Monday, February 13, 2006

Package Tour in a Tonga

This was in Bijapur. Something went wrong with our car and dad had to take it for a minor servicing right after we took in the magnificent Gol Gumbaz. Ma, our friend were contemplating touring the rest of the city in a boring autorickshaw (we couldn't be more wrong in Hyderabad, but that later) when half a dozen people surrounded us to take us in their tongas.

We chose the one featured above with some apprehension, after much haggling. The driver agreed to settle for Rs 100 but muttered that we would pay more for the horse's wellbeing.

It had been ages since I rode in a horse-driven carriage. It was fun, though I took a while to get the hang of climbing up and down the carriage. The driver took us through some real bad roads, if at all they can be called that! I thought I had seen all the worse roads but this was bad with a capital B! There was no way we could have wound ourselves through the dirty and narrow lanes.

The structures we saw were all right, not special enough to write about. We were taken to Jamia Masjid which is supposed to have been built with the money plundered from the Vijayanagara Empire of Hampi. Then was the black Taj (not worthy of its name), Bara Kaman, cannons of various weights atop forts with great views and the Ibrahim Roza which was a good place with dark tunnels and well maintained lawns.

The best part was that we got to see the city stripped off its touristy feel. The worst part was that we went to one dargah where the courtyard was filled with people chained to windows and trees! It was horrifying, for I had never seen anything like it before. But apparently, it is common practice. People with strange illnesses, people believed to be possessed by ghosts are chained for a period of a little over a month to cure them.

The driver was not too talkative but I later got him to open up to say that his name was Chand and that he owned four of such carriages. Each carriage along with a not-too-good horse would cost Rs 20,000. He told me that business was good among the tourists. Unlike Hema Mailini's horse Banno in the film 'Sholay', his horse did not have a name.

The next time you are in Bijapur or any place where you can spot such anachronisms, try them out. I loved it for the way I was introduced to the underbelly of the city, something tourists rarely see in most places. And we were so pleased with the horse that we did pay more than he asked. This is one thing I loved about northern Karnataka. People never ask for more, sometimes not even for what they should be getting. They are yet to acquire the all-tourists-have-money-so-we-can-cheat-them attitude. I hope they never do. But then again, I hope they get it soon, for their survival.


San Nakji said...

It sounds like the whole area is still nice and non touristy. How long for I wonder?

When I first read your title I thought you were posting from the country of Tonga! Ha ha ha!

Deepa said...

ha ha that is funny!
I wish I was in Tonga! So far I have just rode in one ;-(