Feeling: STIRRED BY THE PEOPLE, ENTRANCED BY THE BEAUTY
Today: The Taj. (Mahal, that is).
I opted for the sunrise sight-seeing, meaning a 5.30am pick up. Luckily my in-built alarm had me arise at 4.53am, so I busted out a few sun salutations (lots of dust bunnies under the bed; when you’re a yogi and your face is often shoved against the lino you notice these things).
I was seventh in line to waltz through the through way. And wow.
I did experience the tingle and had (sorry to use such a cliche term) a shiver down my spine as I clapped eyes on the pearly, creamy castle. It rose before me like a mirage, so foreign yet so familiar from my frantic googling before I left.
Unfortunately, and disappointingly for myself, that emotionally charged link that I had highly hoped for was not elicited. When I went to Pahia and saw the Treaty house, and when I pass by a building or location that has linkage with my linage, I always experience a poignant pull. I think in this case, with the Taj not being part of my history, I didn’t feel the draw.
Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating, with the intricate carvings and artwork but that personal tie just didn’t materialise.
So I looked elsewhere to locate that stirring sensation. And I found it immediately, inscribed on the faces of the multitudes of Indian tourist milling about. I firmly believe there is often a lack of deference to the past, so it filled me with joy to see these people exploring their own history and culture.
Case in point, my man Mahi (tour guide, I haven’t found yet another squeeze). He has visited the Taj more than 1500 times, yet he still revells in the beauty and history of it. He took series upon series of snapshots to add to the thousands already residing in his phone. What is that if it isn’t pure love?
Mahi told me that of the 25,000 visitors to the Taj daily, 70 per cent of them are Indian. That statistic made me so happy; how incredible is it that the people respect their culture and are so interested in their Indian heritage, that they flock in such numbers? Truly mind-blowing.
We sat on a stoop for a stop, and Mahi retold the tale of the masterpiece of marble. Although I’d researched and read all about it, it was enchanting hearing it from someone so passionate.
The “teardrop on the face of eternity” was built by Shah Jahan, starting construction in 1632 and being completed in 1643 (plus a further five years for the surrounding gardens and buildind). The emperor was grief-stricken when his second wife and love of his life Mumtaz Mahal passed on during the birth of their 14th child, and had the monument errected in dedication to his love for her. It now stands as the resting place for the pair. (Very succinct account). The monument is astounding, with the marbel inlay work done with such hand-made preciseness it looks like paintwork. The entirety is completely symmetrical from entry to exit and literally had me spellbound.
I want to love someone with such intensity that I would spend the better part of two decades declaring that love in stone. Would I have done so for Jason? Yes, I think I would have. I probably still would. He might get a six-month-made monument at this stage. Twelve tops.
When I got back to the hotel and wifi, a message from Deb came through reminding me it was 18 years since Princess Diana had passed away. I was overjoyed with the timing of the anniversary, as just an hour previously I had been sitting on the”Princess Diana bench”, which she’d posed on many moons ago. What better way to commemorate the date? Be in peace, Princess D.
I felt serene on going for breakfast, accompanied by new buddy Mahi. However, my tranquility briefly turned to alarm when I saw nothing within my eating comforts. Luckily, I spun Mahi the yarn of “vegan/sickfromdairy,gluten,wheat/fruitandvegeaonly” and he managed to rustle me up a aloo bhaji, a dry dish of potato and cumin seeds. Usually such a snack would be off limits to myself, but I looked at my new friend, remembered my screenshot and launched in. When Mahi asked if I wanted a masala chai (tea with milk) I accepted. And had two cups.
After our munch we headed to Agra Fort. Built in 1565 as a military structure, it later became the palace of Emperor Shah Jahan and his prison when he lost power in 1658.
I hadn’t really looked into the fort much in my research so I was delighted to find it a further fascination for my day. With broomsticks lying here there and everywhere, carved stone fortress walls and an amazing room of hollow walls where you could echo your voice (Parseltongue and the Chamber of Secrets come alive!), I was in a Harry Potter wonderland. Mahi is really into his photography, so he enthusiastically suggested different spots and situations and we had a grand old time.
I was sad to say goodbye to him, but we swapped dets and I invited him to stay whenever he makes it to New Zealand (Deb and Hank will be hoping I move out again quick smart, as my fast and furious invitations being issued may have a heavy hoard of Indians headed their way if not).
India. I’m finding you and your rich vibrancy more intriguing everyday.