As the clocked ticket 4:45 I began wrapping up my work desk. It was yet another weekend, and the third weekend I was traveling. Right at this time last Saturday, I was on a business trip to Mumbai. I was sitting in the all glass meeting cabin, after having finished off the work. I was in for a treat as I removed the window blinds.
Far in the horizon was the view of the Sun slowly dipping toward the sea.
I picked up my bag and headed toward the exit. I waved a nervous bye to my manager as he looked up to see me leave. He didn’t say anything but he knew, I was a weekend warrior: One job ended and another began, well sort of.
I was running late when I reached my place in Indiranagar, I stuffed my bag with what I thought I need for the next two days, which incidentally didn’t include the half empty bottle of Johnny Walker, which was lying on the shelf of my room for some time now. I admit I was somewhat tempted but then quickly ditched the idea.
I reached just in time to catch the metro, thanks to the metro card which saved me from queuing up for the ticket. I was just in time for my 7 o’clock Gol Gumbaz which was surprisingly right on time. The train started and sleep took over me. For reasons unknown, I dreamt of Himalayas, I dreamt of a train journey to the snow peaks of Uttrakhand. My mother showed me a place which she frequented as a child, and somehow I could relate to it. I had my own memories of it, though I don’t remember being there before. Maybe in some other life, maybe I inherited the memory.
Somewhere in between I booked the hotel on ibibo, I am stuck to it as I still have a large no. of points to spend, and which they keep on adding with every booking. These people know business, they keep the hamsters running.
I got down from Badami around 7 in the morning, it was a miracle how the train was right on time. And it’s high time we should give some credit to our incredible rail system.
Badami was a small railway station with only a tiny tea shop, I got myself a tea which was delivered in a cup of size of a shot. Though it was reasonable hot, I gulped it in one go.
A shared auto carried me and ten other passengers through the dusty roads of this North Karanataka town. The road became worse as we progressed, making us, the passengers at the back, jump up and down.
After checking-in I headed straight for the breakfast, which came complementary with the hotel stay. I dared Poori bhaaji which I rarely have in Bangalore, due to self-imposed restriction on my diet. I ordered extra poori as the breakfast was free after-all.
There was a slight chill in the air when I came out of my room. Did it just get colder? I hailed an auto and headed to the Badami caves. Caves #1,2,3,4 all came in single package which cost a whooping rupees ten! How could ASI took such a good care of the monument baffled me. The place was squeaky clean barring a couple of chocolate wrappers. These children needs to be taught a lesson!
The caves, simply put, were quite small and plain, what a bummer, huh?
The disappointment of the caves was well compensated by the school kids. Neatly dressed in their uniform, adhering to queues but making noise and creating chaos whenever they found an opportunity. You can’t hold a river, can you? It finds its way, eventually.
I had some mirchi bhaai at the small canteen in the compound, though I only wanted to have some tea. I found Mr. auto wallah who was waiting for me in the parking, even though I had told him to leave. He showed me a notebook all with glowing reviews of the trips, but I wasn’t sure of going to Pattadakal and Aihole. It wasn’t that the offer wasn’t good, it’s just that the places didn’t excite, specially after being little disappointed by the cave temples.
After a quick search on Google images, I thought the two were a pass. I generalized them as old temples on a large open ground. What’s so special?
Or maybe it was my arrogance that I dismissed them without giving much thought.
Or perhaps I being practical, I decided to spend more time exploring Badami then running all around and tiring myself un-necessarily.
I took a quite lane to the other side of the lake. The lane itself with its white washed houses was quite a discovery. There were hardly any people around, not adults at-least, the little people, the children coyly waved hello and goodbyes as I passed through the street clicking with my phone camera.
In the Bhoothnath temple I reluctantly followed a local who acted like a self-appointed guide. The carving on the giant stones made my day. Damn! it was some artmanship.
While on my way I decided to take the passage up to check out some inscriptions. I ended up skipping it and continued my climb till I reached the top. Aah, I gasped. It was so beautiful from up there. The landscape looked as haunting as the one around Hampi.
I waited patiently for the sunset, taking the refuge behind a stone till the Sun was low enough. Hues of oranges and purple filled the sky as the Sun descended on to the horizon.
The crumbling old fort, and the remains of lower and the upper Shivalaya temples under the half-moon light cast a mysterious shadow. I scrambled to find my way back as I remembered my late night adventure in Hampi. I had a train to catch in another forty minutes. I took a chance and stumbled my way down a series of steps. The well laid path lead me safely through the rifts.
A pleasant incense like smell hung in the air. I thought I heard something, music coming off from tabla and sarangi, or maybe it was the sound of my own footsteps. My mind was playing tricks on me, but perhaps it was what I wanted to hear. I was almost there at the bottom of the stairs where to my great relief was the ASI museum by the lake.
The last bit of light in the horizon was gone and in the absence of stars it was now quite dark. I looked up toward the hill one last time and couldn’t help but wonder:
The Sun might have set on the kingdom of Chalukyas, but their legacy would go on continue to inspire generations. It’s not lost as long as we remember, tomorrow the Sun will rise again and with inherited memories this ‘Indus valley’ civilization will continue to flourish…
PS: I was ten minutes late for the train, but boy was I so glad to find that the train wasn’t running on time. This time, I thanked railways for not being so punctual.