India’s marvelous marble mausoleum has instant magnetic effect. One of the Seven Wonders of the World and the country’s number one show piece, it is located 200 kms south of Delhi. It is a long, arduous journey, even though one has the privilege to pass through a national highway having four lanes.
My advance reading reveals that only one out of eleven travellers globally visits TM. Nevertheless, 90% of the domestic tourists do not give it a miss. There is a need, therefore, for tourism campaigners in India to wake up and sell this priceless product. They are in dire need of an overhaul.
One is sure of one thing associated with Taj – its aura, charm, mesmerism, the refreshing and soothing effect it has on you- in the morning, noon, evening or a full moon night.
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A fresh opportunity to have a brush with the Taj comes on 18th February. I get down to Agra Cantt. at 11.45 Hrs. from 12808 Samta Express. Approach to the station is dirty and full of poly bags. People defecating in the open, without any regret or shame bring in more of embarrassment. When the train had slowed down, urchins and teenagers were also seen jumping to bogies, presumably for a free ride.
Upon successfully negotiating the congestion in the outskirts, we enter clean parts of Taj city. Good signages but of low height welcome the visitors. I wish uniformity is maintained when it comes to colour scheme or size of hoardings or mile posts. There is a plethora of hotels, restaurants, travel agents and currency exchanges. One can also see riot of colours when bag packer foreigners rub shoulders with local semi-urban populace.
Good sights of the historic city turn out to be a temporary phenomenon. Before sensing a shred of traffic jam, we are lucky to get a glimpse of Taj. The view is better as compared to the earlier one. As a result, six to eight shots are possible. Getting close to the Yamuna was a good decision from photographic point of view but it turned out to be a disaster from the environmental angle. Dedicated and reliable Deepankar accompanying me too nods his head. It seems as if Agra & Delhi are having a cut throat competition to pollute the river. After a drive of almost two kms. one cannot locate any effluent treatment plant.
While being trapped in traffic for more than an hour one notices the following: people lack civic sense, traffic police constables are conspicuous by their absence, noise pollution is extraordinarily high, strong nexus between agents, touts, transporters and hoteliers of different hues results into compromising country’s prestige, people do everything on the road from basking in sun, washing clothes, taking bath to hanging their under garments, etc.
All means of transport, viz, buses, trucks, cars, vans, SUV’s, rickshaws, cycles, scooters, mobikes, tractors and three-wheelers compete with each other for a space on road. Practically every known business is carried out along Jeevani Mandi Road with scant regard to two World Heritage sites.
Before departing, one learns with satisfaction that the magnitude of congestion and pollution in this part is much lower subsequent to some courageous and path-breaking initiatives taken by the District administration and the Supreme Court a few years ago.
ARE THE CONCERNED AUTHORITIES STILL ACTIVE & AGILE?All said and done, it is believed that second or third visit to a tourist spot or a monument is a friendly encounter. Apart from fine tuning knowledge, it reignites the emotions. I can candidly and confidently surmise that after this visit to Taj, substantial value was added to my cognitive and sensorial responses. At least there was fresh impetus to draw inspiration from one’s heritage and maintain a positive and optimistic approach to move ahead.