May 272017

The Joy Of First Time Travel To Taj Mahal Agra


South Indian Couple at Taj Mahal Agra India

Every couple wants a picture with Taj Mahal


Ask any traveler worth his blog and he will give  you loads of global Gyan

“To travel is liberating”

“I found my calling in travel”

“I was born to travel”

“ I am a traveler, not a tourist”

Only those who travel will go to heaven rest will rot in hell eternally”.

OK, I made the last one, but you get the gist.  For some reason traveling has been glamorized to the extent that many of us totally forget that a vast majority of people around the world “ Travel is a dream, a desire, a privilege a luxury, to be undertaken only when absolutely necessary or after squirreling money for years”  Truth be told and understood, travel requires money, time and commitment. Hence I say I am extremely privileged to be traveling since childhood first with my parents, then with my buddies in college and later thanks to my job my company paid for my travels around the world. But for millions of Indians, even today “ To Travel is a dream, a desire, a privilege a luxury to be undertaken only when absolutely necessary, or after squirreling money for years” Yes I repeated that line but it was needed in my opinion.

So dear reader in this post I want to share a short but memorable visit to Taj Mahal Agra, with an aim to meet and greet 200 desi Travelers. Now some of you may wonder why I would travel to Agra from Delhi in 45 degrees to meet 200 desi Travelers when I have been to Taj Mahal countless time. Good question that beckons an answer not because you pondered on it but because I have a story to share.

You see my fellow 200 desi Travelers were all from Chennai and nearby towns who were all traveling for the first time in their life on a true vacation. They have never taken a flight before and to them seeing “THE TAJ MAHAL” was like a dream come true.  I was there in Agra to meet them and learn their stories about travel, most of them barely knew any English and my Tamil is as good as my Mandarin i.e Nil. Thankfully my host Mr. Aman Gupta, Director Corporate from Vinayak Holidays was there to save the day for me.

South Indian family at Taj Mahal Agra

For the love of travel – Some of the first time Travelers in front of Taj Mahal Agra

This special trip was organized by Vinayak Holidays from Chennai, for these hard working people coming from what Prof. C.K. Prahlad would have called ” Bottom Of The Pyramid”, who can only dream of flying and visiting the Taj! Their hard working and daily earning are not enough for livelihoods. But Vinayak Holidays made it possible to get the prices highly subsidized and affordable for these 1st-time travelers. These trips are organized on a no profit basis but the privileges enjoyed by the travelers are same as a fully paying customer. Now 200 hundred is not a small number and I was wondering h Aman managed the logistics for 200 people from Chennai to Delhi and then further to Rishikesh, Haridwar and now in Agra.

 On my query, he just smiled and said,

“  Actually 200 is a small number, and we have divided the group in two 178 we did in April, and now in May, we have 204 people. Last year I was here with 714 people, and they had return flights from both T3 and T1 you can imagine how much running around I would have done between the two airports. For which our company had received the prestigious Award called Jewel of South India this January 2017 in Bengaluru.  

714 !!! My jaw dropped and wanted to know more and more about these travelers and Vinayak Travels which was facilitating the same.

So basically the idea is very simple, but heart warming, every year Vinayak Travels  encourages people to see the parts of the country they have not seen and as a special scheme people who have never taken a vacation, never been on an airplane are taken on this holidays.

The 2  batches of this year went to  Delhi, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Agra and finally flying back to Chennai via Delhi. Now managing logistics of such a large group is not easy then to make sure nobody misses a flight or comes back to the bus before the group moves to the next destination when touring a city is all a herculean task.  More so when all the folks are coming to this part of the country for the first time and want to see as much as possible in the limited time they have got.

As the group was too large it was not possible for me to click them together and many of them had no interest in getting photographed so I interacted with smaller subgroups and clicked some pictures.

You should have seen the joy on each of the faces when they first see the Taj Mahal, and I am totaly with them, I have seen the Taj Mahal so many times and yet I was here in Agra in 45 degrees to meet my fellow desi Travelers.

Tourists with selfie stick in front of Taj Mahal

A Selfie with Taj Mahal

As is the norm today most of the folks in our group as well as other visitors to Taj Mahal were very keen to take their selfies with Taj Mahal in the background and I was happy clicking them as they clicked themselves with Taj Mahal.

Soon I was trying to talk to a few of them and learned about their backgrounds. Most of them come from simple homes and work very hard every single day. I met housewives who even after 20 years of marriage were feeling shy posing for a picture with husband. Grandmas who were not sure what the fuss was all about that I wanted to click their pictures.

When I requested this granny for a picture, she agreed only reluctantly. You see she comes from a generation when you got photographed only on very special occasions like marriage, or birthdays etc. So for her all these commotions about selfies, clicking and live broadcasting every moment of your life from Breakfast to dinner does not make sense.  And I as desi Traveler totally relates to her sentiments.

Old South Indian Tamil Lady Taj Mahal Agra

There was a time when pictures were clicked only on very special occasions

Some of the youngsters were more open to getting clicked with the Taj Mahal and also shared some interesting stories with me. Some  of the men in true Tamil style were in their Lungis, and with a swag that only a true Rajani fan can have, while the women had a more varied attire some of them were in practical cotton best suited for a hot weather others were in heavy saris as for them this was a special day akin to a wedding in the family so only the best of the clothes will do

Boy posing in front of Taj Mahal Agra

Yes, you can take my picture with Taj Mahal

One of the first time flyers (deliberately not giving real name ) was very enthusiastic to travel in flight and gave her name as  say  “Ponamma” but when she reached the airport and her ID was asked it had a totally different name Mrs. Poornima Devi Vasudevan, so first the airline staff at counter refused to issue  her a boarding pass and on special request her case was referred to the Airport security. But rules are rules so the CRPF guys responsible for Airport security would not let her board the plane unless the name in ID and on the ticket was same.

