Visiting Taj Mahal had always been on my bucket list. And it happened at the right time in this Delhi work trip of mine. This trip was not planned at all. It happened overnight. Everything fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle like it was forever meant to be. For this, I really thank my boss for being so considerate and having that trust in me.
So overnight, I discussed with Kipchu, my young friend and a blogger who is currently studying in Delhi on the prospect of visiting Taj Mahal in Agra in one of the days. He suggested we take the direct train to Agra from Nizamuddin station in Delhi and return by the same in the evening. He did the reservation for us as well.
At 6:30 am in the morning, we reached the train station. I had never experienced the local train journey in India before. So this was the first time for me and I was pretty thrilled. Early morning and the station was already swarming with hurrying people. Time was not a standstill here. Everyone had a destination to reach. We followed suit and scurried off to our platform after asking the direction from people nearby. Our broken Hindi was of immense help.
At 7 am sharp, the train left the station. Comfortably seated by the window seat, we could enjoy the sunrise. Soon vendors started selling tea and breakfast and for Rs. 30 we could get a cup of nice sweetened milk tea and 2 slices of bread with some pokora filling. A little conversation with my friend, few pages of reading from my current read and after a short nap, we reached Agra in approximately 3 hours.
From Agra Kant station, Taj Mahal is some few kilometers away. We took the auto at Rs.100. Since Taj Mahal is a highly tourist site the chance of getting ripped off is extremely high. From the self-proclaimed guide to cabbies to the auto drivers and the vendors, every one of them seems to be fixed on harvesting the maximum benefit from the tourist. One should not be surprised when numerous vendors pulls you and offer you so many things.
Once inside, we took ample of pictures of standing in front of the Taj, holding the Taj and Taj from different angle. With the bombardment of technologies we no longer take time to admire and applaud the architecture of the world heritage. Instead we are so busy taking pictures for social media updates and forgoing the art of being present. It’s a sad times we have come to.
After touring the Taj Mahal, we had another 6 hours to pass until we catch the train back to Delhi. With lots of time on hand, we wanted to visit the local market nearby. This is when we made a blunder. We hailed an auto to take us to the market. The auto driver took some 45 minutes to take us to the market through some streets of all sorts, God alone knows where and if we were asked to get back, it would take us forever. We didn’t get to the market we wanted. Later we realized we were being ripped off.
The predicament didn’t end there.
Once back to the train station we caught another train, early by 4 hours from our scheduled train. After changing a coach, we found that it was a general compartment where there was no space to stand also. We tagged along a kind and fierce lady who was on the way to the hospital at Delhi to visit her brother-in-law. Her college going son was with her as well. Somehow we managed a seat. By then we were the center of attraction in the coach. We were bombarded with lots of questions and despite our limited Hindi, we were quite comfortable to converse with them.
On that three and half hour journey, we could have a glimpse into the life of the locals. Their conversation centered on the daily wage, communalism, thefts and robberies, education and the advent of digital technologies. They shared their local sweets and hailed a cab for us when we reached the final station. It’s strange how the same breed of people wants to rip you off and help at the same time. We were so grateful to have met the kind lady and her son and another kind gentleman.
I shall not forget their kindness. Their kindness was infectious. We passed on this kindness to another gentleman at the airport, a Bhutanese who was returning from his Masters program from Europe. He must have had a lot to bring home since he had excess luggage. Another Bhutanese we met at the embassy and the two of us checked in as group along with the guy, since we were travelling very light. It helped him to avoid paying for the excess luggage. He felt so grateful that he was repeatedly thanking us. We smiled and told him to pass on this kindness.
It was the shortest work trip yet the memories was immense. And that’s what it counts, I believe. If you are reading this Kipchu, I’d like to thank you and your friend Jigme for showing us around and taking me to book heaven. I died there once. And making our trip to incredible India an amazing one. Thank you so much.