By Bhudeb Chakrabarti
The Coromandel Fishers
Rise brothers rise; the waking skies pray to the morning light.
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide for we are the Kings of the sea
No longer delay, let us hasten our way in the track of the sea gull’s call,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all.
What though we toss at the fall of the sea where the hand of the sea-god dares
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.
Sweet is the shade of the coconut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full of the moon with the sound of the voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;
Row brothers row to the edge of the verge, where the sky mates with the sea.
Many of you, who have studied in different parts of India may recall having read this poem in school. This poem was included in my English syllabus too. The poetess is none other than Sarojini Naidu, one of the greatest poets of India, whose 138th birth anniversary is being celebrated today as the National Women’s Day.
A glimpse into the life of Sarojini Naidu
On 13th February 1879, Sarojini was born in Hyderabad, to father Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, and mother Barada Sundari Devi. Her father was the founder and first Principal of Hyderabad College (Nizam’s College), and her mother was a Bengali poetess.
Sarojini, a child prodigy stood first in Matriculation Examination of Madras University at the age of twelve. She went to England on a Nizam scholarship and studied in King’s College and later in Girton College, Cambridge. She married Dr. Mutyala Govindarajulu Naidu a Hyderabad State Service Medical Officer in 1898.
Participation in India’s Freedom Movement
The early half of the 1900s witnessed a lot of political and social turmoil in India. In 1905, British Viceroy Lord Curzon had ordered for the Partition of Bengal. Many eminent persons saw it as a “divide and rule” policy to curb the growing nationalism. This further flared up the nationalistic sentiments and people protested against the partition. Sarojini Naidu actively participated in these protests led by Annie Besant, Lokmanya Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Sister Nivedita. The first Partition of Bengal was annulled in 1911, though the seeds of discontent remained to erupt later again.
After Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915, Sarojini Naidu met him and fully committed herself to the cause of India’s Freedom Movement. A forceful orator, she rejuvenated the people of the Nation for freedom struggle. She founded Women’s Indian Association in 1917 and went to England with Annie Besant, the first woman President of Indian National Congress to present the case for women’s vote to the Joint Select Committee.
Sarojini Naidu took active role in Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. She was elected President of Indian National Congress (INC) held in 1925 Congress Session. Thus, she was the second woman President of INC. In 1928, she went to USA to espouse the cause of India’s freedom. In 1930, she participated in Civil Disobedience Movement started by Mahatma Gandhi, and took part in Salt Satyagraha. She was arrested during the movement. She was again arrested during the 1942 ‘Quit India Movement’ and was jailed for 21 months along with Gandhiji.
Sarojini Naidu – A poetess of exceptional quality
A woman of multiple skills and a poet of exceptional quality, Sarojini Naidu wrote her poetry in English. Her first collection titled ‘Golden Threshold’ was published in 1905.’The other books of poems of Sarojini Naidu were titled ’The Bird of Time’, ‘The Broken Wing’, ’The Magic Tree’, ’The Wizard Mask’ and ‘A Treasury of Poems’.
Many of her poems reflected the simmering anger against the British rule. “The Gift of India” (1915), laments the lack of recognition for the sacrifices made by the Indian soldiers, who were deployed by the British rulers to fight wars for them in different parts of the world.
Gathered like pearls in their alien graves
Silent they sleep by the Persian waves,
Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands,
They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands,
They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance
On the blood-brown meadows of
Flanders and France . . .
Sarojini Naidu’s poetic and communication skills were highly admired by Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru. Her childhood home became the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, of the University of Hyderabad.
After Independence Sarojini Naidu was the Governor of UP, the largest State of India from 1947 to 1949 till her last breath. She passed away on 2 March 1949.
Today, on her birth anniversary, we pay our respect to Sarojini Naidu, the ’Nightingale of India’ and one of the greatest women of India for her contribution towards the freedom of our Nation and for women empowerment.
- Chandamama Magazine October 2011 Mumbai
This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF, and edited by Somali K Chakrabarti
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