January 30, 2008

Dated Yet Timeless


I stood in front of the glass and looked in. A yellowing copy of Young India, sheathed in a protective plastic cover, lies on a short stool by the floor seating. A shaft of sunlight lights up a pair of paduka (wooden footwear) facing the seating as if warming them up for the wearer on the seating, except that there is no one there.

To the back of the room beyond the glass partition, long after they ceased spinning cotton, several charkhas now line the wall in the silence of noon shadows. A symbol so potent that the charkha came to adorn the flag of the Provisional Government of Free India. It is difficult not to sense his presence there, not with his belongings seemingly awaiting his return even though it’s sixty years now to this day. Sixty long years that sometimes feels like yesterday with the portent of tomorrow that refuses to pass, as if in its passing India would somehow cease to be young.

Then I step over to the balcony overlooking Laburnum Road, and look down on the quiet street through the canopy like he must have done many a time between 1917 and 1934.

Stillness pervades the rooms, not unlike the stillness of an era that outlives its age even as it struggles to retain its relevance.

In the late afternoon light, shadows seemingly reveal what the light seeks to hide. I turn away and walk absently to the next room.

24 comments:

kenju said...

Where is the Laburnum Road of which you speak?

Anil P said...

Kenju: In Old Mumbai, off Nana Chowk in Gamdevi (also known as Gaodevi and Gramdevi) a road passes by the Gamdevi Police Station.

There if you were to ask someone for directions to Mani Bhavan, where Mahatma Gandhi once stayed, they will point you to Laburnum Road.

bluemountainmama said...

very evocative imagery.... i can just imagine what it might feel like to walk where he walked.

mark said...

lovely...nice photos too

dharmabum said...

i went to sabarmati as a boy, probably when i was in class 8 or something, and i remember the vibes there...there was something about that man. he's probably the most written about personality of our era...like him or dislike him, one can simply not deny the extent of his reach, he still continues to influence thinkers around the world.

beautiful post, as always.

Shantanu said...

Great photography! Very evocative.

Anil P said...

Bluemountainmama: Thanks. Knowing the difference Gandhi made to the world, and to generations thereafter, makes for a poignant visit.

Mark: Thank you.

Dharmabum: Thank you. Personally I never saw a reason to dislike him, irrespective of the findings resulting from dissecting his family life, or the view among sections who held him responsible to agreeing to partition since the jury is still out on that one.

Just going through his vision, articulated brilliantly in his writings, and their subsequent implementation on the ground, is evidence enough of the strength of his belief in ahimsa and related world view.

Simply put, he was far ahead of his time in more ways than one, even though he may not have been the most 'perfect' of men!

Shantanu: Thank you. Just felt shadows would do justice to the absence of 'light' in the room.

chiefbiscuit said...

A poignant post indeed evoking an important and venerated man - a history maker and a life changer. Such people are rare.
It must have been wonderful to be in that room and sense his presence and influence.

Dev said...

- WHAT A POST. I simply have to write a one line post. Only to give a link to this.

Dev said...

Anil Bhai - I was so impressed with this post of yours, that I wrote a post inspired by it. Actually it just came to me and i posted it within 10 minutes of reading this. Here is the link if u want to see what I wrote.

http://aditiprincess.blogspot.com/2008/02/writing-on-net.html

I have read his autobiography and he make several references to Mani Bhavan and Laburnum road and his walks to and from there. Reading the book made my mind imagine the setting, and there was a blurred picture. Thanks for bringing it alive. Good Shots as well, as usual.

backpakker said...

liked your photography...

Anil P said...

Chiefbiscuit: Yes, such people are rare. A visit to Mani Bhavan can be a humbling experience. Somehow silences took on a different meaning there, more of reflection.

In the backdrop of the current state-of-affairs in the world vis-a-vis political disputes and the lack of distinction between combatants and civilians resulting in indiscriminate killing, standing there and looking in and letting what he stoood for sink in makes for a poignant experience, a deja vu feel to it.

Thanks for visiting.

Dev: Thank you. I'll surely be checking it out. Laburnum Road is a lovely road to walk on, flanked by old-world houses that project their character onto the street. Mostly quiet, with little or no traffic on the road, Laburnum Road runs straight.

If you were take it after visiting Mani Bhavan, you would almost get the feeling that the road is a natural extension of the peace and quiet of Mani Bhavan.

I'll be detailing this in a post sometime soon.

Backpakker: Thank you.

Shekhar said...

Hello Anil,
I visited your blog after a long time...man I continue to say the same but - you write so well...I felt like being there...you simply rock :)

cheers,
Shekhar

Carolyn said...

This was a beautiful tribute! Your writing is poetic in nature :)

Anil P said...

Shekhar: Welcome back, thanks for sentiment :)

Carolyn: Thank you.

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

Beautiful work. By just looking at the first one (and before reading further), I knew these were remnants of Gandhi's life. One can recognise him anywhere.

Anil P said...

Ms. Cute Pants: Thank you. Gandhi is easily recognisable, one might put it down to an universal acknowledgement of his values even if universally ignored in implementation excepting a few instances.

havetoremember said...

Anil, what lovely photography. It's breath taking. Thanks for stopping by my blog...ese I would have never discovered yours. :) Your blog is a permanent bookmark now.

ligne said...

your pictures have this touch of unreal..as if they were from 1940s or something :) howd u do it?

Anil P said...

Havetoremember: Thank you :)

Ligne: Thank you. The pictures aren't, the place is.

Maybe the accompanying text gives the pictures that feel. I wouldn't know for sure :)

Ms.N said...

Nice... I was just going to ask where exactly this place was, and I saw your comments.

Anil P said...

Ms. N: Thanks.

Paramvir Thakur said...

A very touching tribute..truely Gandhiji was way ahead of his times.. the feel at Gandhi Smriti ( Birla House ) at 30 Jan Marg where he was martyred, is equally poignant & reminds of the days during that era.
My grandfather was a gandhian who wore only khadi throughout.. once as a child I had asked him if he doesn't long for the rich fabrics & colours one sees around..he replied " no there is no desire..it doesn't matter once you take a decision..i had given up wearing these on gandhiji's call while still at college "....my mom tells that even in far away rajasthan in a typical middle class family..dinner was not cooked the day Gandhiji passed way ( i call him that way because i have on several occassions as a child been scolded on referring him as gandhi )

Anil P said...

Paramvir Thakur: I agree. He was way ahead of his times. I wouldn't be surprised if the place where he grew up, the influence of his parents, and an innate ability came together to shape his destiny and that of the nation.

It's interesting that you mention 'a typical middle class family' to illustrate how the nation related to Gandhiji.

It would be interesting to lear more about your grandfather vis-a-vis the freedom struggle.