Aren’t Indian People Amazing? Part 1: Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal

18:46 Paul Robinson 2 Comments

A trip to India wouldn’t be right without visiting the Taj Mahal. Found in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, built for the woman he loved and adored – the third of his wives, Mumtaz.
One the way to Agra we visited Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur was the first planned city in the Mughal Empire, yet was only occupied for 14 years before it was abandoned. A whole town of Mughal Architecture was left to the weeds and wild dogs. However, this left a wonderfully preserved historical town.
Our taxi dropped us around 2km from Fatehpur and we had to walk the rest of the way. We decided to visit the main monument, the Jama Masjid. Along the walk we were quickly approached by young children selling pens and other trinkets. These kids, no more than 14 years old, spoke brilliant English. They explained they weren’t in school because they wanted to be business men and women. Street kids in India can be pretty persistent because they know western tourists have money. We refused most of the kids but one boy, Sied, didn’t ask for money. He walked with us and shooed the other kids away. Let’s be honest, that is a pretty good business angle, he knows what the western customer wants. Sied didn’t stop making conversation either, so he ended up staying with us.

We arrived at the Masjid and Sied became our tour guide as asked one of his mates to look after our shoes. The Masjid is a huge red sandstone walled courtyard with central mausoleum and a mosque. I drifted off from the other guys and had a wander by myself. Like a lone gazelle in the Serengeti, I was quickly mobbed. Lots of kids offered to guide me around (for a fee) and as it was only my third day in India, I crumpled and let one of them guide me around.

My guide showed me around the whole site. The most interesting part was a small room where couples tied a red thread to a wall in the hope of receiving a child. After about 30 minutes exploring, my guide took me into a corner where I paid for him showing me around. He then lifted a rag off the floor to show a load of carved trinkets. There were candle holders and random elephants and other things. I tried my best to refuse but he was a born salesman. I was left with a lighter wallet in my pocket and some random carved-thing in my hand. Thankfully Sied turned up before I was relieved of the rest of my rupees.

I went to a shaded spot in the courtyard and sat down while Sied went to find the others. Immediately a few young kids flocked toward me. They tried to sell me stuff but this time I refused. Then one boy asked for a souvenir from my home country. Taken back by the request, I looked in my rucksack for a bag of Worthers Originals. I handed a few sweets out and the kids suddenly multiplied and I was surrounded. The bag of sweets was quickly replaced by a flurry of grabbing hands and a small sea of grinning faces. Even a little kid who wasn’t quick enough to get a sweet seemed perfectly happy with the golden wrapping. Then, souvenir-boy asked for a photograph with me. He whipped out his mobile phone and his mate took the picture. All the other kids’ eyes lit up. Tentatively, a young girl came and sat next to me for a picture. We smiled for the picture and the flood of photographs started. I was really embarrassed to have my picture taken so much but it was great to see the kids smiling and laughing. Out of nowhere a baby boy appeared and was plonked onto the wall next to me. He put his hand on my shoulder and I held his other hand so he didn’t fall. After 10 minutes of photo’s I said Shukriya Namaste (Thanks, goodbye) and there was a squeal of excitement at the sound of me speaking Hindi. My attempt to escape had failed. They tried to teach me some more Hindi and provided them with some more entertainment - as the white guy who butchered their language.
It was a great moment with the children and I really regret not getting my own picture with the group. Although, I was pretty nervous they would just nick my camera.
Just chilling (best picture ever!)
I regrouped with the others and we took a rickshaw back towards the taxi. I sat in the front with the driver where it was pretty exciting. We had lunch and then it was off to the Taj. Our taxi took us down relatively normal streets (for India) and it was all fairly standard. Then we turned a corner and the road disappeared. The buildings closed in and the streets were full of fruit sellers and lots of people. We got out of the taxi and walked to the gate of the Taj.
We walked through the crowds and in through the gate building. There is nothing that I can add to what has already been said about the Taj Mahal. It is magnificent.
It's not going to be that good...

...I guess it's an okay gate...
We were there for a few hours, strolling around and taking in the sights. We watched as the sun began to set and the colour of the marble began to change. Despite the thousands of other visitors at the Taj, it was peaceful. I must have also posed for another 30+ photographs with young Indian couples who wanted their photograph with me. Pasty-white Paul is the exotic one in India. Everyone was so polite and happy to speak to me, I started enjoying the attention. I think they all appreciated me saying how much I was enjoying their country too. And right now, pictures of my grinning face adorn mantle-pieces across India.

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