We departed Jaipur the next day, headed to Agra for our final stop in the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) before heading north to Amritsar, Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj. As you may remember, we had ended up taking a taxi to Agra from Jaipur, arrived there around 8am and headed straight into the Taj Mahal. Agra, the city where the Taj is located, isn’t a very pleasant or a safe place for tourists, ironically, and I received more dirty or creepy looks in that tiny city than anywhere else my entire time in India. I mean, there is plenty of reason to dislike tourists when you live in the same space as an international tourist attraction. However, there is also a lot to value about them – the money they bring in, the spaces they help create, the interaction of so many kinds of people existing in the same place. And in Agra, foreign tourists such as ourselves are still very heavily outweighed by domestic Indian tourists. The Taj is a sight to behold, no matter where you’re from. However, it just wasn’t a place we wanted to linger. I must say though, that the Taj Mahal is one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever been, outweighing so many other incredible monuments or buildings with its absurd detail and continual magnificence. The Taj was full of other people too, tourists from India and abroad alike – I got asked to be in family photos a few dozen times and obliged a few. Sometimes it’s just creepy but usually, it’s kind of like being a really under talented celebrity. Like the guys that eats 25 hot dogs in a row on Youtube, has his 15 minutes of fame but gets recognized by an Indian family 12 years later and awkwardly poses with him. I AM that guy.
We left the Taj Mahal by noon and began the final leg of our taxi drive to the Delhi airport. Our taxi driver was so, so kind and wanted badly to invite us over for tea and lunch with his family. So after a short nap and an hour of driving we pulled into a side road, bumping over the newly built “road” – more like mountain biking trail – until we reached his cousin’s house where his cousin, 5 children and 3 other cousins greeted us and took us into the bedroom to serve us amazing, never-ending chapati (flat whole wheat bread similar to a tortilla) and daal (lentil curry). The house was tiny and obviously housed at least a dozen people but it was easily one of the most delicious meals (and experiences) I’ve had in all of India, we departed with full bellies and beautiful memories. Upon arriving at his other family members house, we were greeted by his 15-year old daughter who spoke beautiful English and was wholly intrigued by our recent travels and homes. It was so hard to leave but we were going to be late for our flight and had to mention to our driver that we REALLY had to get going.
We were minorly stressing out by the time we had finally finished the two family visits, and notified our driver yet again that we NEEDED to be there by 6 to catch our flight to Amritsar. Our speed notably increased and we were flying down the brand new highway that now connects Agra and Delhi. However, we noticed something was a little wrong when we got to a checkpoint with 2 barricades mostly blocking the road. These are usually the kind they put up to stop people when they’re drunk driving. We were supposed to stop, particularly because we had definitley been speeding and I’m sure the police were looking to give our driver a ticket for doing so but instead of, y’know, stopping, like a normal person, OUR DRIVER JUST KEPT GOING! We nearly ran over the first police officer and the second police officer we had to pass tried to hit our car with an orange construction cone. He came SO close to hitting us. Once we had recovered and giggled nervously (with our driver nonchalantly driving away), we started to fall asleep again. ONLY TO WAKE UP TO ANOTHER POLICE SITUATION. This time, we had ran a red light, only this time, our driver really DID hit the cop! Not horribly, be really just brushed him with the side mirror. However, needless to say, the cop was not happy and as we drove away, we saw him climb into another cop’s car and start following us! We were on the run! FROM INDIAN COPS! WHAT? We sped away in a high-speed chase, eventually pulling into a petrol pump (gas station) where our driver nonchalantly started pumping gas, saying to us “we just hide out here 2 minutes. 2 minutes.”. Freaking out and stunned into silence, we watched as the cop found us, pulling into the parking lot and pulls our driver out of our car. He pulls out a giant stick and starts trying to beat him, with our driver just putting his hands in Namaste position and begging hinm for forgiveness. Finally after paying a hefty bribe of around 2000 rp ($40), he lets him go and we continue on our merry way – AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED! It was definitely the most surreal experience of my life. But, we made it to the airport on time, caught our flight and were off to the next part of our adventure.