Agra With The Taj Mahal

30 January 2013

This day was a sightseeing day. Before the Taj I went to ‘Baby Taj’. Monumentally quieter on the other side of the river, the downside is that the monkeys are free to climb everywhere. I think they have rabies, so I did a little more than a jump when one tried to grab my shoe. When the monkeys weren’t around I walked up some stairs near a tree and looked down into the courtyard of a school. They were singing the morning songs. Just a wall separated a 500 year old Arabic temple full of silence from a little Hindi school. Then you realise you’re away from home.

Further down the river there were a couple more old things, but conflict in the past has destroyed them. Down by the riverside were four young boys all squatting, doing their business. Afterwards they were all washing what needed to be washed with their left hands full of river water all together. Upstream, there was a large plum of smoke from the burning of dead bodies.

Heading back downstream, we passed the tent slums from where those boys must have been living. My driver laughed and said that they beg in the day and then get drugged up in the evenings. ‘Many fights and many problems’, he said, laughing and shaking his head. It may well be true, but I don’t think those little six-year-old boys would be taking any drugs.

There was one last thing that the driver wanted to do before he dropped me back to the Taj. Well, it turned out to be six things, because there were six shops I went to, some small, and some so large and lavish that they looked me up and down, then shook my hand while looking in the opposite direction. Each time I didn’t want to buy anything, and my driver knew it. So why did I go into these shops and bullshit for five to ten minutes? Because every time I go into somewhere, regardless if I purchase anything, the person who takes me there gets 100 to 250 rupees. I was taking money away from these wankers and putting it into a nice guy’s pocket.

On the afternoon of the second day in Agra, I finally got through the gates of the Taj and saw it in person. From a distance, it looks unbelievably enormous, but right next to it, it doesn’t look so big at all. You walk through the gardens and water features to get to it, but Indians go one way and ‘high-value ticket holders’ go another. Eventually the classes meet again, and you and all the people behind you have these ridiculous white shoe covers on and you’re all carrying your complimentary water bottle. The Indians just don’t wear shoes and go thirsty.

I bumped into Asif in the Taj grounds and spend the rest of the evening talking about girls, which is really just answering his questions on how to sleep with foreign girls (because you know, I’m such an expert…). Apparently I need to ‘change my get up’ and then I will get lots of Indian girls. ‘You need to look like NRI’ he said. We talked and joked more late into the evening, after some chai and a suspiciously cold deep fried snack, in a horrible little room on the street that had tins of something everywhere. It was like taking a chai on the inside of an old warm lead petrol engine–probably because this was an old little motorcycle garage.

We talked and joked more into the evening under a streetlight by my hotel. Random young Indian men would come and stand there listening, then go again.