My visit to the Taj Mahal

Published: October 12, 2013

People visiting the Taj Mahal on a Sunday holiday. PHOTO: REUTERS

After returning from an action-packed trip to India – with a wedding, a family reunion and a tour of a country rich in culture and tradition – there is so much I want to share! This trip was truly incredible and we are still in a state of wonder and awe.

Our trip began in Delhi and, believe me, landing in Delhi was like arriving in Lahore. The similarities were unbelievable – the people, the roads, the buildings, the architecture and the food all reminded us of things back home. I would not be exaggerating if I said that Delhi and Lahore could be twin cities.

Initially we were sceptical about disclosing our nationality, but after getting to know that we were Pakistanis, people would look at us in fascination and curiosity. Almost everyone had a story to tell – some had relatives in Pakistan, others had shifted to India after partition and still others were simply thrilled to know about Pakistan. Our driver was Sikh and hence, had a special attachment for Lahore and Hassan Abdal. He would vehemently swear that it was only the politicians on both sides who wanted to create differences between the two nations. In his words:

“Yeh sab neta log ki wajah se hai, hum log tou eik hain.”

(It’s all because of these politicians. Otherwise, we all are one.)

The highlight of our trip, of course, was the visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. After hearing from numerous sources about how magnificent and mesmerising the monument is, we just couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. We had a brief stay in Delhi where we took tours of the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Humayun’s tomb and the India Gate and then, it was time to travel to Agra.

Gate of India. Photo: AFP

We hired a car and took the new Yamuna Expressway from Delhi to Agra. The state-of-the-art express way, which is 165 kilometres long and spread over six lanes, is built to reduce travel time between Delhi and Agra. Consequently, it took us approximately two hours to reach Agra. The Yamuna Expressway is said to be one of the best and busiest highways in India. However, once the expressway ended and we entered Agra itself, we were in for a shock.

The impressive highway that we had happily driven on, abruptly became a narrow road with cars screeching and chaotic traffic; and suddenly we found ourselves driving through areas littered with mountains of garbage.

Yamuna Highway. Photo: Reuters

As we drove along, we realised that we were weaving through one of the worst slum areas of the city. These slums represented a different Agra altogether, with urban poverty at its worst.  The living conditions in these areas seemed inhumane and were the result of lack of sanitation, waste management and disposal facilities. From what we could see, the slum dwellers lived in dire conditions without individual toilets and even though there were public toilets, the lack of maintenance and cleaning had rendered them unusable.

To say that we were baffled by this unglamorous side of one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, would be an understatement.

A discussion with our driver/guide made us realise that the similarities between India and Pakistan are more than we imagined. He was of the opinion that the government was corrupt and that the officials filled their own pockets with all the revenues flowing in. After all, with around 50,000 tourists visiting the monument every day, paying an entry fee of about £10 per person, it would seem that there would be enough for developing infrastructure and improving the slums.

Pollution near the Taj Mahal has given the white marble a yellowish tinge. Photo: Reuters

It was 6:00 p.m. by the time we reached the city centre of Agra, so we decided to call it a day and headed to the hotel. The next morning we got up before sunrise and headed out for the Taj. No cars or buses are allowed within a radius of 500 meters of the monument, to curtail pollution levels. Pollution has become alarmingly high due to smoke emission, fumes from factories and clogged drains around the building and it has affected the colour of the Taj, giving it a yellowish tinge.

The walk up to the monument is lined with handicraft stalls and we met artisans who claimed to be descendants of the labourers involved in the very first construction of the Taj. These artisans have lived in close proximity to the monument for generations and earn their living by crafting souvenirs and other gift items.

The Taj Mahal. Photo: Reuters

There were security checks at the entrance and already a long queue of tourists by the time we got there. However, once we got past the gates, it was like being transported into a different era. We were surrounded by lush green gardens and magnificent Mughal architecture. Even the air seemed majestic. We quickly made our way through the east gate, and lo and behold, the Taj was there in all its glory and splendour.

It was simply breath-taking and the structure looked divine with its white marble gleaming against the clear blue sky. It literally took our breath away and each one of us was engulfed in our own thoughts for a while. Slowly, as if waking up from a slumber, we began the touristy ritual of taking photographs from all angles.

Moving ahead, we found ourselves at the end of yet another queue. People were lined up to get their photos taken on the famous Princess Diana bench. Even though it was next to impossible to have your picture taken without anyone else in the background, we persisted but to no avail.

To think that even at 6:00 a.m. the place was thronged with tourists from different countries, conversing in all sorts of languages from Japanese to French to German and of course Punjabi!

