Monday, October 16, 2006

A perfect picture

I didn't really want to get out of bed; 5:00am seems like an unnatural time to wake up.

With a throbbing headache I quickly got dressed and went by taxi to New Delhi railway station to catch the Shabarti express to Agra.

Agra is an old industrial city located about 200 kilometers from Delhi and situated within Indian's most populist state Uttar Pradesh. It used to be the most important city in India when Babur a Mungal leader established the city as the capital of his empire in the 16th Century.

The city now trades off it's past glories and the fact it is home to India’s most photographed monument, the Taj Mahal.

Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife who died giving birth to their 14th child, it is a reminder of what is possible when you love.

With blue sky overhead, I jumped into my Ambassador Classic a car made in Calcutta in the style of a 1960’s Holden, complete with fins and lots of chrome.

My driver took me to the west gate and I had no idea that is was actually the place where the Taj stood, as in the 1990’s the government decreed a 4 kilometer buffer zone be placed around the Taj in an attempt to slow the discoloration occurring as a result of carbon monoxide pollution.

In searing heat I walked to another gate passing monkeys, donkeys and cows, where I was forced to go through a series of security checks and cloak everything but my money, camera passport and water.

With my first glimpse of the Taj I was instantly impressed, the white minuets glowed against the cobalt sky.

I had to pinch myself to actually believe that I was there. For me that was the best part, the culmination of years of dreaming realized symbolically by standing in front of one of the modern wonders of the world.

Don’t get me wrong, the construction is extraordinary, intricately inlayed with precious stones and exquisitely carved, it is an amazing achievement.

The Taj takes a nice photo too and it is hard to actually take a bad picture of it but it does not leave you spellbound. I did not grasp for air after or during my perusal, I felt like I was in the India of my dreams with the photo to prove it. Because the Taj photographs so well and because we all know the image so intimatley the real excitement of being there is the feeling of accomplishment one receives when you realise that you survived the journey.

Going to the Taj felt like it has allowed e to tick the box on my itinerary that said India because before I went there I thought that excursion to be the most Indian of things, how silly I was.

After wandering around for a short while, allowing my feet to feel the cool marble underneath and letting my fingers slide over the Taj’s curvaceous exterior I went to sit on the grass and to look and admire.

Soon what started with child requesting my photo turned into bedlam and I quickley became the second most photographed thing in India, with 100 or more people queuing for my picture and autograph. For one hour I was hounded and I posed and joked with my fans.

Who or what they though I was are another of life’s little mysteries thrown at me by India.

As boys blushed and girls giggled I smiled on the inside, comfortable at being there, realising that the best thing about going to Taj is it allows you to see past the hype and appreciate the real Indi, a country filled with of old bazaars, never ending lines, colour and joy.

1 comment:

Sophie Alize said...

That is hilariours kathryn!! MAybe they thought you were Julia Roberts?!I have loved reading your blogs and love love your photographs! I think you need to switch industries and become a photographer for National Geographic - seriously! Sounds like you are discovering the real essence of India, the real essense of travelling, the real essence of KP. Luv Soph xxx