5, Tees January Marg

At a time when jingoism has won its grandest victory in our political life, when the descendants of Gandhi’s murderer are rulers of the land, there is a place in the very heart of the country’s capital where Gandhi’s spirit still lives.

Gandhi Smriti – 5, Tees January Marg. On that day, the 30th of January, in 1948, he was killed when the assassin shot three bullets into his chest at point blank range. The assassin and his victim are no more, but the ground at which this happened is.

The state, like all states, has tried to ruin the truth of Gandhi’s legacy. The path on which he walked to the moment of his death is decorated with artificial footprints of cement. The very spot where he came face to face with his assassin and was killed by him now has an enclosed little structure commemorating the tragedy. The head of the garden, where, like everyday, he was going to address a prayer meeting at twilight, is decorated with an artless, superficial mural that compares him to Krishna and the Buddha, thus, at once deifying him and making him out to be a figure we are incapable of reaching, knowing and indeed, becoming. Perhaps the greatest ally of Nathuram Godse, in posterity, has been the Indian state, which has made Gandhi into a god. It is difficult to say what would have hurt him more – those three bullets from Godse’s Beretta pistol or this total deification of him, which is by necessity, also a total dehumanisation.

But strangely, in the midst of all the self-satisfied bureaucratic games, a presence floats with the wind. There is tranquility, peace, and a grave sense of history. Despite all the artificiality, when one stands in the garden, one knows that this is where the he spent the last 5 months of his life and where that life was brought to a violent end. Inside the building, among many things, there hangs a cartoon – Gandhi is chatting with Martin Luther King, saying, “The strange thing about these assassins, Dr. King, is that they think they have killed us.”

A strange thing, indeed. Because for anyone with a sense of Gandhi the man, being at this place is to know that the assassin has not killed him. The large but sparse room in which he lived, and from which he walked his final steps – it is there. A low mattress, a bolster pillow on it, two small, low tables in front of it, a few books on the tables, wooden slippers by their side, and total silence. That is the room. A photograph of Sardar Patel and Gandhi at that very spot, minutes before he died, hangs on the wall.

The rest of the building is a mass of writings of and by Gandhi, printed and put up on the walls, along with pictures, to educate visitors. To read them all would take a few hours. Rather than educating, what they truly do is to create an image of deity Gandhi, the latest addition to our vast and fascinating pantheon. One more reason to entertain ourselves and forget about the emptiness of our lives. To take a picture and share it on Facebook, and then carry on with our lives as usual. That is the collaboration with the assassin.

Yet, in the garden, in the room and in another room with a long, detailed description of the events of 30th January, 1948, something persists.

It is the knowledge that despite our fears, there is another part of us which is not afraid, which knows that truth lies in the absolute identity of all beings, and that the only manifestation of that identity is love. In his own words – “In the midst of death, life persists. In the midst of untruth, truth persists. In the midst of darkness, light persists.”

The persistence of a life, a life that evokes peace and tranquility, is the triumph of a man’s spirit over all our needs to deify him. A man like you and me, not a god to be bowed to and forgotten.

gandhi line drawing

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~ by tdcatss on June 1, 2015.

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