This is going to be a long post! I have so much to tell to wind up my trip to India–but bear with me I think you might find it pretty funny!

So I went to the Taj, straight from Delhi airport on Monday, Dec. 3rd.

Our flight from Pune get delayed because the system went down and they had to check us in manually.

Omigosh, talk about lineups! Left the hotel in Pune at 5:30 am, and didn’t leave on the airplane till about 8:20, delayed an hour. We were supposed to get into Delhi for 9:40, got out around 10:30 instead.

My husband had kept drilling it into me to make sure I don’t miss my flight back, don’t miss my flight back, so I came out of the airport, and luckily my driver was waiting right there for me. Asked him if we still had enough time to go to the Taj and he said yeah, sure!

So we were off.

Wasn’t sure it would be worth it.

In fact I was thinking of my trip to Stonehenge. I’d been way more fascinated with Stonehenge than I’d ever been with the Taj Mahal, and yet when I’d actually seen the Stonehenge my reaction was, “Meh! A bunch of big rocks, lying on their sides!”

Of course the Taj isn’t nearly as old as Stonehenge. It’s about 450 years old.

And yes, it’s listed as one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world!

Got there and it took my breath away!

It really is that beautiful!

Words can’t express the exquisiteness of this grand old mausoleum!

On the weekends they usually get about 50,000 visitors a day. Being a Monday the crowd was light. Only about 10,000. And the thing is that most of the visitors were local.

That should tell you something.

And most of the visitors had come often before.

That also should tell you something.

And as I strolled along the beautiful white marble tiles of the courtyard, I realized something. There are reasons why certain places resonate with people from around the world to become infinitely famous and ranked as one of the wonders of the world.

And I think it all comes down to the feeling the visitor achieves when they visit there.

The feeling of the Taj Mahal is one of incredible love and sadness.

Shah Jehan obviously loved his third wife, Mumtaz so much!

You feel it viscerally, you do.

And there’s that feeling of haunting romance that has infused the place.

And yet I’m torn.

I had a guide leading me through the grounds but I think I hardly needed him. It was good though because I think under the circumstances it’s best not to go to places like that alone, and he warned me what to do and what not to do.

The historical stuff he told me, I basically already knew.

I wrote about a young emperor Shah Jehan in my book Dahling if You Luv Me Would You Please Please Smile. The play that Zainab and Premini perform in the competition is based on a true story of his.

But truth be told, I think he was a bit of a fool. A prisoner of the mindset of opulence he grew up in. It seems to me that he would have been more than content with just the one woman, Mumtaz. He had two other legal wives, because in Islam you can legally have up to four, but then he had a thousand concubines: basically pretty girls he noticed in the land and had soldiers go and take them as part of his harem.

It makes me cringe to think that yes, these emperors really did have harems full of women, that literally waited upon him.

And yet, I think it’s all a silly status thing. It seems to be hard-wired in men to want women–plural. And the more women you have, the higher the status, hence the notoriety of powerful men with lots of mistresses. Men look at other men with lots of women and envy them, so Shah Jehan had to show how impressive he was in that regard.

When I went to South Africa the locals told me that a lot of the local ‘kings’ were like that too. It was their custom that if they saw a pretty girl, they could just force her to join his harem.

It just seemed so wrong there and it seemed equally wrong here.

And I knew what happened, how Shah Jehan’s son Aurangzeb took over because Shah Jehan’s elaborate buildings were bankrupting the country. Shah Jehan always planned to build a mirror image to the Taj Mahal on the other side of the Yamuna river, only all in black marble. He’d already prepared the foundations for it. You can actually see them from the balcony of the Taj Mahal, but Aurangzeb stopped him from doing so.

The expense!!! Shah Jehan brought in architects from all over the world, he shipped in white marble from Rajasthan, and artisans to inlay all the semi precious stones at enormous cost!

It’s unseemly for a ruler to do that to his country and yet…look at it now. It’s such a tourist hot spot and has brought fame and notoriety to the country of India.

Everyone knows Agra, the old capital of the Moghuls simply because of the Taj Mahal.

And yes, when you first see it, it really is surreal, dreamy, beautiful.

