SOLO TRIPPING – HAMPI – THE FINALE

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So yea, Day Four and Day Five vanished from the blogosphere. And here I am, counting hours to the end of what has been an extra-ordinary journey (can’t think of better adjectives). Have pretty much seen and treasured most of Hampi, I’d like to believe. Since I’ve been very politely asked to leave the homestay because the owners have another guest waiting, I’ve thought of revisiting one of my favourite spots in Hampi – the VIjaya Vitthala temple before the final ride home. It’s scorching hot outside, but inside this construction that once served as the Sabha Mantapam for King Krishnadevaraya, a gust of wind blows across my face. (And that’s a very subtle way of boasting that I’m writing this straight from one of the most majestic structures in Karnataka history! Got inspired by a group of fine arts students who’re sketching here and decided to make myself feel all writer like! 😉 )
So what’s it been like? The last two days (Dec 31 and Jan 1, to be specific) have been more like a film… everything seeming like a crazy time lapse montage… you laugh, you cry, but mostly it’s feels like a roller coaster ride leaving you at the edge of the seat.
The last day of 2016 begins with the foot feeling slightly better. (Bike accident, remember). But not willing to take too much strain (am lazy as well), I decide to experiment with this therapy called Float Void. The flautist and friends from day one, who I had bumped into the other day as well, have strongly recommended this. Sharan aka Baba, who runs it, is nice enough to come to the boat area to pick me up. (His place is really far. So even if you are the fit kinds, walking is out of question).
Cut to Float Void therapy. Imagine being trapped in a capsule, just slightly bigger than your actual body size and float inside it for an hour with zero light, sound or place to move! That in a nutshell is what the therapy is about. (Supposed to have become a rage in the US, or so Baba says). He matches the water temperature to your body temperature and with certain salts (not getting into scientific details) to create a Dead Sea like atmosphere and strangely you even stop feeling the water after a few minutes. You feel like you’re actually floating. The idea, he tells me, is for you to get in touch with yourself. I am not sceptical, but I also don’t want to be too excited before I actually try it out. And I have to admit, this next one hour becomes one of the most trying one-hours I’ve had in a long time. Endless voices race through my head. (Some of which are too personal to write about). Each voice brings with it a splash of colours. Of course, could be my imagination at work as well. But the brightest colour accompanies the voice that seems to want me to face my truth. In a sense, it re-iterates what a small part of me is already aware of. Just that now I am conscious about it… in a sense, more willing to accept and work on it. Honestly, I’m still unable to articulate what the therapy has actually done to me. But it was an interesting experience, to say the least.
Having spent an hour in water, I am really hungry. And Sharan is generous enough to let me eat up half his lunch. He also volunteers to drop to me to Pampa Sarovar – yet another of Hampi’s beauties… this one a waterbody. I try finding the most comfortable place in the rocks and sit there for over an hour.
Here I meet the Gal Pals from Darjeeling, who eventually become the life of my New Year’s Eve. Shreya and Shikha, both barely 20, are out on what seems more like a graduation trip. Their interest levels skyrocket, when they learn I am travelling alone. (Looks like this trip has done wonders to my coolness quotient, especially among the younger lot!) Perched on the rocks, staring at the slow lilt of the Tungabhadra, we among other things get down to discussing plans for the night. They invite me over to Woodstock 69 — the café style hotel that they’re put up in – also one of the few places to host a New Year party this time around. (Entry free!) I chat up with Sharan again who’s come to pick me up from the sarovar as promised and we vroom into Woodstock.
The girls haven’t arrived yet. But the gadda-pillow-low table seating (this seems to be a trend here) and music are good enough to launch me into party mood. Beer, cigarettes and natural intoxicating ingredients flow. The only Indian I can see really is me, followed by Shreya-Shikha. To be honest, the party is quite thanda by Mumbai standards. But what’s really exciting is the thought of completing letting go with a bunch of absolute strangers… eating, drinking and being merry. And yes, the letting go part does require a conscious push from within. After all, this has to be a trip where I surprise myself. The gal pals are extremely accommodating and offer me to share their room for the night. (Hampi goes to sleep by 10. Travelling from one side to the other by boat past midnight is unthinkable). I call up my homestay host and inform him I will be returning the next morning.
Save a few desi drunken jerks who want to act fresh, the next couple of hours are absolutely crazy. The New Year eve so seamless transcends into the New Year that I realize the transition only with the rumbling of the stomach. Not the best way to start the New Year, I know. But you got to face it!
I return to my homestay by noon and crash for three hours straight. It’s already late noon and it isn’t too long before sunset. (The sun here sets at about 5.45pm). I loiter around aimlessly… feel a bit stupid thinking about the things I could have done had I come back last night. (But then, I console myself saying I’ve covered most of Hampi anyway. And it was an experience to remember).
I go for a long walk on the boulders behind Virupaksha temple. The sun has just set. It’s not until I sit down on a random boulder that the enormity of it all begins sinking in… the orange sky that’s fast turning deep black… the skyline that’s dotted by several small temples and mantapam structures… and of course the mighty Virupaksha shimmering golden, courtesy the little light atop the gopuram…
I try taking a few pictures but realize that the best of photographers might not be able to capture the essence of its beauty. I am just an amateur. It’s something you must feel, immerse yourself in, not see. Sprawled out on the cold rocks under the star-studded sky, with no care of others walking by, I am so taken in that I can feel my eyes moisten.
I’m reminded of the lines:

Muaaf kar de mujhe, humnafas
Ke khubsoorat tu nahi…
Ke khuda ne tujhe taraasha hai…
Par khuda tu nahi…

Muaaf kar de mujhe, humnafas
Ke khuda tere aagosh mein nahi…
Ke Khuda hai iss sannaate mein…
Aadhe chand ki poori muskaan mein…
Taaro ki chhaav taley jhilmilaate pattharo mein…
Aur sukoon mein roshan meri rooh mein hai…

Muaaf kar de mujhe, humnafas
Ke mujhe khuda mil gaya

Unlike mentioned earlier, these aren’t the lines I’m reminded of. This is what comes from within. Embarrassing or not, I am going to embrace them. One of the things the trip has taught me. Yes, they are mine. If you don’t like them, so be it. At least I made an attempt. It feels good.
As I try to finish the last part of this blog on my way back to Mumbai, stealing an occasional glance at the fast passing Karnatak highway dhabas from my sporadically stained bus window, the smile on my face refuses to fade. The week that went by has felt like another lifetime. I stole moments from the arrogant cycle of time. Keeping with ethos of WH Davies’ poem, I did find the time to stand and stare. Have I discovered myself, given that solo trips are romanticized as such? Have I finally found a meaning to life? Have I sought what I was looking for? Or what was I looking for in the first place? Frankly, I don’t have an answer to any of these. All I know is, some small part of me is at peace… And this has to do with more than just the mystique of Hampi.
Whether it’s about taking the tiniest of decisions on your own, striking a balance between reining yourself and letting go, or facing moments of crisis (the bike accident and the new year revelry fallout in my case), even supposedly independent women (or persons actually) like us, may find ourselves thrown into the dead-end of the pool… with absolutely nothing or no one to fall back upon. And then it’s all about how to make it… and not just make it, but also love the journey of making it. Somewhere that is the essence of life, I’d like to believe. For, while it is only human to want companionship along the way, the path we choose to walk on is ours alone… Has this trip given me a sense of self-validation, then? To a certain extent, yes.

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