Goosebumps were popping up my skin like rabid whack-a-moles, my teeth clattering and nearly shattering from my body trembling. It wasn’t so much Stephen King’s beast that was causing this reaction; it was the cold of Northern India at 6 am. I wasn’t entirely sure whether my weeks in the much warmer southern parts was making everything seem much more dreadful and meaningless.
Method of arrival: Bus (what else?)
In winter-time, the North is continuously plagued by thick mists (which cause delays for buses as well as for flights, with many flights from Delhi being cancelled), with many places that offer accommodation totally unprepared for the cold. There was no heating in my room and the blanket was made out a unique material that made sure no warmth was kept in my body.
On the bright side, no one was queuing to enter the Taj Mahal as soon as it opened (which is normally advisable, as later in the day too many tourists come in. It really is a place – well, I guess this applies to every single thing in this world – that is more enjoyable if you are alone).
On the misty side, I couldn’t see one thing and decided to wait a few hours in the cold until the fog lifted.
In all honesty though, I don’t think I regret it being so misty.
All the big, popular attractions on the world create a distorted version of how they really are in one’s mind: countless friends have confirmed to me (as well as myself) that they had quite different expectations of Piccadilly, Sydney Opera House and all the sorts. They seem so grand in the books that you expect these mammoths of buildings, which they aren’t.
The fog added a sense of surreal to the picture – it made it different from the constant flood of Taj Majal pictures on the internet. It was different, more magical in a certain way. The guard towers with the armed personnel made me feel a bit like in the new Tomb Raider to be honest.
The Taj, in case you have been living under a rock for most of your life, is a mausoleum (please don’t ask what a mausoleum is) built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife (yeah, polygamy was a thing here back then). The nicest part of the visit was when you get to go inside – luckily enough, again, I managed to get there with no one else around. There was a certain warmth inside, a fragile innocence to it all. The white marble glistened with what I like to believe is the love story of two people reverberating through eternity.
Then eternity came crashing down as a group of Indian tourist entered, loud, obnoxious and taking flash selfies everywhere. It felt as if I would have been in the Louvre and someone would take their wiener out and piss on the Mona Lisa. Arguably someone already did that – I have no idea why it’s such a popular painting.
On the ground of the Taj there were these white birds everywhere that perfectly embodied my feelings: cold, wet and miserable. Look at how they sit there, shrugging, looking completely hopeless and sad. Perfection.
The crowds were getting thicker, as opposite to the fog which was taking its sweet time. Eventually I decided not to wait any longer and headed out to grab a bite. The rest of Agra was similar to Jaipur – dirty, poor and ruined. Got lost in the bazaar trying to find a pair of sweatpants to warm my freezing lumbar region. Koreans everywhere – it was quite amusing.