To get to the Taj Mahal it was a four hour journey in both directions from Delhi, so it made for a very long day. I thought twice about going because I still felt sick from all the pollution. But the truth is all but one of my colleagues was heading home soon and she is not as adventurous as me, so I knew I may not have the opportunity to share the memories and costs again. So I pressed on, and I’m glad I did!
We drove past farm fields with various crops and little grass huts. I would like to have taken a photo but the pollution was so bad that I couldn’t get a good picture of one. Two hours in and we hit our first rest stop. I felt my stomach tighten in anticipation of what the bathroom might be like. I stood “in line” with the other women eagerly awaiting a stall door to open.
In a country with over a billion people, there is no common courtesy. Lines don’t exist. You just shove your way in. I let my boss go first and when she opened the door to come out I had to physically block the door from the women trying to cut in, just so I could use it. The bathroom wasn’t bad. It had a western toilet (instead of the squat style) but no paper, but I was prepared with wet wipes in my bag. There was a lot of standing stinky water on the ground that they normally squeegee to the side, but aside from that it wasn’t too nasty. Soon we were back on the road.
As we approached the Taj Mahal the atmosphere became quite chaotic. There were nicely dressed men on the sidewalks with cell phones yelling at us to roll down the window. Our driver rolled down his window and I sat between them as they argued loudly. They were obviously negotiating about something, but we didn’t understand a bit of it. Suddenly our drivers told us to all get out quickly. I briefly hoped we weren’t being sold into sex slavery but then realized we had two men with us so it was unlikely.
The man on the sidewalk introduced himself to us as our guide and our driver drove off. The guide asked us if we wanted a ride to the front of the line via a camel cart or horse cart. We declined because we wanted to walk after four hours in a car. The line to get in was about a 100 meters long but he lead us right to the front. We paid $750 rupees ($12 USD) to get in. Then he handed us off to another guide. We were taken to the front of the security line while all the India people stared at us with anger and envy. No wonder they think Americans are spoiled!
The security people patted us down and scanned our bags. That is when things got really interesting. A female went through my bag and threw away my water and snacks. She didn’t even save it for the starving people! That pissed me off more than anything! Then she found my condoms and beef jerky, pulled them out, waved them around and starting laughing hysterically! I was embarrassed to say the least. That is when she found my pocket knife and started yelling loudly at me. Suddenly there were several military/security officials pulling me this way and that!
I desperately looked around for our guide but he was gone! My petite little boss yelled to me to not worry and that she wouldn’t leave me. We finally got the senior security dude to listen to me. I gave him my sweetest American smile (even though I was frightened and sweating like a whore in church) and explained that I’m a tourist and bought that pocket knife on vacation in Sturgis. I explained that it has sentimental value. I then begged him to let me and the knife go.
I was about to offer him money as a bribe when out of nowhere our driver miraculously showed up and said he would hold the knife for me. Then he told us that our guides were not really our guides and introduces us to yet a 3rd guide! He explains that the other two guys were just impostors and not authorized. Our new guide showed us his badge and informed us that it’s a big problem in India. Finally we entered the grounds of the Taj Mahal.
The Splendor of the Taj Mahal
The grounds included several enormous and impressive ancient buildings. One was a masque and another housed the workers. Generations of the workers families have lived on the grounds for thousands of years! They passed down their special skills to their children and are the only ones allowed to do repairs. The Taj Mahal is beyond description but basically a king built it to honor his queen after she died.
I can’t even get a guy to make the damn bed! She must have been amazing to have a man love her so much! When an Indian dies sometimes they make 3 wishes and if their loved ones want their soul to be free they have to honor those wishes. One of her wishes was that he build something in her honor. All the ornate designs decorating the building are done with semi precious stones carved into the marble. I’ve never seen a more beautiful building! You can not take pictures inside the building which is why I don’t have any to share, and after my ordeal going through security I decided I had better be on my best behavior! In all, it was an amazing and exhausting day!