Lighted to Lighten
The Hope of India
A Study of Conditions among Women in India
By ALICE B. VAN DOREN
The Central Committee sends out this book on Indian girlhood to meet the young women of America with their high privilege of education, that often unrealized and unacknowledged gift of Christ.
Miss Van Doren has given emphasis in the book to the privileged young woman of India; she shows the possibilities, and yet you will see in it something of the black shadow cast by that religion which holds no place for the redemption of woman. If you could see it in its hideousness which the author can only hint at, you would say as two American college girls said after a tour through India, "We cannot endure it. Don't take us to another temple. We never dreamed that anything under the guise of religion could be so vile." And somehow there has seemed to them since a note of insincerity in poetic phrasings of Hindu writers who pass over entirely gross forms of idolatrous faith to indulge in noble sentiments which suggest plagiarism. A distinguished author said recently, "I can never read Tagore again after seeing the women of India." From sacred temple slums of South India to shambles of Kalighat it is revolting, sickening, shameful. It is pleasanter to dwell on the beauties of Hinduism and ignore the unprintable actualities, but if we are to help we must feel how terrible and immediate the need is. No one can really meet that need but the educated Indian Christian women whom God is preparing in this day for service. They are the ones who are Lighted to Lighten. They are the Hope of the future. Fifty years ago, after the Civil war, the light began in the organization of Woman's Missionary Societies. Through all the years women have gone, never very many, sometimes not very strong, limited in various ways, but with one stern determination, at any cost "to save some."
Now at the close of your war, young women of America, a new era is beginning in which you are called to take your part. You will not be the pioneers. The trail is blazed. It has been proven that Indian girls can be educated, their minds are keen and eager, they are Christian, many of them, in a sense which girls of America cannot comprehend. Their task is infinitely greater than yours. If they fail, the redemption of Indian womanhood will not be realized, and so we see them taking as the college emblem, not the beautiful, decorated brass lamp of the palace, but the common, little clay lamp of the poorest home and going out with the flickering flame to lighten the deep darkness of their land. College girls in America sometimes wear their degree as a decoration. To these girls it is equipment, armor, weapons, for the tearing down of strongholds. These girls must be leaders. They cannot escape the challenge.
Until now the undertaking has seemed hopeless. What could a few foreign women do among those millions? But the great, silent revolution has begun Eastern women are seeking self-determination as nations seek it. They are asserting rights to soul and mind and body. They refuse to be chattels, and going out to release these millions come these little groups of Christian college girls who are to furnish leadership. Have we no part? Yes, as allies we are needed as never before. Unless from the faculties of our colleges, as well as from our student volunteers adequate aid is sent at once these little groups may fail. This is your "moral equivalent of war." To go and help them in this Day which is their Day of Decision requires vision, devotion, a glorious giving of life which will count just in proportion as the need is immediate, the battle in doubt, failure possible. Mission Boards must go haltingly for lack of women and of funds until groups of women from colleges in America hear the call of Christ and follow Him, for God Himself will not do this work alone. He has chosen that it shall be done through you. From our colleges and medical schools recruits and funds must be sent until those who are in the new colleges over there are trained and ready to win India for their Master. To bring them over here for training is not altogether good. There are dangers in this our age of jazz. It is not good to send out very young girls to a far country during the formative years lest a strange language and customs and a new civilization should unfit them to go back to their "Main Street" and adjust themselves. The Indian Colleges are best for the undergraduate Indian girl and are the only ones for the great majority. We must make these the best possible, truly Christian in their teaching and standards, in impressions on the lives of students as well as in their mission to the people of India.
This book is for study in our church societies of older girls and of women, and very especially for girls in the colleges, who should consider this as one of the greatest fields for service in the world to-day. We preach internationalism. Let our churches and colleges practice it.
Mrs. HENRY W. PEABODY Miss ALICE M. KYLE Mrs. FRANK MASON NORTH Miss GERTRUDE SCHULTZ Miss O.H. LAWRENCE MRS. A.V. POHLMAN Miss EMILY TILLOTSON
NOTE: The Central Committee recommends Dr. Fleming's book, "Building with India", for advanced study classes and groups who wish really to study. For Women's societies wishing programs for meetings we think Miss Van Doren's book better as it is less difficult and more concrete.
FOREWORD LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS PREFACE INTRODUCTION I YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY II AT SCHOOL A HIGH SCHOOL III THE GARDEN OF HID TREASURE LUCKNOW IV AN INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE V SENT FORTH TO HEAL VI WOMEN WHO DO THINGS INDEX
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Regina Thuniboo What Will Life Bring to Her? Meenachi of Madura Married to the God Will Life Be Kind to Her? A Temple in South India The Sort of Home that Arul Knew Priests of the Hindu Temple Tamil Girls Preparing for College The Village of the Seven Palms Basketball at Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow Biology Class at Lucknow College A Social Service Group-Lucknow College Village People Girls of All Castes Meet on Common Ground Shelomith Vincent Street Scenes in Madras Scenes at Madras College At Work and Play The New Dormitory at Madras College The Old India Contrasts First Building at New Medical School, Vellore Dr. Scudder and the Medical Students at Vellore Where God is a Stone Image—Where God is Love A Medical Student in Vellore Better Babies Freshman Class at Vellore-Latest Arrivals at Vellore Dora Mohini Maya Das Mrs. Paul Appasamy Putting Spices in Baby's Milk Baby on Scales A Representative of India's Womanhood
These chapters are written with no claim to their being an accurate representation of life in all India. That India is a continent rather than a country is a statement so often repeated that it has become trite. To understand the details of girl-life in all parts of this continent would require a variety of experience which the present writer cannot claim. This book is written frankly from the standpoint of one who has spent fifteen years in the South, and known the North only from brief tours and the acquaintance which reading can give.
For help in advice and criticism thanks are due to friends too numerous to name; especial mention, however, should be made of the kindness of three Indian critics who have read the manuscript: Miss Maya Das of the Y.W.C.A., Calcutta, Mr. Chandy of Bangalore, and Mr. Athiseshiah of Voorhees College, Vellore.
"If there were no Christian College in India, the foreshadowings of a great To-morrow would demand its creation. It is needed:
(1) for training native leadership in this age when all India is demanding Indian leadership along all lines, and is impatient of foreign control.
(2) for developing Christian workers for the multitudes in India who are turning to Christianity and need care and shepherding in schools and in all phases of daily life.
(3) for the education of those who will be the homemakers of their country, that the stamp of Christianity may be upon the minds and lives of mothers and wives in this New India.
(4) for moralizing the social life in India which otherwise would have the bias of an increasingly disproportionate educated male population.
(5) for demonstrating the uplifting influence of Christ upon that sex which has been so disastrously ignored and repressed in India, and for proving that the best is none too good for Indian womanhood. 'Better women' are the strongest factor in the development of a Better India.
(6) for definitely distributing the ideals of Christian womanhood to all parts of Southern Asia from which the College draws its students. Personal witness to the value of Christian education for women is a real Kingdom message.
(7) for training women to take their part in the new national life of awakened India. This training must be by contact with lives already devoted to Christ, more than by precept, for 'character is caught, not taught.'
(8) for meeting the needs of the more educated classes of India, as the evangelistic and other parts of mission work minister specifically to the needs of the masses."
(9) In furnishing pre-medical training for the hundreds of women who must be educated to follow in the footsteps of the Great Physician.
To say that the world is one is to-day's commonplace. What causes its new solidarity? What but the countless hands that reach across its shores and its Seven Seas, hands that devastate and hands that heal! There are the long fingers of the cable and telegraph that pry through earth's hidden places, gathering choice bits of international gossip and handing them out to all the breakfast tables of the Great Neighborhood. There are the swift fingers of transcontinental train and ocean liner, pushing the dweller from the West into the Far East, the man from the prairie into the desert. There are the devastating fingers of war that first fashion and then carry infernal machines and spread them broadcast over towns and ships and fertile fields. Thank God, there are also hands of kindness that dispense healing medicines, that scatter schoolbooks among untaught children and the Word of God in all parts of earth's neighborhood. And, lastly, there are hands that seem never to leave the house roof and the village street, yet gain the power of the long reach and set thousands of candles alight across the world.
