13 Feb 2023, Mangaluru: When we talk of Sarojini Naidu as an Indian Poet, Politician, Women and Civil Rights activist we generally tend to forget the Woman she was from within. It’s pretty easy otherwise to detail and evaluate her works in the society based on her activism. But to discern Sarojini Naidu as the diverse lady she was born as and the to distinguish her as the steely woman she lived as, it is imperative to analyze her poems which is the place where she opened her heart.
Aptly conferred to be known as the “Nightingale of India” and being an enthralling poet Sarojini Naidu embodied the Vanity of India in the earlier of the previous century. Sarojini Naidu was a torch bearer for the upcoming poets of those conservative times. What makes her more relevant even today is because; she still stimulates the imagination of all budding students of literature. She wasn’t only an sensitive poet, she was a zealous political leader dedicated to the Indian freedom struggle, she was a fervent social activist devoted to liberate and upgrade the women of India not to forget she was also a person who advocated the cause of modern day civil rights.
To know her as a person it would be fascinating to know her through her poems. They are enlightening as she noticeably parades the Indian milieu and the Indian societal times with a concentrated appetite clearly portraying her as a person of intense observation and potent expression. Her poems are synonym with influential lyrics rendering the local Indian Character in all its glory of genuineness, placidness and zest. The splendor and sparkle of her poems have granted it the deserved eternal place of eminence in the Indian literary history. Sarojini Naidu ended up as a woman who embodied the Indian Spirit and who used the English language to carry the Indian condition and melodies to the World.
The Palanquin Bearers, Bangle Sellers, Indian Weavers and Coromandel Fishers are some of the poems of Sarojini Naidu which portrays the simplicity and positivity of the Indian folk who live their customary life with enthusiastic happiness and equal brightness. These poems of Sarojini Naidu depict the deep observation skills of Naidu and her abysmal sensitivity to the people around her. She was very successful in telling the people about the beneficial powers of these folks who toil in the soil with pride to survive and live.
Her Poems and her sensibilities…
Lightly, O Lightly we bear her along,
She sways like a flower in the wind of our song;
She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream,
She floats like a laugh from the lips of a dream.
Gaily, O Gaily we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.
Softly, O Softly we bear her along,
She hangs like a star in the dew of our song;
She springs like a beam on the brow of the tide,
She falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride.
Lightly, O lightly we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.
The “Palanquin Bearers” represents the emotions of Indian brides and the ethos of Indian marriages. With all-encompassing usage of descriptions, the poem reflects the happiness and sorrow in Indian marriages. Though the bride is ecstatic about her marriage yet she is unhappy to leave her family and friends. The palanquin bearers sing as they carry the bride in her decorated glory.
They carry the palanquin lightly, softly and “bear her along like a pearl on a string”. The bride is not a burden to them, but swings like a flower in the wind of their song and glides like the bird on the foam of a stream. By comparing the bride to the flower and bird, Sarojini Naidu portrays the lightand softhearted moods of the Indian bride.
The Indian Weavers
Weavers, weaving at break of day,
Why do you weave garment so gay?
Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,
WE weave the robes of a new born child.
Weavers weaving at fall of night,
Why do you weave a garment so bright?
Like the plumes of a peacock, purple and green,
We weave the marriage-veils of a Queen.
Weavers, weaving solemn and still,
What do you weave in the moonlight chill?
White as a feather and white as a cloud,
We weave a dead man’s funeral shroud.
The “Indian Weavers” orders on the different stages of the human life (birth, marriage and death).
When it is the day break, they joyfully weave the blue garment for the new-born. During the “fall of night” they weave the bright purple and green garment, which is like the “plumes of a peacock”. This clothing is for the queen to embellish her on her marriage day. In the third paragraph the mood of the poem shifts from joy to sorrow. The weavers are no longer cheerful but are now “solemn and still” since they are weaving the white “dead man’s funeral shroud” on a chill moonlight. The poem ends with a melancholic disposition briefing on the garment that the weavers weave for the dead. The poem highlights the life cycle of human existence and the emotions and thought process of the weavers.
The Bangle Sellers
Bangle sellers are we who bear
Our shining loads to the temple fair….
Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tainted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.
Some are meant for a maiden’s wrist,
Silver and blue as the mountain mist,
Some are flushed like the buds that dream
On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,
Some are aglow with the bloom that cleaves
To the limpid glory of new born leaves.
Some are like fields of sunlit corn,
Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,
Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,
Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire,
Tinkling, luminous, tender and clear,
Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.
Some are purple and gold flecked grey
For she who has journeyed through life midway,
Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest?
And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,
And serves her household in fruitful pride,
And worships the Gods at her husband’s side.
In the poem “Bangle Sellers” Sarojini Naidu links the shining colorful bangles with the happy daughters and happy wives of India. The poet expresses the spiritual and symbolic value of the lustrous, flushed, tinkling and luminous bangles. The poet uses variedimages to bring about brilliance and frenzy in the poem. Lyrics like “rainbow-tinted circles of light”, “Silver and blue as the mountain mist”, “like fields of sunlit corn”, “purple and gold flecked grey” show not only the beauty and extravaganza of the bangles but also the delight of the bangle sellers.
The Coromandel Fishers
Rise, brothers rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night,
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the Kings of the sea!
No longer delay, let us hasten away in the track of the sea gull’s call,
The sea is our mother, the cloud is our brother, the waves are our comrades all,
What though we toss at the fall of the Sun where the hand of the Sea-God drives?
He who holds the storm by the hair, will hide in his breast our lives.
Sweet us the shade of the coconut glade, and the scent of the mango grove,
And sweet are the sands at the full, the moon with the sound of the voices we love;
But sweeter, O brothers, the kiss of the spray and the dance of the wild foam’s glee;
Row, brothers, Row to the edge of the verge, where the low sky mates with the sea.
