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Priti Dasgupta

Moments Eternal


Priti Dasgupta. Moments Eternal / Translated from Bengali into English by Maurice Shukla.– First edition.– Pondicherry: Sri Mira Trust, 2009.– 292 p.– ISBN 978-81-86413-53-1


O! Let me clasp Your Feet


Our Father

Sports and the Beginning of the Playground

Waiting for the Mother

Disease and Healing

The Mother’s Classes in the Playground

Learning French from the Mother

Classes for the Little Ones

The Map of India and the Mother’s Symbol

The Body and the Integral Yoga

Eternal Sacrifice

Ascent from Inconscience

Durga Puja

Vande Mataram

The Four Aspects of the Mother

The Mother’s Close Rapport with Plants, Flowers and Trees


Our Mother of Mystery

The Pranam

The Name-Mantra

The Darshan

Ah, if only I could recreate those moments!

Bangladesh — a new birth for East Bengal

Amusing Incidents

The Playground

A few words from the author

O! Let me clasp Your Feet!

I am sitting at my writing desk. In front of me is a picture of the Mother’s Divine Feet. And as I fix my eyes on it an unearthly joy fills my heart. Memories of how this picture came to me come flooding in.

Every year, before my birthday, the Mother would ask me:

“What would you like?”

And strangely, at that moment I just could not wish for anything! I could not think of anything to ask for. After coming down from Her room I would tell myself that for my next birthday I would ask Her for a picture of Her Divine Feet. But then each time the same thing repeated itself!

“What would you like?”

Hardly had I heard these words than I would forget everything. I do not know why this happened, but I really felt that there was nothing I wanted. To me it remained a source of supreme mystery.

In 1972 I offered my birthday ‘pranam’ at the Mother’s

Feet for what was to be the last time. After completing my ‘pranam’ as usual, and accepting the Mother’s flower-blessings, I was about to leave the room when Champaklal-ji called out:

“Priti, the Mother is calling you.”

From the door I quickly went back to the Mother. As I knelt down, Champaklal-ji handed the Mother a colour photograph of Her Divine Feet. She sweetly smiled and then gave me this photograph.

I couldn’t believe it and was overcome with joy. Was it really true? For on this day the Mother had fulfilled at last such a long-cherished wish of mine. I bowed at Her Feet once again. A line echoed within me:

I have looked upon you, I have surrendered my life, I am tied to Your adorned Feet forever!

I turned back in silence and slowly left the room. As I was going down the stairs, I could not help feeling somewhat amazed. Such a long-cherished wish had finally been fulfilled! And my heart overflowed with gratitude…

I sat in silence for a long time at the spot where the Mother’s couch stands today. How could I have known then that one year later Her Body would be brought down from Her room and kept at this very spot? And that this was to be my last visit to the Mother? Perhaps that was why the Mother had fulfilled that day my long-cherished wish by giving me this photograph of Her Lotus Feet. I was sitting facing Sri Aurobindo in the picture that stands today in the front hall. But at that time this photograph was all there was in the place where the Mother’s couch is kept today. After Sri Aurobindo left His Body this photograph was installed there. We would bow down to Him there every morning and evening and pray: “O Lord, O Divine

Sri Aurobindo, come back, come back. Bring to our country, India, unity, make Her one, O Lord.” I still utter the same prayer regularly. Will not the Lord fulfil our prayer?

We love the Mother. We have all felt Her, sometimes as Mother Aditi Herself, sometimes as Maheshwari, at other times as Mahakali, Mahalakshmi or as Maha-saraswati. Standing next to a fire, how can our body not be touched by its warmth? And in spite of our untransformed, ignorant condition the Mother’s Grace has so spontaneously blessed us in all Her forms. But we have never known the Mother’s Body or had the experience of it as being fully Divine. We found Her so close to us in such an effortless way that it never even occurred to us that this human body of the Mother, in whose protection we have been advancing on this difficult path, is in its every atom and in its very external form too, the body of Mother Aditi Herself. Being so close to the Mother we always looked upon the Mother physically as our best friend. But how immeasurably valuable this was, was revealed to us one day by the Mother Herself in the course of events. What an amazing experience that was!

When the Mother played tennis, She would always wear a pair of ‘tabi’, a special Japanese footwear which was neither shoe nor sock but it was most comfortable. The pairs of ‘tabi’ that the Mother had brought from Japan were all more or less worn out. One day the Mother was talking to Vasudha about

‘tabis’ at the tennis-court. They were discussing how to procure these ‘tabis’. As I was standing beside them I overheard everything. And as luck would have it, just a few days later my youngest uncle arrived here. He was to go to Japan and had come to the Mother to ask for Her permission. I was delighted beyond words.

“You have to get some ‘tabis’ for Mother from Japan,” I

told my uncle.

“Get me the measurement of the Mother’s Feet. Only then will the ‘tabis’ fit Her,” my uncle replied.

With a sheet of paper and pencil in my hand I entered Her room in the Playground. She had come back after playing tennis and was resting on Her sofa.

“Could you please place your Feet on this paper? I will make a tracing. My youngest uncle (Himansu) is going to Japan. He’ll get some ‘tabis’ for you and needs your size,” I told Her.

The Mother agreed at once.

I bent down to trace out the Mother’s Feet. The more I looked at Her Feet, the more I was filled with wonder. My hand would just not move. I had never had such an opportunity to look at Her Feet for so long. I was enamoured, enamoured of the fine shape and beauty of Her Feet and toes and I kept staring at them, oblivious of everything. What marvellous beautiful Feet! Each toe was so finely shaped and so beautifully kept. The sun’s brilliant glow was there on the Mother’s Feet and toes. Each nail looked like a miniature shell crafted with the subtlest of artistry. The beauty of the lotus and the soft smoothness of morning dew had come together in the making of the Mother’s Feet. Brilliance, beauty and softness wondrously met in the Mother’s Feet. I had never had in my life the good fortune of seeing the Mother’s Feet in this way. I felt truly blessed!

I do not remember how long I must have sat there staring at the Mother’s Feet. I suddenly came back to my senses when the Mother gently touched my head. I quickly traced out Her Feet with the pencil. Raising my head and looking at Her Feet I exclaimed:

“Such lovely Feet, Mother! How beautiful indeed!”

The Mother sweetly smiled and said a little mysteriously: “Why, haven’t you ever seen the Feet of gods and goddesses?”

I was flabbergasted. Sure! The Feet of Mother Durga, Mahalakshmi, Maha-saraswati resembled Hers. All those sculptors who have made images of gods and goddesses must have had a vision of the Mother in some subtle world. That is why they were inspired to carve these images. I was awestruck. We humans could gaze at the Mother’s divine Body in a human form from so close in this mortal world! Gaze and be blessed! It is one thing to be able to see these incomparable Feet in a painting or a statue but the fact that the Mother has come down on this earth with those same Feet and we are able to see and touch Them is quite another. It is an experience in itself. I remained seated, speechless in wonder. The Mother blessed me once again by touching my head. A marvellous thrill of delight ran through my entire body. I placed my head at Her Feet and bowed to Her. This ‘pranam’, from that moment, took on a special meaning in my life.

I stood up with the paper and pencil in my hand and as I came out of the Mother’s room I looked up and noticed the western sky aglow in red and the sun’s rays were streaming from behind in all the four directions. Were not the Mother’s Feet created from these very rays of the sun? Who was that sculptor? Two lines of a poem echoed in my being:

Janani, tomar korun charanakhani

Herinu aji e arunkirona rupe.

(O Mother, I have beheld your compassionate Feet today in the rays of the Sun.)


O Mother Maheshwari, Mother Mahakali, Mother Mahalakshmi, Mother Mahasaraswati!

Thus invoking Your Lotus Feet I set forth in my boat of memories…

What boundless joy a fleeting glimpse of the Mother would give us! How Her presence drew us like a magnet and kept us rooted to our seats for hours together in absolute stillness. These moments have become today a part of history. It is impossible to describe that marvellous experience when at Her radiant, unutterable touch an immortal stream of such exceeding peace would flow in each and every atom of our body. Only those who have been blessed with that divine Touch can truly and fully understand this experience. And this was a daily occurrence. We got to experience all this so easily, so effortlessly that I feel even gods and goddesses themselves must have been envious of us. The Mother Herself has come down onto this mortal world and opened up the treasure-trove of Her Grace. Now in these moments of leisure, every utterance, every gesture of the Mother overwhelms the heart with a memory of divine grace and beauty. In remembering Her, my entire consciousness sinks deep within my heart. At that time it seemed the most natural of thing, that life would go on in this way! When Mother Aditi Herself had descended upon the Earth, Her infinite Love would naturally be showered on us, Her children. This was our firm conviction.

With small children the Mother would Herself become a child. She would love them, tell them stories, recite humorous verses to divert them, to educate them. The Mother would reveal this aspect so beautifully when She used to take the children’s classes in the evening:

With my far-reaching Rays I illumine the universe

Yet do not forget the drop of dew

For Love within my Heart I nurse.

How true these lines of the poet are for the Mother!

The Mother showered Her infinite Love on all, young and old. In these pages my endeavour will be to recreate for you some of those moments. Personal references will keep coming in but that is inevitable in writing about one’s memories.

I will not be able to express the incredible joy that each of the Mother’s gestures evoked. Her way of talking, Her way of looking, in fact everything She did had such graceful beauty and tenderness, that even today it directs us to some distant, subtle world.

How can one forget the memories of those days? Why, you too have grown up in the shadow of the Mother’s Love. The Mother’s laughter, the Mother’s words have illumined your treasure-house of memories as well. Anybody who has received the privilege of approaching the Mother as a Mother, as a Friend, has had his whole life transfigured!

I remember the Mother taking Her French class with the children. The class was held in the courtyard of the house where the Mother and Sri Aurobindo had lived at one time. It was also the house where the first meeting between the Mother and Sri Aurobindo took place. In this children’s class, the Mother would start with a dictation. Then She Herself corrected the mistakes in all the notebooks. What tremendous concentration She put into that evening class. If a child was unable to recite some text She would slowly read it out for him. The children had to memorise a poem almost daily. I never saw the Mother get angry while teaching. We too, after all, are teachers! We loved the way the children sat on the floor and wrote their dictation. You must have seen photographs of this class.

There was a time when Dada (Pranab) garlanded the Mother in this courtyard before She started Her class. What a marvellous sight that was! How lovely the Mother looked! I cannot ever forget Her sweet smile. We would eagerly wait in a corner of the courtyard in order to watch the Mother being garlanded. I will no longer be able to see that incredible scene again. I feel bad just thinking about it. The lyrics of a song that one of my childhood friends used to sing with so much feeling and love come to mind:

What loveliness of form fills my eyes

And his lips adorned with that softest of smiles

Is it the beauty of the garland

Or is it the beauty of the neck,

That the garland sways in such happy abandon?

This kirtan is about Sri Krishna. I remembered this song every time the Mother was garlanded with flowers. And each time I was overjoyed. The Mother looked resplendent with the garland around Her neck. Such an event has never occurred in the earth’s history. The World-Mother being garlanded by Her son! I have been told that after finishing all Her work in the Playground, the Mother would go back to the Ashram and first offer this garland at Sri Aurobindo’s Feet. Those who have had the privilege of witnessing this marvellous scene are blessed. I am overjoyed just trying to imagine the scene. Mother Aditi Herself offering a garland of flowers at the Feet of the Supreme Purusha! And such an incident has taken place on our earth of ordinary dust. Blessed is our Mother Vasundhara and blessed are we human beings!

The Mother used to take the adult class as well, on Wednesdays and Fridays. On these two days, on waking up, the thought would immediately come: Ah today is the Mother’s class! And the heart would begin dancing with joy. The whole day unfolded in a sort of enthusiasm and joy just at the thought that we had the Mother’s class in the evening. I would try to imagine what the Mother was going to say that evening. Even today I cannot help thinking of those classes on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I remember a childhood scene. As soon as it was evening, we children would be fed by a masima (aunt) and each evening it was a different one. The rice would be mixed with a vegetable on a very large plate and then each child would be fed a morsel one after the other. And even as we ate, we listened to wonderful stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. What eagerness and excitement there used to be while listening to these stories. We would listen to the Mother’s words also with the eagerness and excitement of childhood. Even though the Mother did not always tell us stories we would listen to the Mother’s words of philosophical truth and advice with the same eagerness and feel as if we had understood everything. Such a sense of satisfaction there was, really!

The class with the bigger ones took place in the main Playground. A chair used to be kept for the Mother in front of the map of India that was made with green cement after the Mother had Herself drawn the outline of it on the wall. In the Mother’s vision this was the true map of India.

Everyone would ask the Mother all types of questions, especially the 16-17-year-old boys and girls. In fact the class had been started for them. Listening to the Mother, I would simply forget myself. The Mother had a natural flair for explaining the most difficult philosophical and spiritual subjects with such simplicity and in such an easy language. It is difficult to compare that joy with anything else. The Mother read out to the class the various books written by Sri Aurobindo and by Herself one after the other. Then She would ask:

“Has anyone got any questions?”

Then one by one She answered all the questions while we all listened with rapt attention.


Much have I loved with desires and longings

But by their deprivation now hast Thou saved me!

One day the Mother came and stood in front of the map of India to take the March-Past salute. I thought this was the right moment and so I told Her:

“Mother, they (Minnie-di, Millie-di) are going to Mahabalipuram. I too would like to go, Mother.”

“No, you can’t go,” the Mother replied. “You won’t go.”

I was quite stupefied on hearing this.

“why can’t I go, Mother? There are so many things to see in Mahabalipuram. Let me go with them, Mother.”

“No, you shall not go.” I just kept still.

“Look at me,” the Mother continued, “I stay here with all of you, have I gone anywhere?”

“But before coming here, you went to Russia and to

America,” I retorted.

The Mother was quite surprised.

“Who has told you that I went to Russia and America? I

have never been to America nor will I ever go there.”

She uttered the last part so forcefully that I was a little taken aback.

After some time the Mother continued:

“What will you do there? You will just spoil their fun.”

I was extremely perplexed by the Mother’s words. Why would I spoil their fun, I wondered.

The Mother explained:

“As soon as you reach, you’ll start complaining about a terrible headache or a cold. You’ll start feeling terribly feverish. They would have so much trouble with you. No, you shan’t go.”

I just stood silently, and suddenly I remembered something from my childhood.

When I was at school (Sarala Balika Vidyalaya) in Feni, Mejomasima — elder aunt — and Chhotomasima (younger aunt) — this is how we called our teachers — used to take the girls for an outing. Tapati and I could never go because we used to catch a cold or fever as soon as we went out anywhere. We were, as a result, absent from school for a few days. That is why father had given clear and strict instructions that we be forbidden to go on picnics. But how did the Mother get to know about this? The Mother knew every little detail even about our childhood, whereas I myself had forgotten! This instance of the Mother’s infinite Grace moved me very deeply. The Mother saved us in this way from innumerable dangers and difficulties and She continues to do so.

But by their deprivation now hast Thou saved me!


The Mother one day asked me to teach French at the School. I had just learnt a little French then. So it seemed absolutely impossible for me to take up teaching. However, I started the classes. My whole day was spent in preparing for my French classes. I had no time at all for reading my storybooks. Premanand, the Ashram librarian at that time, used to select the books for me to read. There were no sports activities then. After coming home from the meditation in the evening, I would enjoy reading my books.

At school and college I had not had so many opportunities to read storybooks. Father had strictly forbidden the reading of novels. Travelogues and biographies were fine. My schoolmates used to tease me:

“Don’t say that even Saratchandra’s books are out!” My elder brother came up with a ploy.

“Just open your textbook but keep your novel inside.”

In the evenings, after coming out of the Puja-Room, father used to ask my elder brother and me if all the lessons for the next day at school had been learnt. Then he would go to visit Jethamoshai (Headmaster Manindra Mukherji). There at Jethamoshai’s (elder uncle’s) house a large number of people would gather and discuss various things till almost 9 o’clock in the evening. During this gap I would read some books of Saratchandra’s with great pleasure. But then how many books could I read? There was also schoolwork to be finished. Dada would whisper:

“There! Father is coming back!”

At once the textbook was pulled out from under the novel and we would start studying seriously. Not once was I caught! Dada had some brains, I must admit.

One day I received a severe thrashing from Chhotokaka (yongest uncle) (Sachindranath Dasgupta). I had just gone to Calcutta after sitting for the Matriculation exam. A big house had been taken on rent. It was Chhotokaka’s wedding. I was totally engrossed in reading Pather Panchali near the verandah-door. I did not even notice that Chhotokaka had come in and was standing behind me. Then all of a sudden I got a slap on my cheek.

“What’s going on, Khuku? So you’re reading a novel, are you?”

I was quite startled. I had been caught red-handed! Then suddenly I had an idea.

“Look, Nelli-di (a cousin) got this book as a schoolprize.”

What could Chhotokaka say after that? He turned around and started walking up and down.

And so in this way, under father’s and Chhotokaka’s strict discipline, I completed my school-life. On entering college my first feeling was: “Ah, now I will be able to read novels freely and happily!” I had grown up after all. But there was a fly in the ointment. The Second World War broke out and it became difficult to buy textbooks let alone novels. Our mother (Bibhavati) would write down the lessons by hand in a notebook.

When I first came here in 1941, Mridu-masi (aunty)

showed me all her books and said:

“You can take any of these books to read, if you wish.”

It was as if I had been given the moon. I first picked up a novel, Sandhaney written by Jyotirmala Devi. Its language was so clear and beautiful and the story marvellously well-constructed. Then I read other books by the same author. After that I started reading Dilip-da’s books. But then it was time for me to go back to Feni. There I did not get such an opportunity to read novels again.

In trying to prepare the French lessons I had no time to read novels. In the mornings I worked at the press. Mid-mornings I had to rush to the French class. In the evenings I had to correct the students’ notebooks. I was really exhausted. Besides, I did not know enough French and so I had to really prepare very well. I myself needed to study systematically.

One day, on finding an opportunity, I told the Mother in the Playground:

“Mother, I don’t want to teach at the school. I hardly know any French. Moreover, I don’t get any time to read novels.”

The Mother went on looking at me, quite astonished. Then She said:

“What will you get from reading novels? I don’t encourage reading novels. It is only to improve your language that you can read a few books, especially those parts that contain some beautiful thoughts or have a beautiful style of writing. It is only for improving the language that books should be read.

“Why don’t you want to teach at the school?” She raised Her voice a little. “If you teach at the school, then your French also will improve. The more you teach the more your knowledge will grow. Tu es très timide (You are very shy). That is one more reason why I have asked you to teach in the school.”

Before I could reply, the Mother said a little forcefully: “Mère a donné le travail, il faut le faire.” (The Mother has given the work, it must be done.)

She would give me a special flower called Calm and modest confidence in oneself.

As soon as I realised my stupidity I slipped out from there. I did not get any other opportunity to read novels. Today, as I am writing about all this, I feel that it was the Mother’s Grace that I did not get the opportunity to read all sorts of useless books. It was natural that I had this curiosity to read novels at that young age. But how many children get to select the right kind of books to read?

Allow me to quote some advice given by the Mother on this subject.

Many years later, we started the Free Progress System in our school. There was a lot of excitement in the air. The Mother spoke to the teachers about the selection of novels for students. She said:

There should be very few novels in the school library (the students read only too many novels), and no modern novels unless they are of particularly good quality.

Literature has its place in the ‘Bibliothèque Choisie’, so that the students can learn what literature is.

The most important thing to be taken into consideration when selecting books, is the quality of the language and style, something ‘splendid’ as in Flaubert.

It is now that I understand how right from our childhood the Mother guided us without our knowing it: what books to read, how to stay away from life’s errors and pitfalls, how to seek Her protection.

In April 1944 I came to the Ashram for good. In those days a time was allotted to each one to go to the Mother. I had permission to go and see Her twice a week. And even today I can feel within my heart that thrill and joy. The whole week would go in preparing for that moment. I used to feel a strange kind of fear-tinged faith while going to the Mother. One day I blurted it out to the Mother:

“You know, Mother, I strongly feel like coming to see you but I also feel a strange kind of fear and excitement. Why is that, Mother?”

The Mother was probably not expecting such a question. She gently put Her hands on my shoulders and looked at me with Her love-filled, steady eyes. A heavenly love and tenderness flowed from them. Then She held me really close to Her. And from that day slowly a sense of friendship grew with the Mother. And the clouds of fear began dissolving under the sunrays of Her soft, gentle smile. And this is how I was initiated into my new life. It was impossible for me to speak to the Mother freely. I would keep thinking: “I have just arrived. I am totally new to this place.” At that time no one really spoke with the newcomers. Nolini-da was the only person who understood me. Why, even girls of my age did not speak much! That is how life was in the Ashram of those days. It was like coming to the first class in a new school. At least that is how I felt. And when I went to the Mother I would feel Her so exalted, so distant that I felt helpless. But then a strong attraction like a magnet would draw me to the Mother. Hardly had I entered Her room that She would greet me: “Bonjour, mon enfant” (Good morning, my child), and then lovingly give me a flower. She would keep smiling as she looked at me but I just could not forget that the Mother was that very Mahashakti (Supreme Power) that governed this world and the universe. The Mother strove to teach me to be simple and free but I was always in awe. I always felt that I was a most ordinary girl from a little town called Feni. And I just could not get over my diffidence. Suddenly, one day, I entered the Mother’s room and involuntarily exclaimed: “Bonjour, Douce Mère!” (Good morning, Sweet Mother!) But then immediately afterwards I felt a little ashamed.

The Mother hugged me happily and said:

“There! You’ve spoken! That’s very good, very good!” And in this way the wall of diffidence crumbled with that ‘Bonjour’. And in time a close friendship grew with the Mother. There was no incident that I did not freely speak to the Mother about. In time we felt that the Mother was our Friend forever.

And that unearthly joy has no parallel.

