It was a real coffee and a good omelette with homemade bread that they brought to me. I think I ended up being served by the proprietor of the establishment. He was a cheerful man who spoke with good English cadence. Breakfast didn’t take long and soon I was on my way.
Obviously the entry fee is hefty for the jewel of India’s attractions. They are also very strict with what is allowed into the area. As such Hari instructed me to leave my bag behind and only take my camera, phone, identification, cash and that’s it. I had to leave a lot behind. The pat down and control was pretty strict. This proves to be a fatal problem as my camera ran out of juice at the start of my tour. Can’t let something like that bring me down while seeing this spectacular marvel that is Taj Mahal. I’m not just saying that the work and skill that went into building this monument is extraordinary.
Each one of the pieces is a different colored stone or marble polished into a particular shape to fit into the grand design. It was built by Shah Jahan to commemorate the passing of his favorite wife Mumataz Mahal who died during childbirth of her fourteenth child. The interior is accessible but no photography is allowed neither are shoes. Part of the entrance included a pair of booties to slip over whatever you’re wearing on your feet. The quality of craftsmanship of the interior is superb. Single pieces of marble were carved into a screen that surrounded the ornately decorated tombs. Mumataz held the central place in the hall. The whole design of the complex is highly symmetrical and this is the center from which everything emanates.
The whole experience was calming. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the symmetrical design had a good feng shui to it. I took my time strolling around the site taking in the site pausing intermittently to take a closer look at the craftsmanship on display.
It is one of those monuments that can be visited again. It has that quality to it. I’ve been impressed with some of the other structures I’ve seen here in India but I really enjoyed seeing this one. I made my way towards the exit and took in the site from another vantage point feeling inspired by what inspired this monument, love.
The subject comes up often in conversation here. People often ask if I am married and the response they find disturbing and for most incomprehensible. My explanations might also be lost in translation. Here marriage comes first and then love follows. Hari and I shared our experiences and we described the customs involved in each of our respective cultures.
“Would you marry her and take her to Canada?” He asked as he cought me checking out some woman walking by.
“That’s a tough question to answer” I replied as thoughts of such a possibility swirled in my mind. Would I? I know what that entails and I don’t know if I could go through that but one never knows what life will bring to the table.
The next stop was the Red Fort in Agra. It was built by Shah Ehan who liked being here so much that the capital was moved to Agra from Delhi. I put in my spare battery thinking that I should have done this before I left for the Taj. There are two Red Forts the other is in Delhi but this one offers a bit more access and is less crowded by tourists. The whole complex is again spectacular.
The opulence that remains is a shadow of what was here originally. The whole complex is not accessible to the public. Interestingly enough portions of this place is still used by the Indian military as barracks. The British used it for the same purpose when they occupied India in their heyday.
This is the fort that held Jahan the builder of the Tak Mahal after he was dethroned by his son. He spent eight years improsoned in an apartment looking at his creation. The thoughts that must have ran through his mind during this incarceration.
We went to what is affectionaly known as the baby Taj next. This was the tomb of I’Timad-Ud-Daulah. He was high up in the food chain acting as a treasurer to the reigning monarch. The level of craftsmanship is high here too but on a much smaller scale.
It offered a bit more access to the interior spaces but they were just as strict about the shoes. I didn’t have any booties so I walked around the upper platform barefoot and the red sandstone felt hot. The things you do to get to the perfect angle.
Soon it was time to drive to Dehli. I was pleasantly surprised at the road we were taking. There is a new toll highway connecting Agra and Dehli. The highway was basically empty especially considering the traffic that I’ve become accustomed to here.
The toll is quite high for Indian standards making it ideal for tourist transportation. Hari told me that the other way takes eight hours. The other road snakes through many municipalities and combined with the markets found on the roadside and all the various vehicles used here makes that alternative sound treacherous.
We made good time to Dehli and the flat plane of the topography made the industry found by the highway interesting enough to have the time and distance pass quickly. We shared transportation stories and I got to know a bit more about Hari. He has made the trip trough India relatively painless. If anything I should be happy that I have him as a driver. I’ve encountered another couple on our journey who complained about their driver. There isn’t anything negative that I can say about him. During the course of our conversations I’ve also come to the realization of how to travel through India so that the next time I come to visit it will be a much better experience. Maybe the problems I had internally yesterday have come to this understanding because I don’t know what the alternative would have been. I’m seeing what I wanted to see without realizing it earlier. The agent I will deal with later.
Driving into Dehli itself was an illuminating experience. There are vast areas under development into planned communities with them many floors and buildings visible both near and far in the distance. We passed a Formula 1 track as well as many corporate buildings housing familiar and unfamiliar corporate logos on their surfaces. The traffic got more intense the further in we went. Eventually we got to an area of Dehli that used to house the English during their occupation here. I got a chance to explore for a bit walkng the inner circle and noting all the western brands selling their wares in these shops. I was happy to find a bit of a taste of home.
Eventually we made our way to the hotel. Hari’s brother works near the area I explored and before heading off to the hotel we sat there talking while enjoying the coffee. The hotel isn’t what I would have chosen but the area I’m in reminds me of some kind of movie scene. Should be an interesting day tomorrow. It’s my last full day in India.