13 August 2009
(26) Comment(s) (25)
Posted By joseph
We set off from the Jal Mahal in Jaipur at 2PM yesterday in the manner of a seasoned road-tripper. 228kms to go to the Taj, and 4 hrs and 30 mins for the ticket counters to close. 228kms in 270mins, very manageable indeed but our travails in Surat (the blocked bridge) and Jodhpur (the people’s march to Baba Ramdevji’s mandir clogs up the highways), got us worried whether we’ll make it in time or not. When you have this friendly beast of a car with you, most highways turn to expressways, and backroads to race tracks. It has been 2000+kms in the Cedia so far, but that is a love story for another day.
The drive to Agra from Jaipur takes you across a wonderful stretch from approx 30kms outside Jaipur till you reach Bharatpur. The last stretch to Agra is a pain though with no divider on the highway and lorries criss-crossing all the way. It was on this road that we found ourselves beating the clock at 6PM with 30 mins to go, I zigzagged the lanes beating autos, rickshaws, a host of 2-wheelers, and a lot of humans. Of course, the GogoIndia GPS gave up on us some 50kms before we entered Agra itself and we had to fend for ourselves in this maze of streets. The red Taj Gateway Signs were the easiest to follow till the Agra Municipal corp puts up huge posts saying “Taj Mahal 7kms” and so on. As Namrata zoomed in on one of the signs, I realized that it had been exactly 20hrs since I last charged my SLR. My worst fears had come true - we were left with only 9% battery charge, only 6kms from the Taj Mahal.
At 611PM, we parked the shining black beauty in the parking lot 1.5kms away from the Taj Mahal. From there, it was a short ride in an electric vehicle (Rs.50) before we reached the doors of the Taj at 618PM.
I love you.
August 12, 2009. Day 6 of the Great Driving Challenge. My first ever meeting with the eternal monument of love, one of the seven wonders of the world and a photographer’s dream. Here I was with 9% of battery left in my SLR and the light fading fast.
We entered the majestic East Gate and walked through the green avenues to reach the Buland Darwaza on our right. The Taj was getting closer and I could see her peeking through the arched gateways. As Namrata tried to distract me to ensure I get a proper first view, I did something I rarely do.
I switched off my camera.
It has been 6 days into this madness called the Great Driving Challenge and every photo I have taken still tells a story to me, but I wanted these first few minutes with this legendary place to be special. No compositions, no f-stops, no ISO…just me and the soul of the place. The photographs would have to wait. We turned right into the massive gateway of Buland Darwaza and there she was.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan (The King of the World) in memory of the love of his life - Mumtaz Mahal. The sweet pleasure of ascending the throne in 1628 lasted only 3 years for Shah Jahan, in 1631 the bitterness of Mumtaz’s death engulfed the emperor. Most people reading this post would know more than me about the stories of the Taj. So honestly it is time to talk about my first time.
The evening air in Agra was humid and there was only a slight breeze flowing through. There I stood, on the elevated platform on the exit of the Buland Darwaza looking at her in all her splendour. The bluish-magenta hues of the evening skies were the perfect backdrop to the surreal perfection of the white marble. When you see something for so many years in so many photos, you can’t really take in the magnitude of what you are seeing for a few minutes. At first sight, the Taj looked like a photograph to me - a really BIG one but a photo nonetheless.
The sun was slipping below the horizon as we started walking towards the Taj, I caught the reflections of the beauty in the water ripples. This was real, I was here. We slipped off our shoes, took the token from affable shoe-boy and a few steps later, we were on the marbled floor of main mausoleum. The floor was cool to the touch and there was love in the air - the hushed conversations of hundreds of visitors, the smiles on the faces of couples posing in front of the timeless beauty, the slow walks with hands held together and fingers intertwined, a hand around a waist and a head on a shoulder.
Flashes went off, cameras went click-click as people posed as kick-boxers, pointed fingers, folded arms or just stood smiling. Everyone trying to capture a memory of a place which has been around for the better part of four centuries and continues to enthrall visitors.
For me, it was just pure love. Every face I saw reflected the same emotion. Every angle of the Taj was perfection in architecture. Every single carving perfectly restored and maintained. And every corner told a story, if you’re willing to listen.
We returned to pick up our shoes, I took out the token and smiled to myself looking at the number. Token #143. 143, or I love you. Cheesy as hell, but so apt as well.
An evening spent taking only a few photos but an experience I’ll remember for a long time to come. Hopefully, the next time I won’t be single when I walk in those gates. (The Cedia should really be able to enter in with me!)
PS: I did not really switch off my camera. I used that 9% for a few shots for all you image-crazy folks! :D
The rippling reflections
Heartbreaker at the Taj!
Can’t take my eyes off you
Inspired by GDC!
The Yamuna river
Tired feet on cold marble
Namrata was here.
Find where Joseph and Namrata are heading
For advanced tracking Click Here
Namrata and Joseph, Bombay-ite and Hyderabadi, implore all you interesting, smart, cute and sexy people reading this to please, pleeez follow us !
Fresh out of college, we were thrown into the dust bowls of U.P and the jungles of M.P. Sneaky trainees that we were, we took full advantage of the available resources to explore. Whether the pine trees of Almora or the ruins of Khajuraho, a Bhojpuri film shoot or some gun-laden, mustachioed dudes in the Chambal areas of Bhind - our travels always had added flavor!