Memories of India: Part Two

Claire Armstrong

The Taj Mahal and a close encounter with a large gun…

Our hotel in Agra was really near to the Taj Mahal itself (hidden behind a big wall though), so it was nice and quiet because no cars are allowed up there.  Unfortunately, that also meant there were roadblocks set up at various points, which got us into a spot of bother a bit later on…

We’d decided to go out for a walk round the city in the evening – and try to get a drink in one of the rooftop cafés that had a view of the Taj Mahal.  It was dark by this point, but it was a full moon, so we could still see it (just) silhouetted against the sky…

You can just about see it… if you squint!

We had a nice meal and a drink – lovely evening.  And then…

As we came back towards our hotel (at only about 9pm), we noticed loads of police at a  roadblock just before our hotel. We went up to them, and they wouldn’t let us back through.  Apparently this was because at full moon they do night time moonlit tours of the Taj Mahal… so you’re only allowed through with a ticket.  We explained our situation, showed them our hotel keys, pleaded with them… but after a few very frustrating minutes, we were simply turned away to find somewhere else to sleep for the night… while they all had a good old laugh about it.  They had guns – what could we do?

We wandered a bit aimlessly for a while, trying to work out what to do, and thankfully some kind strangers helped us out.  The people around who’d been selling postcards and souvenirs earlier in the day were now looking like they were settling down on the pavement for the night, and they’d overheard our conversation.  They called us over and told us that we were actually allowed through because we were foreigners – they said it’s only Indians who aren’t allowed through the roadblocks…  Unfair and confusing though that seemed, it gave us the confidence to have another go. We were tired, and getting pretty cross by now! So we marched back to the roadblock and pretty much just walked through, past the police with their guns, trying to act like we had every right to. Thankfully this was brazen enough behaviour to catch the attention of the senior police officer, who came over to deal with us directly.  He did, at last, agree to let us past.

It was all very nerve-wracking – I don’t think I’ve ever defied the police in my life, never mind ones with guns.  Not an experience I want to repeat!

Next morning hadn’t quite dawned by the time we got up, and at 6am sharp we headed back to the gates to the Taj Mahal.  Despite the mishap of the night before, it was just so exciting – we’d been staying just round the corner from it, and yet we still hadn’t seen it!

And I just can’t describe it – it was absolutely breathtaking.  The morning was pale yellow and misty and the building absolutely shone.  The whole thing looked… well, perfect.  I can safely say it was the most beautiful place I’d been to in my life.  It sent shivers up my spine.

The Taj Mahal glowing in the early morning sun
The compulsory tourist photo of Lisa, Sue and me, taken by a friendly stranger

It was hard to follow that, and although the next place we went (Fahtepur Sikri – once the capital of the Moghul Empire) was also beautiful and interesting, it did sort of fade into the background a bit.  Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to attempt anything else the same day as seeing the Taj Mahal!  Here are a couple of photos of it anyway!

Fatehpur Sikri – beautiful, just not quite as spectacular as the Taj Mahal!

The next stop would be Rajasthan, so off we went in our car again to head into the desert… more on that tomorrow.

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