Book: My Life’s Journey: An Autobiography
Author: Jankidevi Bajaj
Translated by: Sudeepta Vyas
Publisher: Jaico Books
Price: Rs. 499
My Life’s Journey is the translation of the autobiography of Jankidevi Bajaj, a social worker and activist. The book extensively covers her journey from a girl belonging to a wealthy family to a woman that gave up all her wealth to embrace a life of simplicity. Married at the age of eight, she soon follows the footsteps of her husband, Jamnalal Bajaj, to follow the Gandhian way of life. She was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, and her husband.
Jankidevi was determined about abolishing purdah, and convinced several women to do the same. A strong advocate of khadi, she learnt to spin her own khadi and went on to teach spinning by starting a small spinning school at her home. Along with her husband, she strongly protested against untouchability. She eventually became a member of the Congress, tried to get more women enrolled, and was a strong presence in India’s freedom movement; which lead her to being imprisoned. She went on to become the first woman to win the Padma Vibhushan in 1956.
One of the things that stood out for me was the extent of patriarchy in the pre-independent era. From a young age, women were instilled with the idea of ‘worshipping their husbands.’ In one of the chapters, Jankidevi says, “I had read that it was pious to wash one’s husband’s feet and worship him like a god by offering white flowers.” She goes on to say how she would drink the water used to wash his feet. Her husband, however, was against such practices and often discouraged her from performing them.
The book is translated from the original, titled ‘Meri Jeevan Yatra‘, by Sudeepta Vyas, a writer and journalist. Jankidevi gives an honest account of her life, often mentioning her shortcomings, as in the case where she talks about the instances where she hit her children. Written in a simple language, the book also has several photographs that highlight some of the events in Jankidevi’s life, as well as some crucial moments of the freedom struggle. Jankidevi’s life is truly inspiring and this translation will help her story to reach a larger audience, especially the younger generation.