For What It’s Worth.. 63.. November 3, 2011

TODAY was a great day..  I took a very ‘ deep breath ‘ .. and went for a nice.. long-for-me at this point in my game .. two and a quarter mile ( 3.6 kilometers )  walk..

I walked from my hotel to THE TAJ MAHAL ..

It took me one hour.. and I stopped several times to just pause and take in the local sights along the way.. constantly asking and affirming and then re-affirming that I was going correctly.. I relaxed my way out to THE TAJ..

The last time I  visited the Taj Mahal.. was with Patti back in March of 1996.. and this translates to OVER fifteen and one half years ago..

Little did we two.. Patti and I .. realize that .. Patti probably will not again visit India.. and that it would be well over fifteen years until I again visited MUMTAZ..

I will not go into details about Mumtaz.. Shah Jahan.. and their TAJ MAHAL.. except to say when Mumtaz died while birthing their fourteenth (14th) child.. Shaj Jahan was so sad that he built THE TAJ.. her burial site..

THE TAJ IS  A MOST HOLY MUSLIM BURIAL VAULT .. and IF you have brain one in your head.. you TREAT it as such..

I SUGGEST WIKIPEDIA ..

What a phenomenal wonderful resource WIKIPEDIA is ! .. I am HAPPY to financially contribute to them .. for all you want to know and THEN SOME about THE TAJ.. (and anything else for that matter).. go straight to WIKIPEDIA..

It was nice to revisit THE TAJ .. my first visit to Mumtaz being in December of 1990.. and things have sure changed..

In December of 1990.. the visit to THE TAJ was FREE no cost.. TODAY I paid seven hundred and fifty (750 Rs) rupees (this translates to seventeen US Dollars) .. THANK GOODNESS I had enough cash in my pocket to pay this.. 

TODAY.. to enter the grounds..  the lines and the waits were SIGNIFICANT.. back in December of 1990 there were NO lines and NO waits.. you walked up and you walked in.. Patti commented that when we two  visited in March 1996 it also was this way.. no lines and no waits..

In December of 1990.. there were some.. but basically very few TOUTS .. (touts are local people who PUSH YOU AND WHO SHOVE YOU AND WHO ‘ GET-INTO-YOUR-FACE’  DEMANDING YOU HIRE THEM AND THEM ONLY TO..  escort you around.. to get you there.. (as IF I can NOT go straight)..that you purchase from them what they are selling .. from refrigerator magnets to mini-Taj replicas to leather horse whips to key chains to post cards to __________________ you fill in the blank .. RIDE my camel.. RIDE my horse.. RIDE my bicycle ricksha.. RIDE my auto ricksha.. RIDE my battery powered ricksha..

TODAY IT WAS BAD and when I say it was bad.. I mean..  it was BAD ..

In December of 1990.. the touts were much more reserved.. much more polite.. much less aggressive .. TODAY they touts were horrific .. they see a foreigner and ka-bam here they come..

BUT.. BUT.. BUT..

Once you ‘get inside’ the grounds.. IT WAS HEAVENLY .. NO TOUTS were allowed inside..

Those offering services inside…  (photos.. to escort you.. for a fee.. around the grounds for several hours)..  were very well dressed.. polite to the point of being  ‘fawning’.. carried identification badges.. and acted in all respects and in all aspects as the licensed and trained professionals that they are .. proud to be who they are and proud to be doing what they are doing.. offering VALUABLE services to new comers..

BUT.. BUT..  BUT..

All the ‘outside-the-gates’ hassle WAS WELL WORTH IT .. period.. go see Mumtaz IF you ever get the opportunity..

And the line to get inside THE TAJ ..while long.. moved exceeding well.. no pushing.. no shoving.. perfect behavior..

All in all.. I was inside the grounds for about four (4) or maybe more hours..

I had taken with me Electral Rehydration Salts and drank a full litre of treated water .. I had taken with me a wash cloth and scented soap so I washed my face and hands while sitting in the shade on a bench to refreshen myself during the end of my visit.. toilets inside were perfect ..

Back in 1990.. THE TAJ was open seven days a week.. now it is closed Fridays p-e-r-i-o-d !  People plan entire trips around a Friday visit and are totally shut down and out and can not reschedule intricate travel plans and thus miss totally the highlight of their trips..

When I left.. one tout ‘shadowed’ me for a FULL forty five minutes before he finally got the point.. I was NOT going to hire him.. I sat on a bench.. he waited.. I got up.. he followed me.. it became a battle of wills.. mine against his.. he finally blinked ..

Then I got lost coming home (one missed turn and you are totally lost) and I ended up in Agra Fort NOT Agra Cantt.. so I hired a bicycle ricksha man to ‘bail me out’ and for one full United States Dollar he did exactly that .. rode me precisely to where I needed to go.. to my Pawan Hotel at Number 3 Taj Road in Agra Cantt..

TODAY I spent over (from leaving my hotel at 10:30 this morning until I was back a bit after 5:30 this evening) seven (7) WONDERFUL hours of my life visiting and communing with one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World..

THE  TAJ  MAHAL ..

I would be remiss to..  NOT DO AS MEISTER ECKHART SUGGESTS ..

Thank You Oh God of Abraham.. God of the Muslim.. God of the Jew.. and God of the Christian.. for a wonderful day and for a wonderful and for a truly blessed life.. /s/.. YOUR little captain.. over and out.. Cap..