It’s been almost eight months since Lovell and I quit our day jobs to travel. Which also makes it eight months of being spectators to a whole lot of sunrises. A phenomenon whose existence we had almost forgotten while we were busy caught up in the daily drill of snooze and more snooze till you can’t snooze no more. Putting on the first pair of clothes that don’t need ironing and rushing to work, even while battling everything from monstrous Hyderabadi traffic to even more monstrous Hyderabadi auto drivers. The most readily available everyday joy of watching a sunrise never figured in our everyday scheme of things.
But wait, before you paint a picture in your mind that we are miraculously early risers now, who are up at the crack of dawn every day, ready to take on the world, it has to be revealed in the interest of truth that the snooze option on our alarms are as abused as before. Maybe even more since we don’t really have anywhere to rush to in the mornings. When we are home, we have gotten accustomed to a lazy morning groove, where we take our time to shake the morning dreams of our groggy eyelids, enjoy a cup of tea in much leisure along with a slow breakfast and get started on our work for the day at our own pace. It’s quite luxurious really.
But when we are on the road, we are mostly early risers. We love getting a feel of every place when its bathed in the first light of the day. I sense a sort innocence in a place right before it gets taken over by the flurry of morning activity. Before the sun is out signalling to everyone that the daily show has begun, there’s a very enjoyable haze of quiet that settles on everything much like a dewy blanket of morning mist. And this silence is very different from the hush of the night. The deathly stillness after midnight transforms into a more hopeful sort of serenity right before the sun rises. The promise of a new day to come hangs in the air. Slowly, the early bird’s song is joined by a chorus of morning sounds and a certain smell of purposefulness and activity takes over. And no matter which part of the country we are in, before the tourists, the pilgrims, the vagabonds, the workaholics, the we-have-somewhere-to-gos and the chaos of rush hour creeps in, the first few moments leading to the sunrise and a few moments after, when the world around us is waking up from a slumber, we experience the true essence of a new place.
Sunrise at Hampi was all this and more. It was very early when we sleepily made our way from our guesthouse on the Hampi Island to the banks of the river Tungabhadra. We found a great vantage point on one of the beautiful, impressive rocks that Hampi’s landscape is dotted with generously and made ourselves comfortable. And as if it was the most natural thing in the world, a super friendly canine, who seemed to be as contemplative as I was that morning, joined us to watch the sunrise spectacle.
And what a spectacle it was! The thin gleam of dull yellow light on the horizon at dawn soon became a flaming, blazing orange, casting its fiery glow on everything it fell on. The rocks turned golden. The river turned molten. And everything was washed in a flattering sunshiney glow that Instagram filters try hard to duplicate.
And then I noticed something interesting. The Hampi Island side of the river bank had a couple of other sunrise-lovers like us, looking all quiet and introspective as they watched the sun go up in silence. Mostly foreign travellers. The hippy kind, who have somehow made Hampi their own over the past few years. They, like us, seemed to have all the time in the world to stand, stare and smell the roses and all that.
But right opposite us, on the temple side of the riverbank, which is populated with Indian tourists and pilgrims, the scenery transformed into something drastically different.
There was no air of leisurely idleness there. Just a blur of movement. Devotees taking a dip. Locals washing their clothes in the river. Others bathing in it. Garments without the people in it, drying on the rocks. People being ferried across the river. Kids trying to make a quick buck of the tourists. Not a moment wasted. It was just another morning with a purpose. Things to do. Places to be. Temple elephants to be washed. Everyone seemed oblivious to the glorious spectacle the sun was putting up. It was just an everyday phenomenon for them. Nothing romantic. Nothing out of the ordinary. No big deal. It was just another sunrise.
But here on the hippy side of the island, all the sunrise-watchers were in as much of a reverie as I was. Then it struck me — all of us enjoying the sunrise were travellers. And that made all the difference. That’s the magic of travelling. The sense of displacement you feel in a new place brings with it a sense of wonder, which makes everything around you incredible. There is a story to be discovered everywhere. There is beauty in the mundane. There is joy in the tiny things.
And no sunrise is ever ordinary.