Princess Diana at the Taj Mahal.

After visiting the Taj Mahal, we moved on to the mosque adjacent to it, which is open only for Friday prayers. This mosque is made of red sand stone and has a similar design to the Jama Masjid in Delhi. Interestingly, another building – a replica of the mosque – was constructed on the east side just to balance the overall symmetry of the architecture. This building houses a guest house and is called the Jawab, meaning ‘response’ since its purpose is to harmonise the scenery.

People offering Eid Prayers near the Taj Mahal. Photo: Reuters

Rudyard Kipling, described the Taj Mahal as ‘an embodiment of all things pure’, and it would have been difficult to digest the impurity on the other side had we not seen it with our own eyes. Sadly, the glowing monument, manicured gardens and clear water ponds were a direct contrast to the slums of Agra. Although the Taj, which is considered to be the pride of India and a masterpiece of Mughal architecture, deserves to be well taken care of, it is sad to see that the same care and attention is not given to the people living near it.

Overall, India is an amazing place to visit – secular to the core with mosques, temples, churches and gurdwaras co-existing and open to all. From metros to malls, from high street fashion and fast cars to abject poverty, India has the diversity few nations can claim.

However, with all this diversity, India also has the uncanny ability of making one feel at home.

This post originally appeared here.

Sameea Zafar

Sameea Zafar

Sameea likes to blog about her favourite things to do, wear and eat in the city. She tweets as @SameeaZafar (twitter.com/SameeaZafar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Vishnu Dutta

    Agra city is really a shame. Despite having Taj and Red fort which attracts heavy tourist population it sucks as a city. The amount of revenue it generates should have made this city a heritage city like jaipur but continuous failure of greedy govts has made it a miserable place.

    Correct way to visit India is with a open and tolerant mind. Then only you can enjoy your stay. I am glad the author had both of them in abundance and she saw what she came to see. Hope you visit again.Recommend

  • sh123

    No shame in coming to india and the spreading hatred against indians in pakistan.WOw!!Recommend

  • sh123

    Biggest mistake this govt made was to give pakistanis visas at all.Recommend

  • MKL

    “Overall, India is an amazing place to visit – secular to the core with mosques, temples, churches and gurdwaras co-existing and open to all.”

    In most of the impure world, this is the norm and not the exception.

    BTW, it is India Gate, not Gate of India.Recommend

  • Bangalorean

    The difference you mention has much to do with the local administration. The Yamuna Expressway symbolizes Delhi as much as the Agra slums symbolize UP. The state of UP is one of the worst managed states in India and still thrives on polarizing its people and is the Wild Wild West of India. It is not just you, many foreigners also find the poverty in UP dichotomous to India.

    I liked your note on secularism. As Indians, we cherish it.Recommend

  • Anshuman Tripathy

    I’m glad that you enjoyed your stay in India. But I wish more pakistanis explored the south,east, north-east and west of our country. Next time you’re here try moving out of the usual Delhi-Agra-Punjab areas you guys so frequently visit. I’ve been to almost all the major tourist spots in the country(Goa,kashmir,shillong,kerala and so on..) and trust me when I say this, I have had the best experiences in the south and north east of the country.

    Hands Down The Best experience I’ve ever had was during my college trip with my friends to Goa .It was Holi and we ended up playing Beach volleyball at calangute beach in Goa with a bunch of Russians who needed company and then later they ended up sponsoring dinner and hookah in a shack right next to the beach. I will never forget that day.

    Next time you’re here get an intensely relaxing ayurvedic massage at a boathouse in the backwaters of Kerala, marvel at the intricate and delicate architecture of the erotic temples at Khajuraho, Go on a tiger safari at Ranthambore or Jim Corbett national park, just walk through the streets of Kolkata during Durga Pujo or Mumbai during Ganesh Chathurthi,Visit the Mahabodi Buddhist temple at gaya where Buddha attained enlightenement, You have to make it to the daily evening Agni Poojas at Varanasi,UP (You will literally feel like you’re cleansing your soul). These are just a handful of places that only I have visited. Every nook and cranny of my country is another paradise waiting to be explored.

