Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another twentieth century flashback

(click on image to enlarge)

Fatehpur Sikri
Watercolour and crayon
©2004 Charlene Brown

November 24, 1996 began with a 250-kilometre drive from Delhi to Agra, followed by a full afternoon of magnificent Mughal architecture – first Sikandra, the last resting place of Akbar the Great, then the Taj Mahal in time to have a look around while it was still daylight… I’d planned my trip to see the ultimate sight – the Taj bathed in the light of a full moon… but soon learned that, for security reasons, the place was going to close at dusk. We left just as the rising full moon made the most of its opalescent splendor – in the distance.
For reasons that escape me, I had made a hotel reservation for the night in Jaipur, about 260 kilometers away.  In India they drive on the left, where I have never really felt comfortable.  But that uneasiness is nothing compared to the way it feels to be on the right in India, which is where we were most of the time because my driver was passing everything on the road -- camel caravans, bicycles, still-smoldering wrecks, cattle, paan-encrusted buses, jewelry salespersons, small restaurants, vehicles being repaired (protected by a row of boulders rolled onto the road), other terrified tourists, plus about a million of the regular things you’d expect to find on a highway. 
After a very brief stop to stumble around ‘the Emperor’s Dream City,’ Fatehpur Sikri, where we discovered virtually the only light source was that moon I’d traveled all the way to India to see, we negotiated the remaining distance to Jaipur, arriving a little after midnight.  I’m pretty sure that less than half of the other users of the road had lights.  And I’ve never been so scared in my life.
It was during this drive I formulated my spectacular but weird ideas of what Fatehpur Sikri might look like if you could actually see it.  I may have still been under this influence years later when I painted this picture.