Once in the earlier part of my life in the Ashram, the

Mother told me while giving me a flower:

“Every morning, read a little bit of Sri Aurobindo’s book The Mother. Just as in India people read the Gita in the morning. You make the same kind of inner progress by reading The Mother as you do by reading the Gita. Read it regularly every morning.”

I did not quite have the capacity to understand the Mother’s advice then. I just kept staring at the Mother in speechless amazement! My whole body thrilled with delight. I was capable of experiencing a little the Mother’s being Adishakti and Maheshwari. But the Mother Herself indicating to me who She was! This experience I cannot convey. A supernatural sort of feeling overwhelmed me. After reading the sixth chapter of The Mother I understood why I used to feel a fear-tinged faith and love when I met the Mother.

By being with us the Mother slowly removed all diffidence and shyness from us. Thanks to Her happy indulgence we became courageous. The Mother had so ingrained the idea that She was our Friend that we used to speak freely to her about all sorts of things, sometimes even forgetting that we were but ordinary human beings. There was no secret that we did not happily share with Her. In fact there was no way we could hide anything from Her. One had to go to the Mother and something from within would automatically tell Her everything. What a marvellous situation to be in! When everything was spoken out then the inner ‘I’ would automatically fall silent. The Mother would smile sweetly and envelop us in Her divine Compassion. Then She would place some flowers in our hands and look at us for a little while. We would feel blessed by the benediction of Her eyes. After confiding in Her all our difficulties and obstacles, we would get a welcome respite from them. The Mother always told us: “Never forget for a moment that you are my much-loved children.” Helped by the Mother’s indulgent Love, a new wondrous consciousness began to take shape within us. Year after year, how much time, love and infinite patience the Mother lavished on us ordinary little boys and girls so that our personality would develop and grow! How She used to speak to each one of us according to our receptivity and understanding. How She educated us and surrounded us with Her support and sympathy! We could not do without the Mother in moments of difficulty. Today when I think about all these things my eyes, for no reason, fill with tears. The Mother saw in each of us a person or being who far excelled his or her outer personality and She would pour on us Her infinite Patience and Compassion to bring this out and that would take us forward slowly day by day. There was no end to that progress. With joy bubbling over in our hearts we would advance, surpassing mountain-like obstacles. Holding Her hand, we effortlessly overcame all pain, sorrow, suffering and disease. The Mother was there, what needed we fear, then? We just had to call out to Her, but call Her with all our heart: “Ma, Ma, Ma.” The Mother Herself had taught us even this secret of calling out to Her in either pain or peril.

Once my eyes were paining considerably. I told the Mother about it. She went in and got some blue water. Then She taught me how to put the medicine in the eyecup and wash my eyes and even while doing this to call out, “Ma, Ma, Ma.” To hear the Mother Herself saying “Ma, Ma, Ma” filled my heart with an extraordinary joy. That Mantra of the Mother has remained with me ever since. Why, even in dreams when we faced a danger, at once we called out, to the Mother or should we say someone from within called out “Ma, Ma”. This strange experience happens to each one of us even today. The Mother has not left us. This calling “Ma” for help is its living proof. We cannot see Her with our physical eyes which brings us great sorrow.

In the sacred presence and love of the Mother a new ‘I’ has taken birth. Our new ‘I’ is full of self-confidence and always says, “I shall try. I shall most certainly make myself worthy of the Mother’s trust.” In each one of us there abides an infinite Power and once man wakes up to it there is nothing that is beyond his capability. The Mother has not ceased to work for the awakening of that new person within us.

So many memories of my life in Feni come to me. Even in those days there were many facilities for sports and theatre in that small town. Father himself used to look after these activities. In the college gymnasium we had all types of body-building equipment. There was a huge ground where we could even practise athletics. There was a football field and a tennis court. Teachers and students played tennis together. In wintertime we would all sit together after the game and eat oranges. As we little ones picked up the balls, we were entitled to a share of the oranges. Badminton was played on four or five courts. We would all spend the evening together in great fun and merriment. And what to say about the football tournament time! On days when college and school students had their football matches there was excitement in the whole town. When a goal was scored, at once cries of ‘Goal! Goal!’ rent the air and how the boys would dance, their chests thrust to the sky! We little ones would scream of ‘Goal! Goal!’ whenever the school students scored. The funniest part of it all was one night when our elder brother, Saroj, kicked his leg in sleep and yelled ‘Goal! Goal!’ The whole town of Feni got all charged up during the football season.

There were also arrangements for playing hockey and cricket. Father used to play these two games with the boys. What exciting games there would be in the afternoon! When father joined the game the boys would play with a lot of gusto. Father also played tennis very well. When the Mother started playing tennis here, on father’s birthday (11th July 1948) She invited him to come and play a game with Her. She told Tapati and me:

“Both of you, come to the Tennis Ground. I’m going to play tennis with your father today.”

We were both delighted. We went to the Tennis court and sat next to Vasudha. Father played beautifully that day. He had this opportunity of playing with the Mother for a few days. Later, he got so busy with the work at the Press that it was no longer possible for him to be at the tennis court by four o’clock. Work for father was tapasya.

Father himself taught acting to college students. He would enact every character’s part to show how it was to be done. He was extraordinary. The day the final performance was to take place, father became unbelievably busy. He directed everything, including how the screens and the stage were to be set up. He would also do the make-up for each actor and help them dress. I have seen father work hard, silently, hour after hour. We little ones were allowed to go everywhere and that is why we could judge father’s amazing acting ability. It is very rare to come across such a talented artist. Manoj and Arati acquired their acting ability from father.

Father’s acting as Savitri suddenly comes to mind. In our uncle’s house (Niyogi’s house in Patgram) for every puja my uncles along with others would enact a play. Rehearsals would go on for many days. On one occasion a play based on the story of Savitri and Satyavan was selected. Father was given the role of Savitri. In those days boys used to take female roles as well. Savitri is speaking to the lord of Death, Yama: “You have to give back Satyavan to me.” I was not old enough to understand the dialogue between Savitri and Yama. But father and Moni-Mama (Subodh Niyogi) played their parts with such extraordinary skill that a deep impression was made on my young mind. When the mother gave me Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri on one of my birthdays, I suddenly remembered that scene and the dialogue between Yama and Savitri… I now had the opportunity of reading the dialogue between the lord of Death and Savitri in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri.

Father was very capable in all kinds of ordinary jobs as well… gardening, looking after fruits and vegetables were daily activities. He even grew potatoes extensively in his garden. The house was filled with flowers and fruits. He would mix the soil himself, prepare the compost and even water the trees. He was truly a hard-working man. He would climb on top of the roof and lay the thatch along with the workers; he would chip and polish bamboo to make fences. The workers were thrilled to see father working with them and they would praise him highly. He was even capable of mending shoes!

When he sat down to read or write he was a completely different man. He would read with such total concentration that we would forget that father was at home. At college, while teaching he would pace up and down on the platform. He could explain the most complex problems of philosophy so simply that the students would listen to his discourses in rapt attention. Father had an inborn gift for discourse. That is why the philosophy classes were so interesting. His vast erudition and his skill in work had made his life supremely successful and complete.

An amusing incident comes to mind… One day Sri Aurobindo told father: “Naren, start doing yoga.”

Father was still quite young then. All that father knew about yoga was that after leaving all earthly preoccupations one sat in meditation with eyes closed. Father said to Sri Aurobindo:

“I want to do that type of yoga which helps in transforming earthly and worldly things, a yoga-sadhana where we don’t need to abandon anything.”

Smilingly Sri Aurobindo looked at father for some time. Then he gently answered:

“Oh, I see.”

Father was also good at drawing. He had filled a whole notebook with all kinds of portraits of gods and goddesses and people. That notebook is, unfortunately, lost… On the table in father’s puja room there used to be a painting of the Mother’s Feet done by him. The Feet had anklets and in front of them there were some lotus flowers. It was exceedingly beautiful. Just looking at that painting the heart would overflow with love for the Mother. When I came here for the first time I had the privilege of a Darshan of those Feet of the Mother during the evening Pranam on the first day. The Mother’s Feet, I saw, were indeed adorned with broad anklets.

Father’s painting of the Mother’s Feet has also been lost.

Those Feet and the lotus flowers were a lovely example of the gifted artist’s work.

Father was a most loving and affectionate human being. That is why he never wanted to become an Ashramite all by himself, leaving behind his brothers, sisters and us. When Chhoto-kaka was working as a college professor in Feni, in the evening father would pat his little brother and tenderly ask:

“Sachin Das, what are you reading?”

Like a little boy, he would show father the lessons he was preparing. Every evening, father used to give him some new things to read. At that time Chhoto-kaka was preparing for the Indian Civil Service exam. At the same time, father’s attention was focused on the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s Feet. Even now I can almost hear his calling out every night with all his heart, “Sri Aurobindo... Sri Aurobindo.”

He was engaged in sadhana from the very beginning of his life. He used to write about his experiences to Sri Aurobindo and had the privilege of first coming here in 1925. In those days, Sri Aurobindo would spend some time with the sadhaks, discussing their sadhana and giving them advice. Father kept notes of all those valuable conversations with Him. Father never talked about his realisations in sadhana or even referred to the conversations he had had with Sri Aurobindo. Manoj discovered this notebook by accident while arranging his cupboard full of books. How many letters from Sri Aurobindo have been lost! During my father’s time matters related to sadhana were never talked about. He never told anybody about any of his experiences. Towards the end of his life he surprisingly came out with an experience or two. On 11th July 1994, on the occasion of his centenary, Manoj read out some things from that notebook. It was just marvellous!


I had just come to the Ashram. When I received news of my passing the exam, I ran to the Mother. Oh, I was so happy!

“Mother I have passed the exam!” She held both my hands and said:

“Go to Benjamin tomorrow. You will start learning French with him. He is a wonderful teacher of French pronunciation.”

The Mother had in a flash organised everything. And that is how I began my French lessons. I went to Benjamin the following day. Benjamin was a Tamil gentleman, a sweet, humourous sort of man. As he sat down to teach he said:

“Repeat exactly whatever I say, even if you don’t understand.”

He started with: “Sans le Divin, la vie est une illusion douloureuse. Avec lui tout est félicité.” (Without the Divine life is a painful illusion, with the Divine, all is bliss.)

I kept pronouncing the words exactly as he did and kept telling myself: “How will I remember anything without understanding?”

Mr. Benjamin said: “Now, let me explain.”

I stared at him, slightly perplexed.

“You’ll understand later,” he continued, “what an invaluable thought I have given you in our first French lesson.”

For many years now these words have come to my mind again and again:

Without the Divine, life is a painful illusion, with the Divine, all is bliss.

After remembering the words of the Mother that Benjamin had taught me, I suddenly recollect a great change that took place in my life. I was very young then, hardly nine or ten. One day, my elder brother who himself was eleven or twelve told me:

“You know these parents of ours are in fact not our real parents.”

I was slightly frightened and I retorted:

“Don’t say such things, Dada. It won’t do any good.” Then I asked him:

“Who are our parents then?”

“Father’s father, his father, then his father, again his father…,” my brother drawled on, “is there really an end to this?”

“Who is our real father, then?” I asked. Pointing his finger at the sky, he said:

“There, there our real father sits. God is our real father.” Hardly had he finished saying this that he began drawling


“Mother’s mother, her mother, then her mother, again her mother,” then pointing his finger at the sky said:

“There sits our real Mother. The Divine Mother is our real


Listening to my brother, I was a little disheartened. “Then how can we meet out real parents?” I enquired. My brother, that young boy, spoke like a wise old man:

“By prayer. We need to pray everyday. Then one day we shall surely meet them.”

I looked at the open field and realised that evening had fallen. I felt terribly helpless. From that day I would stare at the open field in the evening, sit still and think about why we were born, what work the Divine Mother had sent us to the Earth for, why man suffered so much, where man went after death. Oh, so many questions! And they would all crop up at that time!

When I grew up and read Anandamath I found almost the same questions there. Almost every human being comes face to face with the question: “What is this life for?”

Right from childhood all these questions gnawed at me. There was no such thing as joy then.

I could not get any peace. Why have I come upon the earth? Why is man born? Where does he go after death? Why does man suffer so much? Why? Why? Why?

And then, quite unexpectedly, father brought Tapati and me to the Ashram in 1941, for the Darshan of 15th August, and I saw our Eternal Mother and Father sitting side by side on this earth of dust, the very ones that Dada had indicated in the sky with his finger.

During the Darshan, in a flash all thoughts and questions vanished. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had filled my heart with deep devotion and love.

After the Darshan we went back to Feni. Every evening, I would sit silently facing the wide open field. Those questions continued to haunt me. As soon as evening fell I would begin to feel helpless.

In 1944 when I finally settled down here, the Mother offered me the “Nanteuil” house. There was nobody around. All the rooms were closed. Except for Ambu-bhai and two other people, nobody else stayed at “Nanteuil”. People did not go to meet anybody at any time. Everyone was busy with his or her work. After the evening meditation at the Ashram, I used to return to this big deserted house and sit on the outer staircase. World War II was on then. There was no light anywhere in the streets. Total darkness reigned everywhere. In such an atmosphere those same questions of my childhood would overwhelm my mind. I don’t know how long I would sit there in lonely silence. The mind felt burdened. One morning, when I went to the Mother to receive Her flower-blessings, She took both my hands very tenderly and spoke to me like a very close friend:

“Why do you sit and worry about all those things in the evening?”

And She started enumerating all my questions one by one. I was totally new to the Ashram then. I kept staring at her, a little bewildered. She also knows our questions and worries, thus I saw quite an unimaginable aspect of the Mother that day.

“Don’t think about all this,” the Mother continued, “Sri Aurobindo and I have come this time to protect you from the grip of all pain and sorrow. We will answer all your questions. Put all your faith in us and be happy. The responsibility is ours and Sri Aurobindo is there, I am there. What need you fear, then? Always remain happy. Fill yourself with ananda.”

Listening to these reassuring words from the Mother all those questions that used to eat me up from childhood dissolved into thin air in an instant. I looked at the Mother with tear-filled eyes. She placed the flower-blessings in my hands. I bowed to her with my heart full of gratitude and came back home.

I became an entirely new human being after this. I noticed that everything appeared wonderful to me! A huge transformation took place in my life on that day. Sri Aurobindo is there, the Mother is there: What need we fear, then? Bowing at their Feet I began a new life.

My elder brother had told me:

“The Divine Mother is our real Mother.”

Quite unexpectedly the truth came out one day from the

Mother’s own mouth!

One day, one of my friends scolded her little daughter. When the child went to the Mother she looked a little dejected. The Mother asked:

“What’s wrong with you, darling? Why are you so sad?” “My mother has scolded me,” she replied.

The Mother very affectionately gave her a lot of flowers and talked to her for a long time. The child’s little heart was filled with joy. When the child’s mother came to the Mother to receive the flower-blessings She told her:

“Please don’t scold children unnecessarily. They are my children. I have sent them to you. I am their real Mother.”

I was greatly perplexed after hearing about this incident. My mind flashed back to that evening in the field when I was sitting with my brother and he told me: “The Divine Mother is our real Mother”.

Who knew that from my brother’s mouth such a clear truth would be revealed? Children can feel deep within themselves a lot of things that we adults cannot even conceive. That is why the Mother loves children so much and has given them so much freedom. I learnt from the Mother Herself that She was indeed our real Mother.


I am suddenly reminded of a strange dream of mine. It was a long time ago. I had just arrived in the Ashram. The Mother had consented to my staying on in the Ashram.

The Mother used to ask me every morning: “What did you dream last night?”

I would narrate to Her my dreams one after the other. From time to time, the Mother would explain something. She would not let me go until I had finished telling her all my dreams and I too would go on persistently like a good girl.

Here is one dream: One night, while I was sleeping I felt a terrible pain right in the centre of my chest. I saw the Mother putting Her hand into my chest and with intense concentration twisting her fingers as if She were unscrewing a bottle. I began screaming with pain and told Her:

“Stop, Mother, stop, it hurts! What are you doing? Ah! It really hurts!”

But the Mother was deeply absorbed and untiringly, with great patience, She went on, Her hands inside my chest, operating like a surgeon. I just could not remove the Mother’s hands and kept crying helplessly…

I woke up. First, there was that fear of the patient at the time of an operation and then I was surrounded by that feeling of relief and rest when it is over. I still felt a little angry with the Mother. But then look at this! When I went to the Mother the following morning and She held me tenderly and asked me about my dreams of the previous night I just burst out crying!

The Mother kept telling me:

“Softly, softly! Sri Aurobindo is in the next room.”

But I just could not stop. Then, slowly, I managed to tell the Mother about my dream. She smiled gently and said:

“That wasn’t a dream. That was a true happening. I was working inside you. I work like this inside everybody. The part that does not want to receive or is slightly closed, I open it in this way, exactly as you’ve experienced. You know, every night I go to each person. And as you watch pictures in a film, I can see, all that happened in the Ashram and what each one did during the whole day.”

I kept staring at the Mother, quite stunned. On seeing me the Mother started laughing so much that her eyes glistened with tears.

And so in this way, day and night, the Mother in Her

Mahasaraswati aspect goes on labouring untiringly.

In this context a very amusing incident comes to mind. One morning, a young person from our group went to receive flower-blessings from the Mother. While giving him the flowers the Mother remarked:

“I know everything that you do each day.” The boy could not believe his ears.

The Mother kept looking at the boy and told him, one after the other, all that had happened. Then She started describing a certain incident and the boy just ran away.

Even now the Mother visits us at night and She saves us from great perils and difficulties. She is truly our Friend in times of danger.

In the evening, at the Playground, the Mother used to read out Sri Aurobindo’s The Mother. Once, a question was put to Her about the line: “The youngest of the four…” The question was: “Sweet Mother, why is Mahasaraswati the youngest of the four?”

The Mother answered:

Because her work came last; so she came last. (Silence) It is in this order that they manifested, in the order given here. These aspects are like the attributes of the Mother, which manifested in succession according to the necessities of the work; and the necessity of perfection was the last, so she is the youngest.

“All the work of the other Powers leans on her for its completeness....”

Mahasaraswati. Yes, because she is… (silence) precisely the goddess of perfection. For her everything must be done down to the last detail, and done in an absolutely perfect way. And she wants, she insists that it should be done physically, totally, materially, that it should not remain in the air, you see, like a mental or vital action, but that it should be a physical realisation in all its details, and all the details be perfect, that nothing be neglected. So all that the others undertake in the other domains she concretises and brings to its material perfection.

It is quite amazing even to imagine that during Durga-puja the Mother used to come down bringing Durga with Her. On Lakshmi-puja day She would come to the Meditation hall along with Lakshmi. And then on Kali-puja day Mahakali came with the Mother. On Mahasaraswati-puja day the Mother came down in Her aspect of Mahasaraswati. We were able to have the Darshan of these different aspects of the Mother without having to make any effort.

When the Mother would read Sri Aurobindo’s The Mother and explain to us in Her simple, clear way about each of Her Powers, we were overcome by a strange experience. Mother Adishakti was describing Her own different Forms to Her children. We could do nothing but stare at Her with unceasing wonder.

Arjuna’s fortune lay in finding out from Krishna himself who He was. We were born with that same good fortune. How many questions have been put to the Mother about Sri Aurobindo’s The Mother, about every power of the Mother! With exemplary patience has She always answered all these questions.

In the Gita the Divine revealed Himself to Arjuna in the form of Sri Krishna and showed him his way of working. While studying The Mother, the Mother Herself, the One Eternal Mahashakti, explained to us so clearly Her various Powers of realisation and their working. Sri Aurobindo has revealed to us in such detail who She really is in His book:

The four Powers of the Mother are four of her outstanding Personalities, portions and embodiments of her divinity through whom she acts on her creatures, orders and harmonises her creations in the worlds and directs the working out of her thousand forces. For the Mother is one but she comes before us with differing aspects; many are her powers and personalities, many her emanations and Vibhutis that do her work in the universe. The One whom we adore as the Mother is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence.…

Four great Aspects of the Mother, four of her leading Powers and Personalities have stood in front in her guidance of this Universe and in her dealings with the terrestrial play. One is her personality of calm wideness and comprehending wisdom and tranquil benignity and inexhaustible compassion and sovereign and surpassing majesty and all-ruling greatness. Another embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior mood, her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force. A third is vivid and sweet and wonderful with her deep secret of beauty and harmony and fine rhythm, her intricate and subtle opulence, her compelling attraction and captivating grace. The fourth is equipped with her close and profound capacity of intimate knowledge and careful flawless work and quiet and exact perfection in all things. Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, Perfection are their several attributes and it is these powers that they bring with them into the world, manifest in a human disguise in their Vibhutis and shall found in the divine degree of their ascension in those who can open their earthly nature to the direct and living influence of the Mother. To the four we give the four great names, Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati.

The Mother opened Her doors wide to all Her children. Young or old, everyone would wait at the Playground to listen to Her words with an eager heart. Even those who did not understand French would be present to have the Mother’s Darshan, to hear Her unearthly sweet voice. Devotees and disciples from far-off countries would also come to the Playground on the day of the class and sit quietly. The Mother was everyone’s friend, everyone’s dearest friend, She was everyone’s Mother: this was experienced by many of us here and in many parts of the world during those days.

Here, an extraordinary experience of the Mother when she was thirteen comes to mind. Every night that little girl would go out of her body, go out of her city and keep mounting very high in the sky. She wore a very beautiful golden gown. This gown was much longer than the Mother and quite big. And the more the Mother mounted skywards, the more the gown would cover the space all around her in a circle. It was as if a huge roof had been laid over the city. Then the Mother would see people converging from all corners of the city to assemble under this shelter; girls, children, old men and women, the sick and the miserable. And they would ask her for help and tell her about their sorrow, suffering and unbearable pain. The Mother’s gown would spread in a living way and provide solace to each one of them. And by their merely being touched by the Mother’s gown they would feel reassured, consoled and they would regain their health. They would re-enter their bodies much happier and much healthier than before. This marvellous experience every night made the Mother extremely happy. She did not feel so enthused by any other activity.

