Today I am going to see the Taj Mahal simply to take a photo of it for my grandmother. It’s the one place on Earth she has yet to see and I figured it was an easy stop for me since it’s halfway between Delhi and Banda.
Hussein dropped me off outside the gates of the Taj and I was happy to be free of him. I told him that I would get a rickshaw back to the train station when I was done here, good-bye, Hussein. I had to walk about a quarter mile to the entrance from where he dropped me off. It was another sweltering hot day but this time I had to carry my big backpack and my day pack so I was dripping with sweat by the time I reached the line for the tickets. As I waited in line, a friendly, young man asked me if I wanted him to guide me around. He showed me some arbitrary “tour guide” badge and assured me he was on staff as a guide. He also promised me that I wouldn’t have to wait in this long line if I hired him—sounds good to me, Bro. First thing he had me do was dump the big pack in a locker and I couldn’t be happier to do so. He also warned, “do not leave anything valuable in your pack, it might get stolen,” oh great, everything I currently possess is in that fricken pack….but I’m willing to take my chances since I will likely die of heatstroke if I keep it with me.
As we walked into the Taj gates it broke my heart to see all of the emaciated horses with open wounds pulling carts. I wanted to feed them and give them water—a little kindness for all of their hard work, I hate seeing animals suffer.
My guide went by the nickname “B” since most American’s can’t pronounce his name. He was a very laid back guy–very easy going and friendly. I liked him. He confessed that he was hung-over from drinking too much whiskey at a party last night. “Too much party” he said. Ha! Don’t worry, B, I was in my 20s once too…been there done that! This guy wasn’t lazy though, he said he woke up every morning early enough to tend to his family farm and sell produce at the market before coming to the Taj to be a tour guide. I figured he needed a little down time…who doesn’t? I think he was relieved that I didn’t care too much about learning all the details of the Taj…I was killing time and I already got grandma’s photo so I let him go early since I really didn’t need an escort. He took off and I went to find a cool place to have lunch and sit for a while.
Like I said before, the Taj is just a fancy tomb to me, I saw it—check; I took a picture for grandma—check; I sweat my ass off another day in India—check!
I had dozens of requests for my photo here, just like at the Red Fort in Delhi so I obliged with the request that I take a bunch of selfies in return, these make me smile. I am becoming a lot more comfortable with my surroundings, the people, learning the polite words and most of all loving the food (it’s beyond delicious).
I return to the Agra Cantt station hoping to confirm my seat on the train. My train leaves at 1900(ish) and arrives in Mohaba 0300 but I don’t have a seat assignment, only a general ticket. I’m told to wait, again. (Change 1, there are NO trains that stop in Banda so I must stop in Mohaba and catch a taxi to Banda.)
Flies, lots and lots of flies. As I wait, I sit in an air-conditioned section of the station surrounded by flies and the percussive snap of the steady SWAP! In vain, a man tries to quell the omnipresent pest—silly really…all they need are bats!
So far, my train is running so I should be out of here in less than an hour. It’s late (naturally) but that is ok, as long as it’s still expected. Just when I thought I was alone, Hussein shows up to bid me farewell. He is like a fucking fly and me without my swatter…
“Crystal, you hug me?” he asks with his arms outstretched, gross. “Good-bye, Hussein” I say as I lean in with a smile and a brief pat on the back like you would hug your great grandmother…gingerly and from a distance. Now, I am officially ready to depart Agra–forever.
Just when I thought I had a plan, I meet Yasen and everything changes…