Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Rolling Stone's Moss: Going Nowhere

There is no rational explanation. For a lot of things.

For Love. For Hate. For Blind Faith.

Neither for Wanderlust.

And so I won’t attempt one.

I was travelling all of last week. With myself. With a good book, some good music, a camera. With a copy of Lonely Planet. With a map. But with no plan. There is no rational explanation as to why I felt compelled to travel alone or without a plan. So I am not going to attempt it.

There is also no logical reason for why I would want to completely step out of my comfort zone and elements and hop onto some of the dirtiest buses I have ever seen, get puked on by children stuffed with festival food (and still manage to continue sitting in that position for 3 hours when in normal circumstances I would have probably instantly taken a bath and thrown those clothes away or something) on the way to Mysore, let rain water drip onto me from the vent in the roof of a KSRTC Ordinary bus through the night while travelling to Hospet, get soaked in the rain for 3 days straight (something I HATE) and walk around Hampi in the a soaked pair of Nikes and still manage to enjoy myself…so yes, I won’t attempt to come up with one.

The only thing I can say is that it was the people who made it bearable and enjoyable. They made cold rainy days seem warm with their hospitality and extra care for a single girl travelling alone in India. They made it special. People always do…


Like my friend’s mother who made a nice pudding and remembered what I had the last time I came over so as to change the menu and prepare delectable Dosas for brunch…

And my other friend’s mother whose expert Iyengar cooking made each meal a joy, who made sure I was comfortable at all times asking if I would have milk at night and making my favourite Idlis for breakfast although Aloo-paratha was on the menu for the day, setting up mosquito nets and making me feel completely at home…

The old man on the bus to Mysore who woke me up from my dozing in Bellur since he didn’t want me to sleep through my stop…I told him I was going to Mysore and disappointed him…

The young boys on the bus – residents of Bannur and Somnathpur – who kept telling me to return to Mysore from Bannur until I obliged since they were concerned I wouldn’t find a room in Somnathpur…and so I turned back…

The many bus conductors at Mysore who would look at me waiting for my bus alone and come up and ask if I needed to find something or get somewhere…

The young lady employee of KSRTC who stood around with me at Mysore because I looked lost looking for my bus to Hospet…she was headed to Hospet too on the ‘Aardinary’ bus that I had a ticket for : ) … a very nice person...I forgot to ask her name but I’ll never forget her smile…

Smt. Madhusri who joined the young lady and me in waiting for our bus to Hospet. Upon discovering that I was headed to Hospet and subsequently to Hampi she gave me a long list of places to see and things to do over the next three days by making Hospet my base. I could explore Hampi, Anjanadri, Kudalsangma, Badami, Aihole, Patadakkal all from Hospet. She told me long interesting stories about each place…she seemed to be very well-read. We talked about religion and management…and soon I realized why I enjoyed the whole conversation so much…she was almost my mirror in thoughts!

I met another person though her conversations…her late mother who was a phenomenal lady born two generations ahead of her time. I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation. As if that wasn’t enough, aunty told me not to waste money on a hotel for just freshening up in the morning and took me home with her, made me some lovely chai while I got ready for the next leg of the journey and we spoke some more. It was one of the most fulfilling encounters ever…

As soon as Madhusri Aunty let me go, I was sent into the hands of another wonderful person – Smt. Nagarathna – whom I sat next to on my way to Hampi. She asked me where I was coming from and where I was headed to and when she realized I was travelling alone she told me to come to the post office with her (she is the sub-postmaster) and take rest while she and her colleagues helped me find my way around Hampi. She immediately called her colleague to find a guesthouse and a guide who would be safe to see Hampi with. So by the time I arrived in Hampi (which was practically 20 minutes after we left Hospet) I had nothing to worry about. Of course in this case too they didn’t want me to check in before the evening so I would save money and with my bag at the post office I roamed around all of Hampi with no care in the world. I was practically the guest of the post office and that included getting a set of Hampi post cards for half the price so I could send them home with the special Hampi inscription on them…

Mr. Srinivasa at the post office found me a nice guesthouse and we walked to The Mango Tree restaurant in the afternoon to get lunch packed for all of us. He told me many stories – mythological and otherwise, about Hampi and arranged for an auto driver-cum-guide (they said to the agent – he has to be a ‘Yajmaan’, don’t send a young guy. This is a single lady travelling alone). Post a late lunch I checked into the guesthouse while Aunty and Mr. Srinivasa started wrapping up their work for the day. We decided we’d meet the next morning and I should leave to look around with the guide assigned with the task of showing me around…

Khaja, my guide, picked me up late in the afternoon and took it upon himself to educate me about the Hampi-Vijayanagara Empire. He made sure he explained the history in as much detail as he could in the short time he had…he had to drop me off at my guesthouse by 6 PM in the interest of social ethics. I admire him for that. The next day the rain Gods unleashed their fury. We had decided to go on a tour at 8:30 if it didn’t rain. He showed up at 8:30 AM anyway. I met him on the rooftop restaurant (nearly every guesthouse has one) at 9:30 AM, which is when he came back. It was still pouring so we decided to wait for it to clear up. He kept checking at the guesthouse every time the rain reduced to a drizzle. And finally we were able to visit the Vijay Vittala Temple late in the afternoon leaving him little time again. He wouldn’t let me go to the ruins all by myself since it was dangerous. And that’s how everyone took care of me at Hampi.

