With a short weekend to spare,I left my passport at the India Consulate for two days and collected it with a big Chelsea Cat grin on my face. I was about to visit the grand Taj Mahal, regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. I had already visited six out of the eight wonders, with only The Taj Mahal in Agra and the Mayan civilisation in Mexico to go. It was a direct flight to New Delhi followed by a four-hour car ride to Agra. I stayed about an hour and half taking snapshots of the majestic tomb. The Taj Mahal always appeared so pristine and mystical on postcards but with so many tourists all around me, the beauty of the monument really did not take to me. There is a scene in the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ where thousands of shoes are seen piled up outside the Taj Mahal. It is exactly like this. I would have liked to say I was not disappointed, but I truly was. It was a wonder of the world after all so maybe I expected more. Perhaps I should have come early at dawn, when the tourists were few and that the palace apparently turns a pale pink with the rays of the early sun upon its white marbled tiles. The story and history was quite interesting though.
The grand Taj Mahal was built by an emperor named Sahah Jahan as a tomb, for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal as a declaration of his immense love for her. It is located on the banks of the Yamuna River which took twenty-two years to complete with an estimated 20,000 workers. Centered in the heart of the structure is a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal. The entire plan of the Taj Mahal is symmetrical,with one exception the tomb for Sahah Jahan which was added much later. Both tombs lay desolate as the bodies of the two are buried in a crypt below the building. Sahah Jahan was imprisoned in the Red Fort within sight of the Taj Mahal by his own son. Some believe he had gone mad as he wanted to build a replica of the Taj Mahal in black right opposite the banks. He was forced to spend the last eight years of his life in prison till his death in 1666. I had seen a great patch of land that looked plowed but there remains no evidence that this intention ever took place. It would have been great to see a black version, but I guess that would be left to the imagination.
After a 360 degree tour around, I felt the hunger pangs set in so I headed out of this crowded wonder of the world to a crowded restaurant. I had always defined a venue I have never been to before by the amount of customers that was dining inside. This particular one was packed. Although it was probably due to the fact of its location rather than the food. I knew not to eat raw salads or fruits while I was there and only drink bottled water. Cooked food was what I set out to eat so when the tantalising smell of mutton curry reached my nostrils, I really couldn’t say no. It was cooked after all. I had to try the curry in India just had to satiate my palette.
I devoured the whole dish not leaving much to the flies that was swirling around me. I did recall tasting the meat and wondering at the taste of the mutton. In my thoughts and justification, the local herbs here must have been the culprit. After the entire length of the journey it takes to get back to New Delhi , just seconds upon reaching the hotel from another tumultuous four-hour car ride( it takes approximate 4 hours for food poisoning to fully take effect), I politely regurgitated out from the car window. I say politely. The driver of the vehicle would have begged to differ. Needless to say he got a good tip that night.
I proceeded to ‘politely regurgitate‘ another four times that night. When the next day rolled around I felt weak and almost completely depleted. After a struggle, I headed to Connault Drive and the markets to briefly visit the city centre before flying out of this city. The adrenaline of visiting a new place always takes over.
I had arrived back to my hotel and switched on the television. As I scanned the channels, a reporter was reporting the latest New Delhi bombings that took place. Apparently a man had dropped a package to the ground from his motor bike and sped away. Unbeknownst to the little boy who ran after the man to return his belongings, the parcel exploded in his arms and killed everyone around him. It happened hours after I left that area while I was perusing the streets. After a quick check on my wristwatch, with merely a few hours left I think I was ready to go to the airport and fly home.