What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough. So said French Romantic painter, Eugene Delacroix a couple of centuries ago. I wonder if there is any such thing as original thought left to be had or has everything already been said and just keeps on being said in a different way? Millions of variations on so few themes?
I had thought that the Taj Mahal was an original, a one of a kind, but apparently it is based on the baby Taj down the road in Agra. What a disappointment that was. An irrational one, admittedly, as whether or not the Taj is original doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to my world – but it did upset me.
The tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah is admittedly much smaller but nonetheless just as grand as the Taj Mahal it is said to have inspired. If anything, the rundown feel adds to its charm. The tourists are noticeably absent. There was only a handful of people there besides myself. Even my guide decided to give it a miss, saying that I could just pop in on my way back to Greater Noida. I nearly gave it a miss, too. We had actually driven past it and were on the road home when I had second thoughts and doubled back. I didn’t want to regret not seeing it and am I glad I did.
It’s faded glory is just as appealing as the grandeur of the Taj. The marble is the same as is the use of inlay and while a little restoration would do wonders for it, I found myself more engaged with its ruin that I might have been with its potential splendour. Given how impressed I was with the restored tombs in Hyderabad, that was a little surprising. Perhaps it’s that it seems to hold secrets, a treasure of stories that had I had the time to sit and listen it would happily have divulged. Or perhaps it’s that it’s comfortable being the poor cousin, happy with who it is. Or perhaps the whole India thing is getting to me and I’m putting too much effort into humanising these mausoleums. No matter. If you’re in Agra, don’t miss out.