The Emperor Imprisoned

The smell of spicy-sweet incense, the heat that soaks beyond bone marrow into DNA, the smooth-sharp crack of HindiGujaratiMarathiMalayalamWhoKnowsWhat over the constant background of horns. These combine to hold me in each moment. I never have a TV feeling, never a moment that could have been on a screen. Every pore and nerve ending is whispering, screaming, sighing, or laughing. And they are all saying the same thing: India. We toured around the Taj Mahal, walking all of the way around below it before climbing the wooden stairway built over the marble stairway. Once atop the broad base of the Taj, the artistry of the designers and builders shifted something in me, just like my first view from outside the gate, the glowing Taj Mahal framed perfectly in a dark entryway. The Taj Mahal is a piece of art, surrounded by more art. The Taj Mahal is a crypt, but it lives. Never before have I truly loved a piece of death-art, but this place is homage, not just resting place. It is love, not loss. We spent an hour and a half or so there and then walked to the Agra Fort. One piece of information that had stuck with me was this: Shah Jahan, the ruler who caused the Taj Mahal to be built, was imprisoned by his son in this fort. He was given rooms from which he could see the Taj, but was never allowed to visit. Where I loved the Taj as art, I loved the Fort as function. It is a real, defensible fort, with real battlements and small openings from which you can hope to decimate an attacking group before having to face the remainder. But in addition to the actual fortress (still host to a garrison of soldiers and closed in that[…]

Read more