Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reghurajpur, or Artist's Village. Odisha. ( former Orissa)

Reghurajpur, or Artist's Village. 

A traveler to Odisha, normally first goes to Bhubaneswar, and from there travels on to Puri or the Sun temple, and ends their journey there.  Generally, mention Orissa.. and it is the sun temple that comes to a malayali's mind.. In the same way, I too wandered around Puri and Konark. But my travel wasn't that of a tourist. I was just a traveler. I could direct my bike anywhere I wanted to. Wherever I went, as far as it was possible to, I distributed notices that  I was carrying with me. The notices had the message, 'Stop Child Abuse"  on them. (This time, in Hindi.) 

In Odisha, there were some places that I had planned to visit from the onset. (I will talk about that an other time.) 

I had shortlisted some roads and places not usually covered by a traveler from Kerala. But there was a name that evaded me. A place that I had come across in a Hindi channel.  However much I treid, I couldn't recollect the name of the place. A google search wasn't possible.. as internet connection was often disrupted during travel.  The night that I reached Odisha, I called up my friends and writer Veenadevi Meenakshi and mentioned the matter. The encyclopedia had the answer ready.  " Reghurajpur," she said.

Reghurajpur is in Puri district.  Along Bhuvaneswar - Puri route, 14 km before one reaches Puri, there is a small place called Chandanpur. One will find the place only if one searches for it by name.
There, on the left side stands the only hotel in Chandanpur. [there, we get lunch served on plates made of round shaped leaves stitched together.)
From Chandanpur, if one takes the road that lies to the left, and travel 4 kms, we will reach Chandanpur bazaar. That is the  place where one can get meat, fish, vegetables..  A very colorful place.
Leaving the market  crowd and its tumults behind, if one travels forward 2 km more, there is a road that turns right.  Go on forward, beyond that road, and you might feel as if was old world Kerala; uprooted and replanted there! A place of scenic natural beauty .
Again 'Tenzing'  surged forward....
The very famous Bhargavi river flows through this area. And we come across places that brings to mind the picturesque scenes from the novel, Malgudi days.

Occasionally passing small rivers and canals on the way I came across a board that said, 'This way, to Reghurajpur' .

Again, turning right, I moved forward. A small pathway through coconut groves.
As one went along that way..  a tower came into view.  Made up works of art. It kept growing larger as I rode forward and nearer.
Going through that archway, one enters a completely different world!!!
A world that is, oh..  so different from anything you would ever have seen.
Many houses lined the street that lay in front.  Each house with different artwork done on it.  Different forms and styles of painting, different methods.....!
That is a sight one has to see with one's own eyes.

A social map of Reghurajpur village. A contribution from an artist who lives there.

The painting here depicts different scenes from the Bhagawat Gita
Reghurajpur. The front face of a house there.

A small complete village made up of mural paintings. Each different.
Each person here is an artist. father, mother, son , daughter.. each and everyone.. an artist.
Each house decorated with paintings by those who lived there.

Even as I had passed the arch and got in, many people had come running forward.
With all the paraphernalia I carried, I must have been a strange sight indeed.
They were looking at me with some wonder and curiosity.
Noticing the number plate.. someone asked, ' aap Keral se aaya'..  [are you coming from Kerala]  
Yes.. this was the AAp parcel from Kerala, I joked.

 Got acquainted with each person who came to greet me.. Every single one of them, an artist.
One of them said that he had come to Kochi, and that he had done mural paintings at some hotels there.

Saying that I would see  them later, I told them that I would talk to them in detail after a round of the village on the bullet.
I set up Gopro and went forward.
In 5 minutes, the whole village was captured in the cam.

Then, from the group of young men that had greeted me first,  one person came near and said he would show me the place in detail. He kept his word and did exactly that. He took me to each house there.

The young man who took me around the village.
Here, when the young man helped with the gopro. He too is a good painter. The painting on the wall beside, is the oldest painting in the village. Almost more than a 100 years old. It is unique in that it has been made with vegetable juices.  

This, is the  creative place of the young man above.
This is how it looks from inside. 
And, the person at work there is his elder brother.
Everyone there is a traditional artist. There were those who  drew/sketched/painted.. those who wrote, those who sang, ...  all gathered together in one rare and special village.
The total number of houses there, was below 100.
While some did mural work, others painted on fabrics. some on palm leaves, other leaves.. on walls,,, and so on...... art and pictures created in many different ways.

