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trip to agra
By Dennis Batchelder 6 April 1998

well, we did it. we survived quite a trip from new delhi to agra, a distance of some 120 miles.

first of all, we tried to take the train - a 2.5 hour ride. so we woke up at 3:30 AM, took a taxi to the railroad station, and tried to get a ticket. they were all sold out. so the booking agent suggested renting a car. after haggling for the type of car (we wanted air conditioning; they said we didn't need it), we were told to wait for the driver ("no problem, any minute").

so latif and i took a walk around delhi railroad station. what a horrible pigsty! there were people sleeping all over the parking lot and in front of the station. i guess people wait for their train, and they may wait all night. so they bring blankets to thrown down, and more to cover themselves with, and sleep there, baggage, kids, and all. since there were no plumbing facilities, people just "went". we had to pick our way across the parking lot, dodging these disgusting piles of crap.

after taking a ride in a rickshaw (bicycle attached to carriage pulling me and latif - we gave our driver a real workout), our car and driver were ready, and off we went.

anyone who has travelled with either latif or myself knows that we are suckers for monuments and other attractions. so even before we got out of delhi, we had the driver stop at india gate. by now it was sunrise (about 6:15 AM), and i've included a picture of this place, taken from the india gate, and overlooking some monument that was built for King George IV, but now being prepared for Gandhi. 

Back in the car. The air conditioning worked like a deep freezer. but it made the car go slower. so we crawled along the roads, looking at the poverty all around. we saw all sorts of stuff: people taking baths in muddy puddles, washing clothes, tending the cows, carrying food and liquids on their heads, pumping water, and (of course) plying their wares at us.

and all sorts of wares they had! oranges, bananas, grapes, jewelry. there were dancing himalayan bears and trained monkeys, too. 76 trombones led the big parade.... not that we bought anything. if you buy from one vendor, the rest of them have "sucker meters" that register immediately, and they all come flocking. kind of like feeding seagulls at the beach. so i learned to say "no" in Hindi - it's pronounced "NIE". Vendors typically listened after they heard it a few times. Here's a sample conversation with a thwarted vendor:

VENDOR: Sir, would you like to buy? Aren't these beautiful? Bring them home to your wife or girlfriend.
VENDOR: Sir, these are very nice. 20 rupees only. I give you--
VENDOR: Okay, 10 rupees. Just----
VENDOR: What to you mean NIE?
(Vendor leaves cursing)

Wasn't that nice? I probably had that same converstation or a simple variant of it 150 times today. By the end of the day, I was able to reduce my "NIEs" to 1 or 2 - down from 4. Not bad, huh? To do that, you have to look these guys right in the eye with a really stern expression, and shout NIE as loud as you can. The smart ones give up after 1 try. The real persistent ones go for two.

Right before reaching the city of Agra, we stopped at Akbar's Tomb. Akbar was the grandson of the first Mogul King (Babar), and a great
architect. He built his own tomb, plus the Agra Fort, which we saw after the Taj Mahal.

So 6 hours after we left, we come up to the Taj Mahal. Which we then stared at in awe for the next 90 minutes. I'm going to talk about it in a separate email - this is long enough.

The pictures are as follows::
1) Sunrise through India Gate monument to Gandhi.
2) Monkeys at Akbar's Tomb. They come from Sri Lanka. There are 100 of them in the tomb compound - 99 females with a single male. A true
3) Camel. We rode in a camel wagon for the remaining 1 kilometer of the trip to the Taj Mahal. This is one of the carts.
4) Our taxi. This is diesel. only 3 years old. falling apart. only 180,000 km. no problem!

That's it for this email - i'll send you the taj mahal one next.


trip to agra - india