While in Badami, I decided to check out the Banashankari temple which is a short 5km journey from the town. I set out on an afternoon after returning from the caves. There was a bus about to leave from the bus-stop, and it took me a little more than 10 minutes to make it to Banashankari.
I did not know much about the place, and went exploring on the village that was no more than a narrow strip on both sides of the main road. I walked forward and found tiny shops all along the road. Initially they were chai shops or make-shift restaurants, which gave way to shops selling pooja paraphernalia. Seeing the later kind, I presumed I must be close to the temple, and indeed the temple appeared soon. There was a large Kalyani(pond) in front of the temple, which caught my eye before I saw the temple itself. It first excited me – a medium sized square water body with pillars all around and an entrance to it near the main road, with a sit-out around the entrance. Getting closer and realizing that it was disappointingly dirty, I moved away and into the temple. I crossed few women on the way to temple, who walked around with food baskets that contained lunch packs for sale – Jolada Rotti(corn rotis?) and chutney, curd and a few other things – typical North Karnataka diet.
Looking at all the arrangements made for queues to contain and streamline people, the temple seemed to take in lot of visitors. But it was pretty much empty when I stepped in. I did not spend much time along the temple and walked back on the main road, where I decided to stop for sometime at a chai shop. My basic intent was to take a few pictures of the shop and its owner, and took excuse in a cup of tea to spend some time there.
It was a small but clean shop with its roof and walls made of tin sheets. Faded decorative color papers hung from the roof, which seemed to be put up many months ago. Film posters adorned the walls, mostly dominated by movies starring Ganesh, the most popular Kannada lead actor these days. I have always wondered on the association of tea stalls and movie posters and have not yet managed to figure the connection. There were no customers when I entered but a few unwashed cups indicated that there were people a little while ago. The shop-owner seemed to be a quiet and calm person who talked little and spent his time just staring out into the road. His forehead was ash-smeared, indicating his religious following. I asked for a cup of cha, and he acknowledged me by nodding his head. But he did not get up to make it or fetch it from inside but simply continued to stare outside. I looked around and took a few pictures. After a minute or so, he decided it is time to serve me and poured a cup for me from the kettle. It was sugary and strong – the way they like their tea in these parts – and I could hardly take in a sip or two. I started a conversation instead.
“Do you get lot of visitors here?”
“Yes”, he said, “in large numbers, there is a fair happening next month and the whole place will be full of people.”
That was sufficient to break the ice and he continued to talk. The standard questions – “Where are you from”? and “What do you do”? followed naturally. “I have a friend in Bangalore”, he said excitedly, took out his mobile and asked me to note down his friend’s number. I wasn’t surprised at it, since it is normal for villagers to expect to make contact with people at the slightest excuse, and they generally expect everyone to know everyone from the same place. I note down the number for his sake, pretending interested. Then he asked me to dial the number from my phone, which got me a bit unhappy. But he explained quickly – “I want to talk to him, there is no currency left in my phone”. I obliged and he has a short conversation, just exchanging greetings and making some casual talk. He returned me the phone beaming widely and said – “my friend wants to know when am I coming to meet him in Bangalore”. I acknowledged him with a smile, and we talked for a few more minutes.
It was time for me to leave. I got up and asked him – “how much”?
“no.. no..”, he said, “don’t bother”.
I pressed him to take his dues and he smiled and said – “I have made a call from your phone. I can’t accept money from you now”.
We repeated this conversation once again, and then I parted from him with a ‘good bye’.
Continued at: Pattadakal