Last week, my Mom came to visit India for the first time. She came because her best friend from 15 years ago moved to Bangalore, and my study abroad here was the perfect opportunity for her to visit. This weekend, we flew to Delhi to see the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort. I will now share some of the history from these places, as shared to me by our friendly tour guide, Ahmir.
The Taj Mahal was built from 1631 to 1653, and ordered by Shah Jahan, the 5th emperor of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan had three wives, but loved his third wife the most, and called her Mumtaj, or my crown. When she died after giving birth to their 14th child, she made Shah Jahan promise to build a monument on her grave, not to remarry, and to take care of their children not as a king, but as a father. The monument he built was the Taj Mahal. Although it is huge, the Taj Mahal is only built for the tombs of Mumtaj and Shah Jahan. There are some small prayer rooms around the tombs, and an empty storage area underneath the monument. There used to be gold, diamonds, and paintings in this storage area, but the British stole all of this.
Next we saw the Agra Fort. The Agra Fort was built by Shah Jahan’s grandfather. We only saw 30% of it, because 70% of the fort is still used by the Indian army, mainly for storage. Back in the day, the fort had a water moat with alligators, and a land moat with poisonous snakes, tigers, and other dangerous animals. The large bridge-entrance had to be drawn open by two elephants. Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal were beautiful. The sky in Agra and Delhi was totally white; a mixture of fog and pollution. Finally, we watched the process used to make many of the flowers and designs on the Taj Majal: a process of smoothing different colored stones and carefully placing them together on marble to create beautiful flowers. It was amazing and expensive.
We also saw our old friends. It is insane to see people who you haven’t seen for 15 years, especially best friends from when you were 6 years old. A few hours before seeing my friend for the first time in so long, I was nervous. We were friends when we were 6, but were we even real people back then? I don’t even know what I was like when I was 6. What if we had nothing in common anymore? What if she didn’t remember me? What if she thought I was basic or boring or too different, or not different enough? But all of my worries were for nothing. Our family friends, and my old best friend, were just as excited to see us as we were to see them. We reminisced over a ton of food, and 15 years provided plenty of conversation topics. If you ever have a chance to visit old friends, I highly recommend that you do.
I also used the opportunity of my Mom visiting to have her bring me hot Cheetos, lemon Lays, and pickles. My Mom left Sunday, but she knows she will have to return to India soon, much sooner than the 15 years it took her to visit the first time.