Looking at the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, India




Let the splendor of diamond, pearl and ruby vanish.

Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal,

glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time,

forever and ever.

-Rabindranath Tagore


The fanfare over the beauty of the Taj Mahal

is sometimes a bit much. Who on earth doesn’t

know it from photos, postcards, books, the Internet

already? Legend has it that when you get there

to see it the first time, you’re going to be completely

overwhelmed, to say the least-and yet, I’m not

so sure of that. Haven’t I seen famous landmarks

on TV before, but when visiting one, wasn’t it

just like getting sucked into a photograph? To me

it always felt like déjà-vu and over-familiarity

closing in on me, trivializing what I was looking

at. Would it be any different at the Taj Mahal?


I’m almost there and quickly getting pulled into

the dizzying perspective racing towards the

elegant, gleaming, seemingly weightless, marble

structure of the mausoleum, and deep into an

endless distance beyond the skyline of the slender

minarets set against the vast blue sky of India.

Intensely bright sunlight bounces about the

colossal, central dome shooting all of the light

straight back to where it came from. Flanked by

wide walkways leading towards the base of the

Taj Mahal, the long canals spectacularly mirror its

symmetry in a clear, upside-down view of grandeur.


My doubts are being instantly lifted on taking in the

vista. The color of the sky in India surpasses the

mere synthetic blue you see on photos, satisfying

my craving for reality. Frankly, this distant splendor

that I can’t put my finger on is driving me almost

crazy now, because what I’m looking at is only a

beautifully framed, neat poster of the Taj Mahal on a

wall at India Cafe on Burlington Avenue. I’m waiting

to be served. In fact, I’m thinking: What if I completely

forgot photographs; pushed all frames out of the way;

stepped into the full sunshine of India; walked up to

the Taj Mahal in real time, and looked for myself at


this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal,

glistening spotlessly bright

on the cheek of time, forever and ever?