Taj Mahal in Agra

Hustle and bustle in Agra

After a 9-hour train ride, in which we (Maria from Khajuraho accompanies me) were involved in a conversation with Indians for about six hours, we arrived in Agra very tired. My first impression: I will stay here longer. But that changed quickly the next day when I met the Indians in an  unpleasant, very enterprising way.

But first of all, why are we in Agra? Because of he famous Taj Mahal! Although we can not make it to the sunrise, we are very lucky that the sky is almost clear without smog. We had a beautiful sight of the mausoleum 
the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had built for his third wife. Mumtaz Mahal was his great love, so he built this memorial in her honor. It is made of white marble and the floral ornaments are made of gemstones that have been assembled into a mosaic. It is definitely worth seeing, even if the entrance fee is an impertinence as foreigners have to pay way more money again. Moreover, the security measures are exaggerated. We had to go back to the ticket counter which was one kilometer away, to lock our backpack because it contained items that are not allowed at bring: books, whistle, pens, laptop. Maria had cigarettes, a lighter and pins as well. We just looked at each other stunned and shook our heads. A picture in the gallery shows the extent of this peculiarity. Accordingly, it was not possible to picnic, read a book, play Frisbee, or just relax. 

After a 9 hour train ride, in which we (traveling with Maria from Khajuraho) were involved in approximately 6 hours talk with Indians, we arrive exhausted in Agra. My first impression: Yes, I will stay longer at this place. But that had changed rapidly the next day as I get to know the Indians of their unpleasant enterprising nature. But first of all: why Agra? The famous Taj Mahal! We do not make it to the sunrise but at least we have so much luck that the smog of the city is not quite as strong this day, and we had a clear view of the mausoleum of the third wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Mumtaz Mahal was his great love, so that he built in her honor this monument. It consists of wise marble and floral ornaments made of precious stones that were assembled into a mosaic. It is definitely worth seeing even if the price of admission, you have to pay as a foreigner, is an impertinence, and the safety precautions are exaggerated. I had actually to return to the 1km distant Ticket Counter to deposit my backpack in which contains objects that do not match the regulations: Books, whistle, pens, laptop. Maria, who joined me had to deposit cigarettes, lighter and also pens . The image in the gallery shows the extent of strangeness. Accordingly, it was not possible to picnic, reading a book, playing Frisbee, or just to relax. One would have aroused suspicion!

Back to the topic of the particularly enterprising Indians, and I do not mean the exorbitant prices for the rickshaws or the attempt to sell me soapstone or alabaster as marble. My lasting disillusionment with the city is due to two events in the fortress of Agra. An overjoyed Rebekka feeds a chipmunk by hand. As a child, I had a chipmunk as a pet and so I was glad to see the little rascals running wild around. (Spoiler: In Canada there were a lot of chipmunks and I travelled with some friends who could not share my enthusiasm for them.). Feeding the chipmunk was possible because a security guard spread a few crumbs of biscuits on my hand. To bring food was not allowed. Afterwars, he wanted to have money for the crumbs. I ignored that indignantly. The second situation happened also in the fort. We were offered to walk in an area that was closed – a mosque for women which was in restoration. When we left the mosque, they wanted to have money from us as well. Of course only from the foreigners, not from the locals as we realized. I just shook my head and pointed out that I had already paid admission and will not pay a second time. The third time the staff at the locker was very happy to accept money. Cost of the locker: As you like. That meant that the locker is free as signs pointed out, but invisible to others, the corresponding fingers are rubbed for a little extra money. Tourists have to endure some outrageousness in this city.

Together with Maria’s cousin we experienced another highlight which could be titled: Where am I just now? Let’s put it this way: we closed the door from the inside. Therefore, we continued relatively fast and after two nights hoped on the bus in to the direction of Rajasthan. Sadly, a few experiences in India are forcing travellers to be less open to the local people, This is especially true if it is not clear that friendly behavior is related to monetary expectations. Unfortunately, mistrust grows with each experience, so that an open exchange from scratch is not possible. Sadly, it always somehow resonates with the idea that the other person demands something in return. Rarely have I had conversations with Indians who have not communicated expectations, but only sought a conversation because they were curious about the person in front of them.