Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Enough adventure for a day - Hampi Day1 Episode 2

We started screaming and scooting towards the parked ferry. The ferry driver acknowledged our pleas and did say something in return. But still we were not sure if what he said was "Ok I am waiting for you guys. Thank God K is blessed with long legs :) He was able to cover a lot of ground quickly and make it to the ferry first. He was followed by Sam. Wearing a pair of slippers which were breathing their last, I was the last one to be scurrying towards the shores. A little before the ferry was parked, was 3 metres of sludge and mud. K was totally in touch with the elements and gleefully waded through it. In fact seeing him from a distance, I never gauged, the mud was so slippery and well .. so muddy :) I was also fine, just concerned about my track pants which were getting dirty ( We had shoe string supply of clothes :) ) But the funniest sight was poor Sam whose precious Lee Coopers were getting a savage treatment.

Somehow we reached the ferry (the ordeal of those 3 metres seemed NEVER ending to me honestly) Once there, I blissfully remarked "Phew! Enough adventure for a day I think"

Once we reached the banks of the river, we got an auto and asked him to take us to any of the guest houses there. We had heard of Rahul guest house being a decent one and decided to check that out first. It ended up being fully occupied. We checked out a couple more and the good ones were taken (always happens be it guest houses or men :D ). Guest houses in Hampi have a strange way of working. Mostly they are houses with some of the rooms being converted to guest rooms. Most of the common space might even be shared with the original inmates of the house. All of these guest houses are located within a close circumference of the river banks. Since the guest houses were not so palatable for us, we asked the auto rickshaw driver to take us to some hotel. He said the hotel there was a government recognised hotel. We travelled nearly 8 kms to reach hote Mayura Bhubaneswari which looked more like a ruin in itself. The front desk person was a typical goverment memsaab. When asked if there were any rooms free, she first vehemently denied. When we urged her if there is ANYthing at all, any sort of room, she showed us a 4 seater. I felt pretty suffocated in there. There was absolutely no ventilation and since there was no electricity as well, it seemed more like a dungeon. We went up to the lady and said, the room was not good enough. Then she said, the presidential suite was there - 5600 bucks!! K was so worn out with the whole affair of searching for a hotel room, that he was game for taking it up. Seeing his enthusiasm, Sam and I were also inching towards taking it up. Then we asked, if we could be shown that room. And that room was a wow!! It was toooo plush. It was very very tempting. But 2 things hit us back - it was exhorbitantly priced - the acco charge was not even what we had spent entirely on the trip till now - and, there would be power cuts in that room also. Come on if we were paying that kind of money, the least we could expect was electricity. So we left the whole idea and went up to the auto driver and asked him to take us to some other hotel.

And wonder of wonders, he said that was the only hotel!! Sam was getting ballistic by this time and was very edgy. She insisted to the auto driver to take us to a nice guest house, which would be having electricity supply. The auto driver promised he would take us to a good place. Driving the entire 8 kms back, we came to the same guest house zone. There the auto driver took us through the most dingy by lanes and brought us to a guest house. The owner here seemed very very snobbish. We had a hell of a lot of heckling to do to get a room with one extra mattress. It was already 1900 by then. He was insistent that we check out at 0900 the next morning. ( This is a standard norm in Hampi. All the hotels and guest houses insist on checking out at 9 in the morning) Paying 1k for a stay of hardly a night was not something we were not willing to buy. But beggars cannot be choosers so reluctantly we agreed. As we were settling in the room, suddenly he came up with the form. The form kinda had a declaration of what all we were possessing and that we would take responsibility of whatever was with us. Till then it was fine, the next thing the hotel owner stated that we had to get the declaration signed at the nearest police station. Now that made us loose it. We were simply not ready to go to the police station of all the places. We started yelling at the hotel owner( God only knows what all we yelled in which language :) ) Then we stomped out of the place and threateningly requested the auto rickshaw driver to take us to a 'decent' place. I don't know why we were venting it all on him, poor thing, he did not have the divine responsibility to take care of us. But then the poor man brought us out from the dingy lanes where he had initially placed us. Once out in broader roads, we happened to see yet another guest house. We decided might as well check this out.