"Why don't you let them alone? Their religion is good enough for them," was the classic comment of the armchair critic of a generation ago. Time has answered it. Nothing in to-day's world ever lets anything else alone. We read the morning paper in terms of continents. To the League of Nations China and Chile are concerns as intimate as Upper Silesia. To the Third Internationale the obscure passes of Afghanistan are a near frontier. Suffrage and prohibition are echoed in the streets of Poona and in the councils of Delhi. Labor strikes in West Virginia and Wales produce reactions in the cotton mills of Madras. And the American girl in high school, in college, in business, in society, in a profession, is producing her double under tropic suns, in far-off streets where speech and dress and manners are strange, but the heart of life is one. That time is past; we cannot let them alone; we can only choose what shall be the shape and fashioning done by hands that reach across the sea.
YESTERDAY AND TO-DAY
"Once upon a Time."
"Once upon a time," men and women dwelt in caves and cliffs and fashioned curious implements from the stones of the earth and painted crude pictures upon the walls of their rock dwellings. Archaeologists find such traces in England and along the river valleys of France, among the sands of Egyptian deserts and in India, where armor heads, ancient pottery, and cromlechs mark the passing of a long forgotten race. Thus India claims her place in the universal childhood of the world.
The Brown-skinned Tribes.
"Once upon a time," when the Stone Men had passed, a strange, new civilization is thought to have girdled the earth, passing probably in a "brown belt" from Mediterranean lands across India to the Pacific world and the Americas. Its sign was the curious symbol of the Swastika; its passwords certain primitive customs common to all these lands. Its probable Indian representatives are known to-day as Dravidians—the brown-skinned people still dominating South Indian life, whose exact place in the family of races puzzles every anthropologist. It was then that civilization was first walking up and down the great river valleys of the Old World. While the first pyramids were a-building beside the long green ribbon of the Nile and the star-gazers of Mesopotamia were reading future events from her towers of sun-dried bricks, Dravidian tribes were cultivating the rich mud of the Ganges valley, a slow-changing race. Did the lonely traveler, I wonder, troll the same air then as now to ward away evil spirits from the star-lit road? Did the Dravidian maiden do her sleek hair in the same knot at the nape of her brown neck, and poise the earthen pot with the same grace on her daily pilgrimage to the river?
The Aryan Brother.
"Once upon a time" Abraham pitched his tent beneath the oaks of Mamre, and Moses shepherded his father-in-law's flocks at "the back side of the desert." It was then that down through the grim passes of the Himalayas, where now the British regiments convoy caravans and guard the outposts of Empire, a people of fair skin and strange speech migrated southward to the Land of the Five Rivers and the fat plains of the Ganges. Aryan even as we, the Brahman entered India, singing hymns to the sun and the dawn, bringing with him the stately Sanskrit speech, new lore of priest and shrine, new pride of race that was to cleave society into those horizontal strata that persist to-day in the caste system. Thus through successions of Stone-Age men, Dravidian tribes, and Aryan invaders, India stretches her roots deep into the past. But while there were transpiring these
"Old, unhappy, far-off things And battles long ago,"
where were we? The superior Anglo-Saxon who speaks complacently of "the native" forgets that during that same "once upon a time" when civilization was old in India, his ancestors, clad in deer skin and blue paint, were stalking the forests of Europe for food.
Gifts to the West.
Nor did these old civilizations forbear to reach hands across the sea and share with the young and lusty West the fruits of their knowledge. On a May morning, as skillful carriers swing you up to the heights of the South India hills, there is a sudden sound reminiscent of the home barnyard, a scurry of wings across the path, and a gleam of glossy plumage; Mr. Jungle Cock has been disturbed in his morning meal. Did you know that from his ancestors are descended in direct lineage all the Plymouth Rocks and the White Leghorns of the poultry yard, all the Buff Orpingtons that win gold medals at poultry shows? Other food stuffs India originated and shared. Sugar and rice were delicacies from her fields carried over Roman roads to please the palates of the Caesars.
Traditions of Womanhood.
Besides these contributions to the world's pantry, there were gifts of the mind and spirit. To those days of long ago modern India looks back as to a golden age, for she was then in the forefront of civilization, passing out her gifts with a generous hand. Of that ancient heritage not the least part is the tradition of womanhood,—a heritage trampled in the dust of later ages, its restoration only now beginning through that liberty in Christ which sets free the woman of the West and of the East.
Much might be written on the place of the Indian woman in folk-lore epic and drama. Helen of Troy and Dido of Carthage pale into common adventuresses when placed beside the quiet courage and utter self-abnegation of such Indian heroines as Sita and Damayanti.
The story of Rama and Sita is the Odyssey of the East, crooned by grandmothers over the evening fires; sung by wandering minstrels under the shade of the mango grove; trolled by travelers jogging in bullock carts along empty moonlit roads. Sita's devotion is a household word to many a woman-child of India. Little Lakshmi follows the adventures of the loved heroine as she shares Rama's unselfish renunciation of the throne and exile to the forest with its alarms of wild beasts and wild men. She thrills with fear at Sita's abduction by the hideous giant, Ravana, and the wild journey through the air and across the sea to the Ceylon castle. She weeps with Rama's despair, and again laughs with glee at the antics of his monkey army from the south country, as they build their bridge of stones across the Ceylon straits where now-a-days British engineers have followed in their simian track and train and ferry carry the casual traveler across the gaps jumped by the monkey king and his tribe. Sita's sore temptations in the palace of her conqueror and her steadfast loyalty until at last her husband comes victorious—they are part of the heritage of a million Lakshmis all up and down the length of India.
Of the loves of Nala and Damayanti it is difficult to write in few words. From the opening scene where the golden-winged swans carry Nala's words of love to Damayanti in the garden, sporting at sunset with her maidens, the old tale moves on with beauty and with pathos. The Swayamvara, or Self Choice, harks back to the time when the Indian princess might herself choose among her suitors. Gods and men compete for Damayanti's hand among scenes as bright and stately as the lists of King Arthur's Court, until the princess, choosing her human lover, throws about his neck the garland that declares her choice. Happy years follow, and the birth of children. Then the scene changes to exile and desertion. Through it all moves the heroine, sharing her one garment with her unworthy lord, "thin and pale and travel-stained, with hair covered in dust," yet never faltering until her husband, sane and repentant, is restored to home and children and throne.
So the ancient folk-lore goes on, in epic and in drama, with the woman ever the heroine of the tale. True it is that her virtues are limited; obedience, chastity, and an unlimited capacity for suffering largely sum them up. They would scarcely satisfy the ambitions of the new woman of to-day; yet some among us might do well to pay them reverence.
Those were the high days of Indian womanhood. Then, as the centuries passed, there came slow eclipse. Lawgivers like Manu proclaimed the essential impurity of a woman's heart; codes and customs began to bind her with chains easy to forge and hard to break. Later followed the catastrophe that completed the change. The Himalayan gateways opened once more and through them swarmed a new race of invaders, passing out of those barren plains of Central Asia that have been ever the breeding grounds of nations and swooping upon India's treasures. In one hand the green flag of the Prophet, in the other the sword, these followers of Muhammad sealed for a millennium the end of woman's high estate.
All was not lost without a mighty struggle. From those days come the tales of Rajput chivalry—tales that might have been sung by the troubadours of France. Rajput maidens of noble blood scorned the throne of Muslim conquerors. Litters supposed to carry captive women poured out warriors armed to the teeth. Men and women in saffron robes and bridal garments mounted the great funeral pyre, and when the conquering Allah-ud-din entered the silent city of Chitore he found no resistance and no captives, for no one living was left from the great Sacrifice of Honorable Death.
After that came an end. Everywhere the Muhammadan conqueror desired many wives; in a far and alien land his own womankind were few. Again and again the ordinary Hindu householder, lacking the desperate courage of the Rajput, stood by helpless, like the Armenian of to-day, while his wife and daughter were carried off from before his eyes, to increase the harem of his ruler. Small wonder that seclusion became the order of the day—a woman would better spend her life behind the purdah of her own home than be added to the zenana of her conqueror. Later when the throes of conquest were over and Hindu women once more ventured forth to a wedding or a festival, small wonder that they copied the manners of their masters, and to escape familiarity and insult became as like as possible to women of the conquering race. Thus the use of the veil began.
