Wishes and Tombs

January 8, 2018 | kirin

Post Christmas, I went to Agra with my family because my brother in law (who is from the south) has never seen the Taj Mahal. It was nice change of scene from what we do every year – Which is pretty much lie around in our beds in a food coma, eating more food and then passing out because it’s all too much for our bodies to process in one go.

It took us all of 3 hours to get there by car (possibly less) Thanks to the Yamuna Expressway – Compared to the other road trips i have been on, It felt I was doing a normal noida – Gurgaon commute instead of a road trip.

While there, we saw the Taj, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and Akbar’s tomb.

The Taj is of course awe inspiring if you think about when it was made and how it’s withstood the test of time. I have to say though, I’ve been inside Mumtaz’s tomb once in my life and I remember feeling profoundly uncomfortable with all the shouting and non reverence of the guides as well as most people in the main area where her tomb was. It was almost as though people FORGET it’s the final resting place of someone. If I were Mumtaz, I would be hella pissed off.

Fateh Pur Sikri, was made the capital of the Mughal Empire for a bit by Akbar, but what it’s REALLY known for as our guide insisting on telling us again and again, is it’s power to make wishes come true. The story goes that Akbar desperately wanted a son (to succeed him yada yada) and he met a holy man in Sikri, and That man told him to wish for it and it would come true, and lo and behold, he was blessed with a son he named Salim, later known as Jahangir.

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To honour the holy man (whose name Incidentally was Salim Chishti) who he held responsible for the granting of his wishes, he built a memorial and mosque. The descendants of Salim Chishti still live in a part of the compound which is not open to the public.

Our guide was adamant that we make our three wishes with a pure heart and they would come true – for this, one had to buy a cloth that would be placed over the tomb of Salim Chishti, and we were to throw rose petals over it and tie the thread (containing three strands symbolizing three wishes) on to the Jaali that surrounded the tomb. The cloth would then be donated to a poor family who would then use it in the marriage of their daughter.

Now FIRST OF ALL, I was like please give me the smallest size cloth because bruuuuh am one person and am broke and the salesperson was like NO NO TAKE MEDIUM SIZED ONE AND WISH FOR YOUR PARENTS AS WELL. So I was like fine i don’t care ( since the money was donated to the Madrasa (school) which had been running on premises since Akbar’s time) – My sister and her husband also opted for the medium sized cloth. The guide was like Ya’ll can tell each other your wishes BUT DON’T TELL KIRIN. “YOU single person – YOU CAN’T TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU WISHED FOR BECAUSE THEN IT WONT COME TRUE. Keep your wishes to yourself” and I was like… kay.

Next came the time to go and make our wishes – once we were in the central area, my sis and BIL (brother in law) were in front of me, and I overheard the guy tell them to spread the cloth over the tomb (over like 100 other cloths) Sprinkle the flowers, say a prayer and go and tie their thread. I respectfully waited for each of them to finish and then went ahead with my turn. Since it was a momentous occasion for myself, I was like TAKING IN THE MOMENT and managed to only sprinkle a handful of petals before the guy UNCEREMONIOUSLY spread the next person’s cloth over mine – and I was like WHAT THE HECK? Anyway, So then i went to a corner and Tied my thread and made my wishes and exited the inner sanctum (pretty annoyed by the fact that I didn’t get to spread all my petals – like.. would that mean my wishes were less likely to come true? Would Mr. Salim be pissed that i asked for three wishes but didn’t have the decency to spread an ample amount of petals over my cloth…. ?

The guide then took us around the outer part of the tomb – and asked me which window i had tied my thread to – I was a bit disoriented (coz we had walked in a circle on the inside and then came out the other end and my sense of direction SUCKS at the WORST OF TIMES) and I pointed to the Jaali closest to me and he was like cool, and then mumbled something out of which I heard the word “Matha” (which means mother in hindi) and I FREAKED OUT because i thought he was telling me that I had tied my thread to the window specifically asking for the wish of FERTILITY and IMMEDIATELY I started panicking like OMG I DONT WANT KIDS WHY DID HE NOT MENTION THIS BEFORE. Meanwhile my sister looks at me funny and goes “HE IS SAYING TOUCH YOUR FOREHEAD TO THE WINDOW YOU TIED YOUR STRING ON YOU TIT” (matha also means forehead)

OH. ok – went touched forehead… Then my sister and BIL start making their way to the window where they tied their string and I’m like… wait. why are they going on walking? Didn’t they tie their thread to the jaali next to mine? and the horrible realization dawns on me THAT I TOUCHED MY HEAD TO THE WRONG WINDOW and I was like shit shit shit what IF someone elses’ wishes come true for me instead of the ones i wished for? So i scrambled back and went and touched my forehead to the right window.

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We finally exited the area and I was super miffed about not being able to empty all of my flower petals on to my sheet and kept grumbling about how people don’t take the hopes and dreams of single people seriously and I was wondering what the HELL to do with the leftover rose petals, so I put them in my bag.

Once we were done with Fatehpur, we decided to go visit Akbar’s tomb which was in Sikander – about 40 minutes drive away – MY brother in law had a new found respect for him as a ruler and claimed he felt a close connection to him..so much so that he wanted to be buried in one of the many chambers surrounding Akbar’s tomb (which Akbar had made so that he could be surrounded by his family – Unfortunately, only 2 of those tombs are occupied)

It’s safe to say that Akbar’s tomb was probably my favorite place to visit. It was so Beautiful and peaceful. His final resting place, was simple and unadorned for a man so great who was a visionary and so ahead of his time – the one who “turned a mob into a country” and founded the religion of “Din e Elahi” – intending to merge the best elements of the religions of his empire, thereby reconciling the differences that divided his subjects. No etchings or verses inscribed on his tomb – no favorite wife buried next to him. I felt moved and thankful for his contribution to India and it’s history. And suddenly, I remembered I had flowers from his favorite place still in my bag (The story goes he used to visit Fatehpur to pray quite often.) and I asked the guide whether it would be ok for me to place the petals on his grave. The guide gave me the go ahead and all my annoyance at the dude from Fatehpur melted away as I placed the petals on his tomb.

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I like to think that Akbar’s soul would have been kicked to get some flowers from the place he felt a deep connect to during his life – I know I would! (also Suchi, my brother in law thought that the chances of my wishes coming true after all the fuck ups increased by a considerable margin by my sucking up to Akbar.)