The Taj Mahal

When I was 16, I went on a three-week camping trip out west – a sprint from Philadelphia to Colorado, then a slow descent from the Rockies south into Arizona and New Mexico.  I saw the Grand Canyon from the north rim on that trip and I vividly remember driving through the pine (?) forest to a lodge perched on the edge of the canyon.  On the backside of the lodge stretched a long balcony filled with visitors gazing at what  lay before them.  All those people looking – yet the stillness and silence that screamed – “unbelievable beauty”.

I haven’t seen anything yet that has moved me quite as much as the Grand Canyon, but the Taj Mahal certainly holds its own.  It’s a marvelous structure, breathtaking and stunning from every angle and throughout the changing light.   All that needs to be said, really, rests behind me here:

This is a sunset view with me sitting on the bench made famous by the same shot of a lonely Princess Diana during the break-up of her marriage.  Actually, the bench has been moved slightly  – she sat on the other side of the pool from what I can tell when I compare photos.

Sunrise was far more stunning.  I love the reflection in the water here:

As the sun rose, the sky became more blue and the building shined brighter – pink at first, then white.  I closed my eyes every few minutes  – or turned away to warm my cold body in the heat of the sun and when I looked again, it was always more spectacular than the view from a few minutes before.

I don’t know if the love story of the Taj Mahal is documented history or simply lore, but it goes like this:  Shah Jahan built the tomb for his beloved third wife, Mumtaz, after she died giving birth to their 14th child.  The two were inseparable and she always accompanied him on his trips out of Agra, including to the battlefront. On her deathbed, she asked her husband to build something that would celebrate their enduring love.

We all need a good love story and if you believe this one, the Taj is Shah Jahan screaming for Mumtaz.  Is it cynical to think that he built the Taj for himself?   A grandiose display of wealth and power and love of self?  Did he really love Mumtaz so singularly?

Those of you who read me closely may remember that I read Love in the Time of Cholera over Christmas.   One of the main characters waits his entire life for the chance to be with the woman he loves – and when he finally gets her, they are both old.  Near the end of the book, there’s this passage that stands as my Taj Mahal – the beauty of celebrating love in life, not death.  Florentino has longed for Fermina for 50 years and when they are finally together, to kiss and to touch, he smells her stale and aging body – and still, still! – he wants her.


My mother and step-father outside of the tomb.

Security was thorough at the entrance:

I liked these ladies – resting in the fading light:

Earlier in the week, playing in the park…  The kids love having my mother around to bathe them in oodles of individual attention.

A typical encounter in Delhi – This is what George’s class had to trudge through on a field trip when they walked from the school bus to the entrance of the Delhi Crafts Museum:

4 thoughts on “The Taj Mahal”

  1. I just love all these pictures. Your mom looks fantastic! Okay, you lead such a romantic life Theo. My ‘exotic’ day consisted of a 10-year old’s preseason baseball game and a trip to Home Depot. xoxo

    1. Oh dear friend, I’m just good at not writing about the mundane mommy stuff that also consumes my days. And as for “the church of home depot”, I tithed there when I lived in the states and owned a home! Hey, I’m on for the San Francisco half-marathon July 25th… Maybe I can get home via LA and we can finally have our visit. Let me explore.

  2. Hi Theo! I love reading your blogs–so vivid and fascinating. I’m a friend of Jane and John Amos from Santa Fe, and Jane suggested that I follow your postings as I’m preparing for a move to India later this spring. My husband headed over last month, and I’ll join him when I’m done with my responsibilities here (I’m a Phd student and have teaching duties to fulfill). We’ll be living in Sonipat, north of Delhi, for at least three years. So it’s a big commitment, and I am super excited about it. Anyway, I was hoping I could e-mail you with some questions. I don’t know a soul in India (never even been for a visit!), so I’m in the midst of an intense process of self-education. My e-mail is calbatts@yahoo.com.

    Thanks so much, and I hope you continue to enjoy all of the ups, downs, and in-betweens of life in Delhi!!


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