Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The original 'Bessie'

There's always an endless quest to find shorter ways to express common phrases, but when I first heard someone refer to Besant Nagar as 'Bessie', it seemed to be completely out of place even as a youthful abbreviation. Maybe it was too close to 'Nessie' and Besant Nagar cannot be - should not be - accused of triggering off images of monsters or mysteries. While I never got around to using 'Bessie', the phrase was quite popular at one time (do they call Besant Nagar that these days?). Also, knowing that the Besant referred to was Annie Besant, it somehow seemed rather disrepectful to her.

She certainly had done a lot to be entitled to respect. Okay, she continued to use her married name even after separating from her clergyman husband, but that's a minor point; divorce just didn't happen in late 19th century England. She believed in her causes, be they women's rights, workers' rights, state sponsored faith and several others that she adopted as her own. One such cause was that of the Indian National Congress which, in its early years, had no thoughts about seeking independence from the British. Annie Besant who was always a supporter of Irish self-rule, started a similar movement in India, the Home Rule League. In some ways, it was her activities that first prodded the British into making statements about self-government for India.

This month marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of her death. The majority of her time in India was spent in Adyar, where the headquarters of the Theosophical Society is located and that was where she died. This statue, though, is on the Marina - even if it isn't being cleaned regularly, the garden around it gives it an aura that other statues nearby lack!

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