We can guess from this incident how liberally the Mother spread her love and tenderness over the multitudes of the earth.


The Mother’s mother once got a little chair made for her. On this chair the Mother would sit for hours in solemn silence. It was undoubtedly an astonishing thing for a little girl to do. Nobody could understand, looking at her, why this tiny little girl was sitting so solemn-faced. What was she thinking about? One day her mother ended up asking:

“What’s the matter with you? Why do you keep sitting with such a serious face? It is as if the world’s entire burden is weighing on your shoulders!”

That little girl answered with the same seriousness:

“Yes, indeed, I have to take upon myself this earth’s full burden of suffering. That is why I am so serious all the time.” That little girl, our little Mother, sits throned today as the Universal Mother amongst us. And whenever we call her from our depth of pain and suffering, she responds at once. Even little children would rush to her to somehow convey to her their sorrow and the Mother would understand them perfectly

even though they could not yet speak.

Once a cousin of mine went to the Mother with a five or six-month-old boy. The baby was in Manoj’s arms. As soon as they approached the Mother, the baby started crying, crying so soulfully that my cousin, her mother and Manoj were terribly embarrassed. It seemed that the baby, incapable of speech, was trying desperately to say something to the Mother. He had understood at once that the Mother was his only true sympathiser, his truest friend and one to whom he could say everything even without speaking. The Mother understood his complaint perfectly well and handed him a red rose. She showered him with her tender caresses. As soon as he received the Mother’s touch and the rose he immediately quietened down. And in this way all our lives have been linked with the Mother’s golden string: innumerable lives strung together on a single string.


Every year the 3rd year students of ‘Knowledge’ passing out of school used to meet Nolini-da. They would bow down to him before starting a new phase in their life. Nolini-da would tell them some very beautiful things. What lovely discourses these used to be! Once he spoke to them about the true meaning of the ‘golden chain’:

Mother said many times: “Whoever gets my touch, whoever has a second of true aspiration, true love for me, he is finished for this life, for all lives—he is bound to me. I have put a golden chain round his neck, his heart is bound eternally to me.”

Nolini-da explains:

It is a thing nobody can see, you yourselves don’t see; but it is a fact, it is there. The golden chain is there within your heart. Wherever you go, you drag that chain, it is a lengthening chain. How far you may go, it is an elastic chain, it goes on lengthening, but never snaps. In hours of difficulty, in hours of doubt and confusion in your life, you have that within you to support you. If you are conscious of it, so much the better; if you are not conscious, believe that it is there. The Mother’s love, Her Presence is there always.

This chain is the Mother’s love, Her presence in each and everyone. In times of pain and sorrow, in times of turmoil in our lives the Mother’s love gives us strength to fight the battle, gives us faith. This is the Mother’s infinite friendship, Her inexhaustible love for everyone. That is why I repeat once more: The Mother is our Mother, the Mother is our friend, everyone’s friend.

The Mother loves us, loves all human beings and trusts them. By taking support of this power of the Mother’s trust a new ‘I’ takes birth in us. The ‘I’ that used to stumble and fall at every step suddenly starts changing by coming in contact with the Mother’s infinite love and friendship. It is such a mysterious thing.

He who can, can in this way,

He can make the flowers bloom.

The Mother has entered the dense darkness of our mind and with Her golden wand of love awakened the sleeping ‘I’. Slowly our self-confidence begins to increase. After that whatever the Mother asks us to do, our new ‘I’ says: “I will try with all my heart and soul. I will surely be worthy of the Mother’s trust.” How many complaints about us would reach the Mother’s ears! The Mother used to repeat these to us with her sweet smile. She just would not believe those allegations.

“You know,” she would say with a laugh, “how many letters come to me with complaints and reproaches against me! One day I’ll show you those letters. Don’t be troubled or upset by these small things. Make yourself large. Imagine you have become as large as your room. Then make yourself even larger. Become as large as this town. Spread yourself into every being. Love them all. Spread your ‘I’ to the farthest corner of the world.”

The heart would be filled with awe, joy and gratitude. Our inner being would humbly bow down to the Mother. This is how we can make everyone our own, through Love! And we did not even know this!

Here I remember another incident. The Mother used to stand at about noon at the lower landing of the staircase. We would all be sitting in the hall. From halfway down the stairs she would throw toffees to everyone. One, two or sometimes three together! The time for this toffee-throwing to the younger ones was not fixed. At times it would occur as late as half past one. Madhuri and I would sit near Nolini-da’s room and wait, memorising little poems. It will not be out of place to quote one such poem here:

Conflict, malice all around,

An end it seems cannot be found

If only you forgiveness find

Tranquillity will fill your mind.

This is what I have learnt from the Mother:

Love one and love them all,

Then from your being all rust shall fall.

When I was studying in a higher class Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Forgiveness was one of our Bengali texts. I loved the story and would keep on wondering how one can forgive one’s enemy in this way! The description that Sri Aurobindo has given of Sage Vashishtha’s character touched our young hearts very deeply indeed. How can a man be so vast! Sage Vashishtha loved Vishwamitra, forgave him and won him over. Our being too, by reading this writing of Sri Aurobindo, would become vast and fill with ananda. It was from then that an irresistible eagerness to know Sri Aurobindo was born in us.

This same divine love and forgiveness lay at the root of Sri

Chaitanyadev’s transformation of Jagai and Madhai’s nature.

With thy pitcher thou hast hit me

For that, shall I not love thee?

I still remember the film Sri Chaitanyadev I saw as a child at a cinema hall. It was then that this seed of love and compassion was sown in a young girl’s inmost consciousness. We have seen this same film here at the Ashram a couple of times, sitting next to the Mother. While watching the film I would sometimes look at the Mother.

Even while the Mother guided us to the new life She also taught us how to forgive human pettiness and baseness.

With Compassion Thine

My life I’ll cleanse.

How clasp Thy Feet

Without that Grace immense?


Two memorable incidents of my life occurred on my birthday in 1948.

I had for a long time wanted to get some sweets made and offer them to the Mother. Our mother (Bibhavati) used to often make sandesh and take them to the Mother. On this birthday, with the help of a friend, I got some sweets made from carrots. This friend’s work was always perfect. Nobody could arrange a plate like this girl,—with all the different items that were prepared in the Mother’s Kitchen for Her. On special days she would be called to arrange the Mother’s meal. She placed the carrot-sweets in such a beautiful way that I was thrilled.

I took that plate of sweets to the Mother and very shyly offered it to Her. Probably sensing my timidity and hesitation, the Mother took the plate from me with both her hands. She was most happy and exclaimed:

“Bibha must have arranged this for you.”

I was flabbergasted. How did the Mother know? I nodded my head:

“Yes, Mother. It’s Bibha. She does it so beautifully and with so much care!”

The Mother went on looking at the beautifully arranged plate for quite some time. It truly seemed as if flowers had bloomed from the plate. I had hardly said “yes” when the Mother picked up a sweet and started eating it. I was mesmerised. And thrilled no end. You just cannot imagine my joy.

But there was more to come. She ate, standing, and from time to time gave me a little of the sweet. I looked more closely and saw her face aglow with mischievous laughter. Asking me to wait, she went inside with the plate of sweets.

I stood outside and waited quietly. I suddenly remembered my acting in a play called Sudama. Isn’t it amazing how one thing reminds you of another?

I was only 12 or 13 then. We were staying at Feni where father was a college professor. Our group of friends decided to perform the play Sudama. I was given the role of Sudama. Tapati was to play Rukmini and one of her friends, Sri Krishna. The play turned out very well. On people’s request we performed this play several times.

In this play at one point Sudama is forced by his wife’s insistence to go to his childhood friend, Sri Krishna. He packed a few nadus (a simple rural sweet) in his chaddar (a piece of cloth to cover the upper part of the body) and very shyly walked into Sri Krishna’s royal court. All he had brought for his childhood-friend, Sri Krishna, were some nadus. As soon as he saw Sudama, Sri Krishna exclaimed:

“I am seeing you after ages, my friend. Where are the nadus

I love so much?”

In the midst of all the pomp and glitter, in the presence of the honourable prime minister and ministers, Sudama hung his head in shame. But because of Sri Krishna’s insistence he had to give the nadus.

Sri Krishna began eating those nadus with great relish while chatting about their childhood days.

Seeing the Mother enjoying those ordinary sweets reminded me of Sudama. I used to play the part of Sudama’s friendship with God with a lot of feeling and I felt a strange change within me. On this day I had realised the truth of Sudama’s character when I made the divine Mother taste those sweets. I could never have dreamt that She would receive those sweets with so much graciousness. This incon-ceivable incident of my life was indeed like Sri Krishna’s receiving the nadus from Sudama’s hands.

This is how Bibha describes this incident:

“On her birthday, Priti wanted to offer some sweets to the Mother and she came to me with carrots and almonds. I did not have any cooking facilities, though. However, I ground some carrots and almonds very fine and then I boiled them with some milk and laid the mixture out as we do when preparing sandesh. I shaped them like leaves and set them out on a glass plate. I used to arrange and decorate the Mother’s food in Her kitchen by making flowers and leaves with my hands. I was delighted to have been given this opportunity. There was one prayer within me: ‘Will She really eat?’ And then the news came that she had indeed eaten it.”

I was absent-mindedly thinking of all these things when I suddenly realised that the Mother was standing before me and gently smiling. I was a little embarrassed. I noticed a folded paper in her hands. She unfolded the paper and brought out a ring. She put the ring on my finger. When I used to go to the Mother in the evenings, while talking to me she would pull my fingers and remark:

“How thin you are. Such thin fingers you have!”

Now I understood that the Mother was touching my fingers to check the size for the ring She wanted to give me.

After putting the ring on, she smiled softly and said: “From today we have become the best of friends. A deep

friendship has been established between us.”

I had never imagined even in my wildest dreams that I would hear such words from the Mother Herself. My entire being was filled with wonder, ananda and gratitude.

The Mother was my friend. The Mother was our friend. I

remembered another incident from the past.

Every Sunday at about noon a sadhu used to come to our house with his little son to ask for alms. The little boy had a sweet voice and sang beautifully playing his ektara (a singlestringed instrument). Right at the end he would sing a song with great feeling:

Where are you, Friend,

You I cannot trace.

Where’s your country,

Your dwelling-place?

And the ektara played on in perfect rhythm. He sang this song soulfully in his melodious voice while looking up at the sky. And I would feel somewhat saddened by the song. My heart wandering with the song’s melody wept and my eyes travelled from field to field towards the distant horizon.

Who was this Friend? No doubt it was God that was meant, it was Sri Krishna. I was overwhelmed with happiness each time I heard the song. I used to give this sadhu and his little boy a lot of rice as alms.

“We’ll come back!”

And saying this, they would walk away across the fields. The strumming of the ektara would float on from faraway.

The lines from the song kept repeating in me.

Where are you, Friend?

You I cannot trace.

On the auspicious occasion of my birthday in 1948 I had traced my Friend forever.

The Mother is our Friend, She is everyone’s Friend, She is my Friend.

Everyone formed this friendship with the Mother. And as a sign of that friendship She gave many of us a ring: Gauri, Chitra, Millie-di, Vasudha, Minou, Tehmi-ben, Tapati and so many others. Many received other souvenirs from Her. We could not imagine that even without asking we would receive so much. And it was the Mother Herself who prepared this deep friendship. She would offer us the flower Friendship with the Divine almost everyday. This flower can be of two colours, one red and the other a deep yellow. The significance of the golden yellow flower is Supramental Friendship with the Divine. The Mother has revealed the significance of many flowers. Whenever she had this golden yellow flower she would give it to each one of us. Ah! You cannot imagine how the heart would overflow with joy. That one could so effortlessly become friends with the divine Mother Herself was beyond our dreams. Such an impossible dream had come true in our life.

In my childhood when I heard the stories of Prahlad’s or Dhruva’s friendship with God, a thousand questions would come crowding into my mind: Why can’t we see God? Why can’t we speak to Him as a friend? Why wouldn’t He come to us if we called Him like Dhruva or Prahlad?

The grown-ups would say:

“That’s not possible. In this Kaliyuga God does not show himself in this way.”

But our supreme good fortune is that the Divine Herself has come down onto this earth. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have Themselves become our friends.

Sri Aurobindo’s wit and humour are so much in evidence in His Evening Talks. His conduct with His servitors and His children was that of a friend. And again this supreme gift that the attendants received from Him was possible only at this age. What satisfaction we derive just by reading these Talks!

Similarly, the Mother’s Entretiens or conversations give us the same sense of wonder.

In the Evening Talks Sri Aurobindo discussed different subjects with his attendants. For instance serious subjects such as politics, the independence of India, the Second World War, Hitler’s and Stalin’s personalities. But there were also other lighter but interesting conversations streaked with humour, laughter and fun. In his words you find not only the flow of seriousness and profound experience and erudition but also a cascade of glowing pearls of joy and laughter. I cannot help giving you two instances of this.

In Nirod-da’s Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo I read about a most hilarious incident. One day Sri Aurobindo said a little mysteriously to his attendants:

“The subject is whether the measure of help is much or little.”

When they did not seem to understand this puzzling statement he decided to explain it to them.

During the Boer War, two Boer soldiers were fleeing on horseback. One of them who was short and stout fell off his horse. He vainly made a few attempts to get up. Meanwhile the enemy was fast approaching so he quickly prayed:

“O God! Please help me to get back onto my horse.”

And uttering this he jumped up. However as luck would have it, he leapt so vigorously that he fell over the horse to the other side! In the meantime the enemy approached and captured him. At that moment he complained regretfully:

“God did help but a little too much!”

Everyone burst out laughing. It is difficult to imagine Sri

Aurobindo recounting such a story with so much humour.

Now let me tell you about another such incident. This is about Sri Aurobindo Himself. You too will not be able to resist laughing.

We all know that in 1938 on the night of 23rd November at about 2 o’clock Sri Aurobindo slipped and fell and as a result of the impact broke his right femur. He was bedridden for three months. So naturally he could not wash his hair or even comb it. Lying in bed for three months in that condition, his long hair became all matted.

When after three months he could sit up again his matted hair could finally be unloosened. Shiva’s attendants began unknotting Shiva’s matted locks. Champaklal-ji and Nirod-da courageously attempted this arduous task. These two heroes then (who themselves did not boast of a great amount of hair on their heads) got down to business.

After about an hour of struggling, at last they managed to unknot Sri Aurobindo’s locks. Sri Aurobindo sat through this ordeal bearing it without once opening his mouth. Then he said softly in his quiet voice:

“You’ve left a few hairs on my head, I hope!” No one could hold his laughter.

I can picture this clearly. Sri Aurobindo sitting quietly like a good boy while Nirod-da and Champaklal-ji valiantly struggled to unknot his hair. What can be more amusing than this? These two incidents reveal how close and friendly Sri Aurobindo was with them.

Our Father

Eleventh July, 1994 marks the centenary of our father, Narendranath Das Gupta. It is for this occasion that I have got down to writing these reminiscences. How many memories come to my mind!

Father was a distinguished worker in the revolutionary movement of that time even though his name never appeared in public. Sri Aurobindo was his guru on the path of sadhana. Bagha Jatin (Jatindranath Mukherjee) was his guide and mentor in the field of action. Studies, revolutionary work and sadhana all went hand in hand.

On Bagha Jatin’s instructions a group of young students stole a considerable amount of money from a vehicle. The Police launched a search to catch them. All that money was kept with father. As soon as the Police started on his trail he ran into his college hostel. Bagha Jatin had strictly instructed everybody that no one was to go straight back to his house after the mission. Father stayed for some time in a fellow-student’s room and then returned to his own room. He stashed all the money under his bed and acted as if nothing had happened.

However the Police were not ready to give up. They encircled the hostel. The hostel Superintendent then was an Irish man. The Police went to him to ask for permission to search the hostel. The Superintendent was furious.

“These boys are like my sons. These are my boys.”

After a lot of arguing when the Police expressed their desire to search the room father had first entered, the Superintendent acceded to their request. The reason was that father did not stay in that room. The Irish man knew about father’s involvement with the revolutionaries. And, moreover, he was very fond of him. In any case, the Police searched the room and found nothing. Good God! Had the Police discovered all the money under his bed…! “Who can touch whom Krishna protects?”

In the evening the hostel Superintendent called for father and said:

“Come Naren, let us go out for a while.”

He took him in his car to the Ganga. While they were walking along its bank, he remarked:

“I’m Irish and so I can fully understand the hatred and anger you feel towards the English. But what can you, a handful of young people, with a few pistols, hope to achieve against the might of this huge British Empire? You’d better become a deputy magistrate instead. The Governor of Bengal would be only too happy to accept you if I put in a word.”

But father was upset. He continued his studies along with the revolutionary work. He was awarded the Gold Medal twice for his M.A. examination. It needs to be mentioned that when Bagha Jatin decided to leave for Balasore with his group of young boys for some revolutionary work, father’s name was on that list. I am told that at the last moment Bagha Jatin told Meghnad Saha and father:

“I also need brilliant students. You will wake this country with the light of knowledge.”

And in this way on two occasions Sri Aurobindo saved father from the jaws of death.

After completing his university studies, father was offered the post of magistrate but he refused to take up any work allotted by foreign rulers. He was also offered the post of professor at Rangoon University. That too he rejected although the salary for that job was for those times a very handsome

1,700 rupees per month.

Finally, father and a few of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples came together and decided to set up the independent Arya Publishing House. The Life Divine was first published by this publishing house. Father was asked to write a review of The Life Divine. The review was sent to Sri Aurobindo for His opinion. Sri Aurobindo asked:

“Who has written this review?”

On hearing father’s name, Naren, Sri Aurobindo could not quite place him. Then suddenly He remembered him and enthusiastically exclaimed with joy:

“Oh! Naren! He is as firm as a rock.”

Let me tell you about another incident in this context. I had at that time settled here for good. I bought two copies of Sri Aurobindo’s Collected Poems and took them to Purani-ji. Very hesitatingly, I told him:

“If I could get Sri Aurobindo’s signature on these I would be so very grateful.”

Purani-ji replied:

“Why, certainly Sri Aurobindo will sign them. Why are you so doubtful?”

He took the two books the following day to Sri Aurobindo. In the evening when I went to get the books, Purani-ji, laughing as he handed me the books, said:

“See, open and see!”

On seeing my name written in Sri Aurobindo’s hand I was overjoyed. Sri Aurobindo had asked Purani-ji:

“Who is she? Whose daughter is she?” “Naren’s daughter,” Purani-ji replied.

Sri Aurobindo remained silent for a while then happily exclaimed:

“Oh! Naren’s daughter, that old Naren!” Purani-ji patted me on my back gleefully.

Purani-ji and father were very close friends. Needless to say I was delighted that Purani-ji had introduced me to Sri Aurobindo as ‘Naren’s daughter’.

Father and his other associates started a ghee-business (ghee being clarified butter). Both the activities went on together. The profits from the ghee-business were used partially for the basic maintenance of the partners and the rest was sent to Sri Aurobindo. The men were truly consecrated workers. They never worried about themselves. One day on opening a canister of ghee they found a snake-skin inside. At once Sri Aurobindo was informed. He sent them a telegram with the direction: Stop it. I will have nothing to do with it anymore. And so the ghee-business was discontinued from that very day.

In 1925 father came to Pondicherry for the first time. All his relatives and family had one fear in their minds: He was not going to return. He would join the Ashram.

Sri Aurobindo asked father to return after a few days’ stay. He asked Sri Aurobindo:

“On my return what should I do to earn my living?”

Sri Aurobindo did not say anything for some time then

He answered:

“Why not take some job in a mufossil college?” Just before leaving, father asked Sri Aurobindo: “Can I offer my pranam to the Mother?”

Sri Aurobindo looked at father, a little perplexed for a while, then exclaimed:

“Oh! You mean Mirra? Wait, I’ll go inside and inform


After some time the Mother came out of Her room. She was wearing a very ordinary sari. Father bowed down to the Mother and with Her blessing he returned to his family. For many years after that father could not visit the Ashram. One day, on his return, while reading the newspaper his eyes fell on an advertisement. A professor was needed in a college at Feni to teach philosophy. Immediately father sent in an application to Feni College for the post. Feni College was delighted to have someone as qualified as father and immediately appointed him to the post.

A new life started for father. He maintained his family on an ordinary salary of 150 rupees a month. His guru, Sri Aurobindo, had never given much importance to money. To Him, ideals in life were the most important. Of His own accord He had given up the opportunity of joining the ICS. Embracing that same ideal whole-heartedly he took up the life of a college professor in a mufossil college. However, during the Second World War, when the Japanese bombed Chittagong, this college closed down and father was forced to move to Calcutta. Many opportunities of important jobs came his way. But he was a dedicated devotee and disciple of Sri Aurobindo and following His advice he had stayed on in a mufossil college.

Why not take some job in a mufossil college? These words of Sri Aurobindo kept father in Feni College and nothing could move him from there. From this ordinary salary father used to send an offering to Sri Aurobindo every month and send some money to his two younger brothers to help them finish their studies. Whatever money remained was used for his wife and children’s upkeep.

Our mother (Bibhavati) could stoically bear all worldly difficulties. No pain or sorrow ever touched her. Her father (Hemkumar Niyogi) was a District Judge then. Even though mother grew up in a well-to-do milieu, she, like my father, had turned towards the vision of Sri Aurobindo. She would, in fact, always encourage father to pursue this ideal.

During the revolutionary days father always carried a pistol. Whenever he would go out for some work he would leave his pistol with mother confident that it would be safe. Mother would tuck the pistol under her blouse and calmly go on with her household activities. At night father used to teach her how to shoot.

