What started as a dinner date plan at Taj, Mumbai culminated in a photographic expedition of the Taj Mahal at Agra. The occasion was our first marriage anniversary! The true wanderlust gene in us propelled us to choose a rocking backpacking trip over a romantic dinner. The plan was to capture the epitome of love – the Taj Mahal through our lenses.
My wife Ruchi, a designer by profession, had worked with me in my startup, WOW Design. We never had the slightest idea that while discussing the design sketches, we would decide to sketch our future together. But one thing that strongly bound us together was our passion for travel. We both had our own list of “Places to visit before I die” and we eventually realized that there was so much in common. So we decided to tread together.
The purpose of travel
Our trips are not like any regular tourists. Sometimes, especially if it’s an international trip, it’s a planned affair. Otherwise, it can be as spontaneous as one moment when we were sipping tea and the next moment we are at the station catching the train to our next destination. We don’t bother if we have the best modes to travel, reservations or the best of seats. Regardless, we love the uncertainty and the thrill. We love to break all traditional rules of travelling with a plan and just get on our bike and escape to a place without a clue.
The reason we travel is to just explore! We might never know what lies ahead. We don’t primarily seek relaxation but deep dive into the history of a particular place or engage with different cultures. We learn a lot from each trip that we make.
Mumbai to Agra – Getting There
Our trip to Agra was no different. While the distance between Taj, Mumbai and Taj Mahal, Agra was around 1200 Kms, our minds had made the shift in a jiffy. The next step was to book a tatkaal ticket which was initially waitlisted but luckily got confirmed. We figured out a direct train to Agra Cant and from there our hotel, with a stunning view of Taj, was just 15 kms.
By now we have our quick checklists for our impromptu trips and the one thing which tops the list is our DSLRs.
We also heavily use technology for our trips. Right from booking the OYO room to being an avid TripAdvisor user in terms of sharing opinions and reviews. On trips, our mobile phones become the repertoire of info about the place – from travel guides to maps. In fact, we rely on our own audio tours while we go around seeing places.
The true beauty of Taj can only be realized in person – its majesty and scale cannot be fully captured in a lens. Nevertheless, we headed to the Taj just after sunrise for some amazing close shots with minimum people around. However, for the best of shots we arrived at the other side of Yamuna, the Mehtab Bagh which literal means Moonlit Gardens. We went there in the evening, to spend some quite hours just witnessing the great mausoleum.
Since we love to interact with the local population, we usually prefer the public transport over the private AC luxury cars. We also tend to stop by at any location to taste the local street food or may be just a photo stop.
The other places on our list were the Fatehpur Sikri and the Agra fort, both having rich histories. Fatehpur Sikri, the magnificent fortified city, was the short-lived capital of Emperor Akbar. In fact, Fatehpur Sikri is my favourite site for photography because of its splendid red sandstone palaces, halls and mosques, which are a blend of Mughal and Persian architecture.
And how could we miss the Red Fort, one of the finest Mughal forts in India. What was more of a military structure in the times of Babur, was later built into a red sandstone fort by Akbar and then later extended by Shah Jahan. It was fascinating to see the stark contrasts between two generations of prolific builders – Akbar, who built in red sandstone and Shah Jahan, who draped everything in white marble. Very few might know that Akbar built close to 500 buildings here in the Bengal and Gujarati traditions- namely mine and Ruchi’s place of origin. We did capture some splendid shots from Muasamman Burj, a marble balcony with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal, where Shah Jahan is said to have spent his last days.
Cherishing Memories, And The Road Ahead…
Each trip that we go, we bring back small mementos that add to our Wanderlust Wall of Fame. We believe our hunger to explore simply cannot be quenched, no matter how many vacations we take. Some day we plan to take a month’s break and go to explore an unknown world altogether.
Our next destination is Europe. While I have been there twice earlier, Austria in 2014 and Italy in 2015, this time we have London, Paris and Amsterdam on the list apart from a host of other places.