Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taj Mahal

This is a hilarious yet beautiful shot taken at the Taj Mahal recently. Despite the 'organised chaos' of India, I knew coming to the famous Taj Mahal would make the trip less painful. And it worked.

My sister and the gang had already visited the Taj the day before. Because Joe and I arrived hours later (first batch went on train, we had to fly in from Delhi), we woke up at 6am the next day to catch the first rays of this beautiful monument and before the midday crowd starts trickling in. (We managed to see a different angle of the Taj during the sunset the day before with the rest)

* Peak season during winter; and I wanted to get a clear shot of Princess Di's 'seat' hence the 6am calltime *

We all know the romanticized story of the Taj Mahal- the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built it in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died when giving birth to their 14th child. He was so heartbroken with her demise that he became obsessed in making sure it was built with precision and beauty.

Deemed as a building symbolizing eternal love; there were other stories that interlaced the romanticism of the story. How his son imprisoned him not too far away from the construction because he feared the father was losing his mind with plans of building a similiar mausoleum for himself (an obscene amount of money and labour was utilized for years building the Taj). And then there were rumors on how the Emperor chopped of the artisans and craftsmen hands so they were not able to do another piece as beautiful as the Taj Mahal.

When I walked into the grounds of the Taj Mahal in my Punjabi suit, I was in awe. Overwhelmed. We took a good 3 hours exploring the gardens, the mausoleum, the mosque. Taking pictures, jotting notes...breathing in the beauty and history of the place. Soaking up the experience and making sure every sense of my body appreciated being where I was today with the life that has been laid before me.

I recall the chirping of the birds when I went to explore the mosque situated at the western side of the mausoleum. There is an exact replica of the red sandstone wall mosque at the eastern side, built for the primary purpose of 'architectural balance' and used as a guesthouse. The only distinctions between the two buildings include the lack of the mihrab, or the niche in a mosque's wall facing Mecca in the 'guesthouse' and the floors of the guesthouse have a geometric design, while the mosque floor is laid with outlines of 569 prayer rugs in black marble.

Taking off my shoes, I tiptoed into the quiet exterior of the mosque. The black marble was cold but the surroundings that eloped me was warm. Cosy. Welcoming. I said a little prayer of gratitude before gliding on in absorbing the intricacies of the walls and artistry. I used my shawl to cover my head and kneeled down. Just felt right. So I did it.

Came out feeling renewed.

Back to the first picture.

When Joe asked me to pose for the camera, I had no idea what he wanted till we saw the image from our MarkII. Pretty brilliant I must say.

And that's what pictures do. The Taj Mahal had an enormous impact on me as I'm sure it did or does for many who trudge the grounds of this enthralling wonder. But in this picture, Joe had playfully composed the monument and I in a trickery visual of equality. Almost with flirting mockery.

I've decided to use this picture as a metaphor to the decision I have made. The choice, which seemed magnified in meaning, logic and reason, is now narrowed down to what really matters. It is not about what others say. Or how the community should or would react. It is not about conforming to what naturally would be the ideal choice for the family; nor would it question the frame of time, place and action.

It is a decision made based on me. Noone else but me. Not even Isobel. Just Daphne Iking.

Talking it out loud and sharing this decision with my closest and dearest has made me realize that even though it's a decision based on my silent talk with someone greater than I can comprehend, I know that with his grace and guidance; things will fall through nicely. I have faith in HIM.

Praise God.

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