I got an early start from Khajuraho and it was interesting to be riding through towns such as Chhatarpur before the shops opened and the streets got filled with town life. It was relatively cool until about 9 am and then the searing heat was full on. As I made my way to the four-lane highway that starts from Gwalior, I was engulfed in dust and bumps through miles of construction and diversions. At least traffic was light on these small highways but it looks like because they are back-roads, the road-works are moving along slowly.
From Gwalior, it was an easy ride into Agra and I arrived by early afternoon and was met by two riders from the Royal Riders Bullet Club of Agra, Himanshu and Rajesh. They treated me to lunch at a Dominos; a sign that I was back in a big city. sanDRina's carburetor was acting up again, so Himanshu took me to a known mechanic and Avtar Singh found the issue: one small tab was not bent and that was allowing extra fuel to flow into the carburetor. This wasn't seen in Bombay, but good to have it fixed now.
What I love about traveling is the serendipitous encounters along the way. I met Himanshu through a Bullet Club connection and it turns out that he manages the finest marble inlay handicraft shop in Agra. The Taj Mahal is famous for its extensive use of white marble and all the intricate patterns that have been inlaid with semi-precious stones. The idea for this technique came from Italy during Shah Jahan's time in the 17th century but it was in Agra that the workmanship has been perfected. Himanshu's business, Subash Emporium, which is about fifty years in the running now, is said to have revived this artwork of marble inlaying by nurturing the skills of the artisans in Agra.
What a good chance that I was shown how the marble inlaying is done the day before I would see the Taj Mahal. Now, I was all set for a deeper appreciation of this grand monument.
Enjoy the video of Himanshu walking us through the technique of marble inlaying.
Agra probably needs no introduction, though better known than this cantonment city itself is the Taj Mahal, that fabled mausoleum of white marble erected by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Read more: Wah Taj - an everlasting romance