This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 13; the thirteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
In the small Midnapore district of Bengal in British India was born a little brown girl with intelligent beady eyes.
The mother used to work as a maid with the wealthy Mukhopadhyay family in their district. She had enjoyed listening to her mistress recite Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry, as she fanned her, one lazy afternoon. So when her own little brown daughter was born she knew what they would call her.
She would be Khanika, a beautiful girl rightly named after Tagore’s beautiful poetry.
“Eta Lakshmi Maa!”
Her family soon began referring to her as the goddess of wealth because no sooner had she arrived that The Railway Company came forward and offered jobs to the local unemployed men along with other additional incentives. Her family could dream of rising above the poverty line, finally. Construction of the bridge over the Kosai River was also completed by June 1901 and the Midnapore district was soon connected by railway lines.
Once little baby Khanika was wrapped tightly into a bundle, by her mother but soon the child had managed to free herself and was wailing away, flailing her hands about.
“Look! She’s waving her right arm like a flag.” Her granny had observed with pride. Little did the old lady know that her observation was, in fact, a prediction of sorts!
The mother continued to work with the Mukhopadhyay household and the mistress grew very fond of Khanika. At home, though a very bright child, Khanika was only the 5th daughter of her parents while the Mukhopadhyay’s house was full of sons. Thus Khanika’s talents were better appreciated over there and she was treated as one of the family members.
Surbhi Mashi, as Khanika was taught to address Mrs. Mukhopadhyay, took personal interest in her schooling and grooming. Khanika was pulled out of the village school after primary education and was soon attending The Hamilton School at Tamluk in a well-tailored uniform. Khanika had a bright future written in bold on her cards and that’s what everybody talked about when she passed through the by-lanes, back from school to the Mukhopadhyay Haveli into her Mashi’s arms.
Surbhi Mashi was everything a girl could ask for.
“Bauso!” She’d sit Khanika down before her on the queen-sized four poster bed. Skipping her own afternoon siestas she would lovingly take to oiling Khanika’s already quite neatly kempt hair, combing and braiding them into neat plaits. All the while she would be humming one or the other of Shri Rabindranath Tagore’s poems. The poems written in fluent Bengali appealed to the masses, especially to Khanika since she felt a great connect with them, for many reasons.
“What is the meaning of that?”
Khanika would butt in now and then and her interest always received a favorable response from her Mashi. She would lovingly oblige and explain the deep meaning and philosophy of the words woven together into a song. Khanika’s growing years were thus steeped in Rabindranath Tagore’s poems rich in Indian thoughts, Indian culture and Indian ethos.
“Have you seen Shree Rabindranath Tagore?”, the curious teenager had inquired with Mashi once.
Within the next fortnight she was initiated to the Eden-like gardens of Shantiniketan. Studying in the idyllic environs of Patha Bhavana was what shaped Khanika’s life.
The day Rabinranath Tagore had come to Shantiniketan and Khanika saw him from close quarters for the first time she ran all the way home and bursting into the kitchen, she’d almost deafened Mashi with,
“Se ese chilo! Se ese chilo!”
“So what if he’d come to Shantiniketan?” Mashi’s eldest son Shiben had tried to cut down the excitement in irrepressible envy.
“It was like a dream come true!” Khanika tried to explain the beauty of Rabindranath Tagore's personality in words.
“The smooth flowing beard and long silvery hair… that handsome and well proportioned face….
Oh Mashi! Gurudev has a large forehead, shining eyes and a shapely nose. Intelligence is written in every pore of his skin. He wears a long robe which reaches to his ankles showing only the slippers. His skin was of the colour of ivory. Every inch of him emanates his love and compassion. His calm appearance makes him look almost like a RishiMoni, a sage!”
Khanika heard her Mashi’s perturbed voice inquiring of Mr. Mukhopadhyay,
“Kagoz te ki lekha aachche?”
It was all over the newspapers.
In one of the streets of the Punjab city of Amritsar, an Englishwoman had supposedly been molested. The local commander of the British Raj, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, had immediately issued an order that all Indians passing through that lane had to crawl the length of that street on their hands and knees. He’d also ordered the indiscriminate public whipping of all natives coming within the British Policeman’s Lathi length. Following this the legislation placed restrictions on a number of civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, banning gatherings of more than four Indians.
On April 13, 1919, a multitude of Punjabis gathered in Amritsar's JallianWala Bagh as part of the Sikh Festival ‘Baisakhi’ celebrations and to protest against the extreme measures. 50 British Indian Army soldiers, under the command of General Dyer, opened fire without any warning on the unarmed gathering of men, women and children. The firing lasted for 10-15 minutes, until they ran out of ammunition. Official British Raj sources placed the fatalities at 379, and 1,100 wounded while Civil Surgeon Dr. Smith indicated that there were 1,526 casualties.
“I can only quote from Tagore’s Gitanjali , Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”, said Surbhi Mashi sighing in resignation.
Mr. Mukhopadhyay recited yet another line from the Gitanjali,
“ Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might."
Khanika’s teenage blood was boiling with rage and the air was rife with patriotism.
Just then Shiben burst into the room wildly waving a copy of the weekly Young India and crying, “Gurudev has given up his knighthood in protest!”
Soon after, Gandhiji began The Non-cooperation Movement and Shantiniketan was not impervious to it!
In Shantiniketan, Khanika had not only obtained a degree but also acquired huge knowledge in various types of arts and cultures. She shone amongst all the students and was affectionately called Kanu by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
Khanika was immensely influenced by Tagore’s principles of life, views of education and patriotism. By the age of 40, Khanika was completely immersed in conducting adult education programmes in the surrounding villages and had also joined The Indian National Congress.
