Today's Response comes to you from the heart of SJN's communications director, Ambika Samarthya-Howard.
My mom retired a few weeks ago. She left for a long-awaited trip back to India a few days later, visiting her mother and family in Chennai whom she hasn’t seen in years. But she also did something very cool, and I suspect unusual: she did a road trip up north in the Himalayas with four high school friends.
I’ve been waking up these past few mornings to photos from Manali, a picturesque Himalayan city, and Amritsar in Punjab, home to the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), the holiest gurdwara (religious complex) of the Sikh religion. It’s gorgeous. The photos have been mesmerizing, the visit undoubtedly a once-in-a lifetime pilgrimage.
These are also the sites of massive violence. Manali’s large Tibetan population arrived as refugees, many of whom ended up as road workers in the area. The Golden Temple is home to one of the most shocking incidents of state-sponsored violence in recent Indian history. The entire Northern part of India — as the subcontinent celebrates its 75th year of independence — is home to the largest and bloodiest migrations in history, displacing 15 million people and killing a million in the creation of Pakistan and India.
I remind my mom of this before she leaves. I ask her to bring Buddhist flags home from Manali. To take a moment and remember at the Golden Temple. To open the windows to take in the cold air as she rides through Punjab.
To remember there was much suffering here. And that these people, these places will always remain beautiful.
- Ambika Samarthya-Howard