I suddenly have a strong desire to want to find out actually when was the year I went to India for the first time. I went looking for my old passports, which I still keep all of it since my first one. The passports have all the dates of my travel over the past 20 years. Looking at all the stamping on all the pages by so many different customs all over the world left me in an awe-inspiring state. I am thrilled that over so many years, I have carried out my dreams to travel the world and defined my destiny so clearly.
Having found my date to India, which happened in Jan 1998, 10 years ago, I also found the article I wrote to my friends when I came back from my trip then. I extract some passages and keep the essence as pure as it was written that 10 years ago. I can't tell you how impressed I am with the way I expressed myself through my writings then. Eventhough some of the words I may have used differently now if I were to re-write, but I like to leave it that way because that was how I felt 10 years ago and it was all good :
"India - a place where living survived and the survivors thrived, a place I would love to go back again and again to bathe in the vast plain of romanticism and adventures. Especially the Thar desert which I had missed this time......."
"I was in Agra for the Taj Mahal, the most romantic building in the world. I just finished reading the book "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth before I embarked on my journey. When I was standing on the pavement overlooking the river at the back of the Taj Mahal, one scene from the book came gushing back at me. It was the scene where a boy who is pursuing literature and love reading poetry tried to woo the girl of his dream by taking her on a boat (sampan) ride on the river over sunset. While they were rowing through the river, he showed and explained to her a king who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen who died during labour. The Taj Mahal was built with marbles, emeralds and semi-precious stones. The monument now stands as a testament to his unrelenting love to his wife. As what Rabindranath Tagore, the 1st Bengali recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote in Hindi about Emperor Shah Jahan's heartfelt grieve when it was built :
....was to preserve forever your heart's pain....
That at least a single, eternally-heaved sigh
would stay to grieve the sky.
Though emeralds, rubies, pearls are all ...
But as the glitter of a rainbow tricking out empty air
and must pass away,
Yet still one solitary tear ...
would hang on the cheek of time
in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal.
"After this, I visited the Fort/Palace where King Akbar Khan built and resided during his reign. This palace now lies overlooking the Taj Mahal which is only 1 km away. From here, I went further south to small village called Fatehpur Sikri. This was the place where the same King actually built his palace but abandoned it and moved to Agra just one year later. So, now in Fatehpur Sikri stood his old Mosque in a square and a huge palace. It was worth a visit. But no one knows why he moved out in just one year."
Wow, you see, that was my feelings of Taj Mahal 10 years ago when I first visited it. Now, if I go back, I would have a totally new experience because "you don't step into the same river twice" so said Buddha.