Agra for all
What can be said about a place which resides in poetry… which every Indian who can afford has visited at least once in life.
Fortunately for me this was the second time. When I left for Agra I wanted to leave some things behind; I wasn’t expecting much. The bus was not quite what I had expected. But the crowd was an odd mix - an Assamese family, a Belgian, a Korean, two Moslems, two unclassifiable could-be-any-bodies and Bahadur & me.
I realized yet again that looks are so deceptive. The person you believe is the most sensible of the lot often turns out to be the least. The Belgian who looked completely self-possessed chose to pile on with us without any rhyme or reason. And by the time she got our message the journey was over.
In the beginning the journey seemed to drag; our first stop was for breakfast at an over priced restaurant. Hogged on chicken cutlets and utterly unnecessary bread toasts. The bill was so much that it happened to be more than the lunch and the dinner bill. Couldn’t help myself from wrapping the leftover cutlet in a tissue paper and putting it quietly into my bag ;o) Good thing the place had a swing …made optimum use of the time I had in hand. And surprise of surprises no one came to say that the swing was meant for kids under 12.
It was almost 1 pm when we reached Agra…first stop was Agra Fort…2 kms of area open to visitors and only 35 mins to cover it. In spite of this I seemed to be the only person finding it a grave injustice. I tried to salvage whatever was possible in that short span of time that too with the Belgian tied to our tails...she needed translations of what the guide had told, every sentence we were talking in Hindi & every sentence we were talking in English, not once but at least thrice. To top it all she was paranoid the bus would leave us stranded.
Punctual that I am, I reached on the stipulated time but the rest of the lot didn’t seem as obliged. The Belgian was busy cracking jokes on ‘Indian standard time’ while I was lamenting the fact that I can’t differentiate between the diwan-e-aam & the diwan-e-khaas and also because I couldn’t spend more time there.
Next stop was for lunch. Some more commission into the dear driver & guide’s pocket. Food & bill both were fine this time. I won’t tell you anything about the amazingly clean loo. Lunch done the journey once again began in earnest. Our dear guide began an elaborate speech on the mini Taj Mahal, built by the UP Govt by the descendents of the aboriginal artisans of the Taj Mahal. He was also quick to add we shouldn’t shop on the roads as the stuff sold there is not made of authentic marble. After such a prologue our expectations were sadly mocked when we discovered the mini Taj Mahal was just another art & craft shop and not even a govt authorized one. So shocked were some of the visitors that they never realized they were being duped.
I and my Bahandur performed the infamous fuming walk out post which the dear guide & driver were perennially sour faced. Once outside we recovered our spirits by taking some pics. But here too the Belgian appeared.
At Taj Mahal we managed to give the Belgian a slip. Later on she said that Taj Mahal was quite an experience for her, better than the other wonders of the world. What a proud moment it was for me.
There too I got some real nice pics, beginning to think of myself as a budding photographer… (trying to humor myself). As Taj got dressed in the evening and the aroma of a distant “Budham Sharnam Bhikshamdi” wafted into our minds I rediscovered the charms of the evergreen song. There gazing at Yamuna and a flock of cranes we enjoyed few quite moments. For once the idealist in me prevailed and I declared this to be a great example of unity in diversity. In contradiction, Bahadur argued that this is actually propaganda.
After dozing for about an hour and half we reached Mathura. As is the case with every temple visit, I was in two minds whether to enter the temple or not. In the end purely with a tourist instinct that I might miss something I decided to enter the temple. There was nothing much to do or see inside except see devotees in different stages of madness. When we came outside the temple we found that Bahadur’s pretty white sandals were missing. We made a valiant attempt to buy a new pair but couldn’t find a shop. Finally when it came down to either sashaying on cow dung or stealing someone else’s pair Bahadur’s good sense prevailed. She chose a not so attractive pair of slippers…and we left the place thinking something about poetic justice ;)
On the way to Vrindavan a new guide cum pandit came on board complete with a Brahmin ka chotti. He was good orator and pretty convincing one too, won’t go into the details of his sermon. While he gave a lot of info about Lord Krishna and unlike the previous crude guide even at the end of his speech there was no reason to doubt his intentions.
He took us through various gullies to a shady temple…I m still researching to find out whether this was really the main temple. What we found there further reinforced our belief that tourism is in fact fast becoming organized crime. From the guide to the pujari at the temple everyone was busy emotionally blackmailing people. The guide solemnized “purify yourself with the tap water (which he claimed was from Yamuna) because you are coming directly from the Taj Mahal”. Yet another intolerant speech “Mughal Emperor Auranzeb’s pride was broken when a temple was built here”. Like it or not I sulked through the entire episode with folded hands while all the while my mind was screaming hypocrite! hypocrite! Who was I trying to please? Even mom wasn’t around :D
The pujaris, “pay Rs 1000 and your parents will become immortal” was the last straw. What my inconsistant beliefs couldn’t do the threat to my precious money did…lol.. There was a second walk out, this time from the temple. I cursed myself for being part of this hypocritical mono-act. I really envied the two Moslem guys and the Belgian who decided to stay back in the bus.
Outside I had a glass of rabri garnished with pure ghee outside our bus. The bus finally reached Delhi around 2 in the morn…the next day despite everything I was very happy. :D I am so confused. Must have been the Taj …