First glimpse at Mughal India

Just a day on the train crossing horribly dry and deserted farmlands, and I got transported to a different architectural world, the eastern reaches of Arabic and Persian-influenced forts, mosques and castles. The last time I saw anything in this family was over 25 years ago. I’m glad I’m getting this chance.

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Agra Fort looks exactly like how we used to draw forts when we were little : – )  Lots of red sandstone, massive walls and towers on the outside. And then lots of delicate stonework and white marble as well on the inside.

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With the audio guide, I got a crash course intro to the history of the empire plus a couple of interesting stories – while I dispatched the horde of human guides with a well-placed remark. These touts are said to be fearsome, but I’m gonna win. I’m just determined not to let them corner me or annoy me. They bring so much shame to Indians, who are usually nice, polite and gentle…

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The fort was full of Indian visitors and their splashes of colours (I know, I know) added a lot to my photos. Surprisingly, I also found myself on the other end of the lens very often, and all the kids, women, most of the men were openly staring at me. Looks very much like most of these people are not from Agra, the locals would be well used to foreigners. The last time I attracted so much attention was probably in rural Taiwan.

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First glimpse at the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan, the king who commissioned the building, died here at Agra Fort, imprisoned by his own son, having contemplated the white marble mausoleum of his favourite wife down the river for eight years.

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More India snippets

I was wondering why middle-class locals use numbers in English even when having a conversation in Hindi. Like phone numbers, prices, seat numbers on the train. I’m guessing they had Maths in English at school.

I’m yet to figure out what shops with the huge sign S.T.D. are selling. Don’t tell me, I want to figure out.

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I’m confused as to why showing knees or shoulders is inappropriate, but showing fat tummies or stretchmarks is completely acceptable. I don’t think I’ve been around showing my stomach since I was about ten years old. Including the beach. It’s a private bodypart! (Younger women tend to cover it up properly with the sari, or wear shirts and trousers, and lots and lots of western clothes like t-shirts and jeans here in Agra. But no photos of that.)

A loud cow moooo! is more effective than a loud car horn.

Now I know why all the trains are booked full like 3 weeks in advance. Nothing like lying down comfortably all day in 3AC and watching the countryside whizzzzz by. Luckily it was an old car and the windows weren’t tinted. I’m stuck with the bus for my onward trip from here, as I don’t even know exactly where I’m going. Everything is full.

“Where are you from?”  “Nowhere.”  “Norway? Very nice country.”  “No, I mean Nowhere. Everywhere. I don’t have a home. I travel.”  “No, really, where did you come from?”  “Hungary.”  “Hungry? You have nothing to eat?”   – shit I’m gonna stick with England from now on. I bet everyone knows England.

My Thai is helping me figure out some of the Hindi writing system, and from train station signs, I’ve figured out about half of the alphabet so far. Again, I don’t want to look it up. It’s a game, like it was with Burmese. Except that this script is easier for me. All those circles and semicircles looked pretty much the same to me. These letters at least look different from each other. I don’t care about speaking, everyone I need or want to communicate with speaks excellent English.

I will be going inside the Taj Mahal soon, don’t worry 🙂

 

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