Taj Mahal – a painting in the sky!

We have all heard about the beauty of the Taj Mahal, but we can only understand the perfect beauty when we actually see the Taj Mahal. Such technical excellence in those times is absolutely astounding.
We took a trip to Agra in the month of March. The logical order of starting the Agra trip is to start with a visit to the Agra Fort and Taj Mahal after that.
This is the entrance to the Taj Mahal. IMG_4442

When you come close to the entrance gate, this is the first view of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is right outside the gate, right?

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Wrong. This is the actual distance of the Taj Mahal from the Gate.

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This is an optical illusion. The Taj Mahal is full of optical illusions like this which were created to make it the a complete marvel.
When you enter the gate, the first view of the Taj Mahal made me feel like I was looking at a painting in the sky. No construction has been allowed behind the Taj Mahal so that the view of the Taj Mahal is not spoilt. This picture doesn’t even do 1/4th justice to the actual beauty of the Taj Mahal. You have to see it in real. It will take your breath away.

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This is the famous bench outside Taj Mahal where so many film shootings have happened.

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The iconic pose

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When you stand facing the gate with your back towards the Taj Mahal, you will see the gate is exactly in the same spot as the Taj Mahal, on the other side. The entire monument is an example of perfect symmetry.

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The four minarets around the Taj Mahal are slightly tiliting outwards. Look at the picture.

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Do you know why this is so? It is because, if there is ever an earthquake, the minarets will fall outwards and not on the main building.

The architecture of Taj Mahal has all the influences of Hindu, Muslim and Persian Architecture.

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A huge kalash engraved into the floor at Taj Mahal.

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A beautiful view of the River Yamuna from behind the Taj Mahal. This place is so serene that I just wanted to sit here and spend the entire day.

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Another view. That’s the Agra Fort on the opposite bank of the river.

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There are 16 gardens in front of the Taj Mahal. There are lot of mysteries and stories surrounding the numbers around Taj Mahal which I am not revealing. That should be heard when you go there. It is absolutely essential to get a Guide for first time visitors.

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There is a Jama Masjid(Mosque) inside the complex. It is on the left side of the Taj Mahal. The sides of the Taj Mahal have this design which is called the Honeycomb design. Through each opening, you can see the entire Jama Masjid. This is an optical illusion again.

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The main bulding is surrounded by this Persian carpet design on all four sides.

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The garden that you see in the picture is Mehtab Bagh which is behind the Taj Mahal.

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Shah Jahan had built the white Taj Mahal as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. In the same way, he had planned to built a black Taj Mahal as a tomb for himself opposite the white Taj Mahal near Mehtab Bagh, so that his and Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb could be near each other’s and they would be close even after death.

The marked circular spot that you see is where he had planned to build the Black Taj Mahal.

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However, by then Aurangzeb(Shah Jahan’s son) had usurped power from his father and he disapproved of such extravagance. He had already put Shah Jahan under house arrest. He stopped the construction of the Black Taj Mahal. Imagine what a sight it would have been to see the white and black Taj Mahal on the opposite sides of the river Yamuna. We have been deprived of something so beautiful.

Shah Jahan was buried in the Taj Mahal next to Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb. You can see the two tombs together. Photography is not allowed inside.

Please don’t believe all those stupid stories about how Taj Mahal was a Hindu monument which was usurped by the Mughals. This is sheer nonsense. Shah Jahan had a Hindu mother and a Hindu wife and Mumtaz Mahal was a Persian. That’s where all these varied influences come from.

Dream With Your Eyes Open – An Entrepreneurial Journey

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Since quite sometime, I have been thinking of starting something of my own. It was sheer providence that I came across Entrepreneur and UTV Founder Ronnie Screwvala’s book ‘Dream With Your Eyes Open – An Entrepreneurial Journey’.

Whether you are just starting out on your own entrepreneurial journey or have been running a business successfully for years, this book is for you. This book will encourage you and tell you that you can do it by sheer grit, optimism and clear thinking. Ronnie Screwvala also highlights the fact that you will make mistakes but it is important to learn from your mistakes and keep moving. The secret is to not give up under any circumstances.

The book tells you that it can be done, however the importance of dreaming with your eyes open is absolutely essential. Ronnie Screwvala takes you through his journey as a budding entrepreneur to the founder of one of the biggest Media companies in India.

Every step of his journey is fraught with risks, some calculated, some uncalculated. Some were successful and some failed. But each step was a learning which he imbibed in his soul and kept moving. As Ronnie Screwvala said “Most people ask me about my successes, not many ask about my failures. It would give me more to talk about.”

