November 4, 2014

With Love From The Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal's backyard

"Well, it's big and white" I replied, after Qurban, our guide, asked me what I thought about the Taj Mahal. "To be more specific, it's big and white with two red buildings beside it."

That was all I got to say after finally seeing the Taj Mahal in person. The two buildings beside are completely symmetrical because "Muslims love symmetry", Qurban said. He also said a lot of other things about the Taj, the history, the architecture, but I was slightly busy focusing on taking pictures that the only memorable piece of information I remembered was how many kids the emperor's wife had.

"Taj Mahal is entirely marble. It was built for the empire's wife, who birthed him 14 children and died after birthing the 14th child."
"Holy crap. 14 kids?!" I replied.
"That's not a lot. My grandparents had 9 kids back in the days." Qurban said.
"If my husband want me to pop out 14 kids he better also build me a Taj Mahal."

Then for some reason we got into talking about arrange marriage. Because that's the 'thing' in India. And since Taj Mahal symbolizes love it seemed appropriate. Qurban told me that most people still get arrange marriages in India, but more in terms of the parents introducing the kids and the kids can either agree or disagree to marry.

"So you don't date before you agree to marry them?!" I asked.
"No, you date after you marry." Qurban replied.
"What if they have some gross habit that you have no idea?! Like, what if they always clip their toenails on the living room carpet?"
"Well, you are stuck with it."

If dating after marriage is odd, the whole concept of dowry is even more odd. Though dowry is becoming less common, it still occurs quite often. It goes that when a man marries his woman, the woman's family has to give a chunk of money to the man.

"How much is a typical dowry?"
"About $300,000 CDN. Or sometimes if the woman's family has a business the man's family will ask for a percentage."

After seeing how some people's living condition here is hard to imagine them coming up with $300,000 to marry off their daughters. I can't even come up with $300,000 let alone someone who lives in a shack with no air conditioning and no bed frame.

I thought Qurban might have been off with the numbers so I decided to ask my friend Vineet and his friends when we went out to smoke some hookah.

"People in India, they don't buy things, they don't travel, they don't do anything, they just save and save for their children's marriage, and blow all their savings and everything on that marriage." Akshit explained.

Akshit said that even the most simple weddings from people in poverty cost $50,000 and confirmed that a typical dowry is around $300,000. Though some younger men in our generation ask to not have a dowry as the concept seems to be treating the woman as an object.

"Well wait, does the woman have to work after she pays a dowry?" I asked.
"The choice is solely up to her if she wants to work." Vineet replied.
"I wouldn't. If I was to give someone 300K it means they have bought themselves a trophy wife. Literally."

Vineet laughed. And this is why I am glad I don't live in India- because I love my money way too much to just give it away like that, I thought.

"Can you not have a dowry but ask for the woman to have a job?" I asked Vineet.
"No... It is really bad form to ask a woman to work!!"
"Well, in Canada a lot of men would like their woman to have a job to help pay for bills."
"What?! That's not right to ask!!" Vineet said.
"So you're saying that it's bad form to ask your wife to get a job but it is NOT bad form to ask a woman's family for 300K to marry her."

Arrange marriage and dowry aside, one thing I do love about Indian culture is that their family value is very high. I mean, the guy built the Taj Mahal for the love of his wife. What famous Westerner has ever built something as magnificent for their wife? The memorable wives I can think of are Henry VIII's who got beheaded for not birthing him a son.

"So how much are engagement rings in Canada?" Sidharth asked.
"3 months salary. So around 10K." I said.
"Yeah, I have a friend whose ring is 25K. The worst about engagement rings is if the engagement falls through sometimes the woman will keep the ring and you then have nothing."

Now it was those Indian guys' turn to be baffled.

I guess every culture pays a form of dowry. Whether it's a shiny diamond ring or cash. And in every culture, men work, women nurturer, women nag men, because they do things that make women nag. It doesn't matter if you're brown, black, white or Asian, whether you eat potatoes or rice everyday, we are all very much in common with each other.


  1. I really sincerely enjoyed reading your conversation with the guide! I'm so glad you both were able to learn more and be shocked about the facts on different ends of marriage/love and life! I love how concepts that you and me may find comfortable and acceptable are still quite uncommon in other areas in the world, despite those places having developed cities/areas! The photos are stunning and I hope the rest of your journey and time there is full of more stories!

  2. Your life is so full of Wanderlust. It's incredible how many places I've seen you post about in the short time I've been following this blog. Your photos are always breath taking and inspiring. You capture the true beauty of the world. (:

  3. huh interesting. I just find dowry in todays modern world just not needed. it's an old tradition and does make woman seem like objects. not to put anyone's culture downn or anything. I mean here in the west we have some traditions that I don't agree with either. Anyway BEAUTIFUL pictures. Love your skirt!


  4. Girl! love the scenery and you look so lovely

  5. Hahaha, what a convo with Qurban the tour guide!
    Thanks for sharing the extra facts about the Taj Mahal c:
    The pictures are goooorgeous! You look lovely as
    well ^_^ Xx

  6. Also just to add to the point on asking a girl for job before marriage.....i mean that day its not good to ask her in a way that looks burden to her.. like if she wouldn't do the job after marriage then the boy side will deny for this marriage. It shouldn't be like this... it should be totally on her what she wanted.

  7. These photos are AMAZING, Julie, and it sounds like you're having a great travel experience!

  8. Interesting bit of cultural exchange. I was also baffled by the whole dowry thing when I talked to Indian students about it when I was in college.

    Great pictures, and I hope you're enjoying your vacation!

  9. We are all the same. The dowry thing is interesting. I know the Irish used to do it too, not sure who else. But I wonder...does it work like supply and demand? Do parents have to pay more to marry off a loser daughter (because no demand)? And less for a jewel of a daughter (high demand)? So the bigger the dowry, the more of an insult to the daughter??? Probably not.

