Gandhi’s Memorial Park (Gandhi Rajghat)

New Delhi is one of the most over-populated, dense, crowded, jammed together, claustrophobic, delimited, pressed in, bethronged, enjostled, cramped, packed, crushed, squeezed, tight, heaped, swarmed, mobbed, clogged cities in the world. Even more so than the previous sentence.

People, singly and in family groups, sleep on traffic islands with four lanes in each direction whizzing by on either side and concrete railway viaducts directly overhead. Others by the tens of thousands cook over scraps of refuse on sidewalks, ignoring and ignored by equal numbers of pedestrians.

But don’t look here for photos of them. I would think such pictures as the ultimate insult to those who seem to have created a shell of dignity and privacy around themselves. It’s enough to know they are there. I was barely able to look directly at them myself.

I mention them only for the contrast . . . the other world conflict . . . between whatever it is about India that created and allows such degradation, against the many broad, green, open spaces devoted to tombs and memorials of those who died as long ago as a half-millennium and as recently as the past century.

Case in point . . . the memorial known as the Rajghat on the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and cremated. To my eye, it seems that it occupies upwards of 15 or 20 acres. The space is landscaped with restraint. The paths are simple, the fountains burble softly.

Yes, lovely space, beautifully manicured. When first seen, this sprawling, lush space seems to be a fitting memorial to a man in a loin-cloth who created one of the greatest nations in the world without firing a single shot or raising his fist.

Then I had second thoughts . . . those people living in those desperate conditions . . .

As lovely and peaceful as this place is, as spacious and green as a public park in the heart of London, or New York, or Chicago, or Paris, or Sydney . . . I can’t believe that Gandhi himself would have approved of this space while so many of his people sleep on concrete and many lack even that brutal shelter.

BTW – there’s irony in the sign (photo above) that greets visitors immediately inside the entrance gate.

The final two items prohibit:

  • holding meetings, carrying banners and placard (sic)
  • any other undesirable activity
  • I wonder what Gandhi, who taught the world about peaceful civil disobedience would have said about *those* prohibitions?

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