Hampi: The Great Escape

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. Part of the reason was my persistent writers’ block. The main reason was that I had nothing interesting to write about. Sad as that may seem, I was living in mortal fear of having nothing left to write about. Then, on a windy Friday night, it all changed.

A call was made on my behalf to a travel agent and bus tickets were booked in my name to Hampi. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I can’t postpone my trip any longer. A loaded gun was held to my head and I was made to pack my bag and marched all the way to the bus station. I was violently shoved into the bus and the door was pulled shut behind me. I was on my way to Hampi, the cultural capital of the country.

I have a tendency to exaggerate a bit at times, and though my departure to Hampi wasn’t as dramatic as I described, it was still a decision I had to take despite a lot of leftover work. Half my mind was on my impending vacation and the other half was working on publicity strategies for my clients. I tried hard and put that part of my brain to sleep and told myself that I’d take it as it comes. I convinced myself that I needed a break. I looked forward to three days of blissful peace.

It was 6 AM in the morning when I woke up, jolted by a particularly nasty pothole and was aware of a painfully full bladder. I looked out the window and was stunned by the landscape we were passing through. in the dawn’s early, hesitant light, I looked at a river flowing in all her might, past the greenest trees I’ve ever seen. The scene was killed mercilessly by a burst of black smoke that the bus belched as it wound its way up an incline. I walked over to the driver and asked him if he could stop for a bit so that I could relieve myself. I was told that we would reach the final stop in under 20 minutes and that I should hold it.

I stood there, squirming in discomfort for the next twenty-five minutes until at last, we stopped for the last time at a place called Hospet. I rushed out of the bus before anyone else, ran out on to the other side of the road and experienced the second most pleasurable thing a man can experience by himself. With a satisfied smile on my face, I took a deep lungful of the clean, crisp village air and hailed an auto-rickshaw to Hampi, twelve miles away. I didn’t know it then, but my journey had just begun.

Mowgli Resort & Guest House

Mowgli Resort
Mowgli Resort
View from my room
View from my room

Hampi is a strange place, geographically speaking. The Tungabhadra river cuts the village into two clean halves, which are linked either by small ferry boats across the water, or, when the water levels are dangerously high, by a thirty mile road trip all along the river and over the dam. I had the privilege of taking the road trip.

The thirty miles seemed to pass in a blink of an eye as the auto-rickshaw tuk-tuk’d its way through small towns, smaller villages and some absolutely fantastic scenery. I saw a few semi-hot village chicks and waved at them as we went by, and saw them give me strange stares in return. We arrived at the Mowgli Guest House & Resort at around 9.30 in the morning and I dismissed my auto. I was quite surprised to find that I was the only guest there. I was even more surprised to find that the kitchen at Mowgli had been closed for a week and they were only now opening it up for me. Tourist season, I was told by the proprietor, did not begin for another month. I was early. Lucky me.

The guest house is a quaint place set in the middle of green paddy fields all around it, with a great view of the river. A typical backpackers’ destination, this resort and other similar ones in the area , boasts of an international menu at entirely desi rates. Imagine having a mouth-watering margherita pizza for Rs. 100! But, as luck would have it, being the off-season, the pizza wasn’t available.

I spent most of the first day lounging around, reading a good book and listening to the soothing sounds all around me – the insects, the birds, the wind and the river.

Scooty Streaking

The Scooty Streak
The Scooty Streak

I hired a Scooty Streak on the second morning and rode all over the neighboring villages. I covered almost fifty miles in under four hours, absolutely mesmerized by the landscape and the ruins. One of the strangest things I discovered about Hampi is the atrocious angles at which boulders sit on top of each other. It almost defies physics. it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time. The open roads, the pleasant weather and the vastly amusing looks I elicited by the villagers all added up to a brilliant morning.

A three hour nap later, I went to a small, rustic restaurant that was quite ostentatiously called ‘Laughing Buddha’. With Bob Marley posters adorning the walls and ugly reggae music playing in the background, I sat by the river bank and had a very satisfying chicken sandwich and a much-needed cup of hot, sweet tea.

By the time I returned to my room late at night, I was highly satisfied and at peace. I was beginning to question myself about going back to Bangalore, back to my stressful life.

Hampi & Her Ruins

My Favorite Ruin
My Favorite Ruin

The last day was by far the most fascinating. I took a chance with the over-flowing river and paid a boatman a bit extra to take me across to the main city. After much hesitation and much negotiation, he got his boat out and ferried me across an angry river. I sat, clutching my life in my hands, as the boat rocked and threatened to topple over any second. Safely across, I met my trusty auto-rickshaw driver, and for the next seven hours, he took me on a comprehensive tour of all the sights of Hampi. The once-mighty Vijayanagar empire that now lies in ruins in and around Hampi is quite a sight to see.Β  For a glimpse of what I saw, check out the album.