    I keep thinking it should be the other way around, that the husband should pay the parents for their daughter. But I guess that would be called something else. :)

    PS - These are incredible pictures. But my favorites are still your visits to railroad tracks.

    1. The tracks were the first "location" shoot I saw on your blog. So it will likely always be #1. :)

  10. Interesting to read and learn different cultures. The photo are gorgeous!

  11. This is why I love travelling, you learn so much more than Universities, masters and PhD will ever teach you.
    In Nigeria the main actually pay the bride"s family a chunk of money. This images look amazing and I will love to visit India in the near future. Thank you for sharing!

  12. simply stunning photos! and i love your skirt!

  13. This is so true, it does not matter what color you are ore where you live in the world... we are all pretty similar :)

    By the way... OMG... you are there at the Taj Mahal... Wow. The pictures are amazing... I can't wait to hear more and no way would I pay anyone 300k to marry my daughter... lol..:)

  14. My hubby and I are looking forward to one day living in India for a couple years. I love the culture, so very different, and the food. It's interesting how "normal" can seems so strange, eh?

    Awesome pictures.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld

  15. Beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing this tour.

  16. Wow! The Taj Mahal looks so beautiful. The perfect backdrop! <3

  17. Wow!! I love the pics, they have a powerful visual impact!:) Nice skirt btw. :)

  18. Looks AMAZING!!!


  19. Okay these pictures are breathtaking!! I also love your skirt!

    <3 Shannon

  20. Stunning look!!!


  21. Beautiful photos! I took up Art Studies as my undergraduate and had to report on several architecture on India and one of them is of course, the Taj Mahal. Researching about it made me fall in love with the structure and the story behind it. I can't believe I haven't gone there yet! It's definitely in my travel bucket list. I love that you shared your conversation with Qurban! Very entertaining and insightful! We might find some cultural traits of a person weird but after much prodding, you'll realize that yeah we do have very similar traits they just manifest in different ways/forms x

    x Francesca of

  22. Yeah, any husband who's given 14 kids by the same wife really should build a Taj Mahal for her.
    It's true that we all have to pay some form of dowry. But the idea of the entire parents working their ass off and blowing their entire savings away just for their kid to get married is just tragic no? :(

    btw, the photos are amazing! :)

  23. these pictures are beautiful! thank you for sharing this tour. you look so pretty!

    xo, carli
    Puppies and Polka Dots

  24. Breath taking photos. What an interesting conversation.

  25. Great pics as always.. LMAO funny post. we still use dowry but i dont think it's that expensive. some are insanely cheaplike $5 but then there's a list of gifts to buy.

  26. It's mind boggling to realize these forms of marriage are still around in our modern world, huh? I loved reading this and being reminded about other cultures and their continuing traditions! Their value of family is certainly something to be admired though, and I couldn't help but laugh at your observation of the Taj Mahal xD

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  27. Wow! What stunning pictures and such a beautiful place. I never realised there was so much gorgeous detail on the walls of the Taj Mahal.

  28. Love the pictures! I did not know the inside of the Taj Mahal was red. And yeah, 14 kids is a bit much!

  29. I have visited Taj Mahal but the way you have captured it is just beautiful.. Very nice clicks..and yes the dowry scenario in India is quite bad, I feel sad too about the dowry part and the amount we spend in weddings.. That's why they say "Marriage is like another Religion in India ;) "

  30. LOVE THIS! Your photos and outfit are just lovely and I really love your writing.
    Oh and earlier this year I was in India as well and visited the Taj Mahal, isn't so craazy beautiful?! And I was also SO shocked that she had 14 childreN!
    Thank you for a great post. :)
    xx Harper

  31. Amazing photos!


  32. Wow! Your blog is awesome and these photos are BEAUTIFUL! I love the content of the post - the dialogue is very interesting to read. Great work - keep doing what you're doing :)

  33. I love the conversation between you and the guide, what an eye opener on the different culture. Taj Mahal is stunning and it's amazing that you got the opportunity to see it in person. Thank you for sharing the pictures with your readers, really appreciate it. xx

    Reflection of Sanity

  34. Wow, beautiful photos! I hope you had a fantastic time. It's such a nice change to read this conversation you had -- definitely a great way to share what you learned about culture!


    Looks by Lau

  35. What an incredible post- I loved it! Funny, and informative, and the pictures are incredible. I am so glad I stumbles here today and I can't wait to read more!

  36. Amazing photos!! After a long break I am officially back and thank you so much for your support!! I deeply appreciate it ;)
    My Lyfe ; My Story

  37. Lucky you, I've always wanted to go! These photos are absolutely breathtaking, how surreal

  38. that is so stunning! i am in awe

  39. These pictures are absolutely stunning! How interesting to learn all that....a great interview!

    Clothes & Quotes

  40. Oh my god! Amazing pictures and gorgeous place!

    x vonyll

  41. I am prolly the 20+ person to say the skirt. The Taj Mahal is high up on my list of places to see for sure! It's so gorgeous...

    Yeah, whether they may acknowledge it or not, there's a kind of dowry system in every culture whether it's in cash, a ridiculous ring, or as Koreans (well, the rich ones) expect "3 rings." I def agree on that no matter where you go, everyone's the same.

  42. You look gorgeous girl! :)
    Thank you for your comment!
    I follow you on Bloglovin and GFC, hope you follow back!

    Isa M., Tic Tac Living
    Oasap Cape - Giveaway

  43. Omigosh, that's a funny conversation.

    I am always glad here in Oman the dowry goes to the Muslim bride, not the husband's family or the girl's father. Though I asked my husband for a 50 dollar ring and thta's it;).