By Alice B. Van Doren
Education and World Peace.
While statesmen discuss disarmament and politicians and newspaper editors foment race consciousness and mutual distrust, certain forces that never figure in newspaper headlines, that come "not with observation," are working with silent constructive power to bind nations together in ties of peace and good will. Among these silent forces are certain educational institutions. Columbia University has its Cosmopolitan Club, at whose Sunday night suppers you may meet representatives of forty to fifty nations, Occidental and Oriental. In the Near East, amid the race hatred and strife that set every man's hand against his fellow, the American Colleges at Constantinople and Beirut have stood foremost among the forces that produce unification and brotherhood.
During the war-scarred days of 1915, while nation was rising up against nation, there was founded in the city of Madras one of these international ventures in co-operation. Known to the world of India as the Women's Christian College of Madras, it might just as truthfully be called a Triangular Alliance in Education, for in it Great Britain including Canada, the United States, and India are joined together in educational endeavor. America may well admire what Britain has been doing during long years for India's educational advancement. Among England's more recent contributions to education in India none has been greater that the coming of Miss Eleanor McDougall from London University to take the principalship of this international college for women. Under her wise leadership British and American women have worked in one harmonious unit, and international co-operation has been transformed from theory to fact.
Where Missions Co-operate.
The Women's Christian College is not only international, it is also intermissionary. Supported by fourteen different Mission Boards, including almost every shade of Protestant belief and every form of church government, it stands not only for international friendship, but also as an outstanding evidence of Christian unity.
The staff and the student body are as varied as the supporting constituency. In the former, along with British and American professors are now two Indian women lecturers, Miss George, a Syrian Christian, who teaches history, and Miss Janaki, a Hindu, who teaches botany. Both are resident and a happy factor in the home life of the college. Among the students nine Indian languages are represented, ranging all the way from Burma to Ceylon, from Bengal to the Malabar Coast. From the last named locality come Syrian Christians in great numbers. This interesting sect loves to trace its history back to the days of the Apostle Thomas. Be that historical fact or merely a pious tradition, this sect can undoubtedly boast an indigenous form of Christianity that dates back to the early centuries of the Christian era; and it stands to-day in a place of honor in the Indian Christian community.
The Sunflower and the Lamp.
Perhaps much of the success which the College at Madras has achieved on the side of unity is due to the fact that her members are too busy to think or talk about it because their time is all filled up with actually doing things together. Expressing this spirit of active co-operation is the college motto, "Lighted to lighten"; the emblem in the shield is a tiny lamp such as may burn in the poorest homes in India. Below the lamp is a sunflower, whose meaning has been discussed in the college magazine by a new student. She says, "To-day the sunflower stands for very much in my mind. It is symbolic of this our College, for, as our amateur botanists tell us, the sunflower is not a flower, but a congregation of them. The tiny buds in the centre are our budding intellects. To-day they are in the making; to-morrow they will bloom like their sisters who surround them. Nourished from the same source, their fruit will be even likewise.
"Around these are the golden rays--each a tongue of fire to protect and inspire. There is none high or low amongst them, being all alike, and these are our tutors, and the sunflower itself turns to the sun, the great giver of life, for its inspiration, ever turning to him, never losing sight of his face. A force inexplicable draws the flower to the King of Day, even as our hearts are turned to Him at morn and at eve, be we East or West."
In a Garden.
It is fitting that the sunflower should bloom in a garden, and so it does. This time it is not a walled garden like that of Lal Bagh; the Women's College is situated out from the city in a green and spacious suburb, where the little River Cooum wanders by its open spaces. The ten acres have much the air of an American college campus,--the same sense of academic quiet, of detachment from the work-a-day world. The whole compound is dominated by the tall, white columns of the old main building, which confer an air of distinction upon the whole place, as well they may, for have they not guarded successively government officials and Indian rajahs?
