Politics, religion and history apart, the Taj Mahal is close to my heart for some very personal reasons.
Agra. My dad was transferred to this place soon after he got married and my parents moved there, nay, here, to begin their married life.
Those good old charming days, all they had was a radio for entertainment, a tape recorder and a cassette.
Evenings were all free and the Taj Mahal was nearby. Every week, here is where they would go.
I was conceived in Agra. I was delievered in Hassan, in the South, but within months, I was back in Agra.
Their visits to the Taj now had me bundled along. The lawns were not off limits unlike today, and we would sit on the lawn before the Taj. They would hand me a ball and I would play with it.
We must have been there 60 to 70 times or more, recalled my dad once.
I have no memory of it but perhaps it was dissolved into my subconscience. For whenever I looked at the Taj again, my heart was heavy with an ache inexplicable.
My dad took us to Agra again when I was a teenager. It was my brother's first time, but for me, it was deja vu. And a poignant one.
We brought home a picture of the monument as a souvenir. It was a black silhouette of the Taj against the background of an orange evening sky. I would look at that picture with a heavy heart.
It was there in Agra that I had been conceived. Just before then I must have died in that place an old woman in my previous life. I must have been part of all that history somehow. For when I walk among the ruins of history, the tombs and the forts, I want to be there forever, savouring an unfathomable longing and never return. It's uncanny, eerie even, but that's how it is.
When I look at the Taj from this place where life has swept me, I find myself looking at happier and hopeful times. My parents must have been happy and smiling, having been newly married. I was an infant, a bright and beautiful one, their first born, and there was a lifetime yet to unfold; a lifetime of possilities, of dreams to come true, and complete innocence about all the disappointments that the future had in store. A point from where our life story could have developed in a thousand different ways, other than the one in which it did. One of those stages of life at which you look back and think, Kash....., with a sigh.
Sitting on that lawn before the beautiful, flawless Taj, were a pitiably happy three of us who had no clue that life was going to unfold evenings that would not be rosy, but grey and quiet, that we wouldn't be huddled together like that looking at a thing of beauty together, but apart, brooding, wishing, hurting...
We must raze all the mosques that were built upon the ruins of our heritage, we must reclaim our important sites and temples but I hope we leave the Taj alone...for my sake.