This is a morning that I have often imagined, but not expected. Apart from the wiry plants and the two of us, there’s no sign of a living thing as far as we can see. We can’t see too far either, it’s hazy. Perhaps foggy. I easily get confused and haven’t tried hard to know the difference. Luckily I took a photograph, so you can decide for yourself. I have also imagined that I’d be tired from yesterday’s 740kms drive, but I don’t feel it. Part of me is relaxed and excited at the adventure that will soon follow. Part of me is trying to listen to the silence. It is deafening. For us, city-bred folks, this kind of silence is unheard of. So I sit down on the big boulder looking out at the leaves and the rocks and towards the translucence that’s turning to opaque.
I walk away a bit and look back at the cottage we are living in. Yesterday night, I could make out a big boulder and some thatching, but that was about all I could see in the darkness. This morning, it looks strangely beautiful. And strange as it may seem to many, I ask my best friend to please move out of the frame, so that I could take a photograph of the cottage. (She obliges; she’s used to it after all these years) More often than not, if you look at a touristy photograph, you’ll find it looks much better without humans in it. It’s not that I don’t like humans in photographs, but a cottage by itself, allows for more imagination without any humans in the picture. The cottage is different from any place I have stayed. yet, in ways that my mind perceives, it is almost identical. The big boulder atop which it is perched and the surroundings give it the distinction; once inside however, somethings never change. There’s a GoodKnight Mosquito Mat, two travel-sized Medimix soaps, and white napkins hanging by the basin that smell exactly the same almost, all over the country. I’ve yet to figure out the name of the top-selling laundry detergent that sells to all mid-size hotels and resorts all over India.
The morning becomes better with the typical tea that comes in. This place has been designed for relaxing and talking. Not as a stopover. I notice that us, city-bred folks talk loudly — situational hazard I guess — trying to drown out the ambient sound of the traffic and such. Within this mass of boulders and thorny bush, when I speak I feel I am shouting. It takes some effort for me to lower my volume. I feel I am whispering. We don’t feel like leaving this moment, but larger treasures await us, that were set in stone here, more than 700 years ago. Yesterday, our host tells me that ideally I’d need two full days to see all that remains; the remains. We have just half that time here, so we need to make as much as we can, of the time we have.
Mr. Kumar is our host at Hampi’s Boulders. He has been helpful right since we reached the vicinity; sending us a bike-guide yesterday night to navigate through the dirt roads. He has done everything he can to make our stay comfortable. I try to see through and identify the ‘professional sincerity’ that most managers of such places have acquired through training. I cannot see it. He really believes in what he does and likes to do what he does. Cynicism is one attribute that does nothing for someone who travels for experience. And travel, is not about seeing or visiting places, it is about people in those places. There’s a good chance you will remember the people more than the places, when you are back home.
We are now at the breakfast buffet and it again exceeds my expectations. Perhaps when you travel a lot and accumulate many an experience, you always have your guard up to shield you against disappointments. It’s something
we I have to learn not to do. There are many international visitors staying here, so you have the staple scrambled-egg-based-breakfast-coupled-with-cornflakes, but being here, in this region, there is no way I’ll have the eggs, when there is plentiful sambar, (the Sambar link is about its origin, do read) Idlis and hot-fresh-on-your-table-Dosas. A ribbon of tribal art surrounds the trunk of our breakfast buffet table. As you can gather, it has been a wonderful experience so far. But our adventure cannot start right away. This place is on the other side of a water body (which I suspect is related to Tungabhadra) the monument(s) that we want to see. There’s a river to cross, and a jeep is doing the rounds to get us to the ferry that will take us to the ruins. We aren’t worried about the delay.
This is as good a place to be, as any. We find ourselves in a place with no walls. There’s too much silence and too much of oxygen. I am in a place that seems like heaven, for sure, but it becomes difficult to believe it. I can hear Belinda Carlisle singing:
Heaven is a place on Earth
The say in Heaven, love comes first
We’ll make Heaven a place on earth
We have too many constructs, definitions and plans. To travel, is to experience. And if you stick to a plan, and insist on everything happening according to plan, then you deny yourself an experience.
This episode should have covered this day, but just these few early morning hours have been an episode by themselves. This day was much more than I could have covered in a single episode, I realise now.
More, in Episode 4.