The Taj Mahal is often regarded as the most beautiful building in the world. So, of course I watched in horror as my digital camera slipped from my grasp and fell to the hard pavement while I was waiting in line to get in.
I picked it up quickly, inspecting it for signs of damage. It appeared okay, thank goodness. It’d be just my luck to fly halfway around the world and, in an instant of clumsiness, miss an opportunity to record this architectural gem I had dreamed about visiting for so long.
A 12-year-old boy who had approached me earlier while I was walking to my hotel advised me to take advantage of the complementary shoe covers – the marble is slippery, and shoes are not allowed without covers in or near the mosque. He also warned me of hawkers and scammers. I appreciated his input, but noticed some of the hawking little models of the Taj appeared to be several years younger than he. Were they out of school, or is this their life in place of school?
It was early in the morning and the Taj was bathed in mist, adding to its allure. As the mist burned off, I took pictures of the beautiful marble structure from various angles. It looked completely fresh and different to me in a variety of shades of light. When the sunlight emerged, the magnificence of the Taj was clearest. There was a sense of unreality about being there in person that I had never experienced before – not when I saw the Grand Canyon or the White House or other iconic places I’d also long anticipated.
I hired a boatman to take me across the Yamuna River while I took shots of the Taj with its reflection on the river. On the other side of the river, I experienced my first camel ride. How many visitors view the Taj from the back of a camel?
Shah Jahan was by most accounts an incredibly ruthless, jealous man who had his brothers executed and, according to legend, many of those responsible for the construction of the Taj blinded. How could such a man be responsible for this utterly magnificent structure? Ah, the contradictions of life.