What is Constitution Day (Samvidhan Divas) And Why it Should be Celebrated

Constitution Day is a rather recent addition to our calendar. 26 November used to be called National Law Day and it was mostly forgotten. But in 2015, the National Law Day was declared Constitution Day (or Samvidhan Divas). It gives me an excuse to delve into one of my favourite topics. Our Constitution.

The Constitution itself has a marvelous history. The drama around the creation of the Constituent Assembly, their debates, and the variety of issues it sought to address (something I hope to write about in a future post). Civics is by far the dullest of the Social Sciences in middle school and yet the most important and relevant. No matter what career a student chooses to take up, they are invariably going to be citizens of a democratic nation. We take this citizenship for granted, never really thinking about how precious this is. My grandparents, just two generations away from me, were part of a generation that knew what it was to live in a non-democratic state. Their ancestors before that were either subjects to the British Raj or in princely states – subjects of a detached and disinterested monarch. Also, for generations, people in the Indian subcontinent were always aware of their duties – duties to their family, duties to their community, religion, king or queen. With independence and the adoption of democracy, Indians were introduced to a new vocabulary. We grew aware of rights, and our Constitution told us what those rights were and also, that we could fight to protect our rights.

The Constitution as an Agent of Transformation

The Civics textbook definition of the Constitution is that the Constitution serves as a rule book for how a democratic state should function. It also provides a sort of mission statement to guide future leaders and citizens about the ideal society that the Constitution seeks to nurture and protect.

The Indian Constitution is often criticized for being derivative. More than 70% of it came from the Government of India Act, 1935. The framework of how our government will run comes from the Act. Curiously, we even incorporated some of the harsher, more autocratic aspects of the Act like preventive detention, or the power to suspend the legal system during an Emergency, etc. Things that Indian freedom fighters had objected to in the 1930s were now powers that the independent Indian state had.

So what was so great about the Indian Constitution? While it is true that most of it is derivative, does something have to be entirely original to be of value? I do not know. I do know that while it may have flaws, the Constitution sought to create an new nation that was built on the precepts of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity as interpreted for the uniquely Indian context.

Here are the top 3 things I think makes our Constitution unique and special:

  1. Universal Adult Franchise: When we read ‘universal adult franchise’ we automatically think of women receiving the right to vote, and this is natural because that was a hard-won right in the rest of the world. Women in India could vote and hold office since the 1920s (Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay becoming the first woman to run for public office, even before her counterparts in Britain, when she ran in the 1926 elections for a seat in the Madras Provincial Legislative Assembly). Interestingly, women got this right much before western women (French women could vote and hold office only in 1944). But, there was a time when voting was the right of just the educated landowners. It was an effective way to disenfranchise the weakest and most vulnerable portions of society. In India this would have excluded not just women but also Dalits and indigenous (tribal) people. So, for a new nation to immediately grant Universal Adult Franchise is a big deal. From its very beginning, it sought to include the very people who had been excluded by society through political and social institutions. (To give us some perspective, South Africa adopted universal adult franchise only in 1996 and Bahrain and some other Muslim states gave women the right in 2005).
  2. It’s Defense of Equality: At the time of independence, India was shaking off the British but was still in the suffocating grips of social and religious authoritarianism. Breaking caste rules or gender rules could lead to severe social, emotional and often physical consequences. Unlike Western nations where the power lay in the hands of the government, India had multiple levels of power, starting at the religious or caste based community level down to the head of the family. Ambedkar, B.N. Rau and members of the Constituent Assembly were writing a constitution for a country that didn’t fully recognize the notion of an individual’s rights. And so, the framers sought to rewire our social structure. Article 15(2) which banned the discrimination in access to restaurants and roads (years before the American Civil Rights movement managed to end segregation in the United States), Article 17 abolishing untouchability and Article 23 forbidding forced labour. In theory, at least, the Constitution was laying the groundwork for a society where every citizen was equal both politically and socially.
  3. The Right to Constitutional Remedies: In India, a citizen can move directly to the Supreme Court to protect their fundamental rights against violation not just by the State but also by institutions. This makes sure that the State and institutions cannot create laws that violate any individuals fundamental rights. The head of your company, religious math, or head of your joint family even cannot force you to do anything that violates your fundamental rights, as the state is duty bound to protect it. As mentioned earlier, our Constitution recognized the various levels of power or sovereignty in India and provided a recourse for the average citizen to protect themselves from social as well as political authoritarianism.