    Seriously there is so much more to Enndia than just Delhi and Punjab.Recommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    I am Glad you say the true side of India, Secular, tolerant and diverse. and People say that hindus hate muslims, and minorities live in fear.

    spread the word and the truthRecommend

  • Ravi

    Sameea, you are always welcome in my country. I am glad you had a good time, hope you visit again.Recommend

  • Dinesh Kumar Singh

    The information in the blog that each visitor pays 10 pounds is incorrect. That fee is only for foreigner only. Indians pay much less than $1.Recommend

  • Lauren

    Hmmm right,
    I haven’t been to India but m just back after a 4 week long trip to Dubai and turkey,
    I met many Indians in this time and most of them were pathetic , generally in their attitude and particularly in their accent
    No offences but That’s what I feltRecommend

  • Ayush

    Lovely write up. But i am guessing you were constrained by the space allotted to you. Your criticism of Agra is spot on. The government must do something about it. Next time you visit, make sure you also visit South India. It is beautiful in an entirely different way, although you might not feel as “at home” as you did on the North. But please do write more about your trip. We would love to listen to some feedback :)Recommend

  • welcome

    extremely heartening to see such a positive article. may god grant both countries peace and politicians grant open visa pacts.Recommend

  • koshur_batta

    nice piece. Glad you had fun in India.Recommend

  • zalim singh

    thanks for the kind word on India , Sameea.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Quote “Overall, India is an amazing place to visit – secular to the core with mosques, temples, churches and gurdwaras co-existing and open to all. ”

    Thank you for this sentence. Nice to see a foreigner acknowledge this about India.

    Did you buy the famous agra ka petha?Recommend

  • water bottle

    Sorry to burst your bubble.

    “It was simply breath-taking and the structure looked divine with its white marble gleaming against the clear blue sky.”, “Rudyard Kipling, described the Taj Mahal as ‘an embodiment of all things pure’”

    How could any real person enjoy the beauty of something built on slavery and the blood of thousands of innocent people, unless he is shallow and superficial?

    How can anyone like the Pyramids of Egypt, Taj Mahal of India or the Burj Khalifa of Dubai without seeing tens of thousands of slaves and their bloodshed?

    Any honest person has to see these. But honesty is a rare commodity these days.Recommend

  • Hope for good

    when you guys come to india,why dont you explore some hindu monuments.As far as slum is concerned..most probably they r bangladeshi migrant and vote bank for congress.They enjoy living in pathetic condition in india..Recommend

  • darbullah

    Ask the Sardhar to stay in Pakistan for 2 weeks and then ask him if there’s anything common between India and Pakistan. Recommend

  • observer

    ‘Accent?’

    You mean they did not pronounce Pakistan as Bakistan as the Arabs do? Or they were not Texan enough for you?
    Try this for size.
    http://www.rediff.com/money/2003/aug/27teachers.htmRecommend

  • Sen

    No offences taken, unless you have a travel blog and can prove your identity, we will continue to believe you are a Pakistani.Recommend

  • harkol

    Nandita: Most westerners are not amazed by our secular traditions, as they have moved forward from religious dogma. Perhaps for a Pakistani it is still a novelty! Does one get amazed to see a American christian in a Venkateshwara temple at Pittsburgh? It is normal.

    Ms. Zafar: Wondering if you didn’t visit the Agra Fort? Which is equally wonderous, though not as beautiful as Taj. The history of that fort and places within the fort, the glimpse in to lifestyle of Mughals, and the views from the fort are really rewarding.Recommend

  • harkol

    Ms. Zafar:

    Wonderful article. Very detailed, and having visited Taj a few times, totally concur at the sad state of public infrastructure.

    In fact, till about 2 years back the Yamuna Expressway didn’t exist and the journey from Delhi would’ve taken you 6 hours!!

    And I always wonder why the surrounding areas of Taj is so slumish?! Why can’t the state govt. take over these lands, make a state of the art museum, and a mall for housing the existing small shops, thus the visitors can shop in comfort!Recommend

  • harkol

    Water Bottle:
    Your house is built by folks who resort to manual labor due to their trying circumstances. Check the status of folks who clean the drains in your own city – if they weren’t doing it then you’d be swimming in muck.

    In each period there is some amount of exploitation, which will be considered unacceptable in couple of generations. That is no reason to marvel at the work that they did.Recommend

  • Anooop

    You have a point there, @956421aea69a4dbeb9a412d3ed0de221:disqus.

    Should we celebrate the monuments which have been built by spilling rivers of blood, even they they are Architectural and Visual marvels? I feel the same as you.

    I prefer something like the Ajanta-Ellora caves. The people who built it, built it because of their faith.

    Thank fully, India has many Historical sites, which need not have the bloody history of a Taj Mahal. Hampi of the Vijayanagar dynasty in Karnataka a great example.Recommend

  • water bottle

    Two problems with you.

    1) You don’t have the basic understanding of the basic difference between slavery and manual labor.

    2) You have no knowledge of history or current affairs to see what I am talking about.

