These words were scribbled by Gandhi while signing an autograph for a 16-year-old girl on January 13, 1934 at Vatakara in Kozhikode. The ‘tyag’ that the Mahatma wrote about was the girl’s renunciation of all the ornaments she wore when he went there in connection with the fund raising for the Harijan Sahaya Nidhi. The girl was Kaumudi, or Kaumudi Teacher as she came to be known later.
I had not heard of her till I read this news article and this blog posting is mostly taken from that article. How many of us have heard this before?
Gandhiji himself wrote about Kaumudi’s gesture in ‘Harijan’ as well as other journals. Here’s how he described it.
"..I cannot recall a scene more touching than that of the Harijan cause. I had just finished my speech at Badagara. In it I had made a reasoned appeal to the women present for jewellery. I had finished speaking and was selling the presents received when gently walked up to the platform Kaumudi, a girl 16 years old.
She took out one bangle and asked me if I would give my autograph. I was preparing to give it, when off came the other bangle. She had only one on each hand. I said, “You need not give me both, I shall give you the autograph for one bangle only.” She replied by taking off her golden necklace. This was no easy performance. It had to be disengaged from her long plait of hair…!!
“But have you the permission of your parents?” I asked. There was no answer. She had not yet completed her renunciation. Her hands automatically went to her ears and out came her jeweled ear-rings amid the ringing cheers of the public, whose expression of joy was no longer to be suppressed. I asked her again whether she had her parents’ consent to the sacrifice.
Before I could extract any answer from the shy girl, someone told me that her father was present at the meeting, that he was himself helping me by bidding for the addresses I was auctioning and that he was as generous as his daughter in giving to worthy causes. I reminded Kaumudi that she was not to have the ornaments replaced. She resolutely assented to the condition.
As I handed her the autograph, I could not help prefacing it with the remark, “Your renunciation is a truer ornament than the jewellery you have discarded.” !!
These words from Gandhiji kindled an undying spirit of sacrifice in Kaumudi teacher who got the honour of being the first Hindi teacher in Malabar. She retired from service in 1972 and worked in the ashram of Vinobha Bhave in Thiruvananthapuram. Kaumudi teacher’s heroic sacrifice has been included in text books as well. She remained unmarried and has been honored by Gandhian organisations.
Wow! Such lives are a real source of inspiration. This land of ours has had many such people and needs many more such... They are remembered, though not as well as they deserve to be.