Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The previous day had taken me to the New Delhi train station tourist office to get my ticket for Amritsar. Having heard horror stories of the touts who linger at the bottom of the stairwell convincing people the office is closed and they must book through them I went ready for a fight. To my slight disappointment there was nobody there and I freely walked up the stairs and into the office. So armed with my most expensive ticket to date (I had opted for the 'superfast' service which was to take a mere 5 hours, a blink of the eye compared to some other trains), I boarderd my a/c carrige, accepted my complimentary tea and sandwhich and settled in for the long journey ahead.

Now Amritsar is the home of the Golden Temple, the most holy of sites for the Sikhs, and the main purpose of my visit. The Sikhs believe in the philosophy that everyone is the same despite differences in religion, colour or whatever else, this was to be made evident to me from the moment I stepped off the train. I was instantly approached by two young rickshaw drivers enquiring where I was staying, my digs were near the temple itself so I told them just to drop me there, I was then quoted the usual astronomical prices, showing my disgust in the most honourable way I continued walking alas I was to be followed like the proverbiable bad fart. I was then met my an older bearded man with a pink turban neatly coiled on his head, he couldn't speak english but knew my hotel and for a fraction of the cost the two previous guys had quoted. So I set off in his rickshaw surrounded by pictures of the Sikh warrior kings and with the whole of the back covered with one large picture of the golden temple, I felt like I was there already. Soon enough my miniture, motorised temple pulled up at a no vehicle entry barrier, expecting to walk the last part I was surprised to see my driver hail a cycle rickshaw pay him a third of his fare to take me the last couple minutes journey to the hotel, I was very impressed. This however was not my reaction when I was shown my room. I walked back to reception and made it clear that I couldn't stay there...well not at the price he wanted anyway. After taking away my A/C and hot water but with the promise of his cleanest dirty sheets we came to an agreement, I could always have stayed with the pilgrims in the temple dorms for free and whilst this would truely have been an experience, it was one I wasn't ready for.

I set off for the temple, buying a mandatory head scarf on the way deciding the communal ones at the gate probably weren't worth the risk. I deposited my shoes at one of the huge shoe stations and walked barefoot round to the entrance. After a quick wash of the hands and a dip through the foot baths lining the gateway I was ready to enter, a friendly guard tiedied up my head hankie and informed me of the temple ettiquette and set me on my way. The temple is set in a reflection pool surround by a huge walkway which teamed with thousands of pilgrims walking clockwise round the perimeter and many more just sitting in the shade chatting with friends. I joined the masses and navigated round the walkway, on reaching the far end there was a huge stall selling puja offerings to take into the temple itself, the queue to go in was over a thousand strong and wasn't going anywhere fast, I completed my lap and headed towards what could only be described as a massive shelter emmiting a loud clattering noise. I discovered it was the communal kitchen, they feed all the pilgrims for free and when you consider there can be in excess of 80,000 a day you can imagine its scale. A huge conveyer belt of people waiting, being served, eating and cleaning up all going seemingly like clockwork. I discovered the source of the clattering was the metal serving trays being dunked in various vats of hot soapy water before being thrown to the next then being hammered to get rif of excess water before being thrown to another station where they were stacked ready for reuse, the whole process taking under 20 seconds for about 50 trays.

The other major 'attraction' in Amritsar is the Jallianwala Bagh Park, the site of a massacre carried out by the British against a peaceful ralley. The site is a reasonably sombre affair with an eternal flame burning alongside walls littered with bullet holes and the well where 150 people jumped into to escape the firing squad only to meet a watery death. There was also.a small museum dedicated to the Indian man who subsequently assasinated the commanding officer of the man who ordered the attack, it was on exiting here I was to find myself the centre of attention. I was stopped my a man who spoke perfect english, a professor from the local university. On seeing me speak to this man the other nationals must have decided that I was an approachable guy and before too long a woman came up to me and asked for "one snap". I obliged, not thing too much about it and even when more family members flocked into the frame I wasn't too concerned. What I hadn't noticed was the tens of other families who had seen this pioneer family getting there photo taken with the white guy and decided they too wanted a piece of the action. Before I knew it queue had formed and there was now at least 8 or 9 mobiles and cameras pointing at my flashing away. I got a nudge from behind, it was the professor, he told me I should probably sit down, I agreed. After about ten minutes I decided to close Dougies Grotto much to the dismay off the remaining families and beelined for the exit. Not quite how I imagined my trip to the site of a massacre carried out by my country men on the local people would have turned out but an interesting experience.

