The smog of Hospet, India is a choking yoke bridled upon all who dare the chaotic roadways of this outland township. From Hospet, 12 kilometers up the road from Hampi, our home for the last month, one may travel by bus or train north to Mumbai or Delhi, south to Bangalore and the nation of Sri Lanka, west to Goa and the Arabian Sea, east to the countless port cities and more remote provinces, to Hyderabad perhaps. Hospet is an artery leading to all these places, but today this tiny berg was our intention. We had arrived on rented motorbikes in hopes of finding an ATM and pulling out some much needed Rupees.
After winding our way through the city and it’s mostly restless 150,000 residents, we found a bank on the second floor of a chipped teal building, above a dim sit-down restaurant, vaguely western. I walked up the creaking stairs, entered the small bank and asked a busy attendant if they had an ATM on the premises.
“No ATM. You go State Bank of India. ATM,” he said, shuffling papers and motioning for the next customer.
“Can you tell me where that is?”
“Ten minutes walk. That way, ten minutes walk.” He pointed over the counter to his left.
I thanked him, went outside and we steered the sputtering bikes in the right direction. We careened past dogs, buffalo and holy cows. Each intersection provided a deadly maze of pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, tiny darting cars, SUVs, buses, hulking post-apocalyptic industrial rigs and pot holes that threatened to swallow up the whole works. Our throats and eyes flaming red, our ears ringing from the urban screeching and bellowing, we arrived at the bank. We parked and locked the bikes and queued up in front of a small, glass enclosed ATM annex to the right of the bank.
That’s when it dawned on me. I smiled to myself and dropped my head, shaking it a bit. Looking at Kyler through crooked eyes, I said, “Shit.”
“I don’t have my card. Brought the wrong wallet.”
Kyler’s face grew taught, his eyes fog lights. He patted his pants pocket and withdrew a new wallet, still bright and crisp after a recent purchase. “Shit. I forgot mine, too.”
We’d come all this way to draw cash from the one bank near our bungalow that didn’t bludgeon you with commission rates and I had left my American wallet, debit card tucked neatly inside, fully visible on my bed. I’d bought an Indian wallet a couple days earlier in order to only carry cash around the chaotic streets and back alleys of Hampi. I hadn’t remembered to transfer the plastic earlier in the morning while packing up. Kyler, as well, had removed all of his plastic in case of robbery or forgetfulness.
“You guys didn’t bring your cards?” asked Paul.
“Nope,” I said.
“God damnit,” said Kyler.
Paul laughed, shook his head and took another step closer to commission-free cash as an Indian businessman exited the ATM and bumped into me in his haste.
“Bla bla bla,” he said. I don’t know what he said.
“Stupid wallet,” I mumbled, kicking a dusty crescent into the dirty ground.