Love, Tombs, and other Epics at the Taj

It’s a crisp winter morning. And Agra is stirring to life. The chaiwalas offer much needed warmth in small clay cups. The marble workshops are setting up, each selling the very best, most authentic handicrafts. The lines at the ticket office are fattening—no cash, only cards, says the sign before me. 

You are very lucky, Ravi, our guide, informs us. I had a sunrise group this morning. There was so much fog, not one photo they got. But look how bright it is now. I hope you are ready. 

As it turns out, we aren’t. The Taj is a thing of beauty. Built of magic, and heartbreak, and artistry. A dramatic love story, an endless memory, carved out of marble and gemstones. Our eyes are saucers and our words are too small. We pad along, in our blue disposable booties, towards the Royal tombs, taking it all in, a near impossible task. 

Ravi offers a steady stream of commentary. Pointing at the sparkling inlays, at the Princess Di bench, at the verses carved into the marble. He tells us where (and how) we can take photos—no, no take it from here. Better angle. Wait, let me—and where we cannot. He calls out greetings to other guides, and then he takes his language skills out for a spin.

As his sentences turn from fluent English into a flurry of Slavic, the girls up ahead perk up. Oh, they say. They giggle. There may even be a coy hair tuck. They are from Kazakhstan, he tells us with a charming smile, before turning away. As our young guide works on an epic of his own, we take the break to pose for a selfie.