At that beginning we do not wonder; what makes us marvel is that a repressing custom became so strong that, even after a century and a half of British rule, all over North India and among some conservative families of the South seclusion and the veil still persist. Walk the streets of a great commercial town like Calcutta, and you find it a city of men. An occasional Parsee lady, now and then an Indian Christian, here and there women of the cooly class whose lowly station has saved their freedom—otherwise womankind seems not to exist.
The high hour of Indian womanhood had passed, not to return until brought back by the power of Christ, in whose kingdom there is "neither male nor female, but all are one." Yet as the afterglow flames up with a transient glory after the swift sunset, so in the gathering darkness of Muhammadan domination we see the brightness of two remarkable women.
There was Nur Jahan, the "Light of the World," wife of the dissolute Jahangir. Never forgetful, it would seem, of a childish adventure when the little Nur Jahan in temper and pride set free his two pet doves, twenty years later the Mughal Emperor won her from her soldier husband by those same swift methods that David employed to gain the wife of Uriah, the Hittite.
And when Nur Jahan became queen she was ruler indeed, "the one overmastering influence in his life." From that time on we see her, restraining her husband from his self-indulgent habits, improving his administration, crossing flooded rivers and leading attacks on elephants to save him from captivity; "a beautiful queen, beautifully dressed, clever beyond compare, contriving and scheming, plotting, planning, shielding and saving, doing all things for the man hidden in the pampered, drink-sodden carcass of the king; the man who, for her at any rate, always had a heart." Think of Nur Jahan's descendants, hidden in the zenanas of India. When their powers, age-repressed, are set free by Christian education, what will it mean for the future of their nation?
Then there came the lady of the Taj, Mumtaz Mahal, beloved of Shah Jahan, the Master Builder. We know less of her history, less of the secret of her charm, only that she died in giving birth to her thirteenth child, and that for all those years of married life she had held her husband's adoration. For twenty-two succeeding years he spent his leisure in collecting precious things from every part of his world that there might be lacking no adornment to the most exquisite tomb ever raised. And when it was finished—rare commentary on the contradiction of Mughal character—the architect was blinded that he might never produce its like again.
All that was a part of yesterday—a story of rise and fall; of woman's repression, with outbursts of greatness; of countless treasures of talent and possibilities unrecognized and undeveloped, hidden behind the doors of Indian zenanas. What of to-day?
TO-DAY: The Average Girl.
Meenachi of Madura, if she could become articulate, might tell us something of the life of the average girl to-day. Being average, she belongs neither to the exclusive streets of the Brahman, nor to the hovels of the untouchable outcastes, but to the area of the great middle class which is in India as everywhere the backbone of society. Meenachi's father is a weaver of the far-famed Madura muslins with their gold thread border. Her earliest childhood memory is the quiet weavers' street where the afternoon sun glints under the tamarind trees and, striking the long looms set in the open air, brings out the blue and mauve, the deep crimson and purple and gold of the weaving.
There were rollicking babyhood days when Meenachi, clad only in the olive of her satin skin with a silver fig leaf and a bead necklace for adornment, wandered in and out the house and about the looms at will. With added years came the burden of clothing, much resented by the wearer, but accepted with philosophic submission, as harder things would be later on. Toys are few and simple. The palmyra rattle is exchanged for the stiff wooden doll, painted in gaudy colors, and the collection of tiny vessels in which sand and stones and seeds provide the equivalent of mud pies in repasts of imaginary rice and curry. Household duties begin also. Meenachi at the age of six grasps her small bundle of broom-grass and sweeps each morning her allotted section of verandah. Soon she is helping to polish the brass cooking pots and to follow her mother and older sisters, earthen waterpot on hip, on their morning and evening pilgrimages to the river.
Being only an average girl, Meenachi will never go to school. There are ninety and nine of these "average" unschooled girls to the one "above the average" to whom education offers its outlet for the questing spirit. She looks with curiosity at the books her brother brings home from high school, but the strange, black marks which cover their pages mean nothing to her. Not for her the release into broad spaces that comes only through the written word. For, mark you, to the illiterate life means only those circumscribed experiences that come within the range of one's own sight and touch and hearing. "What I have seen, what I have heard, what I have felt"—there experience ends. From personal unhappiness there is no escape into the world current.
Meenachi is twelve and the freedom of the long street is hers no more. Yellow chrysanthemums in her glossy hair, a special diet of milk and curds and sweet cakes fried in ghee, and the outspoken congratulations of relatives, male and female, mark her entrance into the estate of womanhood. What the West hides, the East delights to reveal.
Now follows the swift sequel of marriage. The husband, of just the right degree of relationship, has long been chosen. The family exchequer is drained to the dregs to provide the heavy dowry, the burdensome expenditure for wedding feast and jewels, and the presentation of numerous wedding garments to equally numerous and expectant relatives. Meenachi is carried away by the splendor of new clothes and jewels and processions, and the general tamash of the occasion. Has she not the handsomest bridegroom and the most expensive trousseau, of this marriage month? Is she not the envy of all her former playmates? Only now and then comes a strange feeling of loneliness when she thinks of leaving the dear, familiar roof the narrow street with its tamarind trees and many colored looms. The mother-in-law's house is a hundred miles away, and the mother-in-law's face is strange.
Will Meenachi be sad or happy? The answer is complex and hard to find, for it depends on many contingencies. The husband—what will he be? He is not of Meenachi's choosing. Did she choose her father and mother, and the house in which she was born? Were they not chosen for her, "written upon her forehead" by her Karma, her inscrutable fate? Her husband has been chosen; let her make the best of the choice.
Will she be happy? The future years shall make answer by many things. Will she bear sons to her husband? If so, will her young body have strength for the pains of childbirth and the torturings of ignorant and brutal midwives? Will her Karma spare to her the life of husband and children? In India sudden death is never far; pestilence walks in darkness and destruction wastes at noon day. The fear of disease, the fear of demons, the fear of death will be never far away; for these fears there will be none to say, "Be not afraid."
So Meenachi, the bride, passes out into the unknown of life, and later into the greater unknown of death. No one has taught her to say in the valley of the shadow, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." The terrors of life are with her, but its consolations are not hers.
Of widowhood I shall say little. Since the ancient days of suttee when the wife mounted her husband's funeral pyre volumes have been written on the lot of the Indian widow. To-day in some cases the power of Christianity has awakened the spirit of social reform and the rigors of widowhood are lessened. Among the majority the old remains. In general, the higher you rise in the social scale, the sterner the conventions and fashions of widowhood become.
In Madras you may visit a Widow's Home, where through the wise efforts of a large-hearted woman in the Educational Department of Government more than a hundred Brahman girl-widows live the life of a normal schoolgirl. No fastings, no shaven heads, no lack of pretty clothes or jewels mark them off from the rest of womanhood. Schools and colleges open their doors and professional life as teacher or doctor offers hope of human contact and interest for these to whom husband and child and home are forever forbidden. In all India you may find a very few such institutions, but "what are these among so many?" The millions of repressed child widows still go on.
Wives of the Idol.
Worse is the fate of those whose Karma condemns them to a life of religious prostitution. Perhaps the first-born son of the family lies near to death. The parents vow a frantic vow to the deity of the local temple. "Save our son's life, O Govinda; our youngest daughter shall be dedicated to thy service." The son recovers, the vow must be fulfilled, and bright-eyed, laughing Lakshmi, aged eight, is led to the temple, put through the mockery of a ceremony of marriage to the black and misshapen image in the inmost shrine, and thenceforth trained to a religious service of nameless infamy.
The story of Hinduism holds the history of some devout seekers after God, of sincere aspiration, in some cases of beautiful thought and life. This deepest blot is acknowledged and condemned by its better members. Yet in countless temples, under the brightness of the Indian sun, the iniquity, protected by vested interests, goes on and no hand is lifted to stay. Suppose each American church to shelter its own house of prostitution, its forces recruited from the young girls of the congregation, their services at the disposal of its worshippers. The thought is too black for utterance; yet just so in the life of India has the service of the gods been prostituted to the lusts of men.
The achievements of Christianity in India are not confined to the four million who constitute the community that have followed the new Way. Perhaps even greater has been the reaction it has excited in the ranks of Hinduism among those who would repudiate the name of Christian. Chief among the abuses of Hinduism to be attacked has been the traditional attitude toward woman. Child marriage and compulsory widowhood are condemned by every social reformer up and down the length of India. The battle is fought not only for women, but by them also. Agitation for the suffrage has been carried on in India's chief cities. In Poona not long since the educated women of the city, Hindu, Muhammadan, and Christian, joined in a procession with banners, demanding compulsory education for girls.
