Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Our first view of the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal
Truly Spectacular

Standard shot of the Taj
Typical Tourists
It is 5:30 a.m. We've gotten up this early to go to the Taj Mahal because everyone tells us that you have to see the Taj at sunrise to appreciate the light's stunning impact on the white marble. There is an added benefit for us; as they charge a higher entrance fee for this natural light show, there are not quite as many people thronging through the gates at 6 am as there are at 7 am. This gives us the chance to take the postcard view photograph sitting outside the tomb.

In order to get to the tomb, Sanju has dropped us off at a park that is close to the site to avoid problems with traffic. It's so early, yet the park is packed with children playing cricket and badminton. Badminton is simply everywhere. There are nets set up, but there are far more people without nets, so many that there is no space on the fenced in grass area and they overflow onto the park's streets. Interesting enough, when we walk back past the park after our 90-minute Taj visit, the park is virtually empty, as if we had imagined all the earlier activity.

The Indians far outnumber the western tourists and we see a great difference in those who are here as tourists to see the sight and those who have come to pay respect to the site, the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal and her husband Emperor Shah Jehan. There are many people who spend no time taking in the view. They don't stand atop the reflecting pool's viewing stage or walk around the building looking at details of design. They head straight to the tomb, pay their respects, and they leave.

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Then there are the tourists who want to have their photograph taken, not just at the famous Taj Mahal, but also at the famous Taj Mahal with a western tourist. A man asks Julie if his daughters can stand next to her for a photograph. Although we had read that it is quite a common request it is still an odd one to us; but then comes something that we had not read about. The father asks Marcus to take the photograph, but he does not want to stand in the photograph himself. He stands off to the side looking at his daughters surrounding Julie and looking at Marcus taking a photograph, while in the background stands the Taj Mahal. That is to him a memory that needs no photograph.

The Taj Mahal is a lovely building and the white marble does add a unique quality that we have not seen in any of the other tombs. On the drive to Jaipur, we bought a small slab of the same white marble used to build the Taj Mahal. If you shine a flashlight through the marble, it emits a unique translucency. The white marble is just one of the spectacular qualities of the Taj. Unless you see it up close, you don't realize the craftmanship that was used to create the details of the Queen's tomb. Not only is the marble carved in intricate patterns, but it is also bejeweled with inlaid semi-precious and precious stones.

Relaxing out of the sun Carving detail Marcus by door of minaret Minaret and rising sun

During the rest of the summer we would read in the newspapers about the construction going on close by to the Taj Mahal. There was talk of multi-story malls and parking lots that could encroach on the tomb's revered position in the city. Such development plans, when made public, have been halted although one wonders why it took so long considering the construction that we saw in the riverbed had obviously been going on for many many months.

Taj put together from three pictures
Taj collage - from three separate pics

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