Archive for April 2011

Part I : Baby Taj

When Babloo, our taxi driver informed us that our first stop would be the 'Baby Taj', my friend and I were flummoxed. I am a student of history and I have never heard of anything called 'Baby Taj'.

The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, situated on the left bank of the Yamuna is locally known as 'Baby Taj' and considered the draft on which the Taj Mahal was designed. The tomb was built between 1622 and 1628, by Queen Nurjahan for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, who held the title 'Itimad-ud-Daula' or Pillar of the State. According to Wikipedia, and in fact, the plaque at the site, the masoluem marks a transition between two phases of Mughal architecture. The first which was dominated by the use of red sandstone and the second in which white marble figured prominently. 

Entrance to Baby Taj

The tomb is situated, like other Mughal buildings, at the center of a large quadrangle with four large gateways along its perimeter. The masauleum housing the cenotaphs are located at the center of a beautiful garden that is watered by shallow waterways fed by the river.
Frontal view of the tomb

Built on a raised plinth, the tomb is a graceful structure in white marble with elegant inlay work and latticed windows. In this tomb are also interred Nurjahan's mother and other relatives. Nurjahan herself is buried in Lahore. 
Cenotaphs of Nurjahan's parents
View of gateway from inside the tomb

It was just about 9 am when we visited the Baby Taj. The day was cloudy with a light breeze making the setting very romantic. The Baby Taj is not as frequented by tourists as the Taj. Without the crowds that throng the Taj, this masoleum offers a quiet and tranquil refuge to the dreamy tourist who wants to linger and savour the history of the place.
A latticed window

Standing at the gateway on the banks of the Yamuna and gazing at the city on the right bank, it is almost as if the river is the line that divides two universes. One covered in a cloak of history and another covered in the dirt and grime that signifies the march of civilization.
Two worlds

Entry fees for Indian nationals is a mere Rs. 10/-. There is also a pay and use toilet that is REALLY CLEAN! You may think I'm crazy to write about toilets after waxing eloquent on the architechural beauty of the tomb. Try taking the 6.15AM Shatabdi out of Delhi to Agra after a heavy dinner the night before and you develop a whole new appreciation for clean pay-and-use facilities!!


Before I move onto writing about the Agra Fort, I must tell you about this book I am reading. Its called 'The Shadow Princess' by Indu Sundaresan, part of her Taj Trilogy. The book traces the life of Princess Jahanara, from the time of her mother, Mumtaz Mahal's death, through the power struggle among her brothers, till Aurangazeb becomes the Emperor.

The book is dotted with descriptions of all the lovely places I saw during my visit to Agra. It gives a detailed descriptions of the Baby Taj and how Nurjahan was closely involved in its design and construction. Unfortunately, according to the book, she did not stick around to see it to completion. After Jahangir's death, she became persona non grata with the new Emperor (not that there was any special love between them before that!) and was sent away to spend her remaining days in Lahore. But Shahjahan did acknowledge her genius in designing the Itimad-ud-Daula's tomb and borrowed ideas while designing and executing his ode to love, the Taj Mahal.

Do read the book if you are into historical literature. 

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India's City of Love - Agra

If Kolkata is the City of Joy, then perhaps Agra is India's City of Love. Situated at a distance of 200km from Delhi, Agra served as the capital of the great Mughal Empire during the peak of its power. Today, Agra is best known as the home of the world's greatest monument for love - The Taj Mahal.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Agra and soak in its history. Over the course of a day, I visited three monuments: The tomb of Itimad-ud-daula, the Agra Fort and of course, the celebrated Taj.

I plan to write about my Agra visit in a three part post - each post dedicated to one of the three monuments mentioned above. I know that reams and reams have been written about these already. But I hope that my take will be unique enough to make it an interesting read.

All photographs featured in the posts are taken from my camera - except perhaps for a few at the Taj. The camera battery had dwindled by then. I may have to borrow pictures from the net.

Hope you will like these posts....

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You Love Me! You Really Do!!!

Awards and recognition are always wonderful, especially to an attention hungry Leo like myself. But when it comes from a fellow blogger, it is all the more sweet and coveted. Thanks Rachna for conferring this honour on me. Right back at ya!!

As a recipient of this award, I'm expected to link back to the person who gave me this award I also have to write 7 honest things about myself. That's going to make me think very hard now! But guess it could be fun.

1. I am your typical Leo-aggressive, determined, passionate and a bit of a drama queen. I am rather 'take charge' in a situation and also a control freak.

2. I never do things in half measures. I love and hate with equal intensity. I have high expectations of people that I love and feel bad if they do not measure up to it - impractical and unrealistic I know. But there you are. But for those that I hate, I ignore them and / or cut them out of my life totally.

3. I am generally straight forward and say things openly, frankly and probably rashly also. I have been told many times to temper my words. I try - can't say I succeed much.

