I arrive in Agra, tired, dazed. I find a hotel half a kilometer from the Taj Mahal. I visit the Taj Mahal. It is spectacular, and the sun is shining, but I am unfortunately unimpressed. It’s not quite as big as I had imagined. And I can’t stop thinking about how it was built as a testament to the king love for his wife. She died while giving labor to his 14th child. If really cared *that* much for her, maybe he should have considered giving the dangreous child-baring a rest!? She could have been around longer. All I could see was the Taj Mahal as a great (and very symmetrical, I might add) monument to some selfish, twisted version of “love,” and it was just uninspiring. Did I mention it cost 750 rupees to get in? That’s the foreigner price. Indian nationals pay a fraction of that to see the twisted love-monument.
This is yesterday. Yesterday it hit me. I came here thinking, “I’ve turned myself inside out so many times, nothing can rattle me any more.” I had a realization this monring about half an hour ago, about my trip, about everything. Maybe even an ephiphany: I have now become totally overwhelmed here–the phones, the trains, the rickshaw drivers, the rain, the language barrier, the pestreing insects, the pestering men….. And then I was thinking, “Well, that sucks. I didn’t figure it out. Sure, I’ve collected lots of wonderful pieces here, and I’ll come home and put them together, and create a story that gives it meaning, as humans do.” But truthfully, I’m kind of just sick of India at this moment. I fought the phone guy over 10 cents this morning after getting off the train. And realized how silly that is.
What I realized… is that India has touched me. Has stripped away a mask of politeness I wear much of the time and is now asking me to reach deeper and find what’s underneath. Not the angry, reactive part necessarily, but that it’s touched me in this way is a sign that this place has affected me deeply. And now…?
I’m off to Varanasi on the train tonight. The City of Light, the “Soul of India”. Rested and ready for the last leg of my Indian adventure.