Day 4#: Agra and Ganesh holy festival
New Delhi to Agra,
The alarm rang at 5.20am and we were going to take our first train in India. We decided to go for the cheapest class in the local train and I was a bit anxious to discover what it would look like. The train was going from New Delhi to Agra. I was so happy because nothing was planned yet and we had no driver to guide us anymore. By ourselves, I had this immense feeling of freedom and presence pumping into my veins.
When the train arrived, finding our carriage wasn't an easy task. We quickly realised that the train was stopping just for a few minutes and thousands of people were trying to get in. Automatically, we acted like every one else: running and pushing people to find our carriage. Once inside, the next challenge was to find our seats like hundreds of other passengers. This was a 30 minutes task. Finally, we managed to find our seat and the travel could start. The seats were relatively comfortable but everything was very used, dirty and no AC was available. In the middle of this noisy carriage, we were the only white people and everyone looked at us very attentively, avid to understand what we were doing there and who we were. We avoided giving too much attention. Jess seemed calm and felt like taking a nap. In reality, she was struggling a bit with a start of a cold. It seems like I passed my virus to her. I felt a bit guilty, but now only time will make her feel better. The trip was 2h50 long, during which many merchants would participate to the background noise by selling different kinds of local snacks: chai, samosas, and fried bits and peaces. Following the merchants were the beggars. I was fascinated with an 8 year old little girl entertaining passengers with circus-like acrobatics. In one of her performances, she would rotate her arms around her back and get them back to place around her legs. A complete rotation that I had never seen so unnaturally and perfectly done. It made me shiver.
My curiosity for that train got satisfied, therefore I moved my attention to my book. I brought a book called “An Indian Poem”, a Nobel price book written by Hermann Hesse. Right from the start I got absorbed by the beautiful messages behind the story of a young and beautiful Brahmin called Siddhartha. I took some time to think about what I had just read and thought it could be interesting to share a post about this later. These last years, I have became very interested in buddhism and this book was a great reference. I was so happy to have it with me during this trip. Thank you Carolina for giving me this beautiful present back in London.
We finally arrived to Agra. Jess and I were both dressed Indian style and it made us feel more at home. When I think we are travelling for such a long period I believe it is important to create a sense of belonging, of having a home everywhere we go. We are starting to do this by trying to be more like Indians so India can become our home. Talking about home, we booked an hostel in Agra called Rainbow. A young man welcomed us very well and made me try their local cigarettes: Indian tobacco rolled on a dried leaf. This modest building was perfectly located at 400 metres from the Taj Mahal and it emanated good vibes.
We decided to start visiting the marvellous Red Fort. This fortress was once home and the prison of the Mughal Shah Jahan. The story says that after the death of his wife he ordered the construction of the beautiful Taj Mahal to honour his beloved wife. This same wife gave birth to 14 children. To be honest, I was jealous to learn the number of children he had from the same wife, therefore I challenged Jess and promised her a Taj Mahal for her own if she gets me that beautiful number. Continuing the story, one of the sons of Shah Jahan took the power by force and imprisoned his father only leaving him with the view over the Taj Mahal from his Fort.
Our day in Agra was hot and we were exhausted. We got to our hostel after the Agra fort and fell asleep for 2 hours. Still we managed to get up and walk to the back of the Taj Mahal to try our luck at getting the boat to the river and taking the perfect shot of the Taj at sunset!
To our surprise there was no boat! But there was better!! Small groups of people on the street were singing, traces of colours were on their faces and on the floor. Many were carrying Ganesh, son of Shiva, and dancing to the sound of Hindu music. When we got to the river, it was filled with these Ganesh statues that they had layed there as an offering and it wasn't too long before many many others arrived for the ritual. The city of Agra was now rejoicing for this holy celebration!! We witnessed the city completely transform. Indians who are usually attentive but shy, woman hiding under their veils and using Indian language as an excuse not to speak to us unless it is to beg or to sell had now become the most extroverted, happy and friendly people we had ever seen!! It was contagious! The happiness, the singing, the dancing! The way people would now come and talk to us, wanting us to learn their names, sharing their food, how kids played around with the pigments, spreading them all over our faces and proudly taking thousands of pictures with us while screaming of joy. It was really moving to see how a poor country lightens up when it is in celebration!
For that evening, we experienced a New India: an India full of color, laughter, joy and sharing. Where all of us were one. We felt blessed 🙏🏻