If Gandhi were here today, would he be proud of India?
January 26th is a busy day. It’s Australia Day as well as Republic Day in India.
India became a nation in 1947 and a republic in 1950 once its constitution finally came into effect. The man popularly credited with India’s independence from Britain and considered the “Father of the Nation” is Gandhi, née Mohandas Karamchand.
He supported emancipation of women, cottage industries, harmonious relations between the Hindus and Muslims and equality of all people. He disliked the Caste system and didn’t want an independent India to be a divided one.
On January 30th, 1948 Gandhi was shot by a Hindu zealot.
During his life, he saw India split into two: Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. The Caste System is still firmly in place, inequality still exists and the condition of women in India today seems little improved from Gandhi’s time.
In spite of India’s economic growth, there is still great disparity between the rich and poor. Bollywood film stars contrast with a voluminous population existing in poverty. On a road in Delhi is a sign for luxury condos across from poor people living on the streets, their tents adjacent to a busy road. Street kids knock on car windows when you are stopped in traffic begging for anything they can get: food, money, attention. India can be a challenging destination for other reasons too.
It is sensory overload, confronting and with many incidences of an in-your-face style of begging. With such a large population, there is little privacy and lack of personal space. Habits hidden from view in other cultures are very much in view here: bathing, bodily functions (defecating, urinating, vomiting) and death. Bodies, dead and alive, and garbage are strewn all over the streets and in many cases can be seen burning out in the open.
Amongst the magnificent sights, are ugliness, chaos and much dirt. Just this year, on January 1st, Delhi implemented driving restrictions to try to combat its pollution problem. Private cars are only allowed to drive on alternate days, depending whether they have an even or odd-numbered license plate. There are, however, some exemptions to this rule (eg: taxis, emergency vehicles).
Delhi has the distinction of being the world’s most polluted city.
When in Delhi be sure to visit the memorial and museum, Ghandi Smitri. Admission is free and Gandhi’s life is chronicled through the display of information and dioramas. It is built on the site where Gandhi was assassinated. You can literally follow in his footsteps leading up to the exact area where he was shot on his way to prayer.
Out of respect, shoes must be removed when entering this site.
Though sad, it is not morbid to be here. Being in the place where Gandhi lived and died is both a moving and poignant experience. Allow at least a few hours on your visit to take it all in.
WWGT – What Would Gandhi Think, indeed…