It’s was my last day there and to tell the truth my legs ached a little but I was again energized. I decided though that I’d go easy on myself for a change . I’d washed my socks gone over what I’d written. Breakfast done and it was just 11am. It had to be the bike again. When I got there, there was only a banged up scooter and I didn’t like the way he was selling it to me. So I rubbed my chin and said 100r. He was all outrage and shock. I didn’t mind it was fun winding him up and he was going to win anyway so I was just dragged it out and had some fun with him. In the end he said
“You are a regular customer and a good man”
I’ve been here 4 days now rented of him once before so, it’s a fine line, but yeah ok I’m a regular and of course I’m a good man, and so.
“You take this one here for 200r”
Now it was a little hammered but it was a proper 110cc Motorbike it had gears and a clutch and a proper horn. So I rubbed my chin again while he looked away then said ok. Took 3 litres of petrol and a litre of water I was off. I tore up the hill out of town and headed towards the old collapsed bridge I’d seen the other day and the town of Anegondi, but I got side tracked and never saw the bridge and to tell you the truth I have no idea where I got too. But what I will tell you is I was Mercury out there. I didn’t actually burn rubber as it was way too dusty and it could be a near death experience around any bend on those roads. But let’s just say I cut up my very own dust cloud. I’d taken my shirt off and no helmet, the wind and the sun felt wonderful on my bare skin, it seems an age since I had real glorious sunshine beaming down on me, it was my friend the wind who that added that extra touch.
I just sailed past the ruins, they look remarkable in the beautiful sunshine but I just wanted to be amongst them but on wings. I wanted to sit somewhere and practice my meditation. I suppose I was out just following my nose. I came around a bend at one point looked to the left and there was an ancient Temple up on top of a hill. So I pulled around and drove up the steep drive way, a kid jumped in the way of the bike and said
“Give me money”
“Get out of it” I shouted he leapt to the side. Jeez.
It had looked like a deserted place from down there on the road, but as I came round the corner there must have been around 40 motorbikes parked up and cars tucked away under the shade or the trees. People of course looked at me, but they had been doing all week so I wasn’t fazed . I put my shirt back on took my boots off tied the laces, hung them over the camera bag and walked into the crowd. Now I hope you’re getting the idea of colour from these writings. It is honestly rainbows illuminated by golden sunshine.
But today had been wash day and so I’d put on some black cheese cloth trousers, a long sleeve black t shirt and black Doc Martins. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that I was all in black, but it’s rare to see black clothing except on the Muslim women, also I’m over 6 feet tall and of course I was Steve Mcweens cousin right then covered in dust. I thought it was another religious festival in the ancient temple.
“Hindus always seem to be celebrating.” I thought
I supposed that there were a lot of gods to get through and perhaps they all had their day and their clan. I was just trying to be inconspicuous and see what was going on. It lasted for about a minute. The kids saw me and it was
What is your good name?
Where you from?
Then it started with “Good Micheal sir, take my photo” so of course I did, but within a few minutes it ended up being a scrum and I had to firmly say “stop it” which they did. Then I made my escape and wandered across to a great temple where the men had all started to sit in lines on the floor, followed by the women and kids, so I took the camera out and asked the nearest people if it was ok to take some photos. They all beamed, shouted across to the others who started waving and smiling. I had planned to get some real life shots, you know, like you might see in quality magazines. But everyone was waving and posing, so I just snapped away. Then a guy appeared out of the crowd and said
“Come, come sit and eat with us.”
I really wanted to but am still being careful and it looked fabulous. More people came across and were really wanting me to sit and eat, I made out I was still full from breakfast by patting my stomach and puffing my cheeks out. I think that made them worse as to their eyes I probably looked skinny pale and ill. I was sort of swept over to the cooking area were a big fire burned with huge cauldrons of colorful aromatic rice steaming and wonderful smelling curry boiling away, I still hadn’t figured it out. The women were sat spreading the boiled rice out along long saris on the floor, all done with fingers and hands, I was loving it, people came and presented their children and babies and grandmothers to me. Groups of young men came and posed with each other and after every shot I would stop and show them what they looked like, they were loving it too. Then I asked
“What is the celebration for?”
“A wedding” I was told, pointing to the other temple where the bride and groom were sat looking glum while singers sang Hindu myths to them out of an ancient looking book. What a dumb ass, I couldn’t believe it. If I’d have realized I honestly wouldn’t have gone in.
So here’s a scenario for you. England. You’re there with all your family in the church. One of your nearest and dearest is getting married, your son or your daughter. Then some strange looking foreigner wanders into the church and then later too the banquet and starts taking photos of your Nan, your Sister, the kids and even your wife or your girlfriend they are loving the open hearted attention from this strange man and then he starts eating the food and hanging out with your uncles. Nobody knows who he is, in fact he doesn’t even talk English, but you all gather around him and welcome him like a long lost brother and take him into meet the head chef and the priest and all you want from him is some pens for the kids, which he hasn’t brought, but hey you have a pens at home so you feed him anyway. Yeah right. Can you imagine it? But that is exactly what happened. Even the photographer came over and we showed each other each others shots of the wedding.