Ambedkar was used to hearing criticisms of the Constitutions by the end of the drafting process. In his final speech to the Constituent Assembly on the 25th of November, he addressed some of them but added “… I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics.”

He continued to say that the Constitution written by the Constituent Assembly reflected the views and pressing concerns of his generation and he was aware that every generation would face its own concerns and have its own views. He quoted Thomas Jefferson, an American founding father –  “We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of the majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.”

The Constitution we have today is not perfect. It has also been interpreted in ways we might not agree with. But if we choose to remain ignorant of its contents we do ourselves and our generation a great disservice.

We live in a frighteningly divided time now, where neighbors attack each other personally for differing political views and declare themselves upholders of morality in their community WhatsApp and email groups. The late 1940s were an even more divisive period in Indian history. People disagreed violently with each other on a lot of things. The violence spilt out of their mouths, onto the page and then into the street.

At the time, the subcontinent was divided and two countries were formed. One ended up with a Constitution that was slowly but carefully constructed. The other that seemed accidentally put together with individual egos and prejudices taking precedence over values and ideals. One has survived70 years and is regularly challenged but almost always respected. The other was thrown out and new ones were written to suit the convenience of the man in charge. If we look further at the other countries who gained independence and shook of colonialism in 1940s, 50s and 60s, the story of Indian’s constitution feels even more unique and special.

And so I feel our Constitution should be celebrated every year. The best way to do it is to pay attention to it – understand it, discuss it and defend the rights within it whenever we can.

Resources:

Ambedkar’s final speech to the Constituent Assembly (bits of which I have quoted above) can be found here.

An excerpt of the final speech in a Scroll article titled Why BR Ambedkar’s three warnings in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly resonate even today

An article I wrote earlier about Ambedkar and the narrative of his life.

A book that I am currently reading: The Transformative Constitution by Gautam Bhatia

What does Nehru have to do with Children’s Day?

Happy Children’s Day!

When my son was very little, he came home from school and went straight into the kitchen, clearly looking for something. Disappointed, he stood in front of me and demanded to see the cake. What cake, I asked. “It’s Children’s Day, Mamma! You are supposed to celebrate having children!”

Today, it isn’t very different. My son just came home from school where his teachers worked really hard to make him and his classmates feel special and cared for. I appreciate the sentiment even though the day had a very different point of origin.

Significance of Children’s Day

Growing up, I knew that we celebrated Children’s Day on Nehru’s birthday. The reason I had heard was that Nehru loved children, but I later found that Children’s Day was really an awareness and fund-raising drive.

In 1951, a United Nations Social Worker Fellow V.M. Kulkarni who had been studying the rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents in England liked how the Queen of England’s birthday had been used to focus attention on children’s issues and raise funds for Save the Child Fund. He proposed that Pandit Nehru’s birthday, November 14, be used to bring awareness to children’s issues and child rights. It is said that the proposal embarrassed Nehru but he agreed to have his birthday attached to the cause.

Perhaps Nehru’s reluctance at Kulkarni’s suggestion was warranted. Soon political bootlickers and sycophants would gather children and have them sing songs in Nehru’s honour and he would pose obligingly with little children. The original intent was forgotten and a new legend grew about Nehru’s great love for children. He certainly had a great love for his own daughter, to whom he wrote wonderful letters from prison that not only outlined Indian and world history but also explained his humanist ideals and values. I often wonder how young Indira felt on receiving these letters. Did she groan at the heavy topics he chose to write about, and wish he would talk more about prison food or other ordinary things – not a draft of a chapter?

At any rate, Nehru’s birthday became Children’s Day from 1956. I looked around for pictures of the first official Children’s Day but the first official interesting material I found was the President’s address on the occasion in 1957.

In a speech titled A Plea for a Better Deal for Children, Prasad said that “it is a welcome idea to have one day every year to be celebrated as Children’s Day when all questions pertaining to children and child welfare would receive special attention.” The theme in 1957 was child hunger. The International Union of Child Welfare declared that “a child that is hungry must be fed”. Prasad extended the theme, by saying “If we put a wider interpretation on this theme, it should encompass wider needs such as hunger for play, hunger for love and hunger for security. After all a child needs these as much as nutritious food.”

