Monday, 15 November, 2010
We followed our week in Delhi with a trip to Agra; our guidebook mentioned a temple worth checking out there. Unfortunately, our tip manual hadn’t unearthed a hidden gem for our eyes only. As it turns out, hundreds of other people had also read about the Taj Mahal – that or we had just picked a bad day.
The place was extremely crowded, but with good reason – the building’s beauty is undeniable. In fact, I would credit the Taj Mahal as the greatest man-made landmark that I have ever seen (excluding Elland Road, of course).
Prior to entering the temple grounds, I noticed a plaque sharing the love story that inspired the former Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, to construct the temple. I was already aware that his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died and that he spent twenty-two years building a symmetrical temple in her honour. However, what I did not know is that she died in childbirth.
Her life came to an end as she attempted to give birth to her fourteenth child – yep, you read the number correctly. I, too, had to go back and scan that particular line three times to ensure that I didn’t need a trip to the eye clinic. Firstly, fourteen kids is insane. That is a classroom of children; only, they don’t disappear at 3:30pm! Secondly, giving birth fourteen times is going to kill anybody, isn’t it?
While we all love a good palace, I can’t help but feel as though there could have been more fitting ways to honour his wife’s memory – a sex education campaign or creating a line of condoms, perhaps? Tourism in Agra would potentially be down, but fewer families would be having a football team of kids.
Again, I cannot stress enough how stunning the building is – the Taj Mahal is incredibly beautiful. However, once inside the palace, I found myself questioning who the building was truly a tribute to. The two coffins lay side by side, only Shah Jahan’s coffin is roughly four times the size of his former wife’s. Just to throw it out there, he also married Mahal’s sister shortly after he shagged her to death, too.
In conclusion, I believe that this was a creation built less on love and more to appease a man with a big ego and lots of money. Still, it’s undeniable that the Taj Mahal makes for better viewing than a condom range, so in many ways the former emperor did make the correct choice.
The rest of our week was centred around animal interaction. First, we ended up at Galwar Bagh, which is commonly referred to as ‘the monkey temple’ – which ironically, is a church filled with foxes.
This place is surrounded by mountains, in which, thousands of monkeys live. The temple grounds are brimming with hundreds of the little primates running around and taking selfies. There are so many monkeys, in fact, that you find yourself paying close attention to every step you make in order to avoid stepping on a tail or a banana skin.
It was pretty clear early on that we were the guests and that the locals were more than comfortable with human interaction. This point was truly made when a monkey used my shoulder as a go between when bouncing from one ledge to another. The cheeky furball used my body as a springboard, and with that, the desired message was sent – I was in it’s yard, and for the next hour, I would be adhering to monkey rules.
All in all, Galwar Bagh was exhilarating. It also made me realise how similar monkeys are to humans – there are the fat, lazy ones that don’t want to move, the energetic ones that never stop moving and the excited ones that spend their time trying to find a lady to move with. They’re highly entrancing creatures.
There was one small downside to the primates being so incredibly captivating. Our lengthy time with them may well have prevented us from seeing a frigging tiger! Those in the car park area were very animated as they shared their tales of the tiger that came out from behind a rock and saluted the crowd for a minute or so. Naturally, we stood and stared at that very rock for about thirty minutes – which turned out to be a pretty dull choice.
On the subject of animals running the show, the level of respect given to a cow over here is phenomenal. Cows are considered sacred in India, so are treated like royalty – I’ve never seen anything like it. I reckon if you inspected Indian money thoroughly you’d notice a cow proudly grinning in the middle.
They roam the streets freely and are never short of food to eat or a place to sleep. Yet, there is so much poverty among humans – it’s extraordinary. In our first week in India, I was shocked to see a man sleeping on a hotel floor. It now suddenly all makes sense, if a room wasn’t taken up by a paying customer, it was probably given to a cow.
And finally, our time with the camels – if this week has taught us anything, it is that India is basically one gigantic zoo. Fortunate timing allowed us to visit the Pushkar fair, which is a yearly event where people trade horses and camels – it was the most extreme car boot sale I have ever seen. Once again, it was another fascinating spectacle.
We soon got talked into a camel safari, which took us through the fair, along the desert and into a campsite. We would then stay there overnight before returning back the following morning. Ruby absolutely loved the experience, which is the main thing. I didn’t enjoy the ride quite so much.
Don’t get me wrong, the views along the way were wonderful – we saw beautiful mountains and lakes. Not to mention, we later had the sensational sight of the evening fireworks coming from the fair. With that said, a camel is a frigging ball-bashing device. Not only was it torturous to my sensitives, but it was pain that wouldn’t let up. This was a five-hour journey with few stops!
Honestly, riding a camel could be a legitimate punishment for a bloke. Instead of sending criminals to prison, I would strongly suggest just putting them on a moving camel for a few hours – I guarantee that they would never reoffend again.
This experience has made me realise why Pushkar needs a fair so frequently. Obviously, new, naive men turn up each year and buy a load of camels without fully understanding the risk of ball damage – they then return the following year desperate to sell their baby preventer pets. I firmly believe it’s that never-ending cycle that keeps the camel business thriving.