Nearby is the new residence hall, as modern as the other is historic. Three stories in height, its verandahs are in the form of a hollow square, and look out upon a courtyard gay with the bright-hued foliage of crotons and other tropical plants. Beyond is the garden itself, filled not with the roses and chrysanthemums of winter Lucknow, but with the perpetual summer foliage of spreading rain trees, palms, and long fronded ferns, with fluffy maidenhair between. In their season the purple masses of Bougainvillea, and the crimson of the Flamboya tree set the garden afire. In the evening when the girls are sitting under the trees or walking down the long vistas with the level sunbeams bringing out the bright colors of their draped _saris_, it brings to mind nothing so much as a scene from "The Princess" where among fair English gardens
"One walked reciting by herself, and one In this hand held a volume as to read."
Yet life in the Women's College is not a cloistered retreat such as "The Princess" tried to establish, nor are its activities confined to the study of classics in a garden. Student organizations flourish here with a variety almost as great as in the West. There is, first of all, the College Committee, which corresponds roughly to our Scheme of Student Government. Its members are chosen from the classes and in their turn elect a President known as "Senior Student." She is the official representative of the whole student body. Communications from faculty to students pass through her, and she represents the College on state occasions, such as visits from the Viceroy or other Government officials. Various student committees are also elected to plan meetings for the Literary and Debating Societies, to organize excursions for "Seeing Madras," and to plan for athletic teams and contests. How well the last named have succeeded is proved by the silver cup carried off as a trophy by the College badminton team, which distinguished itself as the winner in last year's intercollegiate sports.
An unusual organization is the Star Club, which has been carried on for several years, with programme meetings once a month and bi-weekly groups for observation. No wonder that astrology and the beginnings of astronomy came from the Orient, or that Wise Men from the East found a Star as the sign to lead their journeying. Night after night the constellations rise undimmed in the clear sky and fairly urge the beholder to close acquaintance. A knowledge of them fills the sky with friendly forms and gives the student a new and lasting "hobby" that may be pursued anywhere, and kept through life. The Star Club has popularized its celestial interests by presenting to the College a pageant in three scenes, a "Dream of the Sun and Planets," in which the Earth Dweller is transported to the regions of the sky and holds long and intimate conversations with the various heavenly bodies. As the final scene, the planets slant in their relative positions, and the Signs of the Zodiac with shields take their places on each side of Father Sun.
The Natural history Club has interests ranging all the way from the theory of evolution to the names and songs of the common birds of Madras.
The Art Club not only does out-door sketching, but has entered upon a wide field in the study of Indian art and architecture. India is reviving a partly forgotten interest in her ancient arts and crafts and has much to offer the student, from the wonderful lines of the Taj Mahal to the Ahmadabad stone windows with their lace-like traceries; from the portraits of Moghal Emperors to the fine detail of South India temple carvings. Study in the Art Club means a new appreciation of the beauty found among one's own people.
The Dramatic and Musical Societies unite now and then in public entertainments, such as "Comus" which was given in honor of the women graduates of the whole Presidency at the time of the University Convocation. The Society repertoire of plays given during the last five years includes a considerable variety--dramatists so far apart as Shakespeare and Tagore; the old English moralities of "Everyman" and "Eager Heart"; the old Indian epic-dramas of "Sakuntala" and "Savitri"; together with Sheridan's "Rivals" and scenes from "Emma" and "Ivanhoe." The Musical Club specializes on Christmas carols, with which the College is wakened at four o'clock "on Christmas day in the morning."
The History Club sounds like an organization of research workers; on the contrary, its interests are bound up with the march of current events in India and the world. At the time when India was stirred by the visit of the Duke of Connaught and the launching of the Reform Government, this Club took to itself the rights of suffrage, elected its members to the first Madras Legislative Council, and after the elections were duly confirmed sat in solemn assembly to settle the affairs of the Province. They have also carried out equally dramatic representations of the English House of Lords and even the League of Nations.
"Lighted to Lighten."
The Young Women's Christian Association of the College among its many activities includes Bible classes in the vernacular which bring together students from the same language areas and after a week of purely English study and English chapel service serve as a link with home life and home conditions. Not only with home on the one side; on the other the Association ties them up with wider interests, with conferences that bring together students from all India, with activities that range all the way from teaching servants' children to read and translating Christian books into their own vernaculars to sending gifts of money to a suffering student in Vienna.
