Tag Archives: uttar pradesh

The Sheesh Mahal

I cry a lot. I’m a tear machine. When I’m sad, happy, angry, hungry. It’s a nuicance to my family. In India, I cried when I got my first glimpse of Pakistan, probably when I saw the mustard fields, in Amritsar, idk, like every other day. I’m telling you this so that you see me as an emotional artist, obviously. But also to add emphasis to the fact that, among all of this sobbing,  there’s only been one time in my entire life I’ve cried because something was just so beautiful.

Most of my trip to India was in and around Panjab, but we made a day trip to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. The Taj Mahal was the most beautiful man made thing I’ve ever seen. On our way to Agra Fort after seeing the Taj Mahal, I was pretty certain that Agra Fort would not come anywhere near as amazing as the Taj Mahal. I was really wrong. Agra Fort was beautiful and huge. Our tour guide was beautiful too, but he quickly child-zoned me when he happily told my family I could get in for cheaper because “she is looking under 15.” I received the message, we moved on.

BUT OKAY. AGRA FORT. So beautiful. We were chilling in this freaking ancient Mughal fort that actual Akbar lived in. Then our tour guide was like, it’s to bad I can’t show you Noor Jahan’s bathroom, it’s exclusive. And we were like, yeah, darn, no toilet for us LOL. Or at least I was. But the rest of my crew was like, no, we should totes pay extra to see this, and I was like aight, I’ll go with the flow. I only really started getting really interested when we started going to a part of the fort that was below everything else, where we were the only ones, and our guide started speaking in whispers. The sun was setting, and it was already breathtaking. We weren’t even at the toilet yet.

So we go inside this little area, and it’s dark. Like pitch dark, and I’m with my grandparents, so I’m trying to make sure no one falls, you know?  I’m in a dark old bathroom with my grandparents and nothing is luxurious at this point. Until I start realizing that this “bathroom” is huge, and no one else is around except my family. And child-zoning man. Who had seen us all trip multiple embarassing times all up and down that fort at this point, so was basically family too. The thing is, it was pitch dark. It was called Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), because it was supposed to be decorated with a lot of mirrors. BUT IT WAS DARK. WE COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING. 

However, our guide soon walked over to a corner of the bathroom, and held a lit match close to the wall, and told us all to look up. I looked up, and was confused. Remember how, when we went in the Sheesh Mahal, the sun was setting? Well, it seemed night had fallen, as I looked up and wondered why Noor Jahan was okay with a bathroom without a roof, because all I saw when the tour guide lit the match was a star-filled night sky. It took me maybe 30 seconds of staring at the twinkling stars before the tears came, because that’s how long it took me to realize we weren’t looking at the sky.

We were looking at the roof of the Sheesh Mahal.

It was covered in tiny mirrors, that were all reflecting the flickering flame that child-zoner was holding in the corner, so that each one was reflecting the flame. Each reflection looked like a twinkiling star.
 

 

 

I’m just so moved, to this day, by the fact that I actually thought I was looking at the sky, like actually, without a doubt. I didn’t look up and wonder, “Huh. Is that the roof or the sky?” I looked up and instantly assumed it was the sky. When we see amazing artwork, we say, “Wow, it looks so real.” YOU JUST DON’T GO UP TO THE MONA LISA AND START ASKING THE LADY WHY SHE’S SITTING SO STILL. NO OFFENSE LEO. We’re never actually fooled into believing we’re looking at, like, real, natural objects, that we just happened upon. At least, I had never been. Not until this amazing, winter’s night in Agra ❤

 

When we came out of the Sheesh Mahal, the sun had almost set, and there were NO TOURISTS LEFT IN THAT PART OF THE FORT. It was just me and my blood, walking around a fort built in the 11th century,  where the Koh-i-Noor was taken by the Mughals, where Jodha and Akbar lived in inter-religious harmony, and, as Wikipedia describes it, is more of a walled city. I couldn’t believe we were all alone in that place, which I later learned is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. I unthinkingly made the decision not to take any pictures, so that I could be 100% in that once in a lifetime moment, and I don’t regret it. The picture above, which my bro took, is beautiful, but I’m sure it goes without saying that that moment could have never truly been captured, you know? You have to make the decision–do you want understating photographs to look at afterwards, or do you want a fuller memory? Is this offensive? To photo-takers? I hope not. I take a lot of pics too, don’t get me wrong. I guess, for me, it’s just about finding a balance. That being said, I’m so glad my brother took a picture of the roof. 

 

Also we had two dinners that night, it was magical. 

 

Aight, reader, imma wrap this up. Have a great night/day.

And if you’re ever in Agra, make sure to drop by the Sheesh Mahal at sunset : )

 

-M

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The Gulabi Gang

Quietly they’ve sat in a post I never finished. Waiting and watching. Now I think it’s time I finished the post, because Thursday was International Girl day. And boy do I have some girls to tell you about. But they’re not just girls. They’re women.

They are the Gulabi Gang.

Uttar Pradesh in North India is where this began. The Gulabi Gang (“Pink Gang”) is a group of women who find abusive husbands in North India and literally beat them with sticks of bamboo until they agree to stop hitting their wives. They’ve gone after corrupt public officials and police officers as well. They don’t always use violence; only when their attempts at communicating verbally have failed do they resort to it. Women come to the gang to tell them of their grievences, which they then take up with the police. But if you don’t listen to the gang, you get beat, no matter who you are. The Gulabi Gang is by no exaggeration a gang. But instead of causing corruption, they fight it.

I think that verbal communication is something the whole world needs to work on. But there’s a quote by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, a prominent figure in Sikhism, that says  when all else fails, it is permitted to take the sword in to ones hand. The leader of the Gulabi Gang, Sampat Pal, reminded me of this quote when she said If they still don’t listen, then I hit them with the latti (stick). Sampat Pal is an illiterate woman in one of the poorest parts of India who was a child bride at the age of 12, and yet the world has bent to her will for the better. I feel like what she does is sort of the ultimate refusal to give up. She knows what’s going on is wrong. When it doesn’t change, she doesn’t just stop trying. If she has to, she will take a stick and beat, physically beat, the person causing others pain. All to make her community better. From what I hear about India, it seems like anyone in any kind of authority position is corrupt, from police officers who you can pay on the spot to sweep your arrest under the mat, to politicians who can do worse. In a world like that, I can definitley see a need for something like the Gulabi Gang. In their pink sarees they trek all over North India with nothing, no qualifications, no warrants, nothing but their will and their lattis. No one gave them power–but they gave it to themselves.

Anyways, happy belated International Girl Day! I’ve been keeping Malala in my thoughts and prayers. They’re saying that the next 48 hours of her recovery are crucial, but doctors are satisfied with her condition right now. Also, I was really happy to hear that 2 suspects of the shooting have been arrested by Pakistani police, who are continuing the investigation. Fighting the Taliban can’t be an easy thing to do, but they’re doing it–just like Malala is.

Have a great one!

-M

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