The Truth About the Taj Mahal, Part 2

By Tom Cole March 14, 2016

In my first Taj Mahal blog I challenged Micato Musings readers to come up with a more beautiful human creation than the huge work of art Lord Curzon, who knew well what he was talking about, called “the gem [the gem, not a gem] of man’s handiwork.”

This time around, I thought it might be interesting to get Seamus O’Banion’s take on the Taj.

By way of introduction, Seamus is a sharp observer, a fitful writer, and a great experiencer of the world—in which he has travelled relentlessly ever since he long ago graduated from the Wharton School and decided that finance, high or low, wasn’t worth his effort (he has pretty consistently refused—almost unAmericanly—to monetize his amazing vagabondage).

Seamus has used hooks, legal crooks, and heaven knows what else to fund his travels (I think he put a little Wharton wisdom into shorting the tech market back in 2000 and has happily lived on the profits ever since). He’s an old friend of Micato (it was Seamus who gave us a great brochure quote: “Every safari has two clocks, a little clock for wake-up and let’s-go-on-a-game-drive, and a big clock, whose smallest increment is a hundred thousand years”) and I sent him an email recently looking for a good soundbite on a building, a work of art, I know he reveres.

Taj Mahal on gray day

The Taj can appear heartbreakingly intimate, almost delicate. And it can seem grand and imposing, as on this gray day, when the author and his wife felt like they had it all to themselves. Whatever its mood, the Taj’s beauty is always guileless and unhidden.

Seamus wrote back from some unknown faraway (he’s rarely pin-downable). Interestingly, for a guy so in love with planet Earth, Seamus has a far-flung, some would say extraterrestrial imagination, so when I asked him for a few words about the Taj, he invoked (though he snobbishly wouldn’t call it that) a kind of Jedi Tribunal in the photogenic light of the somewhat obscure but mellow meadow planet of Taanab.

“If humanity were summoned before a Galactic Court of Justice” Seamus wrote, “and commanded to defend our species’ inarguably colorful, really rather sweet, but often feckless ways, we might crank up some Mozart or an evening raga by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, or maybe try to bowl them over with Beethoven’s proud Ninth. We’d want to take the Court on chaperoned tours of Shakespeare and the Ramayana, give them an energetic eyeful of Picasso and the cave paintings at Chauvet. But in the end, we’d prove our worth, we’d enchant those judges, we’d really seal the deal with the Taj.”

Next in a series of Taj blogs: Why Shah Jehan, the Taj’s creator, was far more than a major-league emperor, but rather a supreme artist.

Up Next: The Truth About the Taj Mahal, Part 1