To the Taj!

Kerrie Olejarz

By: Kerrie Olejarz

Mark and Rahul went to M Block Market after this long hot day to buy a car seat.  Rahul was taking us to Agra on Sunday and we discussed how he should have car seats for babies available.  He liked the idea and asked Mark to help him.  They ended up getting one for 5000INR, about $100.00 Canadian.  Mark quickly installed it with Rahul and came back inside to get ready for our evening out.   Rahul was coming back for us in about an hour to take us to Noida for the parents’ party hosted by Dr Shivani.  We were all very tired from the day, and knew that going out tonight meant tomorrow we would be super tired as we were leaving for Agra at 4 am.   It was great to try out the car seat.  All of us new parents met at Dr Shivani’s office then headed off to Noida.  We ended up at the Radisson Hotel where we really enjoyed a wonderful buffet style meal.  Joining us at the new parents’ party were a family from Ireland, Norway, and the Aussie gals.  We were a large group that included Dr Shivani’s husband, little boy, and nanny.  We ate and drank and enjoyed each other’s company!  It was such a wonderful evening, getting some one on one time with the doctor and the other families.  We took lots of photos of the kiddos together and asked one of the hotel staff to snap a few group shots.  By the time the evening ended it was almost midnight and we were due to get up and on the road for Agra by 4 am…yikes! On the drive back to the BnB we asked Rahul if he would be ok to make this trip on limited sleep and he assured us he was fine and we were still on.  Cailyn was an angel the whole evening as were the other babies.  Fortunately, she didn’t feel the effects of the whirlwind day like we did. She slept through most of it!  Four o’clock came quickly and in preparation for the 4-hour drive I made a thermos of coffee, brought some muffins and granola bars and plums.  Rahul showed up just after four, we packed Cailyn into the new car seat and we were off. It was pitch dark out and the air was moist with a slight drizzle.  We headed south (I think) and started our 253 km journey to see the Taj Mahal.  The first part of the trip was dark and boring.  We all had coffee and muffins and chatted a lot about the route as we were going to pass through the village where Rahul was raised called Mathura, which was about 3/4 of the way into the trip.  The highway was very busy with trucks; Rahul explained to us that trucks are only allowed to travel at night, and in the morning they will all pull over to a rest stop along the highway and await the night fall to get on the road again.  As the sun started to rise we could see the sights around us.  These were not the most beautiful sights, long stretches of highway took us from village to village.  We noticed an odd amount of people coming to the side of the road with a small silver vase in hand, and then figured out due to the lack of running water in the villages, the dwellers would come to the roadside for their morning “business”, and the silver jug contained a splash of water to clean them when complete.  It was a bit of a shocker, seeing the real India, a far cry from the posh environment of luxury that we resided within the city.  As the trucks pulled off at rest stations they were replaced with small vehicles, like our pick up trucks.  The cargo in the back was typically 25 women, being transported to the fields for work.  It was such a foreign site to see all these women in their colourful saris, sitting in the back of a rickety old truck.  It was oddly beautiful to see the array of colour, yet a real taste of village life reality.  About 2.5 hours into the trip there was a roadside McDonalds.  I was excited as I had to pee and looked forward to maybe having something to eat.  Well, disappointment slapped me in the face as the toilet was not working and they only served dinner foods for breakfast!  We ended up getting some fries and veggie burgers and of course a Coke, stretched our legs a bit, changed Cailyn’s bum, and were back on the road in about thirty minutes.  Cailyn fed so nicely in the car seat, and only got out of it for a burp.  The rest of the time she enjoyed the comfort of sleeping in the new seat.  We continued on and drove through more depressing villages.  The lack of running water was evident and the recent rains made for a muddy mess.  There were cows and goats, and gaggles of bulls on the streets.  Each village brought on more perspective, and we fully understood why Rahul was desperate to leave the village and get to the big city.  Finally, after four hours we reached Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.  The trip was exhausting, the sites even more exhausting.  We made a pit stop to pick up one of Rahul’s favoured guides and then headed to the main parking.  The guide, “Jack”, asked us how we wanted to go over to the Taj: by shuttle bus or camel.  We chose shuttle bus since we had Cailyn with us.  We paid our outrageous entrance fee, grabbed the shuttle, and handed over our video camera to security at the entrance as it was not allowed.  The Taj Mahal was indeed a breathtaking site and Jack yammered on about its history, and he yammered some more and some more.  We were harassed by the tourist photographers to have our pictures taken in the key spots and finally caved and paid one to take all the classic tourist shots.  He quickly hustled us from point to point, snapping the ten pics we paid for. Jack continued to yammer on about the history and yada yada.  It was hot, there were a million flies and a lot of people.  Surprisingly we were not eye candy for the Indians, even with the newborn baby in tow.   We walked the grounds a bit, and sat in the shade a bit, and Jack continued to yammer on.  We would have thought our obvious disinterest in the history might shut him up, but sadly, no.  After about one hour we had had enough. Jack was annoying and the heat and humidity were too much.  Jack seemed surprised that this was all we wanted. In truth, we just wanted to say we had been to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and we were satisfied with that.  We headed out to the main entrance to gather up our cheesy photos.  On the main road out as we walked, all the vendors tried to get our attention to buy their crap, and we were far from interested.   We grabbed a taxi back to the parking lot where we reconvened with Rahul.  We changed Cailyn’s bum and got her back into the air conditioned car.  Surprisingly, she did very well on this trip, no fuss at all. We asked Jack how much we owed him, and he said to give what we felt was fair.  Ugh, that is the worst thing to hear in India.  We ended up giving him 500 INR, about $10.00, and when we later asked Rahul if this was ok, he said yes, it was a fair pay for the one hour of service. Now we dreaded the long drive back to Delhi.  We dropped Jack off at the same point where we picked him up and headed to a famous bakery to buy sweets.  Rahul grabbed the sweets for us on our request as we thought it would be nice to bring these back to the boys who worked at the BnB.  Now we were on our way, another long four hours in the car with unbelievable sites to look forward to.  We loved India and were accustomed to the big cities. But this day trip was a real eye opener of the true village life in India, and the tough way of life.

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