A post from Derrick Deese, T’12
March 13th is typically just another day in the lunar calendar year. However, during my Tuck Center for International Business trip to India, I had one of the more memorable days in my life. We started off by visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Taj Mahal. Built in 1631 by Shah Mahan after Queen Mumtaz Mahal’s death (gents, and you complain about sending flowers?), the marble structure was erected from the labor of over 20,000 people and took 22 years to complete. The intricate designs, breathtaking symmetry, and ornate finishings live up to its grandeur. Our tour guide Rishi (from Agra) was able to give us a lot of historical context of the structure. For example, the marble for the Taj Mahal came from the mines of Rajasthan, which produces a beautiful white marble that does not tarnish regardless of the weather conditions. A simple flower design etched in the marble is actually an intricate design, with its petals made up of 64 (yes, 64) different stones.
After finishing up at the Taj, we went to a market that sells products using the same marble used to build the Taj. Thousands of artisans extract the marble and make an array of household items, statues, and other items in marble. The tradition of making these items are passed down from generation to generation, and we were able to meet some of the descendants of those who worked on the Taj Mahal. Several of us purchased some of the marble items (at a bargained discount, of course).
Our final stop, and perhaps the most intriguing, was a rural village in the city of Agra. While India is a developing economy with burgeoning cities in Delhi and Mumbai, 60% of its population still lives in villages. The village is run by a Panchayat, which is an indigenous system of running village with five elders. First, we saw a couple of snake charmers (cobras) and some of us got to hold their python snake as well, which was quite the experience. We were able to see their home, which has been passed down from generation to generation. The children there were so welcoming and interested in our visit, and trailed us as we toured their village. It was extremely interesting to see their way of life – commerce is based on agriculture mainly, and they sell their products in the Agra market a few kilometers down the road. There are schools built in the village as well, where the children attend. Life is a lot more simple than what we’re all used to.
The trip definitely gave me good perspective. There are a number of things we complain about, or take for granted in our lives. However these simple things are of the utmost importance for the Indian people, who pride themselves on maintaining an upbeat and modern village. The day definitely gave myself and my fellow Tuckies something to think about as we continue our journey through India.