Today, India’s President welcomed students from various schools and her speech was simply about the beauty of childhood. The original intent is long forgotten. It is now just a day when we celebrate children and Nehru.

Growing into Nehru

The slide show above covers Nehru’s childhood from infancy to his college years at Cambridge (the last picture is of him with his parents and two younger sisters, who later became famous in their own right – Vijaylakshmi Pandit and Krishna Hutheesing)

Born on November 14, 1889, as a child, Nehru did not hunger for food, love or security. He was born to extraordinary privilege. His family home, Anand Bhavan, in Allahabad had a swimming pool. Of course, do not imagine Nehru living alone with his parents in this palatial estate. The Nehru clan lived together. He was the youngest and his sisters followed much later, so while Nehru might not have hungered for the basics, he did hunger for companionship. Home schooled for nearly most of his education with governesses and private tutors, he did not have a peer group of classmates or playground friends. His much older cousins had neither time nor interest in him, and so although he was part of a bustling household he grew up rather alone.

In his autobiography, Nehru begins his story with refreshing candor and self awareness “An only child of prosperous parents is apt to be spoilt, especially so in India. And when that son happens to be on only child for first 11 years of his existence there is little hope for him to escape this spoiling.” His parents certainly spared no expense on his education. Annie Besant, the great educator and founding member of the Theosophical Society, recommended a tutor – Ferdinand T. Brooks – who, Nehru believes, had a great influence on his thinking. Brooks developed in Nehru a taste for reading and introduced him to a vast variety of literature and philosophy (including Theosophy). He also set up a lab in their home where they performed experiments to explore basic chemistry and physics. At 15, his parents and his infant sister accompanied him to England, where he was dropped off at the famous English public school – Harrows.

Clearly Nehru did not have an average childhood. He was keenly aware of the great difference between his experience of India versus that of the common Indian. This difference is often used against him. While many like to pull Nehru down for his elitism or his post-Independence leadership choices (both valid points), Nehru’s writings from prison in the 1930s reminds us that he was human, with the same human frailties that affect us regardless of income, education, gender, caste or creed.

In fact, I am glad for his intellectual upbringing. India was blessed to have an independence movement led by thinkers rather than wild and spontaneous actors (think of the rather haphazard birth of Pakistan). The men and women who organized our freedom struggle developed democratic ideals and a vision for equality that came from a conversion of intellectual vigor to actual action. The outcome, among other things, is our Constitution. Imperfect though it might be, it has provided us with a stable democracy for 75 years, while our neighbours have floundered. Most of the people who helped put the Constitution together were intellectual giants.

Recently, on social media, I read comments wishing that the India had a military dictatorship. They felt that this would help improve infrastructure and law and order. I wonder if Indian classrooms should spend more time exploring Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Burmese or Sri-Lankan history. All our neighbors have had experiences with military coups (successful and failed) and the outcomes were never positive for the country. In India, Nehru and his colleagues can take some credit for military-proofing Indian democracy. To read more check out this article. His understanding of the potential threats to democracy has often helped us tremendously, and while we might disagree with his politics, we should be grateful that we have a democracy that allows (at least in theory) for dissent.

So this Children’s Day let us not conflate the two events. Nehru probably did like children (it is very difficult not to like children, and even if he did not like them, it would have been political suicide to admit it) but Children’s Day is not to celebrate his love for children. It is to draw awareness to important children’s issues in our society today, as Rajendra Prasad did in his very first Children’s Day address – serious issues concerning children’s health, children’s rights, access to quality nutrition and education.

It is also Nehru’s birthday. We are still a young nation and his legacy is still up for debate and political wrangling but perhaps in a hundred years the man will be remembered for both his contributions and his failings in a more balanced, objective and less divisive manner. That he was extraordinary is hard to deny if you delve into the man’s writing and look carefully at his influence in a myriad issues that concern modern India today. It is also hard to deny that he was not perfect. We should never be satisfied with the legacy of our ancestors – growth and forward movement are our constant civic duties.

Sources:

Joshi, S. (2005) How did Children’s Day begin, The Tribune India. Available at: https://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20051112/saturday/main4.htm (Accessed: November 14, 2022).

Prasad, R. (1958) “A Plea for a Better Deal for Children,” in Speeches of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India, 1957-1958. India, pp. 98–99.

