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The teacher from Kerala


Thursday, Oct 05, 2006; Kaumudi Teacher - She renounced her gold ornaments for the cause of the freedom struggle (being honoured at her Kannur residence)

Thursday, Oct 05, 2006; Kaumudi Teacher - She renounced her gold ornaments for the cause of the freedom struggle (being honoured at her Kannur residence)

Badagara, Malabar, 13 January 1934

… I had just finished my speech at Badagara … 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.What chance did the British have against a woman like this?

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 jewelled 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.” (via Gandhi in his own words).

What chance did the British have after this ‘performance’ by 16 year old Kaumudi! In Kannur town, Kaumudi teacher still inspires a new generation of students. Living quietly, Kaumudi teacher is remembered, though not as well as she deserves to be – and more importantly, as much as we need to.

What chance did the British have against a woman like this?
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