I am constantly in search of peace, and more often than not, I mistake peace for momentary pleasure. Hampi is a place that has taught me quite a bit about peace and how to achieve that state of mind.

It is definitely a place I will keep coming back to.

The Foodie Meme!

The word “food” evokes in me a primal instinct to mark my territory on the table, crouch in a corner with my plate of food and growl at anyone who comes near. I devour my food quickly lest someone steals it from me and smack my lips and return to my normal state of mind. I black out when eating, and sometimes, don’t remember what happened. I once came out of such a black out with the thumb of my left hand in my mouth, my white shirt covered in chocolate sauce and my hair smelling of onions. It remains a mystery till today! πŸ˜€

Shefaly tagged me with this very interesting food meme, and finally, I get to show off my love for all things edible. I would best describe my culinary afflictions as: “I am, therefore I eat!” πŸ˜€

Now, lets get down to the meme, shall we!

1. What’s your favorite table?

I wouldn’t want to go over the edge and make a big clichΓ© of myself by saying “Any table with food on it!” or something on similar, drab lines. Actually, my favorite table happens to be in the corner of a cafe called Barista, on MG Road in Bangalore. It was at this table that I was sitting when I realized that my life was going in no particular direction (but down) and that I had to do something about it. So, I ordered a cold chocolate, went home and got a haircut.

2. What would you have for your last supper?

I am going to die on November 4th, 2078 at 3.49 in the evening, while walking down the road after my routine sessions in the local laughter club, where I will perform for free, just to get rid of the boredom. My heart will have weakened enough for me to say my last goodbyes that day in the club, and that afternoon, my last meal will comprise of two chicken sizzlers on BBQ sauce and a portion of potatoes. I will drink half a glass of wine and choke on the other half, and finally, realize that its time to walk out of the club one last time…

3. What’s your poison?

Keeps changing with my mood and the season, and right now, it has to be roadside Dahi Puri with extra sweet on it. For more information on Dahi Puri, take a deep breath, smack your lips in anticipation and please click here. πŸ™‚

4. Name your three desert island ingredients.

Imagination, Perseverance and the ability to eat anything remotely edible! (PS: Cast Away was supposed to feature me, but they chose some guy who was a lot thinner than me and a disgrace to foodies all over!)

5. What would you put in Room 101?

Leftovers! πŸ˜€

6. Which book gets you cooking?

No book can get me to cook! God forbid, if I cook, I shall be responsible for mass hysteria and will be arrested for intentional food poisoning! πŸ™‚

7. What’s your dream dinner party line up?

Me..! πŸ˜€

Ok, I was kidding… Dream dinner party would consist of… um… uh… let’s see… no, I think it would still be me!

8. What was your childhood teatime treat?

Tomato juice, followed by salted biscuits and half a potato bun! Sometimes, when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, I still follow this ritual. πŸ™‚

9. What was your most memorable meal?

December 2008, New York City, Lexington Avenue, Shravana Bhavan – That meal was perhaps the best because the whole day had been spent walking around the city and my feet were aching so badly and my insignificant breakfast had long been digested! πŸ˜€

10. What was your biggest food disaster?

My roomies and I once decided to cook a South Indian delicacy called Bisi Bele Bath. Its a concoction of rice, dal and lots of spices. We called everyone over and were so proud of ourselves, when we realized that we had forgotten to add the dal…

We made up a story that we got the recipe from MySpace, and that the dish was called Ranatunga! πŸ˜€

Some people actually bought the story and liked the dish. Never been near the kitchen since!

11. What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

My very own insipid version of chicken soup! πŸ˜€

12. Your food hero/food villian?

The food in my hand is the damsel in distress. She cries out for help and begs for mercy from the huge villain, who wants to eat her alive. The hero is no where to be seen. The villain lifts the helpless damsel and brings her close to his mouth. She can smell the foul breath and see the remains of her brothers and sisters sticking to the villain’s teeth. “Hero! Where are you?” she screams. Her screams are in vain. The villain devours her.

13. Nigella or Delia?

I don’t know what either mean and as long as they’re not some exotic, tasty food items, I don’t really care! πŸ˜€

14. Vegetarians: genius or madness?

Paranoid and morally confused! Plants have life too, you freaks! πŸ˜€

15. Fast food or fresh food?

Edible food!! πŸ˜€

16. Who would you most like to cook for?

I can’t think of anyone who has a death wish! πŸ˜€

17. What would you cook to impress a date?

Hmmm…

18. Make a wish.

I wish every living being in this world can taste Tiramisu before he/she/it expires.

19. I tag…

Namrata, who would be doing her first tag with this one! I wish her all the best! πŸ˜€

Fruity, who seems to be bored enough and senile enough to be tagged! πŸ˜€

Suda, who seems to have gotten all techie all of a sudden! πŸ˜€

Meghana, who would be doing this as her first tag on wordpress! πŸ˜€

Rekha, who is, like me, from South India and her answers would give me a clue to my sanity! πŸ˜€