Today was the big day. Taj day. Been looking forward to this for a while. It isn't every day that you go to see one of the seven wonders of the world (and if it was, the following week would be pretty lacklustre I guess). Anyhoo, today is the day that we were see the Taj (which I think means "crown" by the way).
Now with any great dish it is important to have an appetiser, to get things started. It just so happens that the Imagine Cup organisers had set one up for us. But we would have to work for it. Just outside Agra, where we have been staying, is another mausoleum called Akbar's Tomb. The tomb was built in the 1600’s and word was that it was in need of a little restoration, so to speak. Microsoft had volunteered the services of a whole bunch of students and mentors, i.e. us. So after breakfast we piled onto busses to drive out to Sikandra and the tomb, to go and give a hand.
I was a bit concerned about this; a place can get a bit overgrown and dusty in 400 years. However, I needn’t have worried. When we arrived the group was split into four teams, sweepers, gardeners, cleaners and restorers. The sweepers team looked a little depleted, so myself, Andy and Mark joined up with them and off we went.
It took me back to my days of vacation work in a frozen pea factory, where I arrived at sunrise, was given a brush and told to sweep up, spent most of the day hiding from the foreman and then returned my still clean brush at the end of the shift. It seems that I still have those skiving skills and they have now become a kind of reflex, and so I was able to give the appearance of doing something useful whilst probably not achieving a great deal. The problem was that I had to keep stopping and taking photographs (not something I used to do in the pea factory). The place was beautiful, and on a scale that was breathtaking.
There were lush gardens, peacocks, monkeys, a beautiful courtyard, etc ,etc. It was truly wonderful. The heat was quite oppressive though, and I was glad for the chance to take a break from my non work and get a drink. The restorers had been really busy, you could see the stonework where they had dug out the old mortar and replaced it with new. I felt a bit guilty about not doing that task, I’ve a feeling that the wind has probably already undone most of my brushwork, but now a little piece of an Indian monument is forever Imagine Cup thanks to them.
After the break we climbed wearily back into the bus for the ride back to the hotel. I lay down on my bed for a couple of seconds of rest. Two hours later I woke up and it was time for the Taj.