Agra. I remember bicycling in the early morning hours to reach the Taj Mahal at dawn. To me, it was very beautiful and quintessential India. In the mid 1600s, the white marble monument was built as a tomb for Shah Jahan’s dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Did he call her Mum? The Shah was said to have been devastated to lose her. And being a ruler, he didn’t have to comply with cemetery requirements.
I watched the sun rise and the people taking turns at having a photo in front of the monument. I recalled Princess Diana sitting on a bench by the Taj; she was dressed in a black dress with white pearls. Did Mumtaz look anything like her? Did she wear pearls? So much is left unknown.
Now when I look at the Tah Mahal, I see the faces of the two guards from “Guards at the Taj.” In this play, Rajiv Joseph created a story about the Shah ordering the workmen’s hands chopped off so not another monument as beautiful would be built. We wrestle with this chore along with the two lowly guards given the assignment. It made me think, “He did just what you’d have done too.”
It just goes to show that we all see things differently. I had no such creative inspiration when I stared at the Taj Mahal. I think I was mostly focused on its lovely picture in the reflective pool.
Buy it. Read it. (Or listen to it.) Let me know what you think. –TMLL