    Perhaps you need to read more.Recommend

  • Shashank Manickam

    lol we r patheric………….plzzz raise ur standardRecommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Then demolish these monuments to slavery and stop milking money from foreign tourists if you hate it so much.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    I was referring to the author who is a Pakistani.The general impression in pakistan is that minorities are persecuted in India which is a wrong perception. So I’m quite glad the author acknowledged and appreciated our secular traditions.Recommend

  • History buff

    Hi Sameea,
    I noticed one of the pictures mention the discoloration of the marble..wanted to add that originally,the monument was studded with precious stones.
    After the failed rebellion of 1857, the precious stones were filed off by British soldiers.This theft,turned the coloured Taj,white & pockmarked…& still lovely.
    Slums in big cities are common in many countries like Mexico city (which has the world’s largest slum ): Karachi,Pakistan : Istanbul,Turkey : Cairo,Egypt : Jakarta,Indonesia : Manila,Phillipines …Brazil,Colombia,Vietnam,South Africa …etc
    They’re locally refered to as slums,favelas,ghettos,barrio,shanty town etc …Recommend

  • Mohammed Yusuf

    Sameera thanks a thousand times for depicting the true picture of Delhi. Yes, Indians are secular and next time you visit India, kindly visit our beautiful Goa too. You will be amazed. Don’t be surprised to see a church, mosque and a temple next to each other in the capital Panaji.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Wow ! India has its share of ostriches as well ! Are ALL slum dwellers bangladeshi? And all Indians live in houses akin to the Taj mahal I suppose?Recommend

  • javed

    Why not come to kashmir and see the other side of the storyRecommend

  • Jinnahy

    This blog made Me so sad. what a glorious contribution by Muslims ! And is now being milked by Indians. It does not even belong to them, At the time of partition there was talk of moving the Taj to Pakistan. It shouldn’t be that hard to do so even now,Recommend

  • Parvez

    Let us not forget that India has 1.2 BILLION people……..a staggering statistic.
    With an ever increasing middle class of some 400 million plus, which is way more than the population of America, the direction of progress is what is important and with all the contradictions involved, it looks like the direction is right.
    Liked the pictures and liked what you said.Recommend

  • Haroon Alam

    What are you trying to teach us in this article. That you want us to have secularism in Pakistan. No we Pakistanis do not want secularism. Madam we did not have partition so all religions could be the same.Recommend

  • Sameea

    Yeah we went to there and also to Fateh Pur Sikri Fort, one of the best Moghul forts!Recommend

  • Sane

    Hate mongering always starts from Indians. Irrespective to what subject is? A typical Hindu extremism ugly face.Recommend

  • Sane

    However, Muslims own Taj Mahal.Recommend

  • Arif Khan

    As an architect I admire the beauty and magnificence of the Taj Mahal but it also symbolizes the waste and exploitation of the Mughals. The Mughals led an effete and dissipate lifestyle with harems and wasteful expenditure. Where they interested in educations? Did they patronize the sciences ? They were brutal and murdeorus. I am a Pashtun and we have no love for the Mughals. They were as foreign as the English.Recommend

  • Father

    racist why religion???? where two different country is concern.Recommend

  • Sameea

    Yeah my dad is a mithai buff so we got the wonderful petha from Agra and also brought some back to Karachi :)

    The original blog post appears here: http://ticktickchic.blogspot.com/2013/08/taj-mahal-another-side.htmlRecommend

  • Naveen

    Honest account is always appreciated. BTW It is not just the ‘netas’,
    there is something deeply rotten in the media and a couple of strategic
    hawks on both sides (not to mention the communally charged, highly
    abusive internet warriors). Consciously or Unconsciously, Reality is
    being distorted to present a picture that just doesn’t exist on groundRecommend

  • MKL

    @b0d6a1a8d09b1d2b88c2108680412448:disqus

    Before moving anything to Pakistan, it would be wise if you ascertained if Taj was indeed 100% Muslim and then of the right sect. No point going through all that effort just to shun it as the Mohajir Taj. You must have learned that much in six decades, right?Recommend

  • Manish Rohera

    I would completely agree with the author here India is different you can have best of continental Italian in our 5 star hotels and just a walk from that is pakodas and chatni on a stall you will find world’s costliest home and world’s largest slum in one city.Good to see you had felt it like at home somebody pointed that westerners don’t find it baffling they are far away from religious dogma believe me they do find it baffling when they see the heterogeneity of our country girls wearing short skirts and burqa in the same mall you have largest temples and mosques each generating adulation for their serene beauty,I wish author had seen Akshardham temple of Delhi it’s a modern monument and aesthetic to it’s core.Wish you visit again and receive far more hospitality next time.Recommend