Our grandfather (Rasikchandra Das Gupta) was a very pious man. He never obstructed father in anything he did. Knowing that father was a wayfarer on Sri Aurobindo’s path of sadhana he never asked him any questions about this. However, grandmother could never accept father’s giving up good jobs and would blame Sri Aurobindo for it. Her dream was to see her son posted in an eminent job. Grandmother could then run the house with so much more respect and dignity. Which mother would not wish this for her son?

Father was a straightforward sincere man and often at college he would get into debates and arguments with the teachers, especially the junior teachers. Father could not tolerate any criticism of Sri Aurobindo and he would counter it very strongly. Once, a Muslim S.D.O. in Feni made some derogatory remarks about Sri Aurobindo. Father stood up thumping the table vigorously and opposed him with great verve. Father was quite aware what taking on an S.D.O. in this way meant but he could not budge an inch from his ideal or conviction.

Once, a senior professor wrote to Sri Aurobindo telling Him about father’s conduct in this regard. Sri Aurobindo wrote back:

Whatever he is doing and whatever he is saying, it is all right. I am always behind him.

The Second World War was assuming fearful proportions as time went by. We could not even dream of supporting the Allies. Sri Aurobindo, who had started the revolution against the British and always striven for the liberation of India, announced that the Allies needed to be helped in every possible way. Everyone was dumbstruck. The political leaders did not concur with Him at all. During the college recess we could hear from our classroom the tremendous debate going on in the teachers’ room. Father was on one side and the junior professors on the other and they were hotly debating. The latter would not agree with Sri Aurobindo’s announcement. Hitler was their hero. The world had not yet seen the real nature of the Axis Powers. Every day father would try valiantly to make these junior professors understand Sri Aurobindo’s political vision and wisdom. In the meantime the Japanese began bombing Chittagong and Cox Bazaar. At once Feni turned into a deserted town. Our life took a different turn. One by one all the families left Feni.

Every professor or gentleman, while leaving Feni, requested father to send at least his children and their mother to some safe place. After hearing this request from so many people, father became a little worried. He wrote to Sri Aurobindo to get His opinion. Sri Aurobindo answered:

Stay there with the family. Don’t run away.

Nolini-da also wrote something:

Fear will follow you wherever you go.

Father was reassured. He had an iron nerve, infinite courage and extreme reso-luteness. Every evening our parents used to meditate with the children. It was marvellous to focus on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s ideal in that uninhabited, tranquil atmosphere. At that time in the town of Feni, only our family had stayed back. What an astonishing act of courage that was on father’s part, really! Mother would calmly go on with her household activities, untouched by the slightest worry. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were around us, that was our certitude.

In a few days the British soldiers occupied the school and college and every room in the hostel was taken. Our house was very close to the college. We were the only ones living there and there were no neighbours around. At evenfall a strange feeling would overtake us. The whole day was spent in silence and with great caution.

Father believed in safe bind safe find. And so with great effort he dug a large trench next to the courtyard, large enough to fit us all in. As soon as father would blow the conch everyone was supposed to rush into the trench from wherever we were. We rehearsed this for several days. I can still picture father standing erect and blowing that big conch. The sound of that conch would infuse courage into us. However, in the end, the Japanese did not bomb Feni, and we firmly believed that it was the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s unlimited Grace that had protected Feni.

For many years father could not go to Pondicherry. With a heart longing for Sri Aurobindo, every night father loudly called out to Him. Hearing him give that longing call I used to feel that father was undergoing a lot of pain. But for whom? My heart would be overwhelmed. One day I asked mother:

“Ma, why is father so sad? Who does he call with so much longing?”

“Your father is calling his Guru, Sri Aurobindo. Don’t worry about him.”

As a result, naturally my curiosity to know Sri Aurobindo slowly increased as I grew up. When father used to go away to work I would slip into his ‘puja-room’ and look with deep love and devotion at Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s pictures on father’s table. The photo was the one where she is wearing a gown. Two pieces of cloth always used to cover the photos. At that time followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother used to do everything in secret and so in our house too nobody was allowed to enter father’s ‘puja-room’.

When father came to Pondicherry in 1941, Tapati and I came with him. Our photos had been sent to the Mother on Nolini-da’s instructions. During that time anybody wishing to come to the Ashram had to send a photo to the Mother. The Mother used to look at the picture and then give Her permission for the person to come. And so both of us were greatly worried for several days about whether we would pass this test. But then finally Nolini-da’s letter arrived: the Mother had allowed us to come to the Ashram after seeing our photos. It would be difficult to translate the inexpressible joy that we experienced on receiving this news.

On the very day of our arrival we were fortunate to go and see the Mother in the evening. Nolini-da had been waiting for us at the entrance of his room. Father was a very dear friend of his. We had hardly bowed down to him that he gave us some flowers saying:

“Offer these to the Mother.”

With our father we went up to the Mother’s room. Roni-kaka (Ranjit Sen), Suniti-kakima and Chhoto-mama (Himangshu Niyogi) were also with us.

As soon as we reached the top of the stairs we saw that the Mother was standing in front of the door and blessing each one with flowers. So splendid She looked! It was impossible to take my eyes off Her. Hardly did I find myself in Her presence than I felt it was Mother Durga standing in front of me. A crown adorning Her head, there were anklets on Her feet. Everything was filled and aglow with a golden light. A beautiful sari enveloped Her body. A golden Light radiated from Her eyes. Her touch brought about a huge change in me....

I did not feel the slightest urge to go back to Feni. However, it seemed that finishing college was a good idea. If for some reason I could not stay here then at least I would have something to help me stand on my own feet.

I returned to Feni. Time stood still.… All my friends were taken aback to see me unhappy and worried.

“What’s wrong with you?” they kept asking. “I am kind of missing the Mother,” I said.

They could not believe their ears! How could I explain it to them? And in this way, the days plodded on. And then it was time for the B.A. examination. I wrote to Nolini-da to let him know: “I would like to come to the Ashram for good as soon as my examination is over. Please arrange that I get the Mother’s permission.”

Nolini-da replied: “First finish your studies, then we’ll see.”

We all came back with father in 1944 for the April Darshan. I noticed that Nolini-da did not mention anything about my staying here. What was I to do? One day when I went to the Mother, She greeted me very tenderly with a “Bonjour”. Hearing that tender “Bonjour” from the Mother a huge turmoil rocked my being. I felt that I could not stay anywhere else without the Mother. And I blurted out:

“Mother! I want to stay here with You.”

At once I wondered if I had said the right thing and not made a mistake. In fact, at school or college we never used to speak in English. It was difficult to forget that the British had fettered us. And so we studied English only when it was absolutely unavoidable.

No sooner had the Mother heard my prayer that She pulled me behind Her with both Her hands. “Come in,” She said, just as my father got into the room. I was terrified. I had not taken my parents’ permission to decide about staying here. It was therefore natural for me to be scared.

The Mother told my father:

“I am keeping Priti here with me.”

Father looked at the Mother, quite stupefied.

“But, Mother, Bibhavati [Priti’s mother] will be saddened.”

The Mother took father’s hands in Hers and told him with exceeding tenderness:

“Next year you will all come here for good.”

Father’s eyes filled with tears of joy. In deep gratitude he kissed the Mother’s hands. Finally father’s deepest wish was fulfilled. The Mother had herself made the arrangements for our stay here. I often remember that day.

Whenever I told my father, “Why is it that we never get any experiences? Sahana-di speaks of so many of her experiences.”

Father would reply:

“During our times we all used to have all kinds of experiences. We have all gone through all kinds of beautiful experiences. This was not because of anybody’s merit. At that time Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were working on a higher plane. It was easy to meditate. The Mother used to get even the gods down in our midst. Now the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are working with the lower nature. Now everyone has to go through the various problems of the lower nature. If one can open to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, They will solve our problems with the lower nature for us. This path of sadhana is most interesting, even though it is hard. The Mother has stretched out Her hand to help us.”

Father used to explain to me so many things in this way towards the end of his life. One day I asked father:

“Father, why do so many people here suffer because of depression?”

Father said:

“Beware! Depression is a terrible trap of the asuric power. From time to time it takes you away from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s protection. At first the being is overwhelmed with ordinary despair. Then slowly all kinds of bad suggestions start invading the sadhak’s mind. You have to be very careful. Let me tell you of an experience of mine. I was once meditating. I felt a little uneasy, as if from somewhere an asuric force was trying to swallow me up. I began meditating more consciously. I noticed a black, ugly shape standing behind me. His eyes were sharply fixed on me. But I did not feel frightened and was absorbed in deep meditation. Thanks to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s infinite Grace I realised that this being was the devil of depression. You need to be most careful. Be most conscious right from the beginning. Never let depression approach you, even a little.”

Father had given such a vivid description of this devil of depression that it was impossible to let myself slip into despair or gloom.

I would always feel that this asura was going to grab me. This was in April 1945. Father brought mother, my brothers and sisters to the Ashram for good. The Mother Herself enrolled Arati and Manoj in the school. The Mother had already told Manoj:

“I am going to open a school. You will come and study here.”

Father was given work as the head of the publishing department. Then he was given work as the head of our Ashram press. When the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre (now Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education) was established, the Mother made my father professor of philosophy. Father continued to teach even while managing the Ashram press. At night he would attentively go through the final proofs. After finishing the general marching and receiving groundnuts or sweets from the Mother, he would slowly walk down the sea front to the press. And he would get deeply absorbed in all kinds of work. How much he worked all on his own! The press would be totally deserted by then.

Father had offered himself completely to the Mother’s work. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s work was part of father’s sadhana.

So much so that even on the day our mother left her body father did not skip his work at the press. He took his bag and slowly, quietly went down the steps.

Our mother left her body on 12th October 1953. About one year later, on 21st December 1954 our elder brother, Saroj, passed away.

What an incredible happening! Dada (Saroj) was to go to Calcutta. He was very eager to get the Mother’s blessings but unfortunately the Mother was not seeing anyone on that day. Dada was obstinate. On entering the playground upon my return from the tennis-ground, I noticed that Dada was standing against a wall, waiting for the Mother. I said:

“Dada, the Mother will not see anyone today.”

Dada kept standing. The Mother then came out of Her room to go to the interview-room. The Mother went straight to Dada. I was quite scared thinking that the Mother was certainly going to scold Dada. But what happened was just the opposite. Very affectionately the Mother asked Dada:

“Are you leaving today?”

Dada was thrilled and answered enthusiastically:

“Yes, Mother I’m leaving today. I want you to bless me.” “When will you come back?” the Mother asked.

Dada said:

“I will return before the November Darshan.”

I was greatly astonished to see and hear the Mother being so loving and caring.

“You know, Mother, Priti thinks that you love only her.”

I felt deeply embarrassed. The Mother looked at us and smiled. These little fights between brother and sister are common. The Mother turned to Dada and said:

“Au revoir, mon enfant.”

Dada caught typhoid on arriving in Calcutta. Every day he sent a letter. He urged father to come to Calcutta. Slowly Dada became so weak that it became impossible to read his handwriting. Towards the end we received postcards filled with shaky lines. Many of our relatives and close friends wrote to father urging him to come to Calcutta. Dada was in a very critical condition. Every day a telegram would arrive informing us of his state. I would go and give it to Nolini-da for him to read it out to the Mother. The Mother would listen and remain silent. I just could not figure out what exactly was going on. The Mother forbade father to go to Calcutta. All the relatives and close friends were extremely upset with him. The Mother asked that Dada be brought back to Pondicherry in that very condition. Everyone was perplexed. In any case, the eldest son of our youngest aunt, Keta-da, sejo-mashima and mejo-mashima most courageously covered that long distance and brought Dada back to Pondicherry. Dada could not stay a moment without Keta-da. From their very childhood the two had developed a deep friendship. Talking of friendship Satyavrata (Dr. Sen) too comes to mind. After Keta-da went back to Calcutta it was Satyavrata who used to give Dada a sponge bath, feed him while telling him all sorts of stories and keep his mind distracted. And he went on doing this happily day after day. Dada flatly refused to go to the Mother even after much persuasion. The Mother would listen to all this and remain silent. I did not understand anything at all.

Dada would lie on his bed and listen to songs all day. He himself used to sing very well. What a marvellous voice he had! He had come back from Calcutta with a lot of records. One of these records was his favourite. I remember a couple of lines from a song:

My worldly play now its end has reached,

My boat I shall row out to the other shore,

And change into new clothes discarding the old.

I guess Dada must have felt that it was now time for him to leave. He would become strangely silent while listening to this song. For father and us a great ordeal began. The Mother used to send some juhi flowers for Dada every evening. As soon as Manoj had handed these flowers to him, Dada would pull his emaciated weak body up and leaning against the wall sit and start weaving a garland for the Mother. And Manoj would take this garland to give to the Mother. Father would silently bear all his suffering. Sri Aurobindo’s remark, “He is as firm as a rock” was confirmed in his everyday conduct. That gentle, affectionate human being had become hard like stone. Very solemn. As if he had had a presentiment of something.

The day Dada left his body, father was taking his philosophy class at school. On getting the news from Tapati, very quietly he walked back home, as if nothing had happened. Leaning against the wall and sitting in the lotus position, Dada held his hands together in salutation. Like a great yogi. How amazing, really! This is how he breathed his last. Father came and embraced Dada close to his chest. Then a little later he very carefully stretched him out on his bed and covered his legs with a chaddar. He sat still on a chair for the whole day staring at Dada’s face. As firm as a rock, without the hint of a tear in his eyes.

The Mother told me later:

“I forbade your father to go to Calcutta for some reason. You surely remember the day Saroj was to leave for Calcutta I saw him standing and waiting for me as I was going to the interview-room. I went straight to him. Because Saroj’s soul came out to me and said: ‘Mother, this is our last meeting. I shall not see you again in this mortal body.’ And I blessed Saroj.”

Memories of that day come back to me. The ground was empty. Pranab was busy with the children’s group. The Mother kept talking with Dada. I was the only one standing a little further away.

The Mother said:

“Saroj’s soul was very developed. In comparison, his body was extremely weak. He was so incredibly mature within that he considered everything in this outer world as trivial. He would make light of everything. He took this world lightly. His soul needed just a few years of experience. As soon that experience was over his soul took leave.”

After listening to the Mother I finally understood why Dada did not wish to go to see the Mother despite repeated attempts at persuasion. He would just repeat: “I will not go to see the Mother with this bag of bones.”

Father had understood that it was time for his life’s lamp to be extinguished. He was always sort of absent-minded and sad. He would often tell us:

“When you go to the Ashram in the evening, sit there for a while. Do not forget to bow at the samadhi. Even if you cannot meditate all the time, remember the air that has touched the Mother comes and caresses our body and that air is immensely beneficial to us. This divine prasad is the Mother’s blessing. That is why you should go and sit in the Ashram.”

I was awe-struck. I had never seen things this way.

Before he died I had been observing that father on returning from the Playground remained in the Meditation Hall, at the same spot where the bronze bust of Sri Aurobindo stands today. He would sit there for a long time. After father left his body I missed him terribly and I felt an emptiness in that spot. One evening I was sitting in the Meditation Hall when Nolini-da came down from “upstairs”. He did not see me. While entering his room, this empty spot struck him and he at once exclaimed: “What a terrible void he has left there!” Nolini-da had a very deep affection for father.

After sitting in the Meditation Hall father would kneel at the Samadhi where he would stay for a long time. Sometimes I felt very worried about him. At times we had to call him back from the Samadhi.

“It is very late in the night. Don’t you want to go home?”

Slowly, quietly, he would get up and come away. On his way home he recounted to us all kinds of experiences.

Father would often say at home:

“This body has become old. It is time to discard it.”

An absent-minded, empty look was always there. He never told us that he often had chest pains.

On the evening of 21st May I was rather busy with some work. Suddenly Tapati came running:

“Didi! Father is feeling very unwell.”

I rushed to father’s room and saw him sitting on the floor. He had placed a photograph of the Mother on a chair and was holding it with both his hands, his head touching the Mother in obeisance. His body had turned blue and he was sweating profusely. I touched him and found his body completely cold. I rushed to the Ashram and informed the Mother that father was in a very critical state. The Mother sent word to Dr. Sanyal to go at once and examine him. I stood on the second-floor staircase and waited. When I reached the house with Sanyal-da I noticed father was sitting cheerfully on the cot outside in the verandah! Unbelievable! He even joked with Sanyal-da about various things. Sanyal-da went back quite relieved.

One day I found father in deep thought. Very pensive. We were sitting near him. After a while he remarked:

“Tomorrow is Manu’s (Arati’s) birthday. I will not leave on her birthday. I will stay on till her birthday.”

Then he looked at Manoj and said:

“You will stay in this room with Nebu (Tapati).”

He said these things in such a way that we were taken aback.

“Why are you saying these things? Where will you go leaving us behind?” I asked.

Father did not answer. I felt that he was plunged in thought. As night deepened, his chest pain returned. Sanyalda came a few times to give him an injection. The next day was the 22nd of May. The pain did not subside. Even with that tremendous pain he had not forgotten Arati’s birthday. He asked repeatedly:

“Manu has not yet returned from the Mother?”

It seemed that he was restless. That evening the Mother’s work ended very late. So Arati returned home only around six. On seeing her, father felt better at once. He came and sat in a chair.

“Come to me, Manu.”

And he hugged her tightly and asked her all kinds of questions about her birthday. He enquired about the Mother again and again.

Then he went and lay down on his bed. He was a different man now. The pain went on increasing and his suffering became unbearable. It was difficult to watch him in that state. He seemed to have been waiting for Arati to come back from the Mother. And all that time he was battling with death. Meanwhile the pain went on increasing. Father signalled to us to bring him some paper. There was a little bleeding from his mouth. Not wanting us to know, he kept spitting into the paper and throwing it in a bin. He avoided looking at us. Amazing! The night was well advanced and he signalled to us to go to sleep. I switched off the lights and began rubbing father’s back with my hand. And I kept calling the Mother.… Silent tears welled up uncontrollably. Suddenly father exclaimed in a loud voice:

“You should be quiet in a sick man’s room. Don’t spoil the atmosphere.”

And I had not even cried audibly! How did father come to know! From the night of 22nd May father’s condition deteriorated very fast. Early in the morning when Manoj rushed to the Ashram to inform the Mother about his condition, She told him:

“Tell your father that if he wishes to continue in this body he will have to bear this pain.”

And the Mother gave Manoj her “Blessing” for father. Manoj came back home and told father what the Mother had said. He touched the Mother’s “Blessing” on his forehead first and then kept it on his chest. A mysterious smile dawned on his lips. Then suddenly the pain increased even more. Manoj was holding father in his arms when he breathed his last. Father was clutching the Mother’s picture and Her “Blessing”, holding it close to his heart.

We kept staring at father’s face and remained still. It was difficult to understand what had happened. News of father’s departure spread in the Ashram. Ranju-da came home and said:

“Baba (Nolini-da) has asked all of you to go to the Ashram at once. The Mother is waiting for you. Baba is waiting for you near the door next to his room. Go quickly.”

We just looked at him quite nonplussed.

“How can we leave father at this moment and go?” I said to myself.

Ranju-da understood at once. “Don’t worry. We’re here.”

I noticed a lot of Ashramites had gathered quietly in the verandah and the courtyard outside. We left for the Ashram. Nolini-da was indeed waiting for us. He looked at us with great tenderness and said very gently:

“Go upstairs. The Mother is waiting for you in the Meditation Hall.”

We saw that the Mother was sitting upstairs in the same chair where She sat for the Darshans and on the 5th of December. This chair is still kept in the same spot and we still bow down to the chair on Darshan days and on 5th December. It is in front of this chair that on 5th December we all gather and meditate between 10 and 10.30 in the morning.

We entered the room and sat down in front of the Mother. The Mother looked at us and said:

“You will go back to your father’s body and sit around it. Meditate for an hour.”

Then She turned to me and said:

“Don’t cry. Meditate for one full hour. Don’t worry about the flowers. I will give the flowers to Nolini, Amrita and Pavitra. They will also sit and meditate with you.”

We returned from the Mother and came back home and sat before father’s body. We began meditating. But what was this! I kept seeing father, with that happy carefree radiant face! A silk kurta adorned his body, the same that father used to wear for special occasions. A silk chaddar around his neck. His beautiful face was aglow. Father was sitting a little above his body. And he called us all by our names. Slowly he went on rising upward. How wonderful his face looked! I just could not meditate any more. I went on looking at father and could not take my eyes off him.

After the meditation Minu told me:

“I was bowing down at the Samadhi when suddenly I noticed that the Service tree above was covered with flowers. The flowers were arranged in the form of uncle’s (my father’s) body and they were slowly going up. After this celestial vision was over I quickly ran to your house. And there I saw that uncle had indeed left his body!”

On 24th May, the day after father’s passing, we went back once again to the Mother. The Mother was waiting for us in the Meditation Hall, in Her chair. Hardly had we sat down around Her that She began talking to us about death.

“This body is nothing,” She repeated again and again touching Her own hand. “As you change an old sari with a new one, in the same way when the body becomes old and sick, we give up the old body and take up a new one. It is like leaving one room and entering another.”

And even as She was telling us this, suddenly She exclaimed:

“There! There in that corner near the Darshan room, your father is standing full of joy. He is telling you ‘I am extremely happy. Coming over to this side is not difficult at all. Very easy indeed! I am very happy’.”

We turned around to look at that corner but we could not see father.

After father’s departure, why had the Mother asked us to meditate for an hour? This question was troubling me. Was it because something unforeseen had happened to father after his death? I therefore asked the Mother:

“Mother, why did you call us as soon as father had left his body? Why did you ask us to meditate for an hour?”

The Mother answered:

“I asked you to meditate near your father’s bed for an hour because I performed the last rites for him during that time.”