Of women not Christian, but freed from ancient bonds by this reflex action of Christian thought, perhaps the most eminent example is Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. Of Brahman birth, but English education, she dared to resist the will of her family and the tradition of her caste and marry a man of less than Brahman extraction. Now as a writer of distinction second only to Tagore she is known to Europe as well as to India. In her own country she is perhaps loved best for her intense patriotism, and is the best known woman connected with the National Movement.
Chiefly, however, it is among the Christian community that woman's freedom has become a fact. Women such as Mrs. Naidu exist, but they are few. Now and then one reads of a case of widow-remarriage successfully achieved. Too often, however, the Hindu reformer, however well-meaning and sincere, talks out his reformation in words rather than deeds. He lacks the support of Christian public opinion; he lacks also the vitalizing power of a personal Christian experience. It is easy to speak in public on the evils of early marriage; he speaks and the audience applauds. He knows too well that in the applauding audience there is not a man whose son will marry his daughter if she passes the age of twelve. So the ardent reformer talks on, with the abandon of the darky preacher who exhorted his audience "Do as I say and not as I do"; and hopes that in some future incarnation life will be kinder, and he may be able to carry out the excellent practices he really desires.
A Hindu girl of high family was allowed to go to college. There being then no women's college in her part of India, she entered a Government University in a large city, where there were a few other women students. Western standards of freedom prevailed and were accepted by men and women. Rukkubai shared in social as well as academic life. With a strong arm and a steady eye, she distinguished herself at tennis and badminton, and came even to play in mixed doubles, a mark of the most "advanced" social views to be found in India.
After college came marriage to a man connected with the family of a well known rajah. The husband was not only the holder of a University degree similar to her own, but a zealous social reformer, eloquent in his advocacy of women's freedom. Life promised well for Rukkubai. A year or two later a friend visited her behind the purdah, with the doors of the world shut in her face. The zeal of the reforming husband could not stand against the petty persecutions of the older women of the family. "I wish," said Rukkubai, "that I had never known freedom. Now I have known—and lost."
Yet not all reformers are such. There are an increasing number whose deeds keep pace with their words. Such may be found among the members of The Servants of India Society, who spend part of the year in social studies; the remainder in carrying to ignorant people the message they have learned.
Such is the heritage of the Hindu woman of ancient freedom; centuries when traditions of repression have gripped with ever-tightening hold; to-day a new ferment in the blood, a new striving toward purposes half realized.
Of to-morrow, who can say? The future is hidden, but the chapters that follow may perhaps serve to bring us into touch with a few of the many forces that are helping to shape the day that shall be.
[Footnote 1: History of India, E.W. Thompson. Christian Literature Society, London and Madras, pp. 11-12.]
[Footnote 2: Outline of History, H.G. Wells. Vol. I, pp. 146-8.]
[Footnote 3: Outline of History, H.G. Wells, Vol. I, pp. 196-199.]
[Footnote 4: Outline of History, H.G. Wells, Vol. I, pp. 189-190.]
[Footnote 5: Ancient Times, Breasted, pp. 658-9.]
[Footnote 6: Code of Manu, Book 9, quoted Lux Christi, Mason, p. 14.]
[Footnote 7: India through the Ages, Florence Annie Steele, Routledge, pp. 95-104, 116-18.]
[Footnote 8: India through the Ages, pp. 190-200]
Hindu or Christian.
In the last chapter we have spoken of the Hindu girl as yet untouched by Christianity, save as such influence may have filtered through into the general life of the nation. We have had vague glimpses of her social inheritance, with its traditions of an ancient and honorable estate of womanhood; of the limitations of her life to-day; of her half-formed aspirations for the future.
Of education as such nothing has been said. As we turn now from home to school life, we shall turn also from the Hindu community to the Christian. This does not mean that none but Christian girls go to school. In all the larger and more advanced cities and in some towns you will find Government schools for Hindu girls as well as those carried on by private enterprise, some of them of great efficiency. Yet this deliberate turning to the school life of the Christian community is not so arbitrary as it seems.
In the first place, the proportion of literacy among Christian women is far higher than among the Hindu and Muhammadan communities. Again, because a large proportion of Christians have come from the depressed classes, the "submerged tenth," ground for uncounted centuries under the heel of the caste system, their education is also a study in social uplift, one of the biggest sociological laboratory experiments to be found anywhere on earth. And, lastly, it is through Christian schools that the girls and women of America have reached out hands across the sea and gripped their sisters of the East.
The School under the Palm Trees.
"And the dawn comes up like thunder Outer China 'cross the Bay." Far from China and far inland from the Bay is this South Indian village, but the dawn flashes up with the same amazing swiftness. Life's daily resurrection proceeds rapidly in the Village of the Seven Palms. Flocks of crows are swarming in from their roosting place in the palmyra jungle beside the dry sand river; the cattle are strolling out from behind various enclosures where they share the family shelter; all around is the whirr of bird and insect as the teeming life of the tropics wakes to greet "my lord Sun."
Under the thatch of each mud-walled hovel of the outcaste village there is the same stir of the returning day. Sheeted corpses stretched on the floor suddenly come to life and the babel of village gossip begins.
In the house at the far end of the street, Arul is first on her feet, first to rub the sleep from her eyes. There is no ceremony of dressing, no privacy in which to conduct it if there were. Arul rises in the same scant garment in which she slept, snatches up the pot of unglazed clay that stands beside the door, poises it lightly on her hip, and runs singing to the village well, where each house has its representative waiting for the morning supply. There is the plash of dripping water, the creak of wheel and straining rope, and the chatter of girl voices.
The well is also the place for making one's morning toilet. Arul dashes the cold water over her face, hands, and feet. No soap is required, no towel—the sun is shining and will soon dry everything in sight. Next comes the tooth-brushing act, when a smooth stick takes the place of a brush, and "Kolynos" or "Colgate" is replaced by a dab of powdered charcoal. Arul combs her hair only for life's great events, such as a wedding or a festival, and changes her clothes so seldom that it is better form not to mention it.
Breakfast is equally simple,—and the "simple life" at close range is apt to lose many of its charms. In the corner of the one windowless room that serves for all domestic purposes stands the earthen pot of black gruel. It is made from the ragi, little, hard, round seeds that resemble more than anything else the rape seed fed to a canary. It looks a sufficiently unappetizing breakfast, but contentment abounds because the pot is full, and that happens only when rains are abundant and seasons prosperous. The Russian peasant and his black bread, the Indian peasant and his black gruel—dark symbols these of the world's hunger line.
There is no sitting down to share even this simple meal, no conception of eating as a social event, a family sacrament. The father, as lord and master, must be served first; then the children seize the one or two cups by turn, and last of all comes Mother. Arul gulps her breakfast standing and then dashes into the street. She is one of the village herd girls; the sun is up and shining hot, and the cattle and goats are jostling one another in their impatience to be off for the day.
The dry season is on and all the upland pastures are scorched and brown. A mile away is the empty bed of the great tank. A South Indian tank in our parlance would be an artificial lake. A strong earth wall, planted with palmyras, encircles its lower slope. The upper lies open to receive surface water, as well as the channel for the river that runs full during the monsoon months. During the "rains" the country is full of water, blue and sparkling. Now the water is gone, the crops are ripening, and in the clay tank bottom the cattle spend their days searching for the last blades of grass.
"Watch the cows well, Little Brother," calls Arul, as she hurries back on the narrow path that winds between boulders and thickets of prickly pear cactus. Green parrots are screaming in the tamarind trees and overhead a white-throated Brahmany kite wheels motionless in the vivid blue. The sun is blazing now, but Arul runs unheeding. It is time for school—she knows it by the sun-clock in the sky. "Female education," as the Indian loves to call it, is not yet fashionable in the Village of the Seven Palms. With twenty-five boys there are only three girls who frequent its halls of learning. Of the three Arul is one. Her father, lately baptized, knows but little of what Christ's religion means, but the few facts he has grasped are written deeply in his simple mind and show life-results. One of these ideas is that the way out and up is through the gate of Christian education. And so it is that Arul comes to school. She is but eight, yet with a mouth to feed and a body to clothe, and the rice pot often empty, the halving of her daily wage means self-denial to all the family. So it is that Arul, instead of herding cattle all day, runs swiftly back to the one-roomed schoolhouse under the cocoanuts and arrives not more than half an hour late.
