The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


CALCUTTA, India , Wednesday—We left Allahabad early in the morning and went directly to Benares, a short flight. We wanted to see this old city with all its traditions of being a Holy City on the Ganges.

We had asked to have the day entirely to ourselves, so we went off on the river to see the ghats where the people come to bathe and the two places where arrangements are made for cremating the dead. We got out of our boat at a flight of steps that led directly to the Old City and we wandered along, looking at the different bazaars and seeing some very fine work.

We looked into some old temples along the narrow streets. The narrower the street the more comfortable it was to walk because the narrowness shut out the sun, and the sun has already begun to be very hot in India.

On the other hand, the narrow streets were crowded with animals of all kinds, and children and grown-ups trying to make one buy their wares. At times one wondered if there were going to be room enough for oneself and the cows to pass.

We got a look at the outside of one or two of the temples and then I was taken to see a weaving establishment where the Benares silks are made. I saw two youngsters, who were only 12 years old, being taught by older ones and realized it takes nimble fingers to manipulate the bobbins. Twelve years of age seems young to work, but they tell me a man is not an expert weaver until he is 40 and the children here take responsibility rather young. Many of the nine and 10-year-old girls in families take care of younger brothers and sisters without any supervision whatsoever.

We went to the home of Mr. Burnier who is married to the charming young Indian dancer, Radha Sri Ram, who appeared in "The River." We sat on his veranda looking at the river where I saw a little human drama take place.

Two women were sitting in brightly colored saris on a little landing at the foot of the steps below the balcony and a small child was bathing in the river nearby. Suddenly the child began to shriek and scream and continued with the most terrible wails. I concluded she had lost something because one woman gathered up her sari and began to feel in the water with her feet. Then the child began bobbing her head in the water and still came up wailing.

All of a sudden she came up holding a tiny pair of pants. The wailing stopped and she spread them out carefully to dry. One realized they were probably the only garment this child had, so the loss was really serious.

We stayed on the veranda for a while, idly talking and looking at the beautiful photographs which Mr. Burnier had taken of the carvings in some of the caves we had seen and in many that we had not.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Calcutta (India) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 27, 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.