Going to the Taj Mahal, one expects not only to be overcome by beauty, but to be showered in a magical story of love, a love story greater than all the ages, one that will transcend time. It is the physical manifestation of a man’s love for his wife, and his sadness when she died. His love was so great that the Taj was built in her memory. So what can be so disturbing about that story?
Well for starters, their meeting. The story says that she was shopping in a woman’s only area, so that the women could remove their face coverings and shop in privacy. This was supposed to be a safe space for those women. Those rules applied to all but one man, the man who owned the market itself. So despite assurances for their privacy and well-being, he sat on the wall and would look down and watch the women, unveiled, as they shopped, with their false sense of privacy as they were observed, in secret. This is where the King saw his love, Mumtaz, for the first time. Romantic? Could be. But in the current climate, all that comes to mind is: Is it really that different from Donald Trump walking into the change rooms of his beauty pageants, to check out the contestants in a state of undress, even though they were in an area that was supposed to be safe, and private? If he had fallen in love with one of the contestants he saw in the change room, would that be considered a beauty pageant love story?
Then there’s the description of the relationship between the two. Mumtaz was revered as the King’s great love. Why? Because she was beautiful, and she gave him 14 children, which his two other wives did not. It is also important to note that of the children that lived, 4 were boys and only 2 were girls, another sign of their great love. Nothing about her character, their relationship. Just her beauty, and her ability to give him sons. Of course, his extensive resources were spent on for the reconstruction of the Agra fort where they lived – lots of white marble and gold. An expression of love for her – or an expression of wealth and virility? A modern day equivalent could perhaps be a swanky NYC penthouse? Labels and bling?
The real difference here is the time – this all happened 400 years ago. So it shouldn’t be unexpected, or surprising. What is most frightening about this story is that while visiting the Taj and the Agra fort, that a 400-year-old story was an echo of today’s reality. One was a King of one empire, the other is hoping to be the President of another. And despite the monumental strides in technology, economy and human rights, the men and their stories, the way they deal with power and authority, are astoundingly similar. The difference now being that those voting for Trump actually have a choice in their leader, a hand in what their future looks like, which wasn’t the case for the King’s subjects back then. Scarier then, that people would choose to go back 400 years, versus pushing forward.
I will say this though. The building truly is majestic, and worth seeing. It may be best to appreciate the beauty and ignore the story. Well, unless you’re someone who sees no problem in the violation of a woman’s privacy and sees her as a tool to prove wealth and virility. If that’s the case, then knock yourself out.