Over the course of less than a week, I watched hundreds of people’s homes bulldozed in Hampi, a world heritage site set in a haunting boulder-strewn landscape in India. It’s stunning: you can tell why folks considered this place sacred from at least the 9th century on. The centerpiece is the massive Virupaksha temple, one of Shiva’s most holy temples. Its surroundings got a bit, shall we say, profane over the years: a jumble of backpacker guesthouses and tchotchke shops that provided a nice living for a few hundred families in the shadow of Virupaksha.
No more. The initial demolition took place last fall (the Guardian did a heartbreaking piece about the evictions in May). After a standing as a ghost town for nearly a year; the bulldozers rolled in this week for the coup de grace.
Here’s how you destroy hundreds of people’s livelihoods in a single week. First, you knock out all the windows, doors, and roofs, to force people out. This leaves the remaining residents picking their way through rubble piles in a creepy, but brightly painted, ghost neighborhood. Then, you bring in the bulldozers. As residents scavenge rebar and children carry home unbroken bricks, barefoot laborers break the rubble into chunks that can be thrown into the back of a truck. Load by load, lives and livelihoods disappear down the road.
Now, life goes on for the people left behind: repainting their businesses, games of cricket in the streets, and shuttling the streams of tourists to the guesthouses across the river, where you can’t hear the bulldozers, and you can’t smell the dus