Saturday, June 03, 2006

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 faƧade. 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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1 comment:

Nandan said...

Realistic description. Often, we hear about a place so much and live the emotions that we would experience by visiting it beforehand so many times that the actual experience may not live upto the expectations. That may not be the case here, but just thought mentioning it.