I am starting to fall in love with the Hindus, I know that I appear as some exotic species ands as one doors can open or they can close with a slam in your face as I well know from other countries. But even as I drove past the rice paddies and the sugar cane plantations, the people out there doing back breaking work in the relentless baking heat. I arrive into view, they all stop working and look across. I just wave as I roll past or stop now and again and say
“Hello” and wave and without fail they would all light up and wave back across the fields.
“Where are you from? What is your name? “ They’d shout
“Michael from England.” I’d shout back
“Hello Michael from England”
I stayed at the wedding for maybe an hour, it was quite exhausting. So I said my goodbyes and headed off down the hot dusty road. I passed a rice paddy with a great rock right in the centre I thought that would be a nice shot so I pulled over took the shot and there behind me was an entrance to a temple called the Guddada Thimmapta Temple. So I thought why not. The road wound up there and I could see as I approached that there were what appeared to be various white shrines with orange flags and vertical red stripes painted on them placed amongst the massive yellow boulders. A guy dressed in white stood on rocks under a beautiful tree above white painted rock stairs looked down on me as I approached he hardly moved.
Basically I arrived just as two women were praying. So a bare chested priest in a white sarong invited me into the Hanuman shrine (The Monkey God) where he gave us all a blessing with water incense and prayers and then gave me half a coconut. I just followed what the women did and afterwards I just sat down with them outside whilst they all chatted. They asked where I was from of course. They poured me cups of sweet chai tea. A lady cooking offered me rice with them. I declined and again did the patting belly puffed out cheeks things, so she brought me 3 slices white bread instead and told me to dunk it in my tea which I did. It was lovely, I sat for about 20 minutes with them perfectly at ease and they with me.
It sounds funny I suppose but I had not had any preconceived ideas what to expect here and so am just walking in and it seems to be ok, they seem to sense my ease and that I like them and am I genuinely curious.
I shook hands with them all before I left, the women always giggle, so I always do it. From there I just drove till I was way out in the country side off the tarmac and into wide open paddy fields or sun scorched deserts but I didn’t want to run out of petrol and get stranded so I turned back after about an hour to a town I’d passed and there turned of the road and drove out into the sugar cane fields trying to make my way back to Hampi via the irrigation ditches and the river. I asked the odd guy I came across
Hampi? Pointing ahead, as all irrigation ditches had to lead to the river. Some nodded and some tried to get me back on the Main road, but I was insistent, the dirt road by the canals. It was a joy.
So I have no idea where I am, just a mental picture of how to get back but going forwards. I drove past another ancient shrine and it just seem to catch me, a place to meditate out in the middle of somewhere, perfect. So I parked up walked across the weir, sat down in the shade, I was sun tired so I laid down and dozed off to the sound of a little waterfall over the weir. I came round and thought I’d best get a move on. I turned round stretching my arms and noticed steps leading off into the rocks above and their painted on a huge round boulder was
“Welcome to the Shambhu Nath Yoga Ashram”
It looked completely deserted. I had been sat meditating in front of it for an hour, well ok ok ,I had a little doze. But there around the other side of the boulder was a neat 2 story stone house with white washed walls with little windows with ‘S’ painted in them and more stone steps leading off into the cliff behind it. The more I stood and looked the more it opened up, it was absolutely silent. I walked reverently up to the back of the house where there was a locked square blue cage with the black figure of a man sat cross legged in it. He’d had little eyes stuck onto his statue eyes so it looked bulbous and strange, there was a faded picture of Shiva in there too. I just stood there still and silent. It was remarkably beautiful with the irrigation canal the water fall ford below, the lush green banana plantation stretching away to the yellow Stone boulder hills about a mile away or two away. The only sound was the water
Have you ever been to a place and just felt for no reason at all that you should whisper or tip toe or hold your breath in case you disturb it. This was one of them. I just stood there for some time just feeling it. Then I thought I’d heard something from the house. I turned very slowly and watched a fairly old man come down the back steps bare chest and bare footed, dressed only in a white rolled up sarong. He had white frizzy hair tied up and a white beard that was also tied. He had a wide red vertical stripe painted on his forehead and two white stripes either side. I stayed still and simply watched him, I was in full view of him but he’d walked right past me about 10feet away and disappeared up the steps into the cliffs. When he’d passed I ducked out and began to walk quietly back to the bike. But I stopped paused and went back for some reason. I stood around the other side of the house and he appeared again but he still didn’t see me. I half turned again and took a step towards the bike when he’d passed.
