If, like me, you have Indian ancestry then chances are you would have grown up with a Taj Mahal somewhere in your house. Not a real one of course. It would typically take the form of a photograph hanging in your living room, a painting/illustration, a copper plate with the Taj Mahal image etched into it or even a miniature “marble” replica. Often, with the picture ones, there could be a clock built into it. If one of your family members had been to India, chances are you got given a miniature “marble” (probably not marble) replica. This would be displayed proudly in your house and more often than not at least one of the minarets was broken, probably hastily repaired with sellotape or superglue, destined to fall apart the next time anyone looks at it.

In our house I dont think we had a picture of the Taj but we did have a miniature model with one broken minaret. We also had a 750 piece jigsaw which me and my brother completed, although I think there was one piece missing. Cannot confirm if it was a piece from one of the minarets, but I suppose that would be about right.

Yep, if you have some Indian blood you are proud of the Taj. It belongs to you somehow, or you think it does. As though you somehow can take some credit for it existing. This is foolish of course. I was once helping a friend move house. You know, carry boxes and furniture up and down stairs. At one point Anthony (Chinese ancestors), Nader (Egyptian ancestors) and I (Indian ancestors) were struggling to get a sofa up some stairs. We tried everything, but nothing was working. We were even considering sawing one of the arms off. Luckily someone said that was an incredibly stupid idea, so we didn’t. Anthony, looked at Nader and me and said, “Together our ancestors built the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Great wall of China, but we can’t even get a sofa up some stairs”. Our failure was complete. No, I can take no credit for anything to do with the Taj Mahal other than almost completing a jigsaw.

The Taj Mahal is incredible in real life. I first went to see it when I was 14 and my mind was blown. It is a perfect building, made perfectly. The second time I went I was equally impressed. Frouke and I saw it together this time. It’s still there in all its glory and it is still amazing. This time I was there just after sun rise. Apparently it’s the best time to see it. I’m not so sure about that, but we went early anyway to avoid being burned alive…

At this time of year (June) much of India is blisteringly hot. The last few weeks in the part of India we are in, the temperature has been around 45-50 celsius in the middle of the day and about 30 celsius at night. It’s unbearably hot. We have resorted to waking up at 4:30am to start cycling early and try to finish by lunch time to reduce the chance of us becoming someones BBQ lunch.

There is no good reason to visit India at this time of year. If you visit at this time of year (like us) then you are an idiot (like us). This is not entirely true. It can be good to visit India at this time for a few reason.

1. You don’t like crowds. There are less tourist, no queues! Yay!

2. Mangoes.

The mangoes are absolutely delicious right now and they are everywhere. These last few weeks we’ve been eating one or two mangoes per day and we are not getting bored. I could eat more easily but I would have to go out in the middle of the day and risk being fried to death to get them. I am considering buying mangoes without Frouke knowing so I can eat them alone. Don’t tell her.

I guess the mangoes and seeing the Taj again make handling the heat easier. Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a monument to his wife. Well, one if his wives. His favourite apparently. It took 21 years to build using skilled craftsmen from around the world. Local guides tell tourists that the architects and other key personal that worked on the Taj had their eyes taken out or arms chopped off so that they could never repeat a work as beautiful as this one. Other workers were made to wander around in the midday sun during the middle of June and were forbidden from eating mangoes. I made that last one up. Apparently the other stuff about arms being chopped off and eyes taken out is also not true, just a story guides tell to add to the allure of the Taj.