He has a warm and very intriguing fire in his eyes, he mumbles a few abstract english words from behind his grey beard. This man is covered in more bling than 50 cent on his birthday and his energy appears surprised yet magnetised. I realise that this arm holding is simply his way of saying it’s a pleasure to meet. I allow him to continue holding my arm and attempt to have a conversation with this man, eye to eye.
We manage a basic conversation about god, Hampi and where I’m from. As we arrive at the bus stop I let him go in front of me but he eagerly waits for me to leave the bus. He then invites me to share lunch with him at a restaurant he knows close by. I have the whole day free and hell, it might even be fun hanging out with a guru for a day right?
He is surprised that I say yes and just keeps smiling and mumbling positive sounds. I remember other tourists walking into the restaurant sort of shocked by seeing the situation, young white traveller having breakfast with weathered old guru? He serves me water and allows me to order anything on the menu. We share a quiet yet pleasant breakfast together exchanging gestures and looks at each other. The guru asks if I’d ever been to a temple before, I say only a few of the smaller temples in the villages with Paresh and his friends. The guru continues to extend himself by offering to take me to a temple after lunch. I am honoured that this man would take me to the place where he spends most of his life, I think this could be a deeply enriching experience.
Now my interaction with what appears to be a relatively harmless guru changes pretty quick the moment the waiter comes with the check. His face changes when he notices the waiter has brought the check with the full price on it.
He starts raising his voice! Questioning as to why he or I should pay for the food. I quickly try to ease the tension by offering to pay. He refuses my offer with a shaking of his multi-bangled hand and continues exuding his loud voice to explain that he’s a guru and he’s inviting his guest to eat. Therefor the same rules of respect (a.k.a free food) must be shown to his guest as well. The waiter, surprised by the situation chuckles a little and says “I’m sorry, but everybody has to pay the same rates.”
The waiter then looks at me and says, “This man has more than enough money and the food is not free.”
The guru refuses to accept the situation and continues huffing and puffing a little more. Finally after the whole restaurant is conscious and looking at us, the waiter kindly offers to give the Guru a free meal, with mine at a discounted price. The Guru, brings out a nice wad of cash and pays him the exact price.
A little shaken up by the entire experience we leave the restaurant and the man continues to hold me by my arm. Ok things are starting to get a little strange now, I’m seriously out of my comfort zone and this man just exploded in public…”Am I safe?” I think to myself. I know that I could easily out run this man if he ever tried anything with me so I cautiously continue on this little adventure.
As a way to save money we take a bus up the road, near the school where I met Anoor. There is a taxi rank where locals get cheaper rides than the tourist swamped area of the Hampi town centre. We get off the bus and the Guru jumps straight over to the men running the taxi rank. Boom! He opens with a failed attempt at social dominance. Sort of proud to announce that he’s arrived with a very special guest, the taxi men tell him again in a polite manner that he, just like everyone else will need to pay for the taxi. Again attempting to ease the situation I say that I’m more than happy to pay for the taxi ride. He refuses my offer and continues talking and moving all of his limbs like a drunken octopus on heat.
The other taxi men in the area come around to hear what all the commotion is about and nobody is on his side. He attempts to walk off, leaving me standing there. I’m unsure if I even want to follow this man anymore, everywhere he goes he appears to be rude and disrespectful to others. He signals for me to come protest with him on the other side for a moment. Then after a further 10 minutes of squabbling everybody agrees to a dirt cheap price of 200rupees (2.40€, $3.50). Is this the way he lived every single day I thought to myself? We get in the taxi and drive down the road and arrive at a temple not long after.
I have no idea what he’s going to do when we arrive at the entrance but I can see that people need to pay to enter…He is free to enter but I must pay like everybody else, again he huffs and puffs up a storm, this time a little less than the last few times. I quickly pay the woman and we enter, he then decides to hold my hand. He does so in a non-offensive, well intentioned kind of way. Just enjoying my company and showing that he’s connected and grateful for the moment. Most of the tourists in the area are looking in complete confusion and intrigue.
He doesn’t really have any pearls of wisdom to explain or show me in regards to spirituality and or the temple, it almost feels like I’m just keeping him company for the day. Although I’m calm, deep down I know this experience has gone far enough and now I need to get out of here. I ask if I can leave and he offers to come with me. I’m like “errr yeah, maybe you have another place to go today?”
We walk out together and he says that he want’s to take me to another temple, then he disappears over the hill asking me to wait for no apparent reason.
It is at this moment an American travel photographer comes up to me and asks “hey buddy are you alright!?”
“yeah, yeah thanks he’s certainly a strange character but I know what’s going on” I reply.
“ok well, just watch out for yourself ok” he says cautiously.
“thanks for the heads up, yeah i’m about to leave” I say.
“here’s my business card if anything comes up give me a call” he says whilst handing me his card.
“thank you”. I say with deep authenticity
This video shows the day and what happens next.