The Mother understood that I was not able to derive much consolation from Her words. I still harboured negative fears for my father. The Mother suddenly asked me:

“Didn’t you see anything during the meditation?” I replied:

“I saw that father was seated a little above his body. His face was aglow with joy. He called us all by our names and then slowly he started moving upward.”

“You’ve seen what truly happened,” the Mother answered. “After his death, his whole being rose upward but his paternal affection kept him tied down as with a slender thread. What will become of my children? How will they be without me? These worries were holding him down. I decided to perform the shraddha for him and free him totally from this bond of paternal love. Your father will not return any more as a human being. He will come down straight as a supramental being upon the earth.”

As soon as the Mother uttered that father would come down as a supramental being upon the earth we cried out joyfully. Hearing our cries of joy Champaklal-ji came running to the door. He also had a smile on his face.

Then I told the Mother about Minu’s vision after father’s death.

The Mother listened to everything and remarked:

“Minu has seen clearly. Your father spent all his life in the service of Sri Aurobindo, to surrender himself. He organised every part of his being around his psychic being. He was an extremely conscious human being. I saw him rise straight upward, gathering every part of his being, straight to that plane where Sri Aurobindo is at work. That’s where he has gone.”

The Mother told Satprem many things about death. While talking about this, She described father’s journey after his death in great detail to him. I include that description below. If man lives his life consciously then his soul progresses. Father’s life is proof of that. The Mother observed:

“Take N.D. for example, a man who lived his whole life with the idea of serving Sri Aurobindo; he died clasping my photo to his breast. This was a consecrated man, very conscious, with an unfailing dedication, and all the parts of his being well organised around the psychic. The day he was going to leave his body, little M was meditating next to the Samadhi when suddenly she had a vision. She saw all the flowers of the tree next to the Samadhi gathering themselves together to form a big bouquet, and rising, rising straight up. And in her vision these flowers were linked with the image of N.D. She ran quickly to their house and she found him dead.

“I only knew about this vision later but on my side, when he left, I saw his whole being gathered together, well united, thoroughly homogenous, in a great aspiration and rising, rising without dispersing, without deviating, straight up to the frontier of what Sri Aurobindo has called ‘the higher hemisphere’, there where Sri Aurobindo in his supramental action presides over earth. And he melted into that light.

“Some time before his heart attack he said to his children:

‘The coat is old, it must be thrown away.’ ”

Sports and the Beginning of the Playground

Physical education started with a group of small boys. During the first years of the Ashram there was no organisation for any sports or games here. The younger boys, Mona, Manoj, Harit, Kittu, Gama, Sumantra and several others would wander around and play anywhere. Nirmal-da and Shanti-bhai had made a group of these boys and they used to make some arrangements for them to play. Nirmal-da and Shanti-bhai were these children’s captains.

The real physical education that you see now, started when Pranab came here in 1945. Slowly all the groups got organised and in 1949 the J.S.A.S.A was formed. That same year the first issue of the Bulletin was also printed in our press. Chitra, Sujata, Suprabha, Tapati and I typed this Bulletin in monotype with great enthusiasm. The Mother requested Sri Aurobindo to write something. Sri Aurobindo’s writings started coming out at first in this Bulletin. What an air of eager expectancy there would be among the Ashramites! What was Sri Aurobindo going to write in the coming issue? Everyone would anticipate and imagine different things. We, who used to work at the press, were extremely privileged. We read the issue several times over before it actually came out!

Many years later the Mother remarked in a displeased way that none of us in the Ashram ever read the Bulletin.

“Whereas my children who live outside read it with so much eagerness. They wait in eager expectancy and are impatient to receive the next issue.”

I at once questioned the Mother:

“Who has told you, Mother, that the Ashramites don’t read the Bulletin? Let us see then. Ask me a question from any page. Let’s see if I can answer or not.”

What could the Mother say to this? She kept quiet.

The Mother started coming to the Playground from

1947. Because of the Mother’s presence all the groups were spontaneously organised. In the beginning our physical education activities were limited to the Playground and included volleyball and a few other games. Boys and girls had different time-schedules for sports. Sometimes it was the girls who played first and at other times it was the boys. In the mornings the boys used to go in a group to the Military Ground to play football.

In 1948 the Ashram acquired the Tennis-ground and the Volleyball-ground. From then on the sports activities were organised in these three grounds. In 1951 the Sports-ground came into existence.

The Playground was in a pitiable state and so the boys had to dig up the entire area and clean it thoroughly to make it fit for sporting activities. The whole Playground was strewn with pieces of broken glass. This place was connected with some liquor business and so naturally there were pieces of broken glass all over the place. A lot of trees had come up in this abandoned field. How much work the small boys put in to prepare this ground! When there is joy and enthusiasm how much work gets so effortlessly accomplished! The Playground is living proof of this. The difference between the Playground of today and the Playground of those times is like heaven and hell. With discipline and order our boys transformed the place into a beautiful playing field.

What is called today group D was then called group C. Mona, Manoj, Harit and several others were in this group and Biren-da was their captain. Biren-da was a well-known boxer. He used to coach them in boxing, vaulting and many other activities. He would designate two captains for each month and their aim was to give proper instructions in sports to the group of boys. And in this way he always tried to inculcate discipline, order and responsibility in them. At the end of the month a small demonstration was organised.

The Mother came to see this demonstration from time to time. Both captains conducted the “Marching” for their respective groups. The captain who had trained and commanded his group best would receive a prize.

Those times were extraordinary. Everyone’s destiny is fixed beforehand. All that is needed from us is personal effort and aspiration.

Now all the groups were organised. In 1948 all the groups were given their uniform, each a different colour. The Mother appointed five boys as captains: Mona, Narendra (Promesse’s brother), Harit (Pranab’s youngest brother), Sumantra and Manoj. Mona was the head-captain. These boys were then merely 12 or 13.

The establishment of our school—the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education—occurred on January 6th in

1952. A ribbon was put at the southern gate of the school and the Mother came to cut it in the evening. And so at that auspicious moment She launched our school. Our school was first called L’école de Sri Aurobindo (Sri Aurobindo’s School) but from 6th January 1952 it became Sri Aurobindo International University Centre.

While the Mother was cutting the ribbon on the southern gate Counouma stood beside Her. Everyone has surely seen this photograph. That ribbon and pair of scissors have been carefully preserved in a glass case. The Mother’s touch is still on them. You can see them if you go to the school.

I remember 1950. That year the Mother announced that a prize called Prix d’Honneur would be awarded. To deserve this prize a student had to be good in everything, an all-round development was necessary. The Mother announced this in the Playground. The boy or girl had to be equally outstanding in studies and sports so as to have a complete personality to merit this Prix d’Honneur. The Mother was proud to announce this. Giving Her own child an award with Her own hand She praised him with unrestrained joy. All those who were present in the Playground were thrilled. Pranab was delighted and listened with a gentle smile. He had after all formed them,—Mona, Sumantra, Debu, Harit, Kittu, Manoj, Amarendra, Batti, Narendra, Vishweshwar, and so many others loved and nurtured by Pranab. Therefore Pranab was especially happy to see his efforts bear fruit.

I kept looking at everybody. When the Mother came to our group (E) to distribute groundnuts and stood in front of me She looked at me with such exceeding delight that I felt She would burst with joy. The Mother exuded the same pride as human mothers do who praise their children. The first Prix d’Honneur was awarded to Manoj.

The little ones came running to see the Prix d’Honneur. You can see Lakshmanraj in the photograph bending over to catch a glimpse of the prize.

From 1953 onwards the Mother Herself used to give this Prix d’Honneur to one of Her children every year. This stopped in 1960. It was decided to give in its place two prizes. The student who excelled in studies got the Prix d’Excellence, the student who excelled in sports received the Sportstar. This is still the practice.

Our boys kept hurting themselves while playing football and the Mother was concerned. Mona was then a captain. Before one such football match Mona went to the Mother to ask for Her blessing.

This is how Mona has recorded that conversation in his book, Sweet Mother—Harmonies of Light, Part Two, pp. 88-


Can’t you play football without hurting yourselves? What, can’t one do better than that? Accidents! Every day there is something, an accident or an unpleasant story. Someone is limping, another one has broken his arm, yet another has twisted his ankle, and many others... The list is endless. What? Is there no end to all these things? Is that where you are? Can one not be a little more conscious? All of you are in such a miserable condition. You are wallowing in the mud, and you do not want to do anything better.

But, Mother, what to do?

So, this is the effort you are making to be conscious?

Sometimes we try, and soon we forget.

Ah! you don’t want to react against this unconsciousness!

But, Mother ...

No, there is no excuse.


Mother, the only way is to stop football—if football is responsible. If You want, You may stop football, and we’ll see whether accidents still occur or not. You may stop football.

Ah! my little one, how? That I will never do! I can’t take such a decision. It is a very good game requiring tremendous endurance and physical capacities, when it is played well. I remember, I saw a match with a team from Calcutta and it gave me a very fine impression. It was a team from Calcutta.

Yes, Mother, it was ‘Mohan Bagan’.

Yes, yes, it was so beautiful to see and so spectacular. It was a flawless game of a high quality. What unity, what cohesion amongst them, with co-ordinated movements, and each one of them doing his little work. And those passes, and those unexpected feints and, especially, the anticipation of what the other was going to do. On the whole, it was power-packed but neat and precise. And also, without nervous brutality. To me, it seemed to be a complete game in itself. I enjoyed it very much.

It must be played like that, without hurting yourselves, without brutality. Then it is good. And how could I stop the game when so many people like to play football? It is not possible. I can’t do something that would hurt everybody. Moreover, it is a game which requires much talent. Better to find a way to avoid any accident.

And it is not football alone, but gymnastics, sports and everything. I am asking you to become a little more conscious, a little more conscious without getting excited. Then you will avoid many accidents. I am watching over you all every minute, and I am giving you all the Peace and the Force needed so that you all may become conscious. Conscious of what is around you, conscious of yourselves. But without any result. It is not football alone that I am blaming, but all the activities.

First of all, I don’t want anybody to get hurt, because I am protecting my children with transparent cocoons, like a glass case put on each one individually, so that the adverse forces cannot touch them. You are well surrounded by the Force and the Light through which nothing can penetrate. It is an absolute protection I have put around you all, and in spite of all this, if you still get hurt, I do not know what to do. Maybe it is a lack of faith or an excitement of the body. Let us see what I can do. In any case, these accidents must be avoided. And I don’t want anybody to get hurt. Once again I give you the Force and my blessings so that you may become conscious. You have to raise these children out of this unconsciousness, out of this tamas and this excitement; above all, never get excited. I am here to help you. Let us see. Good luck!

The tradition of sporting activities has existed since the beginning of the Ashram. Nolini-da, Suresh Chakravarty and a few other younger people used to go and play with local boys in one of the fields in town. They were all very skilled in football. The local players used to praise highly Nolini-da’s style of playing. On everyone’s lips were the names of Roy, Chakra, Basak. All of them used to live here then with fictitious names. They used to play at the Cercle Sportif. After all, these boys were the fearless, young revolutionaries of Muraripukur Bagan.

Let me tell you about two amusing incidents here.

This Chakra was actually Moni or Suresh Chakravarty. He had preceded Sri Aurobindo to Pondicherry to make arrangements for his stay here. Shankar Chettiar revered Sri Aurobindo. He asked Sri Aurobindo, Bejoy Nag and Suresh Chakravarty to come and stay in his two-storeyed house. It is difficult to imagine that under

20-year olds like Moni and Bejoy could stay in that two-storeyed house with Sri Aurobindo for three months at a stretch, day and night. They used to come down once a day just to have a bath. After three months had passed Sri Aurobindo permitted these two youngsters to go out. He had probably understood that now the danger had passed. Well, now let me tell you why I brought this up.

On their first sortie, Suresh Chakravarty and Bejoy Nag went straight out to the market to buy some eggs. After all they needed a change of taste! For one month they had had only rice, moong dal, brinjal and some sort of tomato chutney. At night they used to have some rice and sugar in milk. Now they had their eggs but foolishly they dumped the shells into the pipe upstairs thinking that the pipe was connected to the drain.

One day while Suresh Chakravarty was going down all of a sudden Chettiar caught him. He took him straight to the pipe which ended one foot above the ground. The eggshells were rolling on the ground. Mr. Chettiar seriously enquired:

“Ee Kya?” (What is this?)

It is said that the dumb do not have enemies. Suresh Chakravarty stiffened with fright. He was speechless. Mr. Chettiar:

“Aisa mat karna.” (Don’t do this.)

This did not stop their eating of eggs. But they became cleverer. They used to fill their pockets with eggshells and on their evening walk throw them out.

Then came the fish-chapter.

One day Suresh Chakravarty and Bejoy Nag had a strong desire for fish. They went to Iyer for help. (This Tamil youth used to look after Sri Aurobindo when he stayed in the Arya House for six months. Iyer used to remain in the house day and night during that period.) Even though he was a strict Tamil brahmin vegetarian he did not feel limited by petty traditions. He was quite young. He permitted Suresh Chakravarty and Bejoy Nag to cook fish in his house. They used to cook and cover their fish-preparation to take it home and eat it with full satisfaction. They used to smuggle the fish-preparation in at a time when there was nobody downstairs. One day Moni bought some fish from the market, fried it in Iyer’s house and, wrapping it properly in some paper, brought it directly to Shankar Chettiar’s house. As he entered the house with the paper-wrapped fish he noticed Mr. Chettiar sitting in the living room. The staircase leading to the top floor was at the southeastern corner of this living room.

Without looking anywhere else, Suresh Chakravarti rushed straight for the staircase. But Mr. Chettiar was swifter and he blocked Moni’s path just at the bottom of the staircase. He looked at the bundle and enquired:

Ismey kya hai?” (What’s in there?)

Kucch mithai hai” (some sweets), Moni replied.

It seemed somebody was pounding at his heart with a hammer.

Kahansey mila?” (From where?)

Baajaarsey kharid…” (Bought from the shop.) Moni’s voice choked with fright. Suddenly he had a divine flash!

Babukey liye,” Moni exclaimed.

He meant the sweets were for Sri Aurobindo.

That was it! Here, the name of ‘Babu’ was enough to make

Mr. Chettiar at once clear Moni’s path. Moni sprang past him and ran up the stairs like lightning.

Listen to Suresh Chakravarty’s concluding words:

“In human society it is customary to to use the name of a great man for satisfying one’s personal desires but this was probably the first time it was being used to eat fried fish!”

You cannot imagine the joy I derived from reading these two stories. How impossibly hard it must have been for two young Bengali youngsters to live without fish or meat or eggs!

Let us now return to sports. From the very beginning, importance was given to the body in sadhana. But it was done in a different way then.

Even Sri Aurobindo would take a walk on the verandah for a long time after Nolini-da and Suresh Chakravarty had gone away to play football. His walking stopped only when the boys returned in the evening.

Amrita-da had the privilege of seeing Sri Aurobindo walk. The house in which Sri Aurobindo lived then had three terraces and each terrace was surrounded by walls. Sri Aurobindo lived in the third block. In the block in front Nolini, Souren, Bejoy stayed. Moni lived in the second block. It was in this house that Sri Aurobindo walked around the terrace daily, from five in the evening till eight or half past eight. One evening Amrita-da and his friend, Chettiar, on their way to the sea-front for a walk, suggested leaving their cycles in Sri Aurobindo’s house so that they could walk peacefully. On arriving in front of Sri Aurobindo’s house they found the door closed. They reluctantly knocked. The door suddenly opened. Sri Aurobindo had quietly come, opened the door and immediately gone back to His walk. And so this is how Amrita-da had the privilege of watching Sri Aurobindo taking His walk. Sri Aurobindo had been accustomed to walking all His life. When he moved to the Guest House He used to walk in His room during a fixed time. What was astonishing is the fact that His continuous walking had left footprints on the floor. It is our misfortune that His footprints completely disappeared when the floor was repaired. Later, when He was living in the main building of the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo used to walk in the passage of His room taking support of Champaklal-ji’s and Nirod-da’s shoulders. After His accident it had become impossible for Him to walk all by Himself. But He would still walk. It is important to keep the body healthy for sadhana. Some sort of exercise is indispensable. And this is what He taught us right from the beginning.

From 1942 small children started coming to the Ashram. These were children of those families that wanted to shelter their children here away from the dangers of war. At that time regular, organised sports had not yet started.

In the beginning only a small portion of the present Playground came into the younger children’s use. With a goal post of two sticks and a string tied across to serve as the crossbar, the children used to play football with great enthusiasm. Most children had their first lessons of football on this field. It was also here that the first match was played between the young men and the adults. The adults lost that match by 16 goals! Following this there was another match between the two groups and this time it was on the famous Cercle Sportif in town. This match ended in a goalless draw. Nirod-da scored a goal but it was nullified because of an offside. Kalyan-da, Rishabhchand-da, Kalikumar-da used to play beautifully. The other players were Udar, Bula-da, Rajen-da.

Then football was started at the Tennis-ground. The Ashram boys played their first match at the invitation of a teacher from the French College, Professor Saravane and a wealthy landowner, played against a team of boys from outside. Our boys lost as they had not yet got used to playing on a regular field. Ranju had been made the team captain. An eyewitness report of the match was prepared on the Mother’s instructions and submitted to her by Sri Aurobindo’s follower and revolutionary of the time, our dear father and professor of philosophy, Narendranath Das Gupta. On the same ground in a return match our boys were victorious. The Mother went to witness this match but came away before the end. The Mother had been to quite a few football matches. In one such match while playing with outside boys, Hriday (Pranab’s younger brother) was playing at the back. He was extremely agile, strong and courageous. He was injured when an opponent attacked him unfairly and so could not play any longer. Just before the end of the match in a head duel between Ranju and that same boy, the latter received a head injury and began bleeding. The Mother was present at that time in the Terrain Militaire (the Police Ground). After the match when everyone came to the Mother, She told that boy from the rival team:

“Ce n’est pas si facile!” (It isn’t all that easy!)

With time the Ashram boys became extremely talented in playing football. They went to play a match against a local team in Cuddalore. This time Manju played in place of Hriday as the right out. The Mother went to see this match as well.

By then our own football field at the Sports-ground was ready. It had been Jalad-da’s groundnut field before. The boys went and pleaded with him to convert that field into one for playing football. Jalad-da agreed at once to give up his groundnut field.

Then we got a second field. It was in this ground that the Ashram boys played against the formidable Bengal team. When the reputed Mohan Bagan played an exhibition match with a local team at the Police Ground the Mother was present as the chief guest. Thangaraj, Sailen Manna, Sharat Das, Anil Dey, Nair, Manas Dasgupta who was a classmate of Ranju’s in his college days, were some of the players of the Mohan Bagan team. The game was clean, beautifully coordinated and skilful and the Mother remarked: “C’est un jeu artistique!” (What an artistic game!)

Our boys inevitably got injured while playing. Sunil-da was always the team-captain. Sunil-da also played the sitar beautifully. Unfortunately he broke his right hand badly during one of the football games and his sitar-playing came to an end. We were all saddened by this, especially his mother, Indumukhi. After seeing so many people get injured in this game the Mother nicknamed football a ‘jeu brutal’ (a brutal game).

When Mohan Bagan came to play here, however, the Mother changed Her mind. After the game She affectionately gave all the players a gift. At the conclusion of the game, their captain, Anil Dey thanked everybody and then along with the rest of the team they all loudly hailed the Mother:

“Three cheers for our Ma!”

Needless to say the Mother was deeply pleased by Her children’s, Her devoted footballers’ exemplary conduct.

At the beginning Arun used to play at the goal. Arun’s game was flawless and he was a most dependable player. As backs we had Hriday and Sudhir from Chittagong. Later Kashi Das too joined. Bir Singh, Abhay Singh, Dayakar, Kunjbehari and Robi Gupta used to play in the midfield. As forwards we had Sunil-da, Amiyo, Kanak, Jayant, Manju and Ranju Gupta. Sunil-da often led the team. His game had courage, agility, powerful kicks and heading and he was just perfect as centreforward, what today is called a striker.

Kanak was very good at clever passing and as inside-forward he used to feed the ball to everyone and his play’s main strength was his discipline.

We had subsequently a second team of younger people that came up too! Among these the notable ones were Rathin, Kalu, Mona, Prabhakar, Amarendra, Kittu, Debu, Manoj, Arvind-babu, Shailesh, Ashok and some others. Mona’s game was most complete. He could kick equally well with both legs, had great ball-control, could head well, was strong, fast and had great stamina. He was a perfect pivot as a centre-half. Had he wanted he could have made any state team.

Debu’s game also had great attraction but he did not play as much. It was enough, however, to win praise from connoisseurs of the game. Kittu and Prabhakar also played well.

Often there would be exhibition matches between the young men and the adults. There is a photograph of one such match in the Bulletin. The Mother would start off the match by touching the ball with Her Foot. In the photograph you can see the captain of the adult team, our revered Nolini-da, who is gently smiling and looking at the Mother’s Feet. This photograph was taken on 31st July in the year {{0}}1954[[I am indebted to Ranju for all the information pertaining to football.]].

We would all watch from far the Mother’s way of kicking the ball and playing with it. We enjoyed that moment thoroughly. What enthusiasm and delight there was in everything the Mother did! And these would infect everybody around!

Before going to their football match the boys assembled in front of Pavitra-da’s workshop. Now is Pavitra-da’s office where our Chum works. Chum looks after the replies to all the letters that come from abroad. Mother would call Chum sweetly ‘Choom’.

The Mother used to come down to bless the boys as they were going out to play. How enthusiastic She looked! And we too would be filled with the same enthusiasm and joy, as if we ourselves were going to play!

Waiting for the Mother

I wait for you, O Lord,

With eyes wide awake but see you not,

But this very waiting for you With so much joy is fraught!

