy interiors of my anatomy.

I’ve been the trouble child in my family and therefore am no stranger to local anesthetics. This however was the first time I had to be put under the agency of a general anesthetic. I was thus not only curious to experience the feeling of “passing out”, but also determined in a devious sort of way to test my mental strength in dodging the effects of the anesthesia. All my resolve must have lasted nine perhaps ten seconds under it (even here I have a nagging feeling that I might be exaggerating). I saw the lights in the operation theatre come on (a very “movie like” feeling), I saw a dark grey rubber mask being brought over my nose, I remember trying to do the tedious business of judging whether smell of the gas pouring through the mask should be classified as pleasant or odious and I remember passing into a sweet slumber (leaving the surgeons to work hard on me) the moment I had placed a check mark under the “bitter” column of my imaginary smell categorization matrix.

I was floating in a pleasant, abstract dream - the sort you want to postpone waking from forever. Just then I heard my name being called out loudly:

“DEEPAK”
“Come out Deepak”
“DEEPAK”
“it’s over Deepak”
“DEEPAK”

My brain deemed it important to answer these urgent summons from the outside world and cut my reverie short abruptly. I opened my eyes reluctantly, answered the question whether I was dreaming affirmatively, had an irresistible urge to sing ditties describing contents of my fantastic dream; restrained myself initially to an eloquent prose, and was curtly told by the doctors to shut up and relax before another Iliad or Odyssey could be realized in the grim environs of the operation theatre. I was shown what was extracted from me (I was insistent) though without my glasses all I could see was that there was something hazy floating in something hazy. I was taken aside for a wee ride to my room (after a change of bed). As they wheeled me into the elevator for a ride from second floor to the eight I could see through the gap between the sliding doors and sepulchral steel elevator chamber the dimly lit column within which the elevator performs its daily exhilarating journeys. I remember being momentarily happy for not being an elevator and just then they nudged me into my final bed.

My room was pleasant and comfortable. They had provided me with a switch which on pressing would sound Beethoven’s Fur Elise outside (I couldn’t help grinning to myself) and have someone come over to attend me. Though on the first night someone or the other kept coming to attend me without my pressing the switch. I kept checking with the nurses what I was being administered each time I got poked and on being told on one occasion something to the effect that the contents of the syringe was a painkiller I tried to argue that subsequent injections shouldn’t hurt as painkillers are impartial to where they should act.

The next three days flew and on Monday I was presented with my much awaited St. Valentine’s Day missive – a massive hospital bill.

Missive

From collecting airplane boarding passes from lonely flights on the 14th, to collecting hospital bills – my guardian angels are sure blessed with an astute sense of romance. One day I’ll get better of these confounded cherubs!

Postscriptum: My sister informs me that her recently concluded M. Phil dissertation will have two appendices – good for her! (dissertation?)
posted: 17.2.05 | permalink | 15 comments

Healers
They tell me time is a healer
I tell them so is sleep
They've locked it right behind me
and sleep I'm trying to keep

Healers
posted: 9.2.05 | permalink | 16 comments

A tree...
...and a slice of Bangalore.

A slice of Bangalore
posted: 8.2.05 | permalink | 0 comments

Bug and Butterfly
Two fancy, friendly insects I met when promenading along the village road at Mantralaya:

bug

It was so windy that this butterfly found itself in a rather awkward, overturned postion; though it recovered its natural dispostion even before I could think of offering any help.

Butterfly2

Butterfly3

p.s. I finally decided to experiment with FlickR for hosting my pictures - at least till my original host comes up. The images here were cropped to capture greater details of the insects.
posted: 7.2.05 | permalink | 2 comments

Hampi Visit- III. Allegro agitato
I passed the last half of my overnight journey, half-asleep half-awake with no notion of what was dream and what was reality. I remember seeing low, rocky, crags with big boulders littered around them under a moonlit, starry sky and thinking of Hyderabad. I vaguely recall a truck driver sleeping under his vehicle parked near one such rocky passage. I even have faint recollections of seeing a movie poster in Kannada, trying to read it, realizing that it was Telugu (because it had characters that I couldn’t decipher) and then giving up the whole exercise in a state of irritated befuddlement. I woke up when our bus slowed down when passing through a small village with beautiful, small, white houses; an observation which I am more inclined to classify as contents of a fatigued reverie.

At around 4:45 in the morning the lights in the bus came on, a phenomenon accompanied by loud devotional music on the Bus’s public address system; of which the only word that I registered was ‘Mantralaya’ – it being the name of our destination. Before I could speculate the time left for our arrival, the bus came to a halt near a guest house and we again received our bilingual instructions from a now very sleepy bus conductor. Mantralaya in Andhra Pradesh was thus the first stop of our two day tour. We got down with our luggage and assembled at the guest house’s reception desk. Since this was not an overnight stay but merely an arrangement to allow every one to freshen-up, we were curtly informed that four people would share one room. Now I’ve been a day scholar right uptil my college days and so have been privileged enough to have never been forced to share my room. On moving to Bangalore, despite the somewhat steep rents I was determined to make do on my own - even if that amounted to inhabiting a sleeping bag under my cubicle. Sharing my quarters therefore, is a concept wholly alien to my nature. I hadn’t made any acquaintances on bus and was thus mortified at this sudden prospect of sharing room with three total strangers. “Dearest Deepak, time to climb down your ivory tower and learn a lesson or two in humility”, I muttered to myself peevishly.

