I share a tuk-tuk ride to the South Gate with the Koreans. Down a winding bazaar, an enormous red, gated door appears. I walk through to find myself in the outward plaza, faced with a second, ornately decorated red gate.
Walking towards it, I catch my first glimmer: the brilliant white mausoleum peeks through the entry way, beckoning. Framed by the red gate, it stands like a sparkling diamond, pure and glistening.
The moment I first see it in all of its grandeur is breath-taking. This truly is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world.
My mood lifts immediately, in awe of one of the world’s wonders laid before me.
The grounds are crawling with people, each vying for their own very special Taj memorabilia.
I slowly make my way to the mausoleum itself, cover my shoes, and bypass the line of Indians via the VIP, foreigners line. I’m not sure why, but I’ve noticed that at many tourist destinations, tourists seem to get special treatment. I don’t complain.
A woman balances a water bottle on her head. Monks come to visit.
Inside, the calligraphy speaks to the couple’s love story, their tombs resting side by side. Beauty incarnate, the whisking, curving lines, mosaics and trellises connote intimacy and amour.
I follow my host coutrymen’s leads and plop down outside, cradled by the Taj’s cold, marble walls. Women covered head to toe in bold displays of color walk past me, children want to shake my hand, and fathers carry their babies.
A rainstorm threatens, and for a quick second, we are all the same people seeking shelter from the rain.
I continue on my way and pause on a bench to stare at the Taj from afar, taking in the beauty and feel of the place. Curious bystanders look my way, and boys want to take photos with me.
I write in my journal in hopes of securing an undisturbed moment of solitude, when I feel movement around me. I look up to find myself completely encircled by a gaggle of rural school children, their curiosity and enthusiasm palatable. They smile shyly at me, and I can’t help but smile back. Their school master explains that they are visiting and have never seen a white person before.
I guess that sometimes, it’s okay to find yourself on the other end of the looking glass.