BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Long ago and far away ...

Aside from three 2ft stacks of recent “to be read” acquisitions, I also have a half a dozen file storage boxes filled with books I've picked up in the past, but never got around to reading. Every now and again, I take a look through those to see if there's something that I'm in the mood to read. Last month, Tourist's Guide - Agra & Fateh Pur Sikri seemed to want to be read, so I fished it out of one of the more-buried boxes.

Back in the early 80's (I couldn't figure out exactly which year, need to dig out my photo binders!) I spent a couple of weeks in north India and Nepal. A buddy of mine from college had gotten a Fullbright and was over in Benares doing research for his doctoral thesis. His brothers and I coordinated our vacation schedules and flew in for a visit, with the four of us running around to New Delhi, Agra, Katmandu, and Benares.

I picked up this guide while there, very likely (given the “look & feel” of the volume) from a souvenir stand somewhere in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal (although, 30 years later, I don't recall the specifics!). Now, I usually make an effort to let folks know how they can get a copy of a book I'm reviewing, however, I was unable to dig up any information on this beyond what's in it, which has no photo, map, or writing credits, just the publisher info (Lal Chand & Sons, New Delhi).

This is one of those charming, older, foreign books that looks like it was hand-set in metal type (there are a couple of “o”s that appear set upside down, for instance), with text that suggests that those composing it, while familiar with English (as one would expect in India), were not “native speakers”. It features, within its just-over-100 pages, sixteen full-page photos, all but one in quite passable color, plus two maps. The publishers obviously paid a lot of attention to what the tourist would like to know, and the book starts with a couple of sections on history, first that of Mughal empire and then of Shah Jahan and the wife for whom he'd built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum. It then moves through descriptions and backgrounds about 60 various structures in Agra and the surrounding area, and finishes with a section on things a traveler might have interest in, from seasonal temperatures, to hair dressers and golf courses.

As I recall it, we only spent a day (perhaps two) in Agra, so hit the major sites, and the descriptions here (as well as the photos) helped bring the visit back to me, even decades later, so kudos to the prose in this aspect. In all of the sections the history is brought to bear, so everything has a context within the extensive time-line of the Mughal Empire. Obviously, with sixty sites and four “background” info sections in about 110 pages, nothing is covered in depth here, but one does not feel like one is being “cheated” on any particular place.

To help remind myself of the area, I pulled it up on Google Maps' satellite view, and was able to check out where things were in relation to each other (although there is no “street view” per se, there are hundreds of snapshots linked out from the blue dots).

Anyway, reading Tourist's Guide - Agra & Fateh Pur Sikri was quite a trip down memory lane for me. I wish I could point you to a copy, but I couldn't even find anything solid about the publishers, let alone this book, so I guess you're out of luck unless you stumble across a copy in a used book store!

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Tags: book review
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