Need For Public Work
For Girl students
If this institution presents India with some heroines, some genuine workers, who will not be lost to the society but who will dedicate themselves to its service, I should be delighted. If after receiving this costly education you give me the slip and straight way marry away and disappear from the horizon, you will have deceived the country. Not that you may not marry. But whether you are married or unmarried, don’t be slaves, but do what the country demands of you. You should be the incarnation of mercy and bravery, and go about in the world with the sure shield of purity ever protecting you, ever above temptation and without fear.
Young India, 11-8-’27
Your parents do not send you to school to become dolls. On the contrary you are expected to become Sisters of Mercy. Do not make the mistake of thinking that only those may be called Sisters of Mercy who wear a particular dress. She becomes a Sister of Mercy immediately she thinks less of herself, and more of those who are poorer and more unfortunate than herself; and you have done the work of Sisters of Mercy in giving your mite to the purse that has been presented to me, because that purse has been presented for those who are unfortunately poorer than yourselves.
To give a little bit of money is easy enough; to do a little thing oneself is more difficult. If you really feel for the people for whom you are giving money, you must go a step further and wear Khadi that these people manufacture. If, when Khadi is brought before you, you say " Khadi is a bit coarse, we cannot wear it," then I know you have not the spirit of self-sacrifice in you.
It is such a very nice thing that here there is no distinction between high class and low class, touchable and untouchables; and if your hearts are also working in that direction, and you do not consider yourselves superior to some other girls, it is a very good thing indeed.
May God bless you!
With Gandhiji in Ceylon, pp. 145-46
Religious instruction you have, and very properly in this institution. You have got also a beautiful temple. I see from your time-table that you begin the day by offering worship, all of which is good and elevating; but it may easily amount to a beautiful ceremonial and nothing else, if that worship is not translated day after day into some practical work. So I say, in order to follow out that act of worship, take up the spinning-wheel, sit at it for half an hour, and think of these millions that I have described to you and say in the name of God, "I spin for the sake of them." If you do it with your heart, with the knowledge that you are the humbler and the richer for that real act of devotion, if you will dress not for show, but for covering your limbs, you will certainly not have any hesitation in wearing Khadi and establish that bond between yourselves and the millions.
I saw in your magazines mention made with some degree of pardonable pride of what some of the old school girls had been doing. I saw notices after this style. So and so married so and so - 4 or 5 notices. There is, I know, nothing wrong in a girl who has come of age, about 25 or even 22 years old, getting married. But I miss in these notices a single mention of a girl who had dedicated herself to service only. So, I propose to tell you what I told the girls of H. H. the Maharaja’s College for girls in Bangalore, that we get a poor return for the great efforts that are being made by educationalists and by lavish charities, if you all become mere dolls and disappear from life, as soon as you are discharged from such institutions.
A vast majority of girls disappear from public life as soon as they are discharged from schools and colleges. You of this institution have no such business. You have the example of Miss Emery and the examples of others who have been superintending, and who have been, if I am not speaking incorrectly, maidens.
Every girl, every Indian girl, is not born to marry. I can show many girls who are today dedicating themselves to service instead of serving one man. It is high time that Hindu girls produce or reproduce an edition, and if possible a glorified edition, of Parvati and Sita.
You claim to be Shaivites. You know what Parvati did. She did not spend money for a husband, nor would she allow herself to be bought, and she today adorns the Hindu firmament by being classed with one of the Seven Satis - not because of the degree in an educational institution that she received, but because of her unheard of tapasya (penance).
Here, I understand that there is the hateful system of dowry, whereby it becomes most difficult for young women to get suitable matches. The grown up girls - some of you are grown up - are expected to resist all such temptations. If you will resist these evil customs, you will, some of you, have to begin by remaining maidens either for life, or at least for a number of years. Then, when it is time for you to marry, and you feel that you must have a partner in life, you will not be in thirst of one who has money, or fame, or beauty of person, but you will be in search of one - even as Parvati was - who has got all the matchless qualities which go to make good character. You know how Naradjee described Shiva to Parvati - a mere pauper smeared with ashes, no handsomeness about him and a brahmachari; and Parvati said, ’Yes, he will be my husband.’ You won’t have several editions of Shiva unlesssome of you will be content to offer tapasya not for thousands of years, as Parvati did. We, frail human beings, cannot afford to do it, but you can do so at least during your lifetime.
If you will accept these conditions, you will refuse to disappear into the kingdom of dolls, but will aspire to be Satis like Parvati, Damayanti, Sita and Savitri. Then and not till then, in my humble opinion, will you have deserved an institution of this character.
May God fire you with this ambition, and if you are inspired, may He help you to realize this ambition.
With Gandhiji in Ceylon, pp. 147-49
Sati - a virtuous wife
Shiva -Hindu God
Narad -an Indian mythological character
Parvati and Sita- Hindu Goddesses
brahmachari - one observing continence
Damayanti and Savitri - mythological characters