Nehru, J. (1982) “Descent from Kashmir,” in Jawaharlal Nehru, an autobiography. Tehran: Bahman Pr., pp. 1–26.

All images from Wikimedia Commons

The Ordinary Woman’s Role in India’s Freedom Struggle

You might know Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay as a freedom fighter, a social reformer, or the woman who revived Indian handicrafts, handlooms, and theatre in independent India. Or you may know her for setting up the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi or Crafts Council of India. She also wrote over 20 books, like War-time China based on what she saw on her travels through Japan and China during World War II.

I, however, knew nothing of this woman or her enormous contributions. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. I first read of her in Ramchandra Guha’s Makers of Modern India where he included an excerpt of her presidential address to the All India Women’s Conference in 1944 entitled “The Women’s Movement in Perspective”. It sent me down a long Kamaladevi binge. I felt like an explorer who had stumbled upon a glorious waterfall and was revelling in its beauty, until a native came up to me and said, “What’s the big deal… it’s just a waterfall.” Many people of my acquaintance could not understand my excitement about Kamaladevi. They had heard of her, and she was old news. To me, however, she is a personal discovery.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reading Kamaladevi’s memoir, Inner Recesses, Outer Spaces. She lived a rich and eventful life. But more importantly, she lived an incredibly impactful life. From her early teens till the very end of her life, she was constantly up to something – and that something was always something useful that made a lasting difference.

Her memoir had been an education in itself. Kamaladevi was a lightning rod who drew interesting and influential people to herself, giving her front row access to important moments in history. She was often an active participant in the making of said history. For a student of history, the book is an incredible primary source but, also, for just an ordinary urban Indian woman, the book shows that the ideas of Feminism that we have frequently looked West-ward to inform us, are actually part of our own modern history.

Top 3 Lessons about Women from Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay

Last October, we were driving through Madhya Pradesh, but our progress was stymied by cattle who used the National Highway 44 as a sort of lounge – chewing their cud while gazing blankly at us as we weaved through them. Our slow speed allowed us to examine the villages on either side of the highway. Here I saw an unfamiliar India, where women were nearly entirely under their veils with a child on their hip. Coming from urban South India, I felt like I was a foreigner watching one of those documentaries about “exotic India”, except to me this wasn’t exotic. It felt regressive. I couldn’t imagine life like this – wearing a costume that limited my movement and vision, accepting the diktats of the men in my family, living that level of domesticity.

Later, we stopped at a Dhaba where the parathas were served to us by a big mustachio-ed Rajasthani gent. As we ate our parathas, I watched his wife, behind layers of fabric and a veil pulled over her eyes, stomp out and slap a slab of Amul butter on to the counter beside him. Then, in a low voice, she seemed to give him a crisp talking to. He listened sheepishly, nodding, and patting his arm in a self-consoling fashion. I had been wrong to underestimate the women in their veils, I realized.

As an urban educated woman, I expected ‘liberated’ women to wear jeans or practical salwar kameezzes, to read or watch the news, or have jobs. I was guilty of dismissing women dressed in traditional attire as catering to stifling custom and saw them as being less whole and complete, imagining them to be lacking in agency and independent thought.

This was all nonsense, of course. Women everywhere, in jeans or purdah, are whole beings on their own paths with their own thoughts and feelings. Kamaladevi writes of the people she met as whole people – examining them beyond their attire, manners, or socio-economic custom or even politics. Among her stories, are stories of the Indian woman at a time when India was really going through tremendous change.

1. Looking Beyond the Veil at the Real Woman

In Inner Recesses, Outer Spaces, Kamaladevi spends the early chapters giving tribute to her life in a little village in the Western Ghats where she was raised by her mother and grandmother. I treaded through those pages warily because Indian writers have a tendency to deify their parents, and this can be a little tiresome. However, she wrote of the matrons in her family with warmth and humanity. Her mother could be sour and bitter on occasion when she spoke of the low position of women in society or even her own situation after the death of her husband. While she was religious, she was also rational and expected her daughter to be well educated, troubled by the fact that her daughter seemed to prefer spending more time out of doors than in her classroom. Her grandmother, although she had many children, was detached, and would travel alone at a time when there were no cars or even trains close by. Even today, in India, we make a big deal about women traveling alone – “solo travel” we call it. But at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, women travelled alone. Maybe not all women, but some did.