  • siesmann

    You will get your Taliban in the future shortly.Recommend

  • siesmann

    with terrorism gone,it will be as easier to visit India,as to any city in PakistanRecommend

  • siesmann

    Poor people live in slums,and poverty does not have a religion,or prefers one.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Can’t do anything about the history.In the meanwhile just enjoy the beauty and human ingenuity.Recommend

  • siesmann

    reason?!!Recommend

  • siesmann

    let us stop being paranoid!!!Recommend

  • Undhyu Patil

    you are a misfit in the modern worldRecommend

  • Nandita.

    ETBLOGS1987

    Achchi baat hai :-)
    Pls visit again but do venture out of North India the next you holiday in India, Sameea. :-)Recommend

  • History lover

    The author,mentioned she was coming from Delhi & also mentioned the usual temple-church-mosque-gurdwara presence.
    I wondered if she saw the famous Lotus temple in Delhi-which is a Baha’i place of worship. (I think Baha’i people are Iranian )
    There’s also a famous Digamber Jain temple in Delhi built during Emperor Jahangir’s time.
    Being interested in history,I’ve visited a kochi Jewish synagogue that was built in the 1500’s
    Never been to Zoroastrian Parsi Houses of worship/darb-e-mehr in Bombay or the famous Sikh golden temple (built in the 1500’s in Emperor Akbar’s time & the Buddhist Bodh Gaya which has a history that goes back by 26 centuries…even before Christ.
    It’s fascinating to visit,after reading up on their history.
    India isn’t just about churches-gurdwaras-temples&mosques,but also places of worship of Parsis,Mahayana & Hinayana Buddhists, Shwetambara & Digambara Jains & Baha’i ..
    Recommend

  • deep

    and garbage – i am sorry for all the so called tolerance in india i wish we were completely intolerant of our atrcious standards of public hygieneRecommend

  • Someone

    Take an antacid …
    Even Jinnah’s house worth $60 million is in Bombay .Recommend

  • InSane

    Why would you say that ? Are there no muslims in India…
    If you wanted to stake claim on this monument,you should’ve come to India in ’47….would you have ? I don’t think so.
    So,stop coveting your neighbour’s goods.It’s not yours.Recommend

  • Another Pakistani

    while the Indian PM calls us epicenter of terrorism, our bloggers hail India’s momuments and their secularism. The very same Indians who are thanking you for visiting India might be posting venom against Pakistan in another story that will not even be related to them.Recommend

  • Noor

    Helloooo ….
    There are muslims in India …we didn’t leave our land 65 yrs ago..
    ( anyway it’s not as if it belongs only to Indian muslims or indian buddhists …it belongs to all Indians )
    Why don’t pakistani’s just stake claim over their monuments,rather than eyeing other’s belongings..Recommend

  • Lol

    Hmm … Ok done !Recommend

  • Tahira

    I wish Indian government would be more liberal in issuing visitor visas. I am a US passport holder but was born in Pakistan. In 2008, I applied for a visa from Pakistan to attend a conference in Delhi for which I had an invitation. I paid the required fee of nearly Rs 6000 in advance for US citizens and brought the forms home to fill out. They asked for copies of my Pakistani passport (given up 20 years earlier on taking US citizenship). I wrote that the Pakistani passport was not available with me. Back came my application with rejection and no refund. I considered it a great injustice at the confiscation of my fee. Also I missed making a presentation at the conference and was greatly disappointed. What could be the solution to a case like mine? May be some one at the embassy can give me a solution.Recommend

  • S

    looking at the comments, I am wondering, how many indians visit Pak news papers?

    But on the article, just another article by a girl visiting india, way too many lately.Recommend

  • Pradhan

    Frankly speaking I liked Agra Fort better than Taj Mahal. The worst experience of my life was when I enter into Taj Mahal, it was humid, crowded and dark.

    However, the best part of my trip was the view of Taj Mahal from agra fort.Recommend

  • Californian Desi

    Glad you enjoy your stay Sameea. Hopefully someday I get to see my wife’s birth place Karachi and my in-laws ancestral home in Lahore. Have some amazing Lahori restaurants around the place I live and I am totally in love with the Sindhi Biryani and shahi style food.Recommend

  • rk

    You make a good point and bring some reality and truth into the subject. The Taj and other Mughal monuments are indeed symbols of invasion, occupation and subjugation by the barbarians from Central Asia, Persia, Turkey, Arabia etc. and therefore, there is no need for Indians to feel proud of these monuments. Agreed.

