Mrs. Octopus and I are now in Agra, India, staying at a place just a short walk away from the Taj Mahal. Everyone told us we wouldn't be let down by the Taj Mahal, even though we'd seen millions of pictures of it -- and we weren't. It's been overcast and drizzling here for the past two days, which has been both good and bad; the lack of sunshine may make the Taj Mahal a bit less impressive, but the rain has definitely kept it relatively cool here. Otherwise, we'd likely be dealing with ungodly heat. We're headed to the nearby Agra Fort later this afternoon.
It's fascinating how so many of the major monuments in this part of India were built by Muslims. It just highlights the intriguing contradictions and complexities of India that some of its most famous and iconic sites -- chief amongst them being the Taj Mahal -- are places built by the Muslim "invaders" of India. There apparently is, from time to time, some agitation among the hard-right nationalist Hindu-purist types to raze or eliminate Muslim monuments that "defile" the purity of Hindu India. I could imagine some of those groups wanting to erase the Arabic calligraphy (containing verses from the Koran about Paradise) framing the entrance to the Taj Mahal.
I like India. It's like Bangladesh, just slightly nicer. It also feels a bit freer and more dynamic here. Of course, I've only been here for 24 hours, and I've only seen some monuments, two airports, and a very fancy hotel.