Photographer's Note

From the moment I arrived in Agra, I felt I was looked upon by the locals as nothing else but a potential source of income. Let me quote what one of my TE friends once said about that city: “A foreigner was seen as someone whose money should change hands as soon as possible. Nowhere else in the country have I ever had such negative experiences and Agra will always remain for me the city of the biggest liars and cheaters.” That was exactly my perception… well… at least for the first 24 hours.

There are 2 stories I’d like to share here (apologies to those who prefer photographers’ notes short and succinct). One relates to the photo I have uploaded, the other one to the above-mentioned feelings about Agra.

The image was taken in Mehtab Bagh gardens (the green space you can see on the other side of Yamuna river in this photo: As I was admiring the panoramic view of the Taj, a local lady carrying what looked like a bulky but rather light bundle on her head approached me and whispered: “You want photo?” I must say, I was pleasantly surprised as, although people in India rarely refuse their photos to be taken, they don’t normally offer before you ask. I suspected of course that she was after a pecuniary reward but thought she was just passing by, saw me, and it occurred to her there was a few bob to be made out of an accidental encounter with a camera-wielding foreigner. I took her portrait, duly handed over a 100 rupee note and watched the lady walk away… 10 metres. She stopped under a tree, her load still on her head and it was obvious she was waiting for another “client”. It explained why her bag was light and she was not in a hurry. This was her workplace and she made a living by posing for tourists. That’s what Agra is like – you will be surrounded by all sort of hustlers, prospective taxi drivers and wannabe guides. But meeting someone who was standing all day with a bag on their head in order to attract photographers was quite new and original.

As for the second story…

I don’t know where to start. Maybe like this: on the afternoon of my second day in Agra I got a tuk tuk from Agra Fort to Mehtab Bagh. The driver offered (for a fee) to wait until I finish my visit and then take me back to my hotel.

No. I think I really should say: I have a very stupid habit of keeping my phone in the back pocket of my trousers. I’m not talking about my smartphone, but a cheap mobile I love to travel with because it’s simple to use and holds charge for a week or longer. It cost 20 pounds but should I lose it, it’s not possible to be immediately replaced while travelling across India. Neither is the sim card inside.

As I got off the rickshaw outside my hotel, I waved goodbye to the driver then watched him disappear into the distance. Then reached to my back pocket to check the time and, yes, you guessed – I found nothing. My recklessness fired back. I lost not just the phone but also the only way of communicating with my friend whose wedding I was attending in 3 days.

As I was standing there, upset and frustrated, I was approached by a driver from a nearby tuk tuk stand. “What have you lost, Madam?” he asked. I explained I had dropped my phone at the back of another tuk tuk. What followed was a totally unexpected sequence of events.

“Get in”, barked my new driver (his name was Sanjay, as I found out later) and off we went, almost flying along the streets at a speed I’d never previously observed in a tuk tuk. We first stopped outside Agra Fort, where, having asked around, Sanjay quickly established which tuk tuk had picked up a foreigner to go to Mehtab Bagh a couple of hours earlier. Then it was just a matter of finding out the driver’s mobile number. Soon, Sanjay was on the phone to that very person and confirmed my lost property had been located and the driver was on his way back to hand it in. But we didn’t stop at that, to just sit there and wait. Soon we were on our way, and not just us, we were now accompanied by aother tuk tuk, again driving like crazy, to meet the driver returning my phone on his way.

Half an hour later, I was clutching my phone, still in disbelieve that what I had experienced really had happened. I asked Sanjay how much I owed him for the ride, fully expecting a (completely justified and well-deserved) 500-1000 rupee bill. But he only said: “Nothing. It’s just my wish for the guests to be happy in our country”. I did eventually convince him to accept a small fare and booked him to take me to the train station the following morning. I also gave some money to the other two drivers (the one that had accompanied us in our search and the one who had returned my phone). But those tiny amounts of rupees are nothing compared to what they did. They saved me a lot of trouble and, even more importantly, restored my waning faith in humanity.

And, if that wasn’t priceless enough… they provided me with a unique unforgettable adventure to share on TE. ;-)

Fis2, PiotrF, pajaran, Gerrit, COSTANTINO, holmertz, jhm, ChrisJ, ktanska, jean113, mcmtanyel, aliabazari ha contrassegnato questa nota come utile

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1692 W: 9 N: 3499] (17676)
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