The next day i explored the outer city finding myself in one of Amritsars finer dining establishments (it alsways amazes me how the colour of my skin can allow owners to over look the fact I am considerably under dressed). I was soon approached by an elderly gentleman sitting opposite me, very well dressed and obviously very wealthy. He struck up conversation and he was soon telling me of his 'new' life in an Osho ashram. I declined his offers of going to stay in his village for the next week, in one of his many empty bedrooms, and infeed I was welcome to stay on after he left for Nepal but in the meanwhile we could talk, listen to music...dance?!!  I obliged him with my email address and it was only till after he left that my waiter informed me he was old bollywood royalty, oh well, thems the breaks living a tentative life in India.

Now running late I had to hot foot it back to the city centre to catch my minibus to the border with Pakistan. I wasn't visiting, just going to see the border closing ceremony, and all the pomp that accompanied it. After an hour of rushing through traffic we arrived 2km short of the border and we were told to walk the rest of the way. I was soon met by a crowd thousands strong all pushing and shoving to get a good position near the closed gates. Not knowing what to do I walked to the front and stood with the other confused looking white people near the front off to the side. They then opened a small side gate allowing only the women through but this caused a huge surge by all parties and soon they had no choice but to open the main gate and allow the eager locals to proceed. The mounted police men troed there best to keep the crowd under control but theres no stopping a crowd of Indians looking to get the best seats. Nearing the stadium all those holding a foreign passport were allowed to enter via a side entrance and we were shown to a privare area nearest the boder gates, one perk of being a whitey in India. The ceremony kicked off with women and children running up and down the main road carrying the Indian flag, then they all had a little disco dance, was actually nice to see the women getting to let tneir hair down for a change. On the Pakistan side of the border it all looked a much more sombre affair, the men on one side the concealed women on the other. Then the main show kicked off literally, one after the other soldiers proceeded to high kick and then goose march to the border where a Pakistani conuterpart would be mirroring their actions. There was lots of gate slamming and then the flags were lowered similtaneously and at that it was all over, and as fast as tbe stadium filled it began to empty.

In the morning I did a quick circuit of the temple before embarking on my long journey up to the hill station of McLeod Ganj, happy to be escaping the heat my only worry was the 3 public busses I was going to have to take to get there!

Monday, 26 November 2012

More Delhi

The next day feeling refreshed and slightly chilly I had breakfast on the roof terrace which to protect its customers from the morning sun the owners had covered with a blue tarp, this served no other purpose but to create a very hot environment, and in this purpose it suceeded, exceptionaly well. Before my tea and toast had arrived I had saturated my shirt and asked politely if they would mind sending it down to my ice parlour, they obliged a sweaty man.

After another quick freshen up I strolled out to explore Delhi, I headed off to see a mausaleum of some description but to be honest compared to the Taj everythig had become a little bland in my eyes. Even the Red Janter Manter wained in siflgnificance compared to that of its yellow counter part in Jaipur. I found sanctuary from the midday heat in a little bookshop and on asking the shop keeper for a recomendation I did not expect the answer he gave. On looking up at the section I was standing infront of, Indian Writing, he let out a disgusted sigh. He unleashed a barrage of abuse against his fellow country men claiming they had very few passable authors and that most of it was tripe. It transpired he was a homosexual, feminist, Cambridge graduate from Bombay now doing a post doc at Delhi University and he was having a bad day. His counterpart who ran the shop on alternate weeks had destroyed his 'system' and it had taken him all week to fix (something I suspect she will spend next week rectifying as he has destroyed her system). I decided to change the subject and remarked on the comic book styled Indian character mugs and coasters next to him on the counter. This of course provoked another rant where he criticised the makers calling them various racist expletives, his grasp of English profanities was quite something to behold. I purchased a racist mug and Salmon Rushdies Midnights Children which the only criticism he had of was that I hadn't already read it, and then left. I quite enjoyed the little exchange in the bookshop but it left me somewhat drained and I retreated to the nearest Cafe Coffee Day and drowned myself in a tropical iceberg (my favourite iced addiction).