Social service is carried on along lines not very different from those pursued in Lucknow. Sunday schools, visits to outcaste villages, and lectures on health and cleanliness have their place. A new feature is the dispensing of simple medical help, which not only relieves the recipients, but teaches the students what they can do later when in their own homes. Another distinctive venture is the "Little School" in the college grounds, where volunteer workers take turns morning and evening in teaching the neighborhood children, and thus get their first taste of the joys and difficulties of the teacher's profession.
An interested girl thus expresses her ideas on the subject of social service. Her emphasis upon the positive side of life speaks well for her future accomplishment:
"Though the condition of the people is deplorable we need not despair of making matters better for them. Instead of giving the mere negative instructions that they should not drink, or be extravagant with their money, or get into the clutches of money lenders, we can do something positive. Some interesting diversions could be invented that would prevent men from frequenting drinking houses. With regard to their extravagance on certain occasions, we might suggest to them ways in which they could lessen items of expenditure. To prevent their being at the mercy of money lenders, co-operative societies may be started in order to lend money at a lower rate of interest; or to supply them with capital or with tools in order to start their work.
"To remove the other evil of ignorance with regard to health, we may go into the villages and give them practical lessons on cleanliness. We could tell them of the value of fresh air and give them other needful instructions.
"In doing social work of this kind, there are many principles we ought to have in mind. Instead of telling a poor man with no means of living that he should not steal it would be better to see that he is somehow placed beyond the reach of want. Another is that instead of merely imparting morality in negative form, it would be better to point out to them some positive way in which they could improve. More important than any of these principles is that instead of thinking of 'bestowing good' on the people, it would be more effective, if we co-operate with them and enlist their initiative, thus enabling them by degrees to be fit to manage their own affairs."
Certain parts of the curriculum also tie up closely with community life. Economics and essay writing lead into fields of research. Essays and contributions to the College magazine, "The Sunflower," bear such titles as the "Social Needs of Kottayam District," which goes into the causes of poverty and distress in the writer's own locality, or "The Religion of the People of Kandy," written by a convert from Buddhism who knows from her own childhood experience the beauties and defects of that great religious system.
An intercollegiate essay prize was won by a Christian college girl who wrote on her own home town, "The Superstitions and Customs of the Village of Namakal." She writes:
"A set of villages would also be seen where the people are very much like the insects under a buried stone, which run underground, unable to see the light or to adapt themselves to the light. The moment the stone is turned up, so much accustomed are they to live in the darkness of superstition and unbelief that they think they would be better off to go on so, and refuse to accept the light rays of science, education, and civilization, which are willingly given them."
The list of current omens and superstitions which she has unearthed may prove of interest to Western readers who have little idea of the burden of _taboo_ under which the average Hindu passes his days. The essayist says:
"An attempt to enumerate these superstitious beliefs would be useless, but the following would illustrate the villagers' deep regard for them, It is a good omen to hear a bell ring, an ass bray, or a Brahmini kite cry, when starting out to see a married woman whose husband is alive. They believe it to be an excellent omen to see a corpse, a bunch of flowers, water, milk, a toddy pot, or a washerman with dirty clothes, while setting out to give any present to her or her husband. No Hindu man or woman would set out to visit a newly married couple if he or she hears sneezing while starting, or proceed on the journey if he or she hears the wailing of a beggar, or happens to see a Brahmin widow, a snake, a full oil pot, or a cat."
The College Woman and India.
Many of the students are full of ideas as to the various places which women may fill in the economy of the India of the future. Among the professions open to women, teaching is of course the favorite. Its opportunities are shown in the following:
"The University women who, more than any one else, have enjoyed the fruits of education and the privileges of college life are naturally very keen on imparting them to the million of their less graduate sisters. Almost every student in a college is now filled with a greater love and longing to help the uneducated women. Thus, most of them go out as teachers. Some of them work in their own schools, or take up work either in a mission school or a government school. Some of the graduates are now in a position to establish schools of their own. The pay for teachers is usually lower than that earned by women in other positions, but the fact that so many women become teachers shows that they care more for service than for salary, for surely this is the greatest service that they as women can give to India."
