Below me an elderly Indian woman is snoring so loud she’s stopping me from sleeping. I’ve already got up her nose (like so much mucus seems to be doing right now) because when her family were in our sleeper carriage seats on the train from Agra to Jaipur, I asked them to move. And although I reckon I eased the situation by chatting to her grandson I don’t want to annoy her further by, say, rolling her. And anyway, that’s probably a violation or something.
Gemma and I are both covered head to toe in green, red, yellow and blue paint from something resembling the Hindu Holi festival. This makes us look dirty for the train, but in reality it’s probably just covering up the undeniable fact that right now, we smell. We’ve not slept properly for 40 hours and the next few days show no signs of letting up.
Everyone told us to get into Agra, see the Taj Mahal, and then leave Agra. So, with the aid of varying classes of overnight trains, that’s exactly what we’ve done.
And it has been our favourite place in India so far!
I’m not going to lie and say Agra is a beautiful city – it’s not. The streets are lined with litter, touts and raging bulls (actual bulls, not championship boxers), but that’s not to say fun can’t be had there.
We arrived at 3am this morning and took an autorickshaw to the Taj at 4.30, a time when the narrow streets aren’t overcrowded tourist traps but instead quaint, cobbled streets full of character.
The Taj Mahal doesn’t disappoint. Made from marble that reflects the sky, and symmetrical from every angle (well, technically speaking only 8) it truly stands out. It’s a diamond in an otherwise dirty and over populated city.
Hang on, I think the elderly Indian lady is turning over… Yep. Yep. Nope, she snores facing that way too. I’ll get back to our day…
We found a small rooftop restuarant overlooking the Taj – it really is surprising that a building known so well for being symmetrical can seem so different from new angles. Whilst eating we met an American who had been travelling India for 3 weeks. We discussed the ups and downs of our journeys and he quite honestly told us how he recently snapped at an auto rickshaw driver. “Sometimes you have to tell people how you feel travelling India” he told us earnestly.
‘Never a truer word said’ I thought as I watched a quiver of his lip. This man had been broken.
We decided to take a stroll to see Agra in daylight. Now here is the point where many travellers will tell you Agra is not worth a visit, ‘don’t go’ they’ll shout, ‘it’ll eat you alive and spit you out a shadow of your former self!’ Well, today Agra celebrated a religious festival which was similar to the Hindu festival of Holi. It wasn’t Holi, it was the wrong time of year, but coloured powder paint was thrown, loud music was played down the street and people danced. Everyone danced. Men, women, children, the disabled. Together.
I was grabbed by the hand.
“Join!” Shouted an elated Indian man, and then as many small children’s eyes clocked mine and Gemma’s white skin, I was dragged into the mass of people. Several Indian boys tried to persuade Gemma to dance with them, but seeing how uncomfortable this made her, some old Indian ladies came and took over. The children ran over throwing paint and offering sweets. We had everyone, thousands of people, dancing around us and cheering. Once again in India, we were stars!
It’s said that festivals in India can change a city and, if other peoples accounts of Agra are to believed, it must be so. But this was our Agra. Our Agra wasn’t just ‘see the Taj and leave’, our Agra was full of smiling faces, colourful dancing and new friends… Thousands of new friends.
And now we’re here, back in a sleeper train. Gemma’s next to me somehow sleeping through the chainsaw of a lady below me. I can’t sleep. I’m colourful. I’m dirty. But most of all, I’m happy.
Now, normally I try to link the end of these blogs to something that’s happened in the middle. But I’m too sleepy tonight, I just wanted to let people know about our day and say I’m happy. And sometimes you have to tell people how you feel travelling in India…
… Oh wait, that’s what the American guy said. Link. Done. Goodnight.