India

There is No Preparing for India

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Grandfather Gandhi, India | Comments Off on There is No Preparing for India

There is No Preparing for India

Post by Bethany Hegedus In 2012, I married my husband, Vivek Bakshi, a man whose voice if I once heard it on a dollar bus in Jersey City would have made me blood pressure rise. My husband is from India, born and raised in Lucknow. He studied at Indian Institute of Technology  (IIT Kanpur) and has lived in the United States for the last thirty years. (And for anyone wondering, my father also learned from his prejudices and he accepted my husband into our family with arms wide open. His race and nationality were never up for discussion.) In late 2013, we traveled to India for a family wedding. It was my first trip and I was beyond myself excited. After meeting a few of my husband’s childhood friends, one of which who commented on how accommodating I was, I wrote this in my journal. Here, my presence is thankful—grateful. This country, this family, lost this man, whether it meant to gift him to me or not—it has. This man, my husband of almost two years, knows I am not accommodating, for the sake of people pleasing, which I could care less about, but out of a respect for him, his family, and this country that gave me a purpose—The Gandhi book—which is soon to come out and which, in turn gave me a family: my husband, his daughter, and our dog. All of which make up that family for now. I am not surprised that as I drive around in the back of a small packed sedan there is a smile on my face. It is exhilarating here. The place is brimming with life, with struggle, with pride and ego and spirituality and the shedding of the false self. My husband told me, “There is no preparing for India.” I didn’t understand this before I arrived but now I do.  There is no preparation needed here, because in India, as with life itself, which I believe is the way our Master intended, we learn as we go. We take the moment before us and we say, ‘Namaste.‘” We surge our vehicle into the road and announce—it is my turn. We shout and we haggle and we weep and we inwardly smile when the wife of your husband’s brother says to you, about your first sari, “It is alright that we wear a similar shade, we are sisters.” And we are. The thread of my family is many colors....

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On Visting Aga Kahn Palace

Posted by on Mar 3, 2014 in Arun Gandhi, Grandfather Gandhi, India | Comments Off on On Visting Aga Kahn Palace

On Visting Aga Kahn Palace

Our family trip to India took us to Pune; where my husband’s family now lived, Agra; home of the Taj Mahal, and Lucknow; where the family wedding would take place and where my husband was raised. I desperately wanted to go to Wardha, to the Sevagram ashram where Arun lived with his grandfather is, but our schedule wouldn’t allow for it. But in Pune, there was the Aga Kahn Palace, and on a bright sunny day, we headed there. Arun’s grandmother Katurba had died at the Aga Kahn Palace, both she and her husband and many of his aides were interned—imprisoned there from 1942-1944. As the ports were closed to Arun’s family in South Africa, during WWII, Arun was not able to see his grandmother again before she passed. I went to the Aga Kahn Palace with that knowledge heavy in my heart. We walked—my husband, his childhood friend Gopal, and our nephew Anand— through the rooms that now held statues and paintings of Mohandas K. Gandhi and paperwork from the Quit India Movement. We stood outside the glass partition that separated visitors from the room where the Mahatma and his wife were kept interned and outside that room, there under glass were Gandhiji’s sandals, his spectacles and a few other belongings. I took pictures and touched the glass, wishing I could touch the sandals, that walked alongside Arun, that almost out walked him, with his grandfather’s hurried strides, as is depicted so brilliantly by Evan Turk in the Grandfather Gandhi illustrations. At the back of the palace in the gardens, Gandhi’s ashes are on display. I stood there thinking about how Arun had just travelled back to South Africa from Sevagram, a few weeks before Gandhi was shot and killed. Like with his grandmother, Arun was not able to return for the funeral pyre. It was a very personal pilgrimage to me. Every moment I was in India, participating in a traditional Hindu wedding, meeting my husband’s family, seeing where my husband lived as a boy—all of it was personal but going to the Aga Kahn Palace was the closest connection I had to the work I had done with Arun on Grandfather Gandhi. I stayed in the gardens for a bit, and as we left, a bus with some school children pulled in. Then another bus. And another. I had my camera and I began taking pictures of the hundreds of kids who were there for a school trip. I became less and less shy as more and more buses pulled in. I began to talk to the kids, “What are you here to see?” “Gandhi’s ashes,” they answered. Eventually the kids began to pose for me, giving me high fives, and peace signs as they passed. My husband, nephew and family friend waited for me. In fact, Anand had to move the car we were driving so the buses wouldn’t pack us in, but none of them rushed me as I stood there in that sea of kids, in various different school uniforms, and smiled. Their past and my past, in that moment, were...

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