He that lives upon hope will die fasting.

Benjamin Franklin

The connection between hipsters and hippies was India. Rising and roaming… and hitchhiking everywhere. And the catalyst of the reaction between hipsters and India wasn’t Allen Ginsberg. It was a razor-smart blue-eyed Southern belle, too strange and rebellious and rich and beautiful to survive her hometown of Camden, South Carolina.

In 1955, she came to New York in worn saddle shoes and a long-fringed shawl. In the hipster bars and coffeehouse hangouts of Greenwich Village, no one knew her real name. Besotted with Shelley and Wagner, she became an acolyte of the Beat pantheon as a girlfriend and muse of poet Gregory Corso. When the hipsters’ “heroin habits narrowed their vistas considerably,” she left for Asia. I was enraptured by her fate, and by what she had chosen to call herself: Hope Savage.


The train pulled out of Calcutta under the moth cloud lamp halos of the station. I slept.

Outside the bustle of Puri station was a beach that went on forever. Without moving, you could see both sunrise and sunset. Puri was known for having a disproportionate number of widows. Watching the fisherman pull on oars twice their size to launch their giant hardwood plank-sewn padhuas between the cows and into the surf, it was easy to understand why.

Two rickshaws took us on a tour through the poorer seaside market streets. I settled into the Z Hotel, a spacious old rambling whitewashed mock-Mughal mansion. I had asked the desk clerk how his hotel got its name. He told me that Z, last letter of the alphabet, represented hope. From Hope Savage to savage hope, I washed away the railroad grime and went down to the beach. The touts were thick. I nearly bought a snakeskin wallet before chasing them away. The next day was rained out.

On the morning of the next one, I rented a jeep and drove to the 13th-century gigantic chariot of the Sun temple at Konorak, buried for centuries from time’s ravages. Each of the twenty-four cartwheels around the base represented an hour. In it, I recognized myself, lyrical, sculpted in sublime sandstone bas-relief, oxidized and weathered. The peak of the main temple was an immense iron magnet so strong as to disturb ships’ compasses passing by the coast, causing them to run aground.

A minibus took me to Pipli, which shook my teeth all the way to the capital of Orissa.

Bhubaneswar was the city of temples, seafood, and sweets. I ate garlic prawns behind the armed guards in the green booths of the Pushpak Hotel, while my room received sweepers and sheets.

I met a man named Gaviranga, who took me on a tour of some of the six hundred temples in Bhubaneswar. Only Hindus were allowed inside the gigantic stone electrical transformer of the Lingaraj, but I had inspiring views from the sacred pool. In the golden red sandstone of the 11th century, Rajarani were stunning sculptures of nymphs and amorous couples, together with Yama, the god of death. I would slowly find the connection.

I took a rickshaw back to the Pushpak, along other Kalinga temples, and the dhobi wallahs laundering clothes in the Mahanadi River. Gaviranga walked past the armed guards and switched on the restaurant television. He turned the channel knob until he found the cricket game he was looking for. Then he turned the volume knob up full, and the green booths filled with the raucous sounds of bats and balls and Hindi commentators. I ordered garlic prawns.

Later that afternoon. Gaviranga introduced me to several polite, pleasantly curious friends. They chatted through the horizontal bars of my soft bunk carriage until I left on one of the most pleasant train journeys I would experience in India. I played chess and ate delicious thalis.

The flat, boulder-strewn emptiness of Andhra Pradesh dragged time to a standstill. I nodded off in the lowest berth and dreamt exotic images of Hyderabad. Fortune had half-smiled smugly on me the previous few days, but it was about to fill the holes in my life with cement. I felt the last thing a man does before he is defeated. Hope.


From New York, Hope Savage embarked alone on European and Middle Eastern treks. By the time she arrived in Iran in the spring of 1960, she was beginning to realize that her direction would never bring her back west again. There was nothing left to stop her.

Two years later, Hope traveled briefly with Ginsberg, wearing a veil and speaking “perfect Hindi.” On the day before he left for Benares, she received an expulsion notice from the Indian authorities, accusing her of immorality. They gave her ten days to leave the country. She was never heard from again. Some say she was in Beirut in 1970. Others claim to have encountered her and two toddler daughters in Iran or Pakistan five years later. She never gave her last name. All anyone ever got was a southern accent and the waking dream denial of reality that Hope provided.

Sometime later, her brother wrote to Gregory Corso:

I guess you wonder will I speak of Hope, but I know nothing but that she in the Orient and well (from a card to my parents at Xmas) and a few months ago she ran into Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg who would know more of her than I. I have never written to or received a letter from my sister.