She also writes of her beautiful and articulate aunt who was unfortunately widowed early in life. As a widow, she wore the obvious signs of widowhood, like a shorn head, but in private she bristled at the humiliation. Yet, she was able to shield her personality – protect herself from bitterness and cynicism. Time and time again, Kamaladevi points to these women, who carve a space for themselves within the trappings of custom and tradition, and who come to occupy a useful space in their community and society. Her mother and grandmother created little communities where women could gather and get together and share ideas. Her aunt became the person everyone looked for in the time of a crisis. She was powerful and a source of strength that the family depended on – virtues that we often associate with masculinity – strength, power, stability.

Similarly, she writes of Kasturba who had the unenviable position of being Gandhi’s partner in life. I say unenviable because Gandhi was not a romantic walk in the park if you hadn’t noticed. Kasturba had married a rather ordinary 14 year old boy who transformed himself into a Mahatma, and she had to keep up. She did keep up. Kamaladevi writes of Kasturba’s “presence” as being independently powerful. As Gandhi himself writes, Kasturba had her own clear perspectives and points of view. She stated them honestly and her personality survived the overwhelming personality of her husband’s. Yet, she played the role of the traditional woman, who at the end of the day was loyal to her husband till the end. There was no contradiction in her being.

From left to right: Ameena Tyabji, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and Kasturba, circa 1930. Kasturba’s body language exudes that power that Kamaladevi describes in her book.

On several occasions Kamaladevi returns to a criticism of the modern post-Independence woman and her letting go of those aspects of her cultural identity that made her unique. Kamaladevi speaks of being in jail with various female Satyagrahis from different parts of India. She wrote of how these women’s cultural identity was evident in the manner in which they wore their simple sari, their choice of modest jewellery etc. In contrast, the modern woman has let that go because in our hurry to leave the admittedly more stifling customs, we have also let go of the good ones that perhaps ought to have been preserved.

2. The Real Challenges of being a Female Satyagrahi

In the 1920s, Kamaladevi was invited to volunteer as a Seva Dal. Seva Dal volunteers were the foot soldiers of the Congress’s non-violent movement. We have read about Satyagraha in textbooks, but we do not fully comprehend what it means to be non-violent in the face of violence.

She explains the nature of the work of a Satyagrahi as follows:

“When attacked, the natural reaction is to hit back. Here the victim had to endure untold physical pain as also mental humiliation. Here pain in a manner is invited on oneself, with no scope for relief through retaliation. Similarly in a normal fist fight a result emerges and the matter normally ends. Psychologically the struggle drags, offers no immediate satisfaction. This called for prolonged sustained stamina, firm faith in the objective which may not even be realized in the volunteer’s lifetime.”

Women wholeheartedly participated in the Seva Dal training camps but in the beginning, there was no active role for them to play in the Salt Satyagraha. Kamaladevi still in her 20s, convinced Gandhi that women, who had been working shoulder-to-shoulder with the men in the political movement, should be given a chance to join the Salt March and movement. He reluctantly agreed to issuing a public invitation and soon enough scores of women joined to support Gandhi’s campaign and court arrest.

Satyagrahis participating in Prabhat Pheris in Bombay, 1930

In the months that followed large crowds of Satyagrahis were arrested and sent to jail at the Arthur Road women’s quarters, Mumbai. Her description of life in prison really explains why Seva Dal camps were needed to prepare the Satyagrahis psychologically, because prison life was intensely difficult and humiliating.

Women were stuffed into prison cells, shoulder to shoulder with ordinary criminals. It was hot, dirty, and loud. The women demanded to be treated as political prisoners, different from the more dangerous criminals that they were being forced to share cells with. But these requests fell on deaf ears, until one woman, Perin Captain, inspired her cell mates to non-violently resist going back into their cells once their break time was over. So, hundreds of women stood on the verandas outside their cells, rooted to the ground, forcing the people in charge of the prisons to re-organize the cell allocation. Still, the physical discomfort was immense. There was not enough healthcare in prison and, after a long bout of jaundice Kamaladevi herself had set up a voluntary hospital clinic for small first aid type procedures. She sometimes would have to deal with more serious cases including childbirth and serious illnesses. She writes of a time in prison, when it was so stiflingly hot in her cell, which lacked ventilation, that every night she would faint because of the heat and lack of air and would be found unconscious in the morning by the jailer.

