Wendy and I stepped out of a creaky, multicolored boat onto the dust-packed bank of the Tungabhadra River. The river ran dark and lazy as a slough. Three women in colorful saris beat their laundry on rocks near the riverbed. A small gang of boys splashed and shrieked in the sleepy current, as naked and skinny as baby birds. We started a slow, meandering walk along Hampi’s main road. Heat pulsed from the dirt streets and crawled up my legs as we shuffled past coffee shops, tourist hostels and roadside stands that sold tiny Ganesh figurines.
Across the road a teenage boy sat slumped in a black and yellow rickshaw that he’d parked in the shade under an outcropping of boulders. He perked up when he saw us. “HELLO,” he waved. “HELLOOO! YOU NEED RICKSHAW?”