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|| आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः || Let nobel thoughts come to us from everywhere, from all the world || 1.89.1 Rigveda ||
Section : Literature

How Indira Gandhi\'s ghost is haunting her memorial
Something lay trapped here. Unhappiness, trauma and a yearning to cling to power, perhaps?

By Deepta Roy Chakraverty

It is a strange coincidence that the administration chose crystal to cover the path on which the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead. After all, quartz, or crystal, can preserve thoughts. Memories.

Marcel Vogel, a research scientist who was with IBM’s San Jose Research Centre for twenty-seven years, believed that crystals have the ability to store, amplify, and transfer thoughts and information. He believed that crystals communicate with our thoughts. Just as pieces of crystal can store memory in an electronic device, they can also memorise thoughts.

Bhangarh to Bedlam; Life Positive; Rs 225

Even after all these years, is something reaching out from within the gates of Indira’s old house at Delhi’s 1, Safdarjung Road? Blood still seems to swirl and eddy around the atmosphere of that house. Indira Gandhi was assassinated there in October 1984. Shot dead by her own bodyguards in the aftermath of the controversial Operation Bluestar.  Her old house was turned into a memorial where many of her belongings and artefacts are displayed. The path in the garden where she walked her last steps has been cordoned off. There is a glass slab in the middle of it which marks the spot where she fell. It provides a strange blot of colour to otherwise grey and earthy surroundings.

I first went there when I was about twelve. I never forgot the saffron coloured sari with bullet holes displayed in the museum, and its air of tragedy. The rooms on display are preserved in state. The same memorial also houses a tribute to another slain prime minister – Indira’s son, Rajiv. He was killed in 1991 when a suicide bomber, bending down to touch his feet, detonated a bomb, blowing Rajiv to shreds and killing many more with him. A glass case houses tattered shreds of clothing which was all that remained of Rajiv Gandhi when he was killed. Two scorched shoes sit at the base of the case, standing together as if in a dead soldier’s walk.

Indira was known to be a woman of tremendous will, in fact she was dubbed the ‘iron lady’ and often called ‘the only man’ in her Cabinet. When Rajiv took over after his mother’s assassination, he was seen as an unprepared entrant suddenly thrust into the political arena.

It is perhaps no wonder that the house still retains reverberations which flow from such artefacts of shock and tragedy.

I next visited the museum when I was in my late teens and in college in Delhi. I was majoring in mathematics at Jesus and Mary College and on weekends, would often explore places with a view to their psychic atmosphere. It was summer and the cool inside the bungalow was welcome after the 40-something temperature outside. Newspaper clippings and pictures adorned a lot of the wall space. Indira’s last worn sari was as I remembered it, behind the glass barriers of a display case.

I observed it closely. There was much sadness there, but what drew me again to the same place was a tremendous vitality. Despite time taking its toll on the sari’s cotton weave, and bullet holes and blood marks leaving a permanent imprint on it, there was a sense of energy and purpose which the sari emitted. The person that Indira had been was infused into those yards of cloth, complete with her ambitions and aspirations. But perhaps sadness came with the realisation that her hopes were not for this dimension any more. A woman who stood for power and thrived on it, had been stripped of it in a sudden and gruesome manner.

A little further inside, hung the tattered remains of what had been Rajiv’s kurta-pyjama. They exuded sadness and an atmosphere of loss. As I stood there facing the strips of cloth, I got an impression of a man who was capable of intense emotions – love, hate, ambition, and fear. Perhaps these clothes could still convey the human touches which lay embedded within them.

An exit led out to the garden where everything appeared in sharp contrast. The green was of a lush tropical richness, the trunks of trees were dark silhouettes, and the white corners of the bungalow seemed like harsh etchings set against the vivid shades and shadows of its surroundings.

