I went down to mommas and Anu's room and waited while they got ready. Momma had made some purchases in Ajmer the day before and was very excited to show me what she had bought. She was especially excited about this satin pink and red bedspread she had bought for Shazia's impending nuptials. It wasn't quite my taste, but I oohed and aahed anyway. Shazia and Sabah showed up about 20 minutes later and then we were off! Our driver was waiting outside for us, and the sky started to change colour as the sun came up. I felt a surge of excitement and felt again very honoured to be able to join this family on the trip to the Taj. We had a really nice drive- we were all very much awake with excitement and they were all dying to find out information about me and my life in Canada. I told them all the Hindi I had learned to date (not very much really!!) and they were keen to teach me more. I managed to learn numbers 11 - 20 on the trip, so I can now count to 20 in Hindi! Momma asked me to sing a song for them so I croaked out "O Canada" and then she sang some lovely traditional Hindi songs. The driver swerved sharply at one point and swore loudly. Shazia asked him what was wrong, and he pulled over on the shoulder, turned the car around and then drove back in the direction that we had just come from (and driving on the WRONG side of the highway. *sigh*). He once again pulled over on the shoulder and we saw a massive brown snake lying on the already heated pavement. It was HUGE!!! We all gotoutto take pictures...and then we realized that it was a 2 headed snake! It had a head on both ends of the body!! So WIERD! Some men working nearby came to over to see what we were all looking at and picked up the snake in the middle of its body. We all screamed ( I think I screamed the loudest...don't know why as I am not afraid of snakes) and they all started to laugh. We got back in the car and started driving again. We made it to Agra in about 4 hours. The second that we parked and gotoutof the car, the hassling began. Shazia handled it really well and arranged for us to get a rickshaw up to the main gate. Sabah was dying to ride a camel up to the gate, but the prices were very inflated and we all wanted to get going. I paid 750 rupees ($20) to get in while as a foreigner, but the girls all got in for 20 rupees. We made our way to the entrance, and then we saw the gleaming white marble. I got realy excited and a bit emotional as I have always wanted to see the Taj and here I finally was. We all walked through the gate in silence and then stood in wonder once we got through. The Taj is everything that you have ever pictured it to be. It stands on a pedestal so that the background is only sky. 4 red gates flank its sides, each one as regal as the next. It was very busy for a Tuesday so we had to move away from the gate quickly so thatothers could have a moment capturing the beauty. We took loads and loads of pictures, and momma kept on getting in trouble from the impatient girls who wanted to go inside. The heat was searing at midday and I was suddenly glad that Ileft my salwar kamis at home and opted for my short sleeved and cotton dress. As were were walking up the steps to go inside, Shazia pulled me back and said that she wanted to speak with me. She told me that she has a boyfriend in America who is Indian and that they wanted to marry each other. The problem was that he is a Christian, and Shazia's family are very strict Muslims. Shazia approached her family 1 year ago to try to convince them, and her parents both refused and forbade her to ever speak to him again. They had met in India when she was doing her MBA and they quickly became friends. He would come o the house and hang out withthe whole family, and momma actually really liked him. But once Shazia talked to her about marying him, he was quickly denied and forgotten. Shazia is panicking as her family has found her a husband who is also from Bangalore but is living in Quatar and the family wants the wedding to happen later this year. Shazia had been accepted to work in the US but with the global economic crisis, the job was taken away and given to a US citizen. She told me that the plan was for her to go to the US, they would marry, and then they would tell her family. But now that she has lost that opportunity there was diminishing hope. She asked me for advice which I really could not give as I come from such a different world and in my life I can marry anyone from anyplace that I choose. I felt really sad forher, and I got quite choked up while talking to her about this. Shazia said that this reason was why she came to Ajmer as she wanted to go to the Mosque and pray.
We held hands for a moment and I told her that I would pray for her that her family will change their minds..so if anyone of you need someone else to pray for PLEASE pray for Shazia!
We spent about an hour roaming around the Taj and taking turns relaxing in the shade. The gleaming white marble stayed refreshingly cool in the blinding sunshine. On our way back to the car, we stopped at one of the shops and drank endless cups of chai while momma shopped for carpets, more bedspreads and jewelery for Shazia's wedding. I was convinced to buy a carpet as it was only 2500 rupees so now I have got to carry a carpet around for the rest of my journey (I may give it to Martin to putin his Spanish house..I really can't fathom carrying this around for another month and I just sent off a parcel home). We got back in the car and most of us fell asleep. I was absolutely fried from the sun and felt exhausted. We then drove for about 1/2 hour to this other must see in Agra- the Itmad-ud-Daulah. This was a better experience for me as it was not very busy, we reached it just before sunset, and the environment was very peaceful. The Itmad-ud-Daluah Tomb is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as 'jewel box', sometimes called the Baby Taj, the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah is often regarded as a "draft" of the Taj Mahal. It was absolutely breathtaking at sunset as the suns fading rays litup the red stone and turned it a burned scarlet colour. I got many photrographs which I will post once I get onto a better computer later on. the girls all went inside the mosque while I sat and enjoyed some men singing and playing tabla.
We stayed until dark and then we had an episode with our rickshaw driver (no surprises really) aboutpayment. I couldn't understand what was happening as it was all done in flying Hindi but Shazia was really really mad and upset. That was a very unfortunate way to end the day. But we allpiled back into the car and made the long journey home. We gothome by 10:30 pm and I wentoff to bed after saying a sad goodbye to new family in Bangalore. They left early the next morning, as did Penny so I am all alone in Jaipur! I'm off though to Delhi on Thursday where I willspent 1 night at my friend Charlot's flat before catching a flight to Bhubanshwar to meet up with Martin in Puri.
Hope all is well with you, I'll post the pics once I get to Puri!