Sunday, November 16, 2008

taj mahal as a monument of love

the taj mahal (photo courtesy of jannsudds)

the baby taj aka itimad-ud-daulah

who can't be envious of a love so great that it translates into a structure as grand as india's taj mahal? i have finally stepped on the grounds dedicated by a ruler (Shah Jahan) to his second wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child. i am privileged to even name her - numtaz mahal! and stepping into this awe-inspiring structure is like floating into a dream. no words will ever approximate the grandeur of the taj mahal.

as to the minor structure - the itimad-ud-daulah - more popularly known as the "baby taj" which, until this trip, i have never heard of - it was the serene surroundings that absolutely drew me. with the placid River Yamuna providing the backdrop, there is no better place to just hang your feet down and stare into the blue skies hanging over agra. the chaotic crowd that congests the taj mahal doesn't seem to populate this spot, which is a pity.

the only minor letdown is the stark commercialism placed into visiting these amazing structures. the taj mahal alone fetches 750 rupees for the foreign tourist (in contrast to the 10 rupees levied on locals). each of the 10 major attractions found in agra has been price-tagged too steeply, which makes a visit to this country a bit of a financial "burden" to the average backpacker. grandeur and beauty sure sell.


to cap this day, i had dinner at a tibetan kitchen called saroj restaurant, located just across my hotel (shanti lodge). a surly looking indian, handed me the menu, then a blank paper where i was to write my order. haha. ok, maybe he was tired? but there was absolutely nobody there. just myself! when my order finally came, i was surprised with how tasty my meal was. sumptuous! i had to order a take out that shall be consumed before i check out tomorrow morning, before i catch my early morning train for jodhpur - the famed blue city of rajasthan in north india.

then, from out of the blue, he asks me, "Cambodia? Japan?" what is with this japan thing? I will never ever look japanese! "Filipino," i said. Then, like a sprinkle of cold water, he mutters, "You look like angle." I was angular? My face? "No, you look like angel (he correscts himself), with no wings..." Now I have never been called an angel. I am not a kid to still look like one, if you know what I mean. I just probably have this deceptive look of being "priestly" - as I have been told before. If that was a compliment, I wouldn't know how to take it. Thank you, i replied. That was to cap a very fulfilling day with a monument of pure, unadulterated love. So pure that the emperor (Shah Jahan) was to cut his hands off so that he won't be able to duplicate the Taj. aww... sniff!

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