Big, Bold, Beautiful with the Nissan Magnite : Part 3, North
What comes to your mind first when you think of Indian monuments? I bet, more often than not, it’s either the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort. Two of our country’s crown jewels that were built during a time when India was ruled by the Mughal Empire. We at evo India have traversed almost the entire length and breadth of the country, including Delhi, but this time around we’d be doing the touristy stuff. Driving to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal and then scouting the Red Fort, on the northern leg of our Big, Bold and Beautiful series with the Nissan Magnite.
For those who aren’t in the know, we’re driving to all the four corners of our country and exploring what the biggest, boldest and most beautiful aspects of that region are while drawing inspiration from the Nissan Magnite’s catchy tagline. The first time around, we showed you what the western part of our country, Maharashtra, had on offer and on the second leg we paid a visit to the royal state of Karnataka. Now was the time to go up north and it was a no-brainer that we would go to Delhi, our country’s stately capital.
To say that I was excited for this third leg, to go to the capital and explore what I had read about in history books back in school, is a huge understatement! This was going to be a look into the past, when our country was the leader in all things radiant, brilliant and majestic. Factors that drew invaders from Central Asia and beyond to our lands, invaders that also brought with them their culture, art and skills and that has led to some of the most beautiful and striking amalgamation of art and architecture that man has seen. The prettiest of which, you all will agree, is the Taj Mahal and that was the first stop on this drive.
We landed in Delhi on what was a very hot morning. 45 degrees of soul sapping heat. Indian summers were on their way out, but they weren’t leaving without a final demonstration of their might. Lucky for us, the Nissan Magnite comes equipped with a pretty powerful air-conditioning system which had no problem coping with the scorching sun. We wasted no time and made our way through the mad scramble of Delhi traffic. It is here that we really appreciated the Magnite’s manoeuverability. Although it’s an SUV with 205mm ground clearance, it is a fairly compact car. Its wide glass house ensures you have a good view of the outside and those butch hood-line gives you an idea of the car’s corners ahead of you. Not to forget its 360-degree camera makes parking and navigating through tight spaces seem like a walk in the park.
From the airport, Google Maps would take you through the city — Delhi and Noida — and then take you to Greater Noida which later connects to the massive Yamuna Expressway that takes you to Agra. But things are different now, with the peripheral expressway circumventing Delhi NCR. These two world class expressways did proper justice to the ‘Big’ aspect we thought they would be and showed us how modern road infrastructure has made travel faster and easier. Imagine travelling to Agra from Delhi a couple of hundred years ago — it would take you days! But not today, for we had at our service the Yamuna Expressway. Named after the Ganga’s longest tributary, the 165km long six-laned highway was one-of-its-kind when it opened in 2012, cutting travel time between New Delhi and Agra by nearly half to around two and a half hours. If you blindfold somebody and take them to the Yamuna Expressway and then tell them that we’re on a German autobahn, they would totally believe you! This road is so straight, you’ve got to be alert or you’ll fall asleep!
Well, boring roads are fast roads. You can munch miles like your favourite snack. A couple of decades ago, doing more than 500-600km in a day was all you could think of. You’d be spent at the end of the day. Now with highways such as these popping out in every corner of the country, a 1000km road trip in a day is very much possible. And it all started with the Yamuna Expressway. This is where the Magnite becomes such a comfortable cruiser. It feels planted on the highway, has the power to maintain triple-digit speeds with ease and the CVT ’box just makes the drive hassle free. Set the cruise control and that’s it. The Magnite takes care of everything else. In fact all you have to do is give it steering commands every now and then for it to follow the occasional bends. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most stress-free drives I have had in my entire life.
Yamuna Expressway is very significant in the history of modern highways in India! It’s wide, has no animal crossings, very little traffic even 10 years after it was made and that is why I had a blast, even when I did little to nothing. We arrived in Agra unfatigued and all set to lay our eyes on the Taj the next day. Now, usually I’m the one who is the last to get ready but that morning I was in the car before anybody else. Shahajahan waited 22 years for the Taj to be completed, but I couldn’t wait even a minute longer just to see it.