 Now, this was a big shock to her as it never occurred to her that her name is actually Mrs. Poornima Devi Vasudevan as everybody since her childhood has called her only Poonamma.

 Luckily the Vinayak Holidays team was able to salvage the situation by some last minute jugglery of canceling the ticket and getting her a fresh ticket issued on the same flight.  You should have seen Poonamma’s face when she was recalling this story. She had tears of joy when she was issued her boarding pass with the name as on her Aadhar card.

Women traveler Taj Mahal Agra

Some of the women travelers with kids at Taj Mahal Agra

Old woman in front of Taj Mahal Agra

One of the grannies at Taj Mahal

I also met a mother and daughter who were traveling together on a flight for the first time and both mother and daughter were equally excited about the flight. But as only one of them could get a window seat so they switched seats during the flight so that each can see outside during the journey.  How cute is that? The little daughter offering the seat to the mother in the plane so that she could also look outside of the window as both of them was flying for the first time is something that even mellowed me a bit, and I am somebody who will never give his window seat to anybody. But next time for sure if somebody asks me for the window seat I will remember this little girl and offer my seat to somebody who wants to look outside. Thank you kiddo,  you taught desi Uncle a big lesson.

South Indian couple at Taj Mahal Agra

Yes, we also need one picture with Taj Mahal

Overall each of the travelers I was able to meet or talk to was so happy to be at Taj Mahal that the heat and weather had no bearing on their enthusiasm. I also think that since Chennai and surroundings are anyways hot, so it did not matter much to these folks.

A Tamil man at Taj Mahal Agra

Mr. Srinivasan was traveling for the first time, he is into retail business

As I was bidding goodbye to some of these fellow travelers, I was totally convinced that everybody should be able to travel for a vacation and travel truly should be liberating and not a privilege. I do hope and pray that this initiative of Vinayak Travel gets more and more success in the coming years. Maybe I will travel with them for the full tour next year to bring you more stories of first-time travelers.

Overall it was a very satisfying visit to actually meet and travel with people who have traveled all the way from Chennai and nearby towns like Kalpakkam for this special tour of North Indian cities of Delhi, Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Agra. The Taj Mahal in Agra for sure was the highlight of their trip just like millions of other travelers from around the world.

I must thank Vinayak Holidays for inviting me for this wonderful trip, where I not only met some wonderful travelers but also my perspective about travel changed for the better.

About Vinayak Holidays: Vinayak Holidays is a Chennai based full-service Travel and Holidays company. They have offices in India and USA.

Tourists group photo Taj Mahal Agra

Yes we love traveling, thanks a lot, Vinayak Travels

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  30 Responses to “A Visit To Taj Mahal Agra With 200 desi Travelers”

Comments (30)
  1. Wow! What the narration of the stories coupled with the beautiful writing skills. Tajmahal the symbol of eternal beauty can take away heart of any person and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Different type of the trip with the troops of the people who share the incidents and their travelling experience is a unique experience. Keep posting these kinds of stories. All the very best!

  2. It’s interesting how you have weaved the stories and narration☺️☺️ I have also been to Taj so many times but everytime I go to Agra… I’m like can I do it again
    Cheers, Charu

  3. Taj Mahal, a true symbol of love. There may be people who know the stories behind the monument. Some of these stories have a touch of hatred, but I have the image of this Shah Jahan built structure deep in my mind glimmering the shades of love.

  4. That was such an interesting and a different kind of a post. Interesting little stories in it, too.
    I hope you get to on a full trip next time. I’m sure it’ll be very enriching and we’ll love reading about it all.

  5. Such a wonderful initiative by Vinayak travels to make so many dreams come alive. It is so humbling to read about the stories of all the people. Truly a perspective changing experience. Thank you for capturing their joy so warmly and making us a part of their happiness.

  6. That’s really wonderful Article Prasad! I bet you never had so much fun there! Great Initiative! Keep up the good work!

  7. The stories of many in one, you made a touching story. This is a very noble initiative from the Vinayak Holidays. Wish them success to take on more and more of such initiatives. Your pictures are beautiful with their background stories. I totally agree to your viewpoint in saying how traveling is a privilege and I too, thank the almighty to enjoy the bliss of this privilege.

  8. Such heart warming tales! Such happy faces.

  9. Great story and nice photographs!

  10. What a heart warming story.

  11. Like a fashion parade 😉

  12. Wow. You almost narrated a whole journey. Nice post. The moment, people see the Taj Mahal, they say “Waah Taj!!!”. Such a amazing place to visit. There are so many trains to Agra which will take you the city of wonders.

  13. What a heartwarming story Prasad! Hats off to Vinayak Travels for the initiative.

  14. Such a wonderful post. It is delightful to know that Vinayak Travels have taken up such a great initiative.

  15. Such a heartwarming piece this is Prasad! Feeling a bit teary eyed to be honest. Love the idea that Vinayak Travels had and amazed at how they pulled it off.

    Can’t agree with you more about travel being such a luxury. In fact there are so many times I wonder if I am being futile…

  16. Good initiative from Vinayak Holidays. nice pictures

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