Mission Taj Mahal

Jun 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Articles

TajI have never been proud of the fact that I haven’t seen the Taj. But it never really bothered me. It would happen some day, I thought, life’s just begun. This was just one of those things which hadn’t happened and there was no big deal about it. This changed, when in some recent instances, and frequently, as years passed, I usually found myself the only one around who hadn’t seen it. And lately, the world seemed to be making it all the more apparent and I often found myself in the middle of Taj-centric conversations, which went something like.

You haven’t seen the Taj Mahal?
Didn’t they take you from school?
They did. I was sick that day.
Oh, I went from school. And then I went with my parents. And then once with Abhishek…

Oooo you haven’t seen the Taj?
Do you have to rub it in?

I had seen it in a hundred pictures, and probably a thousand times in movies. It wouldn’t be any different, would it? I am not much of a sightseer anyway. I doubt if I would have been to it even if I had been living in Agra! But I had a growing feeling that the ˜never been to Taj” label should be taken off as soon as possible. I was just looking forward to some suitable time for it, when it all fell in place. I had to make a two-day official trip to Agra. Wow. Could things have placed themselves better? I only had to fit the Taj visit somewhere in my itinerary. And it had to be early morning, I had been advised. I landed in the city in the morning but had to head straight for the scheduled work, after dumping my stuff at the hotel. Getting into the auto at the railway station, the first question the auto rickshaw driver asked:

Madam Taj le chalen?? (Should I take you to the Taj?)
Er…Not now, later maybe, if I get time.
Abhi kahan jana hai? (Where do you have to go now?)
Fatehabad Road. Is it close to the Taj?
Arre madam, Taj to aapke pados mein hai! (It’s right next-door!)


The powers were on my side. As we drove closer to my hotel I kept looking out of the vehicle in the hope of spotting some distant white minaret of the monument, but couldn’t.

Work kept me busy most of the day on day one. But since I had to go to the Taj, I rushed and reached there late evening. I was dropped off at quite a distance from it, a point after which vehicles are not allowed and one has to walk down. Fenced well by walls of its own courtyard and the surrounding habitation, I couldn’t spot it even as I walked towards it. And as I tried to get in:

Madam, its closed.
What? The Taj Mahal is closed? How can you close the Taj?
It shuts at seven. You’ll have to come tomorrow.
Oh no!

I tried not to get too disappointed. But at that moment, the Taj seemed so close, and yet so far. Anyway, I told myself, what was there to get disappointed about, it was just a monument, and it wasn’t going anywhere. And I had day 2 too. I thought I would get up early and catch the sun rising up on the Taj, and watch as it changed its famous hues. So dinner was had early, the alarm was set for 5:30 AM, and the lights were out by 9:30 PM. The next morning was going to be The morning!

I woke up with a sunlight sliver poking my eye. Sleepily I checked my cell for the time.

9:30. Nine thirty!! How on earth did that happen! I did not have time to investigate the alarm malfunction as I was already late for work. I did take a moment to curse the cell phone brand, but I had to rush. I did some lamenting on the way to work.

On my way, I kept fumbling with my phone, trying to figure out what went wrong. I had to leave the same afternoon and my expectations had now taken a nosedive. I was now ready to settle even for a Taj-spotting from a distance. Then I could at least be technically truthful when I said, ˜I’ve seen it”. When I was thinking these thoughts,  I suddenly spotted a fort on my left and got excited that I got to see some monument at least. This must be the Red Fort, I thought, as it was strikingly similar to the one in Delhi.

Is this the Red Fort? I asked the auto driver.
Jee. And that was the Taj. You must have been to the Taj, he said, jerking his head to the opposite side.
What? Where? Where?
There, on your right.

I had just driven along the river Yamuna, with the Taj staring at me, without realising it, as I was busy craning my neck the other side to get a better look at the darned fort. Just as I was making all attempts short of jumping off the auto to get a distant view of the Taj, a big bus halted next to my auto at the traffic signal. I could only stare into the wall of the bus and imagine the Taj behind it.

That afternoon I left for Delhi. I could not even get a glimpse of the Taj. The world seemed to have conspired to keep me away from the mausoleum. And now I was not proud of the fact that I hadn’t seen the Taj, even after having been to Agra.

PS: I soon had to make another official trip to Agra. I did finally make it to the place. Having spent a good two hours at the Taj, this time I came back victorious.


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Aastha Sharma has written 3 articles on The MAG. View all articles by

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