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Old Delhi, the never ending bazaars piled one on top of eachother and so tightly packed its difficult to tell where one vendors wares stop and anothers begin. As I was being bombarded by sellers from every concievable angle (even from above, most of the shops spill upwards into the 1st and 2nd floors) I ducked up a quieter alley only to be accosted by the mobile vendors who can seemingly pop up from anywhere. Walking away with 3 bollywood LPs I realised that these guys were exceptional salesmen.

I jumped on the metro back up to my hotel and spent the evening with a new friend indulging in that all time traveller favourite, the chocolate banana pancake.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Escape from Agra

At 6am after another terrible night I stepped over the sleeping night guard and let myself out of the hotel and was swiftly ripped off by a greedy rickshaw driver, having no fight left and I was just glad I was getting closer to my destination of New Delhi and further from Taj Ganj.

I was surprised by how quiet the train was, in second class 12 people are supposed to sit where 8 are in sleeper, not bad I thought, but then again that doesn't include standing/free loading passengers. After the first two stops the train was now starting to resemble those of the typical stereotype, the roof providing more space and better air conditioning. I tried to take refuge by directing my head out the window, this was ok in unpopulated areas, of which there are very few, but once you hit a village or town you are met by flashes of white and brown, this being the local village men doing there buisness in the mostly secluded area that is the train tracks. I mean I suppose for 99% of the time this is fine but for that split second you are exposed for the whole commuting world to see, some even face the train, exposing a touch of the voyuer in the locals maybe.

We slowly made our way to Delhi with the train bursting at the seams with people, luggage, parcels and a few suspicious bags leaking a foul smelling liquid, and that was just in my limited eyeline, with visibility limited to about 6cm I'm sure there were many other wonderous things going on past the Indian womans arse directly in front of me. The train began to thin out as we made our slow approach to New Delhi station, the ever impatiant locals taking the oppertunity to hop off as we neared walking pace. I waited till we came to a full stop before hopping off, much to the disgust of the passengers behind me, and I was met by the hustle and bustle of the capitals main station.

On leaving the sanctity of the platform I was instantly bombarded by rickshaw drivers easy to make a quick buck. My hotel was a ten minute walk but despite this I was quoted upwards of 500 rupees for the two minute journey, although if I went to another, "better", hotel of their choosing they would gladly take me there for 10 rupees. I eventually decided to walk and after a short, sweaty trudge I arrived at the Amax Inn.

I had splurged and opted for A/C as the summer temperatures were hitting the mid 40's and with the night providing little relief it seemed worth it. The room was nice enough and despite the pigeons who had made a home on the A/C unit outside my window, relatively quiet.

I decided to head sraight to the heart of New Delhi, Connought Place, a series of circles in a typically British style with a huge roundabout in the centre, which at the time was host to a pack of bears, of the fibre glass painted variety, each country represented by a stereotypical incarnation of an 8ft grizzly. Well that is except Britain which opted for a middle eastern sheik type figure which was a little perplexing especially when plonked next to americas statue of libearty and round the corner Irelands Leprabear. Anyway, I srolled through the main circle and was confronted by shops that you would expect on any UK high street and the occasional old style stationers hanging on in a vert modern world sandwiched between a McDonalds and a Levi shop. I decided to check out the metro for my return journey and once through the metal detectors and baggage xrays I was greeted by something I had not yet expierenced in India, a clean, well organised, efficient, punctual, air conditioned method of travel.
I returned to the Hotel and crashed out with the A/C on full and only the faint scratching and shuffling of pigeons shagging to disturb me, utter bliss compared to Agra.

Not possible Mr Douglas

Agra being a reasonably well connected city I was surprised at how few trains ran from the city to Delhi, well at least trains with seats on them. I found one seat myself but alas my booking abilities were limited to checking availability, leaving me to the mercy of the commission hungry travel agents. I stopped at a couple laughing at their charges and then realised I was in the depths of tourist India and there was no escaping over inflated commission. I quickly realised that I was going to have to stay the two nights I had originally planned but left one agent with the promise of a train early the next morning. After a couple hours I recieved a call saying it would not be possible Mr Douglas and I would have to wait another day to get a train, the thought of a third night sent a chill down my spine and I hung up. Against my judgement I went down to see the grinning thief that was my hotel owner, he was happy I had finally relented to his offers of bus tickets which I had previously been snubbing. I opted for the early morning bus and went back to my cell to pack my bag.