The owner of this guest house happened to be a very courteous man. He was also insistent on the check out at 0900hours timing and getting the declaration stuff signed at the police station, but he said that with a smile, with humility and with hospitality which was endearing. We agreed to his conditions (strangely I think he completely missed getting the declaration signed from us.) and ended up paying for 2 days stay. But we were happy with the place. It was a strange place to be honest. Pity I do not have any pictures of the place. It was located some 50 meters from the river banks and had a pleasant wind wafting through it. The room we took was the very first room of the guest house, it was just 4 steps away from the street. As an afterthought Sam and I felt, how accessible it was to an outsider if the good for nothing grill gates were not closed. But since it was so close to the street the room had the lion's share of the wind. The room was very cornily painted in a strawberry pink color and had some clumsy stuffed toys and a broken clay parrot for decoration :D There were shops selling funky wares around it and there were quite a few coffee joints and eateries around.

Once we had our luggage nicely parked, we went went ahead in search of dinner. We placed ourselves at the dinner lounge at 1930hours and trust me we came out at 2230hours. Yep, thats true, 3 solid hours. Thats the pace at which things proceed in Hampi. The problem what I felt was the cuisine is too exotic for any preparations to be made ahead of time. One may have absolutely no idea what the customer might order when the menu hosts things from pasta to pancakes to parathas to puddings to pizza and plethora of things. It ranges from continental to oriental to mexican and american. All of the items are available at all the times and the restaurants are grossly understaffed at times. Hence things are bound to take a verrrry slow pace. But while we had 3 hours, we chatted a lot. It was nice to see Sam and K bonding. They are both a number 7 (born on the 7th day of a month) and somehow I had felt, their innate similarity had repelled them from each other initially. Never had they been able to establish a rapport with each other. During this trip somehow, the time they had, gave them a chance to see beyond the initial judgmental attitude to delve into how alike they were from a point. Neither of them is a person who can make another comfortable in their company easily. So with time, they grew comfortable with each other. I was a mere listener to their conversations and thoroughly enjoyed their increasing friendship.

As soon as we reached our rooms, we retired, since we had opted for an early morning tour in the same auto rickshaw driver who had droven us around.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Did someone say adventure? Hampi Day1 Episode1

I was totally unprepared for Hampi and boy how unprepared was I!

Alighting at the Hospet station, we had to take an auto rickshaw to get to the Tungabhadra river banks. Our idea was to cross the river and get an accommodation on the "other side" of the river. Sam had visited the place before and she was more or less the tour operator. As we were going, I was able to catch a glimpse of some of the ruins. Being a history buff myself, I was getting too excited to get up close and personal with the archeological sites.When we inquired the auto rickshaw driver as to the ferry timings for taking to the "other side "of the river, he said, they exist from 6 am to 6pm. Now when Sam had come before the ferry ran till 2000 hours. Having the services cut 2 hours prior would not be a bit tight in case we wanted to roam around a bit more. When we reached the river banks, Sam said, we would relax for the day come to this side to see the ruins the next day. I said, we could give the day to visit the sites on the "other side". Then she said, there was nothing much on the "other side", it just gives the laid back feel thanks to the cottages and huts. Whatever I had read about Hampi, never gave me the picture that there was nothing of importance on the other side of the river. Somehow all websites and blogs and travel portals I visited gave me a feel that the ruins were equally dispersed on both sides of the river. I felt a bit crestfallen, because I am a touring tourist :) Rest is not my idea when I come to a place like Hampi for sure. But when I learnt that on the "other side "of the river, rest was what was primarily done, I felt disappointed. But then I was a bit curious as to what lay on the "other side", so did not want to spoil the plan to cross the river either.

The ferry that came up was a motor boat to be precise and a pretty decrepit one at that. Once we reached the "other side", we were hounded by people advertising their cottages/hotels. We checked a few and then got into Hema cottages. They are small huts, cottages is a pretty fancy name I think for the amenities they have. You get the bare minimum, cots, fan and a bathroom and if you regard network for your cell phone and electricity as bare minimum - you do NOT get them. Yep, its a veritable village and many things we city breds take so much for granted are unknown there. There is a daily power cut from 8 in the morn till noon and again from 5 in the evening till 8. In between it has its whims and fancies and comes and goes at will. I was a bit taken aback by this wanton electricity supply. None the less we somehow refreshed and went ahead for breakfast to a nearby hotel.

