A Mukherjee World View



By Anamika Mukherjee

It got off to a bad start, in a way. Thinking our train was scheduled to leave at eight, we reached the station well in time at 7:20 p m. Only to find that our train's ETD was actually ten. Reading error. The 2000 of the date printed on the ticket looked like it referred to the ETD that followed.

Well, it's better than reaching the station two hours late, we consoled ourselves as we waited. And it gave us time to catch up on our reading.

It was a book on Hampi I was reading and that's where we were headed. The overnight train, which left punctually at ten, reached Hospet, the railhead closest to Hampi, a couple of hours late the next morning. So it was almost nine by the time we paid off the auto that dropped us to our hotel at kamalapur, and entered the lobby.

Arriving at Hampi

This hotel was a curious affair. It had huge grounds and a good half-km walk up the long straight drive from the compound wall and gate, to the building. The grounds, unfortunately, were full of scrub. Inside, the building was spacious and airy, but down to earth, with no pretensions. The rooms were basic: tiny twin beds, third rate furniture, including an easy chair which had an indefinable look and feeling of dirt, as though no one had sat in it or dusted it for years. Such suspicions were lent some weight by the state of the bathroom: the toilet seat had mudspots. Everything looked chipped, dirty, dysfunctional and unused.

In the bedroom, the tiny cupboard, so small I could almost look over the top of it, did nothing to dispel the feeling. It smelled stale and musty. For want of any other space, we had to use it to keep clothes. The only other horizontal surfaces were a rickety chair which we had dumped one bag on, and the tiny dressing table which held the other.

Adding to the overall decrepitude, there was a threadbare patch in the wall-to-wall carpeting which so startlingly resembled a lizard as to give me quite a shock the first several times it caught my eye in passing.

We quickly freshened up and left the room in search of greener pastures. Breakfast - it now being after nine and we having awakened on the train earlier than six - was in order. We found the dining room and seated ourselves on the rickety wooden chairs with shredded upholstery (the handiwork of the kittens who hung around in search of food, we later discovered) arranged around sunmica topped, table-cloth-less rickety wooden tables.

The breakfast menu was scanty and when the food came (scrambled eggs for Amit, bhurji for me, toast, six slices, no butter at the exorbitant cost of Rs 90!) it was indifferent, to say the least. The toast and scrambled eggs had got cold waiting for the bhurji, which was hot, but rather resembled a little bit of egg with one's onion. The scrambled eggs came in a bowl; the bhurji in a plate. When I idly wondered why, Amit ventured it was because the bhurji wouldn't have fitted in a bowl, due to all the onions.

Ninety rupees the poorer and quite resentful of it, we left on a long walk. Our plan, such as it was, was to walk as far as we could, see as much as we could and when the light faded, to come back. Lunch, we thought, we'd grab on the hoof. But things didn't quite turn out as planned. (Why is it that they never do?)

Mid-March was the wrong time of year to visit Hampi. This city of ruins, the seat of the Vijayanagar empire of yore, seemed to be in its element, resplendent in the bright sunshine, with its golden attire of sand and stone. But it was still the wrong time of the year for visiting, the wrong season for walking in the burning sun intensified and magnified by the huge, hot rocks. Mostly undeterred, though, we set off to discover the treasures of this city of yore, determined to make the most of the two days we had set aside for it.

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Hampi on the Map

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.