Agra and Jaipur: April 13 – 16

We could not imagine coming to India without seeing the Taj, and, of course, we wouldn’t send a group of students without giving them the opportunity to experience some of India’s incredible heritage.  Agra is a two-hour train ride from Delhi, and we left very early on the 13th to arrive in Agra by 8:30 AM for a full day of sightseeing.  Slowly acclimating to the indulgence and necessity of being escorted everywhere by guide and driver, we were grateful for the helping hand on the Agra train platform that led us through the maze of travelers and hawkers to a beautifully kept and air-conditioned car.  Again, relief and guilt are constantly with you as you watch the world around you sit in the heat and desperation of daily life and you wiz off to see the next great heritage site.

Admittedly, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Taj.  Don’t ask my why I thought that I would be too jaded for one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but I did.  Little did I know that walking through the main gate and getting a clear view of it in the distance would literally take my breath away.  I think I audibly gasped.   The girls were wow’d by its magnificence, too.

The afternoon at the Red Fort and requisite “showrooms” of marble work, embroidery, and jewelry was exhausting, but we did get a sense of the way that particular skills and patterns are passed down from family to family, as well as a wonderful history lesson from our knowledgeable guide.  I realize how little I knew about the Mughal Empire – embarrassing, but true.  At the end of the day we sadly say goodbye to Sarah who will head home to the US.

The following morning began our long drive to Jaipur via Fatehpur Sikri. We spent much longer there than intended because we also ended up hearing much of our guide’s life story – equally interesting to that of Akbar.

Existing within the strictures of a different society is exhausting and thought-provoking.  We stop for tea because our driver insists we do.  He probably needs a break, but he insists we’re stopping because the girls and I must need a break.  Eithertr way, we are stopping, sipping chai, rejecting curio hawkers, and trying to imagine which of the homes is our waiter’s.  Is it strange for him to serve us in china tea cups while he lives in squalor.  How do we feel about that?

Our arrival at our small guest house in Jaipur is a welcome respite from the rush hour traffic of cars, motorcycles, goats, cows, beggars, push carts, and rickshaws.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the honking or the traffic patterns, and I cease to try to figure it out; yet, I wonder about my need to figure it out.  Everyone else seems to navigate it quite easily and patiently.

 

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  • aiyer

    Thank you Stacey for these wonderful updates. It’s very exciting to hear all about the Global Investigator’s maiden voyage to India.

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