I exchanged courteous greetings with my newly assigned roommates and followed them to our room at the guest house’s right wing second floor. As we opened the door to our room, a fetid draught of stale air threatened to extricate the contents of last night’s dinner, from its present station of my bowels, with an unassailable force. We switched on the fan which dissipated the pervasive malodor a bit, till gradually my olfactory faculties were entirely desensitized to it. Of all the rooms in the guest house, our room must have been suffering from severest case of inferiority complex owing to its appearance (or perhaps it didn’t care). The whitewash was peeling off the walls and you could see grey patches of cement on the ceiling. To compound our misery, the room was also a haven for rowdy gangs of mosquitoes that looked mortally thirsty for blood – our unwelcome roomies that I wasn’t quite informed of (come to think of it, I was being naïve to not expect them there!). A reluctant peek into the bathroom and I was determined to go without a bath for the remaining day.

The rest of the stay was not a memorable one. I visited Tungbhadra river in the temple complex and was appalled at filth strewn all around it. The sunrise which I had hoped to catch as a fair reward for my overnight journey, was obstructed by a low hill in the east.

The subsequent visit to the temple was an experience that I would rather forget. I have enjoyed visiting temples in past; perhaps because the temples I have visited have had more historical renown than religious. I like temples where I can sit in peace and reflect without unwelcome presence of an overbearing priest engaged in garish display of his clout. While here peace was in such short supply that I am tempted to theorize its inverse proportionality to the number of priests.

I would now digress for a very short dissertation on religion, my own liberal interpretation of it, and how antediluvian (dare I say rotten) some of the practices in the temple were. For instance, the darashan ceremony was telecast on a closed circuit TV throughout the temple complex but to get into the main sanctum for seeing the same, you had to take off your shirt and vest or be reprimanded (even man-handled) by a fully liveried guard standing in that very holy spot. I am not a dotingly devout person. My upbringing and education has taught me to put everything under a scientific scrutiny – without making an exception to matters of faith or religion. I am deeply spiritual and yet a most casual practitioner of my religion, a practice that borders on agnosticism. I don’t see it as dichotomy or contradiction. Religion was created by man not by God. Religion was created by man for serving man, for his deliverance. Theology evolved because there were questions that science and philosophy did not (and do not yet) answer. Then why is it that we end up serving religion and that too rather ostentatiously? What happened to the Hindu reformist movements started by the likes of Raja Ram Mohan Roy? This was my first ever visit to a place of great religious significance and I have vowed to never undertake anything even remotely resembling a pilgrimage again.

With these agitated sentiments, I stepped out of the temple. Outside, urchins were begging or peddling incense sticks, coconuts and garlands for consumption by deities inside. A person with tonsured head had painted himself entirely in silver color and stood still, slouched, with a long walking stick, in an imitation of Gandhi. Passers by threw loose change into a tin box lying at his feet. I was undecided who I should feel sorrier for – that man or Gandhi. A quick ten minute walk later I was on a village road that led me away from temple.

As I moved farther on that road, the din of devotees gradually faded into silence. This allowed my ears to register chirping of birds for the first time since we had gotten down. I made a call home. Sis’s remark that I was actually standing by a river which we had so often drawn on map of India in geography class at school has somehow stayed in my mind even days after our conversation. I strolled for some forty minutes, took a few pictures and finally settled down on a low brick structure by the roadside to mediate on all that I had seen so far. Across the road, by the bank of the river, were paddy fields with an occasional heron plodding in shallow waters there. As the wind would change its direction, it would buffet my eardrums and bring incoherent echoes of cricket-commentary from a loudspeaker installed in the playgrounds of near-by school. Herds of goats and buffalos sheparded by villagers would pass me by every now and then; bells and trinkets tied around their necks chiming sweetly. An improvised nine-seater auto running on a two stroke engine; ferrying more people than it was originally invented for, would announce its approach from far away and then trail past me with a speed surprising for its load.

With thirty minutes to go for the deadline set by our bus conductor I started my walk back to the guest house. At 12:00, having valiantly collected my baggage from our shabby lodgings, I sank back into my window seat, wondering if the remaining leg of the journey was going to be worth my while.
posted: 4.2.05 | permalink | 10 comments

The Young Tree
It is my wont to stand alone
To wither away with none to mourn
Though now I burn in Sun’s ague
I know this well, I’ll outlast you



(Taken from the moving bus on way to Bellari in Karnataka from Mantralaya in Andhra Pradesh)
posted: 1.2.05 | permalink | 6 comments





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