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TANDOORI FROM SUBWAY IS BAD KARMA

read part one here

Taj Mahal Monkeys exist. I was about to find out the hard way.

The three hour drive from New Delhi to Agra slides past endless acres of flat grassland on a modern, newly built highway replete with rest stops that would make the New Jersey Turnpike proud. There was even a Subway where we stopped. My driver parked his aging Tata Zest as I ordered the Chicken Tandoori on Italian Parmesan.

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The detail of the Taj Mahal is done 100 % in different kinds of inlaid marble

Upon arrival in Agra we collected Chandra, a mature, professional local Taj guide with a warm and humble nature. Chandra knew his stuff; he recited every regulation from memory and threw in some fun facts to whet my palette.

No food allowed? Hmm, I had planned on eating the sub there. Harrumph.

“Is it ok to eat the sandwich on the walk from the gate to the entrance?” I asked.

Chandra’s face assumed a sense of unease. It looked like fear. Weird. Must have imagined that. He clearly preferred that I change my lunch plans but answered truthfully, “Yes, you can eat in that area.”

There was an unmistakable “But…..” in his tone.

I picked up on it, and understood there was a reason for it, but I had Taj Mahal monkey fever and I didn’t even know it yet. I had already seen the Taj across the Yamuna River and my tourist glands and hunger glands were both salivating as if trying to keep up with my perspiration level in the (literally) 110-degree heat.

We were so close to this magnificent building. I had dreamt of seeing it for decades and was equal parts excited and hungry. There would be no opportunity for food over the next several hours. That sub was going in my mouth as we walked.

The driver jettisoned us at the gate. Chandra and I deftly ignored the shouts of “HELLO HELLO COME”. We breached the corridor. I inhaled a few bites, wondering how a sandwich made in Agra could taste identical to one made along the Pennsylvania Turnpike..

My peripheral awareness was in full effect. Everywhere in India, things come at you from the sides. Stray dogs, wild pigs, crafty kids, feral kittens and well fed-rats all weave a tapestry of ceaseless activity.

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The “street” where my hotel lived.

Walking around Delhi for a week upgraded my radar to detect ground based activity on my flanks. This was about to come in handy.

Because of the Taj Mahal Monkeys.

MONKEY AT THREE O’CLOCK AND CLOSING FAST

So, Chandra, what year was…well would you look at that. That’s a monkey on the street. That’s an unusually big monkey on the road to the Taj Mahal. Wow! Gotta get the camera out and…Wait a sec. He’s making eye contact with me.

THAT MONKEY IS HOLDING EYE CONTACT WITH ME. HE’S WALKING STRAIGHT AT ME. THIS IS STARTING TO FREAK ME OUT MAN. I’M USED TO SEEING BARS BETWEEN ME AND MONKEYS. THERE ARE NO BARS BETWEEN ME AND THE TAJ MAHAL MONKEYS. 

I’m looking at him. He’s looking at me. Enough time has passed for him to look elsewhere and it hasn’t happened. I now understand the situation. He is not on his way to somewhere else. He is on his way to me.

His front-knuckle roll on the pavement lent a certain swagger to his approach.

Protruding shoulders that alternated with each step intensified his intimidating gait.

The aura was suggestive of a feared mafia henchman on assignment in Newark.

“Throw your sandwich over there. Now.”

Chandra made a tossing gesture towards a scraggly median of dirt, garbage, and assorted malnourished flora from where monkey appeared to have originated. A quick glance at Chandra’s knowledgeable face told me what I needed to know. Unmistakable fear.

My brain’s message-sending department exploded with activity.

A man from India just showed fear. He told you to throw the sandwich.

YOU SHOULD THROW THE SANDWICH, FOOL

So I threw the sandwich.

What had seemed scary just moments earlier now seemed comical. The monkey gleefully scampered over to the discarded sub. His body language quickly transformed from intimidating to “Tandoori? OMG! I luuuuuv Tandoori!!!.”

PART THREE COMING IN A FEW DAYS [read part one here]