A paved path took one through the garden, past green lawns with shrubs at the edges. Beautiful trees lined the perimeter. A small tree in the middle of the grass was laden with fruit – large ripening bel hung from its branches. Before exiting the lawns, two large rocks caught my eye. They looked strangely incongruous amidst the landscaped greenery. They were the size of small boulders, coloured a sandy red. From a distance, they almost seemed like primitive grave markers.

I did not much like them. There seemed to be a sense of constant upheaval surrounding the area. This place housed the life-force of two individuals at the height of Delhi’s power cycles. Their blood-stained clothes were kept almost as objects of worship. Their belongings and their old places were preserved in death as they had been in life. They were being kept ‘alive’ in a way. That summer morning, as I trod the path through the garden at Safdarjung, I felt that this museum, or memorial, was not empty. This house still had its inhabitants.

I remembered how old esoteric works talk of blood holding the essence of man, and how it has occult significance. Architect, philosopher and founder of biodynamics, Rudolf Steiner, alludes to myths and legends of old in his lectures, saying, ‘That which has power over thy blood, has power of thee.’ Madame Blavatsky in Studies in Occultism analysed old texts to note that blood ‘revivifies the dead’. Blood, they say, has the ability to give consciousness and perhaps even soul to man. Maybe even bring to life something inanimate. Even the legend of Mephistopheles refers to a contract signed in blood. The black arts which delve into ways of holding back the dead, or reanimating them, always seek blood as a ritual ingredient.

Interestingly, on October 30, 1984, the day before her assassination, Indira Gandhi at a speech in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, had said, ‘I shall continue to serve till my last breath and when I die every drop of my blood will strengthen India and keep a united India alive.’

It was to be her last public speech.

Had something been playing on Indira’s mind? This place which preserved the blood of two leaders, shed in such trauma and shock, seemed to have succeeded in holding back more than just the tangible.

A little ahead, I saw that the last few metres of Indira’s walk had been encased in crystal. A signboard next to the walkway added that it was to signify the flow of a river. The exact spot where Indira had fallen was also marked. I looked at the short stretch in front, and true, there was perhaps a ripple-like effect, reminiscent of water. As the morning sunlight came in through the trees and glinted off the surface here and there, it looked beautiful.

The whole journey through the bungalow, past the old objects belonging to Indira and her family, and what remained of them, seemed to culminate at this point. It was like a strange map through which a visitor could relive the tragedy again and again. And the thoughts and emotions of every visitor who walked this maze, merged and throbbed with this primitive life-force.

My eyes were drawn again and again to that stretch of crystal-sheathed walkway.

In 1854, noted scientist and philosopher Baron Von Reichenbach said that crystals possess a certain life-force, which is independent of their ability to produce electricity.He called this the Odic force, after the Norse god, Odin.One of the best known qualities of quartz is its piezoelectric effects discovered by Pierre and Jacques Curie in 1880.Quartz has the ability to generate electricity when subjected to pressure, or mechanical stress. Perhaps it follows quite naturally that today, quartz is used in many technical devices such as radios, watches, computers and televisions.

In psychic research, quartz crystal has special significance. Kirlian photography, invented by Semyon and Valentina Kirlian in 1939, has shown that holding a quartz crystal at least doubles the etheric fields of one’s body. Quartz crystal can magnify many times over the pulsations of our conscious selves. Maybe even preserve it. Ilse Truter, Professor of Pharmacy at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa, has written about astronauts travelling into space with pyramid-shaped quartz crystals in their possession. These are electronically charged to vibrate at the frequency of the earth’s geomagnetic field, and combat the negative effects of spending time outside the earth’s magnetic field. Prof Truter has also talked of crystal cards (to be worn on the body) that were developed as a result of the NASA space programme.

The voice of Indira broke into my thoughts. Speakers installed here and there played her speeches over and over again. The rise and fall of that trademark voice and the vigour with which she communicated seemed to speak of things alive. It was like the repeated chant of a sequence of words, or tones and sounds, which created a feeling of being within a separate magnetic field. Oddly enough, it had the effect of a mantra. It seemed to recreate the aura of the slain leader.