In the evening when I used to go to the Mother, She would open the door in front of the staircase around eight. A handful of us girls received the Mother’s flower-blessings. We used to sit on the staircase in the evening and wait for the Mother. Sometimes we waited beyond eight, nine or even ten o’clock. The Mother had not yet come. We had not eaten and very often we had to wait in that condition. Then She would open the door and hurriedly hand us the flowers. Sometimes She was so deeply absorbed in meditation that She would not open the door. We used to sit there for the Mother and wait for hours—and we loved this wonderful waiting. Like our grandmothers and other elderly members of the family in this country who do their daily evening adoration, we too would remain seated and think of Her quietly. We never felt in the least tired or impatient but always had the feeling that we were sitting close to the Mother. That is why I say:

I wait for you, O Lord,

With eyes wide awake but see you not,

But this very waiting for you

With so much joy is fraught!

One day an elderly woman amongst us became restless while waiting for the Mother and suddenly got up. She took her plate of flowers, opened the door slightly and tried to place it on a cupboard. I requested her repeatedly to wait a little longer for the Mother.

“You will leave and the Mother might just then open the door.”

She did not listen to me and, in fact, got angry. Just as she was going downstairs the Mother opened the door! We all stood up quite stunned with disbelief. What kind of test was this? One after the other we took our flower-blessings from Her and went down. I was the last to go to the Mother. I had hardly got into the room when the Mother asked me gravely:

“Who has left this plate of flowers?”

I do not know why but I kept quiet. The Mother Herself then continued:

“I know who has kept these flowers. I know each one’s flower-plate.” (Many used to offer their flowers on a plate or in a flower-basket and the Mother filled their container with garlands or different kinds of flowers.)

The Mother went on very sadly:

“You are most amazing, really! You cannot wait for me even for a little while without getting impatient? You know even gods and goddesses wait eagerly to get a glimpse of me. Great sages and rishis consider themselves eternally grateful if they get even an instant’s vision of me. You have got me so easily that you do not place any value on it.”

Hearing these words from the Mother I was somehow filled with pain. I told the Mother:

“Gods and goddesses or sages and rishis know You as the Eternal Divine Shakti but You are our Mother, You are our Friend. It is true we see You also as the Eternal Shakti but it is more as our Mother and our Friend that we really know You. That is why we make such demands on You and even get upset with You. When we stand or sit under the shade of a tree do we think ‘Ah, how lovely is the shade of this tree’? You are our Friend, our Mother!”

Saying this I felt somewhat burdened within. On behalf of everybody I started asking for forgiveness from the Mother within. Is there no forgiveness for the conduct of unknowing foolish children?

The Mother became strangely silent. From Her eyes soft gentle love began to radiate like moonlight. The Mother responded to my call, “You are our Mother.” I felt as if the Mother was forgiving us all our ignorance and our impudence. Isn’t She forgiving us all the time? She held me close to Her bosom. My body still remembers that hug of love and feels it with gratitude.

The Mother told Champaklal-ji:

“You see me in my human form. That is all that your eyes can comprehend. You behave with me as if I were really a human being and nothing else!”

Nirod-da has written:

“Sri Aurobindo told his attendants: ‘I have come down so close to you and yet you cannot understand me, cannot know me, cannot reach me.’ ”

A line from sadhak Ramprasad comes to mind:

“Who can know you if you do not let yourself be known?”

Nolini-da has written:

“How effortlessly we got a touch of Their body—there was no effort or striving of any kind on our part—but as a result we lost the real value of all the treasures that were proffered. How many times did They allude to this with some sadness—and we, like spoilt children of a rich man, wasted all the wealth away.”

When Sri Aurobindo announced that this Mother was the same as the Divine Mother and He Himself then retired into intense sadhana, a few old sadhaks did not readily accept Her as the “Mother”, some of them even revolted.

Sometimes in the evenings, Nolini-da used to read out from his own writings to a few of us in his outer room. When the number of persons wanting to attend these readings increased the class was shifted to the Meditation Hall. We would all sit facing Nolini-da. During one such class Nolini-da told us:

“You have all known the Mother as ‘Mother’ so very effortlessly. However we were not as fortunate. We had to overcome a lot of resistance in order to accept the Mother as


The gods can’t stand our impudence. After all they too are the Mother’s children. They punish our human arrogance. Let me recount to you one incident here. It happened long ago. At that time the local population of Pondicherry was quite hostile to the Ashram.

One of the Ashram boys was walking by the sea. All of a sudden he noticed at a distance that a group of locals was desecrating a photograph of the Mother. The Ashram boy ran and jumped down from the pier putting his life at risk. He managed to snatch away the Mother’s picture from that whole group of people. The Mother was told about this incident and She forgave them. However the gods avenged this act of foolishness. After this incident it stopped raining in Pondicherry. For several years it did not rain a drop! You cannot imagine the terrible time we went through without water. Water for houses was brought in ‘vandis’ from great distances. Those were very bad days indeed! Then the Mother herself interceded with Indra, the god of rain, in order to relieve us of our misery. She gave to the smaller children of the “Red Group” a prayer to learn. She drew a symbol of water on the ground and the little ones went over this water symbol reciting this prayer in French over and over again:

Pluie, Pluie, Pluie, nous voulons la Pluie

Pluie, Pluie, Pluie, nous demandons la Pluie

Pluie, Pluie, Pluie, nous avons besoin de la Pluie

Pluie, Pluie, Pluie, nous prions pour la Pluie.

(Rain, Rain, Rain, we want the Rain Rain, Rain, Rain, we ask for Rain Rain, Rain, Rain, we need the Rain Rain, Rain, Rain, we pray for Rain.)

All of us who were in the Playground at that time were quite nonplussed by the Mother’s wondrous ways. The Playground had been turned into a seat of prayer and yagna. We looked on quite mesmerised and wondering: So all this is true after all! As a child I used to hear from my grandmothers that when the gods were angry or displeased pestilence and famine and other such inauspicious events took place and entire villages and towns were devastated. I would sneer in disbelief then. How many yagnas and austerities were necessary to bring the gods back onto our side! We have read about so many yagnas in Puranic stories or in the Mahabharata and heard so many stories from the elders ever since our childhood. But it is only after seeing the Mother make arrangements for invoking the god Indra through prayer that I understood that all those stories heard from the elders were not simply stories or imagination. And even today in our country, in this modern age, whenever there is famine or any other inauspicious event, yagnas are performed in order to appease the gods.

Disease and Healing

My life is filled with Her ruthless Grace.

In those days I used to feel that the Mother was quite ruthless. Today my eyes fill up with tears. It is only one who has received this terrible Grace who can know how the Mother has saved us from innumerable disasters and continues to do so even today.

One day in the Playground, the Mother came out of Her room in order to take the salute at the March Past. Evening had almost fallen. All of us (Minnie-di, Milli-di, Gauri, Violet and I) were standing as usual next to the map of India, waiting for the Mother. The Mother arrived and looked at us gravely for a while. We stiffened with fear. “What had we done, now?” we wondered.

The Mother declared in a firm, grave voice:

“Never think, not even by mistake, that I shall leave you.”

Hearing these words from the Mother frightened us even more. The Mother continued:

“As the mother cat carries her kittens holding them by the neck and transports them from one place to another, I too will drag you by force.”

Then She stretched Her hands in such a way, as if to take us by the neck, that we recoiled a little.

“You will not be able to rid yourself of me,” She went

We went on staring at the Mother’s face with fear and “Good Lord! Why is the Mother so angry with us? We are like terrified kittens.”

We were frightened to be so close to the Mother. But I went on calling Her. We did not get to hear any stories or to laugh or even to ask any questions that day. We all sat still like well-behaved children near Her. From time to time I looked up at Her. She seemed steeped in some deep thought, beyond the known or the unknown. But when had we really known the Mother? Then that fear inside began slowly to recede.

We sat with the Mother and felt a little more relaxed. The clouds of fear thinned out. At that moment, even though the Mother looked very distant, we felt as if She was ours. The Mother seated in Her Maheshwari aspect, immobile, calm,—a formidable Vastness radiated from Her all around. Who knows what sort of a path the Mother was preparing for us? Where She was taking us? Where this path would end? What lay at the end of the path? That too was a mystery. The reason for our birth itself was a mystery. All these thoughts and worries began troubling my mind as I sat close to Her.

After father had finished his Playground activities he came home and enquired:

“Tell me, what did the Mother tell all of you so loudly? All of you sat absolutely still! What happened? You looked terrified!”

I told father in great detail what the Mother had told us. Father sat still for some time. He lifted his hands in salutation to the Mother’s picture. He had tears in his eyes.

“What has happened to him?” I wondered. Then father said:

“How lucky we human beings are! The Mother will personally take each one of Her children forward on their path. Why? Don’t you know about Ramakrishna’s example of the baby cat and the baby monkey?”

Then suddenly I remembered. The Mother says:

There are two paths of Yoga, one of tapasya (discipline), and the other of surrender. The path of tapasya is arduous. Here you rely solely upon yourself, you proceed by your own strength.... The other path, the path of surrender, is safe and sure.... In other words, you may follow, as Ramakrishna says, either the path of the baby monkey or that of the baby cat. The baby monkey holds to its mother in order to be carried about and it must hold firm, otherwise if it loses its grip, it falls. On the other hand, the baby cat does not hold to its mother, but is held by the mother and has no fear nor responsibility; it has nothing to do but to let the mother hold it and cry ma ma.

A rock had been lifted off my chest, as it were. I bowed to the

Mother a thousand times.

Let me also quote what Sri Aurobindo told Nirod-da when he brought up this baby monkey and baby cat comparison regarding the sadhaks.

Nirodbaran: Even Ramakrishna’s baby cat type of sadhak has to make a decisive movement of surrender and compel the rest of the being to obedience, which, let me tell you, Sir, is the most difficult thing on earth.

Sri Aurobindo: I never heard that the baby cat was like that—if it were, it would not be a baby cat. (It is the baby monkey that is trying to become a baby cat who does that.) But you have evidently so great a knowledge of spiritual things (surpassing mine and Ramakrishna’s) that I can only bow my head and pass humbly on to people with less knowledge. From this answer of Sri Aurobindo’s we can understand even better how the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have surrounded us with infinite Compassion and have been dragging us along the path of Truth despite our physical and vital tamas and the mind’s innumerable, hard resistances.

I offer my infinite salutations at the Lotus Feet of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They have surrounded us with divine Compassion forever. These words of the Mother keep coming back to me:

“Never think, not even by mistake, that I shall leave you. You will not be able to rid yourself of me.”

Right from my childhood I used to get a slight fever by evenfall. This happened because of my enlarged tonsils. When I was almost fourteen my tonsils were removed. But the fever did not leave me. I however continued to do everything in that condition. After coming to the Ashram my fever increased even more. Every evening when I went to see the Mother, She would immediately ask me how I was. I could not say anything. She held me in Her affectionate arms and concentrated for some time. With the Mother’s gentle touch my body and mind would fill with peace. After taking the flower-blessings from Her I would slowly go back home. And in this way the days passed, one after the other. One day my fever was very high. When I reached the Mother in the evening I could hardly stand. The Mother asked me:

“How are you?”

I just stood before Her speechless. Then all of a sudden, the Mother took hold of my neck in Her tight grip and started shaking me. In pain I began crying loudly.

“Mother, let go of me, let go of me. It’s very painful.” But the Mother continued shaking me.

“Dis, ‘Je me porte bien.’ ” (Say, ‘I am well.’)

I was flabbergasted. My body was burning with fever. How could I say I was well? No word came out of my mouth. The Mother’s grip tightened.

“Dis, ‘Je me porte bien.’ ” I kept crying out of pain.

“Tais-toi. Tais-toi.” (Quiet, be quiet.) “Sri Aurobindo is in the other room.”

On hearing Sri Aurobindo’s name my crying increased even more.

The Mother did not stop shaking me by the neck. She kept saying:

“Dis, ‘Je me porte bien.’ ” and She continued to shake me at the same time.

Just to be free from the Mother’s vice-like grip I repeated, still crying:

“Je me porte bien. Je me porte bien.” (I am well. I am well.)

The Mother had managed to get me to say ‘Je me porte bien’ and She was now happy and responded with

“Très bien. Très bien.” (Very good, very good.)

I returned home crying. At night a deep drowsy sleep came over me. That day this childhood fever that had not left me for a single day suddenly disappeared out of fear of the Mother!

And in this way the Mother protected Her children from so many ordeals and continues to do so even today. But at that moment I felt how ruthless the Mother was!

My life is filled with Her ruthless Grace.


From the beginning of 1950 I suffered quite a lot. I had several big multiple-mouthed boils one after the other under my armpits. Physically those years were indeed testing times for me. When I first went and told the Mother about it, She asked me to go and see Dr. Satyavrata. I was unhappy. The Mother said:

“You know, Satyavrata is not just a good doctor. He believes that the doctor can prescribe medicines to the patient, he can diagnose a disease but what makes the patient healthy is the compassion of some invisible Power. He has experienced this again and again in his life.”

I just stood there silently. Satyavrata was Chitra’s elder brother and a friend of our elder brother. In fact, he was very close to him. It was difficult for me to accept someone of my age as a doctor. There is a saying “The village sadhu does not get alms.” The Mother did not tell me anything more. I had somehow decided that it was only the Mother who could get me out of this hardship. I went on from day to day relying entirely on the Mother’s Compassion. At night I could not sleep. I would keep walking to pass the time. Sometimes I stretched myself in an easy chair and keeping a pillow on either side tried to put my arms gently on them to get some relief. My body was boiling with fever. And days went by in this way. My left arm was all swollen and red. I was in real misery. And the Mother would ask me daily:

“How are you?”

One day I lost my patience and told the Mother: “Mother, you only have to wish and you can help me come

out of this suffering.”

And I showed Her my left arm and how pus was oozing out of it.

“You see how even the nerve has got affected. Why don’t you cure me, Mother?”

And I started weeping out of pain. The Mother held me by the shoulders and looked at me with Her gentle eyes.

“You will understand when you become conscious that through this pain from the boil I am saving you from so many other dangers.”

The Mother’s Love was evident in each word She uttered. I felt extremely ashamed. Holding onto Her Feet I said in a choked voice:

“Mother, forgive me. I could not bear this pain, that’s why

I said these things. Please forgive me, Mother.”

The Mother held me in Her arms and remained in a meditative state for a long time. I’m sure you have guessed that after this I came out of this miserable condition.


The year had hardly ended and I was once again in the grip of boils. This time it was the right arm. It was an unusually big boil with multiple mouths again and it was painful. Every evening the Mother asked me with great concern: “How are you?”

She would hold me by the shoulders and concentrate for a while. But the boil just refused to burst. And my body heated up with the rising temperature.

One day the Mother told me:

“Your body looks like Pavitra’s. There is no receptivity at all. You are like a Transformation tree which has no solid base, whose roots are not deep enough.”

At another time She said:

“You were born without any vitality.”

When the Mother spoke to me about the Transformation tree I suddenly remembered the tree standing in the middle of the Ashram. When I came here in 1944 for good I witnessed a powerful cyclone. In Feni there used to be frequent storms. Chittagong suffers from the fury of cyclones and storms almost every year. But I had never seen a cyclone right on the coast like this one. Huge mountain-like tidal waves came crashing onto the road. The pier shook under its impact. The whole town was devastated. There was a huge Transformation tree in the Ashram, where the cactus garden is today. Under the force of the stormy winds this tree had got uprooted. That’s why when the Mother said that I had ‘no solid base’ I thought of this Transformation tree.

To come back to the real story, then.

I heard what the Mother said but did not reply. I could not deny that my body was indeed going through all kinds of miseries.

One evening when I went to see the Mother, all of a sudden She took on such a fierce form that I was terrified. She declared:

“Listen, you must leave this place tomorrow itself. I shall get your ticket to pack you off tomorrow. Go now and get ready.”

As soon as I heard that I had to leave this place I was mortified. Where could I go? How could I live without the Mother? I hugged Her and started weeping uncon-trollably.

“I won’t go, Mother. I won’t go, Mother.”

“You must leave. And you must leave tomorrow. Now run along and prepare your bags.”

I burst into sobs again. Crying all the way I went back home and lay in bed like one in a drowse. Towards the later part of the night that drowsiness disappeared. When I opened my eyes I saw Bibha and Maya sitting next to me and looking at me.

“What’s wrong with me? Why are you both looking so worried?”

They replied that on hearing me cry they had rushed here. “We saw you lying in a drowse and repeating ‘I won’t go, Mother. I won’t go, Mother.’ ” The whole bed was covered with blood and pus. Both Bibha and Maya prepared warm compresses all through the night. Somehow I had not realised anything at all. My body was extremely weak. They fed me tea and bread and dressed me. The Mother used to come down every morning at ten and give flower-blessings. I went and joined the line too. Just when I was near Bula-da’s room the Mother spotted me from far. I entered the Meditation Hall. I kept telling myself:

“My body is not receptive. Then how did my boil burst?” Very proudly I stepped forward toward the Mother. But

the Mother did not even look at me. She just put some flower-blessings in my hand and bid me farewell. After a lot of thought I understood that the Mother had taken on Her Mahakali form in order to root out this sluggishness from my nature, this inability to receive the Mother’s Force. It had been possible for this fire of aspiration to rise in my body to rid itself of all these overwhelming obstacles and difficulties only due to the swift and victorious help of Her Force. In an instant the grip of that negative energy that had been torturing me so much for the last two or three years loosened.

From time to time I remember this harsh terrible face of the Mother.

How terrified I was that day! I did not understand then how the Mother’s infinite Compassion and Grace had dissipated all the obstacles in a flash. How true it is then,

My life is filled with Her ruthless Grace.

My body and being overflowed with gratitude for this deliverance from unbearable pain and I bowed at the Mother’s Feet. Now I understand why the Mother puts on this terrible form of Rudra. It would be untrue to say that I was not scared but now I feel Her profound Compassion behind it.

Days went by. And then suddenly once again unbearable pain returned! This time to my head. After some time it was discovered that a huge boil had formed right in the centre of my head. I decided not to tell the Mother anything about it and simply bear the pain. The Mother could however understand that something was wrong. I could not bend down after receiving the flower-blessings and would directly come away.

One day the Mother suddenly held my head very hard. I

cried out aloud in pain.

The Mother exclaimed:

“Encore! Non, non!” (Not again! No, no!)

She roared so loudly that all those who were working upstairs came rushing down to see who the Mother was scolding in that way. I was however confident for I knew the danger had been averted. I woke up from my sleep very early. There was no more pain in the head. I felt my head and there wasn’t the slightest hint of a boil there!

And so in this way my life went from year to year, from one ordeal to the next. The boil came back again. This time it came up at such a spot that I found it difficult to walk or even sit. After hesitating for a long time I was forced to tell the Mother about the problem. The Mother blew up once again:

“Je dis: Non, Non!” (I say: No, No!)

And once again on seeing this Rudra form I was confident that I was cured of my boil. In the evening when She came to the Playground to take the salute at the March Past in front of the map of India, She once again said very loudly:

“Non, Non!”

Everyone turned towards me in surprise. They all wondered why Priti was getting such a scolding from the Mother.

After finishing Her classes the Mother returned to the Ashram. I too went back home. I felt terribly sleepy. After a long time I just slumped happily into the arms of sleep. I woke up early in the morning. There was neither pain nor any fever in the body. The boil had vanished!

My life is filled with Her ruthless Grace.

Minu sprained her leg very badly and could not walk. She somehow limped her way up to the Mother with great difficulty.

“Why are you limping like that?” the Mother asked. “I can’t even stand, Mother.”

The Mother looked at her gravely and said: “Walk straight.”

Minu was scared to death. She hesitated a little.

“Walk, I said!” the Mother instructed her firmly again. There was such a power in Her voice that Minu truly be-

gan walking with great effort. And within a few days she could walk and move about absolutely normally.

There was a girl who would get fever almost regularly. One day when she went up to see the Mother her body was burning hot. The Mother began scolding the girl. She was scolding her so loudly that I could hear everything standing at the back of the line. And I was laughing within me. How many times I had faced the same roar myself! The girl came down weeping while the Mother kept looking at her from behind. I had hardly got into Her room when She said:

“Just see how I drove her fever away with my scolding and she feels I do not love her!”

I had got used to being scolded by the Mother and so I just smiled weakly. After making my pranam I rushed to that girl’s house. She was lying in bed and wailing away tearfully.

I told her:

“You know, it was to drive away your fever that the Mother shouted like that. And you came away thinking that She doesn’t love you!”

After getting that scolding this girl never had a fever again. How many are the ways in which the Mother’s compassion can work!


Our tennis games were in full swing. One of the girls would often get stomach pain just during the game. Sometimes she could not play. Sometimes the game had to be stopped because of this.

One day this girl went to the Mother. She was supposed to play tennis that day. But she was in the throes of a terrible stomach pain. The moment she told the Mother that she would not be able to play tennis because of the stomach pain, the Mother raised Her voice again. She got such a scolding from the Mother that she went home crying. Her friends tried to make her understand that if the Mother had told her to play, she should certainly make the effort to go. Her stomach pain would get all right. The most astonishing thing was that her stomach pain did disappear and she never had this pain again! And she could play tennis regularly again.


Our mother (Bibhavati) would often trip and fall. She kept slipping on all kinds of surfaces. Her knees were so badly battered that she would be unable to walk for several days. We children had got used to seeing her fall like this from childhood. And even after coming to the Ashram this tendency did not leave her. Her knee pain would make her helpless. Amrita-da would often tell the Mother about this. In the beginning the Mother used to listen very seriously and hand some flower-blessings to Amrita-da for her. Once, after mother had stumbled yet again and Amrita-da reported this to the Mother, She shouted:

“Why does Bibhavati keep falling?”

She was very angry. From that day the falls stopped. In a flash such an age-long tendency disappeared! When the Mother uses Her own Force all difficulties and obstacles vanish in an instant. That is when we can see Her Mahakali form. For speedy results the Mother often took on this terrible form.


