Rani Lakshmibai:Deepa Agarwal

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APRIL 10,2010

No one can forget the emotionally charged and inspiring poem about Rani Lakshmibai written by the famous Indian poetess Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. The life of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan is also worth a notice. She was born in a village called Nihalpur in Allahabad District. After her marriage to Thakur Laxman Singh of Khandwa in 1919, she moved to Jabalpur . She joined the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 and was the first woman Satyagrahi to court arrest in Nagpur . She was jailed twice for her involvement in protests against the British rule. She has authored a number of popular works in Hindi poetry. Her most famous composition is “JHANSI KI RANI” which is one of the most recited and sung poems in Hindi literature. This and her other poems, “Veeron Ka Kaisa Ho Basant”, “Rakhi Ki Chunauti” and “Vida”, openly talk about the freedom movement. They are said to have inspired great numbers of Indian youth to participate in the Indian Freedom Movement.

As is the trend with HCBF that is Habitat Children’s Book Forum children from various schools got together again for a trip to the land of books. This time the trip was to Jhansi , Meerut , Kanpur and so on. Well you all must be thinking what trip was this? OK, the book chosen for discussion this time was “Rani Lakshmibai, the Valiant Queen of Jhansi ” by Ms.Deepa Agarwal. By now you are all aware about HCBF and its founders and the work it does for reawakening interest in books among children. So, on April 10, 2010, 20 children from class V of our school went for a fascinating trip to Jhansi with a book ticket.

The session kicked off with a formal introduction of Ms.Deepa Agarwal by Ms.Devika Rangachari. Then Ms.Tanya from Bluebells International School recited the poem “ Jhansi ki Rani” by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, dressed as the Rani herself. The whole feel of the poem was mesmerizing since being dressed in the attire of Rani gave the performance an authentic feel. Everyone sat charmed under the influence of the powerful words and strong narration. We were all transported to the year 1858 when Rani fought the battle for Jhansi . When the narration ended every face was solemn thinking of the bravery and valour of the young queen.

This was followed by readings from the book by Ms.Deepa Agarwal. She read passages which gave some really interesting snippets into the life of Rani. Some information were heart rendering like Rani’s child died when he was barely four months old. Unable to recover from the loss her husband soon died from heartbreak. Then some information’s left us all wide eyed like the fact that she could ride a horse holding the reins in her mouth so that she could hold two swords and fight freely. A remarkable fact was that the Britishers never caught Rani because it was her firm determination that her body would not be defiled by the touch of Englishmen. So her faithful servants arranged for her funeral before Britishers could take her away.

The book reading soon followed into a fun quiz based on the life of Rani and the Uprising of 1857. Preparing for the quiz children got an opportunity to increase their knowledge bank .They came to know what circumstances led to the uprising and who the key leaders were. The discussions we had in school about the uprising were able to bring to light the fact that when children visit the places talked about in history they are able to understand events better. Like many children had visited Jhansi in the school trip so their knowledge was better than the others. And they had some very impressive facts about Jhansi and Rani.

The quiz too unrevealed some things about which many of us would be ignorant. Like the name of Rani’s favorite horse was Sarangi; the original name of Rani’s adopted son Damodar Rao was Ananth Rao; Damodar Rao was adopted in Orchha; that messages were passed between villages about the meetings through “chapatti”; General Hugh Rose who fought with Rani in the battle was 60 years old. Soumyanandini, Rohan Bagal and Manjul Gaba of our school won books in the quiz.

The children were then given writing activity. They were to write an interview with the Rani or any one of the people involved in the uprising. Children came up with some really interesting questions that showed their thirst for knowledge. Some of the questions are:

Q1) Rani, how did you feel while battling with the Britishers while having your son tied on your back?

Q2) Rani, weren’t you scared of fighting with the Britishers?

Q3) How did you come up with the idea of disguising as a man for the battle?

The session ended and we all came to Delhi , but the children still had many questions to ask. Since Rani is unavailable they all cornered Ms.Deepa Agarwal and Ms.Devika Rangachari with their questions. Finally it was time we returned to school where the discussion continued ………I too am more knowledgeable about the life of Rani and uprising of 1857.

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