After only 2 full days in Delhi we decided to get out of dodge. Though Delhi has some nice sites (the Jama Masjid mosque – India’s largest – was especially impressive), they were not enough to make up for the constant noise, honking and filth that dominate the city.
I’ve been in plenty of loud, dirty, crowded cities before, but few that I dislike as much as Delhi (Dar es Salaam being a notable exception). The thing is, I hate cities where it is difficult to be a pedestrian. And in Delhi it is impossible. To walk even a few meters down the street to buy some water or to pop in to an Internet cafe is a harrowing ordeal. Your progress will be impeded by autorickshaws, SUVs, cows, samosa vendors, cow dung, touts, donkey carts, downed power lines, bicycle rickshaws, open sewers, cars and motorbikes being driven by certified maniacs, maimed beggars and hordes of ogling men vying for your attention, people defecating in the open sewers next to the samosa vendors (really makes you want to eat a samosa, right?), massive piles of trash and rubble, and pretty much any other obstacle you can dream up. Some might romanticize all this as an exercise in local culture; I’ve experienced plenty of local culture – it does not need to be that miserable to be authentic.
So we hopped a train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. And suddenly everything was better.
At the risk of sounding utterly cliché and repeating what thousands of other have said before me, the Taj is positively ethereal. It is astounding to consider how an enormous mass of marble can be made to appear so weightless; it actually appears to float on the horizon.
We had heard Agra was a dump so we arrived at night, saw the Taj in the morning, and already had onward transport booked for the afternoon. As it turned out, I actually kind of liked Agra and wouldn’t have minded staying another night – but perhaps I would have felt that way about anywhere, coming from Delhi.