First of all, a huge thank you to all those who have read “Visit the Taj.” I am completely overwhelmed and gratified! I have loved reading all your comments and thoughts concerning the post and the Taj Mahal/India in general. As others have noted in their comments, India is a wonderful country to visit and definitely one to add to that “Places to Visit Before I Die” list I’m sure we all have. I visited the Taj Mahal in the last week of my trip, after traveling to Jaipur, Delhi, and Ladakh (Himalayas), and I have other posts concerning some of these travels if anyone is interested in scrolling down to find those as well.
While reading everyone’s comments, I started thinking about other things from my trip to India that I want to write about. Writing about India is nearly impossible. There is no way I will ever be able to do the country justice through my words, but I continue to try regardless.
I didn’t want to write something just for the sake of writing, so I instead continued reading The Brothers Karamazov for my 20th Century English Literature class. I’ve had some fun with this book so far. At the lunch table yesterday, I asked the guys in my house who could pronounce the title (I can’t), which produced some interesting results. I also found out two of them can actually speak Russian—score! This book has produced a few gems, including “Don’t be afraid of bare-footed wenches,” “For that you’ll go straight to hell and be roasted there like mutton,” “I spent the rest of the money on such an orgy that the new major was obliged to reprimand me,” “She’s a deceitful, shameless hussy,” and many, many more. I don’t think I’ve ever read the words “buffoon,” “fool,” and “orgy” so much in my life.
That being said, a character in the book, Father Zossima, is respected by many in the book as an Elder at the local Monestary where the book’s protagonist is residing. Most of the characters revere him, seeking him out for advice and prayers. One chapter titled “Peasant Women Who Have Faith” describes how women seek out Father Zossima for guidance and help in their spiritual life. Reading about this character, I was reminded of someone else who was equally sought out for guidance and spiritual help—Mahatma Gandhi.
I’ve known who Gandhi is my whole life, but it wasn’t until right before I left for India that I really started researching him. I had no idea about his work in South Africa, another country I’ve visited and loved (https://wordifications.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/it-is-dangerous-you-will-be-killed/). I feel like Gandhi is one of those people that gets quoted an unnecessary amount in the wrong context, or quoted poorly or for the wrong reasons, reducing his words to just that—words, and not messages that touched the lives of millions of people.
Rahul and I visited Raj Ghat, his memorial place, and Gandhi Smriti, located in the Birla House, both in Delhi. Gandhi Smriti documents Gandhi’s life works and how he spent the last few days of his life, as this is where he was shot dead by a Hindu zealot when walking to a prayer meeting. The last words he spoke were Hey Ram, loosely translated to “Oh God,” which is inscribed on Raj Ghat in the picture above.
Gandhi Smriti was especially spectacular, and not just because his worldly possessions are on display here. It was definitely a heart-stopping moment to look at his famed walking stick, glasses, and his residence for the last days of his life with my own eyes. But Gandhi was more than this. While we were there, walking through the museum and then following his last steps to a monument located where he was actually shot, I began to marvel at who Gandhi was.
Let me explain—I definitely have my passions in life. I love writing, reading, my family and friends, Rahul, good conversation, coffee, laughter, rainy days. But I honestly can’t think of something I’m so passionate about that I would completely turn my life over to devote all my time to it, as Gandhi did. I think people fail to realize Gandhi actually had a career before becoming the Gandhi we all know today. I’m definitely one of those people. He was progressing through life as many of us would—attending school, establishing a career, developing a family. Except he had something different in him; the desire, passion, and willpower to actively work toward the things he saw vital to human life and against the things he saw that tore humanity down as a whole. As he himself said, “All men are brothers,” and his daily life was a testament to this fact. Many others who have goodwill in their heart and intentions still fail to let this shine through everyday as he did.
In addition to Gandhi Smriti being a beautiful place, it also proved to be a wonderful place to think about those things we often don’t want to think about. For me, it was how much does my faith really mean to me, would I ever accomplish things in life on the same level Gandhi did, what risks would I be willing to take for the good of mankind. I don’t have answers for any of these, and I honestly don’t think I will for a long time. But this site and Raj Ghat are excellent places to start progressing toward not only acknowledging this questions, but addressing them as well.
On a totally unrelated note, it’s that time of year again!