Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tuk Tuks, Camels, Bicycles, Water Buffalo, Pedestrians and Autos En route to the Taj Mahal

Joie Lemaitre Guest Blogs for Americans for UNFPA

It's been a long day, so this will be short, or at least that's my intent, but who knows. I have seen the Taj Mahal, but before we get these a bit about the ride from Delhi, the city of Agra and then the mausoleum which is one of the 7 wonders of the world.

There is one road to Agra and it's filled with trucks, tuk tuks, camels, bicycles, water buffalo, pedestrians, autos (which are little green and yellow cars filling the role of taxis, usually filled with a family of 7 or more hanging out the sides). There don't seem to be any rules of the road and everyone is honking their horns at how do you know if it's you they are honking at? We passed 4 count them 4 head on collisions on the way to Agra and huge numbers of people gather around each accident all looking confused and scratching their heads...not a policeman or ambulance in sight. I have never seen such confusion in my life. I am so glad that I am not even remotely thinking of driving and I thank god, krishna, buddha, allah that our guide is a very good driver and seems to know how to maneuver as best as he is able through the throngs.

Agra is a poor city and very dirty with little to endear anyone to it except for the fact that when the Mughals invaded India in the 15th-16th centuries and brought their exceptional ruling abilities and love of building great structures to the area that the amazing Agra Fort, Akbar tomb and Taj Mahal were built, hence my reason for being here.

And, they are truly breathtaking....and truly crowded....over 7,000 people a DAY come to visit the Taj Mahal according to our guide. It was built for the 3rd wife of Shah Jahan, his favorite and beloved wife after her death at the age of 39 and after bearing him 14 children. She died while giving birth to the 14th. If anyone deserves a monument to her glory, I guess it's her.

I have to end as I have only a few minutes left (on the computer), but I’ll fill you in some more about the Taj and the area tomorrow if I have time. We are seeing the Agra Fort tomorrow and some other palace complex, but I can' remember the name.

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