Our father was a professor at the Feni College. It was on Sri Aurobindo’s instructions that he had accepted this job in a small town like Feni. He was not at all bothered about his salary. The youth of that time in Bengal were focussed on one thing alone: to follow Sri Aurobindo’s ideal and guidance in life. On the Mother’s instructions he left his worldly pursuits and came away to the Ashram with his wife and children for good. But even such a man as he had not got over his habit of taking snuff.

Father had not been able to go to the Mother’s room for pranam for a few days. He was unable to come out of a terrible bout of hiccups for days on end. We too were a little worried about this. One evening when I went to the Mother, She enquired:

“Why has your father not come to me for a few days?” I told the Mother about his bout of hiccups.

The Mother remained silent for a while. Then She said: “Bring your father to me right now.”

I rushed home and told father about the Mother’s instructions. Father came with me to the Ashram. His hiccups did not stop. As soon as father entered Her room She scolded him loudly.

“You are addicted to snuff, aren’t you?”

Father was surprised and nodded meekly. The Mother got very angry and started rebuking him strongly. Like one guilty he stood there with bowed head while I was enjoying this scene of father being scolded. So the grown-ups too got scolded by the Mother!

The Mother ordered in a most firm tone:

“Go home at once and throw away all the boxes of snuff you have!”

Father took the flower-blessings from the Mother and went down. His hiccups had stopped just listening to the Mother’s scolding. From his first-floor verandah father started throwing his valuable snuff-boxes onto the street one by one. His face was worth watching then. Everything was possible with the Mother’s instructions. The Mother had freed father from such a long-standing addiction in a second!

We just stood there and watched father. He never took snuff ever again. He followed the Mother’s instructions to the letter right till the very end. Where did father get this strength? Whose ruthless Grace had delivered father from the grip of such an addiction?

At every instant,

You have blessed my life with Your hands.

How can I rekindle those moments back to living reality again?


One day as I got up from the chair after lunch I had an unbearably excruciating pain in the stomach. I felt as if everything was coming out of the stomach. I fell to the floor crying out loudly. There was nobody at home. Just then Manoj returned from the Dining Room after lunch. He came running as soon he heard me crying. I told Manoj:

“Please inform the Mother immediately that I have this terrible pain in my stomach. I can’t bear it.”

Manoj ran to the Mother and told Her about it. After hearing everything She gave Manoj many juin (jasmine) flowers in a handkerchief and said:

“Ask Priti to keep these flowers on her stomach and to try to lie peacefully. All the pain will go away.”

Manoj rushed back home and handed me the flowers and repeated what the Mother had told him. I lay down at once in bed and placed the flowers on my stomach. No sooner had I done so that I fell into a deep sleep. I felt incredibly peaceful. The pain had just vanished! In the evening the Mother came to the Playground. I was waiting for Her. After coming out of Her room She headed straight for the interview room. She did not seem to have noticed me. I called out from behind “Mother”. She stood still on hearing me. I overtook Her and asked:

“Mother, what was wrong with me?”

She did not even raise Her eyes and continued to walk. “Why do you need to know that?”

I was nonplussed.

Gauri and I used to go to the Mother in the evening together. After taking the flower-blessings we would come back home chatting all the way. One evening I don’t know what happened but just as I reached Minu’s house all of a sudden, as I was talking, I fell almost unconscious on Gauri’s shoulder. Poor Gauri somehow dragged me home.

“Go and lie down a little,” she told me, “while I go and inform the Mother that you are unwell.”

I lay there drowsily. In the meantime, my mother, Bibhavati, learning about my condition came to my side. She sat next to me looking worried. Then Gauri returned. She had brought flowers from the Mother.

“The Mother has asked you to place these flowers on your chest and lie quietly.”

Both Gauri and my mother closed the door and went away. The following day I had hardly reached the Mother than She started scolding me badly.

“What do you think? When you come to me I do some work on all of you. But you lose it all on your way back home! You cannot stop chatting even for a second! Sit quietly for a while and then go back home. You know, the connection had almost broken. The psychic being had not yet got back and you just left! You cannot imagine the danger you have gone through!”

Gauri was just behind me and she could hear everything. After that day both of us would sit quietly for some time in the Meditation Hall after receiving the flower-blessings from the Mother. Only then would we go back home. And so I came face to face with death on several occasions. Thanks to the Mother’s limitless compassion each time I came back alive.


Once I had a severe cold. So much so that I could not even stand in the Playground. The Mother noticed it and threw one glance at me. I was terrified.

After the March Past She looked at Millie-di and said: “Take Priti to your house. Make her drink a glass of luke-

warm water with some lemon and honey.”

And She went inside. I went with Millie-di to her house. As we were talking she prepared the glass of lukewarm water with honey and lemon.

“Priti, sit down in the chair and drink this water slowly. This is the Mother’s medicine.”

And truly after drinking that I started feeling much better. Now I always tell people to drink this whenever somebody complains of a cold.


I suffer a lot from constipation. The discomfort has continued even with exercises. In the morning as soon as I saw the Mother She went in and got a short stick. She placed the stick on her back and started walking with long strides. She walked like this a number of times to show me. Then She gave me the stick and I walked a number of times as She had shown me.

“Every morning when you get up, walk like this a few times.”

Then She went inside and got a large glass. Showing me the glass She said:

“Drink seven such glasses of water immediately on waking up.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. How will I ever be able to drink so much water? But after drinking it I truly felt great relief.

Another girl was suffering terribly from piles. The Mother told the girl:

“Every day sit for a while in a bucket of cold water. The swelling and the pain, both will diminish within a few days.”

The girl did as instructed and magically within a few days she got totally cured of her piles!

How can I rekindle those moments to living reality again?


Tapati and I used to go to work at the press in the morning. One day we noticed that Rajsena, Sujata, Sumitra, Suprabha, Chitra, Shivarani-di and several other pressworkers were rearranging the press equipment neatly. And with what enthusiasm! The Mother had told Chitra that She would come to see the press in the evening. Chitra was running around doing all kinds of work. Then the Mother arrived in the evening. We all stood up. The Mother did not look at anyone. She went into every room, stood next to every machine and asked all sorts of questions! We stayed a little behind the Mother. A chair was arranged for the Mother to sit in one of the rooms. The Mother entered this room, looked around and then sat down. Next to the Mother’s chair a tray with toffees was placed. Everyone went one after the other to receive a toffee from Her. We too joined the line. Chitra was now near the Mother and I noticed that her face was a little sad. I wondered what was wrong. Then the Mother went back to the Ashram. In the evening when I went to the Mother, She asked me in a slightly worried tone:

“Do you know what has happened to Chitra? When she came to me to receive a toffee I noticed that she was a little sad.”

I told her:

“Mother, you had told Chitra that you were coming to the press in the evening. She spent the whole day very enthusiastically arranging everything in the press neatly. She really worked a lot. We all worked very hard. But you did not look at us even once. Poor Chitra, she is the youngest of the lot. Probably she felt a little bad about it.”

While listening to me the Mother went into trance. Then after some time She gave me some flower-blessings and I came down. Nothing escaped the Mother, not even a little girl’s sad face from among the hundreds coming to Her.

In this way, so many small, apparently insignificant weaknesses of our nature would be revealed in the presence of the Mother. And She always helped us to overcome our human weaknesses. How many things She has taught us, really!

Let me recount to you an amusing incident about Chitra. We had just begun working in the press. We had to work from morning until half past eleven. Chitra would feel very hungry and when she felt hungry her stomach would start hurting. But it was not possible to get anything to eat at ten. Her work place was quite far. When the Mother came to know about this She started giving her a chocolate packet everyday. It was a well-known French chocolate.


There was another girl who was very weak. The Mother was very concerned about her. Every morning She would Herself prepare a glass of glucose and go and give it to her. And slowly the girl became healthy. This faith of the little ones in the Mother was such that it started working even in the atoms of the body.


“Mother, look, I seem to have a new skin problem on my neck,” a girl told the Mother. The Mother rubbed that spot with Her finger very hard for some time. It was quite a sight to see the Mother doing this. And the skin problem just vanished!


A boy fell from the vaulting box and hurt his spine very badly. The Mother was present in the Playground when this happened. She rushed to the boy and sat next to him. She pressed the spot like Mahishamardini. The whole Playground stood still in a hush. We were all calling the Mother. Everyday after Her game of tennis the Mother would go to see this boy in his house. She would sit there and talk to him. In a few months the boy became all right. I had never imagined that this unfortunate boy would be able to walk straight after such a serious injury.


Chitra Jauhar is Lata and Tara’s sister. Let me recount an interesting incident about her. The Mother used to distribute toffees to the little ones in the Meditation Hall upstairs at noon every day. We all waited, leaning against the wall.

“Bonjour, mes enfants,” (Good morning, my children,) the

Mother would greet us all on entering.

We would all respond together:

“Bonjour, Douce Mère.” (Good morning, Sweet Mother.) There was so much noise and movement that the Mother

would often remark:

“It’s like being in a huge cage of birds! Chirping away all the time!”

But Her face wore an indulgent smile. She would take a toffee from the tray and give one to each one. One day just then Chitra had an awful bout of hiccups. The Mother turned to her for a moment. Then when She came to Chitra to give her a toffee, all of a sudden She gave a big thump on Chitra’s back very earnestly. Then She continued distributing toffees to the other children. We were simply shaken! What was the matter? Why did She thump Chitra’s back so hard? In that single thump Chitra’s hiccups stopped! And we all burst out laughing.


Once during this toffee distribution Arunkant (Usha and Urmila’s brother) who was just four or five fell asleep. His body was covered with boils. And there was a poultice on each boil. In fact, we used to call him “Poultice Babaji”. He was a roly-poly kind of boy. The Mother would personally examine Arunkant’s condition every day. That day She told Lallubhai:

“Please take Arunkant home.”

Lallubhai was just not able to lift Arunkant. He observed in Bengali:

“Eta ekta besh bhari jinish aachhey!” (This is some heavy stuff!)

On hearing Lallubhai speak Bengali we all burst out laughing. The Mother wanted to know why we were laughing. After we explained the reason, the Mother herself started laughing. What an uproarious scene that was! Sri Aurobindo’s room was just across. I wonder what He must have thought about us youngsters laughing like that!

The Mother’s Classes in the Playground

The first French class that the Mother started in the Playground used to take place on its eastern side in a small room. This was the same room where She gave interviews. In fact we called it the Mother’s Interview Room.

Pavitra-da’s laboratory was in a smaller room next to it. All the students of this class were grown-ups. We were about ten or twelve: Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Amrita-da, Kalyan-da, Dayakar, Ranju, Amiyo and we five girls, Minnie-di, Millie-di, Tehmi-ben, Violette and I.

The Mother would come to the class immediately after finishing Her game of tennis. We had almost everyday a dictation. I had just begun the second book and so naturally I felt extremely scared of dictations. I would sit there like an idiot, a “Royal” pencil in hand, amidst all those pundits. While giving the dictation the Mother would repeat the whole sentence in her soft voice very slowly so that I could write. Out of fear I would be drenched in sweat. After reading the dictation She would take each notebook one after the other and attentively correct the mistakes Herself. My notebook was full of red marks. The Mother would look at me and gently smile as if to say: ‘Ink-stained hands, ink-stained mouth, why, my child has returned from school!’ I would keep my notebook in such a way that nobody could see it. After the dictation everyone had to recite poems. Even Nolini-da, Pavitra-da and Amritada had to do it. No one could escape this. And everyone got nervous in front of the Mother. I have recited a lot of poems before the Mother: Les Elfes by Le Conte de Lisle, Liberté by Paul Eluard, Booz Endormi, La Conscience by Victor Hugo, the famous poem Ballade de Florentin Prunier by Georges Duhamel and other poems by reputed poets. Minnie-di once recited a poem most beautifully in her sweet voice. We were all enchanted. Tehmi-ben, in her lovely voice, recited the very well-known poem by Paul Verlaine “Il pleure dans mon coeur/ Comme il pleut sur la ville”. The most mischievous of the lot, Amrita-da always brought the shortest poem to recite. His recitation would be over in no time! He would then heave a sigh of relief and look at the others and quietly smile. He was a great fun-loving man and was known for his joviality in the Ashram. Even when he spoke to the Mother, there was a glint of mischief in his eyes. Let me recount one incident. In the Mother’s room near Her door there was a small area that was slightly raised. Almost everyone stumbled there. One day somebody suggested that this area be levelled off. The Mother objected, saying strongly:

“You should all be a little conscious.”

One day Amrita-da while coming into the room hit his foot very badly at this place. The Mother exclaimed:


Pat came the answer from his mischief-filled eyes: “Mother, just trying to be conscious!”

And everyone present there burst out laughing. The Mother Herself could not control Her laughter. This was our Amrita-da. And so naturally his presence made the French class most interesting and amusing.

The Mother would Herself read out each of the poems that were recited to Her. If only we could have recorded those poems in the Mother’s voice! It was only after listening to the Mother that I understood how words combined with music and rhythm in order to bring out the actual meaning of the poem.

In this French class, the Mother read out from works of Molière, Racine, Corneille, Anatole France. She enjoyed reading Révolte des Anges by Anatole France and Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. She also read Andromaque, Le Cid, Les Femmes Savantes and other such works. We would just sit and listen entranced.

I remember an incident now. The Mother asked me to go to the board to write something. I started writing. When I finished, I noticed that my line instead of being straight was going upward. I was deeply embarrassed. Everyone else was laughing merrily. She told me very gently:

C’est ton aspiration qui monte tout droit vers l’Infini.” (It is your aspiration that is rising straight towards the Infinite.)

This was the Mother’s way. She would never embarrass anybody. She always encouraged us at every moment. How She helped us to get rid of fear and diffidence from our nature!

Once while taking the dictation instead of writing vraiment I wrote vraiement. Pavitra-da started teasing me. I told the Mother: “In French it is with the feminine form of the adjective that the adverb is made.”

She called Pavitra-da and said:

“Now, great pundit, explain to her why you should write


And the Mother went on looking teasingly at Pavitra-da. Pavitra-da just said:

“Priti, this is how it is written.”

I kept quiet. The Mother went on smiling at me and in order to console me said:

“I too used to make a lot of spelling mistakes.”

This was truly Mother’s way. Always encouraging us, giving us instances from Her own life, She took us forward. When I returned home I took up the French grammar book and studied very carefully the chapter on adverbs. Only then did I feel confident.

The most difficult thing for me was to be able to speak French without making any mistakes. The Mother would not talk to us in any other language.

Here I am reminded of an incident from Amrita-da’s childhood. He had grown restless to have the Darshan of Sri Aurobindo. He requested Bejoykant to take him to Sri Aurobindo. Evidently Amrita-da had already had the Darshan of the Master. Bejoykant (the same person who had come away to Pondicherry with Sri Aurobindo) replied that he would ask Sri Aurobindo and let him know. Four or five days later, Bejoykant told Amrita-da in the morning that he could have Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan that evening. Bejoykant accompanied Amrita-da to Sri Aurobindo that evening with a little hesitation. Sri Aurobindo was writing at that time. He left his writing and turned towards Bejoykant and Amrita-da to look at them. Amrita-da turned around and saw that Bejoykant was no longer with him. Amrita-da was all alone.

Sri Aurobindo went on looking at Amrita-da and Amritada lost himself in His eyes. He could not speak English very well then and so he was extremely nervous. He however tried to speak a little. The few words that he had learnt before coming to see Him also got stuck in his throat. Somehow he managed to blurt out:

“I want come daily see you.”

My condition in trying to speak French was a little like Amrita-da’s speaking English. I don’t know whether Sri Aurobindo laughed on hearing Amrita-da’s English but the Mother would often tease me while listening to me speak French. I would sometimes get almost angry with irritation. Two incidents come to mind.

One day I had very high fever and so I went to inform the

Mother. I blurted out in my wrong French: “Mère, j’ai du fièvre.”

As soon as She heard me say this She started teasing me. “J’ai du fièvre, j’ai du fièvre,” She went on repeating. She gave me a flower and once again repeated:

J’ai du fièvre.”

On another occasion I blurted out:

Ce livre appartient à moi.” At once the Mother took up the wrong sentence “appartient à moi, appartient à moi.” She repeated it in such a way that I felt very embarrassed. Her eyes glimmered with an unforgettable mischief. That look of Hers flashes in my memory even today like a living photograph.


The Mother was sitting with an open book and we all sat around Her, staring at Her intently in pin-drop silence. But within we felt a suppressed excitement. What is She going to tell us today? There was a table-lamp beside Her to illumine the book from which She would read. In a thousand rays its light had completely surrounded the Mother and was bowing down to Her. We waited quietly. Bathed in that cascading light the beauty of the Mother’s pure white body was incomparable.

All of us, young, old and adults, sat mesmerised by the Mother’s face. The Mother turned the pages of the book. Just the sound of shuffling paper. That is all. The creatures of the world were impatient to hear the Mother’s voice, so soft to the ears. Even the gods had come down to the Playground. They too sat in our midst. They too had never seen such a sight! The Divine Mother herself teaching Her human children! The gods too had never had Darshan of the Mother in a human body. That is why they would come down to be close to Her. I have also heard that in the evening when the Mother came downstairs to give us flower-blessings in the Ashram, the gods would gather in the Meditation Hall. The Divine Mother Herself had taken on a human body in order to descend into this dust-filled earth of ours. It was but natural for the gods to desire to have Her Darshan. After all, they never get to see the Mother like this. How fortunate we are then to be blessed with human life!

When the Mother read out “The Four Aspects of the Mother” from Sri Aurobindo’s book The Mother, we all just stared at Her face unblinkingly. While reading the descriptions of Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, She would bring down the Power of each one on to the Playground. Even Her voice would change for each of the four Powers. “Mahakali is of another nature. Not wideness but height, not wisdom but force and strength are her peculiar power.” While reading this part there was so much power and intensity in the Mother’s voice! The whole Playground reverberated with the sound of the Mother’s deep, grave voice. The Mother’s physical appearance changed too. Seeing Her then we felt like little ants. The ground was enveloped in a profound hush. Everyone, the young, the adults, the old, remained silent. What an enchanting atmosphere was created in these classes during those days!

Janani tomar maranharan bani

Nirob gaganey bhori uthey chupey chupey.

(Your voice that stamps out the fear of death, Rises and fills up the sky imperceptibly.)

Sometimes the Mother would give mischievous answers to our questions. On days when She was in a jovial mood, She recounted incidents from Her own life. We shall come to those stories a little later. Stories would come tumbling out of “grandma’s bag” [thakumar jhuli, a Bengali expression referring to a collection of enthralling stories for children]. Her bag was full of all kinds of stories. The more we heard these stories, the more we felt like listening to others. We would all push one another to sit as close as possible around Her. The Mother had a marvellous way of telling stories. It was in this class that She told us about Her time in Algeria where She had gone to learn occultism with Théon. She told us many stories from that time. Days just flew past…

Everyone wanted to join the Mother’s French class just to listen to Her and try to understand what She said. Sometimes the class would go on till nine o’clock. But She never got tired. She just went on talking and we just went on gleefully drinking it all in. Sometimes the subjects were subtle philosophical ones: the Mother would talk to us about death in such a simple language that even we, with our little minds, could naturally understand something.

Sometimes the Mother told us such amusing things that the whole Playground would resound with laughter; even those serious-minded “who were forbidden to laugh” could not control themselves and had cramps in their stomachs. The Mother laughed heartily too and enjoyed herself tremendously.

Nolini-da and Pavitra-da were always present in this class. The Mother used to look upon Pavitra-da as her young son. If there was any scientific thing to be explained in the class, She at once called Pavitra-da.

“Pavitra, O great pundit, would you kindly explain this question?”

And Her eyes would light up with mischievous glee. Poor Pavitra-da looked a little flustered in front of all his students and then he would start explaining seriously. He really got quite nervous. And we used to all enjoy the scene. How bottled up he looked then!

The Mother had a different relationship with Nolini-da— that of an elder son. One day there was an animated discussion on ‘purusha’ and ‘prakriti’. The younger ones were just not getting the idea.

I remembered how in my college days our philosophy professor had tried so desperately to make us understand the concept of ‘purusha’ and ‘prakriti’. The moment he mentioned

‘purusha’ and ‘prakriti’ we would immediately think of man and woman and start laughing! What on earth was the teacher trying to tell us?

I did not think that one day this same question would come up in the Mother’s class as well. I felt greatly frustrated.

The Mother avoided the question and sweetly asked Nolini-da:

“Nolini, why don’t you explain this to them simply. I don’t know anything.”

We all sat expectantly waiting to see how Nolini-da would explain it.

Nolini-da did not speak for some time. We just kept on looking at his face with uncontrollable curiosity. Then finally he said:

“If the Mother herself does not know then how can Nolini know anything?”

We were dumbstruck!

What an answer! Bravo! All these old sadhaks like Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Amrita-da always had that attitude of great humility vis-à-vis the Mother. It was such an admirable trait in them. We have learnt so much from their beautiful conduct by keeping the goal of faithful love for the Mother always in mind.

The Mother kept looking at Nolini-da for a while. Love was overflowing from Her eyes.

Then the Mother herself explained the difficult concept of ‘purusha’ and ‘prakriti’ so simply and so beautifully that we could not believe it! And when we went on to read “The Divine Shakti” from Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga I realised I had finally understood!

The Mother had a natural gift of being able to explain clearly in simple language difficult philosophical concepts and spiritual subjects. She used to teach us so many things with so much patience! Things that I had imagined I would never understand, I began following almost without my knowing. The Mother shaped us with limitless patience. She would tell us many stories from Her life. Those were the days when we received supreme lessons. I can still hear that marvellously soft, gentle voice of the Mother today. With words it is impossible to catch that blissful state we lived in under the beautiful musical cascade of that voice of pure sweetness. Those words articulated in that voice still resonate within me.

Kaaneyr bhitor diya mormey poshilo go

Aakul korilo mor praan.