The "other side" as this side of the river is called is a proper hippies getaway. Here lot of foreigner especially Israelis abound. And there is a slow pace with which things go on. The food here is divine and we did gorge on some awesome continental and Israeli cuisine. But all the while I was yearning for the history that I was missing :( So I said it might be a better idea if rather than staying till the next day in the guest house, if we checked out in the evening and crossed the river. That way we would be able to start early on the coming day and complete the share of sight seeing. Sam was more inclined to taking the lazy way out and being on this side of the river, generally relaxing, eating good food and spending the time doing nothing. K played the perfect devil's advocate and said, If we were going to check out of the guest house, rather than waiting very long, it would be better if we did so sooner, like 4-5 in the afternoon so that we would have time in hand to search for hotels. Else if we decided to stay on this side itself, it would be better to check out around 12 the next day so that we would do some sight seeing at least. He was like coming that far and not doing any sight seeing at all might not make much sense. After a lot of debating we decided, we would finish breakfast, go for a cycle ride and check the ruins that lay on this side, come back, refresh, finish a late lunch and cross the river.

Breakfast done, we started on the cycle trek. We had an awesome time! There was a gentle breeze flowing and we had the sun screaming down on us. We were sweating like proper rustic folks and we were getting one hellova tan too. The hand beyond the shirt sleeves were nearly turning black! But it was some feeling. At points when the road was a downward slope and we did not need to paddle, wow! When we were all drenched in sweat and suddenly there would be a waft of cool wind, bliss! On the way a bunch of school kids hi-fived us, suweeeet! We intermittently stopped under shaded parts to rejuvinate and gulp some water. K at one point got rid of his tshirt and used it as a turban - a la pukka rural tam ishytle, and Sam and I were sure jealous of him. But we urged him not to strip further cos he was not a proud possessor of the body like those Israeli hunks ;) He teased back saying, we were not any close to the damsels either else we too would have started shedding. The banter thus went on and we had no idea how far we had cycled. We had reached a village called Anegondi - which K insisted on calling Anaconda :D

At that point we decided to just turn back and head home. It was a 50 mins solid ride home. On the way, we just stopped at a point where the river was a bit shallow and went down. It was divine to soak our tired feet into the cold water.

This time we gave a ride to another group of school kiddos who were walking back home. In a nearby stall we all shared some soft drinks with the kids.

Once we returned to the guest house, we realised how very tired we were and how very tanned we were :) It was already 1500hours. By the time 3 of us freshened up and headed for the place for lunch it was 45 minutes past. Now as I had said, the "other side" of Hampi is for lazing around. We made it very clear to the waiter, that we had only an hour to spare since we did nt want to be late for the ferry. We ordered stuff which would get ready sooner. But inspite of our urging him to move things faster, inspite of our coaxing and threatening to cancel the order, by the time we got done it was 1730. Everyone else was sipping their beers, smoking their cigarettes, lolling on the mattresses as if they had alllll the time in the world. And we three were gulping our food as if we were having a heart attacwith K giving the time by the second. At a point I said "Stop it! The wall clock is right in front of me and I see the darn thing ticking and moreover I wear a wrist watch too which you dont and I am inclined to seeing that and getting more NERVOUS!"

We scrammed out of the place and ran towards the river bank. It was 1750 then. We saw the ferry being parked a bit further, not in the designated place. Dont know what sadistic pleasure the ferry drivers get by making their customer wade through ankle deep mud when they can very well park in drier places. One good old man showed us a narrow pathway to get to the ferry. It was very narrow, a bit unsafe and slippery(because of people having walked on it with wet feet) and steep downward incline. With Sam and I having 2 heavy backpacks and K a travel bag, we started climbing down.

We had climbed some paces only when we heard the engine of the ferry rev up. We got franctic. Sam and I started shouting Bhaiyya! Bhaiyya! and started flailing our arms to make the boatman stop....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The kickoff - Project Hampi

I am alive and kicking :) And Renu, it was immensely sweet of you to come up to my blog and ask how come I had gone invisible. Thank you so very much :) That was a very warm gesture.

