Following the Final Footsteps of Gandhi
One of the most memorable experiences of my life was visiting the Gandhi Memorial in Delhi, India, the site of his assassination. Not the least of the site’s salience was its deep serenity, amidst a city and country that seemed to me at the time riven with conflict and chaos. But of course it was much more than that. Gandhi has been an incalculable influence on me, though I still struggle to understand him and don’t agree with him on all points. I have read him. I have taught him. The film Gandhi is still in my top five list. I have attempted to embody and practice some of his ideals and strategies, mostly falling absurdly short.
In honor of his birthday this week I reflect on that moment:
One solemn foot in front of the other, I follow the marked stone prints of a man who seems larger-than-life. Gandhi walked this path in his daily meditation rounds. I imagine him sitting peacefully in his simple robes spinning his famous wheel in the adjacent room where he spent his final months. A bus load of Indian school children are unloading and I imagine them struggling to understand Bapu, the father of their nation. I too want to somehow understand the man better. Continuing forward, the footprints stop abruptly in the middle of the yard. A marble stone column inscribed in Hindi marks the exact spot.
A blood-soaked dhoti.
A fallen saint.