By the time I finished visiting all the homes there, and it was evening..  I had become familiar to all of them. Like a friendly familiar neighbor.  

Everyone invited me to the next celebration and festival.
Even if not on a bike, , I would go there and stay with them for  a couple of days. I gave my word.
Bought many paintings..    and along with Tenzing .. towards the next destination.........

More pictures below. 

A young artist occupied with her mural work..... and along with the cameraman, 
a mad man :):)
The home of the wedding card designer.

 The color combination, that cycle and the picture  I somehow liked it very much. 

Isn't there a beauty in even how the cycle has been placed.
The backside of a house. 

The friend here opened up a world of  paintings to me.. 
That one can never have enough of.
Various and  beautiful to behold.. 
Now, for some works of art from the village.

This work here is special  silk,  dried.. and painted on with specially created colors. 
That is what they said.
And, all I know about it. If anyone has more information, please enlighten. 

 This is a work I liked very much. Bought it and brought it home.
Because it was a purchase without an intermediary .. and maybe because they considered me  as  theirs, they  took very little as its cost. .. a couple of mural works, a few embroidery works, were all gifted to me.
very kind of them.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The trip to Kolukkumalai. A short memoir.

The trip to Kolukkumalai. A short memoir.
(This is also as a temporary relief from the complaints that come my way.. That I no longer write about my travels as I used to.)
Not a theoretical account. I am just narrating what comes to my mind. I am speaking from my heart. Don't crucify me please :)

45 kms from Munnar, Kolukkumalai. 

For me, Munnar has always been like my lady love.... I continue to love her. Frequently I wish to see her. And I run to her, to sit in her coolness for some time.... Munnar might have narrated many stories to me.   I keep learning and knowing more and more about her... but I   had never even once searched to find her mind. Like my lovers tell me....  I never tried to know. [at times they might be saying that with love] But this time I thought that I should know her mind. And that is how I set out to know Kolukkumalai.
To know the heart of Munnar, one should visit Kolukkumalai at least once... ( there is a twist to it. Will get to that later.)
The spot I never miss.. on any visit to Munnar. 

Last week I had made a post on my timeline which said, "The coming week I'll be going to Kolukkumalai. Anybody here who wants to join me?"
Many showed interest.
When Saturday came, the numbers had dwindled down to just me.
But that night,  trusty Clinton called to inform about his intention to join me.
Maybe the numbers fell  because I had told everyone, that whether anyone joined me or not, I would start from Vytilla at exactly 5 AM.

 Clinton who knew the spirit in which the ride was being made, had arrived at Vytilla signal from Thrissur by 4.55 am itself and registered his attendance. I too reached there. It was raining heavily. Wrapping ourselves up in raincoats, we started our journey.
 70 kms past Ernakulam, it  stopped raining..
On the way, we stopped at a 'Motel' to have food.. and again continued on our journey...
The roads to Munnar seemed unusually steeped in silence... as if the workers' strike and their hardships were taken up by the very air of Munnar...

We were riding very slowly. . The distance from Ernakulam to Munnar is 128 kms.
From Munnar, it is 45 kms to Devikulam, If we went by the Suryanelli route, we would reach Kolukkumalai.
Suryanelli is an exceptionally beautiful place. Even if you don't go to Kolukumalai, you should definitely visit Suryanelli at least once.  The scenic frames created by nature will astonish you immensely.
Panorama -  Suryanelli

Frames long and wide, naturally set. A paradise, the sight of which is sure to refresh one's mind.
It is a 16 km climb from Suryanelli.
A google search will show that it takes only 10 minutes... But to climb that 16 km.. even on a bullet, it will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The ride back,  takes only 1 hour and 10 minutes. That is it..  a place that stands 7130 feet above the sea level!
way to ... Kolukkumalai, Munnar

Only someone who love extreme adventure can make it to the place on a bullet. It is not one for the faint hearted.  If you don't want to be that adventurous, you can hire a 'four drive jeep' ride from Suryanelli.
That would cost you 1500/- Rs.
You might think that the charge is too high. But, by the time you finish the trip, you will change your mind. You will feel that they charge you very less.
The way is completely rock country!  The pathway strewn with boulders.