Thinking is going through a revolutionary change in India. Earlier people considered havng a job synonymous with security. This is no longer a truth. Today, the job market is very volatile with companies going for quantity over quality. They want people to work for less money, even if it means compromising quality. This is the sad truth. Hence, as Ronnie Screwvala says,”The future belongs to those who no longer teach talented people how to get a job but how to create thriving businesses as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs/professionals in a company.”

With all his successes and victories, the one thing that Ronnie Screwvala continuously emphasizes on is the importance of having a strong team to work with you and back you. He couldn’t specify enough on the importance of retaining talent and not losing them as that proves very expensive for any organization.

A strong team is half the battle won is one of the key messages that he conveys throughout the book.

To summarise, this book is a must read for anyone who is apprehensive of taking that one step towards their entrepreneurial journey. As the author says in the book, don’t keep waiting for that huge investment to start your own business. Start with a small investment, make it a success and the big money will automatically be attracted to you.

I strongly recommend this book to everyone who wants to Dream With Their Eyes Open.

Shea Sugar Body Scrub by The Body Shop

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Image Courtesy: http://bit.ly/1Kf60dL

I am a great lover of The Body Shop products. Even though they belong to the premium range where price is concerned, believe me when I say that they are totally worth it. If it would be up to me, I would use only The Body Shop products. I am sure I will be earning enough to one day.

Today, I am going to share my review of the Shea Sugar Body Scrub. It was my birthday and I decided to pamper myself with my favourite brand. I was browsing through the store. Since I didn’t really need a perfume or Body wash or any kind of make up, I started looking at the Body Scrubs. I loved the smell of the Shea Sugar Body Scrub, hence I decided to pick it up.

After using it, I can safely say that this is the best product of The Body Shop for me. The Shea Sugar Body Scrub has the kind of fragrance that will make you feel like you have been to a spa and taken a relaxing spa treatment. The sugar granules in the scrub polish the body, removing the dead skin cells and leave soft fragrant skin behind. You don’t even need to use moisturiser on your body after using the scrub.

The fragrance gives me the feeling of being transported to some exotic tropical island and relaxes me if I had a really stressful day. This scrub is definitely a must try. If you have dry skin, you can even use it on your face and you won’t need a moisturiser on your face too after that. Of course, if you are venturing out in the sun, then do use a sunscreen.

This has become the product with which I would love to begin and end my day.

The Palace of Illusions

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Image Courtesy: http://bit.ly/1IT0sZj

I remember reading the Mahabharata in school and liking the story, even though I found it very unfair to women.

Recently, I was browsing books in my library and came across a book titled ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee DivaKaruni. When I read the synopsis, I came know that it the Mahabharata as narrated by Draupadi. I got interested and picked it up.

It traces Draupadi’s life from the time she was born to when she became the wife of the Pandavas and the events that unfolded after that. In her childhood days, Draupadi is shown as a headstrong girl who wants to walk in step with the men and learn everything that is prohibited to a girl in terms of education. She doesn’t want to confine herself to learning only the womanly arts but learn the intricacies of ruling a kingdom too.

It traces her childhood friendship with Krishna and his influence throughout her life. It explores her complicated feelings for another man even though she is married to the Pandavas, an aspect of her life which is something she can’t ignore, forget or let go off. An aspect that changes the course of history for all involved.

I won’t reveal anything more about the book. When you read this book, it will open your eyes to truths you must have never imagined.

I am not an emotional reader but this book completely overwhelmed me emotionally. I had to stop after every few chapters to compose myself before I could continue, yet this was one book I didn’t want to put down till I reached the last chapter.

I cried, I felt anger, I understood the characters of the Mahabharata like I had never imagined possible. This is one book which is a must read for everyone, not just Indians.

Chitra Banerjee DivaKaruni has opened facets of the personalities of the characters in the Mahabharata in such a way that you will empathize with each one of them. I am hooked to this book forever.

Together – The Journey of Friendship

You could be heart-broken, may have lost out on that long-lost promotion, may have had a bitter fight with your parents or you may be just feeling lost in life. Whatever be the situation, there is one person who will always stand by you. In different people’s lives, they are different roles. For someone it will be mother or father, for someone it will be their spouse who is their shelter in difficult times, for someone it could be someone completely unrelated to them(they can’t even call that person a friend, because it will be too small a word to describe the importance of that person).