The schoolroom is so primitive that you would hardly recognize it as such. Light and air and space are all too little. There are no desks or even benches. A small, wooden blackboard and the teacher's table and rickety chair are all that it can boast in the way of equipment. The only interesting thing in sight is the children themselves, rows of them on the floor, writing letters in the sand. Unwashed they are, uncombed and almost unclothed, but with all the witchery of childhood in their eyes. In that bare room lies the possibility of transforming the life of the Village of the Seven Palms.
But the teacher is innocent of the ways of modern pedagogy, and deep and complicated are the snares of the Tamil alphabet with its two hundred and sixteen elusive characters. Baffling, too, are the mysteries of number combination. "If six mangoes cost three annas, how much will one mango cost?" Arul never had an anna of her own, how should she know? The teachers bamboo falls on her hard, little hand, and two hot tears run down and drop on the cracked slate. The way to learning is long and beset with as many thorns as the crooked path through the prickly pear cactus. Bible stories are happier. Arul can tell you how the Shepherds sang and all about the little boy who gave his own rice cakes and dried fish, to help Jesus feed hungry people. She has been hungry so often that that story seems real.
The years pass over Arul's head, leaving her a little taller, a little fleeter of foot as she hurries back from the pasture, a little wiser in the ways of God and men. Still her father holds out against the inducements of child labor. Arul shall go to school as long as there is anything left for her to learn. And into Arul's eyes there has come the gleam of a great ambition. She will leave the Village of the Seven Palms and go into the wide world. The most spacious existence she knows of is represented by the Girls' Boarding School in the town twenty miles away. To enter that school, to study, to become a teacher perhaps—but beyond that the wings of Arul's imagination have not yet learned to soar. The meaning of service for Christ and India, the opportunity of educated womanhood, such ideas have not yet entered Arul's vocabulary. She will learn them in the days to come.
Countless villages of the Seven Palms; countless schools badly equipped and poorly taught; countless Aruls—feeling within them dim gropings, half-formed ambitions. Somewhere in America there are girls trained in rural education and longing for the chance for research and original work in a big, untried field. What a chance for getting together the girl and the task!
A HIGH SCHOOL
Where the Girls Come from.
If the girls of India could pass you in long procession, you would need to count up to one hundred before you found one who had had Arul's opportunity of learning just to read and write. Infinitely smaller is the proportion of those who go into secondary schools. American women have been responsible for founding, financing, and teaching many of the Girls' High Schools that exist. They are of various sorts. Some have new and up-to-date plants, modelled on satisfactory types of American buildings. Others are muddling along with old-time, out-grown schoolrooms, spilling over into thatched sheds, and longing for the day when the spiritual structure they are erecting will be expressed in a suitable material form. Schools vary also as to social standing, discipline, and ideals; yet there are common features and problems, and one may be more or less typical of all. Most include under one organization everything from kindergarten to senior high school, so that the school is really a big family of one or two or four hundred, as the case may be.
The girls come from many grades of Indian life. The great majority are Christians, for few Hindu parents are yet sufficiently "advanced" to desire a high school education for their daughters, and those who do usually send their girls to a Government school where caste regulations will be observed and where there will be no religious teaching.
Some of the Christian girls come from origins as crude as that of Arul. To such the simplest elements of hygiene are unknown, and cleanly and decent living is the first and hardest lesson to be learned. Others are orphans, waifs, and strays cast up from the currents of village life. Uncared for, undernourished, with memories of a tragic childhood behind them, it is sometimes an impossible task to turn these little, old women back into normal children. But the largest number are children of teachers and catechists, pastors, and even college professors, who come from middle class homes, with a greater or less collection of Christian habits and ideals. With all these is a small scattering of high caste Hindu girls, the children of exceptionally liberal parents. The resulting school community is a wonderful example of pure democracy. Ignorant village girls learn more from the "public opinion" of their better trained schoolmates than from any amount of formal discipline; while daughters of educated families share their inheritance and come to realize a little of the need of India's illiterate masses. So school life becomes an experiment in Christian democracy, where a girl counts only for what she can do and be; where each member contributes something to the life of the group and receives something from it.
What the Girls Study.
Schools are schools the world over, and the agonies of the three R's are common to children in whatever tongue they learn. An Indian kindergarten is not so different from an American, except for language and local color. Equipment is far simpler and less expensive, but there is the same spontaneity, the same joy of living; laughter and play have the same sound in Tamil as in English. Besides, Indian kindergartens produce some charming materials all their own—shiny black tamarind seeds, piles of colored rice, and palm leaves that braid into baby rattles and fans.
So, too, a high school course is much the same even in India. The right-angled triangle still has an hypotenuse, and quadratics do not simplify with distance, while Tamil classics throw Vergil and Cicero into the shade. The fact that high school work is all carried on in English is the biggest stumbling block in the Indian schoolgirl's road to learning. What would the American girl think of going through a history recitation in Russian, writing chemistry equations in French, or demonstrating a geometry proposition in Spanish? Some day Indian education may be conducted in its own vernaculars; to-day there are neither the necessary text-books, nor the vocabulary to express scientific thought. As yet, and probably for many years to come, the English language is the key that unlocks the House of Learning to the schoolgirl. Indian classics she has and they are well worth knowing; but even Shakespeare and Milton would hardly console the American girl for the loss of all her story books, from "Little Women" and "Pollyanna" up—or down—to the modern novel. To understand English sufficiently to write and speak and even think in it is the big job of the High School. It is only the picked few who attain unto it; those few are possessed of brains and perseverance enough to become the leaders of the next generation.
It is not unusual for an Indian girl to spend ten or twelve years in such a boarding school. An institution is a poor substitute for a home, but in such cases it must do its best to combine the two. This means that books are almost accessories; school life is the most vital part of education.
To such efforts the Indian girl responds almost incredibly. Whatever her faults—and she has many—she is never bored. Her own background is so narrow that school opens to her a new world of surprise. "Isn't it wonderful!" is the constant reaction to the commonplaces of science. No less wonderful to her is the liberty of thinking and acting for herself that self-government brings.
Seeta loves her home, but before a month is over its close confinement palls and she writes back, "I am living like a Muhammadan woman. I wish it were the last day of vacation." Her father is shocked by her desire to be up and doing. He calls on the school principal and complains, "I don't know what to make of my daughter. Why is she not like her mother? Are not cooking and sewing enough for any woman? Why has she these strange ideas about doing all sorts of things that her mother never wanted to do?" Then the principal tries to explain patiently that new wine cannot be kept in old bottles, and that unless the daughter were to he different from the mother it was hardly worth while to send her for secondary education. So, when the long holiday is over, Seeta returns with a fresh appreciation of what education means in her life; and we know that when her daughters come home for vacation, it will be to a mother with sympathy and understanding.
The girls' loyalty to their school is at times almost pathetic. An American teacher writes, "One moonlight night when I was walking about the grounds talking with some of the oldest girls, one of them caught my hand, and turned me about toward the school, which, even under the magic of the Indian moon, did not seem a particularly beautiful sight to me. 'Amma' (mother), she said, in a voice quivering with emotion, 'See how beautiful our school is! When I stand out here at night and look at it through the trees, it gives me such a feeling here,' and she pressed her hand over her heart.
"'Do you think it is only beautiful at night?' one of the other girls asked indignantly, and all joined in enthusiastic affirmations of its attractions even at high noon,—which all goes to show how relative the matter is. I, with my background of Wellesley lawns and architecture, find our school a hopelessly unsanitary makeshift to be endured patiently for a few years longer, but to these girls with their background of wretchedly poor village homes it is in its bare cleanliness, as well as in its associations, a veritable place of 'sweetness and light.'"
Organized play is one of the gifts that school life brings to India. It, too, has to be learned, for the Indian girl has had no home training in initiative. The family or the caste is the unit and she is a passive member of the group, whose supreme duty is implicit obedience. One Friday when school had just reopened after the Christmas vacation, one of the teachers came to the principal and said, "May we stop all classes this afternoon and let the children play? You see," as she saw remonstrance forthcoming, "it's just because it's been vacation. They say they have been so long at home and there has been no chance to play." Classes were stopped, and all the school played, from the greatest unto the least, until the newly aroused instinct was satisfied.
