Sunday, Sep 12th of 2010. New Delhi.
Yamuna was in spate. After visiting the Nizamuddin bridge to see Yamuna flow in full glory, decided to visit Birla House, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.
The place is now known as Gandhi Smrti (Gandhi Memorial).
When we reached there, the skies opened up, and it started pouring. A big sedan drove in, and an elderly politician stepped out, accompanied by a band of men. “Kshatriya Shiromani zindabad zindabad” slogans were raised by his men, shattering the peace of the place.
Leaving them to be, we started to explore the place.
The first thing that captured my sight was the “World Peace Gong”, in the front garden.
The gong, bearing the national flags of all UN Countries and symbols of the major religions of the world, was presented to Gandhi Smrti by Indonesia, and was installed here on Sep 11, 2006 (almost four years ago, to the date). This was to mark 100 years of Satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi had started his Satyagraha movement on Sep 11, 1906 in South Africa, to protest against a law that mandated all Asians to submit their finger prints and get formal registration with the powers that be. And in 2006, the South African Deputy Premier had come to inaugurate this “World Peace Gong” to honor the Mahatma.
So, yes, 9/11 was the date Mahatma started his Satyagraha, a hundred plus years ago…
Going past the gong, one turned across the building to go behind, looking for ‘Balidan Sthal’, the place where the Mahatma was assassinated. On the way, there was a shamiana set up on one part of the garden, where a function was about to commence.
At the back of the building, we found a statue of the Mahatma spinning the charkha.
To the left of the tree seen in the picture, was the door-like window from where the Mahatma stepped out of, on 30-Jan-1948.
He was walking to join the prayer meeting in the garden behind. His walking route is marked….
And there, in the garden, an assassin shot him.
A canopy has been erected to mark the place.
His last words, “Hey Ram!” engraved in the stone marker.
Standing in the rain, mouthing a silent prayer to God, paying homage to the great Mahatma… After doing Pradakshina of the balidan-sthal, turned back…
Now, the attention was drawn to the function being held in one side of the garden. The one to which the politician had come.
Here is what it was.
They were celebrating the birthday of Feroze Gandhi.
A picture of the stage.
Stood for a while in the tent to escape the rain.
Going out, one noticed a poster, that jolted me… Description of the carnage at Chandni chowk in 1857… This was the British imperialism that Mahatma did Satyagraha against…Click on the picture to read…
I came back to Gandhi smrti a few days later, to buy some books. Books written by the Mahatma. Not available in the regular bookshops…
A bright day.
While I paid the bill, I noticed all the staff trooping to the garden. I followed them… The group gathered in the garden, next to the Balidan-sthal, and they commenced singing songs, from different religions. As they sang Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, I too joined them from far…
Walking across to one of the security guards there, I asked him if this bhajan was a regular feature. “No”, he said. “A new Director has taken charge today. And she has called for this multi religion prayer gathering of all the staff”, he said.
“The Mahatma lives!”, I thought…
Signing off this post with a picture of the prayer-group, from across the canopy where the Mahatma took the name of Ram, one last time.