The Hand that Rocks the Cradle
Is the Power That Rules the World
December 1906 — Indian Social Conference, Calcutta, India
In moving this resolution I beg to make a slight amendment and substitute the word Indian for Hindu, for education knows no cast or creed or province.
It seems to me a paradox, at once touched with humour and tragedy, that on the very threshold of the twentieth century, it should still be necessary for us to stand upon public platforms and pass resolutions in favour of what is called female education in India — in all places in India, which, at the beginning of the first century, was already ripe with civilization and had contributed to the world’s progress radiant examples o women of the highest genius and the widest culture. But as by some irony evolution the paradox stands to our shame, it is time for us to consider how best we can remove such a reproach, how we can best achieve something more fruitful than the passing of empty resolutions in favor of female education from year to year.
At this great moment of stress and striving, when the Indian races are seeking for the ultimate unity of a common national ideal, it is well for us to remember that the success of the whole movement lies centred in what is known as the woman question. It is not you but we who are the true nation-builders. But it seems to me that there is not even a unanimous acceptance of the fact that the education of women is an essential factor in the process of nation-building. Many of you will remember that, some years ago, when Mrs Satthianadhan first started The Indian Ladies’ Magazine, a lively correspondence went on as to whether we should or should not educate our women. The women themselves with one voice pleaded their own cause most eloquently, but when it came to the man, there was division in the camp. Many men doubtless proved themselves true patriots by proving themselves the true friends of education for the mothers of the people. But others there were who took fright at the very word. “What,” they cried, “educate our women? What, then, will become of the comfortable domestic ideals as exemplified by the luscious “halwa” and the savoury “omelette”? Others, again, were neither “for Jove nor for Jehovah,” but were for compromise, bringing forward a whole syllabus of compromises. “Teach this,” they said, “and not that.”
But, my friends, in the matter of education you cannot flay thus far but no further. Neither can you say to the winds of Heaven, “Blow not where ye list,” nor forbid the waves to cross their boundaries, nor yet the human soul to soar beyond the bounds of arbitrary limitations.
The word education is the worst misunderstood word in any language. The Italians, who are an imaginative people, with their subtle instinct for the inner meaning of words, have made a positive difference between instruction and education and we should do well to accept and acknowledge that difference. Instruction being merely the accumulation of knowledge might, indeed, lend itself to conventional definition, but education is an immeasurable, beautiful. Indispensable atmosphere in which we live and move and have our being. Does one many dare to deprive another of his birthright to God’s pure air which nourishes his body? How, then, shall a man dare to deprive a human soul of its immemorial inheritance of liberty and life? And yet, my friends, man has so dared in the case of Indian women. That is why you men of India are today what you are: because your fathers, in depriving your mothers of that immemorial birthright, have robbed you, their sons, of your just inheritance. Therefore, I charge you, restore to your women their ancient rights, for, as I have said, it is we and not you who are the real nation-builders, and without our active co-operation at all points of progress, all your Congresses and Conferences are in vain. Educate your women and the nation will take care of itself, for it is true today as it was yesterday and will be to the end of human life that the hand that rocks the cradle is the power that rules the world.
Source: The Calcutta Congress & Conferences: A Collection of the Presidential, Inaugural & Other Important Speecehs Delivered at the Indian National Congress, Industrial Conference, Industrial Exhibition, Indian Social Conference, Ladies’ Confence, Temperance Conference, Theistic Conference, Mohamedan Educational Bharat-Dharma-Mahamandal, with an Appensix Containing the Resolutions Passed Therein (G. A. Natesan & Company) 1906, p. 176-177.