For me, that person is my dearest friend, Andrea. She came into my life all of a sudden. I am definitely sure that God sent her as my Guardian Angel at a time when I was completely broken and shattered. I had been in love with someone for two years and he had even asked me to marry him, however eventually we split up because his parents were dead against the relationship and he couldn’t go against them.

At that point in my life, I felt my life had come to an end. I didn’t know what to do. On the next day, I went to work and she was the new team member in my team. We started talking and eventually I ended up confiding in her and broke down. Have you ever felt a stranger becomes closer to you than anyone else you know? That’s how it was with Andrea and myself.

When I opened up my heart to her, she didn’t spend sympathizing with me or telling me how bad she felt for me. She presented the objective view of the situation to me, comforted by saying that I did my best and I should be happy and if things didn’t work, it is because they are simply not meant to be and there is no way I should blame myself for the end of the relationship.

That one day spent #together with her gave me the courage and strength to move ahead with optimism in life.

However, it is also countless such moments spent with her that are valuable and more precious than anything else in life. Those days spent #together in a coffee shop discussing our crushes, work problems and family issues, going shopping together and appreciating or criticizing each other’s choices, simply spending quiet time reading together, standing by each other through the toughest of times even when the entire world is against us, being each other’s courage even when we lose our own, believing in each other even when we lose confidence in ourselves – each moment is priceless.

The saying is so true – for most people a Home is a person not a place and for me that person is Andrea. I hope that when we are old with no teeth and hair, we are still Together in this Journey called Life.

If I don’t find my soul mate, what I would love best is to find a home to share with this friend/sister with the help of https://housing.com/ and always have someone to turn to in bad times and celebrate good times with.

Murder of Free Speech

From childhood, I have been a very outspoken kid. Sometimes, my parents appreciated me for it, sometimes they didn’t like it but they never stopped me from speaking my mind. This trait is still the strongest part of my personality. I criticize the Government for the wrong actions they take, I stand up in support of causes I believe in irrespective of how many people disagree with me. But what it came to threat of my life? Would it quieten me? Probably not.

I am deeply saddened by the ruthless murder of three #BangaladeshBloggers in the last two years, the latest being atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman who was murdered for his views on religion. Religion is a personal choice and if you have a right to follow it, I have a right to criticize it without being answerable to anyone and definitely not being murdered for it. The other two bloggers were Avijit Roy and Rajib Haider.

All these cases have been murders in broad daylight, yet the auhorities are turning a blind eye to it. What kind of world are we building towards? If they did something that was against the law, then let law take its due course. And is your religion so weak that it can be threatened by someone speaking against it.

Why would anyone want to stay in a country where their safety is threatened because of having different views from other people? I see my country going the same way and it scares me. I don’t want to stay in an atmosphere of religious intolerance, lack of freedom of speech, no freedom of choice in what I eat and I don’t want my future generations growing up in this atmosphere. I want them to learn about their culture and rich history, but I also want them to be world citizens who accept all cultures, are open-minded, speak their minds and accept other people’s views too. Will they also face life-threatening situations because of that?

Let us come together and make our voices stronger and our solidarity greater in support of Rajib Haider, Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman and all those who are being slaughtered for speaking their minds!

Women Empowerment – A Wrong interpretation

She has always been the perfect woman for me – strong yet vulnerable, emotional yet practical, independent, intelligent and a go-getter. And one day, maybe I will go back to this impression of her.

However, today I am sorely disappointed with Deepika Padukone’s Women Empowerment video for Vogue. Under the title of a woman’s choice, we are saying it’s alright for her to cheat in a marriage, practice bigamy and do what she wants to, totally inconsiderate of anyone’s feelings. And ohh yes, when someone does the same things to her, you see crying pictures, tearful interviews and the works – wait, he is a man. He’s not allowed to do that. She is. What a pathetic example of Feminism and Women Empowerment!

Under the guise of women empowerment, are we actually trying to get the upper hand over the opposite sex? That’s not what we want. We want an equation with the opposite sex where equality exists. Of course, it’s my choice to have a baby or not. But is it only my choice? What if my partner is not ready for a baby? Is forcing fatherhood upon him women empowerment? Or is it threatening him that I can throw you out of my life anytime a sign of women empowerment? If he does the same to you, he will be labeled as insensitive, a jerk and an MCP.
When I had seen the video first by Vogue featuring Deepika Padukone, I had very high expectations. I had expected the real issues – Rape, Dowry, Marital Rape, Child Marriage, not this pathetic example of fake Feminism.

Deepika Padukone had the full choice not to do it and that would have been the real #MyChoice.