The Taj, Agra Fort and Birthdays

Yesterday was my birthday, a significant one, too.

I’ve never actually revealed my age on this site, mainly because it pains me to be pigeonholed. I do act stupidly young or stupid at times; why not leave the age question blank?

March 21, 2011, marks a turning point in my life.

Ready? This chick just turned 40. Gasp!!

40 is ancient. To a 20 year old. 40 means I forget more years than I remember. Supposedly.

Categorize me now. Love it, I hope. Or maybe you knew all along? I fooled nobody.

On this auspicious birthday, I treated myself to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Seeing the Taj has been a dream of mine for over ten years. Did it measure up to this birthday girl’s expectations?

Taj Mahal

I woke at an ungodly hour to touch the spiritual. 4:30! I complain about sleep a lot, yet you’ve got to understand. Cougars need their rest to prowl young boys at night.

I was the first tourist to arrive at the west gate, vaguely wondering if there weren’t many coming. Agra is a confused city. A jaunt down the street will tell you how. Merchant stalls, abandoned cars, a pile of tires, then a HOTEL! Off to the side, in an alley, usually fashioned from a smelly apartment building about to be condemned. That’s Agra.

So, I hadn’t seen any foreigners.

Only thing worth snapping before dawn

By 6:15, the ticket window opened. I peered behind me and there they were. Foreigners multiplying like a locust hive.

Ticket prices are not budget-minded. 750

March 22nd, 2011|Categories: Agra|Tags: , , , , , , |31 Comments

Holi is About People, Not Place

Holi started with an invitation and ended with a laugh.

I knew there was something special about Viral and Nupur when I observed them on the train to Agra.

At first, they fooled me — he wore western clothes, a typical t-shirt and pants that an avid hiker might choose. Her salwar sung with earth tones, an array of colors for the human eye to feast on. I filed them away as a typical Indian couple.

Nupur, her father & Virul (camera smudged with Holi goodness)

Then they touched, a tender caress that only two people in love could conjure, a rarity between husband and wife in India.  They laughed — gently teasing each other. What I saw were two equals in intelligence and mutual respect.

We began sharing stories during the three-hour train journey, allowing time to melt to nothing. This primed me up — nothing is more fun than learning about someone in a certain place or time.

Their story? They married last June — an arranged one  — yet they discovered kindred spirits, falling for each other quickly. She also kept her last name. Both work for American companies, live in Bengaluru, and traveled to Russia last year for part business, part honeymoon. More importantly, they invited me to spend Holi with them. Agra is Nupur’s childhood home. Double score!

I’ll admit it, Agra was the last place I wanted to spend Holi. It seemed a lonely place to mark a festival. Since volunteering, I’ve felt spent. Even slightly lost on what to do with myself.

But a smile, an invitation, can alter your feelings about wandering for the sake of wandering.

March 20th, 2011|Categories: Agra, Culture|Tags: , , , , |15 Comments