Thursday, April 1, 2010


The heat in New Delhi in July is oppressive. It traps you, it suffocates you.  Just walking down a sidewalk tests your mettle.  You’re surrounded by people, by noise, by smells, and muggy, smoggy air.  The world is chaotic, unorganized, and making your way through this strange land seems a daunting task.  
You can hide from the heat in a hotel, escape the crowds, and find shelter in the air conditioned lobby. But you can’t leave the noise behind you. There is a perpetual racket being made by car horns and the tuk-tuks that run on C.N.G that ceases only late at night.  But there is no quiet then either. There is the sound of the wild dogs howling and prowling the city at night.  And by the time this stops, it’s time for the sound of engines again. 
The Birla House, on Tees January Marg, is where Mohandas Gandhi, the father of India spent the last 144 days of his life.  This is the spot where the great man, who fought with his words, not his fists, and led India out of British control, was martyred. 
Beyond the white house, you follow Gandhi’s footsteps, the last he would take. You find yourself on a lawn, a large, vibrantly green lawn.  You realize that it’s different here. The heat has abated, and you can feel an almost breeze on your skin.  And the silence.  You’re suddenly miles away from the blaring horns of cars on the other side of house.  You’re in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, and it’s quiet.  You’re distant.  You’re separate from the rest of the world, which goes on rushing by.  You feel free from it all, free from the heat, the noise.  
And then you feel sad.  Unexpectedly sad.  A life is such a beautiful thing, such a terrible thing to take.  But what can you do, against such hate and anger? You stop for a moment, and think.  This place, really, it is beautiful.  Its beauty isn’t just soft edges and strong colors.  Its beauty is in its freedom, it’s the release of a soul. It’s the ability to find beauty in an ugly thing.  It’s the capacity to shake the world, to make things better.  It’s the power of one life. 
You’ve answered your question.  Against the anger and the hate you can be strong.  You can keep on going, though your feet may hurt and bleed.
And then you’re back to the world, roused from the thoughts you were absorbed in.  A bird is perched on the spot of Gandhi’s martyrdom.  It chirps prettily, and takes flight.  You smile as it spreads its wings and heads into the warm, Indian sky, free.