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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

The Taj

INDIA | Thursday, 9 May 2024 | Views [41]

"A teardrop on the cheek of eternity" -Radindranath Tagore

It's the ultimate monument to love. One of the most, if not the most, magnificent buildings in the world. The Taj Mahal finally called my name today after two days of frustration with trains getting delayed and cancelled. Rajnish suggested yesterday that I take a bus and stay overnight in Agra, and I'm glad I did. Last night I had dinner on the roof with a silhouette of the Taj Mahal for my first view of this magnificent wonder. 

Built between 1631 and 1653, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his wife. Mumtaz Mahal died whilst giving birth to her 14th child, and it saddened Shah Jahan so much that it's said that his hair turned white almost overnight. It is believed that more than 20,000 workers were involved in the Taj's construction. Today it is regarded as perhaps the finest example of Mughal architecture. One of my ultimate dreams is to see the Taj Mahal under a full Moon, and to have a special lady by my side whilst doing so. The Taj is one of those places that everyone has seen 100 times in magazines, books, and on TV but there is quite nothing like seeing it in person. Legend has it that Shah Jahan planned to build a Black Taj Mahal on the opposite side of the Yamuna River as his own tomb but if so, he never had a chance to build it. His son, Aurangzeb, imprisoned Shah Jahan at Agra Fort where he lived out his final days gazing at his masterpiece. He was then interred next to his wife, which puts the Taj's symmetry off balance. 

Some people woke up early to see the Taj at sunrise but I wanted to take it easy, rest up, and get there whilst the sun was out. When I purchased my ticket, which is a lot more expensive for foreigners than for Indians but still one of the world's great bargains, guides tried to convince me that the ticket only allows three hours and that the line to go inside is often an hour and a half long. Still, I preferred to be alone. Learning my lesson from the Great Pyramids, I stood my ground. I forgot to take my tennis balls out of my bag and they said I coldn't bring them in. Since when were tennis balls considered a weapon? Your first photos of the Taj Mahal's gleaming white marble will leave you speechless, and I just couldn't wait to the stamp my mark. The Taj Mahal at last! 

If you stay more than three hours at the Taj Mahal, you'll have to pay for a second ticket afterward so I had to keep my eye on the clock. It didn't take 90 minutes to go inside but instead it was more like one minute. Entry includes a bottle of water (although I brought extra water) and shoe covers, which must be worn inside the mausoleum.

What you see here are the fake tombs. The real tombs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan are in a locked chamber below the main area and are inaccessible to the public. From any angle, the Taj Mahal is absolutely majestic. 

It's absolutely not possible to fly a drone here. When I got a photo where I was jumping in front of the Taj I was told off by the guards, and they told me they don't allow jumping, dancing, or anything silly for that matter for the perfect Instagram photo. It's probably a good thing since I've seen many reports of people taking disrespectful photos at places like Auschwitz and the 9/11 Memorial. When you look at the Taj up close, there are many fine details. 

Making sure to not go over three hours, I called in at a shop where I convinced to buy a couple of marble magnets but I bargained hard and got a good price. Hassle in India has not been nearly as incessant as I expected but it's been a slight annoyance in some places. 

As I got with some tasty lamb sagwala and a cold lassi, I gazed at my photos with a beaming smile. This trip wouldn't be complete without a trip to Agra Fort, which I would brave the heat once more to see. This evening I would call two of my favourite former teachers, and that's Mr. and Mrs. Schickman. Mr. Schickman was my summer school teacher in '99 and once heralded me as his greatest success story, even comparing me to Jacques Cousteau. When I saw a photo of Mrs. Schickman in front of the Taj Mahal I told myself "I want to go there someday." I once said that I think I'd be content with going to India and not seeing the Taj Mahal but now I feel that no trip to India is complete without seeing this magnificent wonder. I know a lady who has been to India at least 25 times yet has never seen the Taj Mahal, and I wonder how that's possible. In the past two years I've been to many of the world's great sights including the Valley of the Kings, the Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, and the Parthenon. I used to have a disdain for places like this but many of these places are popular for a reason. The Taj Mahal is a global masterpiece in every sense of the word, and I will be here again to see the Taj under a full Moon. 

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