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Gali Durgappa & His Hampi of Happiness

Climbing rock bolts staring at the crimson sky and watching the sun dip behind the mountain. While colors exploded like fireworks in the kaleidoscopic sky, unusual music rhythmed in the air, and hippies swang their heads, time decided to stop. And this moment was just like Rafiki holding Simba on Pride Rock and the other animals hooting with joy.

Welcome to Hampi and its happiness.

This might not be a surprise, but there is a lot more to the Unesco World Heritage Site than you might be seeing on Instagram! Hampi is more than its temples and ruins; it’s about the creative people, the friendly monkeys, and the happy drum circle sunsets. Experience, slow down and learn all about hippies and locals’ coexistence when you go to the other side of this bouldering paradise. Sail to the other side of the Tungabhadra, and every casual stroll through the meandering streets of the place screams art, colors, and happiness.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”- Bill Nye

After sharing a 15-minute ferry ride with people and animals, followed by an auto ride through a 60-inch lane at neck-breaking speed, I found myself in the Hippie Island(the other side of Hampi).

As I found myself living in the place for some time, I began to notice the faces behind the colorful cafes while strolling through the island. Graphic walls, tattoo trucks, picturesque streets, and Gali’s music at sunset were a part of my everyday sight, sound, and smell at Hampi. My most regular activity included looking for Gali at his hole-in-the-wall establishment, ‘Gali’s Music Shop,’ and then finding him helping someone with art or jamming music with that random backpacker. Gali Durgappa creates music with random natural objects drawing rhythms of life in unexpected ways. If not creating art around the music shop, Durgappa could be seen playing a musical instrument on one of the hillocks during sunrise and sunset or jamming in a cafe after sundown.

This story is my attempt at capturing the happiness of a regular day in Hampi.

Avoiding the ready-made itinerary and spots where tourists take selfies, I choose to broaden my experience by slowing down, observing, and talking to people exchanging smiles (most often, over a cup of chai). My day in Hampi started with the marooned sunlight sky, Durgappa playing his flute, and then tagging along with a friend or another group to some chai and breakfast. My group from the sunrise would usually be part of Durgappa’s music healing session.

‘I want no money, no house, no car but music, and this is happiness for me,” says the 39-year-old Gali Durgappa. Gali lives an envious life. His life is a sum of music, nature, colors, and backpacker friends. Durgappa stays in a small house right beside his music shop, ‘Happy Hampi.’ Apart from his infectious smile, Gali shares his love for music by creating abstract music out of any and every object around. ‘Happy Hampi’ sells vibrant hippie art, trinkets made of shore beads, dream catchers, and Gali’s creative instruments. You don’t have to be a music lover to appreciate this small enterprise. You’d be surprised to see that the village bred Gali-made handcrafted kazoos, flutes, the African djembe, the didgeridoo, the Swizz handpan, and many more. Right outside, the shop hangs a board that says ‘Free Jamming.’ You could invite yourself to his house and jam to music or just listen to him play. Apart from creating music and playing during sunsets and rises, Gali’s generosity includes teaching music to local village children, writing Kannada songs, jamming with backpackers, teaching craft, and sound healing.

My freshest memory of him is in an evening jamming session in just another hippie cafe lit with happiness. The evening started with Gali randomly jamming with two backpackers. With stars shining brighter, more backpackers joined the jam, long beaded hair danced to the beats, pot smokers swang their light heads in harmony.

Another morning. I laid down on my yoga mat amidst yawning boulders while my eyes stared at the Picasso painted sky, ready to bathe in Gali’s healing sounds and vibrations. From vocal humming in Kannada to instruments like shamanic drums, flute, and more, I found myself feeling happier and relaxed than ever. I began to enjoy the satisfaction that I got by doing things I’d never considered myself doing. Gali Durgappa synthesized happiness and always had people around him, sometimes in solitary and roving packs.

Hampi is the land of happiness, where nature talks, where the monkeys dance, and where ambiguous bodies move to the tunes of freedom.

So here I was, falling in love with happiness. And here is to my biggest takeaway: you are always happy, don’t stop to find it.

(left to right: 1. Laxmi, the celebrity elephant at Virupaksha Temple, has the unique talent of scooping money from visitors and handing it to her treasurer. 2. Moses offers coracle rides on Sanapur Lake. Do wait for him to share his stories on psychedelics. 3. Meet Sharmilla, the owner of Goan Corner. This place is a rare find. Great food( even personalized if asked for), Sharmilla, and her amiable personality, five canine members, and a parrot all make this place happy and lively.)

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