The Taj
Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2008-09-27 12:00 by Laerke
After having left Ladakh and the beautiful north we were definitely back in India, it is hot, dusty and there are so many people! And a lot more hassle. We took a train to Agra, which is not the most interesting nor charming city, but it does have one thing going for it – Taj Mahal. It was surprisingly quiet and peaceful at the Taj Mahal, mostly Indian tourists. They also only have to pay 10 rupees to get in, whereas foreigners have to pay a whooping 750 rupees. But I guess it is worth it, it really is beautiful. We took a quiet little moment on a bench, Martin looking at the Taj Mahal me looking into the tree above us, as there were a whole family of green parrots living in it! What beautiful birds.

We even had a view of the Taj from our room, through the bars that were designed to keep the monkeys out, we did have one looking in from time to time, as well as a squirrel, a mouse and a lot of little flies, yes it was quite the little zoo… None of them really bothered us though, only the flies were kind of annoying.
We are in the train as I’m writing this, from Agra to Jaipur. The train was over 2 hours late, luckily there is much to keep you entertained at an Indian train station, trains coming and going, people getting on and off, all of them clambering over the tracks, a band of monkeys were patrolling the station, finding leftovers to eat and getting a little too close for comfort as I was eating a banana! Suddenly a white cow came running down the platform. A family got off the train and made camp at the platform to net themselves, mom was combing her hair, applying a bindi and putting on make-up while the father and son brushed their teeth. An older woman was taking a shower little further down the platform, naked from the waist up. Lots of men were starring, some saying “good morning” as well, and I even got a few smiles from the women. Indian women are very strange when it comes to smiling and returning a smile – most of them just won’t! I see it pretty much as a reflex, when someone smiles to me – I smile back, that is how it works. But not in India. Someone told me that the Indian women treat the smile as a more valuable thing, they don’t just distribute it right and left, you have to be worthy of a smile. In a way it is a good way to look at it. Some Americans and British people have gotten a habit of just saying “I love you” to every man and his dog, without really meaning it at all, that way the “I love you’ loses its meaning and its power. Maybe the Indian women look upon the smiling business the same way…? Still it feels kind of awful to smile to someone and not have them return the smile.