A few days ago I arrived to New Delhi, India for a work trip and a quickly settled into the following routine: leave the hotel, arrive to work, attend a lot of meetings, join my colleagues for dinner at a local restaurant, return to hotel. Repeat.
Sadly, this cycle has not afforded me much opportunity to explore the area. However, today that cycle was interrupted. With help from a colleague I managed to clear my schedule allowing sufficient time for a day-trip to visit the world-famous Taj Mahal. About a 4-hour drive from my office, the ‘Taj’ (as the locals refer to it) is not close, but considering I was already half-way around the world, a few hours more in the car seemed reasonable, especially considering the prize.
For the equivalent of roughly $40 USD, my co-worker secured a driver for the day and we were off at 6:30am in order to avoid Delhi’s crippling rush hour traffic. Even at this hour, the roads were bustling.
En route, we made two stops – one to pay the toll as we left Delhi, entering the state of Noida …
Snacks for sale
… another so my co-worker could grab a smoke at a driver convenience station – the equivalent of an interstate rest stops in the US.
Bathroom to the left
Upon reaching the Taj Mahal grounds, we quickly secured tickets and entered the outer sections of the gardens.
Being one of the seven wonders of the world, I knew the structures and surrounding gardens would be impressive (which they were), but for me, the wow factor was amplified as I tried to wrap my head around the twenty-two year construction process. The Taj Mahal is all about symmetry – everything in main tomb building is perfectly symmetrical on all sides. It’s amazing the workers successfully erected his wonderful palace with such precision without aids of modern-day tools and other electronic resources.
Following the visit, we left the grounds and wandered the streets of Agra – the city adjacent to the Taj Mahal. More rural than urban, Agra is a place that reminds first-world westerners (like me), India is still a developing nation. The conditions which people live are often deplorable – lacking basic infrastructure (water and reliable electric, and sewer) I regularly take for granted. More, numerous wild animals roam everywhere, and the resulting stink can be overwhelming at times.
Overall, today proved to be a wonderful experience and also a strong reminder of how fortunate I am to be living a life as comfortably as I do.