Now that I am back, I am going to mow down my readers with some very very long posts (*evil laugh*). Yep, and this is going to be a part by part post - the current one being part1 :)

September is a real sweet month this year. It comes with 2 extended weekends back to back. First a holiday on 21st for Eid, the next on 28th for Dussera and then October joins forces to give 2nd October as a holiday. K and I were looking forward to a vacation during one of these extended weekends. But for some reason or the other, the plans always used to go kaput. Then one afternoon during a casual call my friend Sam said she was going to Hampi on a 3 day trip. She was generally cribbing about one of her friends having ditched her, which would compel her to travel alone from Bangalore to Hospet - and Hospet not being a very bright place, she was a bit jittery about making the trip alone. At Hospet she would have been joined by another friend of hers from Hyderabad.

When I heard the plan itself, something kicked in me to ask K to join in as well. We had been making and breaking vacation plans, cancelling and redoing train tickets and were in a whole lot of mess when it was coming to travelling. I was having my reservations when I went ahead and asked K if we could plan on a trip to Hampi. But I was amazed to get a whole hearted thumbs up from him! Now first hurdle crossed, we had to check tickets! Cos the due date was just 2 weeks away and that being a holiday time, people would be flocking like crazy to the place. And we had a big set of tickets to be made yet again - Chennai->Bangalore, Bangalore->Hospet(closest station to Hampi), Hospet->Bangalore, Bangalore->Chennai. Now if God unwilling any thing went awry, it would need 8 tickets to be cancelled. Still, we thought, lets give it a shot.

As I had said in one of my previous posts, 2 weeks is a long enough time for many things to change. And in this case too they did. The other friend of Sam's who was supposed to come had to cancel her tickets since she had some emergency and Sam decided to return with us rather than staying an extra day as was her initial intention. For her it would have been a trip that would nt have happened if K and I had nt booked our tickets. Its strange the way providence ties people up :)

Strangely the day before the trip both Sam and I were pretty restless. Sam has been my oldest friend- one since school. She and I connect very easily. And we both having the same feeling on a day prior to the travel was pretty uncanny. We tried to reason as to why we were feeling that way. Maybe it was because, it was a very impromptu trip for which neither of us was 100% prepared, or maybe it was because we were a bit bothered by the fact that we would be away from work for 4 days, or it was because she had a different perception of how the trip was going to be and with K and I coming into the picture, it might be a paradigm change or maybe it was because I who always loves to plan out every bit of a vacation was not able to gather much info before the travel was feeling a bit less prepared. We were not sure if it was a bit of all these feelings or any thing else which we were not able to figure out at all. None the less, we tried to keep the pace of normal work and some how tide over that one day before 4 days of vacation began.

The journey to Bangalore was good but once I hit the bed at Sam's place, I realised how exhausted I was - cos I slept 3 hours straight. I could have slept more if Sam and K had not kicked me out of the bed. Though we had planned to shop and eat out and God knows what not, we ended up spending most of the day inside the house, generally talking, finishing some chores, last minute packings and arrangements. Pronto at 2000hrs we ventured towards the station. The entire crowd in the train seemed to be going to Hampi. There were so many people with RAC tickets who were travelling. All the while Sam was praying that we should get a proper place to stay( Yep inspite of Sam and I both being finicky about planning and being meticulous to the core, neither of us had been able to get any reservations done!!) The optimistic me kept reassuring her that things would be fine and the ultra pessimistic her kept wondering what if things were not fine :) K being K chose to doze off and let the ladies do the thinking :D. As happens whenever old friends meet, Sam and I were talking till 0100 at night and hit the bed pretty reluctantly.

The train was supposed to reach Hospet at 0745 hours. At 0645 K woke me and asked if we had arrived, but I said there was still an hour to go. We decided to snatch some more winks. All of a sudden a lady came and said "You going to Hampi na?" We jolted YESSSS. She said "Its Hospet station get down get down, just take your luggage and get down". Maa kasam, aisa mere saath pehle kabhi nehi hua!! I freaked out, took one of the backpacks and scrammed. K and Sam were in deeper sleep I suppose, cos they took some more time. I was like hurry hurry come fast all the while. We jostled out of the train and stepped into the glaring sun of Hospet.

