In The Shadow Of Taj
I see myself now. I am standing amidst sighs of exclamations and soft footsteps, my breath surprisingly audible from beneath the odd electro-mechanical clicks of cameras. My vision pricked by the bright flashes pouring synergistically from all directions, almost.
I am standing in the shadow of the Taj.
First experience fading mildly, I realize the ache in my neck long after it has been there, and the continuous shuffle, which I did not notice till now. I move ahead to give others a space of their own and relocate to a place from where I could see the Taj with minimal interruptions, trying repeatedly to evade the numerous cameras’ line-of-sights, aimed to capture memorable pictures of couples in love, happy families and small children trying to hold the monument from the its top or one of its minaret. I see extraordinarily happy people around me.
Where do I belong, the thought comes to me as randomly as the thought itself is. Do I deserve to be in this heaven? I found comfort in the words of Emperor Shah Jahan:
"Should guilty seek asylum here, Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin. Should a sinner make his way to this mansion, All his past sins are to be washed away. The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes. In this world this edifice has been made; To display thereby the creator's glory"
I feel out of place here since this was not what I had expected. Of all the things I have ever seen or experienced, I always thought that the Taj is going to be the least surprising since I have seen it so many times in pictures or on television. I knew what it looked like, in and out. But that is the sheer surprise when you enter from one of the three gates that wall the Taj. No picture can do justice to the beauty of the Taj – immense and beautiful; something a picture or a video has forever failed to capture.
I stood mesmerized for hours and in the process, marveled at the Taj changing colors amidst the setting sun – white to blue to pink, with a touch of translucent green thrown in. The sun went down and the Taj metamorphosed into a wax lamp, irradiating wisps of soothing light. I wondered if the mildly glowing Taj soothes the soul as it soothes the eye.
I looked around. The pious assemble at Jama Masjid, on the left of the Taj to call prayers. Another similar building Jawab on the right, meant perhaps as a guesthouse, symmetries the mosque at the left. The entire complex, with overwhelming symmetry and manicured gardens, is capable of settling down the most restless of the souls. I wonder how much wanderlust melted to satisfaction in the calming shadow of the Taj.
I had come to Agra a few hours back. The stench at Taj Ganj emitting from the open sewers, mixed profusely with smell of food originating from behind the doors, had a nauseating effect as I tried to shuffle through the crowd to find an inexpensive accommodation in that area. There are better places to stay in Agra, but the lust to capture Taj in the early morning made me look for an option near it. Narrow lanes digress at fixed distances to lead to the North, South and East gate. I headed for the farthest and the least crowded, the East gate.
A short, restless wait in the line followed by a stiff security check, lead to the common corridor from all the gates. The top of the minarets of the Taj grew behind the red wall to my right and indicated the enormity to the monument. A few steps later the marvel struck.
“One tear-drop...upon the cheek of time”, how true!
One evening with Taj was not enough and I came back next day before day-break. Again I witnessed a riot of mild colors blending into one another while playing on the white marble surface of the Taj, as the sun rays slowly slanted to engulf the amber lily monument. Calling this event as the most beautiful ever witnessed would be an understatement.
They say that the Taj is a symbol of love. More than that, Taj is a temple of human spirit. It signifies twenty long years of efforts of twenty thousand workers from all over the world to raise this temple on an elevated platform. Taj speaks of a collectivity, of coming together to achieve the impossible. Borne out of love, but bricked together through sustained never-spoken-of efforts, Taj Mahal makes an earnest humbling impression in such narcissist time.
This story appeared in The Hindu