Another student has some ideas as to new methods to be used:
"The present method of teaching in India is not quite suitable to the modern stage of children. Now, children are very inquisitive and try to learn by themselves. They cannot understand anything which is taught as mere doctrines. The teacher has to draw her answers from the children and thus build up her teaching on the base of their previous knowledge. So the educated women have to train themselves in schools where they are made fit to meet the present standard of children."
Miss Cornelia Sorabji has shown by her career what a woman lawyer can do for other women. A college girl writes as follows of the opportunities for service that other students might find in the law:
"I have seen many women in the villages, though not educated, showing the capacities of a good lawyer. I think that women have a special talent in performing this business, and hence would do much better than men. Tenderness and mercy are qualities greatly required in a judge or magistrate. Women are famous for these and so their judgments which will be the products of justice tempered by mercy will be commendable. A man cannot understand so fully a woman, the workings of her mind, her thoughts and her views, as a woman can; so in order to plead the cause of women there should be women lawyers who could understand and put their cases in a very clear light."
Another feels the need of women in politics:
"According to the present system in India, the government is carried on by men alone. Thus women are exclusively shut off from the administration of the country. The good and bad results of the government affect men and women alike. Therefore, it is only fair that women also should have an active part in the government of the country. Women should be given seats in the Legislative Council where they would have an opportunity to listen to the problems of the country and try to solve them.
"From ordinary life we see that women are more economical than men. Therefore, it would be better for the country if women could take a part in economic matters. When the rate of tax is fixed men are likely to decide it merely from a consideration of their income without thinking about small expenses. Women are acquainted with every expense in detail. If women could take part in economic affairs, the expenditure of a country would be directed in a better and more careful way.
"In national and international questions also women can take a part. Women are more conservative, sympathetic, and kind than men. Great changes and misery which are not foreseen at all are brought by wars between different countries. Women, too, can consider about the affairs of wars as well as men. Their sympathetic and conservative views will help the people not to plunge into needless wars and political complications.
"Women know as well as, and perhaps more than men, the evils which result from the illiteracy of people and their unsanitary conditions. Men spend much of their time outside home, while women in their quiet homes can see their surroundings and watch the needs of people around them. So women can give good ideas in matters concerning education and sanitation. In this way, women can influence the public opinion of a place and the government of a country depends much on the nature of public opinion."
But with all these "new woman theories" the claims of home are not forgotten:
"Among the many possibilities opening out to women, we cannot fail to mention _home life_, though it is nothing new.
"According to the testimony of all history, the worth and blessing of men and nations depend in large measure on the character and ordering of family life. 'The family is the structural cell of the social organism. In it lives the power of propagation and renewal of life. It is the foundation of morality, the chief educational institution, and the source of nearly all real contentment among men.' All other questions sink into insignificance when the stability of the family is at stake. In short, the family circle is a world in miniature, with its own habits, its own interests, and its own ties, largely independent of the great world that lies outside. When the family is of such great importance, how much greater should be the responsibilities of women in the ordering of that life? Is it not there in the home that we develop most of our habits, our lines of thought and action?
"Even while keeping home, woman can do other kinds of work. She can help her husband in his varied activities by showing interest and sympathy in all that he does; she can influence him in every possible way. Then also she may do social and religious work, and even teaching, though she has to manage a home. But _the_ work that needs her keenest attention is in the home itself, in training up the children. Happiness and cheerfulness in the home circle depend more or less on the radiant face of the mother, as she performs her simple tasks, upon her tenderness, on her unwearied willingness to surpass all boundaries in love. She is the 'centre' of the family. The physical and moral training of her children falls to her lot.
"Now, the developing of character is no light task, nor is it the least work that has to be done. The family exists to train individuals for membership in a large group. In the little family circle attention can be concentrated on a few who in turn can go out and influence others. The family, therefore, is the nursery of all human virtues and powers.
"In conclusion, expressing the same idea in stronger words, it is to be noted that whether India shall maintain her self-government, when she receives it, depends on how far the women are ready to fulfill the obligations laid upon them. This is a great question and has to be decided by the educated women of India."
One Reformer and What She Achieved.
