"But it's dirty," people told us, "you'll get sick, you'll die." This, of course, from people who'd never been there.
"Think of the stories we'll have for them," I told Sherrill, after one of these conversations.
"Yes. Especially if we die."
The previous post, A MARRIAGE IN MOTION 68, told about the first part of our visit to south India, beginning in the east coast city of Chennai and continuing eventually to the west coast city of Kochi, which is where we pick up the story here.
"We got the idea," Sherrill agreed, as we walked out with the others.
Maybe super titles would have helped.
India is so huge that it encompasses many landscapes and climates. As we drove north from Mysore toward the fifteenth century capital of Hampi, the terrain grew drier, studded with cactuses, agave, palms, and massive boulders deposited by ancient glaciers. At lunch time, we pulled into a rustic truck stop, where we ate box lunches we had with us—although some of us bought additional snacks from the truck stop cook. The cross-country trucks in India were smaller than in the United States, but brightly decorated, each truck proclaiming its owner's personality. Several pulled into the stop while we there. When we were back on the road, we saw lines of them stretching into the distance because of the just-ended strike, their gaudy colors making them look like a parade of carnival wagons.
Along the way, we saw a farmer digging up his field with a wooden plow—only the blade was steel. Dazzling white egrets hopped around after him, eating insects and worms that he turned out of the rich brown soil.
For two days, we explored this extraordinary place of colossal temples and palaces and huge step tanks to store water cut deeply into the granite hills. From time to time, bas-reliefs and statues seemed to reach out, almost as if they were trying to grab us: oversized images of Hanuman, the monkey god; Ganesh, the elephant god; and Narasimha, half-monkey and half-man. In one temple complex, a gypsy woman suddenly jumped out. Short, gaudy in multi-layered skirts, scarves, and spangles, she complained angrily and shook her fist at us.
Sherrill and one of our friends in the group waited in the shade of a tree while the rest of us explored a hilltop temple. While we were gone, they were unexpectedly entertained by an eccentrically costumed man doing magic tricks. At the end of the performance, our friend gave the magician ten rupees.
"He was pretty good," Sherrill told me, "but we couldn't understand a word he said."
A traffic jam of bull carts was a new experience, but we ran into one at Badami's great Harvest Festival. The cattle auction also was new to us, but the rest of the fair seemed like a U.S. county fair, with hundreds of colorful booths and stalls selling food, souvenirs, and produce, plus bells and decorations for cattle. When we reached our hotel later, almost the first thing we saw was a sign: "Beware Monkey Menace." We did see quite a few monkeys, but weren't bothered by them, not even when we visited some cave temples the next day.
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