Lucinda and I met in October 2004 through the dating website Love and Friends, before such things were fashionable, indeed ubiquitous. From those first web-messages, through to actually meeting up and going on dates, it soon became apparent that this was developing into more than just a casual relationship. Although we are different in some ways we have many of the important things in common. Among those is a shared love of travelling and within six months of meeting had notched up three holidays including a Canadian skiing trip and a month long trip to Australia (via Hawaii and Vancouver).
Therefore, when a good friend of mine, Sanjiv, moved his family to New Delhi, India in late 2005 there was no better excuse for planning a trip to the sub-continent. India had always been one of those places that I had always fancied visiting and so in March 2006 we decided that we would spend the best part of a month, exploring the north of the country (India is a BIG place!). Unbeknown to Lucinda (and the remainder of the populace) I was planning something a little special.
When you first step off the plane India is a massive culture shock, especially for Lucinda. The shock of a tall, pale skinned red-headed woman walking the streets of India was too much for many Indian men, and one nearly fell off his bike while staring at her. We visited many places throughout India and there were so many highlights of the trip that a short write up like this would not do it justice. However a quick synopsis would include:
- Delhi (both Old and New) itself an amazingly diverse city with opulence and poverty uncomfortable bed-fellows
- Attending a lavish wedding in Bhopal
- Visiting relations of Roochi in Dehra Dun
- White water rafting on the Ganges in the foothills of the Himalayas down to Rishikesh
- Attending the Haridwar Evening Aarti
(Haridwar means the gateway to the abode of the gods)
- Fogbound at Mussorie
- Water fights on Holi
- The Taj Mahal at Agra – see below
- On Safari in Ranthambore, where the highlight was seeing a wild Bengal Tiger not more than 15 metres away on the back of an open top jeep.
- Jaipur – the pink city
- Elephant ride to the Amber fort
Our trip to Agra, Ranthambore and Jaipur was part of an organised trip, with a driver to take us to each place and a local guide to each area meeting us there. Our mini trip started on the feast of Holi. Holi is a Hindi spring festival of colour, and people celebrate it with water bombs and pistols filled with coloured dyes, and no one is safe. We saw policeman with dye on their uniforms and TV personalities still had dye on their skin later that evening. It is not surprising as you can see from some of our photos below it took days for all the dye to finally come off our skin. In fact, I think that you are waiting for the top layers of skin to renew to finally return to your normal skin colour.
Holi is a moveable feast that is celebrated at full moon and it is no coincidence that we travelled to Agra that afternoon. We arrived at our hotel mid afternoon and I suggested that we walk to the Taj Mahal for an evening visit. Our organised trip was for the next morning. The white domed mausoleum of the Taj Mahal (the Taj Mahal is in fact a complex of buildings, not just the iconic mausoleum), as you may know, is made from translucent marble and so appears to change colour due to the light incident on it and therefore is very different at sunset, sunrise and with the midday sun. That was my excuse as to why we should see it in the evening glow.
As the sun went down the mausoleum darkened in shade and as the full moon came up and a distant thunderstorm painted the sky I got down on one knee and asked Lucinda to marry me. Fortunately she said yes.
So, I am sure you can forgive the number of Taj Mahal photos below and on our Flickr site, and if you look carefully you will see that we both still bear the coloured marks of our earlier Holi celebrations.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sanjiv for his hospitality in India and his help in organising the trips while we were there.