India, Days 30-31: Agra

I thought the south was humid, but I think Agra in July has it beat. Ever been dripping with sweat at 5:30 in the morning?

Anyways, yesterday we took an early morning train from Delhi to Agra. Staying in a nicer hotel for two days in Delhi gave us yet another perspective on modern India. Most of the diners in the hotel restaurant were clearly middle/upper class Indians, many of whom were having business meetings. I think we saw more overweight women in one small restaurant than we’d seen in the entire previous 4 weeks. My guess is that wealth in India, like maybe anywhere, means people eat very well, but given the expected gender roles, wealthy women also don’t exercise much? Not sure. As we drove through the neighborhood of the hotel yesterday morning, we passed huge mansions locked away behind large gates and protected by security guards. Just a few short minutes later, we were passing people sleeping on the ground – in the median, on the sidewalk, on the concrete ledge of a bridge. As we’ve seen in all of India’s cities, life of all sorts is immediate and impossible to ignore.

This morning we visited the Taj Mahal, and it certainly lived up to expectation. Even though the weather isn’t great (hot and humid means the sky is a dull gray, not ideal for taking pictures), the Taj is still stunning. The intricate detail of the carved marble, inlaid with semi-precious stones, is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We got up before sunrise to be there when it first opened, and even so there were lots of other people there (and we were drenched in sweat in a matter of minutes). Still, it was a peaceful and beautiful place to be.

It’s hard to believe we have less than two weeks left here in India. While we will both be sad to see this once-in-a-lifetime trip come to an end, I think we are also looking forward to getting home. I, for one, am sick of being stared at all the time. Although we have enjoyed meeting and talking with people at times, there is a big difference between respectful interest/curiosity and leering/staring. I finally told some men at the Taj Mahal today that it’s not nice to stare, and they actually went away. In general, though, ignoring people seems to be the best policy. Not the most pleasant way to go about your day, but the most practical and manageable as a white/blond-haired/blue-eyed westerner in India.

On a completely separate note, we saw our first camels today! They were walking through the streets of Agra near the Taj, some being led or ridden by small boys, some just walking on their own. They are such huge animals!

Also noticed an interesting article on today. We’ve watched some TV here (mostly the world cup), and have seen many, many commercials for this type of skin whitening cream. It’s funny how Americans want to be tan and Indians want to be pale…why can’t we all just be comfortable in our own skin?

Tomorrow, we head to Jaipur in Rajasthan. We’ll write more from there!

2 Responses to “India, Days 30-31: Agra”

  1. Alison Brooks

    Honestly cannot imagine just how hot it is there. What an awesome thing to see the Taj Mahal in person. Sounds like it is worthy of being on the list of the 7 wonders of the world. Our news here is that we are the proud owners of an RV. Yes that’s right….a tenement on wheels. I’m officially white southern trailer trash.

    “It’s a good looking vehicle, ain’t it? But, don’t you go falling in love with it now, because, we’re taking it with us when we leave here next month.”

  2. saruccia

    Wow, an RV! Congrats. Had the chance yet to say to anyone: “This here’s an ARRR-VEEE.”? Any chance you’re gonna drive it down to TN for the wedding? It sort of fits perfectly, don’t you think? I can tie some empty beer cans to the back and spray paint “Just married” on it for you if you want.