Monday 24 August 2015 at 21:50In the Footsteps of Gandhi
by Yeb Saño,
“Recall the face of the poorest and the most helpless man whom you may have seen and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he be able to gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj or self-rule for the hungry and also spiritually starved millions of our countrymen? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away.” –Gandhi's TalismanTeeming with color. Abounding with a certain exquisite charm.
New Delhi is both an assault and a treat on all senses.
We have barely arrived in Delhi and I am already enamored by the city, pleasantly surprised with the abundance of lush greenery, adequately exhilarated with the bustle of people and whizzing vehicles. The city seems to be trapped in a morphing phase, eternally evolving from being an ancient enclave into a modern conurbation, but really unable to escape from its colorful and enthralling past. It is a bizarre mix of exceptionally tranquil sanctuaries and equally astonishing harried bedlam.
On the regular roads, stepping off the sidewalk is the start of a nerve-wracking jostle with cars, buses, bicycles, motorcycles, and rickshaws both gas-powered and human-pedaled. In the heart of the Delhi, you will find vast tracts of wooded land with luxurious foliage and off the beaten path you might discover a spectacular temple or ancient tomb ensconced.
The People’s Pilgrimage had arrived in India, and in the land of pilgrimages, we were surrounded by places of great sacred symbolism, Hindu or otherwise, grand testaments of democracy, and remembrances of defiance against conquest.
The Pilgrimage kicked off from Raj Ghat, where the eternal flame perpetually burns at the very samhadi of the great Mahatma Gandhi.
We are reminded of his 'Talisman,' etched in stone in both Sanskrit and English, asking us “if the step you contemplate is of any good use” for the “poorest and most helpless man”. In the face of the global challenges we face as a human family, it is in our humblest belief that the steps we contemplate are of great significance and is indubitably of “good use” for those who have been marginalized in society. And so we are enthused to begin our steps upon reflecting on this maxim.
As pilgrims, we paid homage to the Father of the Nation at his memorial, and with solemnity we reflected on what he once said: “The future depends on what you do in the present.” Walking across India as part of the People’s Pilgrimage, it is our way of helping shape the future.
The arrival of this inter–faith global environmental movement is seen as an important milestone in a country that has suffered the extremes of climate through heat waves, droughts, floods and cyclones, but also shows leadership with massive investment in clean solar power.
In all humility, I do not contemplate that the footsteps we take are at all comparable to the journey that Gandhi had embarked upon for his people.
But it is our purposeful intention that we follow the footsteps of the votary of non-violent action in our aspiration to have justice, peace, and love prevail in the world. The Salt March Monument in Delhi (a.k.a. Gyarah Murti) was a truly uplifting sight, poetry in stone, a 30-foot Gandhi leading ten people, depicting the 240-mile march in 1930 in Dandi, that proved to be a crucial milestone in India’s struggle for independence.
The walk from Raj Ghat to Jantar Mantar took us a couple of hours, braving the sun but more so the harsh disarray of Delhi traffic. Jantar Mantar in Delhi, an astronomical observatory (one of four in India), is reknowned for being such an important example of Indian scientific brilliance and virtuosity built as early as the 18th century. It sits in the area of Delhi where political and social expressions are freely heard.
We eventually reached our aim for the day: India Gate.
This imposing structure stood in the area of the Rajpath, one of the most important roads in Delhi where the Republic Day parade is held, and which features in the opening scene of the movie Gandhi. India Gate is a war memorial, mainly honoring the brave soldiers from the British Indian Army who died in the first world war.
This impressive monument also is uncannily reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe, which stands in the heart of Paris, where all roads lead to this year as world leaders gather in November.
In the face of climate change and all the adversity we have to face in this world, this is not just a journey. It is a battle – one that we cannot afford to lose.
Special thanks to Pinaki Dasgupta and friends in New Delhi for the gracious solidarity. We are truly honored to be walking with you.
Follow Yeb's journey through India here
Photo credit: Nitin Bhardwaj