It had been quite a long time since I had met my sister. So I decided that I should go meet her at her current place of residence – the city of the one and only The Taj Mahal.
And so off I went to Agra, which I had visited once with my father and sister when I was quite small. I had faint memories of the place or so I thought until I got down from the train. I couldn’t quite believe when I found that I was unable to recall anything familiar there!
Anyways, after the initial greetings, my sister took me with her to her hostel and there after having a nice breakfast of jalebi and kachori, we planned the day ahead.
We decided that it was essential to see the Taj and the Red Fort to revive our memories of the previous visit made so many years back.
We first went to the red fort on a cycle rikshaw, navigating through several lanes and bylanes of an old city.
Even though I had seen the squalor in quite a lot of tourist places, still it hurt me to see this in a place which is home to one of the seven wonders of the world and sees so many tourists every year both domestic as well as from across the globe.
Nonetheless, we reached the red fort and decided to give it a full tour, even though it was quite a hot day. It seemed that summer had already started, though it was just the month of February. So much for global warming.
There we went to see the various parts of the great Fort that was built by the Moghul emperors when they ruled over India with Agra as their capital. Story has it that Akbar was instructed by deities to shift the capital to Delhi after he had insulted a hindu sage.
The fort has been constructed out of red sandstone and is quite similar to the one in Delhi. The various parts of the fort were the Deewane Aam, the Deewane Khaas, and also a part called the Jahangir palace, probably made for or by Akbar’s son Jahangir.
The Deewane Aam was the place where the emperor would meet his subjects to solve their issues and register their complaints.
The Deewane Khaas was meant for the meeting of the king with his nobles.
(‘Aam’ and ‘khaas’ are urdu words meaning ‘common’ and ‘important’ respectively)
Then there was a point in the fort from where there used to be a rope attached to a bell and the other end of the rope used to be quite far away on the banks of the river Yamuna. That rope was meant to be pulled to ring the bell by anyone who had been wronged and wanted justice from the king.
The rulers were much more accessible those days than these!!
And after moving through the old ‘corridors of power’, we decided to take a break for lunch and then proceeded towards the Taj.
We were dropped by the autorikshaw driver at the entrance of a park where there were lots of tongawallahs who would take us to the Taj but we decided to walk. It was about a one km. walk from there. Upon reaching the place, I was anticipating the same thrill as we had experienced when we were small. But seeing the queue and the mismanagement at the place where we had to deposit the mobile phones and other things, instead of feeling thrilled, we felt frustrated as it was quite hot and even the idea of jostling through the crowd made us feel tired.
Nonetheless, we went ahead with a Herculean effort and finally reached the great place.
But this time upon seeing the Taj, I was not quite as impressed as I had been during my first visit. Probably having seen even bigger monuments than the Taj, took away the awe that I would have been in, when younger. Really, the theory of relativity holds good in each and every aspect of life. Nonetheless, I was still impressed to see the beautifully decorated walls, the arches, the towers and especially the area at the back side of the Taj from where one could see the river Yamuna. It would have been quite soothing to sit there and watch the splashing waters of the river in the days when it would have had water. Today it is reduced to a thin stream with sand in place of water!
After sitting there for a while, we went back to the hotel. In the evening we decided to go to the main market of Agra- the Sadar bazaar. There with my sister and her friends, we gorged on the chaats and kulfis and also shopped for some jootis. And after all the fun and food, we decided to call it a day and I went ahead for my next destination – home :-).