Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day Two in New Delhi

Our group had another fabulous day in New Delhi. We began the day with two excellent lectures on Gandhi, the first by Dilip Simeon on Gandhi’s thought as a constructive response to nihilism in the modern world. He was wonderfully helpful in focusing our attention on how Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence was both a moral position and a political strategy, deeply ethical and brilliantly pragmatic at once. Purushottam Agarwal spoke to us about what Gandhi meant when he invoked the western concept of religion. According to Agarwal “religion” was always a translation of the Hindi concept of “dharma,” which he said meant tradition (rather than fate or belief system). He emphasized Gandhi’s acceptance of all religions but his insistence on elevating the universal truths contained in each over particular beliefs that contradicted those truths. This led to a fascinating discussion of Gandhi in which we considered him both as the “last” traditionalist and the first ethical multiculturalist. Between them the two talks were richly suggestive.

After lunch we headed by bus to the Gandhi museum. The road took us through pockets of poverty much more striking than we’d seen before. We skirted the gates to the old city, which we plan on visiting tomorrow. After a brief orientation by the director we toured the museum, which contains a rich pictorial history of Gandhi’s life, a display of spinning wheels, and a collection of Gandhi’s personal effects. Later we moved on to the memorial site where Gandhi’s body was burned in a funeral pyre after his assassination. Then we drove to the Khan market, a fairly modern outdoor market where we took a coffee break, then shopped (fabric, shirts, dresses, kurtas, etc.). Some of us stayed in the market area for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant serving a variety of Asian cuisines. Another amazing day, one which opened up for me new facets of the city and a deeper understanding of what is at stake in confronting Gandhi’s philosophical writings, his moral system, and his political vision.

I'll try to post some pictures later if I can squeeze out the time.

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