By Isheeta Sanghi
Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Amritsar, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Mysore. That is the comprehensive list of cities that my friends and I visited last summer. It was a crazy trip, to say the least, not only because we crammed in Agra, Delhi, Amritsar and Jaipur into four days but also because of the lessons that were learned along the way.
After the 1:35 AM American Airlines flight landed into the thick, hot Delhi July air, my friends and I made out way to our hotel where we were supposed to stay for our ‘North Indian’ leg of the journey. And at six thirty sharp we were off on a bus to Agra.
After our 4 hour bus ride we arrived in the city of Agra, or Agrabah as I so fondly like to refer to it (note- Aladdin.) I think the Taj Tea ads say it best ‘Vah Taj.’ Honestly, no picture or painting will ever be able to capture the true beauty of the Taj Mahal. The story behind it leaves us breathless, that a man would be able to construct such a magnificent monument in honor of the love of his life. It still sends shivers down my spine thinking about how much he must have loved her. I’ll go so far as to say that visiting it gives me hope that maybe that kind of love really does exist in the world.
When we got off the bus, our tour guide informed us that the fee for Indian nationals was 20 Rupees. But, get this, for foreign nationals the fee was 750 Rupees. Minor fork in the road since I had told my dear friends that 500 Rupees should be enough, for both of them. Luckily I had enough cash on me, so that solved the problem of getting in. What it didn’t solve was the question of where exactly all that money goes.
The government doesn’t even seem to realize the true importance or beauty of the Taj until an event like the ‘Renaming of the Seven Wonders of the World’ is just around the bend, and then they begin to think about preserving India’s ‘culture and history.’ It’s true for many things in India though, the ‘wait till the last minute’ or the ‘dekha jayega’ attitude.
Despite the fact that there is little to no upkeep of these attractions, they remain beautiful. You begin to fill in and imagine the Maharanis all dressed up in the most beautiful clothes waiting for the Maharaja to appear on his horse, as they stand looking from the quilted veranda. If you listen carefully you and hear them singing in joy when they receive the message that he is soon to arrive, you can even hear their anklets chime softly. You begin to imagine the pain that Shah Jehan must have felt when his son imprisoned him to a room where he could oversee the Taj Mahal- yet never enter it or touch it. You begin to wonder how exactly it was that centuries ago people erected the Qutab Minar without heavy machinery. It’s simply amazing. I am a history buff, and living in India and observing the history has been spectacular.
What I really appreciated about my trip last summer was the fact that I was able to escape from the confines of my own home and really get out and adventure into India. I think when you visit India from the States, you don’t really get to explore India and see it in its natural beauty. We’re sheltered by our relatives and loved ones, and usually get around in a chauffeured car. We only visit the places that our parents visited, eat at the places where our parents ate at, and shop at the places they enjoyed shopping at. The best way to see India is the way the masses see it, in an auto, by train or by moped. All of which, I’m proud to say, I have done. I remember taking the night train from Mumbai to Goa, and it was truly one of the most beautiful train rides. I woke up really early in the morning and went out to the connecting area opened the door and took in a nice big breath of fresh air. I stood there for a while just looking at the beautiful terrain. The lush green shades were amazing; I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that in my life, nor ever will see anything like it anywhere else in the world.
What I realized really though was that India is made out to be a much scarier place than it really is. I think sometimes our loved ones sort of hinder our outlook towards India. They make it out to be a place that is unsafe (especially the cities.) It really isn’t though, sure you have to watch out and be more alert but you have to do that anywhere that you live. Most of the people stare, but that’s about it, they’re not interested in anything else. They have their own lives to get back to, and their own families whom they love. It’s our own false pretense that we believe that they are out to harm us. It’s taken me a while to understand this, but now that I have, life has become much better all around. I say hi to the children that live in the area and on Holi they were sweet enough to come by and put a ‘tika’ on my forehead. This is the true magic of India, making friends of all kinds, and forming relationships that you would never have imagined you would one day form.