Hampi: A river runs through it

Hampi is a small temple town in the south of India,the size of a postage stamp.  It can be explored in a day or in six months depending on your pace and depth of interest.

A river runs through this temple town dividing the spiritual side of this World heritage site from the comparatively rather ‘less’ moral side, the ‘party’ side of the town.

We had experienced the ‘rather’less’ moral side with it’s green paddy fields and multitudes of guest houses with more foreigners than natives  and  also the spiritual side with an ancient  temple at every bend of the road. Did I mention we covered both in less than twenty four hours?

Tired, de-hydrated and sleepy we lay on the steps leading to the river, while the afternoon sun slowly grew weary. Beside us freshly laundered bright saris lay drying in the sun. A street dog lay comfortably on a white sari while  the temple cow walked by  stopping now and then to inspect bags of tourists for food.  From where we lay we could see the boat transporting people between the temple side to the party side. Women were washing clothes on either sides of the river.  Thud thud they kept rhythm as they beat the clothes against a rock.

Thud thud went the women of either side answering each other. Thud thud. A lullaby for heavy eyelids.

“Buy a Hampi guide book.” We look up at a boy about eight years old, wearing reddish brown shorts and a cream shirt with a faded insignia of his school.

” Why are you not in school?”, Preeti always direct. She doesn’t believe in beating around the bush.

“Today is Sunday. No school. You want postcards?” he retorts in perfect, accent free English.

I look at them. They are of a really bad quality but my heart goes out to this little guy.

I ask him , “What is your name?”

“Akilesh”

“Do you know the meaning of Akilesh”.

“Yes. It is the name of  god”.

“What is your name?”

“Lisa”

“Nice name.”

“And yours?”

“Preeti”.

“Nice name too”.

Preeti and I exchange impressed smiles.

“So you will buy the postcards? It is only twenty rupees.”

I have only a hundred. Akilesh spots its and says “I can get you change.”

I look around and see a coconut cart. “I ll get us coconut water”, I tell Preeti.

” I will help you carry it”, Akilesh offers.

The two us walk over to the cart. I hand over the hundred rupee note for two coconuts.The vendor hands me the change and from it I give Akilesh twent rupees.

I expected him to leave immediately but he surprised me by taking one of the coconuts from the vendor and running to Preeti.

He is a sweet kid. I smile. I think of buying him one but before I order for another one he is gone.

Sipping our coconuts Preeti and I  follow  him with our eyes as he  walks to the ferry point and boards the boat that will take him across to the party side of town.

” Did you notice he did not have an accent at all? And his English was very good.”

I smile and we both simultaneously say ” Nice name“, imitating him.

Now that is something he did not learn in school. He must have picked that up from the foreigners. Smart kid.

But we felt sorry for him. When we were his age we spent our free time playing and not selling postcards to tourists.

We watched him as he got off the boat at the other side of the river and started an engaging conversation with a young couple. Just then I realized that he had taken my money but had not given me my postcards! That is one smart kid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds of Kenya

When it comes to bird watching I still in the pre- natal stages. Here are few of the birds that I was able to identify( with a lot of help from my guide) at the Masai Mara.

#1.Orange breasted(?) Sun Bird 

The sun bird

#2: Lilac Breasted Roller:

Lilac Breasted Roller

#3. Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard

#4. Helmeted Guinea fowl

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

#5. Superb Starling

Superb Starling

#6. Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

The Rift Valley Railways

When it comes  to traveling from Nairobi to Mombasa one has options. There are comfortable luxury buses, expensive of course. There are less comfortable, less expensive buses which traverse the same distance as the luxury ones and the good news is that they take the same time.

You could fly of course. Saves time. Let’s not discuss the economics of that.  Then there is the Rift Valley Railways. It takes twice as much time as the buses,twice as expensive and twice as fun!

I had barely been in the African continent for a day when I boarded the train at Nairobi. I was so excited that it drove me to the point of confusion.  Now,  I have traveled extensively by train in India and so there was no rhyme or reason to my excitement.

I had booked into a second class compartment and was  fortunate to find that Roda from Mombasa would be the only other occupant of my 4 sleeper room.

It was dark when the train pulled out of the Nairobi station and it as it chugged its way through the country it got darker and darker. I looked out of the window into the night. The air smelled crisp. Thanks to my imagination ( being  the hyper one that it is), I could see the occasional acacia tree that is characteristic of African landscape. Through the darkness I could see the brown of the dry parched land. This is Africa I told myself and boy! was I glad to be here.

At a respectable hour most people had retired into their rooms and lights had been dimmed. I still stood by the window gazing in to Africa beyond the darkness. The only light I could see was the red of the American’s burning cigarette butt at a window in a compartment ahead of mine.

Falling  asleep was interesting. For starters the train was on vibration mode. You can’t wash your face without splashing water all over your self. (You would be lucky if a little water landed on your face). A close second was the thunderous lullaby of the train. At one point I fell asleep only to be awakened by the jerk of the train braking.

I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see if we had stopped for a passing  elephant or maybe even a lion. This is Africa , animals have the right of way, correct? I strained my neck out in to the darkness trying to will an elephant or a lion or at least a deer to pass by.

The patrolling security guard in my compartment rather amused at my antics demanded what I was up to. I did not appreciate his sardonic grin when he told me that we had stopped for passengers to de -train and there were no animals ‘railway crossing‘ at this time of the time. ‘Sleep time‘, he said.

With that I continued my sleep time. While I slept, I dreamed of the occasional acacia tree in the dry parched land; of elephants moving in herds and of lions lying in wait for deers. This is Africa and boy! was I glad to be here.

So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morning and looked out of the window to find trees with green leaves all around and around those trees with green leaves goats were grazing on the green grass that grew in abundance.

O Lord Almighty! While I was sleeping someone re painted the African landscape!