Monday, December 17, 2007

Shah Jahan's legacy





I just came back from my India trip. 

I was lucky enough to manage my second ever trip to the much loved Taj. After much deliberation Rads and I managed to purchase a return ticket from Hyderabad to Delhi on Air Deccan and hired a taxi from the Delhi airport for a two day visit to Agra/Fatehpur Sikri area.

I have to admit that my innate hidden UP instinct (honed during my 2 year stay in Lucknow) took over almost immediately! Well, boasting apart, the journey was almost uneventful except for a brief stop at a dhaba en route to Agra.  A frozen Maaza from an almost wrecked "freedge" later we were on our way to Agra.  Like true firangees we booked a one night reservation at Holiday Inn Agra and managed to check in by about 2 PM.  We had a sumptuous Indian meal inside our room and then got out for our first visit to the Agra fort.  My driver, the humility personofied "Asok", a MPite driving Taxi on that route for the past 2 year was kind enough to find us a guide. And, our adventures began.

This guy turned out to  be piece of work. He looked like a film star, wore designer sun glasses and a suit that looked like it was bought on the streets of Milan (except it must have been bought in Kanpur market).  He told us that he was very buys and that he would request his very good friend to show us around.  A shady looking character then entered our car and greeted us in English.  He told us that the Agra fort was closed and that instead he would show us other monuments.  He then took us to a ramshackle of a building, a hotel that was called the Roof Top Taj view.  We did not like the look the place and the stares of the people at the entrance and decided not to go in there.  we then strictly told him to take us to the river view of the Taj that he promised would be magnificent.  I guess our message got through to him and he took us the what is called the baby Taj : Itmad-Ud-Daulah's tomb.



The place looked worthy enough and after a good round of posing for pictures on its lawns he guided us towards a bridge where we barely caught a glimpse of the evening Taj.  Finally, as the sun set he guided us towards what he called the Mini Taj and we were under the impression that he would take us to another monument.  Instead, he took us to a souvenir shop.  After we were poorer by about 2000 rupees, we paid him 350 rupees for his valuable services and got back to our hotel.  We ordered food to our room and hit the sack.

We checked out early morning and went straight to the Taj. I feel sad to say that the path from the road to the Taj's courtyard was horrible.  Beggars, monkeys and hawkers lined the sides and shady looking characters lurked all around.  There was cow dung all over and the path smelled so bad we almost hated ourselves for not hiring a rickshaw.  we passed through security and finally managed to enter Taj's main courtyard.  As usual, it was crowded, but one more time the Taj proved that the trip was worth every penny.  It looked so magnificent in the early morning mist.  It stood tall and majestic, a crazy man's gift to himself more than his dead wife!  I say that because Shah Jahan is remembered for what he gifted than Begum Mumtaz for what she received in posterity.  We walked around for about an hour, took a few pictures and then made our way to the Agra Fort.  Much of what we saw next does not matter and it would be suffice to say that there were few good building at Fatehpur Sikri (Bulund Darwaza etc.). We then made a mad dash from Sikri to the Delhi airport and thanks to our very good Asok managed to get there at 8.12 PM for a flight that was scheduled to depart at 8.20 PM, all thanks to the New Delhi traffic.  We barely manged to beg our way through the security lines and got on the plane and reached Hyderabad safely.

Many things could have gone wrong.  They didn't.  Somehow, I got a feeling that a trip to the Taj works out.  I came back with a lot of butterflies in my heart.  A crazy lover's gift to the world has lasted over 400 years and left us all richer. 

Something as complicated as the Taj, leaves us all with a very simple emotions.  To think of our own lighter moments in life and to care for and always think of someone we love.  For me, that is the real Taj and Shah Jajan's legacy to the world.

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