The life of Hampi
I gaze out of the window, from the hotel at Hampi*. A vast swathe of green and blue greets my eyes. As far as I can see, rolling sugarcane fields, lush banana plantations, palm trees, and lilies gracefully dotting the blue waters. My mind floats, on the stillness of the lily-filled lake, with the beautiful bamboo branches that bend and sway so effortlessly, almost dancing to the tunes of the breeze.
I sit back, and think of the times, many hundreds of years ago, when people of a different era, inhabited this place, led their lives, as we do now. And I wonder what their lives were like? The very lives that left behind only vestiges of stories, through boulders and intricate carvings on stones, just shards of imagination and nothing more. And wonder, what will it be like, many hundreds of years later? When all of us, and our little souls in this vast universe, have left for ever, leaving perhaps only the faintest of imprints. What will those people who may come to see, know of us? From the many buildings they see, what would they know about our dreams, our desires, and our innermost feelings?
As if on cue, the sun bursts out, in a hue of orange, before settling down finally for the day, bidding its goodbyes. The undulating shades of yellow, green and brown plantations, never to end.. fade slowly until they disappear for the night. Bordering them, the ruins of Hampi lie silent, their calmness restored; silent spectators to years of merciless plunder and loot, mindless violence and destruction of beauty. And the beautiful plains, their glory regained, intrigue us again and again with their dignified silence, still hiding so many stories.
All is quiet, the end of a beautiful holiday, a short and a sweet trip to Hampi, precious time spent with friends and family, people with whom I share a history of many years, so dear to my heart, even though an insignificant eon of time in a vast universe, with an attempt to rediscover some of our very ancient past. Ending with an eventful train journey back to Bangalore and to life as we know it today!
19 May 2013, Hampi, Karnataka, India.
(*Hampi is a village in northern Karnataka state, India. It is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire.The first historical settlements in Hampi date back to 1 CE. Hampi formed one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565, when it was finally laid siege to by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides. The site is significant historically and architecturally. The topography abounds with large stones which have been used to make statues of Hindu deities. The Archaeological Survey of India continues to conduct excavations in the area, to discover additional artifacts and temples. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi.)
The train journey home
It appeared to be an uneventful train journey back from Hampi. But what should have been uneventful ultimately became quite interesting. To start with, the seats allotted to the sixteen of us – families supposedly travelling together- were scattered all over the coaches. The kids and the adults being in disparate places, one had to go through some rather intriguing negotiations with fellow passengers, the Ticket Collector and other characters to arrive at a combination or a permutation of allocated seats that suited all; finally settling into two coaches, far apart, but at least joined by a vestibule.
And with some clever ideas of retractable coach partitions being mooted by us IITians*, mostly to suit our own privacy requirements, none of which would ever have any hope of getting any credence with the railway authorities, we finally settled into our ritual of fun and banter, over a drink or two. And the night flew, each regaling the others with stories from the past, of days when we spent many a nights travelling through trains, over the length and the breadth of the country, waiting in waiting rooms, to catch connections; and reaching home, grimy and tired, for the trains would do that. Shake you up, proper.
For me, the trains always bring back the excitement and the sadness of coming back, growing by the minute, as I waited for the stations of Wardha and Sonegaon to pass, heralding the arrival of the place I called home, Nagpur. Invariably waiting for the sight of the Sonegaon airport that the train crossed, which carried so many precious memories of going there with my father, to drop him off for his journeys, one of which he never returned from.
Nothing has changed much over the years, though my train journeys have now become less frequent, with the occasional one being performed more through curiosity than necessity and a sense of wanting to hold on and experience the past, with my daughters now. And some things, sadly, don’t change at all. The same narrow berths, the same beddings, the noisy ACs and the fans, grimy windows, little distractions to what seems an unbelievably beautiful landscape of India; bushes, lush paddy fields, meandering rivers, placid lakes and others; not much visible through the tinted windows.
More engineering thoughts did come to mind. Some of which have been realized, like the mobile phone pouches which they have so thoughtfully placed in the coaches now. Designed as pouches but sometimes ending up as holed chutes leading the mobiles to land elsewhere. And the complete lack of a safety grill for the little ones that had to be made up with the help of pieces of luggage, placed as barricades to stop the young ones from falling down. Even so, all the engineering in the world could not work when it came to the side berths where there was no hope of fitting even the smallest of briefcases. With some ingenuity, a long bed sheet had to be tied across the berth, into a longish pouch, anchored with the help of only curtains. A Scarlett O’Hara++ approach, making the best of curtains that were so amply available, with the hope that it would catch the little one, if she ever rolled over from the narrowest of sleeping berths.
And so, it turned out to be an eventful night with friends and fun; old times, stations and passengers arriving at all odd hours, scuttling even the faintest hope of catching any sleep. And one finally gave up, in-between guarding the kids, accommodating the fellow passengers and reliving lost memories, the journey itself becoming the destination.
Aina Rao – the amblingindian
20th May 2013. Bangalore , India .
++ Scarlett o’Hara – the protagonist of Gone with the wind, who uses her curtains , in times of dire distress , to design a beautiful gown.