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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Via Agra

Mumtaz Mahal gave birth to thirteen of Shah Jahan’s children in nineteen years of marriage to him. Undoubtedly worn out, she passed way after giving birth to his fourteenth child.

The Taj Mahal—a monument to love? More like a monument to excessive love. Maybe the Buddha chap was right with his Middle Way gobbledygook—even with love.


***

Fairness, unlike in the Fair and Lovely ads, isn’t a virtue in Agra. Foreigners, which in this case largely mean Americans and Europeans—didn’t really see people from other parts of the world there—have to pay Rs. 250 to see the Taj Mahal while we only have to pay Rs. 20.

The complex is inundated with them, though.

The guides have a merry time too, taking them for a ride and I just don’t mean financially; I over heard one guide telling a group,” …and then he bought her (Mumtaz Mahal's) ashes here and had them buried.”

Even the chap who looks after the shoes—you have to too take off your shoes when you enter the debauched king’s tomb—fleeces them, selling them a sort of “shoe covering” which allows them to walk into the tomb without taking their shoes off.


***

Some people say that the beauty of the Taj Mahal is “indescribable”.

Those people are right.


***

The Agra Fort, built by Akbar, is grand, if unkept. Most parts of the fort though, are occupied by the Army and are out of bounds to visitors which I find rather absurd. Apparently the Army recruiters weren’t joking when they promised a King’s life in the Army.

The largest crowd puller in the Fort was the diwan-e-aam. A look at it should explain why:






By the way, the set designers of the movie did do a good job, I'd say. It's pretty much identical to the real thing.

***

The Akshardham temple in Delhi, on the other hand, scrupulously follows the instructions laid down by its co-dharmic cousin.

The temple, apparently the largest Hindu temple in the world, built by the numerically minuscule Swaminarayan Sect, had this board at its entrance:



[Click to Enlarge]


Now that’s what I call a middle path—short skirts and burkhas banned.


12 comments:

Kartikey said...

Well written.

Why are short skirts banned?

Saad Akhtar said...

I for one, really hate this difference between the entry prices. On what basis is this done? And most Indians ALSO agree it should be different. They say - Well one dollar = 50 Rupees. Is that a valid argument? We're fleecing them, because they CAN be fleeced??

And the same people will cry in outrage when in Nepal and complain that shopkeepers give a higher price to Indians. No shit. How would you feel is Disney Land had separate entry fees for Americans and "Foreigners". And by foreigners I mean Brown people.. How would NRIs/Immigrants/American Indians feel then? What about Indian-Americans who visit India... do they honestly pay 250 Rs? Screw this hypocrisy!

And what about the cash strapped tourist? Does he/she get a discount because of her/his poverty?

And for that matter, what about rich Indians? They can pay more than 20 rupees... why not make them pay. In the future all visitors to historical monuments must carry their last income tax returns... a entrance fees will be calculated on the spot.

Jhayu said...

@ Hades.
Nicely done, man.

@ Saad.
Dude. Look at it this way. When someone from, say, Delhi comes to Bombay for the first time, they'll, out of habit, ask they guy what he'll charge for a ride that would, by meter be about 30 bucks, but the cabbie will take the opportunity to say 200 bucks or something.

The guys who are fleecing the tourists don't do it because they're foreigners, they do it because they know the foreigners don't know better.

Anonymous said...

Lolz @ the ashes thing :P

Love your droll wit!

Kartikey said...

why foreigners? people from other states are also appropriately fleeced by guides. delhi is a prime example of 100 rs for a 50 rs ride. i spend time with the local people and ask them to negotiate for me. they do it willingly and with great fierceness. one such person told me that his son and daughter face the same problem despite being 'locals'.
i meant to ask his daughter's age and if he had any photograph but i let it pass.

i still wonder, why are short skirts banned in temples?

Hades said...

@ Kartikey

Well about the short skirt thing, I didn’t really ask the temple authorities but methinks it might be “inappropriate” to wear in a place of worship.

I guess men can only concentrate on one thing at a time – God or Women’s legs.

@Saad and Others about differential pricing

Well, I guess it’s because these guys can and do pay. Although I do agree with you that it smacks of double standards.

Actually, as per a Yank in the hotel I was at, foreign nationals also have to pay Rs. 500 towards the local government apart from the bloated entry fees that they have to shell out at the various monuments.
.
.
.
Jhayu and Kartikey have compared the extra entry charges to taxi drivers fleecing tourists—I don’t think that’s comparable.

Taxi Drivers are supposed to charge by the meter but they don’t, which is illegal.

The extra entry charges are official policy—it’s legally done by the Government of India

Jhayu said...

@ Hades.
Fack. I didn't know that. I thought some tourist guide ripped off the poor dudes and dudettes.

I guess men can only concentrate on one thing at a time – God or Women’s legs.

*chuckle* It's either that or they don't want the embarrassment of a pandit who forgot his shloka 'cos of them...

Kartikey said...

@Hades

Ha..ha...
no, the dress worn by women, traditionally, when there was a definitive relation between humans and nature, was much shorter than a short skirt. the midriff was exposed and the shoulders were bare. the 'skirt' then would come till the thighs.

the priests then didn't ban anything. especially when the gods wore nothing themselves.


my comment about short skirts was not a question to you; it was rhetoric.

an aside: a grandmother tells her teenage grand daughter to pray to lord krishna for a good husband. knowing krishna, it's a bad bet!

Hades said...

Hi Hades!!

This is Amit, the guy who was at the computer before you used it on November 6 at the office.

I must say I really like your blog. Your style of writing is amazing. I plan to read and comment more. Hope you don't mind.

Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

Oops looks like you forgot to log out! Don't worry I will log out for you.

- Amit

Hades said...

Er, thanks for the compliment, Amit and, more importantnly, thanks for logging me out. :)

Which main? What Cross? said...

Lungis! I object. I will make sure i will stand in front of the temple and lift my lungi.