And yet driving through Agra, you see the other India. The squalor, the lame and pregnant dogs, the Brahmin bulls strolling through the streets with the big humps on their back and a disdainful expression on their faces and the ragged children and the people trying to eek out a living.

And traveling through India you see the other India, the modern India with the high towers dedicated to IT, and the business plazas, and the nouveau riche, ignoring the perrenially poor as if the poor really have nothing to do with them.

So we left Agra at around 6 pm because my hubby kept telling me to be careful with timing. My flight out of Delhi wasn’t till 3 am but I was planning on arriving at the airport by 12 midnight, just to be sure.

In my haste, we got there by 10 pm.

Five hours of nothing much to do.

Got hungry, but I’d used up most of my rupees, I only had 3 American dollars, 2 Euros in coins, and some Canadian money on me (that I needed for the taxi back home). I had some hundred dollar bills in U.S. but I wasn’t planning on exchanging them at that point! Didn’t want a bunch of rupees to take home, not just to buy a sandwich and a drink!

I tried to change my small bills, but they wouldn’t take my Canadian dollars and I didn’t have enough U.S. so a kind stranger offered to take my two Euro coins off me (he was traveling to Europe) and he ended up paying the difference of about 40 rupees.

In the airport I read a lot of Malala Yousufzai’s book I Am Malala co-written with some English author in the hopes of making her seem deeper than she really is. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good read, but I lost a lot of respect for her when she started singing the praises of that crook Benazhir Bhutto! (By the way I’m not a fan of ANY of the Pakistani politicians! Can’t stand Musharraf and none of the others are any better! But Bhutto and Zardari have Swiss bank accounts with millions of absconded funds from Pakistan–and that’s a fact! Any ruler who’d pillage their own people like that…grrr!!!!  (Um kind of like Shah Jehan) A plague on all their crooked houses, if  you ask me!)

Anyway, it was a LONG night!

While I was reading there in the lounge area, this big hairy Indian was lying flat on his back, on the carpet to the right of me, a hanky over his face, snoring.

That wasn’t so bothersome. What was awful, was when he grunted, got to his feet, then went to sit on the lounge chair a few feet away, and he farted loud enough for half the people in the lounge to hear.


But what really surprised me was this skinny proper looking white guy, some businessman perhaps, sitting across the aisle from me, he hardly even winced. The only way you could tell that he heard the guy let one rip was that he just paused a bit, didn’t even look up, and then continued reading.

And I thought Omigosh! He’s so used to this kind of thing!

And I felt SO embarrassed!

It was a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Toronto, but there was a weird arrangement because we would be stopping in Brussels for a few hours where we had to deplane and everything.

I didn’t realize it was an unusual format for a flight.

Anyway, went through the passport control and they put a sticker on the back of my passport with some numbers and signatures and stuff.

I hate stickers on my passport! When you take them off they leave such a gooey residue!

We got onto the flight and what is it with South Asians and washrooms! Especially the men!

Going into the bathroom after one of these hairy Indian neanderthals is awful! Couldn’t help thinking that people who went in there after me were lucky because I would clean the place before and after!

As we landed in Brussels the crew made an announcement that apparently it was regulation that they’d have to spray a disinfectant throughout the cabin and anyone who was allergic or wearing contacts should cover their faces. So the flight attendant passes up and down the aisles with these two automatic spraying aerosol cans and I felt like we were a bunch of lepers being deloused or something.

In Brussels we had to get off the plane, with all our hand luggage, go through airport security again! Ooh the lineups!

And then we had to walk over to the new lounge area where all of us, mostly South Asian types wearing turbans, shalwar kameezes (me), sweaters and some wearing jeans and western clothes, sat with all our stuff, exhausted and just wanting to continue on our journey to Toronto.

Then the announcement came that they were boarding the flight and EVERYONE, I kid you not, got up and crowded around the gate to board as quickly as possible.

There were three people wearing uniforms who came down towards the gate. The flight was being operated by Air Canada and two of the people were white, an older gentleman who looked kind of German or Nordic with a Nordic accent, and then a petite blonde lady and then a black lady.

Well… for a moment the older gentleman and the petite blonde lady just looked at the throng of us exhausted South Asians, all crowded around the gate.