The steep upward road, and the almost vertical drop from the sides will make your heart pound.
The way that awaits us, is that wonderful...!
And above all this, a blanket of heavy mist rested...  with tea gardens all around you...

All these combine together to give you Kolukkumalai.
The sights  pluck at your mind.. tug and pull at it. 'koluthi valikkuka' in local dialect. Maybe that gave the place the name Kolukkumalai, I thought, as I rode on...

By the time we left Suryanelli behind us, the road started narrowing down. The width decreasing progressively. And the tarred surface had slowly started disappearing.

The good section of the road ends here.. before we take that turn to the right.

The small dot you see on the lower portion of the picture [might be visible only in full view of the pic] that is the spot from where we start the climb to Kolukkumalai.

The road we see to the side, We climb up from there.

A view of the asphalt less section of the road. That is Clinton on his Avenger.   smile emoticon

  More pictures could be possible only after we reached the very top. The road was that superb!
A view of the road and the steep side to the left of the difficult road. Click by Clinton

Still, the road was reasonably good. It was getting better!   It was getting better  at being treacherous.
This was nothing! 'What all types of roads we have seen Clinton, let us climb on bravely.. I was saying with some pride and audacity, as I took the bullet forward. Clinton had come on a Bajaj Avenjer for this trip; and he was climbing up smoothly on it. At times Jeeps came down the road from above and the people in them looked at us as if we were some strange creatures. 'Don't these people have anything else to do!'  They seemed to be saying.
Why can't you use a jeep,   a young girl   seemed to ask; with the look in her eyes as the jeep she was in, rode past.
Recapping a 'Salim Kumar' dialogue (from his movies), 'this is nothing'.. (ithokke enthu!') Clinton followed me  up the mountain side.
After riding on so for a Kilometer, it became increasingly evident that things were not going too well. Round boulders and a steep path awaited. All along the way up.
We can't say we 'rode' our bikes up. It was a circus of sorts... Two hands handled a weight of 200 Kgs between them.
Taking care so as not to be thrown off in any direction, one had to ride up keeping a peculiar balance.. and one could only ride in first gear.

Never take a pillion rider on a trip up Kolukkumalai. There is a higher possibility of being thrown off the vehicle. After riding forward so, for about 7 km, we happened upon an amazing sight of a  young chap making his way down the pathway on a Passion Plus. Like 'Luttapi' riding his spear, clinging on to it for life.
One has to acknowledge his feat. He rode down the way, proving once again..  that one's mind is the ultimate. It can help you do anything if you put your mind to it.
On his way up, he must have carried the bike!!!  I mused..!! How else could he have climbed up on a Passion Plus? The state of the road was that horrible.
It must have been sheer mental power!

A little later, there came another Passion Plus! This time, with two people on it!
The person riding pillion must have had a real back breaking time on it. Anyway, superb young riders. One can't help but say that.

In the meantime, occasionally bullets and Jeeps came down the path.
By 12.40, we reached the top of the mountain.

We finally got to the spot. And 'Tenzing' posed for a picture! :)

The view from there, was so absolutely marvelous!
Kolukkumalai stood there...,  with her face shyly hidden by the veil of mist.
Maybe, it was the scenic beauty of those wonderful sights.. a little romance was budding in my mind too..
And so, Munnar's heart lay open before me.

Like an imprint of love, mercy, compassion, the mist kept coming...
Now, having a cup of tea there, would round things up well. It would be akin to talking to her in the language of the heart.

From where we stood, if we went a kilometer forward, we would reach Kolukkumalai tea estate.
We thought we would have tea from there.
The only tea estate there.. directly ran the tea stall at the place.
We  ordered a tea each.
And here comes the 'twist' I first mentioned.

The heart of Munnar, is like a woman's mind...
One  would love her a lot. But there would be nothing in her heart.... if opened,  it would be empty. Hollow.. lifeless.. like that tea from Kolukkumalai. A tea with no smell, no flavor, no emotion...  no substance!

But..   I would go again... in search of her mind that had got lost somewhere.. I would go, on an other quest.. an other journey, I told her, as I bid her good bye.

Still the heart kept throbbing deeply.. like with the love for a loveless wench....

As we started our journey back down.. we got a smattering of rain. :)
The picture taken by cameraman Clint at the time smile emoticon 


Including some pictures taken during the trip. They are all pictures taken using a mobile camera.

