Earthquake & Hampi
First off, I'm sure many of you are wondering about the impact of the recent earthquake in India. The mood is still somewhat frantic and chaotic among travelers. Sitting across from me right now is a group of 6 Israelis trying their best to access an email account to hear from a missing friend who was traveling in Tamil Nadu, a region badly hit. The man to my right is the owner of the cybercafe and now searches for pictures of his missing friend on his computer. Other travelers are rescheduling their travel plans to accommodate for the recent event and to stay away from coastal areas. Right now, it's as safe as possible in Hampi and I plan on staying here for some more time.
On a different note...
HAMPI BACKGROUND: Hampi was founded in 1336 and hit the peak of its power in the 16th century, controlling the spice and cotton trade. Unfortunately for them, the town was ransacked by a "confederacy of Decan Sultanates" in 1565.
I am writing from one of the (usually, before the earthquake) most serene and peaceful places on Earth. To look around is to see life itself come alive. The landscape has been transformed from a once thriving empire into a city of scattered boulders (by the ransacking). The boulders stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions. In a miracle of empowerment, I woke up several days ago at 6am to watch the sunrise over the ruins. The experience captures the soul. As the sun slowly rises, you begin to hear the birds chattering in the sky. The due that covers the grass glistens and waves to greet the coming day. And with the passing of each moment, another outline of a distance place makes itself known. You feel yourself at the will of spirituality. One could fill pages describing a single infinite instant of time in Hampi.
The main city bazaar is catered to the tourists: hotels, restaurants and beggars crowd the streets. Yet away from the commotion and a bamboo-boat ride across the river, leaves me in the small community of travelers and locals where I'm currently staying. Of course, on the single street, I am but a short walk away from a cybercafe (OK, so it's a city of unspoiled beauty and a few satellite-linked cybercafe's). The Israeli women that comprise half of this community are both fertile and f..ashionable. I have been enjoying my day visiting temples, playing chess with the Hampi Chess Team (!), and thinking about everything and nothing at once...
How is it that most of us are so removed from what is real? Sure, our families are real. Our jobs are certainly real. But the substance that consumes the vast in between moments of the day often goes by unnoticed and unappreciated. In Hampi, clarity is plentiful.
One day, I climbed up 600 stairs to Monkey Temple, named for the dozens of monkeys that have made it their home. Another day, I met up with 2 American girls, rented bikes, and rode to a nearby waterfall. At night, there are sometimes bonfires and movies shown on small tv's. Night-time discussions tend to be on random subjects: speaking with a former government official who now owns a local restaurant about the rampant corruption, talking to 2 older 'proper' Oxford scholars about how to buy ancient Mogul artwork in India, listening to a Hamp cook till me how to cook a pizza.
I'm in no rush to leave. Since I have no set itinerary, I will probably stay here another week or two.