Agra, 2017: Butter Chicken, Naan and Mughal Architecture
Platform number 5. Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station. Purani Dilli. It was 7.30 AM in the morning. We had just gulped down two cups of masala chai for breakfast. Two hours later, a smooth train ride took us to Agra. As soon as we walked out of the train station, we were haggled, over and over again — taxi drivers promised to take us to the Taj Mahal for 20 Indian Rupees. We had prearranged our taxi to our guesthouse. However, our Indian SIM card was not yet activated. That’s when an Indian guy phoned our guesthouse on behalf of us. A few minutes later, our driver found us and took us to what happened to be the warmest place we stayed in India. (Also read: Learning the art of slow living in Manali)
When you travel, or in life in general, people shape your stories. People — they add color to your stories. We humans have this enormous ability to change or break someone. We have the ability to change someone else’s story more than anything else. To us, Nuwara Eliya wouldn’t be our favorite mountain hamlet if we didn’t get the opportunity to share riddles with a seven-year-old in her living room. Dharamkot quite wouldn’t be the same place if we didn’t stay at this one mountain adobe where we were treated to garam garam chai by our caretakers. We felt the same in Agra. Looking back now, Agra wouldn’t be a place we loved if it wasn’t for our amazing guesthouse people. Perhaps, we wouldn’t have loved it if we were haggled and cheated on the very first occasion. Instead, Max, our host took great care of us. We devoured his mum’s butter chicken curry with naan for dinner, one portion of biryani, and many cups of chai.
Agra beyond the Taj Mahal
We only had 24 hours in Agra. while we obviously wanted to see the beautiful Taj Mahal, we also wanted to have a glimpse of other places in Agra. In less than 24 hours, we did an #AgraBeyondTheTaj but, even today, seeing Nathan being emotional at the Taj — that, boy, that remains as one of the most cherishable memories of mine. Taj was his dream. He, Nathan, this boy I call my better half (and the other half aka the photographer of this blog) lived five years in India. Five long years. He, however, had never seen the Taj until I planned this trip to Agra. And when he finally saw it, he shed a tear. Perhaps, two. He was emotional. He kept looking at this magnificent architectural wonder for hours and hours since the sun shone through the thick layer of smog. It was beautiful. Beautiful beyond words.
We will never know how Agra skies looked like before they were covered by a thick layer of smog. But we will always cherish the warmth of the people, tiny beautiful details and the one plate of butter chicken we had for dinner — rich in taste, and oozing with ghee.
Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (Baby Taj)
How to get to Agra
We boarded the Gaatiman Express Train from Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station in Old Delhi. It’s air-conditioned, and currently India’s fastest train. You also get a snack box onboard. Alternatively, you can board any other train going to Agra but the journey could be a little slower.
Where to stay in Agra
We stayed at Max Guesthouse. It was amazing. The rooms are spotlessly clean and for the price, you have everything you need. The meal prices are reasonable and Max is always there to take care of everything you need.