It’s an iconic image isn’t it ?.
India in a nutshell. An image used to promote a vast country and one that’s instantly recognisable world wide.
My first visit, before this picture was taken, had been 24 years earlier.
I recall it quite well, those moments of anticipation, the nervous tension, the butterflies if excitement fluttering away in my stomach.
I recall how still it was at dusk. I remember how few people there were at that time and how you could walk unhindered around the Taj. It was a warm evening, Indian evenings usually are, but it wasn’t hot. There was a softness in the light as the harshness of sunlight was fading into the night. It was beautifully serene.
24 years later and, in late afternoon, crowded, hot, bothered and trying to breathe. Suffocated by the jostling crowds, the endless security, the shouting of guides trying to make themselves heard above the teeming throng.
The scramble to be photographed on the Diana seat. That seat were she was photographed in splendid isolation.
No chance now. A confusing mass of humanity surrounds it, pushing, shoving, each attempting to sit before the next, the perfect pose presented to an eager husband or lover.
How many have been here before ?. It seems half of India is here. How many care ?. Is this just another tick on the bucket list ?. Do they really appreciate what they are seeing ?.
Is this the way of all such iconic sights ?. Do we really care about them ?.
The Taj has a story. A story of love; monumental love, all consuming love. But is it represented here or is this just an elegant piece of marble from centuries past ?.
I adore the Taj. This teardrop on the face of time that brings love and tragedy together. A love story with an unhappy ending. It is represented here in the delicacy of the work, the carefully selected inlay, the curvature of the dome and its setting amidst the gardens of paradise.
I feel moved.
But I want to be alone to be moved. It’s an emotion best expressed in solitude.
I want to walk unhindered and unhurried. I want to rest my cheek against the cool marble and become one with timeless beauty. I want to enter and pay homage, in my own way, to an emperor and his queen, who lie in state beneath a pure white dome.
I want to sit awhile, at dawn or dusk, and watch the colours play across the marble. I want to contemplate the beauty before me and around me and let myself drift through time to an India of the Moguls and watch the construction unfold. I want to be there at the birth of this wonder.
But I cannot.
This is my story. This has been my experience. It is just mine. Others will see it differently, for good or bad.