Independence Day marked the start of our travels to the North of India. I went with two other Indulge interns, Claire and Yasmin. Everything went smoothly with our flight and when we reached India Gate, we met up with an event organiser and entrepreneur, Viren, who we knew from Bangalore. We joined a mass of Indian families flying kites and Viren gave some money to a little boy who was selling bracelets, so that he could join us. Afterwards, Viren gave all the kites away to a group of kids, which was really sweet. A crowd gathered round us and started taking photos, before we knew it, we were approached by a TV crew who asked us to say ‘Happy Independence Day’ in Hindu on live television. Unfortunately, we had a really short time in Delhi before we had to get our bus to Agra. We jumped in a rickshaw, but because of the crazy one-way system in India, we almost missed the bus and seemed to be driving further and further away in the opposite direction to the station. The three of us in the back of the rickshaw were completely silent, terrified that we had ruined our whole trip. Thankfully, as we ran into the bus station, the people working there told us to calm down and walked us to the bus, which hadn’t even left yet. Our bus to Agra was really nice and comfortable, giving us false hopes for the transport on the rest of our trip.
The Taj Mahal was amazing, obviously. We were approached by a tour guide in Agra and agreed to go with him. He led us down a back route and passed by his house, then reached a dead end with a dark staircase leading down. The three of us stopped when we arrived there and I suddenly considered that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to go down the dark staircase, when we had no idea where it led. After a minute of panicking, we decided to follow and it was completely fine, so we then felt a bit awkward about doubting him at all. The Taj Mahal was really busy and we did all the standard tourist photos before going inside. Getting a guide was a good idea, as it meant we got to skip all the queues. Getting out was a bit of a nightmare because it was absolutely boiling and people were pushing and shoving to get through a tiny door, while others were trying to get in. Apparently four people died there in summer from dehydration.
We had a great evening in Agra and did a bit of shopping for Taj Mahal t-shirts, elephant print trousers, jewellery and postcards. After that, we stopped off at the first restaurant we could find, Relax He Relax, owned by the friendliest guy ever, Sanjay. He kept saying that his food was the best in India and if we didn’t like it, he would give us our money back. Surprisingly, it probably was one of the best meals we had, though we ended up with three paneer dishes – a bit of an overload. Claire managed to cut her arm on a rusty staircase while we were there and Sanjay jumped into action, sending one of the waiters to the hospital to pick up a tetanus jab. He then gave Claire the jab himself, in the restaurant! Sanjay even sent a waiter to the bus station with us to make sure we got there safely.