I don’t get to travel much. Its always work or some other responsibility that comes in between my plans. But when I do go, I bring a story with me.
My last backpacking trip to Hampi was truly an adventure. Ten + kilometers of cycling, exploring the remnants of the Vijayanaga Dynasty, breathing in fresh air as we peddled through the new roads laced with greenery, sprung fresh after the year’s rains- it was beautiful. There is something about 16th century bricks and carvings that pair well with fresh flora and fauna, and the town, surrounded by hillocks only accentuated its beauty.
Divided by the river Tungabadra, one side of the town has an old charm- which lets you envision subjects of the Vijayanagara dynasty shopping for flowers and groceries at the Bazaar on a warm evening- and then there is the other side, which lets you escape into a make-believe/delusional happy world. On the “hippier” side, you are bound to find young, creative entrepreneurs, who are basically capitalizing on the tourist inflow.
With little to no knowledge, these lads, say 18-25 years of age, befriend the tourists and take tips and suggestions to create a cafe of their own. Oh, did I mention? Hampi attracts over a hundred thousand tourists annually from all across the globe!
I met this one guy, his name was, lets say Pradeep here. He was 19, had no formal education but was hella charming! He knew to initiate a good conversation, knew enough about his home town to engage the tourist and was always eager to learn. So eager, he learnt Russian and was trying to learn French just so he could communicate. But here is is the first language he learnt, which literally removed the communication barrier between his ‘clients’- food. He owns a small cafe- plays groovy music and organizes bonfires on weekends- on small area of land his father owned. To create the menu, he started as a guide and slowly learnt about the internet and then engaged with his tourist friends, who would tell him about their culture and the food they missed. And when they were free, he would help them recreate a dish in this small town in India and soon, it would be on his menu. He had everything from a very crude form of cappuccino, Shakshuka, pancakes, hummus and pita and so much more. He narrated his story over a cup of hot chocolate and nutella pancakes. Well, it was an extra big dollop on nutella spread on a folded crepe, but it was delicious. We sat on the mattresses, which were the cafes tables and chairs, played the ukulele and let the warm summer breeze make us smile!
He was 10 when he got the idea, TEN! He envisioned to be something similar when he was older, but he was just a lot more awesome than he thought he would be. He became friends with this old Swedish couple who fell in love with him at once. He would take him to the temples and the remnants of the Vijaynagara dynasty that were lesser known, every evening and they soon had a precious bond. They started to see him as a son more than a tour guide. The couple approached his parents and said they would take care of everything from his education to career, and would informally adopt him. Thanks to their faith in this boy, his curiosity to learn about culture and food, he now takes care of his family and travels to Sweden once every year off-tourist season to visit his folks!
I mean, who knew that wanting to learn to cook something from another region or to fulfill someone’s cravings would get him to his dream job/ achieve his goals!
And a few scenes from Hampi …