Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Following Gandhi's last steps

The raised concrete footprints chart the last steps of Mahatma Gandhi.

They lead from the door of his simple room and stop a short distance away, where he was shot dead on his way to evening prayers on 30 January 1948.

Gandhi's last footsteps
They are a simple, but poignant, reminder of the last moments of Gandhi's epic 78 years; a life that saw him transform from lawyer to politician to civil rights campaigner to "Father of India".

It was here at Gandhi Smriti, formerly Old Birla House, in New Delhi that Gandhi lived the last 144 days of his life.

The footsteps leading from his simple accommodation
Apart from his footsteps, Gandhi Smriti also preserves the room where Gandhi lived, complete with his simple belongings, such as his walking stick, spectacles, spinning wheel and sandals.

As part of his non-cooperation platform, Gandhi invented a small, portable spinning wheel that could be easily transported, encouraging fellow Indians to boycott foreign-made goods, including cloth.

Gandhi's simple accommodation and meagre possessions

Elsewhere in the complex, the Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum remembers his life and his feats.

In line with Gandhi's humble and nonviolent resistance, Gandhi Smriti itself has been kept small and intimate.  I get the feeling that little has changed in the house and the grounds since the day Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu extremist.

At the entrance is a statue of Gandhi, flanked by a boy and girl holding a dove, emerging from a globe, meant to symbolise his universal concern for the poor and deprived.  The base of the sculpture reads: "My life is my message".

Like most who learn about his life, I admire his honesty, compassion, fairness and peaceful approach, and it is little wonder he continues to be praised in his homeland and abroad.  Sadly, I can't help but think they don't make leaders like this anymore.

Gandhi statue at Gandhi Smriti entrance
I visited Gandhi Smriti on my first day in New Delhi and my first day in India.

It was an introduction to a man I was to be constantly reminded of during my remaining time in India, such was his impact on the country as it forged its independence from Britain (achieved in 1947).

His last moments may be preserved here at Gandhi Smriti, but it feels as though anyone visiting India will see traces of Gandhi's footsteps across the country.

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