Cha Cha, our autorickshaw driver in Agra, charges tourist groups 850 Rupees a day to take them around town. That’s just shy of $14 USD. At the end of our day together, we gave him a $2 tip, but the point is – he doesn’t earn much at all. Yet, when a beggar approached our tuk tuk outside the “Baby Taj" mid-morning, Cha Cha gave him his two bananas. It's true that you don’t need much to be able to give much.
Agra quickly gave us our first dose of high highs and low lows. We started at the majestic Taj on a crisp December morning. Much bigger than I’d anticipated, the Taj was even more beautiful than in pictures and postcards. Not just a masterpiece of marble inlay and carving, but a masterpiece of calligraphy, too. But just outside its gates, poverty had crept right up to the gates. Stray dogs, camel dung, and sacred cows roamed among leaning towers of trash and scattered rubbish like confetti everywhere. I had expected poverty. I was “prepared” for the emotional rollercoaster. What I didn’t expect was the ubiquity of it all.