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VINODINEE NEELKANTH (1907-1987)


Vinodinee Neelkanth (she changed the spelling of her last name) was the daughter of Vidya Gauri Nilkanth (q.v.) and a writer and freedom fighter. Her parents were well known in Ahmedabad society and she grew up in an atmosphere of learning and social activism. Aged eighteen she participated in the satyagraha of Dharasana. In 1929 at the age of 21 she travelled to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to get an MA in Liberal Arts. She returned to India in 1931.

In Bombay she became principal of the Municipal Girls’ School in 1930 and taught there till 1934. She led a procession of activists holding Congress flags in 1932 as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement. In 1934 she toured Sri Lanka, Burma, Japan and China. She already knew Manubhai Parikh from her college days; they had taken part together in the Dharasana satyagraha. Now in 1934 she married him even though he already had a wife and two children. In British India divorce was not legal for Hindus, so the couple converted to Sikhism. This caused some scandal, but she did not let it hinder her writing which continued unabated. She began writing her column ‘Ghargharni Jyot’ in 1949 in the Gujarat Samachar, which she continued for many years. In her column she addressed the women of Gujarat, exhorting them to stand up for themselves and change the society they lived in.

Her first collection of essays was Rasadvar, 1928. She began translating from English to Marathi after returning to India, publishing in 1934 Human Nature and the Social Order by Charles Horton Cooley. She did a Gujarati History for the Gujarat Vernacular Society in 1942, but critical success came in 1946 with her novel Kadaleevan. She also published two collections of stories for children.

A biography, The Road Less Travelled : The Life and Writings of Vinodinee Neelkanth has been penned by Aparna Basu and Shailaja Kelkar Parikh.
 
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