Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa: Laidlaw Summer 2021

A report of my research this summer on the writings of the Indian poet, activist, and educator Mahadevi Varma (1907-1987) about the status of women in Hindu marriages during colonial India

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For my first summer of Laidlaw research, I studied a series of editorials published by Mahadevi Varma on the condition of women in Hindu marriages during 1930s British India, seeking to compare Mahadevi's works with those of two groups: Western social reformers and feminists, and prominent men in the Indian independence movement who framed themselves as cultural reformers. Here, I discuss how Mahadevi's writings offer a means to reconceptualize the experiences of Hindu women in the marriage system and a critique of the more well-known views of her Western and Indian anti-colonial interlocutors, as well as what insights this might have to future historical research and to the field of leadership and human rights reform. I hope to continue engaging with Mahadevi's works in my second summer—spending the next year improving my Hindi proficiency so I can engage better with her original Hindi poetry and other literary works—and remain deeply interested in these intersections of gender and anti-colonialism in South Asia, and beyond.

Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa

Student, Columbia University

I am a student at Columbia University majoring in History and Mathematics, originally from New Delhi, India, and New York City. My research interests lie at the intersection of women's rights activism and anti-colonial movements in 20th Century South Asia.

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Go to the profile of Cath Brislane
3 months ago

And I've reached your reflection! I forgot how ahead of the game Columbia were, sorry about that 😂

This is so cool Mrinalini. Honestly. As an English student, it is so hard to look over metaphor and look at literal meanings at face value, but that is exactly what we have to do. Because literal meanings transfer to literal life- there is often very little realism in the metaphor. 

Congratulations on finishing your first summer! I'm excited to see what the rest of the scholarship holds for you. 

Cath, I'm only just discovering your comment!! Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time out to look at the project—and it's also so interesting to hear about your perspective on this as an English student. All the best for your own research! I'm definitely looking forward to continuing this all and seeing what everyone does next summer. :)