"Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going."
- Paul Theroux

Views & Interviews

Q&A: In conversation with Vidushi Gupta from the land of the Taj Mahal

June 2020

Vidushi Gupta is a freelance writer with a content focus on education, food, and careers. In addition to being active on her blogs, a lot of her work is on portals such as Quora and mainstream social media platforms. Vidushi says she loves to interact with her followers and learn about their life experiences – it gives her deeper insights while visualizing storylines, she says.

Vidushi is also a promising author and has written two novels and four short e-books. She is currently working on her second book, while primary work includes writing projects for diverse client verticals.

Our conversations for this feature took us to Agra, the land of the Taj Mahal – that’s home, for Vidushi Gupta. We now present excerpts from our interview with Vidushi, where she talks about her growing years in Agra and how her world - in a way - revolved around this monument of eternal love.


What are some of your just-can’t-forget moments associated with the Taj?

As a teenager I remember going to the Taj Mahal with my father – it gave us a place to bond as father and daughter – to share thoughts, concerns, and find resolutions. He was my history book and guide, with so many stories relating to the monument and the history of Agra. These were rare insights from a person who could recall memories and events from even the days of his grandparents. And each time we visited the Taj together, he had a whole new story to tell me.

I have also used the Taj as an escape route. When classes got boring, I invariably rounded up a group of friends and headed straight to the Taj - we had so much fun with the change of location.  I think these two memory associations will always come to mind if were to recall my just-can’t-forget moments.

Talk to us about the romance and magic often associated with the Taj - what makes it so special?

You need a little eloquence here to answer that question, and I quote William Shakespeare - “A wonder of wonders in the world, the Taj Mahal is a living edifice of human passion, which neither History dares to bury in its grave nor does Time dare to forget.”

When you’re right there, standing in front of it, the Taj is like a painting with a warm glow of passion, love and romance – intricately woven into the architectural highlights. I am also fascinated with the thought of how a monument of love can turn into one of the Wonders of the World.

The Taj Mahal is perhaps the biggest and most magnificent symbol of love – and the visual appeal here is just as romantic as the stories associated with it. Both the Taj and the Mehtaab Bagh nearby, are popular locations for wedding and advertising related photo-shoots - sometimes the backdrop can make all the difference to the story.

Living in Agra for years, does the Taj Mahal become a blind spot for you?

This question reminds me of a quotation by Rabindranath Tagore - “You know Shah Jahan, life and youth, wealth and glory, they all drift away in the current of time. You strove therefore, to perpetuate only the sorrow of your heart? Let the splendor of diamond, pearl and ruby vanish? Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever.”

Like most people who live in this city, I have got used to being around the Taj – it’s not like the shine has worn off, but there’s always something else about Agra that you haven’t heard of.

But when I do visit the Taj and take a fresh look at it I am just awed by the magnificence and beauty that shimmers around it. It’s a marvel in itself and one cannot just get over this fact - no matter how many times you have been there.

And when we have friends coming to Agra for the first time, a visit to the Taj is like a dream come true. It also gives couples of all ages a wonderful photo-opportunity - that romantic and magical moment in front of the Taj Mahal.

Some of them want to go back for one brief stopover before they leave the city – almost like they want to say goodbye, just for now.

How have things changed over the years? In terms of increasing tourism traffic, and pollution levels in the city?

Things have visibly improved over the years - the new expressway is one good example. We also see an international airport coming up with construction underway – making it a lot easier for both inland and overseas tourists to visit the Taj. However, like any other growing city, traffic jams have become very common in and around Agra – which also means an increase in pollution levels.

Interestingly, ‘Agra Beyond Taj’ is gaining momentum in the city – with a whole new circuit of party hubs, cultural shows, street-lined shopping, restaurants, exotic cuisines and a really bustling night life. Agra now has a lot more to offer its tourists even if you set aside the Taj for a moment. (But you won’t really do that for long, because the Taj is what gave Agra its magnetic appeal.)

What do you think should be done to solve these problems? Or bring back the good times?

First and foremost I think the city needs better infrastructure – and to start with, we need wider roads to enable smooth movement of traffic. The last thing we want to see is a tourist stuck in a bad traffic jam, just moments away from the Taj – and that really is a very uncomfortable thought.

I think we as citizens should also reconsider the options available to us in terms of modes of transport. We need to be thoughtful, responsible and think of a larger objective and cause. I use a bicycle to move around and find it really convenient – especially when it comes to running errands and doing a little shopping for my folks. I can see how one small shift, such as going the cycle route can make a huge difference – it’s just that we need to start somewhere.

If you had an opportunity to move out of Agra would you look forward to it? (And leave the Taj behind?)

I was born in Agra and have always been in this city of love. Even after my schooling when many of my friends were leaving the city for better opportunities, I stayed back and created my opportunities here. The city resides within me in a familiar and mysterious kind of way.

Would I like to leave Agra on a permanent basis? I can’t see that happening. I am rooted to this city for a hundred reasons and more. And even if I did – for the sake of this discussion – I wouldn’t be able to stay away for long. The city would draw me back into its arms in no time.

What is Agra like during the Corona Pandemic? Especially when it comes to tourism.

The corona pandemic has engulfed the world in a way that impacts life, living and our future in a certain sense.  And like other popular tourist locations across the world, Agra too has suffered the consequences during the lockdown period.

But look at it this way – there is a silver lining in all this – we now have the rare opportunity to tackle maintenance, minor repairs and a cleaning up that has been long overdue. This was difficult with thousands of visitors coming in to get a glimpse of the Taj every day.

I am hoping and praying that things will improve and the virus will lose its control over us. I am also hoping that tourism here will come back to normalcy in six to eight months. Beyond that, even the Taj Mahal might feel a wee bit neglected.


VIDUSHI GUPTA

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