We spent our time in Agra lounging in the shaded outdoor restaurant. We read, we walked around barefoot, and we petted the emaciated kitten who tickled our feet while eating. This is the sort of safety and relaxing we expected from our few weeks of vacation before school. We ask the manager to rent us a car or send some more mineral water up to the room, and he says slowly, “Don’t worry chicken curry,” and our request is filled.
Sounds of the city float in from the street – someone playing or singing a song, cows mooing, clamor of a cart, the generator that sits next to the street kicking in. On our last night in Agra, I was sitting in the courtyard reading in the waning light and I heard a louder commotion echoing closer. I went to investigate.
“What is that?” I asked a group of hotel employees chatting in a circle of lawn chairs.
I rushed upstairs to tell the others and grab my camera. As we are leaving, the boy who brings us water was waiting near the door.
“You must be very careful,” he warned, sternly. “The men will be much drunk and may cross over the street to greet you. Do not talk to them.” Again, the aid and protection of strangers surfaces at the most unexpectedly important times. This hotel especially has undertaken our well-being with vigor.
What approached us in the dark was like a moving vigil, but with trombones. Men marched blowing into brass instruments and holstered bass drums. Their notes blended with music emitted from speakers attached to a shiny cart leading the procession. Among the musicians others carried swinging bright lanterns, four per pole. The groom sat sternly upon a horse near the back of the train. Illuminated by the lanterns, his face remained somber among the swirl of beats and laughs and colored robes. Behind him a circular light show spun its colors, also on wheels. Truly, a wheel of fortune.
“Agra is the City of Love,” the jovial silver shop owner had said to us earlier in the day. Our departure was full of it, both ours for the city and in this unexpected march of vows.