Rajamani was born in 1927 in Burma (Myanmar) to an affluent and liberal couple. The family was patriotic and passionate about freedom for their country. Her father owned gold mines in Tiruchirapally but had settled in Burma to avoid arrest by the Britishers.
“To shoot down the Britishers”
The great freedom fighters Gandhi and Subash Chandra Bose, who cherished antithetical styles of attaining liberty for their nation, were known to the family. While Gandhi advocated non-violence, Subhas Chandra Bose chose the violent way. His chant, “Give me blood and I will give you freedom,” appealed to the young Rajamani. There was ample liberty in her household and she could read and practice whatever interested her.
Once Gandhi had visited her house in Rangoon (Yangon) and the whole family was excited and all introduced themselves, but little Rajamani was not to be found. Everyone, including the great visitor, searched for her! Eventually, she was found practising shooting in the backyard. Evidently, Gandhiji was surprised and enquired as to why she needed to practice shooting.
“To shoot down the Britishers, of course,” was her firm and candid answer.
“Violence is not the answer, little girl. We are fighting the British through non-violent ways. You should also do that,” Gandhi ji had counselled.
“We shoot and kill the looters, don’t we? The British are looting India, and I am going to shoot at least one Britisher when I grow up,” was her quick and unwavering justification.
Giving away her jewellery for the cause
A few years later when the 2nd World War was at the peak, Subhas Chandra Bose had visited Rangoon to seek help for the great cause of freedom and also to recruit soldiers for his INA. Rajamani had heard his passionate speeches, and had been intensely impressed. She gave away all her jewellery, both gold and diamonds, that she was wearing.
The wise Bose presumed that she had done this impetuously and innocently. Therefore, he went to her palatial house and returned her jewellery to her father. The gold miner smiled and remained silent. But his young daughter fumed and asserted that the jewellery was indeed hers, and that she had the right to donate for a noble cause. She would certainly not take the ornaments back.
Subhas Chandra Bose was amazed at her precocious statement and said; “Lakshmi (money) comes and goes but not Saraswathi. You have the wisdom of Saraswathi. Hence, I name you Saraswathi.” She had immense sanity and knowledge. Thenceforth, she was called Saraswathi Rajamani.
Joining the Indian National Army
But the story does not end there. The 16 year old had been electrified by Bose’s fiery speeches and the Indian National Army. Hence, she insisted he enrol her in his army.
Ironically, to join such movement, it was mandatory for a girl/woman to get the permission of her father or male relative! So convincing and adamant she was, that Bose recruited her and four of her friends as spies in INA’s intelligence wing. Thus the 16 year old Sarawathi Rajamani became the nation’s youngest spy, who smuggled secrets for the INA.
A thrilling life
Her involvement in the freedom movement and actions are exciting and fearful. If caught, the punishments could be terrible. In fact she and her friends were advised to avoid being caught. The girls dressed as young boys and Saraswati Rajamani’s name was Mani. They started working as errand boys at British military camps and officers’ houses.