I’m not sure my description of India will do it justice; but if you asked me what my first impression was, I would say it was probably the kindness and the smiles of the people; from my colleagues who I was meeting face to face for the first time to strangers, tour guides and the villagers on the tours we took. It was clear the villagers were living in undesirable conditions but they had such dignity and a quality of being which I found admirable.
Magical things I experienced in India
I strongly believe that one of the things that contributes to the character of a city or country is how good its food scene is. It goes without saying that India is no exception. I had the pleasure and privilege of going to the Bukhara Restaurant in New Delhi and boy oh boy! We had to wait a fair bit to get in but when we eventually did, I witnessed how the restaurant truly shines because it breaks the myth that Indian food is spicy and hot. Chillies take a distant back seat and the char from the clay oven and the various spices being used take centre stage, giving you food and a signature taste that is truly extraordinary. Did I mention it featured in the foodie top 100 restaurants worldwide? I can’t remember all the names of the food we ate because we ordered our food as a group, I will tell you this though - it was memorable.
With a history of an extremely enterprising culture, I wasn’t surprised by the stories that our tour guide told us about how they were trying to keep their history alive in the way of hand woven rare and pristine works of art in their silk carpets. It was a beautiful discovery of how the business of silk carpets in India is up there with other countries like Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and China in making beautiful, well-crafted pieces.
Our tour guide took us to Humayun’s Tomb which was built in 1570. I later learnt that the tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Its unique beauty is said to have inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the unparalleled Taj Mahal.
I would have been mad at myself if I hadn’t gone to Agra to see the beautiful Taj Mahal, the construction project that employed 20,000+ artisans. It was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1631, to be built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th (yes...FOURTEENTH ) child. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for her, which is considered to be a monument of his "undying love". This world wonder is too famous for me to write too much about. All I can say is I was a bowl of mixed emotions during this tour. - if I do get a chance to go back, I’ll visit at dawn and enjoy smaller crowds and the magic of sunrise.
India is a photographer’s dream. The variety of spices, the dyes, and the beautiful saris remind you of the beauty that this life can sometimes possess. As I got lost in my own discoveries, what I found a little odd was how many locals kept asking to have their picture taken with me - I later found out from our tour guide (also a local) that it was because of the color of my skin. Interesting!