Rolf Gibbs: Travels in India
1. Arrival In India (1)
2. Mumbai (2)
3. Goa (9)
4. Travelling Northwards (4)
5. Rajasthan (6)
6. South India (7)
7. Sri Lanka (1)
8. North India (12)
9. Departure from India (1)
About Me (1)
Photos: Great Signs of India (1)
Photos: Indians can sleep ANYWHERE! (1)
Photos: Unmade Beds (1)
* Adieu, India!
* Corbett Tiger Reserve
* Himalaya Joshimath
* Rishikesh II.
* Delhi II.
* Train from Hell: Varanasi / Rishikesh
* Indians can sleep ANYWHERE!
* Great Signs of India
* Unmade Beds
* Orchha / Kajuraho
* Agra / Taj Mahal
* Train to Delhi
* Bike Problems in Chennai
* Two Rolf(e)s Become One Again
March 28, 2005
Agra / Taj Mahal
The ride to Agra was horrible. It took hours to get out of congested and sprawling, dusty Delhi. Then we found ourselves spending hours on a motorway through industrial/agricultural flatness and monotony. Then it rained and got really cold... until we arrived in Agra after nightfall, exhausted. Rolfe asked, understandably, "Is that what biking is like?" I assured him there would be better days, much better days.
We got up the next morning, Friday, at 6AM to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. But then we discovered that it is closed on Fridays!!! Ooops, should have checked that one before coming! So we went back to bed, knowing we would have to spend another day in the one of the least-likeable of all Indian big cities.
That afternoon, Rolfe went to the local ATM to stock up on cash... but had a typically Indian mishap: the machine took his card, asked for his PIN, which he entered, then suddenly there was power-cut, and the machine went dead, with Rolfe's card inside it! View image There was only a hapless young security guard to help, and he spent a couple of hours running back and forth, trying to get the bank to come and sort out the machine. Eventually the power came back, but the machine stayed dead. The final reality was that Rolfe had to leave the card in the machine overnight, and show up at 11AM the next morning to get his card back when the maintenance guy came to open the machine and refill the money. It all worked out eventually.
Late afternoon in Agra is a great time to witness the local Kabootahs, or pigeon fanciers, flying their flocks. They stand on the rooftops, waving sticks and whistling and shouting to the birds, which fly in circles and straight lines, depending on the skill of the Kabootah, and then come to land and feed. The object is to get the flock to combine with another flock, and to then bring as many as possible of the other birds back to one's rooftop, where these foreigners are couped and held for ransom. Owners will pay between $7 and $30 per pigeon to get them back, so it's a very competitive sport, and beautiful to watch:View image, View image, View image.
While on the rooftops of Taj Ganj, we also got our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, at sunset. A foretaste of what we would see in the morning: View image
That evening I left Rolfe to nap, and went out to use the internet, only to be swept up in another Indian wedding procession, complete with blinding lights, deafening music, and a depressed-looking groom on a horse: View image, View image, View image, View image.
Immediately afterwards, I became friends with the owner of an internet cafe, who showed me his own wedding video -- he was married just four days before!!! WE had a very intimate and deep conversation, and it was one of the nicest connections I have had with an Indian during my travels here.
Seeing something so wonderfully conceived can be confronting for the visitor, and I noticed that many people were going through some kind of inner disturbance or turmoil at being confronted with something so perfect. It was the ame for me, and for Rolfe, and we even had a silly and very personal argument during the visit, which soon cleared. I took great pleasure in observing the tourists, and how they watched, moved around, photographed the spectacle.
As corny and touristic as it may sound, the Taj Mahal was one of the absolute high points of my whole India trip!
The photos below, however beautiful, cannot replace, or even come close to, the astonishing physical reality of the building, which I now believe should be high on every creative person's list of places to visit in their lifetimes. I am already looking forward to going back.
Posted by rolfg on March 28, 2005 07:37 PM
Category: 8. North India
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