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Photolocation: [27.177460, 78.043080]
The universal hey-dude callout of the Indian subcontinent.
We tried to ignore it for a few seconds, but it became louder and louder. I looked back towards the guard waving wildly from the banks of the Yamuna, beckoning us back to the shore. Did he have a gun? Couldn’t see it, but maybe he does. Should we head back?
It had only been a few seconds at the waterfront. Rachna insisted that we stay a few minutes longer and take some more photographs, but I chickened out, and started waking back. As we got closer to the guard, the more agitated he became.
As we approached normal conversation distance, he burst out:
– The entire conversation below was in Hindi –
Guard: “Did you guys sneak out from behind the bushes?”
Us: “What bushes?”
Guard: “I didn’t see you at all. You came so stealthily.”
Us, confused, as we had 2 uninterested kids with us, who had been complaining quite loudly all the way to and from the river bank.
Guard: “Do you even realize that I was called from the opposite side of the river, from the Taj itself. Guards on the Taj saw you guys and called me quite angrily.”
Ah, the truth comes out. He was reprimanded.
Us: “Well, maybe we should join the army, shouldn’t we? Being so stealthy.” Of course we didn’t say that. The guy did have a gun.
Us, thinking, “Dude – you must be sleeping pretty soundly on the job. The racket we made going in made every living thing in a one mile radius scurry away in fear.”
We had come in to Mehtab Bagh (Garden) the previous evening, quite late after sunset, and managed to quickly snap the view of the Taj from the back, across from the Yamuna river. The mighty Yamuna has become a trickle of it former self, and it being winter, was even thinner than what the Monsoons would bring.
There was a 5-10 minute walk on open sedimental bumpy ground to the water, infested with cattle poop, rodents, snakes, mosquitoes, flies, and who knows what else, which we were quite unwilling to walk across at that time of the evening. Plus, we couldn’t figure out how to clear the high barbed wire fencing surrounding Mehtab Bagh in the first place.
We asked our tour guide, our driver, hotel folk, and everyone had the same response. That is dangerous so its cordoned off, you cannot go there at all. Unfazed, we decided to come back the next morning, and explore deeper.
We sauntered in at 9am the next day, with the heavy fog giving an eerie Mars-sunset-like quality to the sunshine. A typical fog-smog-filled Indian winter scene. Scrutinizing every inch of Mehtab Bagh carefully, we came across quite interesting views of the Taj, but couldn’t figure out how to get to the water front. And then we saw it – a small breach on the 16th century tower wall at the extreme south-east corner of the Bagh.
It was quite trivial to cross it, and within seconds, Rachna was running towards the shore. I was more careful, trying to avoid the aforementioned poop, rodents and snake holes, and the generally undulating terrain. The kids were loudly complaining, stomping, and reluctantly staggering behind me. Rachna’s running made a whole flock of shore birds fly away, cawing in protest.
There was much cacophony in the air. And right then we heard: