day four: passion for faces

Wake up early to beat traffic and head on our journey to the Taj Mahal. Our driver (yes, we have a driver) took us on the three or so hour drive south to Vrindavan, the home of Lord Krishna. After breakfast at a truck stop-esque restaurant, we traveled a bit more before an abrupt roadside stop. Then, magically we had a guide appear, RK. He took us through the streets of Vrindavan, face to face with real people, amazing people. My camera could not get enough. The bright colors. The dark skin and emotive faces. I might have to put together a portraits series from this trip. That has always been my passion in photography, the faces. My passion in life perhaps.

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We toured Krishna’s temple, Shree Radha Govinda (built in 1590 AD), and his house. It was beautiful and spiritual. It was kitschy and touristy. Yet, I have been very surprised by the lack of white skin here. Everywhere we go, we seem to be the only ones. Krishna’s house had tourists, but mainly from other parts of India. Completing their pilgrimage.

RK told us about Krishna’s 16,108 girlfriends. Asked me if I was single. When I said yes, he told me I was now Krishna’s girlfriend. Feels good to be #16,109. He spoke about the eternal happiness found in Vrindavan, how our journey starts and ends there, how we can read all the books we want, but when it comes time to learn about yourself, you have to make the journey, how your heart will then always be full of laughter.

Say Jai.

You always say jai afterwards. It means victory. You will be victorious in your journey.

We took shelter in the big red temple with stone from Jaipur as the rain fell harder and harder.

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I found a few minutes to sit, feel the mist, and reflect. It has been gray and rainy here the past couple days. Adds to the melancholy and magic of the surrounding. When the rain let up a bit, we walked through the dirty, puddled streets to Mira Bai’s house (Krishna’s main gal) where widows gather and the poor find shelter. And then we rush through the wet alleyways, my leather moccasins soaked through and staining my feet, to find Krishna’s home. A building covered in marble plaques purchased by visitors. They walk us through a Hindu prayer and then start asking for money. Put your name in marble! Honor your ancestors. We sit sort of awkwardly as Jasprit wheels and deals in syllables I have yet to grasp.

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Back in the car. A quick stop at some fort (I know, not very informative). And onto Agra.

Pay the “high value” price to get in through the main gate with our guide. Turn the corner, and walk under the entrance arch. Everything perfectly symmetrical. 22 domes on the arch to represent the 22 years it took to build.

Taj Mahal. (You have to do this picture. It is required.)

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Built for his late wife. Built as a depiction of how the Koran describes paradise. I hope my husband builds me a paradise one day.

Impressive. Almost floating away like the clouds surrounding it. The structure itself is definitely breathtaking, but the collection of community was even more awe inspiring. People from every inch of the globe coming together to marvel at the #1 wonder of the world (according to an online survey).

As we walked around admiring the marble and prowess, my camera kept finding the smiles and stares of visiting villagers, laughing children, and Italian photographers. I don’t have many words for the Taj Mahal, only images (which are coming soon, still awaiting edits).

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We headed home at dark. I fell asleep in the back seat of our van. I awoke having to pee of course (life as a woman). We stopped off at a rest stop, and the smell of burning something streaming from the car tire put our trip back to Delhi to an immediate end. Now, this could have been an epic adventure, but just as we pulled up, so did a bus heading back to the city. And to our luck, they made room for four. Quite a smooth change of plans. Our poor driver was left to figure out how to take care of his broken car, but we were on our way. A quick tuk tuk (small scooter car) ride from the bus stop, and the adventurous day came to an end. I washed my orange feet in the sink and crawled into bed.

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