In Agra

Went to Agra on a holiday. The folks in Delhi smile indulgently when you tell them you went to Agra of all the places-it sounds quaint !

The beauty of Taj never fails to astonish me. Amongst the wonders of the world and the architectural masterpieces, it is the only one in the lists for its perfect beauty. The colosseum, the great wall of China or the pyramids are there for their size or other unique attributes. But the Taj exists possibly as the most beautiful monument in the world. It seems perfect in shape,symmetry,design and aesthetic appeal. It would have been even so much more wonderful when the marble would have been completely white and the inlay work was not damaged.

Contrast this with the city of Agra- filthy, chaotic and rough. The touts, the guides and the autowallahs treat fleecing the tourist as their divine right. I cannot even fathom how the poor foreigners would be getting taken for the ride of their lifetimes. The facilities outside the five stars are pathetic. The town boasts of only a Pizza Hut , a Dasaprakash and Zorba the Buddha restaurant where you could possibly eat. There are no coffee shops where tourists can spend their time. The result of all this is that many of them who could actually spend four days in Agra in seeing the Taj, the fort, Fatehpur Sikri and the other monuments prefer squeezing everything into a day. Fatehpur Sikri is actually worse than Agra in this - my car was stopped twice by local hoodlums to ask for money and the moment I reached the fort, I was surrounded by salesmen of all kinds.The government anyway is sleeping.

The stories about Taj are so intriguing. Shah Jahan's hair supposedly turned grey overnight after Mumtaz's death during childbirth. The hands of the builders were all chopped off so that they would not be able to repeat the construction anywhere. The bottom of the monument has tiny cells where apparently all the workers were kept after the Taj was built and they were not allowed to go outside. All of them died there.


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