Because Great Women aren’t Intimidating, it’s the World that gets Intimidated…
Sarojini Naidu Chattopadhyay, formally known by the moniker ‘Nightingale of India’ was a first among firsts. Having played the role of a successful politician, social activist and poet, Naidu was the first woman to become the governor of an independent Indian state (United Provinces of Agra and Oudh) from 1947 to 1949. She was also the first Indian woman who served as the president of INC (Indian National Congress) in 1925.
Today, on her 138th birth anniversary, here are some lesser known facts about Sarojini Naidu.
1. Naidu was not just an accomplished poet, but a fantastic orator and writer, as well. As a child, she wrote a play “Maher Muneer” in the Persian language. Impressed by her literary talents, the Nizam of Hyderabad offered her a scholarship to study abroad.
2. Young Sarojini was an intelligent student, who loved to solve Mathematics problems. She was also proficient in Hindi, English, Bengali, Telugu, Persian and Urdu. After she stood first in her high school exams from Madras University, her father wanted her to become a scientist or a mathematician. However, Sarojini dropped high-paying career choices for poetry.
3. When she was 16, she got admitted to King’s College, England. Later, she got enrolled in Cambridge’s Girton College for higher studies. There, she met famous English authors like Edmond Gausse and Arthur Simon. They advised her to write on Indian themes, social milieu, religious pluralism and cultural diversity. Thus, Sarojini vowed to become a realistic poet of the Deccan, rather than imitating the English classics.
4. Being patriotic since birth, Naidu was completely devoted to her country. She was introduced to the Indian Freedom Movement by Gopal Krishna Gokhle. He introduced Naidu to prominent freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and C.P. Ramaswami Iyer.
5. Sarojini Naidu was the first person to join Mahatma Gandhi’s protest against the Rowlatt Act passed by the British in 1919. She also played a significant role in Non-Cooperation movement, the Sabarmati pact, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and the Satyagraha Pledge.
6. Not many people know that Sarojini fell in love with a non-brahmin (Dr. Govindarajulu Naidu) at the age of 15. Regardless of the fact that inter-caste marriages were unacceptable in India in those times, she married her beau at the age of 19, with the blessings of their parents. The couple lived happily ever after and had 4 children– Padmaj, Jayasurya, Leilamani and Randheer.
7. Naidu shared a close relationship with Mahatma Gandhi. She called him ‘Mickey Mouse’ since Bapu was short.
8. In 1942, Naidu was arrested for protesting against the British during the ‘Quit India’ movement. Thereafter, she was jailed for 21 months with Gandhi.
9. Some of her notable works include ‘The bird of Time’, ‘Golden Threshold’, ‘The Broken Wings’ and ‘Words of Freedom’.
10. India commemorates Naidu through educational institutes and buildings like Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, Sarojini Naidu College for Women and Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital.
The nightingale took her last breath on 2nd March 1949, but she’ll be alive in our memories forever.