The alarm squawked out at 5 am. A rather uneventful and solid night’s sleep, even if the hotel’s surrounding were bleak, emanating a strong odor from all parts of the building. Later, we discovered that it was not just the building but the actual town itself. Upon further deductive reasoning, we asserted that the odor mixed a light splash of sewage combined nicely with a dash of mold. It was an all encompassing and depleting fragrance. Truly!
We tried our best to mouth-breathe and put the smell behind us and quickly we readied ourselves to meet our driver for our 6 a.m. rendezvous, the darkness of the previous night still in full swing. Today was the Taj Mahal. One of the seven wonders I believe (but I may be making that up because I haven’t really been paying attention!) that was built purely from kindness and love and the memory of a wife who died giving birth to the 15th child. Or so the story goes….I think.
We walked up to the main gate and paid our 750 Rupees (18 dollars) and awaited the opening at 6:30, queued in a line a half-block long, with every nationality equally represented. As the gate opened, the highest crest of the new day sun began to rise into the purplish sky.
By the time that we had gone through the ladies only line – for searching purposes we later found out, and been scanned and patted, and our contraband taken away, the soft orange hues of the sun were casting aspersions on the magnificent stone and marble that make up the beauty of the Taj Mahal.
To call the moment “magical” would be an understatement, as the new day shone contentment, and excitement on each of the eastern walls, as well as the meandering river behind it.
An early morning gondola pushed itself through the river, each ray of light building a slow concerto to the labouring gondolier as the conures circled and played above him, somehow finding absolute purity amongst the otherwise putrid surroundings.