Mystical Taj at dawn
March 3rd 1990.
Agra, The Taj Mahal, and my Bargaining technic.
We were all up extra early and had to be out on foot on the way to the Taj Mahal by 6am, and with no breakfast! The temperature was nice, cool and fresh, just right for a brisk mile walk.
The need was to be there ready to take photographs of the Taj with the dawn light behind the monument. When we arrived it was to find there were heaps of people already there, waiting for the dawn light, still it was no problem as there is masses of room to find a good spot to snap off all the photos we want.
Early morning at the taj mahal
I took more photos and just couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful white marble all infused with the pink lights and the golden rays of sunshine as the sun rose, so much beauty just fills the senses to over flowing. The only way to look at the Taj at such a time is - with awe.
As we wandered back to the hotel together for our breakfast, I found myself with Fiona, Cynthia and Julie planning a jaunt into the town of Agra and the surrounding areas, we decided to hire a rickshaw for the day, together, and have a really good look around and do some shopping.
For only 10 rupees each we had our man for the whole day, he was great took us to all the main scenic things, like the Mini Taj, the one that was a practice run, before attempting the real Taj, and around the back of the Taj so we could photograph it from across the water, and several small bazaars, for food and souvenirs, then on to all his cuzzy-bros who owned shops so we could buy lots of odds and ends. Apparently the rickshaw man got a commission from all the shops he took us too, just for having us enter the door, so we were delighted to make the grand tour. We all bought a few things along the way; a sari, and an outfit for me, plus a number of wooden elephants for my collection. I enjoyed Cynthia’s company; she was originally an ex-Hong Kong resident, now a Doctor in London, and has a great sense of humour. She was interested in buying a good carpet. During the course of our day both she and Fiona were offer a job as Money launderers, they were asked very secretly to carry huge amounts of US$ back to England by the rich businessmen we met in our travels, these carpets sellers, must make a real killing when they sell the carpets made very cheaply in back street sweatshops to wealthy Americans, needlessly to say both politely declined the offer of $100US bonus, each to do this.
Agra Fort, Taj in background
They said $100US wasn’t going to be much use to them in jail so thanks but no thanks. Wonder why I didn’t get offered this job and neither did Julie, maybe it was because we were from NZ rather than obviously from England. Wouldn’t have done the businessmen much good asking either of us, especially me!
Sunshine on the Taj
Our day was pretty tyring because absolutely everything we bought had to be bargained and haggled for, a long laborious job sometimes to get the item for a reasonable price, we did get some great bargains though. The bargaining process always involved many cups of coffee or tea or soft drink, all very gentile, while we sized each other up, then after a nice conversation about the weather and the quality of the carpet or garment we had showed vague interest in, from the sellers perspective, and the rather inferior ness of the article, not quite the size or colour required, from the buyers perspective, slowly the bargaining would start.
Seller says I can let you have this item for only 120 rupees, seller comes back with no, no, only 45 rupees and with much hand-throwing-in the-air, seller reluctantly drops to only 85 rupees, buyers is quite happy to toss another 5 rupees in to the game. Then just as we are about to walk away down comes the sellers price to an amazing 75 rupees, at this point I put my 50 rupees note on the table where the seller can see it glowing in the sunlight, winking at him, almost in his back pocket. Another cup of coffee appears from nowhere, more chatter about the weather while we look uninterested in the article. Coffee all finished I make as if to scoop up that very attractive 100 Rupees note, reluctantly about to move on to another shop, (of which there is frequently many of the same type all together in one street). Now the seller starts to sweat and reach for the note too. That’s when I know I have my sale at my price. But it must be done just right so the seller doesn’t feel he has been hoodwinked or robbed blind, in fact I do believe everyone of my sales were made with a man who suddenly had a great deal of respect for me and my bargaining technic, certainly there were lots of smiles and pleasantries while the item was wrapped.
Mini Taj, Fiona, Cynthia and Julie
Maybe sometimes I paid a bit much, but not very often. The other ladies just left me to it; I bought for all of them. Boy did they laugh afterwards, but they didn’t mind getting a good bargain any more than I did. Hopefully half the businessmen I dealt with have not gone to the poor house because of me!
Fiona Julie and I at Mini Taj
After all of this shopping another quick trip to revisit the Taj was called for, ( we just couldn't get enough of looking at it) but we dropped Julie off first at the hotel.
Julie has not been feeling at all well all day, we think she has caught a cold and its gone to her tonsils and her chest, in fact by end of day she had lost her voice, she is lucky to be around some great doctors who supplied her with some tablets to help her.
Closer veiw of Taj Mahal
When we got back to the hotel, word got to Fiona and Cynthia of a girl who had been bitten by a rabid dog while out in the Rajastan Desert, who required medical assisance, so off went my Doctor freinds to render aid to this poor girl, she will have to return home to keep the treatment up to avoid becoming infected herself, but she has received her first injection, so she should be ok.
In the evening according to my Diary, (strangely I can’t remember this at all) Andy the Australian tour leader invited us all out to a big set meal to celebrate being at the Taj Mahal, Julie didn’t attend this meal she stayed in bed, but the rest of us enjoyed 10 courses of wonderful Indian dishes. Travelling there and back by rickshaw was a lot of fun especially in the dark with no lights! Amazingly I am still alive to tell the tale.
The Taj Mahal at evening