"It is our duty to pay for our liberty with our own blood"
This haunting quote by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose epitomises the spirit of independence and the struggle of the Indian freedom fighters to liberate the country from British rule against all odds. The stories of their sacrifice and martyrdom are now folklore. For children, these stories can be an inspiration and also ignite the spark of love for the country.
From the teenager who died young with unflinching determination to pay homage to the motherland to the poor boy brought up in poverty by his widowed mother who went on to become the Prime Minister of India -- these stories will give you goose bumps while also igniting the spirit of patriotism.
On the occasion of the 70th Independence Day, we bring you interesting excerpts from the lives of Indian revolutionaries and champions of the freedom struggle, when they were teenagers --
Mahatma Gandhi – We are all inspired by the father of the Nation but Gandhi was quite rebellious as a teenager. Born in a strict Hindu family on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s mother instilled in him the ethics of vegetarianism and non-violence. He was married at the age of 13 to Kasturba, who was one year his senior. But he fell into bad company in his teen years and started eating meat and smoking at the insistence of his friends. He told lies to his mother and stole from his brother. Every time he would repent and feel bad about his actions. One day, he wrote a letter about what he had done and asked forgiveness from his father. His father was in tears but did not scold him. After this, Gandhi was remorseful of his actions. Later, when he went to London for higher studies, he became pious, embraced vegetarianism and focused on living a simple life.
Bhagat Singh -- Born in 1907 in Lyallpur, Punjab, the seeds of nationalism were planted early in Bhagat Singh’s life as his uncles, father and grandfather were all involved in the independence movement. His family followed the Arya Samaj way of life, so he was enrolled in the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic High School, an Arya Samaji institution. As a boy, Bhagat Singh visited the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, hundreds of unarmed people gathered for a peaceful meeting were killed in a firing. The incident had a profound impact on him. At the tender age of 14, he joined protesters in his village against the killing of innocent people at a Gurudwara. He was inspired by Gandhiji’s non-co-operation movement and disheartened when it was withdrawn. That was how the revolutionary in him was born and he joined the Young Revolutionary Movement. He was hanged to death at the young age of 24 for plotting against the British.
Jawaharlal Nehru -- Born on 14 November 1889 in Allahabad, in the early years itself Nehru was exposed to nationalism, as his father Motilal Nehru was a noted advocate and political activist. The young Jawahar had English and Scottish teachers who came home to teach him. He was greatly influenced by one of his teachers T.Brooks and joined the Theosophical Society at the age of 13. He later went to high school at Harrow in England, where he was inspired by the writings of G M Trevelyan. Even when he was young, his father had a belief that his son was destined for greatness. As a youngster, Nehru was interested in liberalism and socialism.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose -- Even today, his words of wisdom and activism ring true every time we think of the idea of India. Born in Cuttack on 23 January 1897, Bose had his early education in the Protestant European School and then at the Ravenshaw Collegiate School. As a high school student there, he is supposed to have made a huge impression on his headmaster with his genius and intellectual mind. One of 14 children, he always excelled in his studies and stood out in class. He felt very strongly about his country even as a teenager and would lash out at anyone who made any remarks against India. He was expelled from school as a teenager when he assaulted a professor for saying bad things about India.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak -- A social reformer, Tilak had strong opinions about injustice and equality very early in life. Born in Ratnagiri in 1856, Tilak was a bright student. His father was a school teacher and the family shifted to Pune when Tilak was still young. As was the custom in those days, Tilak was married off as a young boy of 15. He was one of the early youth in the country to receive a modern education but even as a youngster, he criticised the British way of education and protested the superior treatment given to British students compared to their Indian counterparts. His slogan, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it” has been an inspiration for many generations of young people.
Lal Bahadur Shastri -- How a boy from a humble background, whose family struggled to make ends meet after the death of his father, rose to become the Prime Minister, is truly inspirational. Born in 1905 in Mughalsarai, Shastri was barely one year old when he lost his father to the bubonic plague. His mother single-handedly raised her children with the help of his grandparents and their extended family. Shastri and his sisters grew up in the household of his maternal grandfather, Hazari Lal. Even though poor, the family made sure that Shastri and his siblings received an education. As a teenager, Shastri did not have money to pay for the ferry to cross the Ganges to reach school. So he would tie his books over his head and swim up and down the river daily. Such was his determination.
Bhikaji Cama -- She is perhaps the first prominent woman to play an important part in the activism against British rule and is known for first raising the Indian flag on foreign soil at a meeting in Stuttgart in Germany. Born on 24 September 1861 in a large well-to-do Parsi family in Bombay, Bhikaji was a talented child, who was good in her studies. In her childhood, Bhikhaiji attended the Alexandra Native Girl's English Institution and finished her schooling there. A disciplined teenager, who was always presentable and well-mannered, there are stories about how Bhikaji had a flair for languages and could speak and write many languages at a young age. She also had a gift of the gab and early in life spoke strongly to defend her country. She took part in many philanthropic activities and later, even when she went abroad, she showed her nationalist fervour through her speeches.
Jayaprakash Narayan -- Born in 1902 in a village in Saran district of Bihar, Jayaprakash had a great love for animals from a very young age. He was also very fond of reading and as a youngster read a lot about the valour of Indian kings and also the Bhagavad Gita. In school, he was greatly inspired by the poems about courageous kings. He excelled in studies and once as a teenager, won an award for writing an essay on ‘the state of Hindi language in Bihar.’ Once, he was caned for protesting against the British school authorities for not giving a holiday for Raksha Bandhan. While in college he attended a meeting address by scholar and freedom fighter Maulana Azad and decided to join the freedom movement. He was married at the early age of 17 and his wife Prabhavati Devi was also a freedom fighter. He went abroad for further studies but came back and joined the nationalist movement.
Sarojini Naidu -- Her poems and excellent oratory skills have inspired Indians for generations. Born in 1879 in Hyderabad to a family of scholars, Sarojini showed great promise as a writer early in life. Her father, Aghore Chattopadhyay was a scholar and political activist. Her mother was a poetess. A brilliant student, Sarojini had a flair for languages -- she knew English, Bengali, Urdu, Telugu and Persian. She wrote many poems and at the age of 16, wrote a Persian play with the help of her father. Her prowess in the English language helped her get admission at the King’s College, London in the same year. Later, she was influenced by Gandhiji and immersed herself in the struggle for independence.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad -- Born in 1888 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Abul Kalam lost his father, who was a scholar, at a very young age. After his father’s death, the family moved to Calcutta (Kolkata). With an intelligence much ahead of his age, Azad showed signs of becoming a scholar and orator very early in life. By the time he reached his teens, he had proficiency in many languages - Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Bengali, Hindi and English. He had also a master in a number of Islamic texts, mathematics and philosophy. As a teen, he was running a library and had formed a debating society. He was even teaching students who were much older to him. He was very interested in writing and journalism and had brought out a magazine at the young age of 16. He went on to become a journalist and wrote against the policies of the British, before joining the freedom movement.
These true flag bearers of the freedom movement showed brilliance and prowess early in their lives. Their determination to do something for the country took them to great heights. For youngsters, their life is truly worth emulating. Parents can discuss these great lives with their teens to inspire them to lead a life of principles.