Of Agra Fort and the right incentives

As we entered the Agra Fort, we were still smarting from the memories of the commercial-minded, chaddar-pushing tout that we had ended up with as our guide at Fatehpur Sikri (more on that in another post).

However, when an enterprising gentleman offered us a 50% discount on a guided tour (since it was almost closing  time) and added that we pay him the agreed amount only if we were happy with his services; we jumped on his offer. Performance-based pay? Most Definitely!

As the tour progressed, he regaled us with intriguing facts and trivia about the Agra Fort, and transported us back to an era of grandeur and opulence… and also betrayal and bloodshed.

And so we imagined –

The echo of hooves of an attacking army’s cavalry, slowed down by the Z-shaped entrance and the sloping approach way,

The glitter of the gilded ceilings as a central diamond reflected the glow of hundreds of oil lamps,

The tinkle of the anklets of servant girls as they ran across the courtyard to awaken the king and queen,

The fragrance of the rose water fountain that cooled the palace in the scorching summer months,

The delighted or dejected cries of the masses as justice was dispensed in Deewan-e-aam,

And the pining of imprisoned Shah Jahan as he gazed out at the Taj from the Musamman Burj.

It was a lovely journey indeed… one for which we happily paid much more than the quoted fee.

So, next time you are unsure about hiring a guide – try offering them the properly designed incentive, and see how it goes!

P.S. We also saw the sound and light show that runs every evening at the Agra Fort, which offers an overview of the Mughal dynasty. Unfortunately, neither was it much of a history lesson, nor a visual treat like the Sound & Light show at Old Fort in Delhi. If you are even remotely aware of Indian history, this one is quite avoidable.