I was a teenager when India’s former prime minister Sri Rajiv Gandhi got assassinated on the 21st May 1991. He was India’s youngest PM and was seen to be full of ideas for a modern India that was waiting to be unshackled. For my generation, he symbolised our aspirations for the future in a prosperous India; with his death, we saw our dreams and hopes come crashing down.
A part of the young me and millions of other Indians died with him on that day. It was a double blow for residents of Tamil Nadu as the tragedy took place in our state near Chennai and the suicide bombers were fellow Tamilians from our neighbouring country of Sri Lanka. Following year, I joined my Engineering course at Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Pennalur which was in Sriperumbudur taluk. For the next four year (1992-1996) as we went to college, most of us would be thinking about the loss of Sri Rajiv Gandhi – there were many cues that will remind us including the news from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) under D. R. Karthikeyan and the fact our college bus route will be crossing the heavily guarded Poonamallee prison where the suspects were housed every single day.
Why all this history now? Two weeks ago, I was driving to Bangalore from Chennai and on the way, I stopped at Sriperumbudur to visit the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial there. The memorial was built on the same ground where the blast happened and marks the exact spot where the late leader breathed his last. On 10th October 2003, then President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam dedicated the memorial – in the years after that, only today I had the opportunity to stop and spend some time here. I am glad I did.
The memorial is an open one, there are no museums or artefacts here to exhibit belongings of Mr Rajiv Gandhi. Instead, it is a sombre place for introspection and remembrance, architect Mr K.T. Ravindran should be appreciated for achieving that.
All are allowed, entry is free. You need to go through a thorough security check like in the Airports. You are allowed to carry your cell phones and camera. Unlike most memorials in India, this place is being maintained spick and span. I was surprised to find a functional toilet that was clean and had running water! Next time you are travelling near Sriperumbudur don’t miss to visit the place and to pay your homage to the late leader.
In the centre of the memorial are seven pillars, each of them symbolising one of the vital code of human ethics like Dharma, Satya, Nyaya, Vigyan, Tyaga, Shanti and Samriddhi