Basket ball had an interesting history in one school. At first the players were very weak sisters, indeed. The center who was knocked down wept as at a personal affront, and the defeated team also wept to prove their penitence for their defeat. But gradually the team learned to play fair, to take hard knocks, and to cheer the winners. They grew into such "good sports" that when one day an invading cow, aggrieved at being hit in the flank by a flying ball, turned and knocked the goal thrower flat on the ground, the interruption lasted only a few minutes. The prostrate goal-thrower recovered her breath, got over her fright, and, while admiring friends chased the cow to a safe distance, the game went on to the finish.
The dramatic instinct is strong and the school girl actress shines, whether in the role of Ophelia or Ramayanti. In India among Hindus or Christians, in school or church or village, musical dramas are frequently composed and played and hold unwearied audiences far into the night. Among Christians there is a great fondness for dramatizing Bible narratives. Joseph, Daniel, and the Prodigal Son appear in wonderful Indian settings, "adapted" sometimes almost beyond recognition. They show interesting likeness to the miracle and mystery plays of the Middle Ages. There is the same naive presentation; the same introduction of the buffoon to offset tragedy with comedy; the same tendency to overemphasize the comic parts until all sense of reverence is lost. In some respects India and Mediaeval Europe are not so far apart.
A high school class one night presented part of the old Tamil drama of Harischandra. The heroine, an exiled queen, watches her child die before her in the forest. Having no money to pay for cremation on the burning ghat, she herself gathers firewood, builds a little pyre, and with such tears and lamentations as befit an Oriental woman lays her child's body on the funeral pile. Just as the fire is lighted and the corpse begins to burn, the keeper of the burning ghat appears and, with anger at this trespass, kicks over the pyre, puts the fire out, and throws the body aside. Just at this moment Chandramathy sees in him the exiled king, her husband and lord, and the father of her dead child. There are tearful recognitions; together they gather again the scattered firewood, rebuild the pyre, and share their common grief.
The play was given in a dimly lighted court, with simple costumes and the crudest stage properties. But one spectator will not soon forget the schoolgirl heroine whose masses of black hair swept to her knees. She lived again all the pathos, the anger and despair and reconciliation of the old tale, and her audience thrilled with her as at the touch of a tragedy queen.
Co-operation in school government and discipline is one of the most educational experiences that an Indian girl can pass through. To feel the responsibility for her own actions and those of her schoolmates, to form impersonal judgments that have no relation to one's likes and dislikes, these are lessons found not between the covers of text-books, but at the very heart of life-experience. Under such moral strain and stress character develops, not as a hothouse growth of unreal dreams and theories, but as the sturdy product of life situations.
Some schools divide themselves into groups, each of which elects a "queen" to represent and to rule. The queens with elected teachers and the principal form the governing body, before which all questions of discipline come for settlement. Great is the office of a queen. She is usually well beloved, but also at times well hated, for the "Court" occasionally dispenses punishments far heavier than the teachers alone would dare to inflict and its members often realize the truth of Shakespeare's statement, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
The "Court" is now in session and has two culprits before its bar. Abundance has been found to have a cake of soap and a mirror, not her own, shut up in her box. Lotus copied her best friend's composition and handed it in as hers. What shall be done to the two? Discussion waxes hot. The play hour passes. Shouts and laughter come in from the tennis court and the basket ball field. Every one is having a good time save the culprits and the four queens, who pay the penalty of greatness and bear on their young shoulders the burdens of the world. Evidence is hard to collect, for the witnesses disagree among themselves. Then there are other complications. Abundance stole things which you can see and touch, while Lotus's theft was only one of intangible thoughts. Furthermore, Abundance comes from a no-account family, quite "down and out," while Lotus is a pastor's daughter and as such entitled to due respect and deference. And still further, nobody likes Abundance, while Lotus is very popular and counts one of the queens as her intimate friend. Much time passes, the supper bell rings, and the players troop noisily indoors, but the four burdened queens still struggle with their dawning sense of justice. At last, as the swift darkness drops, the case is closed and judgment pronounced. Much time has been consumed, but four girls have learned a few of life's big lessons, not found in books, such as: that thoughts are just as real as things; that likes and dislikes have nothing to do with matters of discipline; that a girl of a "way up" family should have more expected of her than one who is "down and out." Perhaps that experience will count more than any "original" in geometry.
Student Government also brings about a wonderful comradeship between teachers and pupils. Out of it has grown such a sense of friendly freedom as found expression in this letter written to its American teacher by a Junior Class who were more familiar with the meter of Evangeline than with the geometry lesson assigned.
We are the Math. students who made you lose your temper this morning, and we feel very sorry for that. We found that we are the girls who must be blamed. We ought to have told you the matter beforehand, but we didn't, so please excuse us for the fault which we committed and we realize now. Our love to you.
V Form Math. Girls.
P.S. We would like to quote a poem which we are very much interested in telling you:
"What is that that ye do, my children? What madness has seized you this morning? Seven days have I labored among you, Not in word alone, but showing the figures on the board. Have you so soon forgotten all the definitions of Loci? Is this the fruit of my teaching and laboring?"
Co-operation is needed not only in "being good," but also in eating and drinking and keeping clean. There are school families in India where every member from the "queen" to the most rollicking five-year-old has her share in making things go. The queen takes her turn in getting up at dawn to see that the "water set" is at the well on time; five-year-old Tara wields her diminutive broom in her own small corner, and each is proud of her share. There is in Indian life an unfortunate feud between the head and the hand. To be "educated" means to be lifted above the degradation of manual labor; to work with one's hands means something lacking in one's brain. Not seldom does a schoolboy go home to his village and sit idle while his father reaps the rice crop. Not seldom does an "educated" girl spend her vacation in letter writing and crochet work while her "uneducated" mother toils over the family cooking.
Girls, however, who have spent hours over the theories of food values, balanced meals, and the nutrition of children, and other hours over the practical working out of the theories in the big school family, go home with a changed attitude toward the work of the house. Siromony writes back at Christmas time, "The first thing I did after reaching home was to empty out the house and whitewash it."
Ruth's letter in the summer vacation ends, "We have given our mother a month's holiday. All she needs to do is to go to the bazaar and buy supplies. My sister and I will do all the rest."
On Christmas day, Miracle, who is spending her vacation at school, all on her own initiative gets up at three in the morning to kill chickens and start the curry for the orphans' dinner, so that the work may be well out of the way before time for the Christmas tree and church.
Golden Jewel begs the use of the sewing machine in the Mission bungalow. All the days before Christmas her bare feet on the treadle keep the wheels whirring. Morning and afternoon she is at it, for Jewel has a quiver full of little brothers and sisters, and in India no one can go to church on Christmas without a new and holiday-colored garment. One after another they come from Jewel's deft fingers and lie on the floor in a rainbow heap. When Christmas Eve comes all are finished—except her own. On Christmas morning all the family are in church at that early service dearest to the Indian Christian, with its decorations of palm and asparagus creeper, its carols and rejoicings and new and shining raiment. In the midst sits Jewel and her clothes to the most seem shabby, but to those who know she is the best dressed girl in the whole church, for she is wearing a new spiritual garment of unselfish service.
The Indian Girl's Religion.
To the Indian schoolgirl religion is the natural atmosphere of life. She discusses her faith with as little self-consciousness as if she were choosing the ingredients for the next day's curry. She knows nothing of those Western conventions that make it "good form" for us to hide all our emotions, all our depth of feeling, under the mask of not caring at all. She has none of that inverted hypocrisy which causes us to take infinite pains to assure our world that we are vastly worse than we are. What Lotus feels she expresses simply, naturally, be it her interest in biology, her friendship for you, or her response to the love of the All-Father. And that response is deep and genuine. There is a spiritual quality, an answering vibration, which one seldom finds outside the Orient. You lead morning prayers and to pray is easy, because in those schoolgirl worshippers you feel the mystic quality of the East leaping up in response. You teach a Bible class and the girls' eager questions run ahead so fast that you lose your breath as you try to keep pace.
The following letter was written by a girl just after her first experience of a mountain climb with a vacation camp at the top. "Now we are on Kylasa, enjoying our 'mountain top experience.' This morning Miss —— gave a beautiful and inspiring talk on visions. She showed us that the climbing up Kylasa could be a parable of our journey through this world. In places where it was steep and where we were tired, the curiosity we had to see the full vision on the top kept us courageous to go forward and not sit long in any place. She compared this with our difficulties and dark times and this impressed me most, I think.
