Yesterday might possibly have been one of the craziest, hardest, weirdest, greatest days of my life.
Gabeer, our fixer, took us to get our tickets to the Taj Mahal. John and I are on a pretty strict budget so we couldn’t spend much on a trip. The travel agent went through our choices, starting with the most expensive first:
rent a car and a driver
rent a smaller car and a driver
take the train
take the bus
We went with the bus. It was by far the cheapest.
We had to meet the bus at 6:20 in the morning, we got lost trying to find it, wandering around a different part of Delhi in the dark, scared…we finally found it. The driver of the bus tells us this is really an Indian bus, we’ll be the only white people on it…fine with us.
We get on and there’s a few people on it, but at the next stop we pick up about 8 Indian women who looked like they were on some sort of Thelma and Louise holiday. They gave us a shy smile, a quiet “good morning” and sat to talk amongst themselves.
It takes about 3 hours (normally) to drive to Agra from Delhi, we were told to expect a 5 hour ride because of the various pick ups along the way. About halfway into the trip, the women start to sing. They were laughing and singing, we were laughing and clapping with them, that started everything.
We finally arrive to Agra around noon maybe, the bus drops us off at a marble store, the Indian women hang in the back of the bus and come out in all new saris, totally like Sex and the City. it was awesome. By now they like us and one of them grabs my hand and says “toilet?” I nod aggressively and she grabs my hand, leading me to the before unseen toilet. When I come out she shoves her purse in my hand to hold for her, we were trusted.
After that it’s a blur. The women adopt us, giving us treats (some kind of spicy peanuts that were SO GOOD), they speak very little english, but it matters not, they’re laughing with us, grabbing my hand and eventually calling me “sister.”
We go to the Agra fort, built right by the Taj and they are running around like schoolgirls, having their pictures taken, laughing, and having a grand old time. By the time we get to the Taj, I have to go in a different line then John, they all grab by the hand and lead me to where I need to go. Laughing, taking pictures with me…it was unreal.
We get into the Taj Mahal and I cried. How can you not cry? This is a wonder of the world. Yes, it looks exactly like you think it looks, but the fact that I’m standing there, at the Taj Mafuckinghal, brings tears to my eyes. The sisters of course are running around yelling “COME COME” to me. We take a zillion pictures.
I felt the marble of the Taj Mahal underneath my bare feet. I whispered my name in the tomb.
We were doing so many bits with the Indians at the Taj Mahal (still very few white people there, I was really surprised), laughing with Indians, taking their pictures to email with later, making them laugh with our Mr. Bean type antics. It was like we were movie stars, it was exhilarating and so fun to have found Indian friends and to make these serious people smile.
By now it must be about 5PM, they lead us back to the bus and thank goodness they did, I’m not sure we could find it any other way.
John and I start getting tired, really tired. John gets motion sickness and the ride in was rough, the bus is bumpy, absolutely no shocks, we’re both leery about getting back on, but by now we’ve made friends with pretty much the entire bus of Indians. They’re all looking out for us, protecting us, helping us.
We hadn’t eaten, we’ve heard Agra is a scary place to eat. We’re hungry, tired and by the time we start for home the sun had gone down.
There were two more temples to see on the way back to Delhi, John and I are close to out of it by then. The two temple stops take forever, we can’t even get off the bus we’re so broken. Our new friends keep asking “Come? Come?” and we keep shaking our heads, we can’t. So tired.
Finally the temple stops out of the way, we start for Old Delhi, arriving home at 3:30AM, almost 24 hours after we had left.
But we were happy, so happy. Sure, we could have rented a car and kept to ourselves and have it all be easy, but we would have never had the day we had, made the friends we did, see how the Indians travel.
There’s something to be said for hardship.
Here are a few pics:
The Taj baby:
This is what you see on the way in:
It was a really incredible day. We’re both completely wiped and tired today. We’re taking it easy. We just met a brassy Washington DC girl, we’re going for beer.
Tomorrow we leave for Jaipur on the train. What a couple of days we’ve had.