"Exhibiting You" - Story

Remembering Makadhani Narayan

By: Vibhuti Patel
Submitted: 02/14/2008

Mandankini was full of energy. In her own words, "That was the most exciting time of the nationalist movement. The Quit India Resolution was passed and we also went to attend the conference. There we met many nationalist leaders, Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Shubhash Chandra Bose, Bhulabhai Desai and Sarojini Naidu."

Later on, she became active in Friends of Soviet Union (FSU). She met her future husband, Com. Kunnikal Narayan in the meeting of FSU. She married him and moved to Calicut in Kerala with him.

As her husband was busy with revolutionary activities, she worked as a head-mistress of Gujarati school. She gave up her job in 1968 to join her husband in an armed uprising at Wynad against super-exploitation of landlords.

Her daughter, Ajitha, 16 years old at that time, was a student of Providence College, Kozikode. She was also active in the revolutionary movement in the turbulent 1970s. All three were arrested, imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement.

When they were released, they had lost old contacts. After Kunnikal Narayan passed away, Aji and Ma started working for women's movement. My trips to Kerala increased. I stayed with them. I still remember spending nights after nights discussing feminism, the "women's question", "patriarchy" and giving talks during the days in schools and colleges of Kozikode.

On one such night, we came up with a plan to organize the 4th National Conference of Women's Movements in India in Kozikode in 1990. The conference was a grand success.

We worked closely during 1980s. Ma was unassuming. In spite of severe bouts of asthma, she inspired us to work for empowerment of girls and women. All women in their neigbourhood sought her advice. Poor folks just hero-worshipped them.

I was touched by Ma's humility and care and concern for me. She acted as a link between the younger and older generation of feminists. She was our friend, philosopher and guide. She built people without pushing them too hard.

I got to know many beautiful aspects of her persona when she came to stay with us in Mumbai during mid 1990s. She was a refined human being with interest in music, painting, folk dance and reading. She was intellectually alert, politically very articulate and up-to-date in reading of feminist literature. She was a guiding spirit of feminist groups such as Bodhana, Navodaya Mahila Samajam, Kerala Stree Vedike and Anveshi.

Mandakini Narayan, popularly known as "MA" in the new women's movement of India, passed away on 16th December, 2006. I got to know her due to her daughter, a fellow feminist from Calicut (Kozikode), whom I met in 1978 immediately after her release from Kerala prison after 7 1/2 years of solitary confinement.

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