They just looked at us silently, like they were wondering if we were dangerous, going to revolt or something.

They looked scared.

And we were all standing there silent.

Nobody said anything, until I broke the silence in my perfect Canadian accent, “Um…are we supposed to board now?”

It was like the trance was broken and the petite white lady said, “Yes, but I don’t know why you’re all standing there… the line is over here.” (She was indicating a spot on the other side of those roped up barricade things.)

So the whole mob starts moving towards the ‘line’ and the old guy goes, “No! Stop! Stop! Only the families with small children may board first.”

And then the families with small children started going towards the line area and they were looking over their documents and allowing them through.

And the old guy waved his arms and said, “Back! Back! We’ll be boarding by row numbers!”

But nobody in the mob moved back. Not really.

So then he called, “Rows 35-47, may board now.”

But of course a man from row 30 tried to sneak in there and he turned him back. And then someone from row 29 tried their luck and were turned back again.

And while I’m standing there waiting for my row to be called I suddenly got really irritated at that stupid little sticker on the back of my passport and thought, “Okay, don’t need that any more! So I peeled it off, curled it up, and tossed it on the carpeted floor.

Finally when he said, “Okay, all other rows!”

I came forward and some lady to the right of the barrier pushed her way in beside me, and got in between me and my rolling bag, the one with my presentation stuff in it. I gently pulled at my bag. Really I was trying to be gentle, but it was bumping against another bag, and some guy behind me swore saying, “Oh these pushy people!” And I wondered if he was talking about me or the lady beside me, and then he kicked my bag in a supremely futile gesture.

But I just ignored it, because really, we were all tired, and these things would happen.

So when I went up to the old guy in uniform to show him my passport he turns it over and says, “Where’s your sticker?”

Like I just committed an unforgivable crime.

I looked at him blankly and told the truth. “I took it off.”


Again I told the truth, “Because I don’t like sticky things on my passport.”


“Because they make my passport all gooey.”

Couldn’t he see the residue of past stickers on the back of it?

And he said, “Well…you’ll just have to go back to immigration!”

And I thought he was referring back to that incredibly long line of security screening, and I thought, “Oh no! I’ll miss my flight!”

I said, “I can’t! It’s right there!” And I waved towards the carpeted floor on the other side of the barrier. “I just took it off.”

He said, “But why?”

“Because I don’t like sticky things on my passport! I can find it! I’ll show you!” And I was ready to move the people out of the way so I could find the curled up shreds of my sticker, but the black lady said, “How do we know it’s YOUR sticker?”

What a dumb question!

Tried to convince them but they were unmoved.

I tried the petite blonde lady and she assured me I had to go back to immigration. So I said, “Where?” And she waved her hand at the counter at the front of the gate.

Dealing with all these South Asians I just knew they wouldn’t grant me any quarter whatsoever.

So I went back to the counter and luckily it turned out that ‘immigration’ involved an official who was stationed right at the counter but had left for a moment.

When he showed up, I showed him my passport, he had a whole bunch of stickers on one of those sheet thingies. I told him I needed a new sticker. And he asked, “What happened to your own sticker?”

“I peeled it off.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I don’t like sticky things on my passport. They make it gooey.”

“Well! You shouldn’t have done that.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

“That proved it had been checked by Jet Airways.”

“Yes, I know. I’m sorry. Lesson learned. Don’t take off the sticker!”

So he checks my passport and puts a new sticker on it and says, (as if it needs repeating), “Don’t do that again!” Then he adds, “You can take it off once you board the airplane.”

So I go back, triumphantly, to the old guy and the black lady, with the sticker on my passport, and as I’m passing by, the crowd has thinned, and I see the curled up remnants of my old sticker and I point, “See? There it is! That’s my sticker.”

To show I was speaking the truth.

And the black lady says again, “How do I know that’s YOUR sticker?”

And I thought, “Really? Is anyone else admitting to doing something so stupid???”

But I didn’t say anything more, because they were the ones in power, and it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.

But I didn’t take the sticker off once I was safely on board. I didn’t take it off till I was collecting my luggage at Pearson airport.

And yup, it left a gooey residue on my passport.