The Taj, ugliness and beauty

Fifteen years ago, I stood next to my Indian fiance, and gazed at one of the great wonders of the world- the Taj Mahal. We took our engagement photo on the famous bench that sits in front of the rectangular reflecting pool on the south side. It was so picture perfect that people would later ask if it had been taken in a studio in front of a poster.

Today my thirteen year old half Indian daughter sat on the same bench and had her photo taken with her father, my ex-husband. She is traveling with her dad in India for a month, and I am here in America, with our other two children.

It is not the picture I imagined on that, my first trip to India. It doesn't match the romantic Taj Mahal image of us on our wedding announcement.

I'll never forget my shock when I entered that glorious edifice. I had forgotten until that moment that the Taj, was actually, a tomb. A mausoleum. Other shocks would come later.

Ugh. And who was the Taj a tomb for? Shah Jahan built it in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after the birth of her fourteenth child. Now there's some real romance for you. Third wife. Fourteenth child. Worn out by child bearing for a husband with two other wives. The stuff fairy tales are made of. Right.

I'm happy for my daughter. And afraid for her too. I want her to experience all that is good in India, and all that is good in her father, with none of the pain that went with my experiences with both.

I am reminded of the words of the British-author-married-to-an-Indian Ruth Prawer Jhavbvala, "My husband is Indian and so are my children. I am not, and less so every year... India reacts very strongly on people. Some love it, some loathe it, most do both."

How will India react on my daughter? I pray she will see it truly. The beauty and the ugliness and the truth that is in both. Which is the way I want her to come to see life.

There is pain in life, and loss, and grief, but God can take all that and use it for good and eventually bring about something beautiful.

There is no more perfect example than my daughter herself.


  1. What a beautiful picture of your daughter! We have a picture of us in front of the Taj but it is not a very good one. We are planning to trip back there this spring break. I hope we can get a great shot of the whole family.

  2. Yes, I struggle with that too. How to have the children experience their culture without allowing any of the ungodliness that is so rooting in every tradition from Hinduism.


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