It has been a wonderful couple of days in Delhi, with the Imperial Hotel looking after us as if we are at home – this is the most beautiful hotel in the world and I actually (quite simply) want to move in. One of my dearest friends in the world arrived in Delhi on Sunday night and we have not stopped talking ever since and, (after five weeks of speaking French) it has been all verbal diarrhoea for the past couple of days.
Yesterday was spent back in the beautiful Hauz Kaus Village where we drank gin and tonics overlooking the magnificent lake, before watching the sun set as the crows circled the sky with their wings moving to the beat of the Hindi music that filled the rooftop courtyard. It was total magic and we laughed and laughed – it felt so good to be in the company of a great friend again.
We whizzed home through dusk in an auto rickshaw – serious giggles ensued and the driver sang a made up tune about loving the disco and managed to drive, phone a friend and keep an eye on his blond friend on the backseat all at once.
This morning after breakfast we made our way down to the carport ready for the three hour journey to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
Our driver Ashwani was wonderful and as I type, the other madam relays the best parts of the day. There is too much to write about.
Upon arriving in Agra, we were introduced to our tour guide who had an agenda and was convinced that the Madams were going to love every bit of him. First, we were told to mount a cart driven by a very angry old man and a wormy horse – and in all honesty, we both felt really conflicted and not at all happy because we would have preferred to walk and not support the awfulness that is the cruelty towards that horse and that man, ‘ you must feel like the royals madams,’ our guide cried with glee before taking photos, to which we replied (under our breath and to each other), ‘no, not princesses, more like big fat white people doing something pretty awful actually.’ We clip clopped down the road against our wishes before arriving at the VIP gate, because apparently we were in that moment.
The Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall. As we both concluded, had we given birth to 14 children of which only 6 survived, we too would probably expect a little gift in return. Hairnets on our feet to protect the marble from the dust, a few snorts, a fair bit of laughter, some sincere nods to our guide, our very own Princess Di shot and tile overload later – we were ready for Channa Masala, Butter Naan and some Paneer Tikka at a small guest house on the way out of Agra.
Agra is a sad and strange place that has really fallen into the hands of tourists – and whilst the monument is a beautiful sight and we both had our breath taken away today, it is crazy what we needed to climb through (and the money that is made from things like wormy horses dragging a horrible old cart reluctant madams), but as we rounded our way through the official entrance, nothing could have prepared us for the beauty of the huge white monument under a perfect blue sky. It never changes and is just indescribable.
Our trip back to Delhi as beautiful and we finished the day at India Gate and the Presidents Palace, and now we are heading out the door to the Delhi Gymkhana Club for dinner with a friend of a friend and there will be a more detailed post to follow tomorrow.