I spent the third day in Hampi mostly sitting in the Mango Tree watching the river rise or in the Post Office post lunch. I did a bit of work for Aunty since I was getting bored anyway. At the end of the day, an American walked in hoping to send a few postcards and I started talking to him…his name was Charlie. It looked like he was travelling alone in India and one can imagine how boggling that can be sometimes given that Indians hardly ever manage that themselves. So I gave him my contact in case he faced some problem while in Bangalore (his next destination). I don’t know what prompted me to do that but I recently read in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Teenage Soul about passing favours on and I guess I was doing the same for when people were super nice to me in the Czech and Slovak Republics.

We caught up with Charlie this past Sunday and had a very nice conversation. And that’s how my unplanned travel led me to another friend.

Aunty made me travel back with her to Hospet and told me where to eat during the 5 hour wait for my bus to Bangalore and that I should be careful and not roam around in the rain. While leaving she said she was feeling unsettled to leave me at the bus station and go and that I should keep in touch. I could have cried I swear. I didn’t.

I couldn’t even tell most of them how touched I was given my broken knowledge of spoken Kannada. I just hope they all know they have a special place in my life and heart.

More than anything Going Nowhere was a journey to reaffirm everyone’s faith in the goodness of people and humanity…They were all strangers who had no reason to go out of their way and their schedules to help a traveller who could hardly do anything for them in return and to share personal stories that would make her travel memorable. There is no rational explanation why they would want to do that.

So I am not going to attempt one.

Some pictures from the trip...

13 Thinkers Pondered:

Nirupama said...

When you were telling all of this to me, I was so happy to see the excitement in you with which you returned, and was glad to know that good human beings still exist even in small towns...
I am happy and proud of you in more ways than one... :) Love you D!!

blistering barnackles said...

wonderful... it seems you had one of those indian adventures.. which most gentlemen (me) hardly get. but anyways... it seems the trip was wonderful and well taken care of... i also would think of going on such a journey soon... but the question is where?? i will think of it... YOU r an inspiration...

numerounity said...

That is one of the most wonderful travelogue I have come across. Anupama, You have a special talent. Not just your words/ writings but as person also I believe you have the charm to win over other people. This incidence strengthens my point. Keep the good sprit up. Kudos.

Satish said...

A trip noteworthy, considering the limited knowledge of the local language. Few more tourist spots near somnathpur are Shivanasamudram falls, talakad temple, Madhya Ranga Temple..........
One of the common sights you see once you are away from city, is the warmth with which each human being is received...........

Sometimes wonder, what makes the city dwellers that much different.....

Vibhushan said...

Wonderful travel account Anupama. Surely must have been an amazing experience. I kind of agree with 'blistering...' - wonder if a gentlemen (however gentle and well-behaved he would be) would get same reception :)

But yes, I do believe there is lot of goodness around in world and all that one has to do is make a connect. Had already seen the pictures on Facebook, I guess watching a flooding river swell would have been quite a sight.

wander1ust said...

Hey Anu - great write-up!! Heartening to note that you encountered so many Samaritans and well-wishers on your trip. Made me rethink my views on travel in Karnataka. And of course, the photos are fabulous. Mysore Dasara photos top the cake - great captures!

Vandana said...

Hey Anu!! Amazing blogs yaar... Wonder why i dint read them till date... Great work you have been up to.. Cant tell you how proud I am to have a superbly talented friend like you!! Keep up the good work... Your travel account has definitely inspired me to experience one! The fact that good human beings exist is not hard to believe with lovely people like you around.

Hrish Thota said...

Very well written travelogue Anu. I could actually picturize the entire trip through your very creative writing! Kudos for this trip!

Its very heartening to see that our country and its people are so caring and friendly. I have also encountered very friendly natives in many of my treks/trips but this extra pampering towards a girl by the aunties is something only you enjoyed! :)

Have fun and have more wonderful trips in the future! :)

popsie said...

Interesting read. Sure sounds like you had fun every minute of your travel!

Sritama said...

It sure sounds like you were on a dream journey of your own!!Keep rolling and keep blogging!! :)

Anupama said...

Hey Niru!

Good human beings very much exist. Sometimes they forget they are good human beings that's all. But inherently, everyone is good-hearted by nature I think :)

Hey Akshay (blistering barnackles),

Thank you so much for the kind words :)

Hey Ekta,

Thank you so much for the warm words :)

Hey Satish!

Somnathpur is where I was headed but not destines to visit yet :( ...maybe soon...and yes, I wonder about that too...why do city dwellers seem to have lost all their trust in goodness, their patience with people, their genuineness and affection in general? It is appalling sometimes how much we have lost...

Hey Vibhushan,

It was actually quite scary in retrospect the way the river kept rising at an alarming rate...made me aware of nature's power...and going by the accounts of solo travels of another friend, even men are received equally warmly all over which is what strengthens my belief...

Hey Wander1ust!

I just realized...incidentally your name appears in this post as the marking factor!...Wanderlust...that illogical irrational feeling that takes you places (literally :) )...thank you for the compliment on the pictures :)

Hey Vandu!

Thank you so much for the comment :) ...yeah pampering is the correct word for what I experienced in this trip...and it was overwhelming :)

Hey Popsie,

Welcome to the space and thank you for the comment :)

Hey Sritama!

It indeed was a dream journey and one that I would want to experience again...the only thing being making an unplanned trip ensures that the experience is absolutely unique...ony memories can be relived...thank you so much for the comment :)

Smita said...

That was some colorful journey that went through!!!

In a way am envious of you :)

transient said...

Wow! I just read that post(don't ask me how i even got here in the first place) and I cannot tell you how much i envy you. That is amazing, this adventure that you live through. you must be one liberated soul. i am impressed.