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Gandhi's Footsteps

June 24, 2013

Separating men from myths can be a difficult task. On our recent trip to India I had an opportunity to visit the house in New Delhi where Mohandas Gandhi was living when he was assassinated. Gandhi has always intrigued me; I’ve long been fascinated by the humble little man dressed in homespun who challenged the greatest empire on earth to became the father of his country and a beacon for non-violence and passive resistance around the world.


Gandhi spent much of his life in prison and over the course of his life he fettered himself with very few possessions. A display case in this house, which Gandhi didn’t own, preserves his few belongings, most noticeably his walking stick, wire rim spectacles and hand-made spindle to create thread for the simple clothes he wore.


Approaching this historical location I remembered a visit to a similar site, another place of blood and pain—Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. Here, I also felt the presence of a great humanitarian, along with a suffocating sense of loss. As a student of history I couldn’t help but consider how different our country might be today had Lincoln been able to complete his task of healing our ravaged country while making manifest the creed of our forefathers: All men are created equal. While passing through the gate leading into the garden where Gandhi was gunned down I wondered if I’d feel the same way for this Lincoln of India.


It’s a beautiful garden and Gandhi must have rejoiced in it, even though he was deathly ill for most of his stay here. He was unhappy that his dream of an independent India had been shattered by Britain’s separation of Northern India into Pakistan. He was seventy-eight years old but determined to walk to Pakistan to reunite the two countries. Unlike Lincoln, who had an army to help achieve his goals, Gandhi intended to go into battle, as he always had, armed only with his love of humanity, his devotion to his country and his fervent desire for peace through nonviolence—a notion he claimed to have adopted from American writer Henry David Thoreau.


On January 30, 1948, weak but determined to pray with the hundreds of admirers gathered in this garden, and seeking blessings for his upcoming pilgrimage to Pakistan, Gandhi slowly walked to the center of this garden. The ceramic footsteps on the ground trace his route to the spot where he was shot by a Hindu radical who thought Gandhi too accommodating to Muslims. A memorial has been erected on the site of the shooting.


As I stared at the ceramic footsteps I couldn’t resist thinking there weren’t enough of them. Hundreds more were needed, perhaps millions, footsteps leading to Montgomery, Gdansk, Cape Town, Damascus and countless other troubled places around the globe, places where the boots of intolerance and prejudice have yet to be obliterated by the footsteps of acceptance and understanding.    


Our world will not be the paradise it was intended to be until the footsteps of this little brown man, this Mahatma, are followed and felt in the hearts of everyone. A silly dream? No doubt, but one Mohandas Gandhi was willing to sacrifice his life for. Einstein was right when he wrote:


“Generations to come will scarce believe that one such as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”




Gandhi’s bed.



Gandhi’s study where he met with world leaders.




The garden where Gandhi was assassinated showing the path of his last steps.



The pavilion marking the site where Gandhi died.



Eloquently put- I too wish he had been "allowed" to finish his lifes walk. We only have had a few true dedicated leaders- willing to put their life on the line for humanity- and where are they today?
By: Kathe W. on June 24, 2013
Well said. I'm sure he'd be sick to see all the strife and division we have in the world today.
By: PT Dilloway on June 24, 2013
it is so sad that we, as humans, continue to strengthen our differences instead of our similarities.
By: TexWisGirl on June 24, 2013
So well and profoundly said. A terrific post~
By: Shelly on June 24, 2013
One of my heroes too, a remarkable man all the more so since he lived such a simple life with humility and great coursage
By: John on June 24, 2013
This little Indian was truly a giant among men!!
By: fishducky on June 24, 2013
thanks for sharing this lovely post and photos with us!
By: Eva Gallant on June 24, 2013
Love this man...and you named two people that I would have added to my dinner guest list...Gandhi and Thoreau.
By: Tabor on June 24, 2013
It would be nice if that happened, but I fear it will never be. People and countries are so very divided. It's sad. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on June 24, 2013
I've always said I have no interest in visiting India, but now I think I would consider it so I could see this one spot. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 24, 2013
Beautifully said!
By: The Bug on June 24, 2013
History has a tendency to repeat itself. Perhaps his footsteps were merely a journey to be continued by another. Human-kind has a tendency of being slow to learn.
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 24, 2013
Like so many others, the person who killed him made his point clear. Sad that it has to be that way.
By: mimi on June 24, 2013
Great story. I knew nothing of how he met his demise. Thanks for the education. S
By: Scott Park on June 24, 2013
A very interesting post, Chatterbox. Wouldn't it be lovely if people could find their way to want peace more than possessions and power. It doesn't seem to be in the cards for now but I too, can wish.
By: Cheryl P. on June 24, 2013
Oddly enough I found out a bit about Gandhi when when I started learning to spin yarn. I have since studied a bit about him, a A lion of a man, with the aspect of a lamb. Such a loss... Excellent post. Cat
By: Cat on June 24, 2013
Many more people should make the trip as you did and see the place. it seems to influence people much more. there are many others besides Lincoln who influence..
By: Red on June 24, 2013
Sadly, people like Gandhi and Lincoln are few and far in between. If there were more like them, maybe change for the better would happen - sooner and faster. But then, what was it Gandhi said? "Be the change you want to see in the world."
By: Pixel Peeper on June 24, 2013
This made me wonder how Gandhi would have answered that personality test a few days ago.
By: Val on June 24, 2013
Wow. How amazing that you got to see this. Live witness of his life cements the appreciation. Good for you!
By: quirkyloon on June 24, 2013
so sad isn't it that such a great peacemaker was taken by such a violent act. he wasn't the first or unfortunately the last. it's great that you were able to see his home and share it with us
By: Fran on June 25, 2013
I wish I could say that I was optimistic.
By: Joe on June 25, 2013
this is a sobering piece. And I think you're right, there are so many places that need footsteps but it seems the fanatics among us just can't stand to get along.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on June 25, 2013
Wow, three-dimensional footprints. That's interesting. Gandhi was a great man. We could use more in the world that thought like he did.
By: Michael Offutt on June 25, 2013
I hope there's another Gandhi among us now.
By: Linda P. on June 26, 2013
it is up to us to walk the path started for us. thank you for this thoughtful post.
By: lime on June 26, 2013
What a brilliant post-Stephen--perhaps your best! I remain optimistic, in spite of the turmoil and violence raging around the world. But yes, leaders of peace like Sadat, Begin and King all lost their lives for peace. I am pondering this more now since I've read this post!
By: Michael Manning on July 2, 2013

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