भारत II field notes: Agra, animal husbandry, Taj Mahal, Imperfectionists & Fatepuhr Sikri
«i» (still hereby = «you»), j & Ro woke up before sunrise to catch a train from Delhi to Agra. watched the sun rise through the haze. the whole way was flat. rows of people squat-shitting on the shoulder of the tracks.
arrived in Agra to the requisite hectic bustle of touts. at the hotel we asked about walking to the Taj Mahal, but were advised against it on account of all the animals on the side of the road—which of course only intrigued us more.
also saw plenty of monkeys, dogs, camels, donkeys & of course cows.
what's there to say about the Taj Mahal that hasn't been said? it's one of those things you see just to verify (for yourself) that it indeed exists.
got a rickshaw back & decided you'd give the driver a break & get some exercise by doing the pedaling. this way you could be sure to reach our destination as it seems whenever you get into a rickshaw or tuk-tuk here they insist on taking you elsewhere (a shop where they get kickback).
hung out by the pool for a while & you started to read The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, which Ro brought for you as a present from NYC. it's a book of connected short stories revolving around editors & others associated with an international English-language newspaper based in Rome (Rachman himself worked in Rome as an AP correspondent). an interesting glimpse into the lives of reporters from various angles & besides all the interesting & well-developed characters it was fascinating how it was all inter-connected so the newspaper itself was like one big living organism encompassing the imperfect worker bees.
tuk-tuked to the Agra fort which was actually more impressive than the Red Fort in Delhi & possibly even the Taj Mahal (at least since it was unexpected & there was more to discover). wandered around with the monkeys exploring the complex & watching the sunset on the distant Taj Mahal.
14.2.2011. Fatepuhr Sikri
waking up at the Taj Mahal on Valentine's is appropriate, considering the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz, who died giving birth to their 14th child. besides the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan built (or had built) almost everything stunning we'd seen so far on this trip, including the Red Fort & Jama Masjid in Delhi, and the above Pearl Mosque in Agra Fort. when he got sick his son confined him to the Agra Fort (from where at least he had a view of the Taj Mahal) until his death, wherein he was then buried next to Mumtaz.
but that was yesterday. today we hired a car to Fatepuhr Sikri. just getting across town was utter insanity. here's what it's like getting through an intersection in Agra:
even when there were stoplights or stopsigns people ignored them. things mellowed on the open road to Fatepuhr Sikri, but still, all sorts of animals & motorized contraptions sharing the road, sometimes coming at you on the wrong side of the road (which in India is the right side (& the right side the left side)).
according to our driver (a muslim), muslims in India don't eat cow out of respect for hindus. but when you saw pigs on the side of the road he said hindus eat pig. if you ask a hindu you'd probably get a different story. still, for the most part you see hindus, muslims & sikhs all living in relative harmony. it seems first & foremost you are Indian & then you are whatever religion you subscribe to.
ONWARD TO JAIPUR