Monday, August 30, 2010

Simon Go Back or Treatment at the The Mango Tree Restaurant, Hampi

A few weeks ago, I was telling someone that Bangalore is just a happy detour these days, when I come to pick up a fresh set of clothes and drop the rest at the laundry. And I am back again, unfortunately. This time from a happy nice holiday with the TT nuts again! After a loooot of fixing dates, not sticking to it and the rest of the routine, we went to Hampi, that promised land for us flower children!! There were hardly any gadbads (how could that be? I mean, how? It was us, after all!!) except a little one before the trip. Plus of course a lot of unpredictability and much spontaneous travel elsewhere which led to be pondering over whether spontaneity could be planned.

The details of the trip will of course follow when I get a bit breather. For now, read about one bit where we were nearly thrown out of a restaurant in Hampi, where it was all we hoped for. And not.

Hampi rocks! Read that both ways. The place is not new for me, having been there several times with family, from school and on work. But for two of TT, it was and there were mighty enthu-cutlet scenes going on. The plan was to hang around there for four full days, chill below the rocks, lean against the pillars at the various ruins, read, stare out at the sky, vegetate some more, talk and have the supreme pleasure of doing nothing. There was also the famed Mango Tree Restaurant which we had heard so much about. That was also to be a major part of the plan, to sit there by the Tungabhadra river and breathe in, breathe out.

All of the above happened. DA was taken to be a Jap, JN was asked if she was Spanish (eh?!), a looooot of mosquitoes lead to a looooot of brain-numbing PJs in the middle of the night and then there was the Mango Tree Treatment.

Mango Tree is Hampi's finest; it deserves to be so, set that it is right on the banks of the Tunga with simple cane mats, granite benches and lanterns by the night. Not to mention the great food. So before we hit the ruins on day 1, we hit Mango Tree, way off the main bazaar. The walk takes more than 5 minutes that is mentioned on a tiny board near the bathing ghat. All goes fine when we sit down for breakfast. We gape at the sheer beauty of the place and decide to head back later in the evening for tea, that thing called hanging out and dinner. The staff is friendly. Our next three days are set, we have decided.

By 6 pm we are back, armed with dying iPods, enthu fingers on two great cameras and no-brainer books. Me with Anurag Mathur's The Inscrutable Americans, JN with Kurt Vonnegut. We have very tall glasses of great coffee, see tiny birds and dead wood floating by the river, some great cheese whatever-it-was and other junk. It is idyllic. Something had to go wrong, right?

ATS and me notice it first. By then, firangs (don't expect me to be politically correct on this post) have started trickling in. There is one woman, very pretty, with jasmine in her hair, harem pants, anklets and toe rings-- the 'look' to be cultivated in 'Indiyah'. The staff seem restless, the plates are cleared all too soon. We are asked, rather rudely, I must say, whether that would be all. We have been there about 35 minutes.

I nudge JN who is perched next to me with a happy smile. DA continues to take pictures. Five minutes pass. We can almost touch the vibes by then. Collectively, we look back and see the entire staff boring their eyes into our backs, willing us to get lost. We look around and see that the tall hippie we saw rolling a joint in the afternoon is still rolling a joint. All the places are taken, all are the long hair, pajama-wearing, pierced ears kinds.

Five more minutes pass and we have had enough slapping away the stinging bad vibes. By then, DA is mouthing expletives against the firangs. The old slogan 'Simon Go Back' is resurrected. I refuse to leave a tip, nor do we acknowledge the presence of the staff on our way out. (Yes, we were the ones being willed out of there; but well, we could demonstrate!!)

There is a two-minute walk through a banana plantation from the restaurant till you reach the motor-able road. We pass by more firangs fitting the above description. All along the way, we are plotting grievous acts of revenge on the Mango Tree people and grr-ing about the whole episode. All our blood pressure levels are high by then. JN suggests getting spray paint and painting 'Simon Go Back' at the entrance. Someone else suggests a simpler way: carving out the words on the mud. But DA doesn't manage to find a stick that will do the job. We seethe some more and walk the dark unlit stretch to the main bazaar, passing by what now seems like an army of Simons. The air doesn't feel very safe.

I tell them about a story I did two years ago about Virupapara Gadde, on the other side of the river, where all the hippies stay and have rave parties. Locals say that there are signs of 'Indians and dogs not allowed'. I cannot confirm this. But Mango Tree feels like the equivalent this side of the river.

I wish I could tell you all not to patronize that place. But that damn restaurant has the best ambiance in Hampi. Try the lunch bit, if you must. Only, only, if you just have to. Durga, a wannabe roof-top restaurant is much better. So we thought at 5 pm on day 2.

To the staff there at Mango Tree: You are really sick people. I will not stoop lower and call you worse here.

And yes, the name is on the title to help the search engines a little bit! ;-)

We have been, ever since, walking around terming 'them' 'Simon'. Though, for the record, the grudge isn't against them as much as it is against the damn 'Indians' who are responsible for giving them the leverage in the first place. For the record, this does not cover the rest of the foreign travellers either.

And as promised as part of the protest, I finish ranting.

For a much more cheerful post, see DA's here.

Mine is up next, with some priceless PJs.


D.Nambiar said...

A foreign-athiti devo bhava gone too far, eh :(

Deepa said...

Totally! It was sickening, their attitude. Pretty much the whole of Hampi is turning that way, unfortunately.