Of the wealth of human interest that lies hidden in the life-stories of the one hundred and ten students who make up the College, who has the insight to speak? Coming from homes Hindu or Christian, conservative or liberal, from the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the modern Indian city, or the far side of the jungle villages, one might find in their home histories, in their thoughts and ambitions and desires, a composite picture of the South Indian young womanhood of to-day. Countries as well as individuals pass through periods of adolescence, of stress and strain and the pains of growth, when the old is merging in the new. The student generation of India is passing through that phase to-day, and no one who fails to grasp that fact can hope to understand the psychology of the present day student.
In Pushpam's story it is possible to see something of that clash of old and new, of that standing "between two worlds" that makes India's life to-day adventurous--too adventurous at times for the comfort of the young discoverer.
Pushpam's home was in the jungle--by which is meant not the luxuriant forests of your imagination, but the primitive country unbroken by the long ribbon of the railway, where traffic proceeds at the rate of the lumbering, bamboo-roofed bullock cart, and the unseemliness of Western haste is yet unknown. Twice a week the postbag comes in on the shoulders of the loping _tappal_ runner. Otherwise news travels only through the wireless telegraphy of bazaar gossip. The village struggles out toward the irrigation tank and the white road, banyan-shaded, whose dusty length ties its life loosely to that of the town thirty miles off to the eastward. On the other side are palmyra-covered uplands, and then the Hills.
The Good News sometimes runs faster than railway and telegraph. Here it is so, for the village has been solidly Christian for fifty years. Its people are not outcastes, but substantial landowners, conservative in their indigenous ways, yet sending out their sons and daughters to school and college and professional life.
Of that village Pushpam's father is the teacher-catechist, a gentle, white-haired man, who long ago set up his rule of benevolent autocracy, "for the good of the governed."
"To this child God has given sense; he shall go to the high school in the town." The catechist speaks with the conviction of a Scotch Dominie who has discovered a child "of parts," and resistance on the part of the parent is vain. The Dominie's own twelve are all children "of parts" and all have left the thatched schoolhouse for the education of the city.
Pushpam is the youngest. Term after term finds her leaving the village, jogging the thirty miles of dust-white road to the town, spending the night in the crowded discomfort of the third class compartment K marked for "Indian females." Vacation after vacation finds her reversing the order of journeying, plunging from the twentieth century life of college into the village's mediaeval calm. There is no lack of occupation--letters to write for the unlearned of the older generation to their children far afield, clerks and writers and pastors in distant parts; there are children to coach for coming examinations; there are sore eyes to treat, and fevers to reduce.
One Christmas Pushpam returns as usual, yet not as usual, for her capable presence has lost its customary calm. She is "anxious and troubled about many things," or is it about one?
Social unrest has dominated college thinking this last term, focussing its avenging eyes upon that Dowry System which works debt and eventual ruin in many a South Indian home. Pushpam has seen the family struggles that have accompanied the marriages of her older sisters; the "cares of the world" that have pressed until all the joy of days that should have been festal was lost in the counting out of rupees. In neighbor homes she has seen rejoicing at the birth of a son, as the bringer of prosperity, and grief, hardly concealed, at the adversity of a daughter's advent. Unchristian? Yes; but not for the lack of the milk of human kindness; rather from the incubus of an evil social system, inherited from Hindu ancestors.
Pushpam's father is growing old; lands and jewels have shrunk. Married sons and daughters are already gathering and saving for the future of their own young daughters. Three thousand rupees are demanded of Pushpam in the marriage market. The thought of it is marring the peace of her father's face and breaking his sleep of nights. But Pushpam has news to impart, "Father, I have something to say. It will hurt you, but I must speak. It is the first time that I, your daughter, have even disobeyed your wishes, but this time it must be.
"All this college term we girls have been thinking and talking of our marriage system and its evils. Husbands are bought in the market, and in these war years they, like everything else, are high. A man thinks not of the girl who will make his home, but of the rupees she will bring to his father's coffers. Marriage means not love, but money. My classmates and I have talked and written and thought. Now three of us have made one another a solemn promise. Our parents shall give no dowries for us. We have no fear of remaining unmarried; we can earn our way as we go and find our happiness in work. Or if there are men who care for us, and not for the rupees we bring, let them ask for us; we will consider such marriages, but no other. Do not protest, Father, for our minds are made up."
