Last summer around this time I was melting in the heat of Delhi, India. Melting alongside me was my lovely family, just beginning their 6-month adventure of living in that huge, large, big city. My dad taught math at an Indian school [not ironic at all] and my mom and sister did the best they could at making friends and living life in a place so different from home.
One of the highlights of my 3-week visit with them was going to see the Taj Mahal. People have asked me if the two hour drive to get there from Delhi is really worth it…it’s just another big building, right? Maybe, if that is how you want to look at it. But the Taj can also come to life with history and culture.
For my family, our day-guide helped to do just that–bring the story of the Taj to life. He was a short, skinny little old man with a waist so small he had to tighten his belt halfway up his torso. Large-framed glasses were perched on his nose, under which was a full mustache. For the sake of privacy I’ll call this unique little man Romeo (for reasons you’ll see soon).
Romeo spent the day narrating the story about the Taj’s construction: the romance and tragedy behind the reasons for its existence, secret meanings behind normally overlooked details embedded within its walls, and stories about the monument’s impact on Indian history throughout the centuries. Everything he told us was interesting and informative and I was thoroughly thankful that we had employed him.
When I talk about my experience at the Taj, however, I don’t usually tell people about these things. One of the first things I talk about is Romeo. And I tell everyone that he had 12 bunnies.
Throughout the course of the day, we learned things about Romeo’s life that made him even more endearing. He would commute every few months between the north of India (where we were) to his family living in the south of India. When they needed more money, he voyaged to the Taj to use his knowledge and guide skills to earn his living.
While he was away from home his wife had the responsibility of caring for their 4 sets of twins. And did I mention the 12 bunnies? Four sets of twins and twelve bunnies were Romeo’s pride and joy. I still smile when I think about twelve little bunnies hopping around him.
But wait, it gets better. I commented at one point on his exceptional English skills and vocabulary, and Romeo informed me that he enjoyed reading Shakespeare in his free time. “What?!” I exclaimed. “Native English speakers don’t even enjoy reading Shakespeare!!” [way to over-generalized of a statement, I am aware]. It was then that I realized we had a genius bunny-loving little Indian man on our hands.
And I couldn’t have been more honored to spend the day with him than if he had been the president of the United States.
It just strikes me as extraordinary. I could have gone through that entire day seeing Romeo as just another tour guide trying to make a living. I am so thankful that when I remember Romeo, I remember him as a man who had a wealth of knowledge and intellect who loved sharing what he knew with other people. I remember his large family that he loved so much–even though most of his kids were girls. And of course I remember his 12 bunnies.
photo credit: Mariah Blase Photography