Saturday, June 17, 2006

RETURN TO INNOCENCE





Kumaoni kids....aren't they chweet? :)

WHEN TIME STOOD STILL

Naini Lake - Nainitaal, India

View of Trishul peak - as seen from a temple, during a hike in Kausani, India

Saturday, June 10, 2006

KICK-OFF


Its a new day...


Presenting the first picture on my photo blog…tat-a-da…ta- ta- ta- ta- tat-a-da
This was taken during a recent trip to my native place; sunrise on a day in late January. I love the way the sky is aglow…Sunrise to me is synonymous with hope….
I hope that my snapshots continue to regale the viewers of this blog….

Saturday, June 03, 2006

GOD, U THERE?


I had imagined Haridwar and Rishikesh to be small towns with quaint ancient temples. On the contrary these are towns with booming economies. The temples far from ancient are colored in the brightest pinks and yellows. Sanyasi’s dressed in orange seem to be the majority followed by tourists, both from India and abroad. Spirituality is big business here. “Almost every house has a temple of its own”, they tell me.


Lakshman Jhula - Rishikesh

Ganga Aarti - Haridwar


Washing away sins in the Ganges?
There is no time for prayer and silent contemplation in the temples here. Many times you are whisked away, before you even get a good look at the idol. This is often the case in busy temples. In many others you are made to hear their familiar sales pitch asking for donations. And you’d think charity was optional. Apparently not! In fact, many times you are left wondering if you are in a temple or attending an auction…
I bet the Gods must have long fled these places in disgust…

HUH TAJ


It is late in the night when we arrive in Agra. Its been a long day for all of us; covering mere miles of hot terrain. All for the TAJ, we assure each other!
Grubby with rumpled clothes and hairdos, we look totally out of place as we check-in at the Taj View. All I want is a hot shower, but all that only after I take a good look at the TAJ. We’re excited to have gotten rooms that boast of the grand view. In the glum yellow of the streetlights, I spot the familiar outline at a distance, standing tall above a maze of mediocre roof tops.

View of the TAJ from hotel Taj View Agra

Dinner is a somber affair as news channels cover the story of Pramod Mahajan’s passing away. It is indeed ironic; watching the tragic news of unrequited love in a city that immortalizes that very emotion.
Post breakfast, we hail a rickshaw to take us to the TAJ. The sun is blazing and the heat is unbearable already. I expect a grand entrance to this monument that is often christened as the 8th wonder; instead our rickshaw makes its way through a maze of narrow roads and comes to halt at the entrance of a small alley. Small shops selling inlay work art items, miniature Tajs and other sundry stuff line the alley. I am disappointed with the fa├žade. Couldn’t the tourism or whatever department deals with this be a little more creative?
As we buy our entry tickets, security personnel at the entrance inform us that we are to deposit food-items, drinks (water allowed) if any, even candy and chocolates! “This forces people to get out in a couple of hours, curbs hooliganism and littering”, they explain. We are told to walk past a security screen, which to me, appears like a rickety, unpolished wooden arch with some LEDs. Armed with a digital camera and a handicam we march ahead. One realizes the presence of the great monument only after stepping inside this entrance.

TAJ as seen from inside the premises

The premises are well maintained. I am glad I don’t spot any litter that seems to be common in any Indian tourist place. We are hailed by another security guard as we are about to walk past the last archway. We need to pay 50 bucks in order to take any footage. We do that with the understanding that we can take our handicam. We soon learn that we have misunderstood; the fee is so you can shoot the TAJ from that last archway. Handicams are banned beyond that archway. I find this silly, but we comply.

Artistic Arch - Inside TAJ premises
As we near the main marble structure I see people scuttling here and there. It is a funny sight; men and women of all ages and sizes running. It is not long before I realize why and curse myself for not bringing socks along. We admire the beautiful inlay work in the main dome structure and the architecture of the adjoining masjid. The murky Yamuna flows behind apparently reduced to a sewer. On our way out, we stop at the small museum that houses artifacts of the times of the Emperor.
TAJ Closeup

Masjid artwork


River Jamuna as seen from the TAJ
I am surprised that I am not swept off by this architectural wonder; perhaps it was the heat or the dismal entrance or simply the time of the day; I try to explain myself.
It is a full moon night and the sky is devoid of any artificial light. As I gaze upwards, the sky appears like a dark carpet studded with stars. The TAJ appears heavenly in the cool creamy light of the moon. A Santoor dhun fills the night air….
It is a crisp morning in early winter, the sun is yet to rise, but the sky has a rosy glow. It is quiet except for the azan coming from the masjid’s in the TAJ. A sense of tranquility descends upon me as I walk along the pathway that leads to the TAJ.....

Masjid inside the TAJ premises
Oh well; dream, that’s all I can do for now…
However, I do see a faint glimmer of hope. I happened to read a piece in the newspaper a couple of days ago. It talked about government's plans of acquiring the land around TAJ, beautifying the surroundings and organizing cultural concerts and light shows in the TAJ premises. I am keeping my fingers crossed…
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