The old man, for years autocrat of the village, bows to the will of his youngest child, fearing the jeers of relatives, yet unable to withstand.
No, Pushpam did not remain single. In men's colleges the same ferment is going on, and when a suitor came he said, "I want you for yourself, not for the gold that you might bring." He married Pushpam, and their joy of Christian service is not shadowed by the financial distress brought upon the father's house.
Mary Smith asked to be shown the justification of college education for Indian girls. Is it good? The College of the Sunflower has its home in dignified and seemly buildings set in a tropical garden. Does its beauty draw students away from the world of active life, or send them with fresh strength to share its struggles. Pushpam has given one answer. Another one may find in the college report of 1921 with its register of graduates. Name after name rolls out its story of busy lives--married women, who are housemakers and also servants of the public weal; government inspectresses of schools, who tour around "the district," bringing new ideas and encouragement to isolated schools; teachers and teachers, and yet more teachers, in government and mission schools, and schools under private management. Only six years of existence, and yet the Sunflower has opened so wide, the Lamp has lighted so many candles in dim corners. Will the Mary Smiths of America do their part that the next six years may be bigger and better than the last?
The spirit of Madras Students is shown in the following extracts from personal letters written to former teachers:
FROM A GRADUATE OF MADRAS CHRISTIAN COLLEGE
"Last week we had the special privilege of hearing Mr. and Mrs. Annett, of India Sunday School Union. The last day Mr. Annett showed how we can lead our children to Christ and make them accept Christ as their Master. That is the aim of religious education. My heart thrilled within me when I heard Mr. Annett in his last lecture confirm what I had thought out as principles in teaching and training the young, and I found my eyes wet. But the very faith which Jesus had in people and which triumphs over all impossibilities I am trying to have. I have patiently turned to the girls and am trying to help them in their lives. The Christ power in me is revealing to me many things since I surrendered to Him my will. He is showing me what mighty works one can do through intercessory prayer which I try to do with many failings.
"Politics have lately been very interesting to me. Rather I have been forced to enter in. You will have read or heard of the new movement in India that sprang up early in September. Gandhi is the leader. I have some clippings to send you. It is not about that I wish to write, but about the remarkable way India is repressing the movement. The Panjab, the province for which sympathy is called for and the one which affords the cause for non-co-operation, has thrown up Gandhi's scheme and her sons are standing for council elections. No Indian can help being thrilled over the nominations and elections for legislative councils and councils of state, which are to assemble in January according to the Reform Act. Our girls are taking a keen interest in the affairs of the country and earnestly praying for her.
"This is the week of prayer of the Y.W. and Y.M.C.A. I am sure you are remembering us,--the young women of India and our girls who are to lay out the future in India; also our young men and boys.
"The Student Federation has its conference in P---- during Christmas, and four of our college students are going. If only the men would be open hearted and less prejudiced and brave enough to stand alone and reform society. I think the time is coming.
"Isn't it strange that you should also feel the thirst for Bible study just as I am doing here. I never felt the lack of Scriptural knowledge as now while I teach our girls."
EXTRACTS FROM A TEACHER'S JOURNAL IN MADRAS COLLEGE
November 12, 1921.
We had nine graduates to garland last night and should have had more if Convocation had followed closely on their success in April. But now one is at Somerville College, Oxford (we have five old students in England now and one in America), one at her husband's home in Bengal, one serving in Pundita Ramabai's Widows' Home at Mukti near Poona, and three kept away by some duty in their families. Among our nine were two who had been among our very earliest students; in fact, one bears the very first name entered on our student roll in April, 1915, when we were looking round in trembling hope to see whether any students at all would entrust themselves to our inexperienced hands. These two, of course, left some years ago, but have since taken the teachers' degree, the Licentiate in Teaching, for which they have prepared themselves by private study while serving in schools.