Ernakulam-Munnar-Devikulam-Suryanelli-Kolukkumalai- (173Km)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Changing perceptions

There is a question some friends here have asked. They ask me, if the things that I write, are exaggerated, if they are build upon..?
The answer is very simple.  'Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.'
Something, only those who live through it, and feel it, can know.
Each page of my travel journal, is of real instances, real happenings.
What I went through.. what I saw.
Each night, without fail I would dictate the days happenings  into my dictaphone; to keep the memories of the day intact.  When circumstances weren't favorable for that, I wrote it down.
I am just transferring it here.That is all.

(Another thing, is the questions about Tenzing. Tenzing is my bike. That is what I have named my bullet. In one of my earlier narratives here, I have talked about that.  :) I hope, that the question will be avoided henceforth.)


I began with Raju bhai's story, to start off in a lighter vein.
But the major part of the journey wasn't so. This chapter takes us to the real soul of our land.

It was the 14th day of travel. I was on my way from Barh (pronounced 'Barah') to Mirzapur. [from Bihar, to Madhya Pradesh.]

I had stayed the night at a small lodge in Barh.  Had gone to bed on an empty stomach as there was nothing available to eat. Next day, very early in the morning, I set off from there.
After a few hours on the road, by about 8 am, I came upon a small wayside shop.  A few dusty packets of 'Lays', bought, 'who knew when,' hung there in the sunlight. The only other thing available was black tea.
I bought a cup of tea and with it, I had a couple of biscuits that I had brought along with me. Gave two to the shopkeeper too. And we sat there a while talking.. about the land and its people.
In between, I asked him if there was some place where I could buy food.

There it was considered a luxury to buy even a glass of tea; let alone think of a  hotel! I realized that only when he said so.
"Everybody here is poor. No one goes out to eat. Whatever is necessary, is cooked at each home and eaten..," explained the shop owner.
We talked of many other things. I paid him. And again started Tenzing.

Like it says in the movie.. it was 'neelaakaasham, chuvanna bhoomi', [blue sky and red earth] alone. The sun's rays, now beginning to blaze! The temperature was at 46 to 47 degrees. Passing arid lands, the highway stretched ahead endlessly; fields on either side. Reddish brown, half harvested sparse fields. On the wayside there was no shade worth its name; not even a 'crow's feet worth' of shade!! Just the fiery sunlight all around. Earlier in the day, I had filled a bottle with water from a wayside tube well. Now, it would have barely a glass of water left in it.
The little water left in the 'kannas' (a plastic container to hold liquid)  was strictly for utmost emergencies. To occasionally wet the buff [cloth used to cover the face]. (Within 10 minutes, it would evaporate.) I would sometimes use the water to wet my nose and ears..
Those were all ways adopted to face the scorching heat from the sun.
It was 1 pm, and I was almost blind with hunger. All that I had  to eat or drink from the night before, was a glass of black tea and two biscuits.

Thus, I rode on.  And then, a little further off, I saw a tree. There were some bushes nearby, and a few straggling creepers.
There, in the half shade and sun, I put Tenzing on center stand. 'Let him rest a bit too.'
In the little space that remained, I unfolded my three legged stool, placed it close to the tree and rested.. leaning against its trunk. What a relief!
As I sat there, I told myself.. 'if it was to be biscuits, so be it.'
Unbearably hungry now.
There might be a little water left., maybe, enough to wet my throat.
I took off my boots and kept it carefully aside. From my bag, I took out a packet of biscuit. And as I opened it, felt a  touch.. someone was poking at me on my right side!!
Who might that be! I turned around to look into two bright eyes. It was a child. A boy, about 4 yrs old. He smiled. and so did I. Where could he have come from?
There were open fields behind. The branches of the tree I was sitting against, curved, bending towards the field. Then, there were those bushes and creepers I had seen earlier. Maybe, he came from behind those.
Meanwhile, with curiosity, the child touched my knee guard. Pressed it..  examined it.

