Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

A STUDY OF LIFE

KALYANI BHATTACHARJEE

Translated from the original Bengali JEEBON ADHYAYAN, by Dhira Dhar. Reproduced with permission of Jay Bhattacharjee (son of Kalyani Bhattacharjee)

Foreward by Kalidas Nag

Kalyani Das (Bhattacharjee) is the elder sister of Bina Das. But that is not her only identity. The two daughters of Acharya Beni Madhab Das were in the forefront of the women's movement when women first realized that they too must pay the price for freedom. Why would only men make sacrifices? Women too have the same right. Did they learn of this "mantra" of equality from the teachings of Brhamananda Keshub Chandra Sen, who was going round the city chanting songs of divine glory? They were schoolgirls at the time of the 1921 movement. But as they entered college they came forward as true partners of men in the fiery battle for freedom. Kalyani passed through so many tests and trials with her young sister. We read of them in Bina's writings; here we learn more in Kalyani's "A Study of Life". She has named her book well, for truly these travellers on the path to death were experimenting with their lives. They not only saw with their eyes, they felt in their hearts the turbulent call of freedom. At the altar of this freedom they sacrificed all their personal wants and desires, the love and affection even of their loving parents. They were ready to welcome death sacrificing anything.

Time is not ripe yet for a proper assessment of their work, but as a historian I find interest in their writings. Breaking away from the old pattern, freedom movement burst forth with new energy in India and the rest of Asia as well. Women, in full awareness, plunged into the battle for freedom as equal partners of men. Maybe this was an inevitable natural phenomenon quickened by the spread of education among women.

But in Kalyani's book we find new matters for thought. The contribution of the poor and uneducated women was not negligible at all. I was filled with wonder at the description of so many women, Hindu, Muslim, Bengali, and Non-bengali from different social layers in the background of the jails. This book has been written not only well; Kalyani has written the story of these forgotten nameless women with her pen dipped in her heart's blood. Once you start reading you cannot stop till the end. God has endowed these commonplace, ordinary women with exceptional mental strength. With my head bowed in reverence I think of this miraculous manifestation. Did Rabindranath had these women in mind when he wrote his poem "Kalyani"? He had seen women succeed in this terrible test of mental strength. When Mahatmaji came and gave his call thousands of women responded fearlessly. Then it became clear, India was truly on the way to freedom. Self sacrifice of women gave a new meaning to the mantra of "Bande Mataram"

From the world of crime a new science has evolved - the science of Criminology or criminal psychology. In the words of the Poet, "E tomar e aamar paap"; ( "This crime is yours - and mine"). Mahatmaji said "Hate sin not the sinner". Kalyani's book "A Study Of Life" will remain as a statement of truth. Without any exaggeration, she has documented the bare facts of the true stories she had heard in Jail. This book should be translated from Bengali to our national language Hindi and also to English.

Sympathetic souls like the Author should be entrusted with the task of reforming the Jails. Are we aware of the many wrongs we are still perpetrating unknowingly, even today in free India, in the name of correcting criminals? We must try to find out how far we have succeeded in liberating mankind from the grip of inhuman cruelty of the past dark age. May be Kalyani Devi's "A study of life" will teach us to look at the downtrodden people with new respect.
 

"Jethae thake sabar adham diner hote din
seikhane je charan tomar raaje
sabar pichhe sabar niche sab-harader maajhe"

Pages