Kolkata and London are twin cities, says Mamata
London: It's not only the inspiring thoughts of the English legacy that dominate the cultural bond between the two countries — India and England — but a representation of those ideas of similarity that is visible in the innumerable architectural structures that are present in Kolkata, set up during the British Raj and later.
Highlighting this similarity and describing London and Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: "London and Kolkata are essentially twin cities. We have cultural closeness and the same types of structures that we see in London are also to be found in Kolkata. Not only this, we also share a strong bonding in the field of education too."
Addressing a gathering at the library conference hall here on Sunday afternoon, she recalled Sister Nivedita's contribution to India and added: "She was dedicated to the cause of India." She also spoke about Nivedita's role in serving the poor and needy during the plague that broke out as an epidemic in Bagbazar where she used to live in 1899. "We have a college named after her. We have acquired the houses where she died in Darjeeling and where she started her school in 1898," she said adding: "In daily life, we always remember Sri Ramakrishna, Maa Sharda, Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita before starting any work."
She handed over two motifs of Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita to the Mayor.
Earlier, the much-awaited Blue Plaque was unveiled at Sister Nivedita's house at 21 High Street in Wimbledon where she used to live before she came to India.
The Chief Minister also garlanded a portrait of Sister Nivedita who used to live in this house before leaving for India in 1897. Swami Suhitanandaji, one of the vice-presidents of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Dinesh Patnaik, acting Indian High Commissioner to UK, Amit Mitra, state Finance minister, Malay De, state Chief Secretary and Lord Swraj Paul along with a host of industrialists were present at the event.
The Blue Plaque read "Sister Nivedita (Margaret Noble) Educationist and Campaigner for Indian Independence lived here."
Banerjee walked down to the auditorium on Crompton Street. The portraits of Sri Ramakrishna, Maa Sharda Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita were kept beside the dais. The function started with an invocation paying homage to Sri Ramakrishna.
Swami Suhitanandaji said about the stiff resistance Sister faced in India to run her school. But her indomitable spirit saw her through and the school was established in 1898. Nivedita had the blessings of Holy Mother (Maa Sharda). Suhitanandaji thanked Banerjee for her role in acquiring the house in Darjeeling where Sister breathed her last in 1911. She was instrumental in acquiring the house where Nivedita had opened her school at 16, Bosepara Lane.
Dinesh Patnaik, acting Indian High Commissioner to UK said steps have been taken by the Indian High Commission to prepare a map incorporating the important places and buildings where famous Indians had lived in and around London for the benefit of the Indians living in UK and those who visit the city from India. Patnaik lauded the role of Sister Nivedita in encouraging the Indian scientists including Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Sister Nivedita, who took up teaching students at the age of 18, finally set up her own school in this house in 1895. The Ruskin School had 40 students. Nivedita introduced pre-school system where children were taught through music and games. Swami Vivekananda, who came to England from America in 1895, got himself introduced to Sister Nivedita who was the secretary of Sesme Club. English scholars used to visit the club to deliver lectures on different subjects. Vivekananda came to see her school in 1896 and was in tears when he saw the unique method of teaching. He thought of starting such a school for the girls coming from middle-class Bengali families in Kolkata.
After coming back to India in 1897, he wrote a letter to Sister Nivedita inviting her to come to Kolkata and start her work. Nivedita responded and left for Kolkata from England in 1897. She set up her school in Kolkata in November 1898. Maa Sharda Devi and Swami Vivekananda were present at the inaugural function. Nivedita faced immense hardships to acquire students as people believed that the girls who study in that school will either become a widow or it will be difficult for them to get married off as the school was run by a Christian (considered to be an out-caste).