The call time was at 5:30 am. Armed with the gear, everyone assembled at the lobby, ready for the day. Cold breezes gusted past frequently, as we headed to the Taj. We hired the only boatman by the banks of the river Yamuna — after some bargaining, as there were many strict rules placed around travelling to the Taj — to take us on his boat to witness the grand marble monument acquire its distinct sheen with the rising sun. It was cloudy, and the air was heavy with chillness, and after an hour of waiting, the sun failed to show up in all its glory. However, the gentle greys of the skies created a mystic aura which we thoroughly enjoyed.
After spending an hour or so in the river, we headed to visit the Taj from up close. At the entrance, Joe was stopped by the guards for carrying more than the prescribed amount of film rolls. The situation got a bit tense, as he was asked to leave a few rolls back. A few members of our team split the remaining rolls amongst each other and got them all in without his knowledge, much to his surprise. We were welcomed by the usual crowd that was there to see the 'monument of love'. After a few hours of roaming the grounds of Taj, we hit the road towards our next destination.
On our way to Lucknow was a quaint town, a centuries-old centre known for ittar making. Awash with blue-hued buildings that were surrounded by green and yellow mustard fields, Kannauj welcomed us with a coolness that was mixed with a dainty fragrance. After lunch, we headed to a workshop where ittar is made. A faint fragrance of mud and grass emanated as the craftsman explained to us the entire process. Then, we split and walked around the narrow lanes. Affable and curious residents, eager children were all greeting us and posing for photos—the visit was an affair of excitement. We roamed around the town till evening and after bidding adieu to the group of children who were flying kites, we proceeded to Lucknow. Tired, we headed to our respective rooms for a quick nap and gathered at Dheeraj’s room for our dinner. It was Joe’s birthday the next day, so we had made plans to throw a surprise party for him. Celebrations ensued and we called it a day, late into the night.