SAROJINI NAIDU PRESIDENT OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
óBy Dale Stuart
The name of Sarojini Naidu is familiar to English-speaking peoples through three volumes of delightful poetry, "The Golden Threshold", "The Bird of Time", and "The Broken Wing." These songs have established her as the foremost English-writing poetess of India, and are full of a rich color, melody and grace that are distinctively Eastern.
One of her poems appears in this issue.
Mrs. Naidu could not confine her activities to the literary world, however. The cause of India women called for her championship too loudly. She entered the troubled waters of Indian politics and early became an ardent disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, lending all the weight of her support to his political programs and spreading his doctrines of "Satyagraha" (soul-force) and "spinning-wheels in every home." For many years now, Mrs. Naidu has been indefatigable in speaking, writing, and travelling throughout India, and has become a force to be reckoned with, stirring her numerous audiences by the inspiration of her oratory and example.
India is supposed to be caste-ridden. But Sarojini Naidu broke all rules of caste by marrying Dr. Naidu, who was not born a Brahman, whereas Sarojini belongs to one of the proudest Brahman families in India. But Hindu society did not disown her. Instead, today, she occupies the highest post, that of the Presidentship of the Indian National Congress, that it is in the power of India to bestow upon her favorite son or daughter. So, neither her disregard of caste, nor her sex, disqualified Mrs. Naidu from attaining the pinnacle of Indian honor. Conservative though it is, India yet throws all rules to the wind in the face of sincerity, of personal worth and sacrifice.
Gandhi is the political preceptor of Mrs. Naidu, and, since religion is not separate from politics in India, he is her spiritual "guru" and ideal as well. She wrote of him, at the time of his trial and imprisonment for preaching his "non-violent" doctrine: "The strange trial proceeded and as I listened to the immortal words that flowed with prophetic fervor from the lips of my beloved master, my thoughts sped across the centuries to a different land and a different age, when a similar drama was enacted and another divine and gentle teacher was crucified for spreading a kindred gospel with a kindred courage. I realized now that the lowly Jesus of Nazareth furnished the only true parallel in history of this sweet, invincible apostle of Indian liberty who loves humanity with surpassing compassion, and, to use his own beautiful phrase, 'approaches the poor with the mind of the poor."'
Mrs. Naidu is an arresting personality, vibrant, eloquent, charged with that inner conviction that communicates itself to her followers. But there is a different, poetic side to her nature .....shy, quiet, mystical. "Her eyes were like deep pools," Arthur Symons wrote of her, "and you seemed to fall through them into depths beyond depths."
Mrs. Naidu has grave problems and responsibilities confronting her in her new office. But she faces them bravely. She sees all other problems solved by achieving the one fundamental need of harmony. Her speech, made in accepting the Presidentship of the Congress, shows this insight: "Mine, as becomes a woman, is a most modest program, merely to restore to India her true position as supreme mistress in her own home, the sole guardian of her own vast resources, and the sole dispenser of her own rich hospitality. As a loyal daughter of Bharatmata, therefore, it will be my lovely, though difficult task, through the coming year to try and set my mother's house in order, to reconcile the tragic quarrels that threaten the integrity of her old joint family life of diverse communities and creeds, and to find an adequate place and recognition, alike for the lowliest and the mightiest, of her children and foster-children, the guests and strangers within her gates."
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