Extending the biscuit pkt towards him, I gestured.. 'Do you want this?'
'For me?' he gestured back, touching his chest..
"Mm," I said.
The moment I handed it over. He shot off like an arrow and disappeared from view.  Where did the kid go to?
I thought I'd follow and find out. Also, I might find some water to drink. Tucking the bottle under my arm. Keeping the baggage close together, I took an other packet of biscuit, and went up the ridge on the sides of the field, behind the creepers.
The scene I saw there..   There were 3 or 4 people sitting on the ground. A cow and two calves were grazing peacefully nearby.
I think maybe, a family of farmers taking their afternoon rest. As I walked closer the sight that greeted my eyes were pleasant and unexpected.  A four year old distributing biscuits. After giving it to everyone there.. feet outstretched, he sat on the edge of the field and began enjoying the biscuits.
That was the time I reached there. Or, he saw me then. He looked at me and smiled. So did the others sitting around. Nearby, maybe it was his mother, a figure sat hunched up with a child younger to him. It was difficult to make out anything other than that it was a woman.  A skeleton covered in cloth.  A living symbol of poverty and life's hardships..
l stretched out the biscuit pack I hand in hand, to her.
'Should she accept it or not?'....  There was confusion and wonder on her face. And the doubt whether she should touch food that belonged to another.
You might wonder how I knew that. The only answer is.. solitary travels and unique experiences teaches and enables one, to understand some things that are beyond  words and situations.

Anyway, she accepted it. Her husband took three biscuits from it, another person took two, and kept those in their pockets. Maybe to give it to some one back home. Thinking so, I sat beside them. Her husband got up, and I watched in astonishment, as he fed a biscuit each to the cow and the two calves there!
Now, we had all had a share of the biscuits.
As for me, I was very thirsty.
In a mixture of gestures and Hindi, I asked if I could have a drink of water.

The language they spoke wasn't Hindi. Probably some local dialect. As if saying 'of course, why not,' she extended a medium sized bowl towards me. I drank some of it.  Something with indifferent taste. Neither salty nor sour. Maybe it was their rice water, 'kanji vellam'. There were some grainy bits in it,  I knew not what. Anyway I felt energized when I drank some of it. My thirst was also quenched. I handed the vessel back to her.
Now the four year old came forward, took the vessel from her and drank some of it. There was only one vessel of water, one container. And so, everyone was drinking from it. So what? :)
I didn't find that a problem  anymore.
[Let me remind you now...  that, when I started my journey on that first day, I was drinking only mineral water. What brought about the sea change in my outlook now?  Sometimes, the plans we make [ trying to play God! :) ] has no meaning. Some things happened on the third day of my travel; to totally change the way I looked at life.. More about that later.  Anyway, suffice to say;  it didn't feel strange anymore to share a plate with complete strangers.]

Now, I was about to see something more and learn something I will never forget.
One of the calves came running to where we sat. It too drank some of the water in the vessel. The man of the house, took the cloth hanging on his shoulder and softly  he proceeded to diligently wipe  away with care, the water and dust clinging to its face. The calf then lay nearby and began chewing cuds. There was still more water left in the vessel. The man took it in his hands and drank deeply from it...
And, I sat there stunned. What an experience!
Man and animal sharing the same 'plate'!
And, what had I drunk?  'Kaadi vellam!' (kaadivellam in Kerala dialect, is the drink given to cattle. The main ingredient being the bran water got when rice was washed for cooking; or rice water, the water collected when cooked rice was drained. Normally banana peels and other nurturing bits and pieces would be added. Maybe, leftover rice too.  And that would be given to cattle as nutritious food and drink)
Here, man and animal.. everyone had the same gruel. For a moment I felt my stomach churn at the thought of what was inside. But those moments were also that of self realization for me.
The cattle that we tend to. That we domesticate and bring up.. they are the same as we are.
Here these people took take care of their cattle, their animals, the same as they treated themselves and their children. Or maybe more. There was no life apart there. All lived the same. All life was the same.  Whatever was available was shared alike by all. Man and animal.. all the same. The cattle at least had green grass to eat. Still, they shared with their animals whatever they themselves ate, and loved them as their own.

Hunger was the same for all. Giving and sharing whatever they had with their animals, they loved them as their own.
And now, strangely, I didn't feel any awkwardness anymore. And, a new light of awareness seemed to fill me.
Take the matter of that boy. At the tender age of four he knew the pain of hunger. Hungry or not, the first thing he did was to share it. He first shared the special food he got, and partook of it, the very last.
When desperately hungry, maybe I too would satiate my own hunger first, and only then think of others.  But this child?

One of  the  many enlightening experiences that was kept in readiness for me to stumble upon on this journey..
I realize..... 'Journey is life.. life itself is the journey.'

