It’s early morning but the signs of a sweltering day are already visible and as we walk out the door of the air conditioned hotel and hit the true heat of Delhi those signs are confirmed. However, with Agra and the Taj Mahal scheduled in the day ahead heat is at the back of our minds. After three hours of the bumpiest bus ride I have ever experienced and a loop around Agra to make it through the chaos of vendors, people, and vehicles we arrive at Agra Fort in all its red sandstone splendor. As we are guided through the fort we learn about the functions of each room and the vengeful nature of rulers past. However, beyond the vengeance there is calculated thought; windows that can be seen out of but not into, false perspective to make the Taj Mahal appear closer than it really is, an echo chamber that allows voice to travel from one corner to the other, and even a magnifying glass to view the Taj Mahal when eyesight started to fail. When our tour ends the two hours we have been there feels more like twenty minutes but the heat is starting to get to us so we head out of the fort for a break before strolling through the Taj Mahal.Now somewhat re-energized we head to the Taj Mahal, which upon seeing words really cannot describe, it is a designers dream polished white marble in perfect symmetry but also so much more. It typical tourist fashion we can’t help snapping a few pictures and striking a pose or two but most of all we just want to sit and absorb it because no picture will ever do it justice. Finally the day is over and we able back onto the bus … or is it. First we are met by a fierce storm before we even leave Agra dust, wind, and lightening, luckily all viewed from inside the bus where we are safe and driving out of it but our opinion of that safety changes over the next two hours as we are awoken from our attempts to sleep on the bus by first one then a second scream. We are not the only ones on the bus there is also a mouse! We complete our journey knees tucked to our chests to avoid the floor stopping the bus only for a post midnight pizza delivery by motorbike on the freeway. Now the day is truly over and there really isn’t one more ounce of excitement that can fit in.
We make an early start to the day to beat the sweltering heat of the sun as we climb the large uneven steps up to Malavli’s Bahja caves. The caves were carved from the rock face over 2000 years ago by Theravada Buddhists and remain to this day a sight of grandeur. There are 29 excavations in total from a grand hall to monk’s cells, to a water well that still holds clear water, all adorned with intricate carvings and stupas of varying sizes.
While we sit down on the ledge of the caves to rest we can see the Shikshan Gram orphanage we visited yesterday and slightly closer a line of colourfully clothed children making their way through the fields towards the caves. When they arrive they climb up to join us sharing mangos they picked on their way, for some the mango tree was the main reason for the trek. We continue to explore the caves with the children often being coerced by their smiles to relinquish our cameras and let them put on the director’s hat
telling us pose. Finally we take one last group shot and pry our cameras out of their hands and make our way back down the stairs trying not to panic as they careen down the beside us, jumping down the four feet gaps of the side rails. When we say goodbye and head back to the guesthouse it feels like an entire day has passed and we haven’t even had breakfast!
After we have eaten we catch the 11:30 train to Dehu Road, seven stops northeast of Malavli, where Sadhana human rights organization is located. Arriving to a warm greeting by its founder Savita and a song about Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti, who was integral to the Indian constitution after independence. Savita tells us about the many changes Sadhana has affected and their current goals before we tour the Dehu Road cantonment area (definition) and slum. Inside the cantonment there are several communities one that works in metals making jewelry and small tools for their livelihood, another that makes brooms from the surrounding trees. Each community is industrious in it’s own way, yet still condemned to the open sewer systems and limited rights of the cantonment. We conclude our tour by speaking with women who have been able to overcome some of the conditions of the cantonment with the help of Sadhana and continue to push for their rights, whether for themselves or for the next generations of women who will be living where they are now. Listening to their inspirational stories we lose track of time and find ourselves running to catch our train but we make it in plenty of time as it is operating on ‘Indian time’.
As we walk back from the train station it feels as though several days have went by over the past 12 hours but as we shower and rest on the balcony watching the full moon we look forward to our Bollywood movie night and the special treat of street-food style Potpuri to finish off a eventful day.
3rd year Advertising
I’m a rural Ontario native hailing from Mulmur Township, with one foot in the country, one in the city and dreams of travelling the world. I see my design practice as many things and it is this multifaceted nature that I love. Advertising affords me opportunities to shine light on great ideas through insightful campaigns, breath life into my own entrepreneurial imaginings, and be a perpetual student of design pushing boundaries and conceiving the inconceivable. I am currently enamored with non-traditional advertising to niche markets but I love cleaver print as much as the next adwoman. I hope that the Design Abroad course will introduce me to new perspectives, new people, and ultimately a new way of approaching design, while also fulfilling my relentless desire for adventure.
Fear is at the root of all good decisions so India promises great things.