I frowned to myself and became pensive. I started walking around the hedged perimeter of the path, leading towards the exit at the end. I wanted space to think, but the person behind me seemed to be in a hurry. I stepped aside to let him cross and waited for him to overtake me.Whoever it was slowed down, perhaps a bit self-conscious now, I thought. I resumed my slow walk, gazing at the trees around, the greenery and the feeling of life preserved within these walls. From the side, the crystal-covered path looked silent and beautiful. Dark-barked trees lined it on either side. It seemed as if at any moment, a figure would step out from behind the tree trunks and walk briskly down the path.

It was strange, but while the inside of the house had an atmosphere of darkness, the grounds outside seemed to have a shimmery haze. It covered the pathway, the trees and the grass like slender gossamer. I watched, trying to focus on where it had come from. It was a summer morning, and though sunny, the grounds were shaded with trees. As I stood there, with my palms skimming the tops of the bushes, I observed a white-gold misty haze that seemed to palpitate. It was a slow beat, coming from somewhere deep within the perimeter. Almost as if the entire landscape was a living being, whose pulse one could feel.

I walked back a few steps, towards the crystal-covered walkway. A luminescence seemed to radiate over it. Something lay trapped here. Unhappiness, trauma and a yearning to cling to power, perhaps? It seemed to draw from the world of the living – people’s hopes, dreams and ambitions were being devoured by it and providing it nourishment. I felt as if I was within the entrails of a mammoth creature, and wanted to escape. I wanted to return to my world. Even as I turned my back to the walkway and started off towards the exit, I was aware of the frustration and anger which still emanated like a deep hunger from within the green-fringed boundary. I felt it pulse with an unnatural life.

My steps were quick as I made my way to the large gates at the end. Another visitor was rushing behind me, and I could hear him pant slightly. I slowed down in surprise – such haste was strange in these surroundings.

Then there was sudden silence. Almost as if the person behind me was reading my thoughts. And then, a deep sigh.

I stopped on the well-kept path, clasped my hands behind my back. I was feeling quite annoyed and willing to speak my mind. I turned around and waited for my persistent shadow to appear from beyond the turn I had just crossed. Some moments passed, then a few more, but no one appeared. I waited and watched but there was no one at all. The path behind me was empty.

I came to the end of the hedges which marked a boundary for the garden surrounding the crystal-paved path, and stopped where the path finally ended. From here, one could get a complete view of the other end, and of the sides. There was no one. A khaki-clad guard stood at attention, immobile and silent. A young couple, perhaps college students, were peering at the glass plaque. But there was no one else.

I turned away and proceeded on the final curve of the path which led to the gates.

The sounds of cars and people on the main road ushered in a sense of relief. I turned back once more. The path stretched out before me. The couple I had seen earlier near the glass covered walkway was now coming down this way and walking towards the exit. A different world seemed to lie beyond. The trees seemed to be coming closer, as if protecting a portal from intruders.

That’s when I saw two figures walk towards the house, deep in conversation. They emerged through the foliage and came directly on the path. The went past the couple who were walking towards where I stood now, but each pair seemed oblivious of the other. At one point, they were adjacent, shoulders almost touching, but they did not even turn their heads to take a cursory look at the other.

I stared at the backs of the two figures who walked towards the house now. The woman, short-haired and with a determined stride. The man, kurta-clad, younger, and somewhat heavy set.

Was this the mother and son, caught in an unending cycle? Perhaps trapped in a time which had been recreated, which lay between two dimensions? Did they still plan and wonder about the games of power to be played? Did they still seek out coteries and supporters, worrying about lobbies and the survival of the dynasty? Ambition and vitality, halted tragically and suddenly. Their day was just beginning, or maybe it never ended.

(The author last visited the memorial in the summer of 2014. Many changes in layout had taken place. The voice of Indira,which used to play over the loudspeakers, had also fallen silent.)

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