What? A trip to Taj Mahal, Agra.
When? Saturday, June 13, 2009
Here’s the first part of this entry: 1. A Trip to Taj Mahal (Part I- Indian Railways)
As soon as I got off the train, autowallahs and taxiwallahs surrounded me with their ‘attractive’ offers to take me to the Taj Mahal and around. Three hours of travel in the Taj Express (7-10 am) had made me hungry. Some of them waited for me as I ate in the railway station canteen. I settled with a taxiwallah for Rs. 400 for four hours that included a trip to Taj Mahal, then to Red Fort and around and back to the station. Later, I realized I could have done the same for less than Rs. 200 if I had taken an auto from outside Agra Junction, the railway station.
At the Taj Mahal ticket counter, I was faced with two options. Stand in the queue meant for foreign tourists or go to the one meant for the Indians. Usually, in such places, queue for Indians is also for the nationals of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries. Ticket for this group is significantly cheap (IRs. 20 as opposed to IRs. 650). Obviously I went to that line. At the entry gate this man asks me, looking at me from head to toe, where I was from. Nepal, of course, I replied knowing the consequences of my honest reply. Then you will have to take the Nepal ticket, he said. Which meant, I realized, IRs. 650. I came back to the ticket counter only to be yelled at by the man there. “Are aap ke paas paisa jyada hey kya?” he asked. “Jaiye, south gate main and tell him, if he asks, that you are from Darjeeling!” [Do you want to spend unnecessarily? Just go to the south gate.]
I reluctantly went to the south gate where, as I had suspected, the man asked me where I was from. I am sure my outfit made me look like a gora bideshi. That has happened in many places in India and Nepal. But in many cases, if I wear jeans and shirt I can easily pass off as an Indian. That’s what happens at many other places. “Where are you from?” he asked. “Mein avi Delhi se aaya hun yar” I replied. [I have just arrived from Delhi.] That wasn’t the complete truth but that was also not a lie. I had indeed gone there from Delhi and had been living in the city for several months. He asked his supervisor who also gave a look to me. Then came the node. I was inside.
INSIDE THE Taj Mahal complex, I wasn’t thrilled. Neither I was very excited on seeing the world famous monument of love. It’s just like Humayun’s Tomb, I reacted quietly. Just that this one is more beautiful, bright and, again, beautiful. It was terribly hot. I was sweating and little bit dehydrated. I found a shade where, like many others, I stayed for about half an hour reading the book Delhi: Adventures in a Mega City by Sam Miller. I did the same in Red Fort, a few kilometers away from Taj Mahal, which I found more impressive thought all of its parts were not open to public.
In the Taj Mahal complex, I observed people busy photographing the monument and themselves in the same frame. The place was crowded by tourists of all kinds. Continue reading