What moved me the most was that women prisoners were given thick and rough khadi sarees but were not allowed underwear. There isn’t a clear explanation of this omission. Depend on Kamaladevi to try and solve the issue. She wrote a memo with a list of grievances – their request for underwear being of highest priority. But the memo was received by an irate Irishman who was the jail superintendent. He simply changed Kamaladevi’s living quarters separating her from everyone else to prevent a revolt.

3, The Expanded View of Feminism

Occasionally, I get to listen or talk to adolescents on topics like feminism. Recently, when the American Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I listened to some of them express themselves very strongly and while I was pleased to hear them articulate themselves so clearly, I also wondered at how overwhelmingly Western our Perspective on feminism is. Feminism, it felt like, had boiled down to hashtag-able issues – like #RoevWade or #metoo. Both issues are important and complex, something that quick 280 character Twitter posts cannot do justice to. In India, however, women’s issues are further complicated by economic and social issues like poverty and caste.

In India, women got the right to vote earlier and more easily than the women in Western countries. We also have several extremely powerful female leaders like Indira Gandhi, Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi, etc who are often judged more for their tolerance for corruption, autocratic ways, or poor policy decisions than for being a woman. Yet, we are also a country where the gender gap still persists and where pregnant mothers cannot find out the gender of their child during an ultrasound – a law that has saved many lives. India is complicated – far more complex than what American, white-washed feminism can grapple with.

Kamaladevi was uncomfortable with being linked to the Western definition of feminism, but in my view, she was definitely an Indian feminist. She spent much of the 1920s travelling around India on speaking tours, trying to create support for social and legal changes to give women more equal rights. Over time she chose to define her struggle in more general terms. She writes –

“As time went on, I realised we would have to move and function within a wider parameter. The demand for national freedom had already been sounded as basic for our national well-being. Thereupon followed the demand for equal opportunities for all, as obviously women were not the only victims of social and economic disabilities and discriminations, others were equally oppressed socially, and depressed economically. It was dimly growing on me that the women’s struggle had therefore to be an indivisible part of the larger political, social and economic struggle.”

Kamaladevi leading a flag procession, circa 1930

Kamaladevi’s brand of feminism has a special name now – it is called Intersectional Feminism. It acknowledges that there is difference in the discrimination faced by an upper caste, urban, educated woman and a tribal woman in an impoverished part of the country. The solution really is to raise everyone together – to create social institutions and systems that not just prevent exclusion but focus on inclusion and equality. It is an argument that no thinking and feeling person can refute, but it is very difficult to put into practice because it is very difficult to overcome prejudice and fear or discomfort with differences. That is why thousands of NGOs and millions of social and government workers are working away furiously at a job that never seems to end – the job of creating a fairer world.

After independence, Kamaladevi worked to create a marketplace for rural women and men who worked with their hands. She established cottage industries and handicraft councils to revive the arts and create an economy for the artist. Her institutions to revive the performing arts also gave a legitimate space for the artist. She worked with tribal women’s groups and artists to make sure their culture didn’t disappear but also to make sure that there was a market where their work could bring them some income. Kamaladevi was solution oriented.

Although Kamaladevi’s memoir is not a feminist treatise, it is an important book to read because it tells the story of the women’s movement in India with all its in-built complexity. She occasionally does sound a little harsh in her judgment of modern India, like an old grandmother who likes to tell her grandchildren how it was better in the olden days. As a reader, I chose to tolerate it. What is the point if you live an amazing life, if you can’t be given a free-griping pass. Old people have the right to look back at their past with rose tinted glasses – it is the reward for a life well spent.

Resources:

I sourced my images from the 2 following sites and most of my information from her book, as listed below.

  1. A Fistful of Salt: How Women Took Charge of the Dandi March. The Wire. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://thewire.in/women/women-dandi-march-gandhi
  2. Pal, S. (2017, April 3). A freedom fighter with a feminist soul, this woman’s contributions to modern India are staggering! The Better India. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.thebetterindia.com/94158/kamaladevi-chattopadhyay-feminist-freedom-fighter-cooperatives-faridabad/
  3. Chattopadhyay, K. (2014). Inner recesses outer spaces: Memoirs. India International Centre.