There was the light blue sky, white marble domes with emerald and ruby pietradura floral art, guarded by a sandstone red prayer hall on the west and its mirror image for a guest house on its east side. The palette in front of me, as I sat on the Victorian bench in the heart of the lush green gardens, could not have been better.
In a borrowed kurta from baba’s suitcase and a pair of breezy pants, my sleepy eyes looked around with the excitement of a child when I first walked through the arch and glimpsed at the beauty in white. Said to have been constructed as a symbol of love by a man for his beloved over a period of two decades, this marble structure had me falling in love slowly but surely.
While I waited for nature to play out its theatrics, I tried to remember my first visit to the mausoleum-that has been a whooping part of the country’s identity. I wasn’t sure what we had done the first time; there were no strong associations or incidents to create a foundation upon. But there was a lingering feeling of déjà vu once our guide started unraveling the details about its history and symmetry of scales.
All I did was sit down and stay still.
I had to sit down and stay still while everyone around me kept moving in an over whelming frenzy.
I sat down and stayed still when everyone around me was high on anticipation of what was next.
I sat down and stayed still while the silhouette went through the shade card and eventually shifted form.
At first I saw the sky as a deep blue curtain floating against some sprinkled chalk dust and a fading moon; and the winds whispered to me
Then there were emerging patterns of cotton clouds and flying beings against a canvas splattered with gold; while the leaves rustled against the hardened path.
This gold ever so beautifully enveloped into a glowing sun left on a comfortable sheet of light blue; with the morning birds bursting into an acapella.
The scene unfolded from being a glittery performer to a somber lady of pastels.
In an urge to make a lasting association this time over, my mind pulled me back to something I had overlooked in my childlike haste of what lay ahead-
‘O Soul, thou art at rest.
Return to the Lord at peace with Him,
and He at peace with you.’
-the inscriptions on the entrance arch had translated.
On the way, most buildings were coloured dust and red with benches under trees that stood witness to the tales of love and romance over the ages. The air was stained with the crisp stench of hand rolled tobacco and the mildly brewing tealeaves. With cobbled streets and modest houses, the streets around the Taj felt like an architectural conspiracy.
Like most of my early morning squanders on vacations, even this involved baba obliging to my relentless pleas to go to the marvel and breath it in its glory along with the chirping songs at ungodly hours. There was suddenly an unknown comfort in this strange city, like I had become a part of its story as the story had become a part of me
*Ba-Dastoor is an urdu word, meaning unaltered