Seeing the Taj from far away doesnít convince one itís actually there: too strange of shapes, rising above the desert and shantytowns, to actually exist. Getting closer, it gets larger but not much realer: still looks too perfect, too different. Only when I actually touch the smoothed marble and feel for myself that the colors arenít painted on but jewels actually inlaid into the marble does it become solidly real. Canít help but imagine how confused the first foreigner to see this wonder must have been: coming over sand dunes and then suddenly a building to shame any in his native land. From the 4 outer spires tilted outwards 2 degrees each to prevent collapse from damaging the main hall should they ever fall to the symmetry so perfect that the king built a guest house simply to balance out the design as an exact copy of the mosque on the other side, this is really the most amazing building Iíve ever seen. The king built the symmetric Taj as a tomb for his favorite wife; Iím sure heís turning in his grave knowing that the addition of his coffin (heíd wanted a duplicate in black marble across the river for himself, but one of his sons imprisoned him and took things over) is what threw off the symmetry.
Leaving the parking lot, we buy whips, more because the salesman is insistent than because we actually have any desire for them. Nonetheless, they do liven up a roadside stop: locals laugh as I spin around dripping sweat, panting, trying to get the stupid thing to crack. But other than that, the rest of the day is a large drive, back to Delhi and then up to Chandigarh, double-digits hours in the car. I sleep not so much because I want to but because, with 4 people crammed into the backseat, Iím so uncomfortable that itís easier to deal with when not awake:)