    Having said that, these monuments are part of Indian history and accept them as such. Besides, leaving the well-justified nationalistic sentiments alone, these monuments can be enjoyed for the sheer beauty of the architecture and craftsmanship by the Indian artisans.

    I would say the same with regard to the architectural masterpieces left behind by the British and other colonial occupiers.Recommend

  • Adil Uddin

    I guess the author was aware of the fact, plus the legend has it that Shahjehan had the hands of the architect who designed and constructed Taj Mahal chopped, in order to avoid any monument of such a stature to be seen elsewhere. But she didn’t write else many Indians would have said that these Pakistanis are jealous of us and they are pinpointing just negatives of our wonder.
    But Burj Khalifa too? I know about the treatment of labourers in Gulf nations but isn’t it too much or stretched too far? It was all labour.Recommend

  • Adil Uddin

    My dad had been to India in late 1970s or early 80s, actually my grandparents (both paternal and maternal) migrated from India, and many of our relatives continue to live there in the areas of former Hyderabad State (Deccan). Perhaps many people here are aware of the fact that Hyderabad and other cities of Nizam’s dominion such as Adilabad and Secunderabad are places where different cultures have been mingling for centuries such as North and South Indian cultures along with traces of Persian and Turkish heritage. My grandparents and other relatives have been to Charminar and Golconda, and told us about their experiences over there.
    I would definitely love to visit India too, I already interacted with many Indians while living in Oman and now in Canada. The forts and palaces of Mughal Era which were constructed in Lahore and (Old) Delhi have refused to shun their similarities and couldn’t break their centuries old connections.Recommend

  • Adil Uddin

    He said that

    ““Yeh sab neta log ki wajah se hai, hum log tou eik hain.”

    (It’s all because of these politicians. Otherwise, we all are one.)”
    So he talked about Politicians, not the people. Perhaps you haven’t seen the blogs and columns on the same website of Express Tribune that talk about issues of extremism. Plus, the Sardarji had had religious connections with Nankana Sahab. If you yourself have not interacted with any Pakistani in your whole life or never been to Pakistan then I can understand your prejudiced opinion.Recommend

  • st

    Mr Water Bottle, you are full of toxic water !Recommend

  • rehman1

    u see your country allows visas for only these places!please sponsor me i have no relatives in india!:)Recommend

  • rehman1

    if GOD willing i ever get a visa to INDIA dont know if that wud be possible in my life(im 25). i would want to:
    1 visit my ancestral home in amritsar
    2 visit delhi and gurgaon maybe
    3 have LOADS and LOADS of ALL kinds of food!non veg ofcourse!
    4 kerala looks just majestic in pics! will get to see india beside punjabis:)Recommend

  • Nandkishore C.

    Next time you come visit Visveshwaria’s science museum in Bangalore. Its the only one in the Indian subcontinent. Especially when you realise that the word ‘science’ does not exist in our shared history.Recommend

  • Jack

    Lauren
    I was in the great state of Mississippi a few weeks ago and fell exactly the same way, but about the Americans. You didn’t like the Indians, which is far better than me just wanting to get out alive. And, about the accent? I did understand a couple of words which I thought was an accomplishment.Recommend

  • Robert Kharsing

    Good to read this friendly blog by someone who does not hate India and non-Muslims. I hope the writer visits India again and again with her family and friends. And she may also add Shillong, Guwahati, Aizawl, Imphal and Kohima in the north eastern India to her list of must-see. She can feel how christianity influences every walk of life in many states of this region and yet it is a completely secular setting of a modern tribal life. Perhaps a scholarship to the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong would not be a bad idea!Recommend

  • Ajay

    While the mughals took away Indian’s heritage and learning collected from worldwide when they burned down Taxila, in 700 years, besides building forts and bringing kabab and poetry, they gave nothing else to any Indian. By denying education to all, they made Indians slide behind modernity by 700 years. India would have been otherwise quite ahead. English, unlike Mughals, gave a lot- railways, machines, infrastructure, education, law, etc.Recommend

  • Rakib

    Dear Author:

