My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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TRIVANDRUM, India, Wednesday—We arrived here in the middle of the afternoon and immediately started out to visit a country school. This particular part of India is highly literate as compared with much of the country. Elementary education to the fifth grade is free. After that one rupee—equivalent to about 20 cents—per month per child is charged for secondary education. The schoolhouse is not difficult to furnish. It has just one room and the classes are in squares. The master stands up and demonstrates on a blackboard what he is talking about, and each child has either a slate or a writing board. The earnestness with which they study is quite impressive.

Afterward we drove through the town, stopping for a few minutes at the museum where they have some beautiful bronzes and a collection of musical instruments which was most interesting. There also is a natural history section for the children. Then we made a short stop at a lovely little art museum where there were small collections of paintings from different periods, a few of them old but most of them quite modern.

We drove on through the town's main street, seeing some horse-drawn rickshaws and some drawn by hand and being much intrigued by the boats that plied the canals. The center part of most of the boats is covered over with straw mats but some of them were open, revealing loads of coconut peel.

The only thing that bothers me on these drives is the constant honking of the horn. Nobody seems to mind, however, and I don't suppose it would be possible otherwise to get through the crowded streets, which have not only great numbers of people but animals of every description wandering about.

I had expressed a desire to go on the water and we arrived at a lake where there was a motor boat and a rowboat. At that point I was told there was a reception in the city scheduled for a half hour later, so this did not give me much time. Yet, I did not want to spoil the pleasure of those who had come with me, so I went out in the boat and as soon as we got back I dashed off with my very worried host, leaving the rest of the party behind.

I was half an hour late at Parliament House and was thoroughly ashamed of myself and apologized profusely when I discovered it was a formal civic reception. I was welcomed by the mayor and two young girls who sang a song at the start and the national anthem at the end of the ceremonies. They presented me with a very pretty carved ivory box in which to keep the address of welcome and I left in a very humble and apologetic frame of mind.

We dined with His Highness the Rajpramukh of Travancore, who made some very interesting remarks about the difficulties the province faces in the problem of food supplies. The limited arable land does not raise more than 40 percent of their food needs.

The line of succession here is governed by a curious inheritance law, or custom, which I suppose might be called the matriarchal system. For instance, the elder brother is head of the state and is followed in succession by the next brother. If there are no other brothers, it is not any of the brother's children who inherit but the sister's child. In this sort of system a woman does not leave her home when married and her children are supported by her family. This may seem a little odd according to Western ideas, but they say it has worked well.

After dinner they showed us one of the characteristic plays done by dancers from this area who are not allowed on the stage until they have had at least eight years of training. These plays are a little like the old morality plays, and this particular one dealt with the foolishness of personal pride, which always has a fall.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Trivandrum (India) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 13, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.