Pictures of the Taj
In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire's period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their Fourteenth child,
Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:
Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.
Taylor could not sleep. He lay back on his bed and considered. Two months' worth of pictures down the drain in a Calcutta alley.That Nikon had been everywhere with him, like a par of him he never forgot. From the cold and damp of Katmandu to the sand and heat of Rajasthan. And Agra, where he'd discovered that one in a million shot of the Taj Mahal. It wasn't a shot of Japanese and Euro tourists milling about, talking on cell phones, snapping their snapshots, so distracted, dressed so twenty-first century. Missing the beauty, not listening to the silence. It was after the tourist left on their crowded buses.
Later, at dusk.
There was the man on the river with his camel cooling off. Agra's so hot at times. But this picture looks cool. The spires of the Taj rise up through the mist. Ground mist obscures the grasses and foundation of the tomb. It floats both in and above the cloudy mist suspending Mumtaz Mahal comfortably between the earth and the heavens for an eternity.
The second picture's chip was lost later in a Calcutta gutter.
There were two Indians, a young girl and an old woman dressed in saris, both brown-armed with glittering gold bangles, standing near the reflecting pool in front of the Taj. A flock of white doves flew behind in a pattern and circled. That shot could have been taken one hundred years ago, stealing their souls with a view camera on a tripod, or taken one-five-hundredth of a second ago at F16 with a 35mm digital wonder. Just memories cannot explain their worth.
And that crowded street during the wedding. The front of the Rolls first, the chromium hood ornament lady second, then the uniformed driver, then the couple in the back seat. Both dressed like royalty. He had just lifted her veil and they were kissing. Thank God for motor drives. He'd caught them all in four rapid-fire images as they sped past. It was like a sporting event. So much cheering and shouting, so much confusion. They passed by so fast he didn't have a chance to find out their names. Now he never would.
Now his visual memories of the Grand Trunk Road were reduced to a small heap of expensive Japanese steel and glass, crushed into an Indian sub-continent gutter, reduced to tiny bits of techno-trash, half of them marked Nippon Kogaku Japan.
He was bound to clean up his white linen pith-helmet and start over. That's just how he was.
Pissed off and stubborn.
©Steven Hunley 2011
Pictures of the Taj