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Benoybhusan Ghose

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(1867, Bhagalpur – 01.10.1947), the eldest brother of Sri Aurobindo, known as Beno in the family circle. Dr. K. D. Ghose said of his eldest son, “Beno will be his father in every line of action. Self-sacrificing but limited in his sphere of action.” Sri Aurobindo said of his eldest brother: “He is a very practical man, the opposite of poetic, takes more after my father. He is a very nice man and one can easily get on with him. He had fits of miserliness.” And he added, “Manmohan and I used to quarrel pretty often but I got on very well with my eldest brother.”

In 1877, he, Manmohan and Aurobindo was sent to Loreto House boarding school at Darjeeling that was run by Irish nuns, intended mainly for children of European officials in India.

In 1879, he and his brothers are left on care of Mr. Drevett’s family in Manchester, England. The boys lived in two-story house at 84, Shakespeare Street from 1879 till 1881. In 1881, he joined the Manchester Grammar School.

In 1881 the Ghose boys moved along with the Drewetts to a similar house at 29 York Place in Chorlton-on-Medlock, a neighboring residential district. The census of 1881 provide a glimpse of the household: William Drewett, aged 39; his wife Mary, 38; her sister Edith Fishbourne, 22; Drewett’s mother Elizabeth, 68; the three Ghose boys; and two maids.

In 1884 Mr. Drewett emigrated at Australia. Before his departure, he left the Ghose boys in the care of his mother, Elizabeth, who went with them to London at 49 St. Stephen’s Avenue, Shepherd’s Bush.

August 1886 — holidays at Keswick. This year, during summer vacations, the brohters returned to Cumberland for an extensive tour of the Lake District. To walk through the countryside immortalized by Wordsworth was a risky affair for Manmohan, who, in Aurobindo’s diagnosis, suffered from “poetic illness.” Once he fell behind and walked oblivious of precipices while “moaning out poetry in a deep tone.” Aurobindo and Benoybhusan were glad when he made it back safely.

September 1887 — after a holiday at Hastings, Aurobindo and Benoybhushan moved to the large drafty room above the club’s premises at the top of the building at 128, Cromwell Road where the office of the South Kensington Liberal Club was situated, where Mr. J.S. Cotton (brother of Sir Henry Cotton, who served in Bengal administration) was the secretary. Manmohan soon went up to Oxford, where he spent most of the money their father provided. Cotton gave Benoybhusan five shillings a week to do clerical work and odd jobs at the club. Five shillings a week was what a domestic servant earned; one needed three times as much to stay above the poverty line.

1887–9 — this was time of greatest suffering and poverty. Brothers had not enough money for new clothes (they grew out of their’s old clothes), for coal. During a whole year a slice or two of sandwich, bread and butter and a cup of tea in the morning and in the evening a penny saveloy formed the only food. Aurobindo and Benoy had no wood for the fire and no overcoats to wear in what turned out to be the coldest winter in memory.

April 1889 — Aurobindo and Benoybhushan moved to private lodgings at 28, Kempsford Gardens, Earl’s Court, South Kensington. Benoybhusan, whose education ended in Manchester, was not up to the entrance examination of the ICS. But when, in October and November 1892, Sri Aurobindo announced to Benoybhusan: “I am chucked”, with an almost derisive smile. Benoy took it rather philosophically and offered to play cards. After some time Manmohan dropped in and on learning about his rejection from the I.C.S. set up a howl as if the heavens had fallen. After that all three sat down to smoke and began to play cards.

In late November 1892, James Cotton, Benoybhusan, and Aurobindo met Sayajirao Gaekwar (the Maharaja of the state of Baroda, who was stopping briefly in London), at the Savoy.

About the late September 1894, Benoybhusan returned to India from England. His ship anchored off the Chandpal Ghat at Calcutta Port. From there he took a hackney-coach to go to the house of his father’s lawyer friend Manomohan Ghose at Theatre Road. The coachman did not understand any English, and Beno could not then speak any Indian language, with the result that for hours they went up and down the street, till a kindly Brahmin priest, who was watching interestedly, asked Benoybhusan some questions and then directed the coachman and even accompanied Beno to the right house.

Benoybhusan quickly found a job as tutor to the Prince of the Coochbehar State, in the north of Bengal. According to Barin, Beno who had gone to Ajmer with his pupil, borrowed Rs.1500 to send to Mano so that the latter could also return to India.

Also he worked as auditor and finance secretary at the administration of Coochbehar State. He married Umarani Mitra, rather late in life, in 1913, and had nine children (Anilkumar, Urmila, Banikumar, Debukumar, Jahnabi, Hitenkumar, Menaka, Ranjitkumar, Lahori). The youngest daughter — Lahori Chatterjee.

“He went up for medicine but could not go on. He returned to India, got a job in Coochbehar. Now I hear he has come back to Calcutta,” Sri Aurobindo said in 1939.

Benoybhusan died on 1st October 1947.

Mentioned: {SABCL 26} 2 {SABCL 27} 420-21 {A & R.12.1977} 88 {A & R.04.1978 } 86


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