Author: Saraladebi Chaudhurani
Translator(s)/ Editors(s): Sikata Banerjee
Publisher: Kali/Women Unlimited
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8188965502
Translated for the first time into English, this autobiography reveals the life and times of Saraladebi Chaudhurani (1872-1945) a pioneering woman who was one of the few early women graduates of the University of Calcutta, a singer, a political activist and a leader of the women’s movement of her time.
Born into a distinguished literary family, the first Asian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, was her mother’s youngest brother, she was an editor of a prestigious journal, Bharati, which she took over from her mother, Swarnakumaridebi, a novelist. Her other uncles were noted artists, musicians, and the first Indian to join the hitherto exclusively British civil service.
Her aunts and cousins were well educated, talented, all participating in the cultural and social life of the elite, unlike many of their peers who remained in seclusion. Privileged as she was, Saraladevi would not be confined to literature.
She is a controversial figure, with some of her political ideas harping on martial prowess, the warriors, male, with female support who would take on the British Empire militarily, thus expunging charges of emasculation and subservience that gnawed at the self-worth of a conquered nation.
She provides the link between women, nation and the quest for manhood, and indeed, to its continuing resonance with the Hindu Right. Defying familial pressures and remaining single till aged 33, when she married a Punjabi nationalist and moved to Punjab, Sarala had an electrifying impact on Mahatma Gandhi, who was attracted to her courage and brilliance, despite her advocacy of militancy which opposed his credo of non-violence.
This friendship and attraction was to cause much disquiet in the Indian National Congress. Saraladebi organized the first women’s organization, the Bharat STREE Mahamandal which would bring women of all creed class and party together. A woman who was a true path-blazer, her autobiography weaves together the modern history of Bengal and of India with the life of a woman to whom much was given and who gave much in turn.
1. The Scattered Leaves of My Life.