Before we drove to Agra, we spent some time in Delhi with our relatives to look at some of the historical places, like the Lotus Temple and Gandhi’s memorial site where he was shot and cremated. We also visited the largest mosque in India (the women were required to wear mumu-like wraps to cover their bodies) and took a rickshaw ride through the alleyway bazaars. Holy crap, those things are scary but interesting.
And we saw a show that was kind of like an Indian musical, with Bollywood dancing and everything.
I forgot to mention that every car has some sort of idol on the dashboard: Shiva, Ganesh, etc. The car that took us to Agra had these, as well as peacock feathers. Trucks are all painted and decked out with ornamentation. On the road I also spotted these weird car things with huge horns attached to them; they looked like something out of Doctor Suess.
Agra wasn’t how I imagined it. I’m sure it was a little different back in the day, but now it’s downscaled and downtrodden. You can see where they had the old cantonment during the British Raj, but now it’s all scraped out. It’s still called the cantonment area, though.
That afternoon we finally saw the Taj Mahal. Walking through the western gate, it doesn’t look real. At all. You see so many pictures of it, but when you stand before it in real life, it just doesn’t look or feel like it’s actually there.
It’s breathtaking seeing it in person, and it’s huge. For those who don’t know, it was built in the 1600s by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his third and last wife. Supposedly her last wishes were for him to treat his children as a father instead of as a king, to build a monument in her honor, and to not take up another wife.
As we were walking around, looking out at the Yamuna River that bends behind the Taj, a family approached me and asked if I could take a picture. I thought they meant for me to take it of them (which has happened a few times now on this trip), but no, they wanted to take a family portrait with me.
This was probably a local family or from a place without many tourists. They saw a tall American and thought I looked exotic, or something. I wanted to be like, um, I am half Indian you know, but I took the picture with them anyway. My father got the same treatment when he visited with my mom a few years ago. As we were walking away, another family wanted a picture. Ugh.
The next day we looked at the Agra fort, where Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son in the last years of his life. It offers a nice view of the Taj, which we mostly saw through fog, and rolling arches and columns everywhere.
Oh, and we stopped by a McDonald’s here. Naturally, there are no cheeseburgers, but there are lots of chicken sandwiches (my favorite: the Chicken Maharaja Mac), a McPaneer Royale, and aloo (potato) sandwiches. SO WEIRD. And the spicy chicken was really, really spicy. They don’t play around.
We drove back to Delhi the next day, where we took a plane to Amritsar. We’re about to go see the Golden Temple and hopefully do a little shopping.