Visit to Taj Mahal Causes Reflection

The author’s family in front of the Taj Mahal

Coming from Pakistan, it is always hard to get an Indian visa because of India and Pakistan tensions. From the time I was married to an Indian national, I knew that one day I would visit my ancestor’s hometown and explore some iconic and historical places, especially the Taj Mahal.  

What I did not know then were the circumstances during which I would visit the Taj Mahal. With grief and sorrow, we said goodbye to all our relatives and my still sick mother-in-law. Her eyes were empty as if they were begging us not to go. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be able to see her again, but I couldn’t do anything. We started our journey by road with a heavy heart; I had made plans for this specific road trip to the Taj Mahal, but because of my mother-in-law’s deteriorating condition, it didn’t materialize as I thought.   

It was a nice sunny day and not chilly nor foggy during our stay at Amroha. Around 8:30 a.m., my husband, daughter and I started our road trip to Delhi, with a stop at the Taj Mahal. On the way to the Taj Mahal, fast food carts lined the streets, which made those roads special as they bind the soul. During our travels, we moved through some heavily populated areas; I could see different types of people: some feeling underprivileged and some wearing nice clothing as if they were going to work.  

After almost a two-hour drive and located in a deserted area, we stopped for a lunch break in a quiet restaurant. Only three young adults were inside the restaurant and enjoying the food. I ordered a sandwich, my husband ordered vegetables and bread and my daughter ordered french fries and ice cream. After taking a short stopover, which was less than an hour, we started our journey again. It took us five hours to reach Agra (the city where the Taj Mahal is located).

Finally, we reached our destination: the most beautiful, iconic monument and a symbol of eternal love, the Taj Mahal. Built in the 16th century, King Shah Jahan created it in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal; the beauty was everlasting. 

When we entered the building, we had to stand in a big long queue to get the entrance ticket. We hired a tour guide, and he helped us get a ticket a little quicker. He knew we were traveling from aboard, so he was looking for a good tip.  

The long path to the main building was nearly 1 mile. The Taj Mahal's main gate was astonishingly beautiful; the carving was inspired by Persian, Islamic and Indian architecture. The white marble gave a spiritual feeling. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare complex, including a mosque, guest house, garden, mausoleum, rest house and the main gateway. All three sides are covered with gardens with a crenelated wall. 

The unique and most spectacular feature of the Taj Mahal is the white marble dome that is nearly 35 meters high. There are four minarets on each side, which are 137 meters in height to emphasize the beauty of the main dome. The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, but the actual graves are lower, where the general public is not allowed. 

While I enjoyed the calligraphy's exceptional beauty on the walls, my 5-year-old daughter did not have an interest in any of it, and she kept pulling me to go outside the building. We came to the back of the Mahal in this tussle, and there we could see the River Yamuna behind the building.  

I could easily see the river where some underprivileged children were taking baths. While standing on the iconic building, the people's plight made my heart feel like it was bleeding. I couldn’t see any beautiful and upscale areas; I could only see the destitute and poverty-stricken people whose faces have moments of kindness and fleeting smiles. I could not understand why the surroundings were dilapidated. 

Every year, millions of tourists visit the Taj Mahal, which generates money, but where does this money go? With these thoughts in my mind, we started our journey back home. During the flight, I was uncomfortable, as if I had left something precious.

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