Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Freewheelin’ in India - Day 8: Three wishes and wisdom shared

We finally got out of bed around 1.30pm, wishing the Taj Mahal a good afternoon as we stepped out of our room for some food. We decided to visit Fatepur Sikr, a fortified, ancient city, 40km from Agra, and managed to score a driver there and back, who’d also wait for us whilst there, for only 600 rupees (£8).

Fatepur Sikr was the short lived capital of the Mugul Empire between 1571-1585, until the lack of fresh water became too much of an issue. When we arrived we were approached by a tour guide named Abdul, offering his services around the city for 1300 rupees. Sarah rather flippantly dismissed the idea right away, she’s been growing tired of being pestered by locals that see us as rich tourists, and it’s been bringing out an unseen tough side of her that I’m finding pretty amusing. She’s been here three weeks longer than I have, and it’s been pretty annoying for me since I got here. A lot of the younger people just say hello, and we’re constanly chatting to locals and representing London in a loving fashion, but it’s quite disheartening when sometimes an ulterior motive rears it’s ugly head, or a sleazy comment gets made, forcing us to cut out of the conversation quickly. However, I liked the idea of Abdul, his English was impeccable and a little history is always welcome in my constant quest for knowledge, so after he dropped his price to just 300 ruppees, with me saying ‘Please Mama can we keep him, please, please, purlease’, Sarah agreed and off we went.

He took us all around the grounds, telling the Story of Emperor Akbah who had three wives, one Christian, one Hindu, and one Muslim, and was desperate for a son. He went from place to place trying to acquire the good fortune that would see his dream fulfilled, but was unsuccessful until he met Sufi Saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, who predicted he’d soon have the child he desired. Following the birth of his firstborn son, Emporor Akbah built Fatepur Sikr in dedication to the Sufi Saint, consisting of amongst other things, a stunning mosque and three palaces on the grounds, one for each wife.

We visited the tomb of the Emporers elephant, who would deliver the final fate of any person found guilty of crime by Akbah, by stomping them into the ground in the arena-like garden. On the peak of the outer perimeter we had an amazing view of the palace, and I asked Abdul if we could smoke a joint there, and he agreed. I was slightly weary mid-way, when I saw a uniformed officer below, but Abdul said “Don’t worry, these guys are worth 20 rupees, you can buy them off with a chai, you’re with me, you’ll be fine”. We discussed our philosopies on life, all very similar, based on love and respect of all others, giving without the intention to recieve and not being consumed by ‘wealth’. I told him how I have little money, but am rich and he understood where I was coming from.

He told us how the couple he’d guided earlier in the morning, were not respectful, good people like us, how they’d agreed a few of 1800 rupees and at the end the guy gave him an extra 1000, telling Abdul to get himself some boxes. Abdul then handed him back 1100 rupees, telling him to get some boxes. He said that money was not important as he has good enough clothes, food, and family behind him, but the way people speak says a lot about what kind of person they are. He then said, “You, you have a voice like a flower” and gestured a flower in bloom, saying he could tell that I was full of love. I liked that, and Sarah laughed at me being called a flowery fellow. She turned away, Abdul pointed at her and whispered “Good!” giving me the thumbs up. I smiled and nodded. He said we were a good couple as she is also full of love and beauty, and that I should make her my wife. A running theme, it now seems, Freddie Mercury popping out from a under a rock to sing ‘Under Pressure’. Bom-bom-bom, ba-ba, bom-bom.

Stepping into the mosque, walking past tombs of the dead, we were told of their tradition, whereby you get three wishes. We bought a large piece of coloured cloth, and they gave us three pink pieces of string each and a bag of petals. We took the cloth into the tomb of the Sufi Saint, and laid it across the top, spreading the petals across our offering, along with a few others doing the same. The cloth is later used to make clothes for the poor. We took our three pieces of string and then tied them one by one to a carved, marble wall, as we each individually made our wishes. Unfortunately we were told we cannot share them until they come true, so apologies for that, but in the nature of fun, let’s just say that I wished for a three packs for 99p sweets like you get in any good London corner shop, a cuddle from everyone in the world (that would’ve actually been a good wish) and some new sunglasses to wear on the back of my head, making everyone behind me think Teen Wolf was bowling backwards around India.

We ended the tour and were taken on the hour long drive back to the Shanti Lodge by our driver, before eating once again at our favoured roof restaurant. It’s a slight shame to not have tried anywhere else nearby, but the food over here is pretty samey in each restaurant and generally leaves a lot to be desired, namely a lack of constant bowel movements, so when/if you find somewhere half decent it’s advisable to stick with it.

We packed our bags in order to leave for Dharamsala early the next morning, then decided to sample the opium we’d acquired earlier. I didn’t fancy smoking it off of foil like the guy proposed, as that is a bit too near doing smack for my liking, and smack is whack, so we tried the other way suggested, smearing a thick line of the brown, tar like substance down the side of a cigarette before climbing onto the upper roof in order to enjoy. Halfway through Sarah asked if you’re meant to feel anything right away, I said that I didn’t know, but that I could definitely feel something, which she was pleased to hear, agreeing that she could too. It was nothing that exciting to be honest, I felt a little sick for a few minutes as my gut rolled around wondering what I was doing, and my legs felt a little wobbly as I descended the staircase, bidding farewell to the shadow of the Taj Mahal.

I’d say my first impression was underwhelming, kind of like waiting for a bus to take you to a party, then getting off and realising the party was the day before. I laid within the net that surrounded our bed, feeling a bit mellow and spaced out, whispering kisses and pillow talk until the Sandman kidnapped my consciousness. Kiss kiss.

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