(Last Updated on : 07-12-2012)
Jyotirmoyee Devi was a tireless crusader for women's rights. She re-discovered the world through her pen and wrote widely about marginalized and oppressed women. She was politically conscious and had been the follower of Gandhiji's principles, but with a critical attitude. She was an activist who studied about women and their turmoil's. She spent many months in the Harijan colony to observe the condi-tions of prostitutes and of the aged, lonely women. She lived amongst them in their havelis. She is of the view that women in our society never get enough sustenance. She is moulded to meet the re-quirements of society for reproduction and mainte-nance of life. Males consider her only as an instrument for doing all household works as cooking, nursing and raising children. A woman is not raised to be a human being, but to please and serve many others, to function as a means of production and service for the family. She is not given the means to expand her mind and her personality. Opportunity for education, creativity and knowledge are not viewed as part of her requirements. The world of woman thus becomes a mere life of waste. Though she has a mind she has no means of expressing the world within. Though she has a heart, her heart is not held in esteem. As if there is tune, but no music: There is bhava, but no language; that is the kind of life women had. Jyotirmoyee Devi wanted this attitude of society to change. She wanted women to be independent and treated with esteem. She claimed for equal rights of women with that of men.
Jyotirmoyee Devi was born into a very rich family on 1894. Her father was a Cabinet Minister. Her early education had been entirely in Bengali and Hindi. She read widely from her father's well-stocked library and absorbed the culture of Rajasthan and Delhi. Her grand-father was the Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jaipur. She was married at an early age of ten to a young advocate of Patna Bar. She studied English under her husband's guidance. Fate was cruel to her, as she had to become a widow at the young age of 25. After which, she returned to her father's house at Jaipur with her two sons and four daughters Her youngest child was only three months old and the eldest not above nine or ten.
She wrote poems, short stories, sketches and thoughtful articles on social problems. They got recognition as soon as they appeared in periodicals, and in course of time, she carved a position for herself in the annual Bengali literary conference held in different parts of India. She was much sought after and gradually without any self-advertisement and publicity, she came to be looked upon as an eminent writer. The denial of rights to women in social matters and particularly in those relating to property and inheritance was sharply established in Jyotirmoyee Devi's mind and found expression in numerous articles and speeches. In her writings, especially fictional, one does not find any maudlin sentiment or pathos. She had seen life in the raw as well as in its more prosperous aspects and both had their place in her stories and articles.
It was her uncle's friend, who had found in her the innate ability of writing. He once had the chance to read her works in which she expressed her complaints and antipathy about the strictures exercised by the society against women. Impressed by her views he had send them to a magazine called Bharat-Varsa and it was published on the women's page. Her views created an uproar amongst the male readers. In the work she raised the question, why men use the terms as tigress, seductress and Kamini-Kanchns to describe women. She expressed very sternly that such offensive terms to ridicule women are to be avoided. She again asks whether these males do not have mothers and sisters. Usually men use the term 'frailty" to associate women. Shakespeare in his Hamlet says, "Frailty, thy name is woman." Male authors in their works ridiculed women as inferior and frail. She tells that it is not only women that are frail but as human beings male too are frail. According to her, "a society where woman has no rights as an individual has no opportunity to protest".
The denial of rights to women in social matters and particularly in those relating to property and inheritance was sharply established in Jyotirmoyee Devi's mind and found expression in numerous articles and speeches. In her writings, especially fictional, one does not find any maudlin sentiment or pathos. She had seen life in the raw as well as in its more prosperous aspects and both had their place in her stories and articles. Jyotirmoyee Devi's analysis of social structure was clearly visible and obvious as she had a strong and independent intellect and imagination, which penetrates into the inner working of the mind. She wrote in a very simple language devoid of frills but in her works she expressed her sympathy for women.
It is a marvel as how she crossed her hard days from 1918, when she was 25 (she became a widow), to 1988 when she died at the age of 95, physically a wreck but mentally as strong as she was at her young age. Even at ninety-four with a fractured hip sustained by a fall, she continued her reading and writing, and her intellect was as sharp and her memory as alive as it used to be in her earlier years.