    Thanks for a nice blog & kind words & concern. In 1830s Lord Bentinck wanted to auction off marble of Taj to balance the books of East India Company!! He had already melted the metal from Akbar’s Great Gun of Agra, the largest cannon ever cast, & made money for the Company! I hope at Agra you didn’t miss out on the beautiful Tomb of Itmad ud Daula (Noorjahan’s father & Mumtaz mahal’s paternal grandfather). Also, Akbar’s tomb at Sikandara & the Fort. All are good architectural specimen of Mughal era; and I hope you visited Fatehpur Sikri too. Humayun’s tomb at Delhi is one of the best. However, in my view an honest structure is tomb of my favourite Mughal-Aurangzeb at Khuldabad (Aurangabad) “Deccan”.. His resting place looks like that of a commoner, without any pretensions, dreary & dull open to sky. Only marble is a railing added at the insistence of Lord Curzon who was amazed that the Emperor’s grave was so modest that it had no distinguishing sign. Those that criticise Taj Mahal as symbol of slavery will feel very happy with Aurangzeb if for them only the style of the grave is indicative of the life led!Recommend

  • history buff

    That hand chopping thing is a story my mother told me when I was small. But a few years ago,I didn’t find any reliable reference to it.It’s just a story…never happened.
    Anyway,Shah Jahan was intending to build a black marble replica of the Taj across the river…so it would make sense that he would retain his architects.And he didn’t forsee that his younger son Aurangzeg would kill the next emperor to be-his elder brother;& imprison his father,Shah Jahan..so the plans for the next building stopped.Recommend

  • Nb

    …and Jewish Synagogues..The Govt.is spending money to renovate a few which are hundreds of years old…Recommend

  • Hmm …

    Hi Rehman,aren’t Pakistani’s allowed to apply for tourist visas ..how else did the author visit agra..
    In the mean time you can research all the places you want to visit..
    Hope you’ll see your ancestral home some day.
    Best regardsRecommend

  • History lover

    Hi Robert,
    There are Christians in Goa & many other states in the south too. Most of the christianity in India is around 400 years old and was brought over by European missionaries & colonials.These were all under the vatican.
    But did you know that in the extreme south there have been Christians for 2000 years- brahmins who followed St.Thomas the apostle who sailed to kochi in 72 A.D.& were known as St.Thomas Christians,in kerala.(St.Thomas was martyred in Chennai in 52 A.D.-he is buried there) These St.Thomas Christian people were requested by the European colonials After 16 centuries to join the Vatican-some did & some did not.They are commonly known as Syrian christians,rcsc etc today.An ancient Indian heritage.It was along the same sea routes that some Jews fled Jerusalem after the Romans destroyed the city in 70 A.D. and came to kerala as refugees.Recommend

  • History lover

    Hi Robert,
    There are Christians in Goa & many other states in the south too. Most of the christianity in India is around 400 years old and was brought over by European missionaries & colonials.These were all under the vatican.
    But did you know that in the extreme south there have been Christians for 2000 years- brahmins who followed St.Thomas the apostle who sailed to kochi in 72 A.D.& were known as St.Thomas Christians,in kerala.(St.Thomas was martyred in Chennai in 52 A.D.-he is buried there) These St.Thomas Christian people were requested by the European colonials After 16 centuries to join the Vatican-some did & some did not.They are commonly known as Syrian christians,rcsc etc today.An ancient Indian heritage.It was along the same sea routes that some Jews who fled Jerusalem after the Romans destroyed the city in 70 A.D. and came to kerala as refugees..many have returned to israel ,but a few descendants still live there.Recommend

  • Hope for good

    What r you writing.I have not discussed about any religion rather migrant.Trust me they r..Recommend

  • Hope for good

    YI m talking about slum dwellers near Taj Mahal.It is not easy to move them coz they form large chunk of vote bank for congress.These slums r specially created by shila dixit for her son.Recommend

  • History lover

    I’ve read extensively about Aurangzeb and he did indeed live an austere life,but cruelty was part of it.I think he was the most heartless Mughal Emperor who was at odds with his generous ancestors esp.the greatest Mughal,Emperor Akbar.Recommend

  • Anusha

    yarrr,,,dont u want Hyderabadi biryani!!!,,,my friendly advice to u is visit south India,,it is entirely different from north India,,,,u will find everything different,,including language,,food,,dressing,,culture,,every thing,,etc,,,north India is almost like ur country!!!! u can find glorious beaches in south India,,,and the most interesting one is the place KANYA KUMARI,,,,where three seas will merge,,,u can find 3 different colors of soils brought by 3 different seas,,,and if u have no problem,,,there was most ancient Hindu temples are there,,u can visit them also!!!!Recommend

  • Secular

    How come you did not visit akshardham temple? You missed a wonderful architectural master piece.Recommend

