We sat in Greg and Laksmi's little green and white yard. Children's fingers poked through the bars of the gate that gave to the village outside. The only frail barrier I figured between Greg and insanity. The usual questions erupted sporadically from one of the village kids. I was told not to encourage them with answers.
Likshmi was, to the annoyance of her husband rummaging around in 'his' room and emerged with a decent looking pick-axe.
'They always want my bar'
he said. Annoyed but laughing.
'When one of her family dies they always want my bar'
Imagine our questions here they were the obvious ones.
'I don't know who, there are so many of them they are always dying of one thing or another - are you going to the dead person digging son or are you coming with us?'
Wide eyed 6 year old says nothing.
'They'll be all poking the body and stuff, horrible, - same when our other baby died, they hand it round the village and play with it like a doll. All the different factions have their own graveyard somewhere - usually where they go to shit. Except the ones that shit outside our door. Watch where you walk out there. Terrible place.'
It seemed that in this village the different people, Gypsies, Muslims, Hindus and other groups and sub-divisions lived separatly, rarely talked and were buried apart.
The doctor came to give the boy some rabies jabs, he had been bitten by a dog.
'Last week a hyena went mad and bit 40 people.'
No questions from us here
'I have a PHD but never say doctor. A letter arrived once, went round the village and everyone wanted to know if I was a people doctor or a buffalo looking doctor.'
I really liked this guy but he scared me a little. He was happy enough but didn't lighten the spirits.
More stories of village life followed, interspersed with Karnatka politics - the next day being karnatka independence day - history of Hampi and surroundings, and lectures on the geology and zoology of the area. There are still many bears roaming around and somewhere not too far away lives the Indian giant squirrel. A, by Gregs account, 50cm high rodent.
I found myself agreeing that the medieval hindu culture in these parts was far more advanced than it is at present. A feeling strengthened by the newspaper story of the breached canal 'bund' or bank only a few miles away which supplied water to thousands of people.
'The tanks and canals are well over 500 years old around here' explains Greg
'Incredible works of engineering and no-one maintains them. The authorities were told repairs were needed months ago but they are so lazy and corrupt that nothing is done. Now it has become another disaster.'
I hope desperately that this is just one mans disillusioned opinion but my eyes, as we pass through this part of India tell me he is most likely right.
In Mumbai, Goa and Hampi bazare are clean, young, fair-skinned tourists talking over coffee and cakes in the 'German Bakery'. Talking about 'discovering the real India' and 'getting under its skin'. I wonder if the only 'real' way to understand this place is tohave to die here.
I like it in the 'Bakery' safe and detatched where I write now. The young Europeans reassure me there is another world to return to.
We spend some pleasant evenings with Matild and Elias who's old English motorbike is oncemore being repaired. We have taken to this pair and were sad when they rode off this morning. Elias comes from Stuttgart so I reckon we will meet again in Deutschland.
Greg is a character I will never forget but doubt our paths will cross again.
'People are often confronted by their own mortality when they come to India' he said
'death is not taken so seriously here'.
We wind our way from his gate through the dogs, the buffallo, the kids and the highly coloured and pierced women to the road where the ox-carts rattle over the pot-holes and the men are busy doing nothing in particular. I think of all the villages we must ride through on the way to Nepal and hope they are not all the same.