sweet nothings in Agra

Agra, so called because a visit to the city leaves you feeling acutely aggravated.

After setting foot from the train to get to the Taj Mahal, it’s possible we were presented with at least a hundred images of the Taj on a variety of cheap souvenirs. ‘No’ is a word not within the common dialect of Agra salesmen, there it means ‘maybe’ and just looking at any item for sale (usually thrust into your retina’s most intimate space) is taken to mean that you’ve entered into negotiation for its purchase.

Still, after having seen a lifetime of re-produced images of the Taj, there is nothing like standing in front of it. It sits atop it’s pedestal, so purely outlined against the sky. It makes you feel faintly ridiculous standing in it’s presence because it’s so beautiful. We were even made to cover our eyes because the light bouncing off the Taj’s white curves was so blinding.

After leaving the Taj, we only stayed long enough to visit the famous Panchhi Petha to sample the sweets and snacks which Agra is also famous for, the pumpkin petha. A sweet thought to have slipped out of the kitchen of the creator of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan, and become popular on the streets of Agra.

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On the left is the pumpkin petha. The pumpkin is a white pumpkin, it’s cut and boiled in a sugar syrup flavoured with rose water and screw pine essence. It’s exterior is crystallised, the inside is syrupy. Although the texture was interesting, it was far too sickly sweet for me – which was a shame because the sugar emasculated any flavour the confectioners had spent hundreds of years creating.

(ps. If you’re wondering, the one on the right is a lesser known sweet – it’s sweetness softened by delicious fresh coconut and dry fruits)

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