Monkeys in Famous Old Places

Hi all!

I realized something else I forgot to tell you before: I was interviewed for my college alumni magazine!  :-)  Even if you didn’t go to Williams, you should be able to read the article here; just scroll down to the third page.  And there I am!  Whee!  It’s such a nice article, and she didn’t quote any of the really dopey things I said, which I appreciate.  Thank you, Denise!  Hooray!

And yes, they totally sent a professional photographer up here to take that photo of me.  Oh my GOODNESS!  It is SO WEIRD having your picture professionally taken!   

But the extra-funny part is the story of what happened when he came to take it.  See, we made this plan where he would come up from NY on a Wednesday, so I made an appointment to get my hair cut on Tuesday and then spend the day planning what to wear and getting ready.  And THEN…my phone rang at noon on Tuesday (and yes, of course it woke me up; I’d been writing until 5am the night before), and I was like, pfft, not answering that, until I heard the voice on my answering machine and it was him and he had accidentally come up A DAY EARLY!

So I literally flung myself out of bed, threw on the first clothes I could find, and ran off to pick him up without time to shower or anything.  LA LA LA.  Luckily the photographer was super-fabulous and nice and didn’t seem to mind that I looked like a hobo, although I’m sure he normally photographs glamorous celebrities who at least have handlers to dress them as they dash out the door.  My HEAVENS.

But the awesome-tastic part is that he also got a great shot of me and Sunshine (on a slide!) to use for my author photo for the Pet Trouble series coming out next year, so YAY!  :-)  Check it out:

Tui Sutherland and Sunshine

Woo hoo!  A real professional author photo!  So exciting!  🙂

In other thrilling news, Avatars 3 got a happy review in Kirkus Reviews!  They wrote:

"Threading in revelations, dangerous encounters and tongue-in-cheek comments, Sutherland rounds out her leisurely but ultimately engrossing epic in style."

:-)  :-)  :-)  Yippee!  Thank you, Kirkus!  I especially like the part where one review called it "leisurely" and the other called it "fast-paced" and "dizzying."  Too funny.  🙂

What’s that?  More pictures of India?  Your wish is my command.  😉

Akbar’s Tomb!  (well, the entrance to it)

For the rest of Day 2 — the afternoon of our day in Agra — we went to two more sites, starting with the tomb of Mughal Emperor AKBAR THE GREAT.

Check out the hawk flying around the tower way up there!  Cooooool!

Our guide told us that "Akbar" actually means "great", so we’re technically saying "Great the Great" whenever we say his name.  Now that is thinking ahead, although I guess it’s a little less presumptuous when the dad naming you is already an emperor.

Dark and stormy tomb!

The good news is, he totally earned his name, because Akbar the Great was way the coolest of all the Mughal emperors; he was a great proponent of religious tolerance, married a Hindu wife (he was Muslim himself), reformed the tax system, and doubled the reach of his empire during his reign. 

Actually Akbar’s Tomb!

Not that I know any of the actual history, but I DO know what they showed in Jodhaa Akbar, which is that romantic epic Indian movie I was talking about last week.  The movie is the story of this emperor Akbar, and specifically his big epic love for his Hindu wife Jodhaa.  So worth watching if you have a spare four hours (say, on a plane to India).  ;-)  Apparently it’s quite a controversial movie, but it’s very pretty!  And it taught me many things, such as that he could defeat elephants with his bare hands, plus he was wise and benevolent, and also hot.  See?  Educational!

Adorable deer!

The gardens around the tomb were full of cool animals, including lots and lots of these tiny adorable deer.  We loved how each deer was being followed by a little white heron-bird, and sometimes the deer would run off like it was trying to get away from the bird, and the bird would hop after it for a few paces and then be like "FINE!  You’re not the only deer in the garden, you know!" and stalk off indignantly.

Looking back at the entrance



See the white birds with the deer in the background?  Totally cute.

IMG_4425a Adorable green parrots! 

Inside the tomb


OK, REALLY inside the tomb now.

This is the cenotaph of Akbar; it marks where his grave is, but he’s not in there — he’s buried below the ground.  The fascinating thing is that male cenotaphs all have that little marble bump on top, which represents a pencil box, while female cenotaphs have a slate for writing on (or nothing).  I think I ought to have strong feminist feelings about that, but mostly I just like the writing iconography.  🙂

Adorable deer close-up!

Still looks like a Mughal emperor surveying his domain, doesn’t he?  Albeit one with a backpack and an umbrella.  I bet "Dad" means "Great" in some language.  Dad the Dad!

(P.S. Mom, I could be saying nice things about you, too, if you’d let me post some of the photos of you!  Don’t you want to be compared to a maharani on the Internet?)  😉

Well, here WE are, anyway!

And then, on the way out…

MONKEYS!  BIG honking monkeys!

Hey.  ‘Sup.  I’ll just sit here while you all take photos of me.  Shyeah, I know you want to.

And then after that we finished the day at what is known as the "Baby Taj", which is actually the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah (a title meaning "pillar of the state", says Wikipedia), who was the dad of Emperor Jahangir’s wife (and also the grandfather of Mumtaz, who’s buried in the actual Taj).  Got all that?  🙂

The point is: pretty!

And the most important point is: MORE MONKEYS!

The guy buried here was Akbar’s treasurer from Iran.  When Akbar’s son Jahangir fell in love with the treasurer’s daughter, Nur Jahan, she was quickly packed off home to marry some Persian guy.

Here you can see people leaving their shoes by the steps before going inside.  No fancy plastic booties at the baby Taj.  🙂

Instead, here I am in socks!  Whee!

But of course eventually Jahangir became emperor, and apparently he was still in love with her (aww! romantic!) because her husband off in Persia mysteriously died (um…less romantic) and she was able to come back to India and marry Jahangir after all.  (Yay?)

Close-up of the inlaid marble work on the outside of the baby Taj.

Architecturally, this building was kind of a transition from all the red sandstone (like at Akbar’s tomb) to the white marble of the Taj Mahal.  See how it all ties together?


Inside the baby Taj.  Cenotaph!

Behind the baby Taj, en route to the river.  (Spot the monkey!)

OK, here he is again.  As if I could resist pictures of monkeys and famous buildings together.

Hawks on top of the baby Taj.  Making sinister plans, I’m sure.

Bye, baby Taj!

Phew.  And then it was off to Jaipur!  More on that next week.  🙂

Can I just mention how awesome it was to see the teams racing through Auckland on this week’s Amazing Race?  I was like, I’ve been there!  Mount Eden!  Sky Tower!  Sheep!  And Maoris!  Yay New Zealand!  :-)  What a splendiferous episode.  Although I’m not sure I actually like anybody yet, but I’m hoping someone will grow on me.  🙂

Also, I finally finished reading the gigantic 1500-page novel about India that we took with us to read over there.  It’s called A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, and it is AWESOME and moreover a great book to read in India (or on a verrrrry long plane flight, say, to India).  It totally doesn’t feel like it’s 1500 pages, because it goes so quickly and it’s so engrossing.  The craziest part is that now I really want to talk to the author and find out what happens next, because apparently 1500 pages wasn’t enough!  Need more!  That can’t be the end!  Schnarf!  Anyway, I highly highly recommend it.  :-)  Yay for good books!

Quote of the Day:  "A passport, as I’m sure you know, is a document that one shows to government officials whenever one reaches a border between countries, so the officials can learn who you are, where you were born, and how you look when photographed unflatteringly."  ~Lemony Snicket