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thank you All.. :) May 20th

Thank you for all the great support. :)

This is how the route finally evolved into..

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Raju bhai, at Hampi. Second and last part.


I took the key from him, went in and closed the door.
Sat on the cot and took my diary in hand.

Knock! knock!
That was Raju bhai at the door.

"Sir, what do you want to eat?" Hearing him, one would expect him to magically whisk out a menu.

"Whatever you are having, I will eat that. Like I told you, I am staying with you at your house, so that I can  enjoy life in a village. You should give me only what you eat yourself."

"For us, it will be 'fry rice' tonight."

"You are having fried rice?"


I felt a little disappointed. Is there no escape from Chinese food for the people here too?
"Okay, I too will have that."

"All right sir, how was the tea?"

"Good!", I said truthfully.

For the next half hour, no one came to disturb me.
The house TV,  covered in a sari, was fast asleep in the room given to me.. I had fitted my different chargers to its plug point and other such available points around the place.

And then, it was time for the fried rice. I was very hungry.
Mangalamma, the lady of the house had served the fried rice on a freshly cut banana leaf spread on a plate.
Sona masoori rice stir fried in turmeric and chillie. Here and there, slices of carrot pieces and french beans, rested decoratively. I ate the whole thing.
I thanked Mangalamma; who stood there, obviously missing her tv serials, and went to sleep.
'Good night!'
Out side, the sounds of  night life in a village.  Listening to the silence, an occasional cow mooing, night birds singing... I don't know when.  I slept.
When I woke up in the morning, I stepped outside. Nice and clear atmosphere. Fresh air.

There was no sign of the inhabitants of the house. Where had everyone gone?
Heard some noise from the plantation. And when when I went there, found a young man stacking bunches of mature and ready  bananas on to a tempo.

"I am Devaraj," the young man introduced himself.

"Where is everyone?"

"They have gone to the restaurant. It has to be opened early."

"Aaha, that is good. Do they have a hotel?"

"Sir, don't you want breakfast? I will go there and get it." Saying that, he disappeared.

I had a bath in two and a half  'showers', dressed and soon got ready.
'After breakfast, I will go to Hampi in the morning itself,' I told myself.
I got the cameras ready. Hampi was near. So I would go on foot.

Devaraj came hurrying. In his had, a five inch black plastic cover. (The type made of recycled plastic that has been prohibited in our state)
Inside that, two iddlies rested on a piece of newspaper that read, 'Kannadamma Daily'. over the iddlies, a little coconut chutney. That wasn't all.  There was some tea tied up in an other plastic cover; this time, a white one; and along with it, a paper cup.

I swallowed the searing words  that came to mind in my mother tongue.
"Mr. Devaraj, Is this how you behave towards a guest? At the very least, if  you had served the food on a plate, I would have eaten it. Have you all no manners! It is a pity!
You take this, and do what ever you want with it. I will eat from outside." I dropped the cover on the porch.
I poured the tea into a glass and drank it.
"Sorry sir, it happened unwittingly.  It will never happen again." Devaraj continued in that vein...

Ignoring him, I stepped outside and started walking towards Hampi.
"Sir, sorry.. our restaurant is nearby. You can eat there."
Devaraj is not about to leave me alone.
I gave in a bit. Ok, let us see.
On the main road we reached a culvert (a small over bridge)  A place with two or three small stalls or shops. (what we call 'pettikada' back home).

"Here it is sir, the restaurant."


"Here, this is it." Devaraj pointed out enthusiastically.  

A small desk, two stools. With Mangalamma sitting behind it. If front of her, on a black plate rested some iddlies. A small aluminium plate held some coconut chutney. .
"Come, come," she signaled to me with her hands.
I walked away fast; as if I had not heard her.
Devaraj came running after me.
"I will come home to have lunch at noon. Now, I don't want anything to eat." I told him.

On the way to Hampi, I came upon a boy with a pushcart, selling delicious poori, and potato curry. Feasted on that:  and went on to  feast on the sights Hampi had to offer.