This L.T. is a University degree open to graduates in Arts only, and a B.A., L.T., is regarded as a teacher fully equipped for the highest posts in schools. The preparation for it has been carried on hitherto chiefly at a Government Teachers' College, where the few women students, though very courteously treated, have naturally been at a great disadvantage among more than a hundred men. Such of our graduates as have spent the required year there have been considerably disappointed, feeling that their work has been too easy and too theoretical. In any case it is impossible that much practical work could be found for so large a number of students, and the belief is growing that the ideal training college is a small one. That it must be a Christian one is from our point of view still more important. The women B.A., L.T.'s will hold positions of greater influence than any other class in South India. They will be Government Inspectresses, Heads of Middle Schools and High Schools, lecturers in Training Colleges, in fact, the sources of the inspiration which will permeate every region of women's education. Before long the missions will be unable to keep pace with the rapid increase of available pupils for girls' schools. Their success in originating and fostering the idea of educating girls has now produced a situation with which we cannot personally cope, but which we can indirectly control by concentrating effort at the most vital spot, that is the training of the highest rank of women teachers. These will set the tone and, to a great extent, determine the quality of the women teachers who have lower qualifications, and these will have in their hands the training of ever-increasing numbers of girl pupils and will hand on the ideals which they have themselves received. It was an honor which we felt very deeply when the Missionary Educational Council of South India entrusted to the council of our College the task of inaugurating an L.T. College for Women, and we have been very busy about it.
December 15, 1921.
More than a month has passed since I began the Journal and I am now sitting in the junior B.A. class-room watching over nineteen students (the twentieth happens to be absent) who are writing their terminal examination papers. I was a false weather-prophet; rain did not come, and still keeps away. Instead there is a high cool wind, and every one of these students is firmly holding down her paper with the left hand while her fountain pen (they all have fountain pens) skims all too rapidly over the page. The great principle of answering an examination paper is never to waste a moment on thought. If you do not know what to say next, repeat what you said before until a new idea strikes you. As it is not necessary to dip the pen in ink it should never leave the page. This method enables them to produce small pamphlets which they hand in with a happy sense of achievement, but the examiner's heart sinks as she gathers up the volumes of hasty manuscript.
Sometimes, however, the answers err on the side of conciseness. "We believe them because we cannot prove them," was the truthful reply of a student in Physics to the question, "Why do we believe Newton's Laws of Motion?" Or sometimes an essential transition is omitted; "At the period of the Roman conquest the Greeks were politically hopeless, economically bankrupt, and morally corrupt. They became teachers." But sometimes it is the caprice of the English language which betrays them. "The events of the 15th century which most affected philosophic thought were the founding of America and the founding of the Universe." Occasionally they administer an unconscious rebuke. I was just starting out to give an address at a week-night evening service from the chancel steps of a neighboring church, and having a minute or two to spare I took up one of my 120 Scripture papers and read, "St. Paul's chief difficulty with the Corinthians was that women insisted on speaking in church. It is wicked for women to talk in church."
The nineteen students before me are very representative of our student body, which now numbers one hundred and thirty. Eleven are writing on Constitutional History, two on Philosophy, four on Zoology and two (a young Hindu married girl and a Syrian Christian) on Malayalam literature. Ten of them speak Tamil, eight Malayalam, and one Telugu. They vary in rank from high official circles to very low origins, but most belong to what we should call the professional classes. All are barefooted and wear the Indian dress, which in the case of the Syrians is always white.
Through the open door I look into the library where the fifty-three new students of this year are writing an English paper. There are eight Hindus and one European among them, also two students from Ceylon, two from Hyderabad, and one, differing widely from the rest in dress and facial type, from Burma. The lecturer in charge is Miss Chamberlain, the daughter of our invaluable secretary in America. She arrived only three weeks ago to take the place of Miss Sarber who has started on her furlough and already the dignity of the philosopher and psychologist is mingling with the gaiety which makes her table a favorite place for students.
The debate on the conscience clause[*] which took place in the new Legislative Assembly in November shows that the party now in power, the non-Brahmin middle-class, realizes the value to the country of Christian education. Man after man rose to express his gratitude to the Christian College and to point out that missionaries alone had brought education to low-caste and out-caste people. The proposal was rejected by 61 votes to 13, a most unexpected and happy event.