In the morning I recieved a knock at the door, I opened it to find my tear drop clad jailor on the other side with a grin on his face. The bus I was due to get on in an hour had been cancelled and it was only possible now to get the 8pm bus which would arrive somewhere in the early morning. This not particularly appealing I declined and went in search of yet more travel touts but was met by the all to familiar head wobble of ambiguity.

I relented in the end after too many "Not possible Mr Douglas"'s and returned to my hotel. Again I was greeted by a large grin, I reluctantly agreed to spending another night and he charged me 200 rupees for the train ticket, having recieved only a fraction of the value of my bus ticket and his commission being non refundable this was turning out to be an expensive venture.

That night I was the proud owner of a 60 rupee second class train ticket that had cost me well over 500 and inumerable hours of discontent. However as I slummed it once again in my cell I was just glad to be leaving in the morning.

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Taj

After a short and sleepless night I was awoken 15 minutes before my 5am alarm by the sound of scraping chairs above me, I got up and dressed and once again climbed the stairs to the roof terrace. This time I was greeted by the Taj in all her glory bathed in the morning twighlight, oh and a slightly surprised cleaner who was happily dragging the cast iron chairs around the roof.

Having forgotten my tiredness I was eager to get up close and personal. I wandered through the empty streets stopping of at a chai seller to perk myself up with caffeine and a bread stick. The ticket office was empty bar a few other bleary eyed tourists but judging by the snaking entry barriers this was not the norm. I entered the complex which was already buzzing with happy snappers and guide touts, I shrugged them off quite happy just to be immersed in the beauty of the Taj, ignorance is bliss indeed. Walking through the large gate I was met by the immaculate gardens and the infamous reflection pools leading to the majesty of the Taj Mahal which had now taken on a slightly pinkish tinge with the breaking of dawn. I joined the hustle and bustle of everyone trying to take the perfect shot of the scene, trying to do justice to the whole symmetry of the place (these spots were unferstandably popular and the meek had no chance!). I walked slowly towards the main building snapping whenever possible a shot that would actually try and do justice to one of the new wonders of the world.

A strict policy on footwear is adopted and whilst you are issued with blue plastic shoe covers at the entrance I just left my shoes at the racks and went barefoot. On entering I was slightly taken aback by how small it felt, and of course you are remided that this is actually a mausaleum, the two epitaphs of Shah Jahan and his wife lying side by side surrounded by a wall of lattice marble. The superior craftmanship of the tomb is undeniable, mainly of marble the closer you looked at a design the more detail you noticed. There is a series of interconnecting rooms that loop around the main chamber which take you out to the rear which over looks the large gardens over the river. After doing a couple of laps I decided to explore the two flanking buildings, one seemingly disused and the other a mosque, in a mainly Hindu country its easy to forget that it was under Muslim rule for a long time and that the Taj was built under one of the greatest Mughal emperors.

It was exploring the mosque that a bumped into the girl I had met in Jaipur whilst there was no romance or secret espionage exchanges there was a mutual benifical agreement regarding photo taken, you get to get at least a couple snaps in the infamous Diana pose (well thats if you could be bothered to fight the ever increasing numbers pouring in). We sat in the gardens for a while before my rather insubstantial breakfast got the better of me and we parted ways. The mobs had well and truely arrived now and the empty barriers when I entered were now packed with impatient Indian tour groups all ducking and diving trying to gain a few extra places in line.

I grabbed an early lunch on my roof terrace where I could see clearly the ever increasing visitors and whilst I thanked myself for raising out of bed at 5am I was soon kickick myself for the lack of forsight into how difficult it would be to escape from Agra!

