Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taj Security

We were warned by Joanmarie not to go to the Taj Mahal. She told us it was too dangerous. Saddam Hussein has just been hanged and there was a riot 2 days ago right here in front of the Taj. The Muslim community is already furious with the bigoted approach the Bush administration has taken with their community as a whole but the way the trial and execution was carried out has put a lot of Muslims over the edge. We have checked the local reports and decided to take the chance of going there anyway.Mannie, our auto rickshaw driver, lets us off in a congested roadway and points us in the direction of the Taj. I share a moment with a cow eating garbage on my way down the lane. Aw and I relax and enjoy this walk, knowing this is a once in a lifetime experience.
I always pictured the Taj being on a hilltop so that it could be viewed like a palace from miles around, but it's not. It's inside a giant compound. This is the entrance. We buy two tickets for 750 rupees each ($50 CAD total), which, in India is a huge sum of money. We take our tickets and stand in line. I should have taken photos of all the military around us. This place is heavily fortified right now and we sense the tension from the riot that just took place. We are waiting to go through this archway to a metal detector. There are two lines; one for women and one for men, as is the custom for Muslims. As we're waiting, a local Indian man comes up to me and says: "This line takes two hours. I know a shortcut. Come with me." I reply: "How much will this 'shortcut' cost me?" "Very little, sahib. Only 200 rupees. No waiting." I turn and look him in the eye and ask: "What would Mahatma Gandhi do? I think he would stand in line like the rest of his countrymen, don't you think? If it's good enough for Mahatmaji, it's good enough for me." The man shakes his head in disgust and makes a bee-line for the next foreigner. Ten minutes later we are inside the gate. My only problem is that I have a fifty cent calculator in my pack. The soldier tells me I have to go across the street and leave it there. It could be a detonator for a bomb according to their regulations I have to leave it behind. Aw is watching as this exchange goes on for about three minutes. I'm trying to tell him to just keep it but he doesn't want me to have to lose it and he doesn't quite understand what I'm saying to him so the whole line behind me is stuck waiting. I finally smile and just start walking past him. He picks up the calculator and warns me: "It won't be here when you get back" I give him a dismissive wave and a smile and wish him 'Namaste'.So finally we make it past securety. This huge archway behind Aw is the gateway to the grounds that enclose the Taj Mahal.


Anonymous said...

very informative piece. if you’d like to read more about how the gita inspired gandhi, check out Gandhi on the gita at

Steven said...

Thank you my friend for the website reference. I will enjoy studying it further. Namaste.