One proposal, perfectly well meant, was made at the Government Committee on Education which aroused great indignation among our students. It was that various concessions should be made to the supposed weakness of women students and that the pass mark in examinations should be lowered for them. As the Principals of both the Women's Colleges opposed the suggestion, it was withdrawn, but this little incident shows two things, the sympathetic feeling of men toward the studies of women, and the distance that women have travelled since the time when they would themselves have requested such concessions.
In the recent agitation in favor of Nationalism finding that the only constructive advice given was to devote themselves to Indian music, to the spinning wheel, which is Mr. Gandhi's great remedy for social and political ills and to social service, I did all that I could to promote these ends. I asked the Senior Student to collect the names of all who wished to learn to play an Indian instrument, I presented the College with a pound of raw cotton and spinning wheel of the type recommended by Mr. Gandhi, and the social service begun some months before was continued This last consists of our expedition led by Miss Jackson, which twice a week visits an unpleasant little village not far from our gates. The students wash the children, which is not at all a delightful task, attend to sore eyes and matted hair and teach them games and songs, and chat with the village women about household hygiene and how to keep out of debt. One of our Sunday Schools is in this village, too, so by this time the students are welcome visitors, and whether they do much good or not, they learn a great deal of sobering truth. Of course, only a few can go at a time, but others find some scope in the other Sunday Schools and in the little Day School which Miss Brockway instituted for the children of our servants. This last means real self-denial, as the work must be done every day. Still, it remains one of our greatest problems to find channels for the spirit of service which we try to inspire, and without which the current of their patriotism may become stagnant.
But I am being disappointed about the music and the spinning wheel. Not one student was willing to undergo the toilsome practice of learning an instrument, and though the spinning wheel was received with enthusiasm the pound of cotton has hardly diminished at all. Nor will they take the trouble to read the newspapers regularly. So that they might not feel that too British a view of events was presented to them they are supplied with some papers of a very critical tone, but I need not have feared the risk, the papers remain unread. They much prefer the medium of speech, and are keenly interested in almost any topic on which we invite an attractive speaker to give an address, but they do not follow it up by reading. They are decidedly fonder of books than they were, and use the library more, but their taste is for the better kind of domestic fiction more than for anything else. There is one important exception, they all love Shakespeare and there is no one whom they so delight to act. Whenever they invite us to an entertainment, which they do on many and various occasions, we are fairly sure of seeing a few scenes of Shakespeare acted much better than I have ever seen English girls of their age act.
The students have been collecting a fund for our new Science building, a great and beautiful enterprise, which, also, is still in its proper stage. The drawing of plans so large and detailed has occupied many months. We are looking to America for the generous gift which shall bring these plans into actuality, but help from other sources is welcome, too, and particularly help from the students. They have made many efforts and reached a sum of more than Rs. 500. Their most important undertaking was a performance of "Everyman" most solemnly and beautifully carried out before an audience of our women friends, and there was also a dramatic version written by one of the students of the parable of the prodigal son and performed before the college only. This last was remarkable in its adaptation of the story to Indian conditions and for the characteristic introduction of a mother and a sister.
"If she have sent her servants in our pain,
If she have fought with Death and dulled his sword,
If she have given back our sick again
And to the breast the weakling lips restored,
Is it a little thing that she has wrought?
Then Life and Death and Motherhood be nought."
Kipling's "Song of the Women"
The Medical School at Vellore is still without a permanent home and is lodged in scattered buildings--without a permanent staff except for two or three heroic figures who are performing each the work of several--without a certainty of a regular income in any way equivalent to its needs--but it has an enthusiastic band of students and it has Dr. Ida Scudder, and so the balance is on the right side.
[Footnote *: Opposing the study of the Bible in our schools.]
Table of Contents | Previous Chapter | Next Chapter
eBooksHome | Inspirational Articles | General Essays | Sermons | Library - Home | Baselios Church Home
A service of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio
Copyright © 2009-2018 - ICBS Group. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Website designed, built, and hosted by International Cyber Business Services, Inc., Hudson, Ohio