Taken by the romance and high spiritual vibes of India, Hope most likely disappeared into the backcountry to some ashram or guru’s lair, probably taking on an Indian name to avoid capture by the meddlesome authorities, where she may well still be living for all we know…


I arrived in Secunderabad station in the late afternoon of the next day. Gaviranga wished me luck and disappeared into a sea of motorcycle rickshaws. I hired one to take me up Nampally High Road in a search for a place to stay.

My first impressions of the City of Pearls were durable. Hyderabad had been established on the banks of the Musi River by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah in 1591 AD to relieve a water shortage the dynasty was experiencing at its old headquarters in Golconda.

In 1983, it was still a reservoir of contrasts: medieval and modern, Muslim women in black purdah and Hindu women in saris, biryanis tasting of the mixture of Mughal and South Indian and French and Arab and Turkish and Persian influences they came from. Hyderabad bustled with several centuries of exotic energy.

After five anything but Royal hotels, and a one-rupee rickshaw ride to the anything but ‘cheapest and best’ Paradise Hotel, I finally settled in at the Asian Lodge, a new marble and chrome shelter set back from the High Road. There was masala dosa waiting around the corner, fried vegetables wrapped in a fermented crepe.

Hyderabad may have been the City of Pearls, but the Kakatiya kings, at the time they ruled over Golconda Fort in the 13th century, had the only known diamond mines in the world. The fort’s vault chamber once held the planet’s most famous cut stones: the Hope diamond, the Kohinoor, and the Sea of Light Darya-e-Nur which, at 185 carats, was the largest and finest gem in the crown jewels of Iran. Hast thou from the caves of Golconda, a gem Pure as the ice-drop that froze on the mountain?

The next morning, I took bus #119 to the vast rambling collection of ruined walls and palaces set high on the Deccan plateau. The Fort was a treasure trove of special effects. My handclaps at the entrance reverberated at the highest point, almost a kilometer away, serving to warn the royals in case of an attack. The ferocious midday heat was tamed with an intricate ventilation system, designed to enable cool breezes to reach the deep interior of the fort. The caravanserai was particularly well preserved, and the views of the Qutab Shahi tombs from Durbar Hall were magnificent. Narrow lanes took us to their intricately carved stonework and gardens. Golden spires had once adorned the Sultans’ mausoleums, and their interiors had been furnished with carpets, Qurans, chandeliers, and velvet canopies on silver poles.

I took a rickshaw to the iconic four towers of the Charminar. Sultan Mohammed had it built in 1591 AD to commemorate the end of a plague. Appearing solid and massive from a distance, the Charminar became a more elegant and romantic architectural gem, as I got closer. It was an aesthetic masterpiece. At the top of the 149 steps were spectacular views of the surrounding market, which had over fourteen thousand shops in its heyday.

The same rickshaw wallah pedaled me to the Salar Jung museum, housing the biggest one-man collection of antiques in the world. Only an eighth of the museum’s collection was on display, and that was only half of what hadn’t been previously stolen. I was entranced by its superb collection of Oriental carpets, Damascene and jade weapons, Qurans written in gold and silver, a tiffin box made from gold and diamonds, clocks from grandfather to needing a magnifying glass to appreciate, Indian antiquities and works of art from around the world. The Chinese and Japanese layered wood paintings, porcelains, and silk weavings were stunning.

Among the sculptures was a Veiled Rebecca by Benzoni, speaking perfect Hindi, her beautiful face hazily visible through a gossamer marble veil.

It was my last day in Hyderabad. I took a rickshaw back to the lodge, and another on to the railway station for mutton biryani and tickets on the night train to Hospet Junction.

A South Indian family shared their fish, syrup balls and curiosity. I played Bojangles on my harmonica for their little boy. As he began to dance, we rumbled through the Andhra darkness.


Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.

Friedrich Nietzsche

What kind of life did Hope Savage have? Why did she do what she did? The idea of cutting all ties to one’s country and family is mysteriously compelling. The final erasure of home was an inspired choice for the ultimate transcendent wanderer. Ginsberg and his fellow hipsters were poseurs by comparison, in the same way that beatniks had been by comparison to them. 

Middle-class hippies were fakes as well. The least oppressed people in the world, they had nothing that much to revolt against. They needed to invent new laws to break. The peace sign they flashed really meant “fuck off.” The little darlings had “tripped” over their parents’ Persian carpets to get to India. In many of its ashrams and spiritual retreats, some were encouraged to take a new name and cast aside all earthly concerns.

Few completed the mission. Most just kept moving in a drugged haze to the next cheap travelers’ haunt until they ran out of money or mental stability or luck. They may have gone beyond “seers, searchers, and peripatetic expats,” but none of them went beyond Hope. She went all the way to obscurity and did it deliberately.

