We had a very early start this morning. Our tour guide was to pick us up at the hotel at 6:30 sharp. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast as usual, we met the driver in the lobby so we could start our two and a half hour journey to Agra, to see one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.
After loading into the SUV, we took off and headed for the expressway. From what I understand, it’s a fairly new, and quick way to get to other towns in India. We did the usual darting in and out of traffic, which by this point, is something we had become accustomed to. The morning air provided us with a light fog, and as the sun rose over the city of Delhi, we knew that the heat and humidity was eminent.
Finally making it onto the expressway, I saw something for the first time that I found absolutely amazing. There were motorbikes zooming down the highway, with multiple amounts of people on them at once. And while the traffic on the road was slightly more organized than in the inner city, I was happily distracted by the occasional bright pop of color from a woman’s saree as she rode side saddle on the back of a bike (as you would expect from a culture who may have stricter rules about the physical interaction between men and women in public). And yet this was to be only the start of what was to come.
As we continued along this wide road, which seemed cumbersome amongst the backdrop of a lush green countryside, the motorbikes kept popping up on the shoulder lane. Some of them would be straddled by two men, and some of them with families of up to five! When I first saw a woman straddling her driver, it took me a moment to realize she was only doing so as to lodge her child in between to keep him from falling. At times, there would be a second child riding in the front of the driver, holding on the handlebars, as the bike steadily cruised down the expressway. I was astonished, and couldn’t help but observe them curiously as they passed us. But curiosity was not only on my part. There were many a time where we were being observed in the same manner, as if we were some kind of strange and exotic creatures.
At one point, I noticed parts of another expressway in the midst of completion. And being that this was Sunday, it struck me with no surprise that it was abandoned of any type of workers, leaving the structure looking even more mysterious and out of place, with shanty makeshift huts scattered beneath them. It was the picture of modernization taking place in world that did not look like it was ready.
Eventually, we approached something that looked like the final scene out of the movie Inception. Multiple giant, unfinished buildings, that looked like they were part of a development, stood almost intimidatingly against flat, green foliage. Cranes sat there as if they had not moved for weeks, almost like the project was abandoned, and the buildings were starting to deteriorate. These buildings created a sense of wonder, and I asked the driver what they were all about. He informed us that they are to be residential buildings, with commercial developments as well. The span of which these buildings occupied is indescribable. From the car, you could barely make out any open space behind these buildings, and I felt as if there was something amazing on the horizon of these buildings. And pressed against such a flat landscape, it was as if an entirely new city was being born. But not a normal-looking city, more like that Las Vegas, artificial, this-should-not-be-here feel to it. And through the morning haze, it even seemed like a mirage.
As time passed, the scenery changed, and the sun became brighter. After going through some tolls, we were suddenly driving past a race-car track. Again, an odd sight to see during the drive, yet not as bizarre as what we had seen previously. The grounds to this racing track seemed as if it had not been used for years. But I imagined it full with people, cheering on the drivers as they twisted and turned around the bends of the track. And with the kind of driving we had already experienced by the locals, it made you wonder if this was something that came natural to them.
By this point, we are well into an hour of driving, and far into the countryside. Time seems to have stopped in this part of the country. Lush, green fields went on for miles, speckled with the occasional thatched hut. Some of them stood alone, and some in clusters of three. Farmers dotted the fields in the misty morning, moving lazily. Life here, from the outside, looked peaceful and simple. Agra was nearing, and I gazed off into the countryside, trying to imagine what their lives are really like.
See more of my India posts here.