Delhi: Our visit to Chennai was a benchmark experience for most of us as we learned about its history, business practices, and way of life. Taking valuable insights gained from our visits to numerous companies and historical landmarks in Chennai, we flew to Delhi to embark on a new adventure. After an early morning flight, we arrived at the airport in Delhi. The first thing I noticed in this modern glass-walled building was the state of the art facilities and the resemblance to some of the newer and high end airports that I have been in other nations. During our bus ride to Agra, I was stunned at the developed infrastructure in Delhi, especially as it provided a stark contrast to the developing infrastructure that we observed in Chennai over the previous several days. Recently paved six lane asphalt concrete highways could be observed compared to the roads without apparent lanes in Chennai. There was also a much higher proportion of cars to motorcycles and a lot less car honking. I also noticed that the streets were a lot cleaner than the streets in Chennai. Although Delhi felt like a new world compared to Chennai, it turns out that Delhi’s infrastructure improvement occurred within the recent few years. I’m hopeful that we’ll see something similar happen in Chennai in the future.
Taj Mahal: We woke up early next morning in Agra to visit one of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Taj Mahal. The white marble mausoleum was built when Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s third and favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, passed away. Mughal Empire was an imperial power that controlled the Indian subcontinent for a little over two centuries. They were Muslim and direct descendants of Genghis Khan. This Taj Mahal required a massive labor force of over 25,000 workers and lasted over 20 years. To build this complex with today’s labor rates in the US, I estimate that it would cost approximately $20B just in labor – an unprecedented amount , which does not include the expensive materials used to build this complex such as white marble, gold and 28 different types of precious gems and stones. The legend has it that everyone involved in the Taj Mahal construction had their hands dismembered in order to eliminate the possibility of a replica being built in the future, but it’s just a myth.
As soon as we entered, we saw the great gate, Darwaza, which was an architectural feat great enough to be a tourist attraction itself. But I think the Taj Mahal, widely regarded as the finest example of Mughal architecture, deserves such a grand structure for a gate. When we entered the gate, I was stunned by the amazing spectacle of the Taj Mahal beyond the garden. I had seen pictures of the Taj Mahal on the web before, but the visual of it in person was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Before Tuck, I worked on many high profile buildings designed by world renowned architects as an engineer. However, this was the most impressive piece of architecture and construction that I have seen in person. My sentiment was also amplified by the Taj Mahal being constructed almost 400 years ago. The main construction material of the mausoleum is white marble, which is known for strength, durability and resistance to many hazardous natural elements and is one of the main reasons for why the structure has been maintained in such a great shape even after several centuries. Compare this to today’s buildings, which are meant to have a lifespan of 50 – 100 years. Don’t expect to see the local strip mall standing after 400 years. It was truly a different age of architecture back then.
Another fascinating feature of the Taj Mahal is the symmetry of the entire complex starting from the centered mausoleum structure to the garden and the great gate and the two smaller mausoleums that mirror each other on either side of the main mausoleum structure. Although the fountains and water tanks were empty when we visited due to maintenance, the water tank creates a perfect reflection of the main mausoleum when filled with water. Such perfection and attention to detail really creates a lot of inspiration.
As I looked back at the Taj Mahal while we were leaving, I felt that it was a place that I would like to visit again at least another time.