Hampi gave me many good pictures. saw everything in detail. When hunger really got gnawing at me, it was nearing 1.30 pm, said my watch.
Enough for now. It was time to return. Raju bhai and Mangalamma would have got lunch ready and would be waiting for me.
Trying to keep to the shade, I hurried along the way that would take me to their home.
Leaning on a bamboo pole, chin in hand Mangalamma was sitting outside, chewing on betel leaves thoughtfully.
There was no sign of either Devaraj or Raju bhai. Had everyone left after having food?
"Sir, did you eat anything?"  Mangalamma asked affectionately.
"How could I? Before I went, didn't I tell you that I will be coming home for lunch?
Haven't you prepared anything? Don't you all take lunch?"  I asked.
The answer came towards me in the shape of a question.
"Sir, what will you have for lunch? I will get it ready now. Curd rice?"
Mangalamma got up from there. tucked her sari, and prepared to enter the kitchen.

I realized with dismay, that she was a lazy person. Okay,  if it was to be curd rice, so be it.
Anyway, it was something I liked.. I thought, trying to console myself.
Expecting curd rice, I sat inside my room. Hunger burning my insides.. I waited.
My head was beginning to ache too. It was past 2PM.  Finally at the tether end of my patience, I went outside.
"Will soon serve you sir," Mangalamma stood there immovable as a rock.
And then, like a locust, a young boy jumped forward. That was Chiranjeevi!
As soon as he appeared, Mangalamma gave him the cash she held curled up in her hand. "Go and get some curd!" she told him.
By then, I had helplessly realized, that the main ingredient for the curd rice I was waiting for was still waiting at some shop! Time dragged on. 2.30, 2.45......
Al last, on a fresh banana leaf end spread on a plate, the delicious curd rice arrived!! The lady was an amazing cook.. But she hadn't provided a side dish, or anything else to go along with it,
And then  I remembered. The superb tender mango pickle that I had packed in 17 days back.   With that, I had a feast of the curd rice.
Now it was time for a short rest.

A short slumber. After that, copied all the photographs taken onto the hard disk. Kept all batteries for charging. It was past 4 PM. I went outside and walked towards the riverside. Thungabhadra was flowing peacefully. Children frolicking in the water. People bathing, washing clothes. Maybe they were exaggeratedly exchanging village gossip too.
I found a less crowded spot and went in. Bathed in the river till my body cooled down. Haaa that felt great. After the cooling dip in the river, I again wandered around country paths. Had a glass of tea.. and by the time I got back, it was 7'O clock.
I had to start early the next day. I had to pack my bags, get Tenzing ready. Tomorrow I have decided to go to Kasaragod, 485 km away from here.

Raju bhai had come to enquire about dinner. "sir, what will you have for dinner?"

"Whatever you eat, I'll have that. To make it a bit more clear, you need not cook anything for me. Just give me a share of what you are having yourselves." I said calmly.

"All right sir."

By 8.30 PM, dinner arrived.
Hot rice served on a leaf covered plate. On the side, there was 'rasam' in a cup.
Another cup held scrambled eggs. (red chillie was used in it) a few pieces of onion.
I was very hungry. I ate it with relish. Superb rasam.  After I finished, I got one more cup of rasam and drank it.  ( extra... !)

"Did you like the 'thali' meal?" enquired Raju.

'Oh! So was this a thali!? I thought to myself.
" I liked it very much," I said.

"Sir had extra rasam too... "

"Yes... !"

"Sir, you will be leaving early tomorrow. so, including the thali' you had just now, it will be 260/- Rs for  food......  " he explained further..  200 Rs for the 'thali', 40 Rs for the rice, 20 Rs for the black tea you had yesterday."

20 Rs! I sat there open mouthed. I was flabbergasted.
"Yes sir, that was special black tea. Then, the breakfast provided was complimentary. That was what you threw away!!!"

Should I laugh? Or cry?

"Here is 300 Rs! Keep the remaining amount as tip,"

I got back inside. Closed the room. Set the alarm and lay down to sleep.

Early morning at 4AM, As I was about to leave, Raju bhai came with a small glass that held about an ounce of  black tea.
"How much is this ?" I asked.

"Oh no sir, You shouldn't say that. Sir, you are our guest, and you are leaving now., that is why.. "

I nodded my head, "mm, me your guest... is this how you behave towards your guest? The tea I had just  now, adjust that with the tip I gave last night."

I started the bike.

"Sorry sir, sorry. You are our guide.  I have decided to start this as a business. You should come again sir !!"

Hearing this, I was left covered in goosebumps!!!
I patted Tenzing and we started from there.

My next destination, 485 kms away... to my  land, Kerala :)