"When we came up it was dark and I was supposed to come in the chair, but I did not wait for it, because I was very curious to go up. When I came to a place very dark, with bushes and trees very thick on both sides, I had to give up and wait until the others came. When I was waiting I saw the big, almost red moon coming, stealing its way through the dark clouds little by little. It was really glorious. I thought of this when Miss —— talked to us, and it made it easier to understand her feeling about that.
"So much of that, and now I want to tell you about the steep rocks I am climbing these days," and then follows the application to the big "Hill Difficulty" that was blocking up her own life path.
God in Nature.
Love of nature is not as spontaneous in the Indian girl as in the Japanese. Yet with but a little training of the seeing eye and understanding heart, there develops a deep love of beauty that includes alike flowers and birds, sunsets and stars. A High School senior thus expressed her thoughts about it at the final Y.W.C.A. meeting of the year.
"Nature stands before our eyes to make us feel God's presence. I feel God's presence very close when I happen to see the glorious sunset and bright moonlight night when everybody around me is sleeping. I think Nature gives a much greater and more glorious impression about God than any sermon.
"Whenever I felt troubled or worried, I did not often read the Bible or prayer book, but I wanted to go alone to some quiet place from where I could see the broad, bright blue sky with all its mysteries and green trees and gray mountains with fields and forests around them.
"I think Nature is the best comforter and preacher of God. When we are too tired to learn our lessons or to do our duty, we can go alone for a safe distance where God waits for us to strengthen us. It is hard for me to sit and think about God in the class room, where everybody is speaking, and the class books and sums on the board attract my attention, or make me feel useless because I was not able to do them as nicely as others in my class. But, if we go away from all these, our friend Nature jumps up and greets us with new greetings. The cool wind and the pretty birds and wonderful little flowers and giant-like rocks help us to feel the presence of God. We cannot appreciate all these when we are walking with the crowd and talking and playing, but, if we are left alone when we go out to see God, then even the stones and tiny flowers which we often see look like a mystery to us. In thinking about them we can feel the wisdom of God."
Crude as the English may be, the spiritual perception is not so different from that of the English lad who cried,
"My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky."
Religion Made Practical.
Religious feeling and expression may be natural to the Indian mind, but how about its transfer to the affairs of the common day? It is a hard enough proposition for any of us, be we from the East or the West; to make the difficulty even greater, the Indian girl is heir to a religious system in which religion and morals may be kept in water-tight compartments. Where the temples shelter "protected" prostitution and the wandering "holy man" may break all the Ten Commandments with impunity, it is hard to learn that the worship of God means right living. Harder than irregular verbs or English idioms is the fundamental lesson that the Bible class on Sunday has a vital connection with honest work in arithmetic on Monday, the settling of a quarrel on Tuesday, and the thorough sweeping of the schoolroom on Wednesday. Right here it is that we see "the grace of God" at work in the hearts of big girls and middle-sized girls and little children from the villages. When classes can be left to take examinations unsupervised, a big step forward is marked. When before Communion Sunday the "queens" of their own initiative settle up the school quarrels and "make peace," one has the glad feeling that a little bit of the Kingdom of God has come in one small corner of the earth.
"Among you as He that serveth."
Religious emotion may find one of its normal outlets in personal right-living. That is good as far as it goes, but yet not enough. It must seek expression also in making life better for other people. The Indian schoolgirl lives in the midst of a vast social laboratory, surrounded by problems that are overwhelmingly intricate. What is her education worth? Nothing, if it leads to a cloistered seclusion; everything, if it brings her into vital healing touch with even one of its needs.
The spirit of Christian social service opens many doors. There are Sunday afternoons to be spent with the shy pupils of the High Caste Girls' Schools at the opposite end of town. In the outcaste village beside the rice fields we may find the other end of the social scale—twenty or thirty little barbarians whose opening exercises must start off with a compulsory bath at the well.
Vacation weeks at home are bristling with opportunity—the woman next door whose forgotten art of reading may be revived; the bride in the next street who longs to learn crochet work; the little troop of neighbor children who crowd the house to learn the haunting strains of a Christian lyric. A cholera epidemic breaks out, and, instead of blind fear of a demon-goddess to be placated, there is practical knowledge as to methods of guarding food and drinking water. The baby of the house is ill and, instead of exorcisms and branding with hot irons, there is a visit to the nearest hospital and enough knowledge of hygienic laws to follow out the doctor's directions.
Rebecca teaches a class of small boys in the outcaste Sunday school that gives preliminary baths. On this particular Sunday, however, she starts out armed not with the picture roll and lyric book, but with a motley collection of soap and clean rags, cotton swabs and iodine and ointment.
"Amma," says Rebecca, "in the little thatched house, the fourth beyond the school, I saw a boy whose head is covered with sores. May Zipporah teach my class to-day, while I go and treat the sores, as I have learned to do in school?" So Rebecca, following in the steps of Him who sent out His disciples not only to preach but also to heal, attacks one of the little strongholds of dirt and disease and carries it by storm. No young surgeon after his first successful major operation was ever prouder than Rebecca when the next Sunday evening she rushes into the bungalow, eyes shining, to report her cure complete.
Is there somewhere an American girl who longs to "do things"? A little plumbing—or its equivalent in a land where no plumbing is; a little bossing of the carpenter, the mason, the builder; a great deal of "high finance" in raising one dollar to the purchasing power of two; a deal of administration with need for endless tact; the teaching of subjects known and unknown,—largely the latter; a vast amount of mothering and a proportionate return in the love of children; days bristling with problems, and nights when one sinks into bed too tired to think or feel—there you have it, with much more. More because it means opportunity for creative work—creative as one helps to mould the new education of new India; creative as one reverently helps to fashion some of the lives that are to be new India itself. More too, as the rebound comes back to one's self in a life too full for loneliness, too obsessing for self-interest. Does it pay? Try it for yourself and see.
One bright noon in North India, sixty years ago, a young missionary on an evangelistic tour among the villages paused to rest by the wayside. As he paced up and down beneath the tamarind trees, pondering the problem of India's womanhood, shut in the zenanas beyond the reach of the Gospel which he was bringing to the little villages, there fell at his feet a feather from a vulture's wing. Picking it up, he whimsically cut it into a quill. Thinking that his sister in far-away America might like a letter from so strange a pen, he went into his tent and wrote to her. He told her of the millions of girls shut up in those "citadels of heathenism," the zenanas of India,—a problem which only Christian women might hope to solve. Half playfully, half in earnest, he added, "Why don't you come out and help?" As swift as wind and wave permitted was Isabella Thoburn's answer, "I am coming as soon as the way opens!"
Already a group of women, stirred to the depths by the words of Mrs. Edwin W. Parker and Mrs. William Butler, returned missionaries from India, were forming a Society to help the women and girls of Christless lands. At the first public meeting of this Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, though but twenty women were present with but three hundred dollars in the treasury, when they learned that Isabella Thoburn,—gifted, consecrated, wise,—was ready to go to India, they exclaimed, "Shall we lose Miss Thoburn because we have not the needed money in our hands to send her? No, rather let us walk the streets of Boston in our calico dresses, and save the expense of more costly apparel!" Thus was answered the letter written with the feather from the vulture's wing by the wayside in India. In 1870, Isabella Thoburn gathered six little waifs into her first school in India, a one-roomed building in the noisy, dusty bazaar of Lucknow. From this brave venture have grown the Middle School, the High School, and finally in 1886 the first woman's Christian College in all Asia, housed in the Ruby Garden, Lal Bagh. Here for thirty-one years Isabella Thoburn lived and loved and labored for the girls of India.
I. THE GARDEN OF HID TREASURE
Prelude: Why go to College?
"Why should an Indian girl want a college education?" queried Mary Smith, as she listened to her roommate's account of the "Lighting of the Christmas Candles." "I can see why she would need to learn to read and write, and even a high school course I wouldn't mind; but college seems to me perfectly silly, and an awful waste of good money. Why, from our own home high school there are only six of us at college."
Mary Smith, fresh from "Main Street," may be less provincial than she sounds. Her question puts up a real problem. When only one girl in one hundred has a chance at the Three R's, is it right to "waste money" on giving certain others the chance to delve into psychology and higher mathematics? When there is not bread enough to go around, why should some of the family have cake and pudding?
