Taj Mahal in 2000

Dad and I had arrived in New Delhi at night. The temperature had cooled so as the cab driver drove us to our hotel room, we watched the crowded streets as thousands of people flocked to the grassy fields and park areas for late night picnics. Before dropping us off at the Ramada Inn, our taxi driver taught us to greet the people of India. “Namaste” means “all of god’s goodness be with you.” It’s a beautiful word.

We toured the carpet factory as Suresh and Sushma led us through. Sushma was quiet, but she instantly felt like my friend. The guy in charge of mixing carpet dye was ancient and worked over a large kettle of liquid to which he would add the dye later mixing it with the wool for custom rugs. “He can smell the color!” Suresh told us with conviction.

After our rug tour, they sent us a driver to take us to Agra. It was a long drive. On the way we would see many trucks overturned, presumably crashed in order to miss hitting something in the road such as a person or a cow. There were many cows and monkeys roaming about. It was fascinating. Also, people all along the road for the 230km journey were seen squatting, defecating, and carrying on in squalid living conditions. It was sad and exhausting and eye opening.

The Taj Mahal was a beautiful building constructed as a mausoleum for the wife of some big shot. It was beautiful and ornate but much smaller than I had imagined. One must take off their shoes before entering. There are millions of visitors here. Fortunately we made it through without contracting disease to our bare feet.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal 2000

There were many people on pilgrimage visiting the Taj Mahal. One couple I spoke to had come for their honeymoon. Several people asked to take pictures with me and my dad. With my short blonde hair, his guess was perhaps they thought I was Sharon Stone.

I handed out candy to a few children who were begging. This quickly turned into a throng of children surrounding us with palms open and raised, begging for more. My dad tossed the bag into the crowd and we left.

There were beautiful people there, colorful, desperate, hopeful, talented, happy people there. I don’t understand India. I don’t understand the starvation while emaciated cows roam the streets. I don’t understand the filth and poverty that so many millions of people live in, nor the abundance of others. There were so many bright smiles there…and so many lost and desperate souls.

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