As I approached the Golden Temple I could feel the reverence of those who strolled past me. Everyone moved with a purpose that showed how excited they were to be in this holy place. I walked over the steps that led to the grand courtyard. In the center of the courtyard sits a gigantic pool that contains a temple covered in gold. Hundreds of people stood on the bridge that reached across the rippling water. They waited patiently for their turn to walk inside and pray in the shimmering and ornate building. Slowly, as we circumnavigated the massive pool, the now rising sun cast its orange glow above the wall of the compound. We took a moment to sit and listen to the soothing prayers that were being sung. Their beautiful melody gave life to the temple.
I sat, feeling the presence of the thousands of people who filled the courtyard. I gazed across the water, taking in the stillness of the place despite the movement of people. I stood to pose with our group for a few more photos then felt myself float out of the peacefulness that I felt moments before. We crossed the threshold of the compound back out into the open world. I felt the busyness hit me like a wall. It’s incredible that in just a matter of moments you can be transported between two completely different worlds. I’ve learned that in India three steps can be the difference between grace and chaos.
I reached my arms and saw that there was only a few inches keeping my fingers from sliding against the orange cement walls. These walls were the only way to enter and exit the courtyard of Jallianwalla Bagh, the historical site where a peaceful protest inspired by Gandhi ended in a massacre of hundreds of people. As I entered the garden, I tried to swallow away the pain that harvested in my chest. I pictured crowds of nonviolent protesters, cooped up like livestock, running from British bullets, and my ribs tightened around my heart beat. The bullet holes still remain in the weathered brick walls that stand in the garden. I could hear the 1,650 rounds being shot into the crowd, the hot cartridges dropping to the ground as the sounds of bodies followed; my ears burned. I began weaving myself through a crowd to the well that people hurled their bodies down in order to not have their lives be taken by the violent bullets, that brutally interrupted a non-violent protest. I watched flower petals settled to the bottom of the well as silence placed itself onto the lips of the observers. Yet, I could still hear the beating of those hearts around me. Hearts that felt the same pain I did; hearts that wanted to reconstruct the past.