Yes, I know. You have seen it a hundred times, if not thousands, on pictures, television, internet, ads, and where not. The architectural wonder from India had found a place in even the Seven Great Wonders of the Earth, which is not a small feat at all. Even the ones who had not been there had become so familiarised with it that it feels as known as the back of your hand, and hence taken for granted. And due to this feeling, you might not feel much when you first see this building, as you may guess. After all this epitome of love built by emperor Shahjahan for the love of his deceased wife Mumtaz is a story as ingrained in our psyche as much any other epic love story or myth from the collective past. Obviously, thanks to all this, I had a casual lukewarm approach to visiting this place, for the sake of just being able to tell others that I had been there once. But…
….I was wrong. The moment I entered the open entry into the space at the end of which I had the first glimpse of the white marbled epic work of Art, I was dumbfounded and mesmerised to say the least. In a moment I grasped it all, the centuries it endured, the countless people who marvelled at its beauty, the ‘hype’ it well deserved, and the unending unwavering endless power and possibilities of immortal love.
The color seemed like having diminished a little as compared to the whitey white pictures, and the pillars were undergoing some kind of renovation, the logs attached to the three of them minimising some of its elegance. The place was crowded with tourists, Indians and foreigners alike, and queues were seen at a particular spot from where photographers took the photos of visitors making them sit on a bench, which is a famous spot, and the clicks were endlessly taken of one of the most photographed locations in the world.
The Taj Mahal was much bigger than I thought, all the while mounting the steps on to the large marble lawn and inside the building the space seemed smaller. Some guides were describing groups about the precious stones attached to the walls and the tomb of Mumtaz underneath, which was now closed to the tourists. The ornamental arches had calligraphy and Persian poems inscribed on to the walls adding to the beauty of the architecture. My cousin pointed me to the opposite shore of the Yamuna and informed me that the plot right opposite the position of Taj Mahal across the river was actually the first proposed construction site, but later changed.
While taking a rickshaw from the parking lot to the Taj Mahal, kids were running after us trying to sell a small white commodity in plastic wrappers, which looked like cotton. It was a pair of clothes to be wrapped under our foot-wears, to keep the interior free from the intense dust and crap due to the overflow of visitors, and this ingenious method is another form of market all the while a rescue from the mess of safeguarding thousands of pairs of foot-wears. But, thanks to our habits, some plastic wrappers were abandoned like that within the complex itself.
As we were beginning to leave, a foreign lady, beautiful and with melancholic eyes neared us and asked,
“Is there a way to get to New Delhi from here? Do you know where the railway station is?”
“Yes, it’s nearby…” , said my cousin while I interrupted:
“Actually we have car and you could join us if you like.”
She looked perplexed. And my cousin looked at me with widened eyes.
“Won’t it be a disturbance for you?”, she asked.
“No. There is enough space left for two more in the car.”
She waited a moment in confusion, then pointed her hand backwards and said:
“Okay, let me ask my boyfriend. If he’s okay with it, we will join.” and walked toward him somewhere behind.
I looked at my cousin, and he looked at me back with enough ridicule in his face to last the rest of the return journey.
When she came back from her boyfriend, we were long gone already….