Mumbai, Dec. 6 -- A"teardrop on the cheek of time" is how Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal. For some, "teardrop" represents the tragedy that befell Shah Jahan as he spent his last days in captivity, gazing at the mausoleum and its reflection in the Yamuna. Perhaps, the Mughal emperor's words - "the sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs and makes sun and moon shed tears from their eyes" - captured his love for Mumtaz Mahal, but reading those lines today makes me think that the tears are trickling down a sluggishly flowing Yamuna, carrying the waste left by humans.

When Shah Jahan eternalised his love for Mumtaz, he must have believed that the river would be flowing forever. But for the lack of foresight on that one issue,...