When I look back at goose-bump inducing, soul-stirring experiences that my travels have brought me, this one still stands out as the most distinct. And so, I decided to take a trip down memory lane – going back to the winter of 2007 – to recreate this account of a day tour to the Parliament House. More than 11 years later, I remember down to the last detail every step taken on the imposing alleys and impeccable wooden floors of this citadel of Indian democracy and the emotions it evoked in me. An experience I’d strongly recommend to anyone visiting Delhi for wayfaring, especially if you believe in the idea of a nation and take pride in your Indian-ness.
The Parliament tour was arranged as part of a mandatory media tour included in our curriculum at the journalism school. From the time we got our hands on the itinerary, the mention of the trip of the Parliament House had me thrilled more than anything else. On the appointed day, we woke up early morning, got dressed and hurried to beat the morning rush hour on Delhi’s roads to get to our destination on time.
Since the tour was arranged by the university, I don’t have much insight to share on the logistics of arranging passes and such. You can find out more about that on the official Rajya Sabha website. I just remember having to wait in a queue for the longest time because the security officials seemed in no rush to let us in. Visiting hours begin at 10 am, and they started their clearances only well after the clock struck 10, even though the Parliament was not in session.
The Tour Begins
We are all familiar with what the Parliament House located right at the end of Sansad Marg looks like. Up close, the structure looks a lot more architecturally impressive and larger than life than it does on TV and pictures. The red sandstone wall supporting the huge circular building is so high that you have to literally crane your neck up all the way to catch a glimpse of those fascinating pillars running across the structure. As you climb up the flight of stairs and arrive in that corridor, the scale of those pillars makes your jaw drop. Everything here is opulent and larger-than-life. No wonder the word Lutyens’ Delhi is uttered with such envious overtones. Our first stops were, obviously, the two houses of the Parliament. We went through the green-carpeted floors of the Lok Sabha, all the way up to the Speaker’s chair, and finally, climbed up to the press gallery, where most of us hoped to earn a seat in the future. It is also the place from where Bhagat Singh lodged a bomb into the well of the house ‘to make the deaf hear’.
The next stop was the Rajya Sabha, an imposing hall nuanced with an elite vibe. Here too we were lucky to able to take a full tour of the floor of the house. Even though we were a tad disappointed in the beginning to miss the chance of seeing the Parliament in session, I think it played out for the best as we were not restricted to the visitors’ gallery alone and got a look up close at our lawmakers’ bastion.
Despite all the history, the impeccable architecture and the aura, there is only so much that empty halls can interest you with. For me, the real highlight of the trip was visiting the Parliament museum, which houses among many rarities, the draft of the India constitution. There is a mini-structure of the Parliament, and scenes depicting the democratic heritage as well as the freedom movement and transfer of power have been recreated using sculptures, paintings and wall carvings. Historic landmarks such as Ashoka’s Panchsheel voyage, Akbar’s Din-i-Ilahi, the Buddhist Council convened by Lord Buddha also find a place of pride here. A large part of the museum is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, for obvious reasons, and you get to see memorabilia from his life and times up close and first-hand.
It is hard to not feel a shiver go down your spine every few seconds as you walk about exploring the different corners of this museum, turning the pages of history.
Tryst with Destiny
Here come the goosebumps…
We also had the chance to visit a newly opened extension of the museum where the scene of India’s moment of Independence has been recreated. The hall is designed like the Lok Sabha, with life-like sculptures of some of our towering leaders Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari, Sarat Chandra Bose, among others, dotting the arena. A similar sculpture of the Jawahar Lal Nehru stands at the podium. You take your seats next to these leaders, the lights go off, and a recorded version of Nehru’s famous Independence speech, Tryst With Destiny, crackles to life. Nehru’s figure takes on an animated avatar as if he is delivering the speech right there, at that moment. I sat next to Sardar Patel’s statue and was completely engrossed at the moment when it turned its neck toward me and nodded in agreement, making me jump out of my spot in a nervous reflex.
That show lasting about 15 minutes is the closest I have come to time travel. You get so absorbed at the moment that the possibility of having lived through this historic landmark in India’s history seems real in suspended disbelief.
Things to Know
Location: Sansad Marg, New Delhi
Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM from Tuesday to Saturday, Sunday and Monday closed
Entry Fee: Rs 10 per adult, entry free for children
Camera: Not allowed
For more info to plan your trip, visit the Parliament Museum website.