Remarkable women of India : Madam Bhikaiji Rustom Cama.
On a shiny day at Stuttgart, Germany, more than 900 delegates from all around the world had gathered to discuss militarism, colonization and women suffrage. The date was 24th august 1907. The meeting has been arranged by international socialist congress.
Here, a brave looking woman with high head and self respect, wearing traditional Parsi sari and a glorious face showed up and unfurled the flag and exclaimed to the audience in a loud and thundering voice.
This is the flag of India’s freedom. Look, this has taken birth. The great martyrs of India have shed their blood to approve of it. Gentlemen, I entreat that you all must salute this Indian flag by standing at your places. Taking this Tricolor as witness, I appeal to the freedom-lovers all over the world that they should assist in freeing one-fifth of the world’s population.”
After hearing this roaring voice, everybody stood up on their feet, expressed their deference for it and clapped in its honor.
The courageous woman was Madam Bhikaiji Rustom Cama and the flag was the first version of Indian sovereign flag.
The time when Madam Cama unfurled the national flag was the time when India’s freedom was 40 long years away. This was the time when Indian national congress has recently been established and doing nothing except urging the Britain to have negligible political rights. This was the time when even Gandhiji has not come to India.
This was the time when no one was talking about the complete freedom. At that time Madam Cama had not only urged the world to take interest in the fighting of India’s freedom but also fought vigorously for the cause.
Madam Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama was born on 24 September, 1861 four years after the first great revolution of India of 1857, in a wealthy Parsi family of Bombay. Her father was Sorabji Framji Patel and mother, Jijabai. Sorabji was a well-known trader of Bombay. Parsi community was quite modern in that time and plenty of Parsis followed British tradition. Bhikaiji Cama too has been raised in that way. She has been sent to the Alexandra girl’s English school the best school of that time having fully British culture.
Bhikaiji Cama has spent first thirty years of her life among the pro British people who wanted the country to be brought forward in terms of modernity. Though she lived in a way that can be called modernity like she wore fashionable dresses and met the foreign community freely. She has never been influenced by the English environment.
She had a soft corner for poor people of India who were brutally exploited by the British people. In that sense she can be compared with leo Tolstoy of Russia or Gautam Budhha. Both of them were born in highly reach family still they were compassionate for poor.
At the age of 24 she got married to Rustom Cama a pro British lawyer who aspired to be a politician. She and her husband had total different views. as her husband had a perception the British people were cultured and far more educated. It will be in the benefit of India if they govern her. Madam Cama did not think in the same way. She despised the exploitation of her mother land by them. This was not a happy marriage and most of the time she was engaged in her philanthropic work.
Compassionate Madam Cama
In the year 1896 India was severely affected by bubonic plaque. Large numbers of people have suffered from this. Madam Cama immediately jumped into helping the affected people. She herself got infected by the plaque. Fortunately she survived but severely weakened. By the advice of the doctors she was sent to Britain for medical care in 1902.
Birth of a revolutionary
Her visit to London has changed the life of madam cama forever. In India too she was the fiery in her ideas to get freedom for the country but she was like a plant which has not been given manure and it has lost its vitality due to that. but when she went to London she came in contact with the people of similar thought process.
She came in contact with Dadabhai Naoroji, Shyamji Krishna Verma and Vinayak Damodar Savrkar. All of them were prominent in revolutionary activities. With these revolutionaries she found a new way and energy to do revolutionary activities to get freedom for mother land.
Immediately she started taking part in all the activities run by them. Most of the activities were run in India house which is a second home for Madam Cama. Madam Cama had done most of the revolutionary activities from here. She had a flair for languages. with the help of it she had started writing fiercely in the magazines like ‘Madan’ s Talvar’ and ‘Bande Matram.’ She even translated the book written by veer savarkar into French.
Believing in gender equality
Madam Cama was a staunch believer of gender equality. Bhikhaiji Cama was vehement in her support for gender equality. Speaking in Cairo, Egypt in 1910, she asked, “I see here the representatives of only half the population of Egypt. May I ask where the other half is? Sons of Egypt, where are the daughters of Egypt? Where are your mothers and sisters? Your wives and daughters?”
Emotional and fiery speech at the arrest of Lala Lajpat Rai
Madam Cama was audacious in telling the truth categorically to anyone whether that person liked it or not. On the other hand, she possessed the tender and motherly heart.
She was disturbed and hurt when Lala Lajpat Rai was arrested. The emotional speech she has given on that day was legendary.
This was her speech.
“Men and women of India, you all should step ahead to protest against this cruel repression. Decide that you will not tolerate this bondage anymore, even to the peril of your lives. “What is the use to appreciate ancient glory of India, Persia and Arabia if you continue to live a life of slavery? Brave Rajputs, Sikhs, Pathans, Gurkhas, patriot Marathas, Bengalis, perseverant Parsis, courageous Muslims, humble Jains, Oh! enduring offspring of great and powerful races – Hindus, why are you not abiding by your high traditions? What is cause which forces you to remain under bondage? Break away these bonds. Establish self-rule and equality. “Brothers and sisters, fight for human rights and tell the West that the East can teach them many a thing. Teach a hard lesson to the English who had been delineated by William Wordsworth, the grandson of the famous poet Wordsworth, as ‘the devils in white dresses’. “I wish if I could smash the prison doors and bring out Lala Lajpat Rai.
“Our strength lies in unity. Come, let us all be united. If all of us follow the path that of Lala Lajpat Rai, if we speak the same voice he spoke, this English government will have to build a very large number of jails and forts to imprison all of us. Our population stands at about fifty crores. If we all learn to be Lala Lajpat Rai, it would not take much time to be united. Come, let us take up his goal as our own, and let his suffering be our own grief.
Indian youths! You are the bridge to link the past and the future. Though we cannot set our feet on our country, yet we can at least remember our country to our last breath. Come, follow this unshakable principle. Let us not forget that freedom has to be conquered, it is not given in inheritance. “We must not forget these brave people during this freedom struggle who have sacrificed themselves on the altar of the motherland.
“Friends, awaken your self-respect. Don’t work for the oppressive rulers. Sever your relations with them. Resign from their jobs, and then you will see that it would take no time to bring this autocratic regime to paralyze. I wish I could come to you to tell all this myself, but my failing health does not allow me to do so.
May God raise the entire India inspired by Vande Mataram.”
Loss for the whole country
Madam Cama has spent most of her life in foreign soil. She wanted to come to motherland ultimately. She was gravely ill and paralyzed. So she requested the British government for the permission to return to India on 24 June 1935.She arrived at Bombay in November 1935 and expired nine months later at Parsi general hospital on 13 august 1936. Her death was a great loss to India.
Philanthropist Madam Cama.
An altruist by nature Madam Cama donated all her asset to the Avabai Petit orphanage for girls.She lived a life of a revolutionary, a saint, a feminist, a philanthropist.
Note: The speech of Madam Cama, on Lala Lajpat Rai’s arrest, has been taken from Rachana Bhola Yamini’s book.