It was the mid summer of 2008, and I was about halfway through my 12th grade. I was still living in New Delhi at the time, but had just recently received the nod from CIC regarding my student visa status. I remember accompanying my mom to the local American embassy for some usual mundane bureaucratic step that had to be completed almost instantaneously, for if I was to ever have a chance to enter Canada of all places. There was a relentlessly endless line on this extremely hot sunny day, as it usually is at such places. Luckily, taking opportunity of my surroundings, I struck a deal with my mom that while she prepared for this mundane event, I would visit a nearby historical sight that I had always heard of but never truly cared enough to visit.
This was Teen Murti Bhavan (Three Statue House), the former residence of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who stayed here for 16 years until his death on May 27, 1964. Historically, that was all I knew of Nehru, and yet I had always quite admired him, something I rarely ever. May be it was because of his iconic sense of style, his famous speech or the fact that every third stone in Delhi was named after him. I, frankly do not know, but he had a lavish house filled with interesting nick-nacks from all around world and across different periods. And, I simply went with the moment. I spent over an hour or hour and a half, which was a big commitment from me at the time. As I was leaving, I came across this shambles of a souvenir shop, keeping in fashion with the rest of the place, and shop keeper, this plump middle aged lady, mistook my casual stroll by as an invitation to stop doing whatever she was doing, probably something that had nothing to do with her actual work, and sell me some cheesy memorabilia that I did not need. She was quite enthusiastic about making a sale, likely because not many Indians have a habit of visiting empty graves, so not to kill her excitement I decided to buy the cheapest scrap of personified history available – a key chain. Sadly, she caught me eyeing a row of books as she wrote up the bill, and I ended up buying a 500 page anthology of India, written by Nehru himself, as well. At this point, it is important to note that the only piece of literature I had ever read up till that moment of time, which ran more than 20 pages, was Charlie and the chocolate factory by Roald Dahl.
The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru is considered a modern classic and is just one of his many books, the complete collection of his writings run across 81 volumes, but this specific anthology he wrote during one of his times spend in prison. All of this I would later find out, almost a year later, when an ignorant high school history teacher would ask me, in front of a crowded classroom, as to how morally and economically bankrupt India was and that whether I hated the “untouchables.” And sadly, I wouldn’t have an answer because in spite of living in India for my entire life and spending the mandatory years memorizing it’s culture and history, I absolutely knew nothing about why it was here or what it means for it to be here. Thus, began the process of gaining a complete education and understanding what it means to be an Indian, an Asian, a Human and, most importantly, just to be.
All because I was pressured into buying a key chain by a vixen of shop keeper, who probably didn’t even care.