Epilogue: Notes From Agra


After the tour of the Agra Fort, we opted for an early lunch. By 1pm we were done and not sure what to do next. The Taj Mahal was our final destination before we headed back to the railway station to board our return train at 6.30pm. Even if we pored over every nook and cranny at the Taj, we were sure it would not take 5 hours. How to kill time?

Enter Babloo, our taxi driver.

'Would you like to see the Mini Taj?' he asked us.

That piqued our interest. First Baby Taj, now Mini Taj? How many Tajs were there?

'Well actually madam, the real Taj is open only from 6am to 6pm. The Mini Taj can be viewed at anytime. Especially at night, during rainy season etc'. Made sense. Where was this midget doppelganger?

'Over at the Meena Bazar' said Babloo. That sounded very romantic. I immediately had visions of quaint shops and cobbled streets selling lovely trinkets....all the Mughal stereotypes I had seen in Bollywood films rushed into my mind.

'Ok. Lets go'

A while later, Babloo brought the taxi to a halt in a small, dirty quadrangle with dotted with small shops and spare parts of vehicles strewn about.

'What are we doing here?' we asked.

'Madam, this is Meena Bazar. You go there, you can see the Mini Taj. I don't take any commission or anything. If you like anything, you can also buy it.' The sign above the shop over yonder read 'Gangotri: U.P.Handloom'. A gentleman emerged and beckoned us in.

With the dawning realisation that we stood at the precipice of a con job, we moved cautiously towards the shop. There was really very little else we could do. The gentleman beamed at us and ushered us in.

'We came to see the Mini Taj' we said feeling more idiotic by the minute. Nodding, the man proceeded to shut the shop door. He pointed at the glass cupboard that stood behind us. As we turned, he turned off all the lights and then turned on the cupboard lights.

As we stood transfixed, red, blue, green lights started dancing from inside the belly of a four feet high white marble replica of the Taj Mahal.

'People from all over the world come to see the Taj Mahal. This Taj Mahal is made of 10kgs of marble (I don't remember. It could have been more), was made by 20 sculptors (again, I could be wrong), took 7 months to make and costs 6 lakhs. It is made of pure white marble. See the light coming from inside? Fake white marble is opaque. Real white marble is translucent and glows when light from inside. This is the Mini Taj'.

As the shop lights came back on, we picked our jaws off the floor and looked apprehensively at the shop guy. What next?

'Please come over here sister' he said, leading us to the merchandise displayed at the opposite side. 'What would you like to see? Saris? Bedsheets, footwear? We have saris made of jute, banana fibre and crush proof silk'

As if under a spell, we moved towards to the other side where the man proceeded to show us sari after sari despite our entreaties that we were not interested in seeing or buying anything. But he was determined. 'How about seeing some bedsheets then? We have some very good ones. We have a unique product which is made right here in Agra by the inmates of the Agra Jail -the 'Mosquito Repellent Bedsheets'.

Here is where we made a grave error. S, whose home had a mosquito problem, showed a faint interest. Determined salesman that he was, the shop guy latched on to this smidgen of interest. Out came the sheets in bright yellow and red/brown floral patterns. And I don't know how it came about, but S ended up purchasing two bedsheets.

I wandered away from that counter towards the footwear section. Having witnessed the sale of the bedsheets, the salesman here pounced on me hoping to sell me footwear. He showed me some chappals and said that the leather was so good that it repelled insects, bugs and lizards. I suppose he thought that if mosquitoes worked on one sucker, insects and bugs might work on another. But he went too far with the lizards. Even I didn't buy that.

S had buyer's regret written all over her as we stepped out of the shop. 'I don't like these sheets! They're so loud and ugly!'. I simply collapsed in shrieks of laughter. Were there ever two bigger idiots than us this side of the Vindhyas?(considering we lived on one side and were visiting the other, I think we had the subcontinent pretty much covered)

I have since recounted this episode to several people. It gets funnier with each telling. Its been three months since our trip. Time enough to test the world famous, cost effective and eco friendly mosquito repelling sheets. S says that they work. But then she would wouldn't she?!

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13 Responses to Epilogue: Notes From Agra

  1. Kasturi says:

    Good read, deepa. I too went ROFL. You friend really was a sucker. You too if you helped her choose them!!

  2. Nice read with a touch of humour.The visit must have been a nice timepass.
    As long as there are gullible,there are clever salesmen palming off snake oil,talismans,gemstones,trinklets and virility potions as magic cures for all problems.

  3. Deepa have you been to Aurangabad? Thers is a " baby taj" there too- this one built by Aurangzeb's son for his mother. Though not so "jhatak" as the one you saw in Agra, it looked funny " like the taj mahal shrugging its shoulders" as my little one says. But then nothing can every beat the " Asli Cheez" can it?

  4. Rachna says:

    I was not able to post a comment when I visited yesterday. You are right, some of these shopkeepers are so bloody good at their job that you know that you are walking into a trap but you can't help yourself. I can quite imagine the ugly bedsheets :).

  5. Sandhya says:

    Definitely the taxi driver has a cut!

    They sell these machines like murrukku maker, veg. cutter etc. Most of them work wonders with the sales persons but at home, nothing works out!

    But had a good laugh here remembering our own guffaws at times!

  6. Deepa says:

    Thanks All. Glad you found this funny. I certainly do.

    Kasturi: Yes. I'm also a partner in crime. I helped her pick out the bedsheets.

    Partha: Nice to see you here at my blog after a long time.

    Meera: Yes. I have seen that monument. I think it is called Bibi ka Maqbara. It is touted to be a replica of the Taj but cannot hold a candle to it in elegance and beauty.

    Rachna: Sorry about the problem you encountered. I think there was some compatibility prob with my new layout and the comment settings I had put in. I've fixed that now. So you should not have any trouble in the future.

    Sandhya: Of course he had a cut! I saw him write down something in a little notebook. :))

  7. Arti says:

    Hi Deepa,
    This is hilarious:):) Actually such shops are at many places like Jaipur, Varanasi etc... Your friend must be laughing at the incident now! We always learn something new when travelling!
    Have a fabulous day:)

  8. Rachit says:

    wah Mini Taj.. you must have said that:D

    Cheers,
    Weakest LINK:Personal
    News Not Making News :Dream

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  10. Deepa says:

    @Arti: Yes. We laugh about it now.

    @Rachit: Thats a good one! I didn't say it.

    ITB: THANK YOU!!!

  11. Rachna says:

    I was not able to post a comment when I visited yesterday. You are right, some of these shopkeepers are so bloody good at their job that you know that you are walking into a trap but you can't help yourself. I can quite imagine the ugly bedsheets :).

  12. radha says:

    It happened to us in Jaipur. But we did not succumb. He wanted us to eat at some vague joint too. But we stood firm and he did not like us one bit. A sulking driver saw us off at the end of the day.

  13. Unknown says:

    'Mosquito Repellent Bedsheets'. Doesn't work I have a proof. I have Upload a video by the same title