A tourist driver with stories of a temple town

By Amogh Sahasrabhojanee

Anja, Rickshaw driver


Anja can tell you which nationalities tend to visit Hampi by the season. ‘Israelis in October,” he says over the phone from Karnataka, which is currently under COVID-19 lockdown until mid-May. “In December, Europeans and Asians. In January, Britishers and Australians, lots of them. In March and April, the hippies at the end of their India visit, they’ve spent all their money and they come to celebrate Mahashivratri or play Holi before they leave. And in August, the French, Spanish and people from the Netherlands.”

Anja would know: he’s been ferrying travellers around Hampi for 12 years, showing them the temples, waterfalls and sunset-points—where he will patiently take any number of photos—alongside lesser-known spots like one with larger-than-life thalis carved into rock, as if for eating off a boulder.

“I’m sorry, i haven’t spoken to anyone in English for a year,” he says, though I assure him he sounds fine, “I’m really sad about my home and my job.” His mother still works at a temple and is the other earning member, but the lockdown dried up his source of income for his family of five, including his young son whose physical challenges need regular medical check-ups. He now works three jobs, in plumbing and delivering groceries.

As a tourist driver, his day starts at 5am when the busloads and passenger trains arrive, but many travellers find him via word of mouth—other visitors or even an online search as Anja’s name pops up on blogs and travel websites.