After ages she decided to visit her Gurudev at Shantiniketan one day but Tagore was unfortunately severly ill then. Nandababu who was taking care of Gurudev at that time told her,
"He is rather weak nowadays and receives but a few visitors. However he will certainly feel happy to see you."
Though her disappointment showed on her face, Khanika had immediately replied, “No, no. I do not wish him to waste his energy in talking to me.”
"Tell Gurudev," she said before leaving, "His Kanu is working towards fulfilling his wish. I am going to strive for winning back the country, not from the British, but from apathy and indifference. Gurudev as you’d dreamed our country will attain salvation for now it is truly pulsating with a passion for the recovery of our motherland. This time the British will have to say a final GoodBye to India! ”
Tagore unfortunately passed away on the 7th of August, 1941.
Khanika’s grief knew no bounds when she received the news, “Although Gurudev has sadly said GoodBye to this material world, his beauty, creative genius and excellence will continue to live through his work and will remain deep-rooted within the soul of his people!”
The Quit India Movement was launched nationwide in August 1942 in response to Gandhiji's call for immediate independence. This Independence Movement was a revolution empowered by the people of India to battle the British Empire and force them into giving India complete political independence.
The Quit India movement wasn’t a controlled volunteer movement like Gandhiji's previous movements and wasn’t conceived like a traditional Satyagraha. This time it was to be a 'fight to the finish', an 'open rebellion'. This was designed to be 'short and swift' and exhibited the capacity to plunge the country into a 'conflagration'. Foreign domination was to be ended at whatever cost.
Khanika ferociously led the procession of six thousand supporters, mostly women volunteers, with an aim of taking over the Tamluk police station in the Midnapore district. Taking over various police stations and government offices was a strategized step to overthrow the British government in the district. This would in turn contribute towards establishing an independent Indian state.
Khanika’s procession had reached the outskirts of the town when they were ordered to disband under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code by the British Raj. The police began firing at the crowd again. Khanika continued to lead the procession from the north of the criminal court building even after the firing commenced. The police shot her three times and despite the severe wounds in the forehead and on both her hands she marched ahead!
She still kept chanting Vande Mataram.
A Bengali policeman of the British Raj came up to her and mocked at what he thought was utter stupidity, “Eta ki uttor?”
“Etai uttor!”, replied Khanika unperturbed and determinedly continued to advance with the tri-colour flag, leaving all the volunteers behind.
“You think the British are going to be scared of you?” he persisted to ask.
Though in excruciating pain, “Ha, nischoy!” was Khanika’s quick replay again.
Khanika bade a GoodBye very soon too but she had firmly laid the foundation to the fall of the British Raj. The population of millions of Indians had been motivated like never before to claim independence as a non-negotiable goal, and every act of defiance and rebellion from the British only reinforced the nationalist sentiment.
August 15, 1947-
India achieved complete freedom when the British Raj had to bid the Indian shores GOODBYE for good, leaving us singing Rabindranath Tagore's words with pride!
Jano Gano Mano Adhinaayako Jayo Hey,Bhaarato Bhaagyo Bidhaataa
Panjaabo Sindhu Gujaraato Maraathaa,Draabiro Utkalo Bango
Bindhyo Himaachalo Jamunaa Gangaa, Uchchhalo Jalodhi Tarango
Tabo Shubho Naamey Jaagey, Tabo Shubho Aashisho Maagey
Gaahey Tabo Jayogaathaa
Jano Gano Mangalo Daayako, Jayo Hey Bhaarato Bhaagyo Bidhaataa
Jayo Hey, Jayo Hey, Jayo Hey,Jayo Jayo Jayo, Jayo Hey
Facts in the Fiction:
1. Construction of the bridge over the Kosai river was indeed completed by June 1901 and the Midnapore district was soon connected by railway lines.
2. The Tamluk Hamilton School in Midnapore is the oldest school in the district. This school produced a lot of jewels, but was made famous by Kshudiram Bose, the first martyr, who sacrificed his life to free the nation from the hands of British rule. He was a student of this school from 1900 to 1903.
3. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and The Quit India Movement
4. This story is largely influenced by the lives of Indian Freedom fighters Malati Choudhury and Matangini Hazra.
5. The 1942 Quit India Movement in Midnapur, Bengal was indeed led by local Congress leaders.
6. The local populace of the Tumluk subdivision of Midnapore were thoroughly successful in establishing parallel governments
Eta Lakshmi Maa: This is Goddess Lakshmi
Mashi: Aunty (Mother’s sister)
Bauso: Sit Down
Se ese chilo: He had come
RishiMoni: A sage
Kagoz te ki lekha aachche? : What is written in the newspaper?
Vande Mataram: Hail to our motherland
Eta ki uttor?: Is this the answer?
Etai uttor!: This IS the answer.
Ha, nischoy: Yes, Definitely!
Jano Gano Mano: Oh! the ruler of the minds of people, Victory be to You, dispenser of the destiny of India!
Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maharashtra,Dravida(South India), Orissa, and Bengal,
The Vindhya, the Himalayas, the Yamuna, the Ganges,and the oceans with foaming waves all around
Wake up listening to Your auspicious name, Ask for Your auspicious blessings,
And sing to Your glorious victory.
Oh! You who impart well being to the people!
Victory be to You, dispenser of the destiny of India!
Victory, victory, victory to Thee!