Agra, page 2 of 5
After our second visit to the Taj we start a small walk towards the Agra Fort. It takes a bit more time than expected - standard - and it is again incredible hot. All the time people start talking to us: 'Where do you come from', 'Look here interesting shopping', 'Which country, which country' and so it goes on with not much variety. A young man walks up with us and starts the same questions, like many other touts he is quite concerned with our feelings, always the same questions must be boring and everybody wants something out of you. He is full of understanding for us and such a pity we cant meet some normal people to give us an impression of how India really is and so on and so on. He is a social worker and he is really interested in talking with us.
Our new friend seems quite harmless and after 1 kilometer walking we stop worrying about him. He asks a lot of questions, like all Indians do. How exactly is our traveling plan, how many more days over here and do we intend to come back here after Nepal and so on. But we dont mind, he is telling us a lot too and at last it seems we met somebody who is not primarily interested in selling something to us. When we arrive at the Agra Fort he invites us to visit his home this evening and he really urges us to come, his mother and sister will be terrible disappointed if we dont! After some hesitations Jac and I agree, we both feel not completely comfortable but we have to try this, otherwise well always ask ourselves if we missed the opportunity to meet some friendly well meaning Indians.
We walk towards the Agra Fort, which is as impressing as the Red Fort in Delhi. In fact it quite resembles the Red Fort, not surprisingly since it is built by the same persons that built the Red Fort: the start was made by Emperor Akbar in 1565 and his grandson, our Shah Jahan finished it. Of course we had to deal again with a lot of service-providers, but by now we are most of the time able to answer reasonable polite, meanwhile focussing all our attention at the magnificent walls of the Agra Fort. Some helpful Indians show us that we can watch the Taj Mahal from here and when we arrive inside the Fort, we find a perfect place to watch the Taj Mahal. From our LP guide we learn that poor Shah Jahan did exactly the same, only he spent a considerable larger amount of time on this activity, namely 7 years.
Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his own son. Or rather by one of his four sons, who is said to have killed the others and for certain put his father away in the Musamman Burj (octagonal tower) inside the Agra Fort. So Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort he built himself to watch the Taj Mahal he also built himself. This seems rather cruel, but of course we have to take into account that the son must have worried quite a lot about all this very expensive buildings and anyway, we also put our parents away in much less nicely built homes with much worse service to quietly spent the remaining of their lives. Of course normally we dont first murder our brothers, Ill admit that.
We feel very sorry for Shah Jahan, especially when we hear that he seemed to have had even more plans to built extremely beautiful buildings. He wanted to finish his Taj-Mahal-Heaven-On-Earth-Plan by building a mirror image of the Taj on the opposite side of the river, and his plan was to use black marble in stead of all the white. Fantastic, but very difficult to accomplish because he couldnt find the black marble. It was of course not one of those moderate ideas, so maybe his son was worrying if there would be any money left for him if he let his father get on with this? But this is pure speculation and Im entirely responsible for all this nonsense.
We enjoyed the Agra Fort with its enormous walls and its delicate palaces inside, and we took our time to inhale the atmosphere of long ago within this cool marble rooms and terraces. They knew how to built a kind of windows of marble, very fine marble latticework with many tiny openings shaped in such a way, that even the smallest bit of wind would pass through it. When you put your hand against one of these marble windows, you notice that it feels remarkable cool, while everything around is steamingly hot. An outstanding practical understanding of aerodynamics!
We leave the fort in the first auto riksja that wants to take us for a very reasonable price. The driver starts his motor while singing Dont worry, be happy which sounds fine to us. Only, after driving about one mile he stops his song and his motor and he announces that we can make him happy by doing some little shopping while he has to go and take some petrol anyway. It will only take us 5 minutes and he will earn some money, we dont have to buy anything! Im quite bored with this kind of thing and Jacques also likes to stick to his principles, even if this involves walking quite a distance in the still very hot sun in stead of drinking beers in our cool hotel garden next to the pool. I wont disturb you with any more details (but there were plenty, I assure you). The only thought that consoles us is how much we are contributing now to improve the air in Agra, which is really terrible as a direct consequence of industries without much regulations and of all this two-stroke auto riksjas.