I didn’t enjoy taking photographs until a couple of years ago. That might not be a good thing, but I remember a lot more details of places I visited without having a photograph to take me back there. I was walking around in Fort sipping on my cappuccino and came across a street artist selling images of the Taj Mahal. I asked him why he had photographs of just the Taj, considering our country has so many beautiful architectural masterpieces. He didn’t know.
That conversation took me back to my visits to the Taj Mahal. I’ve been there thrice. I was too young to filter in the magnificence the first time, but I remember it being a warm sunny day. The sky was clear blue and the white monument looked just wonderful with the rays of the sun reflecting off it. Let me tell you this. In architecture school, there’s a lot of twisting words around. The ‘play of light and shadow’, ‘degree of surprise’. Well, it’s not an exaggeration of a building analysis but it sort of makes it seem like a caricature of the built form to be honest. Applying intellect and analysis sometimes ruins a perfectly normal emotional experience.
You walk through gardens and through a gateway that frames the Taj so beautifully. The walk through to the huge open vista with the most graceful linear axis leading to the monument is unreal. I think the contrast of the raw calligraphy on the coloured gateway that opens up to viewing this pure built form provides you with an experience you need to understand and take in. It got better the second time for me. It was when they used to keep the gates open until late in the evening. It was a full moon night and the semi precious jewels on the marble glistened like nothing I’d seen before or after. I remember it so clearly. You could see the spirit of the workmen almost shining through. I never wanted to leave but sights like those never leave you anyway. The third time I went, it was a dull grey sky. It got even better this time. The spirit of the monument wasn’t all bright. The history after was bloody. Seeing this monument mean something different each time is something that taught me the quality of the built form being timeless. Not just physically, but in terms of giving any living form the pleasure of evolution, anticipation and experience. That’s a power tough to possess and being able to create something as timeless? That’s probably the biggest character test there might be.