After four days of driving through Rajasthan I had become as accustomed to the chaos of the roadways in India as anyone visiting India can be without years of near death experiences. I remember falling asleep on a highway from Jaipur to Agra, after a night of beers in my hotel room, and being astonished that I had fallen asleep in the car. I found that sleep came easier when I accepted the fact that high ways, although divided by barriers, were still two way streets on both sides of the barrier. Trucks, tuk-tuks, camels, and bicyclists wove through oncoming traffic with little concern. I was clearly the most concerned person on the road at all times. A nation of drivers who have painted break lights onto the back of massive trucks cares little for the finer points of western traffic management laws.
Regardless of how I arrived or the slowly unraveling mental state that I found myself in, after being blessed with enough lifetime flashback moments for a lifetime, I had been delivered safely to a city of smiles, food, heritage, and scenic points on par with any European city. The marathon site-seeing of a driven tour spanning 6 days was beginning to take a toll on my ability to focus on just how special of an opportunity I was in the middle of experiencing. That all changed when the Taj Mahal first came into site.
I truly believe that most of the “top” tourist destinations in the world are the product of marketing, but the Taj Mahal is something special. The building is stunning. A Google search will fill you in on history and architecture, but being there and seeing the site with the setting sun as a backdrop is without equal and no justice can be done by postcard sized photographs. A final tribute by a loving king, and a king completely disconnected with his people, is only the first treat that the site has to offer visitors. Seeing the excitement of local people as well as Indian citizens who have come from across their country to visit the world treasure is almost equally as amazing. Walking the grounds of the Taj Mahal visitors are able to see a microcosm of diversity in skin color, language, fashion, and manors.
A goodhearted nature is present in the vast majority of guests as I learned when young men from India asked for pictures with me wherever I went. In turn they allowed me to snap a photo of their groups as a keepsake for myself. I’ve kept the vast majority of these portraits for my own personal collection, but I have considered putting together a small collection as I assume my face has ended up on a few social media sites in India. All in good fun. There is more to Agra than the Taj Mahal and I have done my best to capture the spirit of the people who I traveled to similar sites with rather than the sites themselves.