‘Coromandel Fishers’ the fishermen are asked in the early hours of the day, to venture into the sea “to capture the leaping wealth of the tide.” The sea is compared to the mother, cloud to brother and waves to friends. The poem takes a mysticaltone when the poet says that the Sea God will protect the lives of the fishermen.
The poet further appeals the fishermen to ride into the sea to kiss the splashing waters and the dance of the wild waters. The poem ‘Coromandel Fishers’ is an appeal to the fisher folk to begin their work with joy and enthusiasm.
Her works that teach….
Sarojini Naidu’s poems retain the intense artistic sense and arespect for theinsignia and Indian tradition. Her poems gorgeously paint the portraits of various occupations that were common during her time.
Sarojini Naidu’s poems are patented with the air of humble thoughts. For example, Bangles sellers, who are a group of simple people, express their views on the “lustrous tokens” i.e. bangles that they carry for the Indian daughters and wives. The lifestyle of the simple Indian population and their professions are unveiled with lyrical intellect and prodigal colorfulness. In the poem “The Bangle Sellers”, the simple bangle sellers recount their experience in posturing the shining and “rainbow-tinted” bangles to the temple fair to beautify the joyful women folk. Throughout the poem we find attractivemetaphors used to define bangles and the damsels of India. These similes and vivid poetic depiction takes the reader into a world of ecstasy and delight.
The linguistics in “Palanquin Bearers” is humble and genuine. The views sway like, how the bride sways “like a flower in the wind” to the palanquin bearers’ song. The comparison of the bride to the flower, bird, pearl and star with intensely colored vocabulary surprises the readers. Sarojini Naidu pictures and articulates the in-depth moods of the palanquin bearers with amazingfancy. Sentences like “she falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride” express the creativeeminence of the poet in Sarojini Naidu.
The poem “Indian Weavers” illustrates in simple jargon the régime and thought process of the weavers. Whether they weave for the new born baby, or a bright purple and green garment for the “marriage veils of a Queen”, the weavers weave withmodest thoughts and equal happiness. But when weaving the white shroud for a dead man’s funeral, the weavers bear thoughts of gloom and stillness. The poem statesthe journey from life to death.
The animated working class in Sarojini Naidu’s poems expresses their positive thoughts in “Coromandel Fishers”. “The Coromandel Fishers’ not only prompt the fishermen’s identity with the sea and with the community, but also the folk sense of order and discipline. It evokes a folk inclination which is yet intact and unmoved by modern expertise and intricacy. The poem begins with positive words like “rise, brothers, rise”. The poet inspires the fishers not to delay in going into the sea but to also heed to the call of the sea gull. In addition to this, a call is given to the fishers:
“Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea!”
The poem “Bangle Sellers” statespassion and enthusiasm for the profession. Though the weavers weave for different kinds of people like the newborn, queen and the dead man, they are avid in their work and symbolize honesty in their profession. The palanquin bearers in “Palanquin Bearers” exhibit happiness and joy in carrying the palanquin of the bride. They gladly bear the bride and sing, while the bride sways like a flower”. Further, the palanquin bearers sing,
“Gaily, O gaily we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.”
The above lines define the joy and gratification that the palanquin bearers have while carrying the palanquin. They are concerned about the bride and effortlessly bear her along. They do not consider theywork for carrying a burden, but take it as a pleasure to perform their duty. The lines specify the accountable and helpful nature and the love for the occupation that the palanquin bearers retain.
What she meant….
The vivacious working class of Sarojini Naidu’s poems signifieslife, buoyancy, passion and strength. Be it the Bangle Sellers, Indian Weavers, The Palanquin Bearers or the Coromandel Fishers, they all say the message of working with delight and gratification. They are humble village people of the early twentieth century who enunciatethe importance of cheerfulness and contentment while performing their duties.
This message is important even for today’s knowledge and technology driven workforce. Thousands of employees who work in the mushrooming business establishments have become habituated to their jobs and have lost the joy to work. They are fixated to the computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The present day working class has been entombed in the complex network of labor. But the profession has to be seen with a positive outlook and needs to be carried out with amusement and accomplishment. The vivacious working class of the Sarojini Naidu’s times educates the twenty first century readers and professionals with these stimuli.
What she was, and what we have to be…
Sarojini Naidu. A woman long forgotten by us all today. Go to a well-known book store and ask for a Sarojini Naidu book, most likely, you are not gonna get it. We don’t prefer to read works of our great leaders to led us to freedom and gave us enlightenment in those times. It was the sustenance of those simple and devoted times that has led to the livery of the present times. But sadly, we lack the sense of gratitude to our glorious past and its enshrining people of accomplishment. For us to remember them and express gratitude to them or even make them our current heroes make us look out fashioned or not in sync. It seems not cool.
Icons of today Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Messi, Ronaldo, Maradona, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, DeepikaPadukone, Priyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar, Kohli, Dhonietc maybe achievers themselves, but remember they too have shades of our erstwhile leaders and icons. We tend to overlook those attributes, which if we do note and follow, will make us different, too.
On this day, the 13th of February-2023(The Birth anniversary of Sarojini Naidu) as we ready ourselves to celebrate the Valentine’s day tomorrow, let us spend a minute to promise to ourselves that, we will give some space in our lives to enshrine the characteristics of our freedom fighters like Sarojini Naidu.
She lived selflessly. She fought for positive change in the society. She fought for our civil rights and freedom. Her life is a lesson to be learnt, which unfortunately we have not.
Sarojini Naidu deserves better from us all. Give her some space in you……
- GRINISH KALLINGAL