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Posts Tagged ‘Vijayanagar’

A fallen city

Whenever I do something that I know is bad for the environment- buy a plastic packaged beverage, take an excessively long shower, throw away a piece of paper instead of recycling it- I always get a wave of what I’ve started to call “green guilt.” It’s inescapable. I do my best to live with as little impact as possible, but no one is perfect and I’m far from a stellar model of the sustainable citizen.

By now I’ve accepted that I’ll have to buy copious amounts of bottled water while I’m in India, but this morning my green guilt meter reached a recent high when I decided to rent a motor bike for the day. I could have gotten a bicycle. I love to bike. But the fact was that there was no way I’d be able to see the sprawling capital city of the fallen Vijayanagar Empire on a bicycle. Definitely not without getting sun stroke and since I lack Lance Armstrong quads, probably not at all. This is what I told myself as I watched the shop owner pour a liter of honey-colored fuel out of a water bottle and into the bike’s gas tank.

When I was on that bike, I was completely in control of my life. The wind was whipping my hair into knots and the red orange rocky landscape sliding past me. I could go anywhere, when I wanted to, at my own pace. It felt like the first time I rode my bicycle in the city. It was freedom, but at a cost. There was that edge of fear always hanging around the periphery of my thoughts—I could get hit. I could crash. I could run into a cow. But it was worth it (and, to assuage the nerves of my surely cringing mother, I was only going about 30 mph- without gears the bike couldn’t go much faster).

I often have this realization of the freedom that comes with personal transportation when I go home to Scranton for a while and am sitting alone in my car. I really hate driving. I make my sister do it whenever we go somewhere together. But I do appreciate what it awards to those fortunate enough to be able to afford it. At its core, personal transportation is a good thing. The problem is when driving a car becomes necessary to having a livelihood (as it is in Scranton and most US suburbs). And someone told me yesterday that the average speed in the US is 4mph… just about that of an ox cart.

The ruined city of Vijayanagar. At one time this society had been huge and beautiful and flourishing. I could tell that much from walking through the outlines of what had once been homes with spacious courtyards and tall columns. Even now some buildings remain- I climbed to the top of a guard post with Islamic arched windows wide enough for me to lie down on the window seat and nap while a strong wind cooled my body. Nearly everything is gone now. Only with my imagination could I see the marvels and wonders of this city. With my eyes I saw its ruins. It made me think of the post I wrote yesterday, and of a book I read called The World Without Us. I bet the people of Vijayanagar never thought that some day a white, slightly sunburnt, girl from a place called the U.S.A. would sit in one of their guard towers and stare out at the empty, rock strewn desert where their great city once stood. Great civilizations have fallen before us. So maybe it could be that we will too.

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