Day Two Four On The Road To Agra

  

Opened my eyes and what I saw was not out there but inside my mind. These thoughts were reinforced by the shower they said they fixed. I didn’t even want to eat their complimentary breakfast. But you know it’s nOt the hotel it’s the travel agent that booked it. These thoughts would plague my mind as we drove to Agra the home of the Taj Mahal the biggest tourist attraction in India. 
  
“We could have changed your room” was the response that I got from the clerk behind the counter as I voiced my displeasure about my stay. 
“I don’t want to fill out that form” as he handed me a survey form to fill out outlining the quality of service. I really don’t like being frustrated. It clouds my enjoyment of what is happening around me.  

Monkey Temple

 

“Can I let it go?”  I thought to myself as we continued on our way to the Monkey Temple the first stop on our journey. At this point I just want a coffee as Hari explains what the temple is all about and how it fits within the pantheon of temples around the city. There is a holiday that is observed in this part of India today. The roads were quieter as we made our way out of the city. Never a dull moment on these roads though. At least Hari is reasonable when I vent a little bit about what’s on my mind. He is providing me with the content of my trip and from what I understand he isn’t compensated enough for it. He is very knowledgable with respect to everything and this is his hustle when I inspect the places he has taken me to outside the touristy bits that I kinda want to see here. He plays a fine line between exposing me to unsavory places and keeping me safe for the duration of the journey.  

 

We stopped and had a coffee from one of the stalls outside the Monkey Temple we even saw the “Monkey Man” the guy who knows all the monkeys and can get them to do anything for him. He was talking to some new age tourists as Hari explained what I should expect when I get in there. It was a peaceful spot. The cows were grazing as usual. Savouring the brew I thought to myself that I’m ready for the donation gatherers. I must also say that I don’t mind giving money. The problem I have is in the way it’s asked for. It’s almost an expectation that some money will enter their hand. Like the monk outside the stairs in front of the Monkey Temple itself. He yelled “hello” in perfect pronunciation and I thought let’s see if he wants to talk and be friendly. He kept saying the greeting and when I looked at him he kept tapping his finger by the donation slot. I was going to give them something out of respect but I didn’t like his manner. As I went to insert some cash inside of it he tried to grab it. I looked at him and said “uh no that’s not for you”. Fucker.  

 

Before this I got enticed by the young monk outside the Man God Temple. There was something in the name that got me enticed to check it out. I’ve learned to carry small change for these occasions so it all doesn’t end up being pricey. The cost we are talking about is pennies and pounds but when you add it all up it’s a cost. I see it as paying for an experience but this agent thing kept creeping up because some of that excess cost could have been better spent buying some of these nice trinkets that people are selling. Everything appears to be locally made a lot of it with considerable skill some of it is really kitsch though. I don’t even want to approach because I don’t want the hassle.  

 

He showed me around the temple and recited a prayer wishing me luck. I kind of felt blessed but it was ruined by an outstretched hand asking for a donation. I understand the conceptual nature of good intentions but there has to be a better way for them to fund their life. The Monkey Temple is famous for its pool that the faithful like to bathe in. It is fed by a spring that trickles the water in. I walked up as far as I could. The rest of the way takes me up to the Sun Temple that I visited two days ago.  

We passed a wedding along the way. Hari stopped the car so that I could take a few pictures. These celebrations go on for a long time. Hari is missing out on a wedding party today. I was interested in seeing one of the tuk tuk’s kited out with a system. It was blastting Hindi music  through its amplified set up. We continued along to our next stop an old temple built in the 9th century. It was destroyed by the invading Muslim rulers bit some of it remains partially restored. One of the attractions of this place is the deep pool that acted as a water cistern.    

  

The shadows played with the geometry creating a wonderful pattern.  It was hard to capture it fully. I succumbed to getting a guide and after some exchanges he confided to me that he can’t taste anything after a motorbike accident he had a number of years ago. He showed me his scar and asked if an MRI could help. I said to him that an MRI won’t cure the problem it could only show what is suspected already that that particular part of his brain is damaged. I went to check out the partially and haphazardly rebuilt temple. The carving of the stone is superb. All the intricate detail found in the stone is really good. This area is renowned for this type of work. We drove by many shops displaying their work on our way to get here.  

 

I’ve become a total tourist. Camera in hand, backpack, sunglasses and an indifference to the hawkers all around me. I’ve also become aware of a certain power posessed by me and the others travelling these roads from overseas. That is the desire for them to get what I have money.  

 

We kept driving and our next stop was a palace and mosque complex built by one of the rulers in the 16th century. This place was magnificent. It was built by the great grandfather of the guy responsible for the Taj Mahal.   

 Some of the spaces were truly grand. This place was slick especially by today’s standards. The vast courtyards and spaces provided a leisurely existence here. The palace is surprisingly well preserved with some restoration work happening.  

I spent a while exploring this complex occasionally waiting a while for the tourists to pass out of the shot. There was a recurring theme filled with the repeting pattern of arches creating a sense of distance. These repeating patterns brought a sense of cohesion to the palace. It was well thought out. All of the upper stories were off limits.  

I had a sense of déjà vu sitting there listening to the thunder in the distance. I wondered if rain would reach me here and if that would force us visitors  to huddle under the structures around us. I liked the building above. It was tucked away in the corner and had a nice feel to it. I wandered over to the mosque complex by the palace.  

   

  

The entrance is essentially free for this place. As I walked toward the entrance another of these “tour guides” approached me. I told him that I was sick and tired of people coming up to me wanting money. He said that he wasn’t that type of guide and that he wouldn’t ask for any money. I agreed to his guidance. He explained that a priest blessed the ruler so that he could have a son. Because a son came the ruler built this complex. There is a built in water collection system and impressive imposing structures above.  

 

The guide showed me some things that were very interesting like the alignment of the vaulted ceiling and the carved marble screen in the white mosque. Many people prayed for things inside myself included. The ritual involved a donation of cloth and flowers as well as tying a string to the marble screen inside representing the wish. It was a ritualistic excersise steeped in some mysterious symbolism.  

 

The guide skillfully directed me to a marble carver or salesman. He was selling some neat things but I wasn’t buying any of it. He looked a bit disappointed as did the sales guy. He even wanted me to give my used ticket to a kid so that he could resell it. Nope. I told him he did a good job and got onto the bus back to the parking lot.  

 

We drove to the hotel and made plans for the morning. When I got to the room my thoughts once again turned to the agent. I have a plan that I will execute once I get home. Today when I saw my room I was going to call. I went downstairs as it was not possible to call from the room. I told them that I wasn’t happy and they upgraded my room to a bigger one. I told Hari earlier that I am probably too nice and he indicated that was the case. I told him that I don’t want to be un-nice. I don’t like where that takes me.  

 

After puttering for a while I stepped out for some food and l saw wedding celebrations taking place in the distance. I checked it out for a while as the music was blaring from the loud system. I saw a McDonalds and decided to eat there out of curiosity as the sale of beef is prohibited in India. At least I know what to expect from them. The meal was cheap and had an interesting taste. I had the Maharaja Mac meal. It was essentially a chicken burger. Satisfied I went back refusing rides from the tuk tuk drivers offering their services. I now am dealing with the poor wifi as I write this I just don’t want to loose these words…

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