We were giggling silly at our stupidness. And we thought, wow quite an adventurous start!!

Scarce did we know - the adventure had just began!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stolen Moments

Time management is one of the most common classes in our office. Time and again we keep receiving emails for yet another time management course and as habit, I drag to the trash folder :) But time management is one thing any one needs heavily.

Many a times I feel, K and I hardly have time for each other. I rise around 0630 and attend to the chores in the kitchen. After an hour and a half, when I am done with my duties, and ready for the gym, K wakes up. He is around in the house for an hour or so when he gets ready for office and packs the lunches. By the time hes ready to leave for office, I come back from the gym and have a 40 minute window to get ready for work. Evenings are equally crammed. Some days in case hes early ( which is a big rarity, I get caught up in something. ) Even if I am early, many a times I have some pending tasks which I cater to from home. Else he gets immersed in preparing for a certification he is planning to write. I do not complain about this, cos this is life, but then when we cross each other passing by (he starting for office and me returning from gym or he hitting the bed while I am on with some work, he with his mug of coffee while I am starting to the gym etc) we kinda miss each other. But its good in a way because every time we are together, we relish those precious times.

Like last weekend. We ventured out just for the heck of it in a bus to a land far far away for a haricut :) Yep we chose to travel some 20 odd kilometers while people do come to some salons in our area for a nice hairdo. And fate had it such, the main person (the "Billoo Barber " we had heard a lot about and gone to see ) was missing from the salon that day and we had to make just a round trip. On the return we got famished and had an amazing Chettinadu meal!! We were soooo full, we decided to do our tummies a favor and walked back the entire 4 km stretch back home. We chit chatted, and discussed so many things - my opinion about his friends, his childhood days, my memories of our time in Papas government quarters and so many other things we rarely talk about. The walk from the hotel to our home, is something we both will cherish for a very very long time.

And the next day I did something I had never done before - I invited 2 of his friends for dinner. I always have fond memories of mom hosting a lot of get togethers for dads friends and their families. I was a tongue tied ungainly teenager then and remember being very quiet. My feisty sister was an epitome of cuteness and quietness too. I remember one of dad friends ask her one question after another to get more than a monosyllable as an answer. But none the less as I look back, those days were idyllic with all the elaborate cookings and choosing the best dress to wear and tidying up the house (rather pushing all clutter behind the cupboards :) ) Last sunday when we hosted K's friends, I could understand how happy my mom might have felt going through all the pain of cooking, arranging and later even cleaning. Post that, as we both were sipping the Coca cola, K got talking about some of his wishes and random aspirations. We were discussing them, as if they were events about to take place in the coming week and were charting the plan of action for absolutely hypothetical scenarios. Do not remember how time passed by, but I do remember feeling very satisfied after that long drawn conversation. :)

Luckily fate gave us another chance to steal some precious moments last Thursday. K and my workplace are in the middle of no where and both the no wheres lie diametrically opposite to each other (@!%^@!$!) But Thursday, K had to come in the direction of my office to meet a team mate of his whose father had expired. We both decided to return home together. Once K reached my office, we had snacks together. It was more just to be together rather than out of hunger. Just as we started for home, it started pouring. And we shared one umbrella and came home drenched. I hate the journeys in share autos I undertake every day . Its like smoking a cigarette, each one takes 5 minutes of happiness from my life :( The days it rains when I am commuting, I hate it even more - much much more. But for the first time since I joined my office, I liked the journey back home. It felt like good old times in Bangalore where our love more or less blossomed in one fated auto trip where K gave me his shoulder to rest upon *blushes*. Once home, we had yummy mil made pasta and yummy me made masala tea and the soporific sound of rain drops dancing on the balcony in the background. It was bliss, I felt happy to be where I was - with a loving friend ( I still do not look upon K as a husband :) ) and an mil who adds a unique angle of wise support to our domesticity.

I am not sure when again I might get such pleasant moments with K. Maybe they should have a course on "personal time" management course for people who work in God forsaken work places and have a lot of personal hobbies and interests to accommodate and who .........the list just does nt end here :) (I should start working on designing such a course maybe :D )