INJA SOJOURN 2 (TAJ)

IMG_0639So I had this cutesy little Taj Mahal blog all planned in my head about how we are indebted to India for such great words as “Bungalow” “Pajama” and Gunga Din (isn’t he clever and erudite?) plus some snarky remarks about the melodramatic story of its construction. However, all my smirk disappeared when we got there yesterday on a morning so foggy you couldn’t see the building at the end of the reflecting pool. Even our intrepid guide, Shiraz, (no, the driver was not named chardonnay.) couldn’t make it lift. This is not just the story of how a bereaved 17th century prince built an overelaborate tomb for his deceased beloved. They had a 20+ year marriage during which she had 14 pregnancies and 7 surviving children. One reason given for the iinfant-survival problems was that she insisted on accompanying her husband on his military campaigns. She finally died giving birth to #14. The Prince/Mogul grieved for a couple of years, then fulfilled her dying wish for a nice burial site by enlisting craftspeople, architects, and artisans from all over the known world. And the laborers weren’t, much to my surprise, slaves.

IMG_0634_2I know I’m going to get details wrong, but the basic fact is that these uncountable tons of marble (transported over 200 miles to the site) rest on floating ebony pillars, which in turn stand in “wells” whose walls are set in bedrock. A constantly self-leveling, gentle, foundation. 22 years of gentle chiseling grooved out channels for onyx, carnelian, jade, jasper and other semi-precious stones to form elaborate designs and Koranic script. Unfortunately, pictures were mostly forbidden of this stuff, so you need to see for yourself.

On our day yesterday, The fog did lift and we got a breathtaking eyeful of this marvel whose impact I can’t even begin to describe. Well-worth the “side-trip” we took to to see it. It’s not just a big building with a reflecting pool. Ask Barack if you don’t believe us. He’ll be here later in the month. I hope he doesn’t wear one of these silly caps like the tour group pictured below.

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The bereft prince’s tale didn’t end with the completion of the tomb, however. One of his sons accused him of misuse of public funds and imprisoned him in the tower of Fort Agra, a 16th century hulk across the river, where he spent his last days in a luxurious prison of maybe 1000 square feet with a view of his beloved’s tomb in the distance. They played him music and fed him plenty of opium till he expired. His daughter (that 14th child) saw to it that he was laid beside her mother and there they both reside for the likes of us to come from around the world to see.

 

INJA SOJOURN 1

Hi, Janet, Hi, Samantha.  Love to you.

FullSizeRenderHere we are with buffalo in the lobby of Delhi’s LaLit hotel at about 11:30 pm local time on Jan 2. Who knows what time our time. We’re told we’re 13 hours ahead of Pacific time if that interests you. Smooth and interesting 28 hours all in all. Weird to say, but true enough even for a pair of newly-minted 73-yr.-olds. We’re here on schedule and ready to roar like a pair of Bengal Tigers.

Next day, a rainy and foggy 5-hour drive from Delhi to Agra. Fertile and varied landscape on the way. The thatched hut in the picture is used for drying mustard seeds (see field off to the right? Take my word, I guess) IMG_0771There were many, many 6-7 story chimneys (no good pics)—kilns for drying cinder blocks, apparently. As we saw in Turkey, lots of half-finished buildings, rebar thrusting toward the sky, waiting for money to tack on a couple of more stories. Lots of soybeans (I think that’s what they are) and more than a few roosting vultures. (Hey, someone has to eat some meat some time.)

We got a glance at what the end of net-neutrality might look like. Our nice toll-road freeway, bounded by dirt tracks on either side for peasants and livestock. Behold the future of the 1% and the rest of us.

All the accents make it a little like living in the land of tech support where everyone’s speaking English, but not quite the same language after all.

IMG_0816IMG_0806Once in Agra, we saw a bit of that crushing poverty for which India is so famous and which, according to our conversations, sends many visitors in other directions. And this is certainly not the worst of it. Yes, we saw, tin shacks and garbage and cattle in the streets and pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, vans, and busses elbow-to-elbow. I even crossed one of the swarming streets, our driver at my elbow for safety, to get to an IMG_0799ATM. And yes, it’s unpleasant and hard to reconcile the squalor when we all have so much. But then, it’s hard to reconcile it all when you see the panhandler on the corner a few blocks from our nice house. Beats me how to put it all together. Even Hollywood’s cash couldn’t pull the Slumdog millionaire kids out of the morass. But it’s all part of us, like it or not—and we sure don’t—but maybe if we spend some money and try to talk to some people and learn their names it might make a difference. Or maybe not.

 

 

 

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Next picture is our arrival at our grand hotel Jaypee Residency Manorwith its glorious Jaypee residency manor with its great rooms and luxurious grounds. See us with our driver, Sattee, who saved my life, and our buddies, George and Joanna. Tomorrow, the Taj, then back to Delhi for night there before our flight to Chennai to join the tour we actually signed up for.IMG_0619