Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Gandhi National Museum

Just a little further away across the street from the Raj Ghat in Delhi is the Gandhi National museum. It is tucked away behind huge trees with thick foliage and is housed in a typical Public Works Department style building. My parents and I were the only visitors to the museum on that very hot morning.

I walked into the museum with a know-it-all attitude believing there could be nothing inside that I did not already know of. The entire first floor had an exhibit on Gandhi and Einstein, mostly pictures, news paper clippings and copies of letters. This exhibit only reinforced my belief that there was going to be nothing new to learn. I had seen all those pictures and read all those letters before. So I climbed up the stairs to the second floor to confirm my belief.

I was very surprised and even shocked by what I saw there. Surprised because of the artifacts on exhibit; items that I had no idea were preserved. There was Gandhi's walking stick he used during the long Dandi march in 1930. Two or three of his waist clocks he used to maintain his legendry punctuality, his khadi dhotis and shawls, his bedding, his razor, his footwear and many other personal items. I thought the highlight of all the exhibits was the blood-stained shawl he wore the on the day he was shot and killed. I was shocked because of the way these items were on display. All his personal clothing and bedding were folded and put inside a glass box! There was no method or order in which items were put on display, there was no climate controlled atmosphere inside the museum. Only old rickety ceiling fans trying in vain to keep visitors cool. The day I visited was so unsparingly hot that it was difficult to focus on the large number of items on display.

I was also very disappointed that there were no audio-visual exhibits. The museum would be so much more interesting with original movie of Gandhi and his recorded voice.

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