Remember that nursery rhyme Twinkle twinkle…up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky…I often wondered how would it feel to be up above in the sky and be able to look down.
There must be some magic in the sky that all the birds fly, there must be some magic in the sky that stars twinkle there, and the sun and moon are in love with it. The clouds float in the sky as if trying to find a place to anchor in the blue sea. I always had this desire of flying up high where I could float with the clouds, may be tweet to a bird flying by and then gaze the world around myself – a world that was beyond the ordinary.
I am a dreamer and dreams do turn into reality as happened when I was invited by Skywaltz on a trip to Agra to be a part of the Taj Balloon Festival organized for the first time last year in November.
This year the ballooning is just round the corner and when I read about it all the sweet and unbelievable moments came rushing to my head taking me to the skies of Agra. The skies that were my playground for a few moments, from where I could look down and wonder, “Is this how God sees us from above?” seem to be calling me again. I saw happy and bewildered faces of people who woke up on that pleasant morning and were just getting ready for the day when they saw a few people up above in the sky looking at them, waving at them and perhaps the ground folks were wondering if there is an alien attack and there are UFO’s floating all around.
It all started when I reached Agra a day before the scheduled flight and the same evening saw the prelude to the climax of the next day. Quite close to where I was staying there was a special evening program organized called the Night Glow Concert where the balloons lit up in sync with the music and there were tethered flights which rose to certain height from the ground. This was a curtain-raiser of sorts and before I could catch some sleep it was morning already, morning here means 4 ‘o’clock. All the balloons, pilots, copilots , enthusiasts and helpers had to reach the banks of the river Yamuna from where the balloons would take off. Now was the mammoth task of assembling the balloon and then pumping it with some propane (gas used to fuel the balloon).
My pilot was Chris Dewhirst from Australia who had been flying these balloons for the last 35 years. He told me the size of our balloon was 105 thousand cubic feet (don’t calculate see the picture to get an idea). As it was my first time in the hot air balloon I was both excited and a little nervous and I without thinking asked him how safe it was to be in a balloon so high up in the sky and he calmed me down by saying that it was much safer than driving on the road (not too sure if he was talking about Australian or the Indian roads).
As we flew past the Taj Mahal I could not help but pinched myself and realized the moment was for real. I could see the Taj from a new perspective. The Taj Mahal still looked iconic and its beauty still charmed me like a little child who longs for a toy he has seen in his dreams and then finally one day gets it.
There were around 15 balloons in the sky from different countries like USA, UK, Germany, France and Spain to name a few.
It was an experience of a lifetime and will stay fresh in my memories forever. Even Emperor Shahjahan did not have the privilege of looking at the monument he constructed for his beloved in the manner I looked at it; right from the top, like a bird. Perhaps I will never look at the Taj the same way again; rather I would appreciate it much more and also understand the emotion behind the monument in a different manner. Because in the end, it’s all about perspectives.
What:Taj Balloon Festival
When: 25 to 30th November,2016
Where: Taj Mahal, Agra