You know how the grass is always greener on the other side? How you need to take a step back to appreciate beauty? If you want to watch the Taj Mahal in all its glory, you have to go to Mehtab Bagh. A garden that’s situated on the other side of the Yamuna River, opposite Taj Mahal. It is believed that when Shahjahan made the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz, he is said to have planned a black Taj on the other side of the Yamuna as his own tomb. Unfortunately it was never completed as his son Aurangzeb put him under arrest before that. We don’t know how blurred the lines between fact and fiction are on this one but it is a beautiful story, isn’t it? A black Taj facing the beautiful white Taj, two symbols of eternal love.
Now a garden with a site full of ruins, the view on the other side is still epic and that is where we were headed. With almost no traffic early in the morning the Magnite made quick work zipping through the streets of Agra, courtesy its turbo-petrol engine, and we arrived at Mehtab Bagh. And there it was hiding behind the thick early morning fog, still recognisable because of that iconic silhouette with those four minarets, in all its glory. Just as we got closer, the fog cleared up and we got a real taste of the iconic structure for the first time. Even the chatterbox of the evo India team, our chief filmmaker Sachin, was as silent as a monk after he laid eyes on the Taj for the first time. You just have to, for it treats each and every sense in your body, sending tingles up your spine astonishing you with all its beauty. The Taj Mahal and the garden complex surrounding it must have been an engineering marvel when it was constructed in the 15th century. It took around 20,000 people to build it and the entire complex, and the craftsmen were truly the unsung heroes of the Taj — the masons, the sculptors, the calligraphers, the carpenters. One item checked off the bucket list and it was time to bid adieu to Agra. Another supremely comfortable drive on the Yamuna Expressway later, it was time to say hello to the capital again. Now, our life is full of little stories stitched together. That story of a possible black Taj Mahal facing the magnificent Taj Mahal, it’s a big story, however fictional it may be.
Back to another history lesson. Back in the early sixteen hundreds, Emperor Shahjahan wanted to shift his capital from Agra to Delhi. Guess what he built there? Yes, the Red Fort or the Lal Qila as it is known in Hindi. Delhi was a walled city back then and everyone lived within these and you entered through 14 gates. Five of them survive, all leading to Red Fort. Did you know that the Red Fort was originally red and white? Yes! Neither did I! We had little to no knowledge about the Red Fort, but lucky for us we had invited Inderjeet Singh. A localite and proud owner of a Nissan Magnite who told us a lot about this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another quick history lesson. The design of the Red Fort is credited to Ustad Ahmad Lahori, the same bloke who also designed the Taj Mahal. The fort was plundered of its artwork and jewels during Nadir Shah’s invasion of the Mughal Empire in 1739. Most of its marble structures were subsequently demolished by the British following the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The fort’s defensive walls were largely undamaged, and the fortress was subsequently used as a military post. On August 15, 1947, the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, raised the Indian flag above the Lahori Gate and since then every year on India’s Independence Day the prime minister hoists the Indian tricolour flag at the fort’s main gate and delivers a nationally broadcast speech from its ramparts. If you haven’t been to the Red Fort get ready to be bedazzled by its sheer size. It was a full blown mini-city on its own after all.
We could see that Inderjeet had an eye for the ‘Bold’ things in life after he explained to us all the intricate details of the Red Fort and that is exactly why he chose the Magnite. “It was the Magnite’s styling that got me hooked. Its bold and imposing grille flanked by a couple of very sleek LED headlights and SUV-like head turning styling compelled me to put my money on it,” he says. And that’s one of the factors why Inderjeet and 50,000 other people have chosen it over any other SUV in its class. With that very informative history lesson spread over two days, we concluded the northern leg of our drive. This wonderful drive was made possible with the Magnite and we are super happy to have explored what is a very important and inspiring part of our country. Up next is the eastern leg, so stay tuned!