i must have been four when i saw the taj mahal. been back many times since then. i love the gardens, the fountains, the humongous entrance, the grace, the people looking expectant, taking funny pictures, the sange marmar… the white marble; finding out mumtaz mahal and shah jahan wasn’t exactly a fairytale romance didn’t spoil the fun (c’mon, he threw pearl necklaces at her in the meena bazaar, didn’t he… and if he didn’t, too bad for him). the jamuna passes behind the taj; on its other bank, the agra fort, where shah jahan sat looking out longingly at the mausoleum he’d built for mumtaz. did he really cut off the thumbs of all the 25,000 artisans? the story didn’t put me off the taj. kings were strange, they could be cruel. i stand to the left of the taj, at the back, looking down at the river and wonder every time, where exactly shah jahan might have sat. the courtyard is massive; the wind is free, the water flows, the floor is smooth and clean, and the taj mahal is behind me. for a moment there’s nothing base, nor petty, in the world.