4. Quick tempered - surprise! surprise! I flare up easily and say things which I regret later. I used to think I cool off easily also - but turns out that I'm actually a sulker!! I need to be coaxed and cajoled to get out of my bad mood. Bad girl!!

5. I'm articulate and like to think that communication is my strong point. I can speak several languages. I can speak in any situation and do not get fazed by public speaking. Perhaps my writing is also not-so-bad?

6. I am a loyal friend. I choose my friends with care and try to stand by them when they need me. Not to say that I mince words in telling them if they are in the wrong. But I will still stand by them. And my friends will vouch for this.

7. Although I do not believe in gender stereotypes, I like girlie stuff like clothes, make up, cooking and shopping :)))

So, those of you who know me - do you agree with these 7 things about me?

I'd like to pass on this Award to three people:

Meera : My sister, my friend and a recent convert to blogging. Am super impressed at how well she has taken to this new passion of hers.

Sandhya : I find her writing very sweet, gentle and rather maternal.

Partha : A recent friend. I am amazed at his enthusiasm for writing and creating when most others like him would not be.

Keep up the blogging!!

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Roar India, Roar!

The day started ordinarily enough. I traveled to Noida this morning to our partner's office. Come afternoon, my colleague and I went to YMCA near Connaught Place to check out their conference facilities. On the way, we passed Jantar Mantar, the epicenter of a people's movement that India has not seen in a very long time. The lure was irresistable. Weaving through traffic carrying busloads of supporters, we walked towards Jantar Mantar.

The scene we saw was amazing.

Hoardes of people had gathered to express support for this 73 year old Gandhian who has vowed to carry out a fast-until-death unless the Jan Lokpal Bill is passed. Men and women of all ages were gathered together, carrying placards, banners, effigies and shouting slogans against corruption. Cries of 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' rend the air.

The diversity among supporters was amazing. Elders were a-plenty. Old men walking slowly, aided by sticks. Women from rural areas and the urban elite from Delhi. Drum beats boomed out, breaking the inertia of apathy. Standing together, supporting a cause.

As I write this note, the news flashes that the govt. has agreed to constitute a joint committee to draft a bill by 30th June and that Anna Hazare will break his fast at 10 tomorrow. I do not know if this movement will end corruption. Most would question if a law can end this deep rooted malady. Many others would just rather watch the IPL. To them I would say - Better an an optimistic fool than a jaded cynic.

I am very glad I got an opportunity to observe and express solidarity with what some are terming as the largest movement of civil society after Independence. I feel almost afraid to say it - but maybe we can believe in Belief again?

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Snippets From The Week

The whole country is rejoicing at India's victory in the World Cup semi-final. Why? Coz we beat Pakistan! Emotions really run high when India plays Pakistan. Facebook messages ran amok with jubilation when India won. "Chak de India" and "Yippee!" and "Go Dhoni's Dashers! Go!". It seemed as if the World Cup had been won already!

Except one message which read "Take that for 26/11 and more". I thought it was in poor taste. People did ask the person not to spread hate. But he/she was unrepentant. Will winning a cricket match assuage the hurt and set right all that has gone wrong between our two nations? I always believed that games and culture can actually build bridges and bring people together. Let a game remain a game and let sportsmanship prevail.


Some days back, when I went over to my sister's place, my 13 year old niece invited me to stay over for a 'girl's sleepover' since her dad was touring. I said I couldn't since I have a husband at home and needed to get back. She didn't reply but I guess it did not go down well with her.

My sister later reported that my niece had a complaint. She said, "I think Chitti likes R uncle (the husband) more than me. She's not loyal to me anymore!". My poor baby! I went over the same day and ragged her about it. Each has their own place and is irreplaceable!


On Thursday, we were busy with a team meeting, when 5 men in white khadi shirts and vesti barged into our office. Addressing my boss, the oldest of the lot said: "Saar...Ai yam the Congress blah blah committee chairman. Ai yam ye vury honourable man"....

The fellows had come asking for money and assured us that they would 'stand by us'. My boss sat them down, had a nice chat about sundry things and refused the money. Smilingly he said what was in effect 'Do your worst. I'm not giving one naya paisa'. The fellows had to go on their way.

When I narrated the incident at home, my concerned husband retorted:"Better be careful. What if they throw acid at you?!"


We hang our washed clothes to dry on the open terrace of our apartment block. Everybody does. Each flat has been assigned two lines where they can hang their clothes. The down side is that clothes get stolen on a regular basis. I have so far lost one rajai (which I had hung out to air) and two lovely handloom dupattas. Today I discovered that two more items are missing. A T-shirt and capris which are well washed and soft and which I love wearing at home.

If there is something that I detest, it is a thief. Only the lowest scumbag would take something for which they have not worked and which is not theirs. Really!

P.S.: Did I go overboard with the pictures folks?

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