Friday, December 06, 2013

I Want To Go Back To Hampi Again

It's winter and it's cold and it's sunny, and I feel like going back to Hampi again.

Hampi, two years ago, was magic. An overnight train journey from Bangalore, but it felt like we were on a different planet.

Red-brown boulders teetering precariously on hills. Ruined temples waiting patiently in the sunshine. The reconstructed monuments filled with tourists. The colourful shanty town with its cowshit-splattered streets and its numberless guest-houses. Flocks of foreigners flying by on bicycles. The Tungabhadra, flowing majestically through it all.

What I liked most was that we could lose ourselves if we wanted to - step away from the main touristy places and become one with the landscape. Climb a  hill of boulders and survey the almost-Martian landscape; sit on the cold stone floor of a temple and absorb the absolute silence; take a random footpath and stumble across a ruined building nobody might have entered in centuries.

It was hot, and our legs ached. We ate dosas from a hand-cart in the morning, curd rice on the banks of the Tungabhadra for lunch, and pesudo-Continental in a shady place for dinner. The temples smelt of pigeon-shit. The river was cold and slow and grey. The green sugarcane fields looked strange next to the copper-coloured hills. Monkeys sat on temple walls and made faces at us.

And through it all, there was a surrealness. How did this Martian landscape of red-brown boulders come to be on Earth? Had this deserted row of stone stalls really been a crowded market a few centuries ago? Did this cobwebbed monkey-infested stone structure really once contain the smell of incense and the sound of chanting and the glow of lamps?

Hampi, above all, was about the passage of time. The footsteps and laughter and prayers of people seemed to echo down the centuries to us. They seemed to mingle with the shouts and laughter of the Hampi of today. They seemed to say - yes, you shall also be gone one day, and what shall you leave behind?
• • •