Something less than a hundred years ago, similar questions were vexing the American public. Those were the days when Mary Lyon fought her winning battle against the champions of the slogan "The home is woman's sphere," the days in which the pioneers of women's education foregathered from the rocky farmslopes of New England, and Mt. Holyoke came into being. Mary Smith, who is duly born, baptized, vaccinated, and registered for Vassar, the last requiring no more volition on her part than the first, realizes little of the ancient struggle that has made her privilege a matter of course.
They are much the same old arguments that must be gone over again to justify college education for our sisters of the East. Rather say argument, in the singular, for there is just one that holds, and that is the possibilities for service that such education opens up.
High schools there must be in India, but who will teach them? American and English women have never yet gone out to India in such numbers as to staff the schools they have founded, nor would there be funds to support them if they did. Travel through India to-day and you will find girls' schools staffed either with under-qualified women teachers, or else with men whose academic qualifications are satisfactory, but who, being men, cannot fill the place where a woman is obviously needed. What could be more contradictory than to find a Christian girls' school, supported largely by American money, but staffed by Hindu men, just because no Christian women with necessary qualifications are available?
Hospitals there must be, but where are the doctors to conduct them? Here again, foreign doctors can fill the need of the merest fraction of India's suffering womankind. But the American doctor can multiply herself in just one way. Give her a Medical College, well equipped and staffed, and a body of Indian girls with a sufficient background of general education, and instead of one doctor and one hospital you will find countless centres of healing springing up in city and small town and along the roadside where the doctor passes by.
Leadership there must be among the women of the New India. Where will it be found but among those women whose powers of initiative have been developed by the four years of life in a Christian college? Church workers, pastors' wives, social workers, child welfare promoters, where can you find them in India? Here and there, scattered in unlikely places, where educated women, married and home-making, yet let their surplus energy flow out into neighborhood betterment.
Mothers of families there must be, and far be it from me to say that non-college women fail in that high office. There comes before me one mother of fourteen children who has never seen the inside of a college classroom, yet whom it would be hard to excel in her qualities of motherliness. But, other things being equal, it is to the Christian, educated mothers that we turn to find the life of the ideal home, with real comradeship between wife and husband, with intelligent understanding of the children, and the coveting for them of the best that education can give.
One other question Mary Smith may rightly ask. What about the men's colleges already existing? Will co-education not work in India?
To a certain limited extent it has. Rukkubai, with her too brief years of freedom, proved its possibility. Others there have been, pioneer souls, who pushed their way into lecture halls crowded with men, took notes in the dark and undesirable remnants of space allotted to them, and by dint of perseverance and hard work passed the examinations of the University and carried off the coveted degree.
They were courageous women, deserving admiration. They won knowledge, sometimes at heavy cost of health and nerve power. They helped to make women's education possible. But what of the fairer side of college life could they ever know? They were accepted always on sufferance; they never "belonged." One such pioneer was a friend of mine. In many walks and talks she told me of life in a men's college under the patronage of the Maharajah of a native state. Loyal to her college, and proud of the treasures of opportunity it had opened to her, she yet sighed for what she had missed. "When I see the life of the girls in the Women's Christian College at Madras," she said, "I feel that I have never been to college."
Three times the girls and women of America have reached out hands across the sea and either founded or helped to found Christian schools of higher education for the women of India, with the belief that they have a right to the knowledge of the spiritual truth which has brought to Christian women of America development in righteousness, freedom of faith, a personal knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, and the blessed hope of immortality.
Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow, 1886.
The Women's Christian College, Madras, 1915.
The Vellore Medical School, 1918.
These three names and dates are red-lettered in the history of international friendship, for through them the college women of America and India are joined into one fellowship of knowledge and service.
A dusty journey of a night and almost a day brings you from Calcutta across the limitless Ganges plains to Lucknow, capital of the ancient kingdom of Oudh. Every tourist visits it, making a pious pilgrimage first to the Residency, where in the midst of green lawns and banyan trees the scarred ruins tell of the unforgettable Mutiny days of '57; and then to the nearby cemetery, where the dead sleep among the jasmines. Then, if his hours are wisely chosen, the traveler drives back to the town at sunset when palace towers and cupolas, mosque minarets and domes are silhouetted against the blazing west in an unrivalled skyline.
The tourist returns to the bazaars and in the midst of them, amid the dust and clatter of ekkas and tongas, probably passes by a sight more interesting than Residency ruins and abandoned palaces—inasmuch as it deals with the living present rather than the dead past. It was in Lal Bagh, the Ruby Garden of hid treasure, that the Nawab Iq bal-ud-dowler, Lord Chamberlain to the first king of Oudh, hid, according to report, great caskets of silver rupees, with a huge ruby possessed of magic virtues, and left behind him a sheet of detailed directions for finding the treasure, with, alas, a postscript to explain that all the careful directions were quite wrong, being intended to mislead the would-be discoverer. It was again in Lal Bagh that Isabella Thoburn founded her school for Indian girls, and in 1886 opened the classes of the first women's college for India to possess residence accommodation and a staff of women teachers. The buried rupees and the magic ruby have never been unearthed; instead these years of Lal Bagh history have witnessed the discovery of richer treasure in the minds and hearts of young women, set free from age-long repressions and sent out to share their riches with a world in need.
You enter Lal Bagh's gates and find yourself before a stretch of dull red buildings whose wide-arched verandahs are built to keep out the fierce suns of May In November the sun has lost its terrors, and you rejoice in its warmth as it shines upon the gardens with their riot of color—yellow and white chrysanthemums, roses, and masses of flaming poinsettias, surely a fair setting for the girls who walk amid its changing loveliness.
As you leave the setting and for a few days merge yourself into the life that is going on within, there are a few outstanding impressions that fasten upon you and persistently mingle with Lal Bagh memories. Of these, perhaps, the foremost is the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Here you have on the one hand a group of American college women representing no one locality, no narrow section of American life, but drawn from east and west, north and south. On the other side, you see a body of nearly sixty Indian students whose homes range all the way from Ceylon to the Northwest frontier, from Singapore to Bombay.
What of the result? It is an atmosphere where East and West meet, not in conflict, but in a spirit of give and take, where each re-inforces the other. It is probably due to this friendly clash of ideas that the "typical" student at Isabella Thoburn strikes the observer as of no "type" at all, but a person whose ideas are her own and who has a gift for original thinking rare in one's experience of Indian girls. In the class forums that were held during my visit the most striking element was the difference of opinion, and its free expression.
Scholarship. Lal Bagh is no longer satisfied with the production of mere graduates. Her ambition is now reaching out to post-graduate study, made possible by the gift of an American fellowship. The first to receive this honor are two Indian members of the faculty, one of them Miss Thillayampalam, Professor of Biology, whose home is in far-off Ceylon at the other end of India's world. Henceforth, America may expect to find each year one member of the Lal Bagh family enrolled in some school of graduate work. Such work, however, is not to be confined to a scholarship in a foreign land, for this year the college enrolls Regina Thumboo, its first candidate for the degree of M.A. Her parents, originally from the South, emigrated from Madras to Singapore. There Regina was born, the youngest of five children. The father, a civil engineer in the employ of a local rajah was ambitious for his children, and, seeing in Regina a child of unusual promise, sent her first to a Singapore school, then on the long journey across to Calcutta and inland to Lucknow. At Lal Bagh she stands foremost in scholarship. When she has completed her M.A. in history and had her year of advanced work in some American university, she plans to return to the faculty of her Alma Mater.
Scholarship at Isabella Thoburn College does not deal exclusively with the dusty records of dead languages and bygone civilizations. It is linked up with present questions, and is alive to the changing India of to-day. Among the matters discussed during my visit were such as: the substitution of a vernacular for English in the university course; the possibility of a national language for all India; the advisability of co-education; and the place of the unmarried woman in New India. To report all that the girls said and wrote would require a book for itself, but so far as space allows we will let the girls speak for themselves.
The Senior Class of eight discussed co-education with great interest, and when the vote was taken five were in the affirmative and only three in the negative.
The following paper voices the objections to co-education as expressed by one especially thoughtful student:
"Co-education is an excellent thing, but it can only work successfully in those highly civilized countries where intellectual and moral strength and freedom of intercourse control the lives and thoughts of the student bodies. Unfortunately these fundamental principles of co-education are sadly lacking in India.