Chandra Bose, feminism, Girls Army, & Mrs. Bhupalan

I’m wondering, if Chandra Bose has won the tussle inside the Congress Party in WWII, whether rape would be a problem in India today. He makes contemporary feminists look silly. Girls Army (1943-1945) did everything a male army regiment would do, and yet did it with sensible guidelines in daily rules because it was young women, actually girls, and not men. Second in command was 14-years old. Astonishing.

There was no ‘backwards and in heels’ nonsense, either. Women in the regular Indian Army, i.e. the British Indian Army, wore the usual sort of military shirt but they wore it over sari. And they worked as typists and such. Women in the Girls Army, part of Bose’s Indian National Army (nothing British about it) wore khaki shirt and pants just like any other soldier, trained on obstacles courses and with weapons, and went into some of the worst terrain there was in the war, in Burma.

Mrs. Bhupalan — Datuk Bhupalan these days, but I knew her and loved and admired her as my Secondary School Headmistresses — was a soldier in the Girls Army. I’ve joked for years that I’m turning into her, but now I’m researching this, the more I find out what they did the more I think I can consider myself as doing very well if I manage even a small fraction of her character. In my schooldays, I’ve seen Mrs. B. in her office on the phone with a minister or a bishop or somebody else important, and she was more than capable of dealing with everyone, and win any argument, with a smile on her face. She had charm, firmness, and kindness in equal measure. And she could be fun, too, as when she relaxed and told a personal story.

Personal note: MGS girls, I know she could be scary, but we all know she was fair, and I think we were very very lucky to have such an example.

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