Jaipur to Agra

I had a lazy start to the day after the strains, mentally more than physically, of yesterday. After rechecking my train ticket I discovered I had an extra few hours to kill before my train so I headed into the city for some last minute shopping. I had been meandering through the bazaars aimlessly when I was approached by a man asking that all too familiar question 'why do tourists hate Indians?', I told him I didn't have time and was due to catch a train, which fell on his hears with doubt. I insisted it was true but then somehow, once again, found myself on the back of a motorbike being whisked to a coffee shop en route to my hotel where we were to 'chat'. He had informed me he was working with the Indian tourist board and that all he wanted was for me to talk about my time in India. We ordered a coffee and he gave me a form to fill out asking me to name my top 5 pet peeves of India (only 5??!!). He then took a phone call which lasted for about ten minutes, I was just packing up to go when he insisted we go through the form together. At the top of my list was the differing prices for foreign tourists and nationals at various sights, he replied that this was because we were rich and they were poor, a weak and generalistic argument from a supposed member of the tourist board. He then proceeded to my fifth point, more of an expansion on my first really, that shop owners/rickshaws will instantly triple prices when they notice your Western, this seemed to please him, and in my opinion he revealled his true motive. He told me that his uncle owns a shop selling everything not 5 minutes away by bike and he became very insistent I should visit with him as he offered fair prices. Angry at falling for his scam yet eager to keep my cool in light of yesterdays incident, i simply put my share of the bill on the table, said goodbye and left. Now I really was running late for my train. I grabbed a guilty pleasure KFC and made my way hurridly back to the hotel.

I arrived sweating and slightly flustered, I met a German girl who was also catching the same train so we shared a rickshaw. On arrival the driver insisted that the fare of 100 rupees was per person, a new one to me and one which echoed point 5, we grudgingly paid running to late to argue. We parted ways as the girl headed for her first class ac compartment and I to my second class sitting sweat box but arranged to meet on the other side.

The journey passed quickly enough despite a couple of hours delay in the middle somewhere. We reunited, the girl looking refreshed and cool and me feeling dirty and sweaty, and shared a rickshaw into the Taj area of Agra. It was difficult to judge what the city was like in the darkness, the traffic being similar to the other big cities, chaotic, and all the familiar smells of over population, shit. I was dropped first and we made loose arrangements to meet at the Taj at sunrise (can't say I'll utter those words again but it felt rather romantic/like I was a spy arranging a secret drop-off, either or).

I went into the hotel to the reverbaration of raised voices coming from the reception, two americans claiming the host was a money grabber, not a good start. I waited for the situation to diffuse then approached the owner, a fat man in his 30's with a tear drop tattoo under his right eye and a constant grin on his face. He showed me to a spartan room with a window looking onto the corridor and nothing adorning the walls except dirt and mould, the bathroom was in a similar state only it smelled worse. I asked if this was the only room, which of course it was, and as it was dark, against my better judgement ,I took it.

One of the main selling points was its rooftop view of the Taj, I climbed the stairs and was met by an empty terrace and complete darkness on all sides. To my surprise they don't light up the Taj at night, so as I sat with a beer squinting to make out the dark outline of one of the most iconic buildings in the world I decided that this was to be a fleeting visit and that I should make my way to Delhi in the afternoon, how wrong I was to be.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Jaipur Revisited

After a swift breakfast I was off for my day of sight seeing, keen to go to the Amber Fort situated a few miles out of the city my 400 rupees fare was not too bad a price (somebody quoted me that just for the return fare alone never mind a whole day). My friendly driver set off pointing out various sights along the way, then disaster struck, a puncture (really I'm surprised I hadn't encountered this incident sooner due to the state of the roads). We pulled off to one of the many roadside garages, clearly a booming buisness, and luckily enough for me it was next to a Cafe Coffee Day so I could get my Tropical Iceberg fix (kinda like a coffee/chocolate slush puppy). After maybe an hour the novelty of sitting at the garage had well and truely worn off and my driver could tell, he decided to get the use of a motorbike to run me up to the fort and drop me off and whilst I was sight seeing return after the puncture was fixed. I got on the back of the bike with him and he instantly stalled, he started it back up and then  shot it onto the wall, none of this was filling me with confidence. The owner of the bike, dismayed at its abuse, pushed my driver off and got into the seat, we sped off hanging on for life as we dodged pot holes and showed no concern for speed bumps. After 5 minutes of pure terror we arrived at the fort and i thanked my impromptu driver and set off on the steep climb up to the entrance.

