unlike hampi, where every building is either a restaurant, a shop, or a hotel geared to tourism, badami is a real town, with real people living real lives. the historical landmarks have yet to turn it into a tourist mecca.
i spent yesterday hanging out with a 26 year old german whom i initially pegged as an aussie because he learned english there. we strolled around the narrow back alleys of badami, pretending to be spanish to confound the omnipresent hordes of children who know how to say only “hello!” and “you from?”
they hadn’t a clue how to respond to “buenas tardes” and “como se llama?”. after saying “hello” and “america” and “david” (to the third question) about a billion times, it was refreshing to be able to sidestep. i remarked to steve that we must be like trained monkeys to them, always responding on cue to their prompts.
we spent a while talking, as i have with so many travellers, about the lack of concern indians seem to have for their own country. it may be that they are no worse than americans, but they have four times as many people in half the space, so it is out of control. still, there is a complete carelessness about everything beyond their personal appearance that baffles me.
we decided to go to the “silver service” restaurant at the posh hotel just outside of town for dinner. this hotel charges 10 times what i am paying in town. i didn’t see the rooms, but they are probably freshly painted with bleached and starched sheets, soap and shampoo. there is a manicured grass courtyard and a swimming pool. in short, this is where rich indians and the occasional well-to-do foreigners come to avoid actually interacting with the real india. they stay there, swim in the pool, and are shuttled around the sights for about $150 a day.
we go into the restaurant, which is empty, but would seat about 120, and order our meals, which cost only about 25% more than the identical dish in town. so, it’s all about the ambiance, right? maybe. the waiters are wearing shoes, there are white table cloths, and odd pillow case things slipped over the backs of the chairs. there are real glasses and silverware (cheap). as soon as you look closely, however, you begin to see that it is a barely executed surface luxury. the waiter’s shirt is filthy, the people who painted the room obviously didn’t even carry a rag to clean up their mistakes, there are mismatched touchups all over the walls, wood has been replaced in the trim with mismatched stain, and the floors are streaky. then, in the middle of dinner, the lights go out, just like everywhere else. so we are wondering how anyone could consider this luxurious. for the americans and the europeans, it probably isn’t, it’s just a way to see the sights and be insulated from the reality around them. it’s easier to spend $5 on a meal when you don’t have to think about how it’s a weeks pay for the people around you. for the indians, though, it’s different. i think maybe they are so used to walking around with blinders on, so to speak, not seeing the filth and squalor and the people who live in it, that they really don’t see the flimsy facade of the “resort”, they actually, perceive it as luxury. they overlook all those little things just as they do the little people.
the cave temples were overwhelmingly breathtaking. going to some temples today.