by Lynda Channon
The driver of my jeep proved to be a speed freak. Coming back in the dark was madness. He wasn't allowed to use his horn inside the park in case it frightened the animals. He kept that rule all the way back to the hotel. He flashed people with his headlights - and that was the only time he turned his lights on even thought it was dark. He came so close to taking out motorcyclists, camels, trucks and buses. The wind flew in our hair as we hung on for our lives.
The next day we woke to the sound of morning prayers being chanted through the crsip air of dawn. That day we would travel to Agra, and the morning after we'd see the Taj Mahal. And what a glory that was, even thought it was the only cloudy day we had during our entire stay in India. The sun appeared for a second or two but it really showed up the magnificance of the white monument. The highlight for me was when we went inside. The acoustics are incredible and our guide sang a haunting Indian song that could have been a prayer. The sound floated up into the dome and reverberated there to heighten the eeriness of the mood. I was literally awe-struck and mouthed the word "Wow." I wanted the guide to keep singing. Magic, simply magic.
The Taj Mahal was built for the Maharajah's wife in the 17th century. She dies at 39 while giving birth to theri fourteenth child. She knew she was dying and asked her husband to build a monument to her. She knew he needed something to keep him busy otherwise he too would die. And it did keep him busy. It took approximately 21 years to complete. He lived for about 38 years after her death without marrying, without mistress or concubine.
Agra Fort was a let-down after the Taj. Everything would have been a let-down after the Taj. Then we returned to the bustle of New Delhi with it's thick smog, its mad driving, its stench. The next day we flew out via Royal Nepal Airlines to Kathmandu.
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