I had been to Agra many times but not from Jaipur. Moreover, it was only this time that we stayed in Agra for two nights in Taj View. However, in 1965, Chander Prakash and myself stayed in a hotel suitable to our means then as executive trainee in an engineering company. But we had covered Agra more extensively and intensively too. We visited all places such as Agra Fort, Itimadud-daula, and Radha Swami Dayalbag Temple in making and Fatehpur Sikri, using local transport, many times a tanga (horse driven). I don’t remember if camel carts were available in those days, most probably not.
I vividly remember the sight of Taj Mahal in moonlit night during August 1965. It was just exhilarating and I still feel happy to think of the uniquely divine sight. We spent daytime in seeing once all around Taj and kept on taking many photographs. In evening we came in again in evening and sat on the platform near the entrance gate. It gradually darkened and Taj Mahal vanished in the darkness. But then moon gradually started coming up and the whole profile of Taj Mahal got clearer and clearer. By 10 PM or so, Taj Mahal was bathing in the moonlight. It was a great sight in itself. You can’t explain that, you can only appreciate, if you experience.
The journey this time to Agra from Jaipur was pretty arduous. At many places, the road that is getting widened was really bad. At Taj Mahal, I was amazed at certain obvious shortcomings rather mismanagement. Even on a weekday, there was a huge queue. Why can’t the authority provide more facilities for security checks, if it is a necessity to save it from terrorists? Why can’t it have sufficient clean toilets, both Indian and European style, particularly for women when it takes a fee for it?
And finally I can’t but mention something about the Hotel Taj View of reputed Tata Group. Anand had booked two rooms from which Taj Mahal could be viewed months in advance. It claimed to provide a clear view of Taj from the rooms. It took time to convince the man at the front desk that we had booked only those rooms. Why would have it happened? We had selected a full moon night to be in Agra to view Taj on a moonlit night from our rooms. In night, we couldn’t see anything because of the fog. However, in the morning as the sun got brighter, we could get a view of Taj. However, it was not that exciting because of haze and smog. Why can’t Taj View be truthful in putting the real situation? Alas! We couldn’t go to see Taj on full moon night. We could have entered Taj Mahal in night for an hour, if we would have booked for it by paying Rs 750 per person one day in advance. We didn’t have this information. Why couldn’t the Hotel provide this basic information about the Taj Mahal, when our booking was done from USA?
But the most shocking was our attempt to visit Fatehpur Sikri. It turned out to be a nightmare. A little before our vehicle reached Fatehpur Sikri, we found goons in the name of guides started troubling us. They had created jams on the main road that is under construction. They tried to get into the vehicle in pretext to take us through a different route at a cost. Finally, we could not find a solution to the jam even after an hour. We had started well in time at 3PM after completing the visit of Taj Mahal, but we couldn’t make it to Fatehpur Sikri.. We decided to return instead without taking a risk with those goons. Satish, our driver did manage to reverse the Innova and brought us back to Taj View.
How can we relish and appreciate this experience of these visits as one of Incredible India?