For me, that was fascinating. I was at the point in my travels where that could have been possible. It was going to take all my potential energy to climb back onto a return trajectory.

I almost slept through our arrival in Hospet Junction. A rickshaw took me to the #10 bus to Hampi. It weaved through the early morning sunrise of a striking panorama. I still have a vibrant image of bangled Karnataka women in colorful saris, trailing soap lines in the tortuous Tungabhadra River, kneeling on the smooth sandstone boulders of the olive-green banks, and slowly smothering them with a wet cotton rainbow. Beyond the screen of mimosa fronds, an early morning solar mist shimmered off the Virupaksha ivory temple on the horizon. I was surrounded by hills on the other three sides.

I had landed on Mars. The landscape was red, and decades later, the Chinese demand for the iron ore it contained would threaten the peace we pulled into. Of all the places I would see in India, if there was one that would have enticed me to never return, it was this one. Here was the 14th-century City of Victory, Vijayanagra. For two hundred years, it was the last Hindu bastion of resistance to the invading Muslim hordes of the Deccan Sultanates. This was only accomplished with an army and navy of two million men: archers and musketeers, long-range artillery, whole-body shields, and fully armored elephants with knives fastened to their tusks.

But the Vijayanagra empire was not about war. It was about trade. Their ships were constructed with the same kind of rope-sewn hulls we had seen in Puri. They had keels but no decks. The three hundred ports they sailed from loaded them with pepper, ginger, cinnamon, iron, cardamom, myrobalan plums, tamarind timber, anafistula, precious stones, musk, ambergris, rhino horn, rose petal perfume, salt, rhubarb, aloe, indigo, and cotton cloth. Their trade goods made it all the way to Persia, Burma, Java, China, Aden, Mecca, and Venice in exchange for copper, quicksilver, gold, silver, camphor, porcelain, silk, vermilion, horses, and saffron.

They lived well, the rich particularly so. The Hindu caste system was rigidly adhered to. Jewelry and flower garlands hung from every female appendage and rose water, civet, musk, and sandalwood perfume hung in the air. They had fine arts and multilingual literature, Carnatic music, cockfights and ram fights, and female wrestling. Men had harems and prostitutes, and their Sati widows threw themselves on their funeral pyres.

The architecture was sublime. I set out on a long path through the ruins to find it. My first discovery was the Vittala temple complex, with its oriental horned cornices on sigmoid ceilings, and the plethora of gods and fish in bas-relief. Inside the courtyard was an iconic stone chariot, nippled cartwheels pulled by small, ornamented elephants. I scraped my knee on the wild goose chase that I marched on, through the paddies and over the boulders to the Ramakrishna temple complex and the Uruguayan squatters who had lived there for the previous eight months. In the stone beam above them was carved a rabbit on the moon being attacked by snake demons. Nobody there was going to make the return flight.

The bug-eyed Narasimha stone colossus, over twenty feet high, was the half-man, half-lion avatar of Vishnu. His face was more like a hybrid wild clown with fangs, half-frog, half-pig. He was supposed to be the great protector of his devotees, but his alter ego had disemboweled a lesser god with his claws. I was traveling through my lesser god period.

I stopped for green bananas before continuing my hike another kilometer to an underground temple flooded with water and bat droppings. Next door, they were excavating the mint. One of the archeologists happily gave me three of its coins. The Ramayana bas-relief scenes on the Hazara Rama temple looked like they had been carved yesterday, at least the ones the Deccan Muslims hadn’t hacked the heads off.

I hurried through the Lotus Mahal, the palace platform, and the Queen’s Bath on my dash to catch the bus back to Hospet. This would be my third overnight trip in a week and the second in two days. A crush of the curious almost prevented my boarding the local to Guntakal.

The Lambadi ladies sitting across from me were adorned with mirrors and coins and elaborate large nose rings through their left nostrils. They offered up spicy betel nut paan. Their white teeth lit up the coach. In Guntakal, I connected with the overnight Madras Express with just minutes to spare. A cadre of bright young school kids played “capital cities” just before I left them. One of the younger ones was impressive.

“South Dakota,” I said.

“Pierre,” he said. I asked him why he would ever want to know that.

“It is not impossible that someday I may wish to go to South Dakota,” he said.

I bought a thali from a porter, who stood nervously beside my seat as I ate. I hadn’t quite finished when the train began to move. The elderly Brahmin across from me grunted and did a head bobble.

“What?” I asked.

“You see, this man is not allowed to leave the station,” he said. “He is waiting for you to finish your enjoyment.” I handed over the thali plate and marveled at his exit from our carriage. We must have been going thirty kilometers an hour when he jumped from the train.

 I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of oneself.

Arthur Miller