“As you can see, the fountains are off right now,” our guide told us. We had been told from the beginning of the ride by Baabloo, our rickshaw driver, not to get one; and we dutifully followed his advice as the teenage boys ran alongside us hawking their services. But our man in red was quite insistent that we have a guide — it’s like watching a movie without the sound — and he was a card-carrying government employee who wouldn’t charge us. “They only turn it on for VIPs. . . . Please, stand here. Photograph there, like so!”
“And there is the bench where all of the VVIPs sit for the most famous pictures.” VVIPs? Apparently, in a nation of more than one billion people there are VIPs and even more important folks. “You know: prime ministers, presidents, Lady Diana.”
“Bill Clinton came here with his family. He was such a nice man. Your current President Bush has not yet come to visit.”
I shrugged. “He doesn’t get out much.”
“Bush is a good man,” our guide insisted, ever the diplomat. “Hopeuflly he will come visit us soon.”
Well GWB is going to visit India this week, but he won’t be going to the Taj. He’s going to be on a two day tour. From the press briefing, it sounds like he will be mostly in Delhi, chatting up VVIPs, visiting a farm, and meeting with entrepreneurs. (He’s also scheduled to watch a cricket match in Pakistan — well part of one, at least. They can last longer than his trip.)
In honor of our maharaja’s visit, this week I’ll be sharing more recollections of India and covering the mainstream media reports. Stay tuned.