Smaller towns that have ruins and monuments spread around usually have a plethora of auto drivers willing to take you around for a small fee. Settling on this fee involves typical Indian style of negotiation, with you and the auto driver smiling and laughing, with some small talk thrown around, till a price is decided. You then hop into the auto and buzz about the place, stopping to see all the monuments and take pictures along the way. If you get a chatty auto guy, who knows a little history, it’s always nice, and if language is not an issue then engaging them is fun and mostly informative. We found one such auto driver, Ismail, in the dusty ruins of Bijapur.

Hailing from a northern suburb of Mumbai, Ismail had moved to Bijapur, far away in northern Karnataka to find a better life. I bought an auto and now I have a better life. My family also is here with me, he said, proud of the vehicle he owns. He has been in Bijapur for six years and seems to know everyone. Zooming about the dusty lanes and back alleys of the once famous capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty, he waves at everyone and always has a friend to chat with while we visit the ruins and gawk at the magnificent tombs. On remarking about his many friends, he grins proudly and says in hindi, yes, I know more people of this city in six years than I knew in Mumbai. In Bombay, nobody has any time, here, we have time. We know everyone around us. It is better.

It is indeed better. He patiently answers all our questions, giving us a little guided tour and showing us a few ruins that are not on the usual tourist circuit. It is a patience that is found only in small town India, and Ismail, with his paan stained teeth and languid manner seems rather content with his move from the big city to being a big man in the small city.

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