You Are Here

Nothing quite prepares you for when you behold the iconic Taj Mahal for the first time. Pictures and poetry don’t really do justice to its daunting scale, dignified grandeur and strange luminosity. Like a mirage, it completely messes with your visual perception, particularly of depth – because it almost appears to get further away as you approach it. And then, when you eventually ascend the steps to the imposing monument, you feel completely dwarfed and overawed.

I’ve had the opportunity of visiting the Taj a few times over the years – first as a tourist, then as a newbie designer for my first location fashion shoot and then on this occasion, in my capacity as a TV presenter.

At the time this picture was taken the world was in the grip of terror…


9/11 had just shaken the world to its core and there was this fearful sense that more orchestrated acts of terror were about to be carried out all over the world, including Asia. The travel industry in particular was especially fraught with tension and suspicion. Airport security was on high-alert, which made travelling across the Indian subcontinent with a crew and electronic equipment extremely stressful and cumbersome.

On a more personal level I was so convinced that something might happen to me on this trip that I even updated my will before leaving South Africa. But about an hour before this picture was taken, any fears I might have had were allayed – by a little sign from the Universe…


Taj Mahal | Agra

Taj Mahal | Agra


Incidentally, this is a view of the back of the Taj, taken from across the Yamuna River. My cameraman wanted a shot of the mausoleum without swarms of tourists in view, so our tour bus-driver took us way off the beaten track, into some pretty remote and isolated areas, before we eventually stumbled on the piece of land where the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had, according to myth, planned to build another mausoleum of black marble. Now that would have been something!

Anyway, while we were bobbing along the back roads of Agra trying to find this vantage point, we crossed a rickety old bridge with little rusted plaques fixed to each of its trusses. Because they were all old and corroded I couldn’t tell what was on them at first, but with each successive truss that whizzed past the bus window I began to discern shapes that looked like numbers. I picked out a hint of a 5; the bottom of a 6; the top of a 7 etc.

At this point I should mention that I have an intriguing relationship with the number 11. It pops up in the most bizarrely coincidental ways. As a simple example, I’ll frequently be prompted to look at the time on my phone or computer and it will invariably be 11:11. According to the internet I’m not the only one who sees lots of 11’s all the time – but I don’t really buy into some of the speculation behind its mysterious occurrence. Rather, I have my own personal theory…

People often ask me if I think the number is a lucky sign or a bad omen – and my response has always been “neither”. I simply see it as a sign that everything is ‘as it should be’. A kind of a cosmic signpost along life’s journey that says, “You are here – and here is OK”. And on this particular morning, I got that message loudly and clearly – because all the numbers on those trusses were rusted and illegible except for one. No points for guessing which one…

Looking as if it had just been applied that morning was a shiny, pristine plaque with the number 11 clearly blazoned on it! And I knew in that moment that my presence on this trip was just ‘as it should be’.

“If in fact the observer’s watching me the whole time I’m doing this and there is a spiritual aspect to myself, then show me a sign today that you paid attention to these things I created. And bring them in a way that I won’t expect so I’m as surprised at my ability to experience these things and make it so that I have no doubt that it’s come from you.”

The above is an excerpt from the film “What The Bleep Do We Know” that really resonated with me. Intriguing movie…

Author: Imraan Vagar

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