Lyricism on fireWe need not waver between doubt and certainty to hold that no other Indian woman has won her laurels in so many walks of life as did Sarojini Naidu. She was a unique poet, a superb politician, a trumpet call of patriotism, a stirring speaker on public platforms, a woman of tremendous executive drive, a staunch congressional worker. She revealed herself in a succession of amazements.
The world knows her poetry as an inimitable delectation, a magnificence of rhythmic expression. "Some of her [Sarojini's] lyrical work," says Sri Aurobindo, "is likely, I think, to survive among the lasting things in English literature, and by these, even if they are fine rather than great, she may take her rank among the immortals." It is quite interesting to observe when and how she was blessed by the God of poetry to have her first access to the "realm of gold": "One day, when I was eleven, I was sighing over a sum in Algebra: It wouldn't come right; but instead a whole poem came to me suddenly. I wrote it down. From that day my 'poetic career' began."
Another quite astonishing event in her adolescence was that she passed her Matriculation for Madras University, in her twelfth year.
Right from her adolescence she possessed a cosmopolitan heart. Hence she was a genuine stranger to the caste system. The "Chatterjee" of Bengal and the "Naidu" of Madras (Andhra) have established a happy union between the two great provinces of India.
I sent my soul into the invisible,
Some letter of that after life to spell.
And by and by my soul returned to me
And answered, I myself am Heaven and hell.
— Omar Khayyam (Rubaiyat)
Long before her birth the great Persian poet had depicted the essence of all spiritual doctrines so highly admired by Sarojini. I now venture to draw the attention of my readers to observe how another Persian, K.D. Sethna, an outstanding poet, critic, and philosopher, has compared Sarojini with some Indian leaders when she burst upon the view of her countrymen by virtue of her meteoric rise in the political horizon:
"Gandhi could instil great strength of moral purpose, Pandit Nehru a fine and wide idealism, Sardar Patel a bold and dynamic drive for liberty. But the visionary intoxication which seemed to make all burdens drop was peculiar to Sarojini… Sarojini did not overlook difficulties, but she rendered them transpicuous, as it were, and showed a resplendent future beyond them."
To the patriots she was an irresistible enthusiasm. Her life proved a surge that laughed at the impossible. It was often that her advice gained ready acceptance. One of the qualities that she had in the fullest manner was the art of humour. The humorous words flung from her tongue would make people rollick in laughter. Also she was endowed with intellectual faculties of a high order, and an imperial ease in English language. To the poet she was a never-failing fountain of beauty in earthly and Heavenly expressions. The staunch patriot in her cried out through her immortal poetical voice:
Thy future calls thee with a manifold sound
To crescent honours, splendours, victories vast;
Waken, O slumbering Mother, and be crowned,
Who once wert empress of the sovereign past.
Sarojini Devi's multifarious activities might have considerably disturbed her spiritual thirst. Nevertheless, hers was the heart of a true aspirant. Her devotional attitude is so striking that even those who are solely devoted to spirituality cannot help admiring, nay, imitating her self-surrendering prayer:
Take my flesh to feed your dogs if you choose,
Water your garden-trees with my blood if you will,
Turn my heart into ashes, my dreams into dust —
Am I not yours, O Love, to cherish or kill?
As ill-luck would have it, men are deluded into the belief that they are infinitely superior to women. Not in defence of women, but as a bare truth she thundered against this great folly of men. She voiced forth the most important role that women play in the uplifting of humanity:
"It is we, and not you, who are the real nation-builders, and without our active co-operation at all points of progress, all your Congresses and Conferences are in vain. Educate your women and the nation will take care of itself, for it is true today as it was yesterday and will be to the end of human life that the hand that rocks the cradle is the power that rules the world."
Furthermore, there is a magic spell of delight and wonder woven around the name of Sarojini Naidu in this great sub-continent.