The Bookshop and the Photoboxy

matt and the girl

joylani 130pxMatt and I have been in Hampi for the last 2.5 days, and leave in a few hours by train. Hampi is a small little village/tourist town surrounded by 500-600 year old ruins. The ruins consist of old temples, palaces, bath houses, market areas, etc. It’s an interesting place, one we almost crossed off our list because we were feeling “ruined out,” but I’m glad we came because Hampi, like the other places we’ve visited, has its own unique character from the rest. The main drag (like every other small town in India, is called the Main Bazaar) has an active temple on one end and temple ruins at the other. The new temple end consists of restaurants, travel services/internet, and souvenir shops.

Towards the other end is “low income” housing—homes people have made out of the pre-existing ruins of the old city bazaar. I think this was a smart use of the space for those who have moved in.

homes in converted ruins

We’ve walked down to the old end each day since we arrived in Hampi. Unique from the other places we’ve been, there are dozens of kids playing outside (probably due to the no cars being allowed on the Main Bazaar or beyond). They’re either digging in the dirt, rolling an old tire, teasing a sleeping dog, or playing cricket on an improvised field. All three times we’ve walked down the road there is this little girl—about three years old—who approaches us, asking something that sounds like “photo boxy,” but we’re not sure if she’s trying to speak English, or, more likely, her native tongue Kannada. Either way, we have no idea what she is saying. We try to ask her questions to clarify, but she just keeps repeating. “Photo boxy? Photo boxy.” (Matt says is sounds more like “futoboxshi”) She’s a sweet little persistent one and would follow us for a while before giving up and walking back home.


Down at the opposite end of the road we’ve made another acquaintance—book shop man. On our first evening in Hampi we had just turned on to the main road when we heard a proper-sounding voice calling out behind us. “Excuse me! Excuse me!” Upon turning around we saw a be-speckled, heavy set (with age), grandfather shuffling towards us, his hand up in the air to wave us down. Not sure what his deal was, we stopped to listen. “Excuse me, there is a bookshop,” he said (high-pitched emphasis on “book”) as he pointed in the direction of his store. I looked where he was pointing and saw a sign with clear red lettering “Book Shop,” indeed it was. The man went on to let us know this wasn’t just any book shop. He also sold incense, postcards, and essential oils. What a bookshop! We politely declined and walked on. The next day the same thing happened, only this time I was ready.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!”

“Hello.” I smiled and said, “There’s a bookshop, right?”

As though he hadn’t heard what I said or remembered giving us the same message the day before, the man stately pointed and announced, “There is a bookshop.”

“Yes, yes,” I said. “Maybe we will come tomorrow; we’re going to take pictures now.” He politely registered my response (not all do) and let us go on our way without another word.

Today Matt and I did plan on stopping by the bookshop to see what books were in stock. We weren’t any less than 10 or 20 yards away when I saw the bookshop man hone into our presence through his thick glasses. He quickly stood up, slipped on his shoes and began to shuffle towards us. “Oh no,” I told Matt. “Hurry and make your way to the bookshop so that he doesn’t tell us the same thing!” We were too late. He was already in front of us.

“Excuse me! Excuse me! There is a bookshop!”

“Yes,” I smiled, “We’re going there just now.”

Finally, it registered. “Ah yes, I remember you from yesterday!” he proudly said.

“What about the day before that?” I thought to myself. So Matt and I went to look at his thrice acclaimed bookshop. Most of the books were about Hampi. In fact, there weren’t that many books at all, and definitely not any I was even remotely interested in reading. I wasn’t interested in incense or essential oils either, so I settled on buying a few postcards and said goodbye to the bookshop man. Walking down the Main Bazaar a couple hours later, we caught a glimpse of him across the street, flagging down another tourist. “Excuse me! Excuse me…”

A few more snapshots from Hampi:

not quite tall enough

Not quite tall enough to get his leg over the bar…

getting a shave

Matt getting a shave from a kid who can’t shave himself yet…

freakishly large goat

can you spot the Yao Ming goat?

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