Sarojini Naidu – “Oh, we want a new breed of men before India can be cleansed of her disease” – Birthday Special

Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu was born on 13th February 1879 in a Bengali Hindu family at Hyderabad. Naidu was an Indian political activist and poet. A proponent of civil rights, women’s emancipation, and anti-imperialistic ideas, she was an important figure in India’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. After Independence Sarojini Naidu became the first female governor of India.

She was the eldest of the eight siblings. Her brother Vrendranath Chattopadhyay was a revolutionary, and another brother Harindranath was a poet, a dramatist, and an actor. Their family was well-regarded in Hyderabad, not only for leading the Nizam College of Hyderabad but also as Hyderabad’s most famous artists in a time of British rule. Being an artist in the era of British rule in India was considered a risky career, yet with their progressive values, they pursued them anyway.

Born in a Bengali family in Hyderabad, Naidu was educated in Chennai, London, and Cambridge. Following her time in England, where she worked as a suffragist, she was drawn to Indian National Congress’ movement for India’s independence from British rule.

She became a part of the Indian nationalist movement and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his idea of swaraj. She was appointed the President of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and later became the Governor of the United Provinces in 1947, becoming the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

In 1905, her first collection of poems, named The Golden Threshold was published. The volume bore an introduction by Arthur Symons. Her poems were admired by prominent Indian politicians like Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

Naidu’s poem “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” was published as a part of The Bird of Time with her other poems in 1912. “In the Bazaars of Hyderabad” was well received by critics, who variously noted Naidu’s visceral use of rich sensory images in her writing.

Analysing her political legacy, English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote, “It has been our good fortune, while in Bombay, to meet Mrs Sarojini Naidu, the newly elected President of the All-India Congress and a woman who combines in the most remarkable way great intellectual power with charm, sweetness with courageous energy, a wide culture with originality, and earnestness with humour. If all Indian politicians are like Mrs Naidu, then the country is fortunate indeed.”

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