Monday, 20 April 2009

The Taj Mahal - 15th February 2009

When I was about four or five we had some Indians come to dinner.

There was quite a big fuss before the Indians arrived. No one in the family had ever had Indians to tea before. I had a friend from nursery who was Indian, but this was different. These were real Indians from India, visiting on business involving my Dad's company.

I don't really remember much of the night. I just remember the fuss and the build up, and... the presents.

The presents were for the whole family and they have been treaured in the Harrison household ever since.

A brass peacock (this is gathering dust in a drawer as mum doesn't really like peacocks), a red velvet bag with a peacock in beads and sequins (i still use this as a handbag!), a wooden elephant and a tea light holder made from marble in the shape of the Taj Mahal.

At the age of five I remember thinking that the Taj Mahal was the mst beautiful thing that I had ever seen. The marble was so white it reminded me of my brother's christening cake and at first I was determined to eat it.

The white marble was painted most delicately with intricate patterns like those on the real thing. The pink and grey patterns were just incredible. It was just so beautiful.

The Taj Mahal Tea Light Holder was pride of place on the sideboard in the dining room.

Everyone, family and friends, came over to admire it.

Of course, Dad had to make some alterations to the Taj Mahal... the spikes on top of the four minarets were deemed a hazard and were duly filed down to avoid any incidents.

When we moved down south, the Taj came with us and took a more modest place in mum and dad's bedroom where it still is now.

From the age of 5 I've had great expectations of the Taj Mahal. If a scaled down replica could be so beautiful, the real real thing must be spectacular.

I had two fears about India: firstly, that I would be let down by the taj mahal in real life, and secondly, that the treasured Taj Mahal tea light holder would be a ten-a-penny tacky souvenir available from every wallah in Agra.

Both fears were unfounded.

We woke at 5am to see the Taj at sunrise. Our keenness meant that we were third in the queue at the West Gate. However, the sun was well on its way up before they started letting people in. BUt it didn't really matter that the sunrise was practically over by the time we got inside. I was in total awe.

From aafar it was everything i hoped it woiuld be. Perfectly beautiful. And as we got closer it just got more and more specatular as you could see the fine intricate gems and jewels inlaid in the crisp white marble.

After we had taken in the sheer magnificence we set up the typical tourist shot where you hold it in your finger tips. Brilliantly tacky.

Outside the taj there were souvernir wallahs everywhere. Fridghe magnets, snowdomes, postcards... Taj Mahal Tea Light Holders.

To my absolute relief they were hideous. The marble was grey, the painting blotchy and slap dash in gaudy colours. They were an absolute insult to the splendour of the real thing.

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