“Dude just say hello” I said to myself
So I turned back and stood where he couldn’t miss me if he came out again. I heard him humming to himself as he appeared around the side of the house and honestly for less than a split second he was surprised but immediately he just said
“Oh hello” with a big smile
“Hello I said “I hope I’m not disturbing you I have been sat there by the water for a while and only just realized there was a house here” I’m not sure he understood what I meant.
“Welcome, welcome, come, what is your name. It is good that you have come, nobody ever comes to visit this place. Welcome”
He showed me the shrine with the black figure, he said it was a saint who lived in a cave here at the back (now I may have the names mixed up here but I think the saint was called Amandas and he was Hanuman Das. I could have it completely the wrong way around forgive me if I have) he took me out to the cave at the back where the saint had lived and died. It was remarkable. He asked me how old I was, was I married, did I have children, did I want to get married, did my girlfriend want to have children
“I’m not sure” I said to the latter at which he laughed.
I asked him if he had children, he said he had 2 sons one in university and one in the military. He had left his wife 20 years ago to live this life. He definitely had a sadness in eye when he said that and a warmth when he mentioned his sons. He stared directly at me a few times and had beautiful clear light brown eyes. It was easy to like him.
I noticed he had a bag that appeared to be packed sitting on a wall.
“Are you going somewhere” I asked.
“Yes” he said. He tried to explain where but I couldn’t get what he meant but he did say “Hospet train station.” So on a whim I offered him a lift as I had a motorbike. It would have felt a little odd leaving him to walk whilst I rode of into the sunset.
“Yes” he said. “Good”
He got his things together and wrapped another white shawl over his shoulders and we walked out together.
Now remember that I have not only landed on his door step, but I am really tall compared and I am dressed from head to foot in black with dark hair and he is in all white, with white hair and beard, we are Ying and Yang on a bike driving through the banana plantations. It was brilliant. I honestly think it amused it amused him too.
At the road we went we did a little detour for a mile or so to see his friend at Kishkindhu Hanuman Temple. He said it had been a holy place for over a thousand years, mentioned Yogi Bai Kabra and a benefactor Shri Hanuman Krupa. (I will look them up when I have time) he went in whilst I took my boots off. His friend was an ancient man with longer white beard and a bald head sat on a wall. Hanuman das said something and the old guy nodded to me. I held out my hand but he looked a little flustered. Hanuman said
“He cannot shake your hand.”
“Oh sorry” I said. Apparently the old man was a living saint. It was all so very matter of fact and so very remarkable to me. I think I was a puzzle to them too.
After a few minutes he said its time to go, I watched how he touched the old mans hand, again all matter of fact, expected and accepted. I started the bike up, he climbed on and off we went.
Now I got to thinking as we headed the few miles to the cross roads that there are no such things as coincidence. Why had I gone down that particular dirt road as the plantations were a web of them? Why had I decided to stop and meditate at that spot? Why had I not been able to leave and why had I woken just as he was preparing to go? Of course I’d been called. I figured that he must have been meditating and letting the spirits know he was about to leave and I had been chatting to mine, he was an old man who needed a lift and I love the old folk and we all needed a laugh, so
I checked the petrol, it was to low to take him all the way to Hospet, but as luck would have it around the next bend there was a petrol station so I put 2 litres in and said
“Come on I’ll take you to the station” He was surprised but graciously accepted. It was a 22 km round trip and all along the way Ying and Yang drew looks and smiles and horns. It was great. I weaved and bobbed, accelerated and cursed. I excused myself for cussing in front of a holy man but figured he didn’t mind as he’d never have heard those expressions before and for all he knew I could have been singing. He sat bolt upright the whole way as we shot along the dusty road in the wake of busses and trucks all throwing up grime and grit, wizzed around oxen drawing carts slowed down through a herds of goats as you never know what they will do. We raced rickshaws and won, then came into Hospet which was complete road traffic insanity, there was even a funeral march with drums and trumpets in with all the trucks, cows, bikes and busses and hot oily petrol fumes blasting us close up. I took to it like a duck to water and pretty soon we were at the railway station. I pulled up and looked at him again as I’d only seen him briefly over my shoulder to say
“Are you ok?”
He’d nodded each time. His beard blowing back against his chest.
“We’ll my friend” I said
“Thank you” he said
It was an odd split second but then all of a sudden there were three dogs wrapping themselves around my legs, being really loving and attentive. It was really odd as I’d only just got off the bike, I looked down then up at him. We both smiled. I said
“I’ll see you next time round then eh, or in the next life”
He really laughed at that one.
I asked him for a photo he nodded ok (and which he looks really coy in) A guy gave me directions back to Hampi. I got back on the bike kicked it into life and he walked off. I gave a last wave and then drove out along the canal path to the railway tracks and then past the women washing their clothes in the irrigation ditches where the rick shaw driver had first brought me when I’d arrived here. It was getting near to sunset and I drove towards it, I knew the way.
“Steve McQueen, Steve McQueen who’s he” I said