The fort was impressive, as they all tended to be and as I paid the over inflated tourist rate I was treated to a complimentary headset for a guided tour and a very faded map which I was asked to return. I wanderd from station to station being informed, in a very dramatic manner, of the history of the various buildings and statues. My map soon failed me and I found myself in what felt like a lesser visited part of the palace, I saw an unfriendly guard descend a flight of stairs and exit from where I had entered. I wandered up the winding staircase reached what felt like was a never visited part of the palace, then, just as I was going to about turn I heard the metal gate at the bottom of the stairs close and a jangle of keys, great. I rushed down the stairs but it was too late, I was locked in. I went back up and reached a bat filled room with another small staircase leading down, I eventually, after a bit of panic, got to what looked like a familiar part, except this time I was on the other side of the velvet rope. Jumping over un-noticed I decided I should probably leave as I had been promised many other sights by my driver. I soon discovered a flaw in the audio guide office position, I exited into the main courtyard and once again had to queue to gain entry to the palace to return my headset, which I did on the assurance I could exit this way once I had returned my guide and map...wrong. On my return the guard simply pointed at the no exit sign, after miming that I had just went to return my auido guide, no simple task, I was once again motioned to the no exit sign. I was left with no choice but to retour the whole fort, well minus the bat cave, before making my way back down the hill to my eagerly awaiting driver.

After he explained he had almost given up hope and I explained my adventures he told me I was now off to the old city to see how the famous 'block printed' fabric was made, I was intregued. I needn't have been. It was in actual fact a commission based shop which had a few lacklustre fabric hangings and one set of elephant printing blocks which a young child demonstrated, not exactly making me put my hand in my pocket. I was then shown up to the real buisness, a room filled with cloth and a tailoring section. I chatted to the owner for a while and then explained that I had no intention of buying and that even if I was to have shirts made why would I come with a rickshaw driver who is skimming a large chunk of commission. He admitted defeat in the end and I left, my driver looking a little sad that I hadn't bought anything...yet. We set off now in the direction of a silver smith, where I was to be shown workers setting the famous Jaipur gems into rings etc. Unsurprisingly this was again to be another show room, and with no intention of buying I refused the cup of chai and hence skipping the sales pitch and we left. I don't know why but I found myself apologising to my driver for the lack of my purchasing and in turn his lack of commission even though I felt no such guilt.

The second to last stop was an unknown temple, despite the minimal fee my driver insisted I just climb the large set of stairs next to it where I could peer in for free, which I did. As I, slowly, made my way up the stairs I was besieged by children begging, I gave them what remained of my stash of chocolate eclairs (a cheaper and more effective way of dispersing a group of kids, also means it doesn't line the pockets of a beggar pimp). On my way back down I saw my driver whizzing about on a moped, this was supposedly for my benefit, he seemed determined to show me that he could drive on two wheels.

Finally, and not a moment too soon we were on our way home, alas there was to be one final stop en route, his very good friends shop (this one wasnt even disguised as something else). I was greeted warmly and shown a seat surrounded by everything from pillow cases to pashminas. I once again insisted that I had no intention of buying anything which the owner seemed to take offence as if I was implying that he wanted to sell me things, I could tell this was going to be a much harder sell. He started off telling me my fortune, very good apparently, then informed me that the gap in my teeth meant I was to be very rich one day. On chatting about Scotland I mentioned that my hometown was famous for its mills and cashmere was big buisness there. Well this sent his into a frenzy, soon I was being shown every different type of shawl he had and then I was to be tested. He wanted me to pick out the cashmere scarf out of the twenty or so he had given me, reluctant to entertain him I eventually picked out the softest one I could find. He relished in the fact I was wrong and bellowed that this was actually an illegal type of hair and that I knew nothing, a funny sales pitch. Well that was it, I had had enough, and wether it was just a culmination of the days events or that other things were playing heavy on my mind I erupted in a manner that I only exhibit on the rarest, and most stressful, of occassions. My driver who had been sitting silently sprung to his feet and tried to diffuse the situation, maybe still hopeful for a sale, the owner clearly was, as I slung insults at him he retorted with the various prices of the scarves only ceasing when I was back in the rickshaw.

It was a silent journey back to the hotel, the driver coming to terms with the fact it had been a fruitless day and he had blown any chance for a tip, which he had. I handed over the pre arranged fare for the day, it looked like he went to speak but stopped himself, probably about to insist on a little extra and, rightfully, thinking better of it. I did him the courtesy of not reporting him to reception and retreated to the sanctity of my room. I had my train to Agra in the morning and the thought he being  immersed in the beauty of the Taj within 24hrs put me in a better frame of mind, little did I know that the Taj was truely to be a diamond in the rough.