After getting misdirected once to 436 Hill St, San Francisco which is the old original address which does not exist anymore, I eventually reached 5 Wood St, San Francisco.
It was the time of sunset, I knew I was late but finally, it felt good to see a nondescript apartment marked “Gadar memorial”. Least, I expected locked doors. I did not drive 40 miles to stand in front of this locked door. There must be a way to get in, I contemplated, as I noticed an Indian woman walking upstairs towards me.
“I am here to see Gadar Party’s office”, I asked as she stammered while replying in English.
“हिंदी बोलती है आप ?”, I inquired.
“जी हाँ”, she confirmed.
“मैं आशीष, south bay से आया हूँ ग़दर स्मारक देखना था । “, I said, while pointing towards the building.
“आपके पास consulate से permission है?”, she asked.
“consulate से permission?”, I inquired.
“consulate से बिना permission लिए यहाँ आना मना है । “, she confirmed.
Even for bureaucratic Indian govt, taking a permission from the consulate to visit a first world war era memorial is perplexing. I believe this is the only such Indian memorial in the western hemisphere. Of course, I was not ready to yield and drive back another 40 miles before paying the homage. We both stood there motionless with an awkward silence.
Someone had to blink, thankfully, she did.
“एक बार मैं अपने husband से बात करती हूँ । “, she said.
She unlocked the door and went inside, and after some chatter, they both came out and after some cursory conversation, he allowed me in to visit the memorial. The rest of the conversation with them was pretty friendly.
The memorial consists of a single hall with locked showcases filled with books in English, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. There were a few posters and pictures hanging on the wall, labeled in one or the other of the aforementioned languages. I didn’t visit the memorial expecting an audio tour but not finding English or Hindi labels on the items was depressing. The whole space lacked maintenance. After thanking the Indian couple who seems to have been appointed by the consulate to maintain the place, I left half an hour later. The treatment of the memorial, which is the last symbol of this movement and Indian students who started it, by Indian govt is deplorable. Especially, given the fact that this is the only memorial of its kind in the USA.
The treatment met out to defenders of the nation, dead or alive, uniform wearing or revolutionary, determines its destiny. A second world war story of France vs the UK is apt in this context. “Before World War II, it was not uncommon to see placards hanging outside some restaurants in Paris which read “Dogs, lackeys and soldiers not allowed”. On the other hand, even pregnant women used to get up and offer seats to soldiers in London buses. When the war broke out, France capitulated in no time while Britain remained undefeated.” [source]