Fatehpur Sikri beckons, as does Kadhai Jhinga

Before we left Delhi, Anita thrust a beautifully written and researched paper on Fatehpur Sikri into my hands. It had a grade of A+ and was written in 18951995 as part of her course work in Dorothy-land. It was also the only copy that existed of that paper. I knew I should have asked for a photocopy, especially since I had just burned her sheets.

You know what's coming next, don't you? And you're right.

I couldn't find it once we settled into our hotel room in Agra.
We turned the car inside out. No paper.
We turned the room inside out. No paper.

My husband, The Finder of Anything Lost or Put Away Safely, discovered all sorts of forgotten knick-knacks, like a long wooden shoe horn, hair brushes, pens, one of a pair of earrings, but no folder with continuous stationery paper that had been fed into a dot-matrix printer. Tell me, do you remember those? In that case, you are as ancient as her (and me.) But that's besides the point! We asked room service to do detailed reconnaissance to no avail.

The Finder and I looked at each other; he, flummoxed; me, worried. I chewed through all my fingernails and wondered if I should attack my toenails next. My heart sank further as I realized I would never ever get to eat authentic haak. Or taste that one mutschgand that was sitting in her freezer.

If she heard a strain in my voice or undue stress when I spoke to her from Agra, she made no mention of it. Luckily for her, me and the paper, it appeared magically under one of our heaviest suitcases. The Finder obviously had not done as thorough a job as he is wont to do, leading to his demotion and change of title to The Finder of Most Things Lost or Put Away Safely. With a spring in my step, haak in my near future and a mutschgand with my name on it, I had no qualms about leaving Agra for Fatehpur Sikri, the seat of the Mughal Empire for a brief period during Akbar's reign.

The tomb of Salim Chisti
The Tomb of Salim Chisti

Sunday Snapshot: Inside a Crumbling Temple

Where: Jagat Shiromani Temple, Amer Fort, also known as Amber Fort, Jaipur, India
What: The Jagat Shrimoni Temple is said to have been built by the Maharani of Maharaja Mansingh I in 1601 to honor her deceased son Maharaja Kumar Jagat Singhji.

Agra Fort and Kebab Secrets

Everyone is usually blown away by the Taj Mahal and its love story, even though it's more morbid than romantic since it's a mausoleum where the Emperor and his beautiful Empress are buried. Shah Jahan is remembered more for this legacy than the terror he inflicted as a Mughal Emperor, transforming the empire into a military machine and demanding more revenue from the peasantry. However, the arts — music, crafts, architecture — did flourish under his rule.

I was more awed by the Agra Fort for its sheer history: it was the seat of the Mughal Empire for over two hundred years from the mid-1500s. Six Mughal Emperors ruled from there — Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb — with each one adding his distinctive mark to the architecture of the fort.

Agra Fort
Formidable entrance

Friday Feature: Faces of India

Who: A Rajasthani folk musician
Where: At Amer Fort, also known as Amber Fort, Jaipur, India
What: This folk musician entertains visitors to the Amer Fort. He is playing a simplified version of the Ravanhatta, a type of fiddle popular with the Bhopa community of Rajasthan.

Dal Matters: Dal Makhani and the Taj Mahal

I had last seen it over three decades ago, as a little girl who was on a train from Bombay to Jammu. There are some images that are burned into my memory, and then there are others that seem more like hazy dreams in black and white. Strange.

The Taj Mahal
Hazy in the morning light

Friday Feature: Faces of India

Who: Bikas, a 12 year old aspiring guide
Where: Across the river from the Taj Mahal
What: He goes to school in the morning and by late afternoon, he sells t-shirts at the gardens across the river from the Taj Mahal, Agra. He was learning French and Spanish as language skills were essential to be a successful guide, he said. He asked us our names in English, French and Spanish; he also rattled off a few sentences in each language. It was heartening to look into Bikas's eyes and share some of his aspirations. The underbelly of India is made of these young people. He is India: young, ambitious and hopeful. Watch.

Changes are afoot at IFR: This is the last post that will come to you in full by email or in your reader, and I apologize for that. After this, you will have to click on a link to navigate to my blog to read the rest of my post. You see, I am tired of having my posts republished in full, along with my pictures, without my permission, on other web sites. Unfortunately, since I host with Blogger, I don't have much control over the nature of my RSS feeds. Also, since I host my pictures on Flickr, a photo sharing community that I enjoy, I cannot restrict my pictures from being displayed on other web sites. I've known eventually I will have to host it on one of my own servers. I probably should have done this a long time ago. I hope to publish the posts I've been holding back now that the last theft has been resolved.

Friday Feature: Faces of India

Who: Autorickshaw travelers
Where: Delhi-Agra Highway, NH 2, where the speed limit was between 20-80km/h
What: This three-wheeled auto-rickshaw is a popular mode of transport; it sometimes holds up to 16 people, more if there are children. It travels at between 20-40 km/h and can be seen on the National Highways of India transporting people from one city to another. The almost $200,000 Audi A8 may have 4500 buyers in India but most of India's 1.2 billion population doesn't earn that much in their lifetime. (Thanks, Kitt, for that last link!) You might call these travelers brave — I do — but most of them have little choice when it comes to transport between cities.

The ubiquitous autorickshaw
Always adorned, with people half-spilling out