I had just arrived home from India. I was very tired, but exhilarated. This was a dream i had visualized many times. I wanted to see the magnificent memorial of Taj Mahal. This was my aim in going to India – to see the beautiful memorial of a man’s eternal love for a woman.
There was another reason that I wished to complete this journey. I had my own ‘Bucket List.’ I’d seen the movie. It’s where two men found out they only had six months to live. So, they decided to complete all the adventourous tasks they had never dared to do before. I started to compare their list with the things I had done.
First, kiss the most beautiful girl in the world. I remember doing this marvelous task when Rev. Gordon said to me, ‘You may kiss the bride,’ and I kissed my beautiful wife, Greta. That was June 10, 1946. Next was my parachute jump. This task I had some difficulty in completing in Middle Stewiacke in 1994 at the age of 74.
Then was the visit to the Pyramids. I made this journey in 2005 followed by their trip to the Great Wall of China. I had mastered this adventure in 2007. Then was their amazing trip to India to visit the Taj Mahal. This was a romantic journey – the heavenly journey I just had to make.
There was one slight difficulty. I had celebrated my 90th birthday the previous year. Could my aging body stand the trip? There was only one way to find out.
When I first laid eyes on this beautiful monument of Taj Mahal, I knew my tiresome journey was worth it. Built entirely of white marble it had an ethereal beauty unmatched in any structure in the world.
This is a little history about the monument. In 1631, the Emperor, Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal passed away. The Emperor was devastated. He was determined to keep her memory alive for all time. So, after 20 years of deep thought and much labour, he had this pure marble mausoleum completed. This structure was built to represent Paradise on Earth. To me, it fulfilled its dream.
How did this vision affect me? I just stood there with my heart pounding and my eyes staring in disbelief. How could the Emperor visualize such beauty even before it was built? This indeed was one of the high points of my entire life. I knew I had seen beauty beyond compare; I had seen dedication beyond compare; I hd seen love beyond compare.
Now I’ll tell you a few of my experiences in this unforgettable country.
We were strolling up a crowded street one evening. I was a little behind our group. I noticed they’d all stopped and were gaxing in disbelief into a ladies-wear store. It was a modern, posh clothing store with mannequins in the window and all kinds of beautiful silk garments. However, the center of attention was a huge animal lying comfortably on the floor in front of a shiny, neat counter. It was an enormous bull. It was a majestic light-brown coloured bull and it lay calmoly there while customers shopped around. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I realized this is India, where animals are sacred. It was an amazing sight, one you would never see in Truro.
I asked our driver, Piyush, what happened if a driver struck and killed an animal. He said the driver would have to pay a fine and they would also be responsible for the burial of the animal. Then he would have to go to his place of worship and do penitence for his crime.
The trains were amazing in India. We took the train twice. Each coach accommodated 75 passengers. Each coach was filled to overflowing. I pitied the poor conductor. There were over 12 coaches on the train. At any one time day or night, there are 20 million people travelling by rail.
The traffic on the narrow streets was unbelievable. There were people walking and there were many types of conveyance. There were rickshaws, tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxies), busses, bicycles, motor cycles and camels. I saw many electrical wires looping from building to building with many monkeys scurrying up and down them.
We visited many historical buildings. There were ancient forts, there were beautiful mosques and temples. I often thought it it wasn’t for wars and religion we would have very few memorials.
We went for a boat ride on the sacred river – The Ganges. It was evening and there was a massive religious celebration on the shore. Hundreds of people crowded onto the steps leading up from the water. They told us the big celebration really began next day. They expected an influx of 500,000 people to come into the city from different parts of India.
We went about a quarter of a mile upstream to see a cremation taking place. They had huge bonfires. The families bring their loved ones who just passed away down to this sacred place to be cremated. The dead women are covered in pink clothing and the men in other colours but I believe it’s mostly white. Then they are placed on the fire. We sawone lady being placed on the fire. It gave me a religious feeling.
I saw something about construction you would never see at home. The staging they used for the outside as they went upward from floor to floor was not steel. All the staging was made of bamboo. This was amazing and unbelievable to me.
The memory of Mahatma Gandhi is prominently displayed on most of their currency. He was well loved and well respected.
We were fortunate enough to ride on an elephant. There were two of us and the driver on each elephant. We went up a mountain trail, got off for a while and then we went back down. It took a little while to get accustomed to the elephant’s gate and to the swing of our seat but all-in-all, it was a unique experience.
True, there is much poverty in India. Many people are destitute. However, they never give up. The man driving the rickshaw I was riding on was a pleasant person. I never noticed until I paid him that one of his hands was missing. Determination like that can never be defeated.
What impression did the Indian people make on me? I feel that although they honour their past, they face their future with renewed strength and renewed vision.