  • Alann

    India is not limited to only Delhi & Gurgaon region. There is so much diversity across the whole country that India changes with every few kilometers & every state is a whole different Nation within itself. Why do you think this whole area is called Indian subcontinent? The vast land of India (including its former parts which now form Pakistan & Bangladesh) is a continent within itself, and yet at the end of the day, they all call themselves an Indian first, before recognising themselves as Marathi, Gujarati, Malayali, Tulu – Punjabi, Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi, Jain.
    Hundreds of languages & dialects & many various regional/social/ethnic groups living in harmony(to a large extent) in this land. As the Government’s promotional tag line rightly says, its an ‘Incredible India’.
    If you ever get a chance, do visit every nook & corner of this country.Recommend

  • Alann

    Although it is true pollution has done some damage to the architecture, it is still extremely beautiful – would have been way more beautiful if the Britishers had not removed all the precious gems & stones from the walls of the Taj Mahal before leaving the country.Yet, today, the government takes great care of every monument in India listed on World Heritage Sites – the Taj Mahal, Mumbai CST, Gateway of India, etc.
    The author probably didn’t noticed or didn’t hear about it from any guide or probably forgot to write about a distinct feature of Taj Mahal: It changes colour. That is, it looks a different shade based on the time of the day. The marble is actually white in colour, but depending on the time of the day when you visit it, it may look white or golden or pink or grey.

    EDIT: Actually, the 4 pics of Taj Mahal in this article does show the 4 different shades, although not specifically mentioned by the author.Recommend

  • abhi

    Yamuna expressway has nothing to do with delhi. It starts in UP and ends in UP.Recommend

  • Wahhabi nutter

    Ok…is it as ugly as al-qaeda..taliban..etc ?
    Reconsider who is uglier …
    And your other remark on this blog isn’t oozing love either..but you seem to point only to some others hate.
    What about your hate ?Recommend

  • Zee

    @Sameea, you stay there permanently as India’s PM calling us epicentre of terrorism and you hailing India with secularism. Read Muzaffarnagar atrocities of Hindus on Muslims, 50 odd gang rapes on Muslim girls by Hindus. have you ever seen this in Pakistan?
    Recommend

  • Alann

    Sorry for the inconvenience, but I guess you got rejected for being of Pakistani origin and for applying in 2008, the same year when Mumbai terrorist attack happened.
    One person David Headley who was an American citizen but of Pakistani origin was involved in that attack. I’m sure in such circumstances, Indian authorities decided to reject your visa. However, if you try now, you might most likely gain entry into India for tourism purposes.Recommend

  • rk

    Unfortunately, there is going to be no solution until there is lasting peace and trust between the countries or at least until Pakistan gives up its anti-India policy and the use of terrorists as foreign policy instruments.Recommend

  • BRUISED INDIAN

    All the best for the visa. Quick advice about India; its a land where food, climate, accent (language in some cases) and air changes every 100kms!Recommend

  • rehman1

    The tricky part is!the indian govt just wants me to see people that resemble like me,eat like me,speak like me and wear like me.thats not tourism thats friggin shoving lahore down my throat in india.blah!Recommend

  • gp65

    Shah Jehan ruled from Delhi not Lahore. Heh is father, grand father , great grandfather, and son all were born, lived and died in India. All Muslim monuments in the world are not owned by Pakistan and Taj Mahal isn’t either. India owns all its history and monuments. This include Rajput palaces in Rajasthan, temples in Madurai, Ashoka pillars, cathedrals in Goa and ofourse Taj Maha and Qutub Minar. Incidentally why do you think you and not the Indian Muslims are the inheritors of Taj assume you believe this o be a religion based only.Recommend

  • gp65

    Clearly Pakistan studies have succeeded be ause you are unable to differentiate between Indians and Hindus.Recommend

  • Anusha

    ,politicians in the Indian govt also dont know anything, about India,,example:sonia gandhi knows only delhi,,,MR..singh knows only sonia house in delhi and all the ministers will follow manmohan singh!!!they are aware of common people and villages,,streets,,,only at the time of elections!!!!Recommend

  • Someone

    You’re right.
    By that logic,after the US Secretary of state called pakistan,an international migraine,all Pakistanis should’ve stopped visiting America.
    But I don’t think the queues of proud patriots waiting for visas,outside American consulates,is any shorter …
    ps-talking about venom,I just saw comments on an article today, about the Indian temple stampede with,90 deaths,where a pakistani,Zafar,has ridiculed hindu dieties.Talk about venom …
    Recommend

  • R. Subramanian

    I want to know why “Good” Pakistanis are not visiting South India. There are wonderful places in South India to see…. if New Delhi is like Lahore means South India will be completely different.Recommend

  • Tickled pink

    Such a comedian…you’re so cute…read non-pakistani newspapers tooRecommend