For Rudyard Kipling and countless others, the Taj Mahal was the embodiment of all things pure, all things holy and all things unhappy. A lover's sigh in marble. The very same Taj Mahal is now dying, as is revealed in "Save The Taj Mahal - An Open Letter To India", Without Walls, at 9pm, tomorrow on Channel 4.
The once luminous building is becoming opaque and dull. The marble is pockmarked and stained, the gleaming white turning yellow, brown and black. There are signs of radical surgery with new marble sitting crudely against the old, but the cancer continues to spread.
I know your government is aware of this since it has recently allocated funds to preserve the world's most beautiful monument. It isn't enough. The measures may make the filth belched out of surrounding factories a little less poisonous, but the Taj will still not survive.
A great deal more is needed to ensure that the Taj Mahal is saved: 6000 square miles around the Taj need to be cleared of industry and traffic; the vile Mathura oil refinery needs to be relocated - preferably to the moon.
The Agra Chamber of Commerce has said that it would rather see the Taj taken away stone by stone than see the Mathura refinery go. Your Hindu fundamentalist friends, the fools of the Bharatiya Janata Party are, in any case, in favour of knocking down the Taj since they believe it was built on the site of a destroyed Hindu temple. It may come to that - but if so, why not prepare a global auction now before any further damage is done? Who knows, an eccentric Texan billionaire might transport it to Dallas, or the Sultan of Brunei might pay for it to be specially flown to a chosen site on his island. Then again, your neighbouring government in Pakistan might put in an offer you couldn't refuse.
This would be a tragedy for India, but at least the Taj would be preserved. Better that than what your Ministry of Tourism bureaucrats have in store. Can it be true that a proposal to make the Taj into a theme park complete with cable cars, fast-food restaurants, a boating lake and simulated moonlight has been accepted by your government?
Many decades ago, Jawaharlal Nehru travelled throughout the country and wrote in awe of how India reminded him of some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reveries had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously. Contrary to what the World Bank tells you, India, and the earth, can no longer accommodate the needs of a triumphalist world market, fumes and all. The lifestyle the International Monetary Fund wishes to impose on the planet can only lead to the destruction of our ecosystem.
In that sense, the future of the Taj concerns much more than the preservation of a building - it concerns the future of our earth.Reuse content