(Through my ears they entered my inmost heart, And made my being hunger for yet more.)

After the lesson was over we would just sit there, as if stunned. You could say that a massive peace had come down on to the Playground. In that bright glow the Mother’s delicate beauty was indescribable: just Her sweet voice that continued to reverberate within us seeking our response. So many memories come up again and again to mind. After the lesson, the Mother would close the book and say:

“Come, let’s meditate a little, shall we?”

We all closed our books and sat still. As if we were champions of meditation! One by one all the lights were switched off.

During the fortnight when the moon was waxing, the Playground was enveloped in soft moonlight. The moon would bow to the Mother by encircling Her entire body. A little away the ashwattha tree in our house rustled and swayed. There too the gentle play of light and shade was visible on every branch and leaf. I looked up and noticed that everyone was absorbed in deep meditation. The roar of the sea wafted in from a distance. It felt like another planet. The heart never had enough of looking at the Mother. I felt as if I was living in some dream-kingdom. Looking skyward I felt as if the sky too was bending earthward, transfixed at the sight of the Mother. What an extraordinarily tranquil, gentle air! As if all earthly creatures were in a trance!

Stabdho aakash, neerob shashi robi,

Tomaar charonpaaney nayon kori nato

Bhubon daandiyey aachhey ekanto.

(The skies are silent, silent the moon and the sun, Their eyes fixed on Thy Feet,

While the world stands still in solitude.)

My eyes were fixed on the horizon while the sea breeze caressed our bodies. It was a godly hour.

The gentle breeze spread a sweet subtle fragrance from the Mother’s body. That very familiar fragrance again! Whenever we went to the Mother we returned with Her fragrance on us brought to us by Her loving touch. And this sweet fragrance would remain with us for the whole day at home. We always felt that the Mother was there with us. What a wonderful sensation!

Seeing the Mother in this form I remembered a song from my childhood:

Who says God has no form, who says God has no shape?

Let him wipe his eyes and see tonight.

See, O disbeliever, how glorious is my Mother’s form,

How at Her feet a million moons scatter their silver radiance!

I kept looking at the Mother, kept looking…God knows when I fell into this rapture, imperceptibly absorbed in meditation. Suddenly I felt there was nobody anywhere and I was sitting all alone. Where this place was I did not know. And then I would suddenly start and see everyone still deeply engrossed in meditation. I looked at the Mother and She too was in deep meditation. No, the meditation was not over yet! And in this way my own meditation would often be interrupted. What an amazing experience that was: by just staring at the Mother’s face a supreme trust would make my eyes close once again. What a joy to be sitting so close to the Mother!

The Playground looked different in the waning moon. As soon as the lights were turned off everyone seemed to be alone. The whole Playground would be covered in darkness. Looking up, I could see the stars blossom in the sky. The residents of the skies were watching the Mother. I felt as if someone was signalling to us from afar, calling us, as it were. Sitting near the Mother in this dense darkness, I felt that the Mother looked like someone unknown and unknowable. After all, the Mother has always been beyond human touch and holding. Hasn’t She come of Her own will down to the earth? And that is why we are blessed to be able to see Her.

I did not know that Darkness had so many forms. We have always looked upon Darkness as fearsome. The Mother is present in our midst, down here under the illimitable sky. Why fear the unknown, then? I remember some incidents from my childhood.

In the evening I would sit, the door open, and stare at the empty field that stretched out in front. Not a living creature anywhere around. My little mind, looking out into that boundless darkness, would be overcome with some kind of sadness. But due to some tremendous attraction of this dark earth I kept sitting on the staircase next to the door. That same darkness, that same night had slowly descended on to the Playground as well, but in place of sadness, peace would come into our mind and body. In the Mother’s presence everything was transformed into peace and we would slip into meditation. I felt as if I did not exist! Or that I had become just a point! What an astonishing experience that was! When I opened my eyes I saw thick darkness flooding all around the Mother. All of a sudden I felt: “Who are we sitting with?” The one described by a writer as “the one Refuge of all, Light of lights, Pace of all movement, Life of all life, Soul of all beauty” was for man and humanity but thick darkness. Was this due to an absence of form? What we cannot understand, cannot know, whose core we cannot penetrate for lack of a path, that is what we call darkness. That writer was unaware that the Divine Mother Herself and the Supreme Purusha would become visible to us in human form and we would be blessed. Despite being inhabitants of that distant realm they came down to this mortal world. They were no longer dense darkness to human eyes. With this massive discovery I started feeling a profound thrill of beatitude race through my mind and body.

The Mother used to read to us from Her Prayers and Meditations in the Darshan room usually after half past twelve. Wise, experienced sadhaks also joined us young immature girls and boys. Dada (Pranab) sat facing the Mother. Behind the Mother’s chair sat one of Her devoted attendants. All of us would sit facing the Mother, all around Her. The grown-ups sat behind us. The Mother used to answer all kinds of questions. I did not understand much. At that time I did not understand French at all. Moreover the subjects were all highly philosophical. One day, after the class when I went up to Her to receive flower-blessings I finally blurted out:

“Mother, I get a terrible headache after the class. Why is that?”

The Mother started laughing.

“You are not yet ready to understand all these philosophical concepts. I am getting new cells ready in your brain. Slowly you will understand everything. After the class, go home and quietly sit in meditation. With time the understanding will come.”

Today I feel like hearing these words from the Mother once again. Now when I read the Mother’s or Sri Aurobindo’s books I quite enjoy them. Now it is not as difficult as before. Mother Mahasaraswati with all Her skilfulness and artistry has shaped our minds and intelligence with exceeding patience, even without our knowing. How many different forms have we seen of the Mother’s ceaseless, untiring, ever-dynamic force of action! It did not seem unusual then. How else did we expect a Mother to look after Her children? Today I feel, it was the Mother herself who must have given us this sense of “right”, otherwise how could we have ever behaved with such impudence! Could such impossible things have ever occurred had the Mother not consented?

These classes that were held in the Meditation hall upstairs in fact had started in the Mother’s room. The Mother used to read from Prayers and Meditations there after ten. A large sofa was kept for the Mother near the cupboard one passes as one turns to go to Her second-floor room. The Mother would sit on this sofa and read out the prayers. We had been dreaming about hearing the Mother read the Prayers and Meditations to us. We kept telling one another:

“Ah, if only the Mother would invite us one day to read

Prayers and Meditations!”

And in that anticipated joy we kept memorising all the prayers. We did not know then that She used to read out from this book to Dada (Pranab) every day. The Mother came out on the terrace at about ten o’clock (this was known as the Terrace Darshan). We would be waiting from much earlier at the Ashram in the open courtyard near Satyakarma’s room. We carried the book, Prayers and Meditations, with us. Then Chitra and I would sit and read this book together. It was from then that this desire rose strongly in us to read this book with the Mother. And what a surprise! Our prayer was answered one day! One day, Chitra, Tapati and I were waiting on the staircase to go to the Mother. First Tapati entered. The Mother told her something. Tapati did not come out from the room. Then it was Chitra’s turn. She went to the Mother a little hesitantly. The Mother told her something as well. And she did not come out of the room either!

“Good Lord! What punishment was awaiting me this time?”

I went in a little reluctantly with this thought in my head. “Would you like to study Prayers and Meditations?” I went

wild with this unexpected joy! On entering the room I saw that Tapati and Chitra were happily seated next to Pranab. Their eyes seemed to say:

“Just see, how our prayer has been answered!”

So we were four to start with. And that is how the Prayers and Meditations class started. On Tapati’s birthday the Mother had given her a copy of Prayers and Meditations to read but that was much before this class started. Gradually the number of people coming to this class increased. For lack of space the class was shifted to the Meditation hall next to Sri Aurobindo’s room.

I have to tell you about an amusing incident that happened when the class was organised in the Mother’s room. We prepared our questions before going to the class. We had just begun learning French then. And so naturally the questions were properly committed to memory again and again. Even then we got terribly nervous talking in French. One of us while trying to ask a question in French got so nervous that instead of saying ‘N’est-ce pas cela?’ blurted out: ‘N’est ta pas ta la?

We were rolling with laughter! The Mother too began laughing joyously as She watched us. That poor girl was so embarrassed then!

My friend Gauri (who was later given the work of attending on the Mother at the Playground) and I used to take so much trouble to prepare the questions. Our knowledge of French was such at that stage that writing a single line in French was like having a brain operation! Just to think of our facial expression at that time makes me laugh.

The Mother’s chair was placed facing Sri Aurobindo’s room. Perhaps the Mother could see Sri Aurobindo in this way. We sat facing the Mother and so we did not have the privilege of getting a glimpse of Sri Aurobindo. We did not ever look back, not even out of curiosity! There was a subtle wall of ‘don’ts’ that prevented us from doing such things. The Mother used to ask each one of us to open the book with eyes closed. The line that appeared had to be recited out loud to the Mother. Someone had this line to recite:

O Mère, prends pitié de moi!” and the Mother seemed to nod in answer! I got the following line one day:

Paix, paix sur toute la terre.”

Tapati got: “Écoute notre prière, réponds à notre appel, viens!

We had to concentrate with our eyes closed and with the help of a paper cutter we opened any page and pointed at a line. The line that came up was supposed to be some sort of an indication for that person. The Mother has spoken at great length about this in the Bulletin of August 1960 on page

58. It is most interesting. You’re feeling down? All right, just concentrate with your eyes closed and open a page from Bases of Yoga. What line has come? Just what corresponds perfectly to that particular state of your mind at that time! That is how the Mother taught each one of us to read! And this is how the Mother continued to play with us. Probably through this game the Mother was watching the progress of our consciousness, She was keeping track of the personal difficulties on the path. Then in a subtle way She would send Her help to each according to his need. Everything that happened then in the guise of a game has today sunk below the waves of memory. Even at that time we did not realise that all this would be lost one day. We had not grasped its value then. We had not the intelligence to understand that nothing more substantial than a few memories is all that would be left to us.

It was in this class that the Mother asked one day:

“Which is the shortest prayer in Prayers and Meditations?”

The entire class was stumped! Even the grown-ups who knew French well lowered their heads in silence, like bad students who had not revised their lessons! Tehmi-ben from amongst us softly mentioned the date and year of that prayer. Tehmi-ben always kept herself in the background as she was a most timid and quiet sort of a girl. The Mother looked affectionately at Tehmi-ben for some time while we younger ones swelled up with pride. One of us answered a question that even the grown-ups had not been able to answer! There was a subtle competition between the young and the old right from the beginning! It is like the first child who sees his younger siblings arrive and thinks that they have come to take their share of the mother’s love. There is a tinge of jealousy. Well, it was something like that! In tennis, this competition was most glaring. Even in football. Often the matches were between the young and the old. But it was great fun.

One day this class suddenly stopped.

The year was 1947. India became free and Partition followed. That year, on the evening of 15th August one of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples was killed by some outsiders. It was a ghastly sight. It was in this class that after this dreadful incident the Mother was forced to comment:

“Become sincere. Walk on the path of Truth. Otherwise one day either Sri Aurobindo or I will have to go away.”

A deep pain had been felt at these words of the Mother. We were all trembling with fear. How could the Mother say such a thing? And that is what happened. This is perhaps our misfortune.

The Mother wills one way and we in our lack of intelligence go another. One day while walking in the Playground the Mother observed:

“I had known so far the saying ‘Man proposes, God disposes’ but now I see it is ‘God proposes, man disposes’.” The Mother’s voice had a tinge of sadness.

We have become obstacles in the Mother’s Work. And yet

I will assert, in the Mother’s words:

No human will can finally prevail against the Divine’s Will.

Learning French from the Mother

I had the privilege of being in class with the Mother all by myself. You cannot imagine my nervousness during these classes. At that time I did not know much French nor did I have any practice of it. I just did not feel like opening my mouth because I felt it would be greatly embarrassing. But with a gentle smile the Mother would go on talking in French. She, however, succeeded in planting the seed of selfconfidence in the mind of a novice. Everyday She would offer me the flower called Calm and modest self-confidence. In the beginning I couldn’t bring myself to speak in French but then slowly and most surprisingly that fear completely left me.

She would open the book and say: “Today we shall read this page.”

And She herself read it out. If She had difficulty in seeing a word She would tell me, indicating with Her finger, to get the magnifying glass from the cupboard:

“Look there.”

My mind would go completely blank and I would shrivel up with fear. I would open the cupboard but I just couldn’t find the magnifying glass!

The Mother would keep repeating: “There it is, there!”

And finally I did manage to find it.

I used to break out in a sweat. After the Mother’s reading, it was my turn! I would read on. If I raised my eyes to look at the Mother I would see Her in deep meditation, Her body totally immobile and Her hands placed together on Her lap. A profound stillness had enveloped and taken Her very far away. She would be sitting there, bent slightly forward. And just a few moments earlier She had been directing me to find the magnifying glass in the cupboard while reading out the text in French!

The door near Her chair, to the south, was kept open. That chair is still kept in the same place. When you go up to the Mother’s room on the second floor you go past this chair just before getting to the staircase. After bowing to Her in Her room we once again bow to Her by bowing to this chair. How long this chair has stood there carrying the blissful memories of the past! Let us come back to my class.

I would sit there and keep looking at the Mother silently. One of the Service tree branches stretched out onto the terrace. There was a festival of golden yellow flowers on it and the flowers kept falling on the terrace one after another, moved by the wind: clusters of flowers swaying gently and eyeing the Mother in that silence-wrapped form—as if greeting Her with “Bonjour, Douce Mère!” (Good Morning, Sweet Mother!)

Sitting there at the Mother’s Feet my eyes would fill with that solitary form of the Mother absorbed in meditation and my heart spilled over with pure bliss. A marvellous thrill coursed through my mind and body. Those enchanting days haven’t left me even today.

One day during the class the Mother asked me rather unexpectedly:

“Can you cook?”

I was quite flustered by Her question! And I’ll tell you why.

I was then thirteen or fourteen. One day my mother was to go somewhere in the evening so she called me and said:

“You’ll cook today. I have to go out on some important work.”

I was thrilled and got down to cooking. Alur dam! But I put too much water! It would take a long time for the vegetable to be ready. So what could I do while waiting? I decided to make use of that time to revise my lesson for the following day. Time just flew! Suddenly a smell of something burning wafted into my nostrils! I rushed to the kitchen only to find that everything had turned black. Just a few potatoes on top were looking at me as if laughing teasingly. The memory of that burnt vegetable flashed in my mind on hearing the Mother’s question. I nodded heavily:

“No, I cannot cook.”

The Mother remained silent for a while. Then She said: “If you can get me some eggs I can make you thirty different kinds of dishes with them.”

I was stunned! The Mother could also cook! And so many recipes as well! I was truly astonished and even more taken aback when She said:

“It was while cooking that I would study and write and prepare my work and reflect on important matters. Paroles d’autrefois was mostly written while I was cooking.”

I was flabbergasted. How can cooking and deep thinking happen at the same time? But for the Mother no work was big or small. She could be absorbed in deep thought even while cooking. Whereas we have difficulty in shifting our concentration from one work to the next! But with the Mother everything is possible.

On another occasion She asked me: “Can you sing?”

The sky seemed to fall on my head! Was I supposed to sing now? I remembered my childhood again. We two sisters used to often talk about singing. Our mother was very keen on our taking up music. A singing teacher was engaged who came every evening. He was more of a sadhak. A tulsi-garland around his neck, an ochre panjabi on his body. He taught us only devotional songs. One of these songs began with: Koruna tor jaani maago, aashbey shubhodin. (I know your Compassion well, Mother. Auspicious days will surely come.) He used to sing this song over and over again. And even as he sang tears would flow down his cheeks. He asked me very often to sing this song. And I enjoyed singing it. Dada often teased us:

“What kind of songs are you learning! Listen to all the songs that I have learnt.”

And he would sing to us beautiful modern songs.

When the Mother asked me about singing I thought I would sing Koruna tor jaani maago, aashbey shubhodin. But then I began to feel shy. Moreover I did not have a very musical voice. My sister Tapati had an extremely sweet voice. Dada had a marvellous singing voice. My sister was part of Dilip Kumar Roy’s singing troupe. The Mother would often listen to their singing at the Playground. One day the Mother told Tapati:

“You have a lovely voice, indeed.”

She had been able to recognise her voice from the whole group. In any case, to come back to the story, I told the Mother:

“No, I cannot sing.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. Suddenly the Mother began humming and then singing quite clearly. What an amazingly melodious voice She had! I had never imagined that someone could look so beautiful while singing. In rapt enchantment I went on gazing at the Mother. My inner being was filled with an unearthly experience…

This class with the Mother started in a strange way. The Mother had asked four or five of us to go to a lady for our French classes. We used to go to her in the evenings. One day because of a severe headache I could not go to this class even though I had revised my lesson. The lady would not believe that the headache was the real reason. She felt I had not done my homework.

“You’re lying,” she reproached me.

That was it! That night I could not sleep because I was upset. The following morning when I went to see the Mother, She at once looked at me and asked:

“What’s the matter?”

I started weeping! Then I told the Mother everything. The Mother replied:

“Is that all? Then from today I shall teach you.”

And this is how my class with Her started. An apparently insignificant incident in my life brought along a golden opportunity for me to be close to the Mother all alone.

After the first lessons were over, the Mother started reading out from Belles Histoires to me. When She was reading the story called ‘Patience et Persévérance’ I noticed that some lines from a Punjabi song were written at the beginning. I really wanted to learn the pronunciation of these Punjabi lyrics. What did the Mother do to satisfy my curiosity? She called Lakshmibai and asked her to read out the Punjabi song. Lakshmibai read out the song:

Sada na bageen bulbul boley

Sada na baag baharaan.

Sada na raaz khushi dey hondey

Sada na majlis yaaraan.

(Forever the bulbul sings not in the garden. Forever Spring blooms not midst flowers. Forever gladness stirs not in the kingdom Forever friends adorn not an assembly.)

It was the same Lakshmibai with whose dog I had had an amusing experience. I had always been terrified of dogs and so when I settled here for good and was walking on the street I would run onto the footpath every time I passed a dog. Dogs too would start growling for no reason the moment they caught sight of me. Probably they sensed my vibration of fear. A few days after my coming here I became very friendly with Pratima who had also just become a permanent member of the Ashram. We were of the same age and both of us worked in Sahana-di’s tailoring department. Pratima also shared my fear of dogs. And so we were always together, going to the Dining Room for our three meals or going to the seafront for a walk. One evening we had just come out when from the nearby mill two huge alsatians ran out. (This house was later bought by the Ashram. Dr. Sanyal-da used to live there. Today it is the building that houses the homoeopathy clinic, an allopathy section as well as the School for Perfect Eyesight for some time.) We bolted as soon as we saw these tiger-sized dogs. But how could we compete with the dogs? Pratima stumbled on the road while I managed to climb onto the footpath. The doorman of the house came running hearing our cries and reined in the dogs.

And then there was Goldy who manifested in the life of these brave heroines! Good heavens! There were dogs even on the way to the Mother! I was in a real fix!

When the Mother offered us flower-blessings at ten in the morning at the head of the stairs leading to the first floor, near the small room, Lakshmibai used to come with a huge tray on her head. This tray was full of all kinds of lovely roses. She had her own rose-garden in her house. She would come up the staircase, go past the Mother and go to the Mother’s inner room. And accompanying her would be this famous Goldy whom the Mother loved very much. In fact it was the Mother who had named him Goldy. It was indeed a most beautiful dog. His body was covered with shiny golden fur and that was probably why the Mother had named him so. Lakshmibai used to take a lot of care of her dog. Everyday Goldy would go straight to the Mother without bothering about anybody and lift his front paws and hug the Mother. The Mother showered a lot of affection on Goldy and talked to him. Looking at Goldy one would imagine he understood everything. He was delighted to show his love for the Mother. Then he would go to Sri Aurobindo’s room and get His darshan as well! I am told that Sri Aurobindo would gently stroke his head for a while.

I am sure you all know that Sri Aurobindo had a dog. This was certainly long before the Mother arrived in Pondicherry. And who does not know about the Mother’s cats? One of Her cats would come everyday during the meditation and sit in a chair to meditate with all of us, sometimes even go into trance! Only when the Mother made a certain kind of noise would the cat come out of her trance. We were told later that this cat had been reborn as a human being! Certainly Goldy must have been reborn as a human too!

However I was terrified of this Goldy. I would go to the Mother fearlessly only when Goldy had gone away. I don’t know what happened one day. It was half past ten and thinking that Goldy must have certainly seen the Mother and gone home I headed for the Mother’s darshan. Hardly had I lowered my head after greeting Her with “Bonjour, Douce Mère” than I felt Goldy on my back! God knows from where he had materialised like a storm. I screamed, terrified! I jumped up and went behind the Mother and grabbed Her very tight. I was trembling and screaming at the same time! The Mother was unable to release Herself from my grip. Finally She brought me in front of Her by force. And what a scolding She gave me! A lot of people were waiting behind me. I was in a pitiable state then.

“You are terrified of a simple little dog! How will you ever do the sadhana? Remember that this path of sadhana is not easy. You will have to face all kinds of dangers and difficulties. It is a most arduous, most dangerous path. You need tremendous courage to walk on it.”

As soon as I heard this from the Mother I remembered something Nolini-da had told me. I used to go to see Nolinida every evening and open my heart out to him. After my parents’ departure it was Nolini-da who looked after me. I would even get my letters from him without having to go to the Post Office. One evening I went to Nolini-da as usual. After talking to me about all sorts of things, he said:

“Priti, this path of sadhana that you have chosen looks very simple but the moment you touch it you get such a shock!”

I kept looking at Nolini-da’s face in awe. I was nonplussed. It all sounded like a riddle to me. I had barely arrived and did not know anything about sadhana. As I could not live in Feni without the Mother, I had come away.

That day I came to know even more clearly from the Mother Herself how difficult this path was. How strewn with dangers! One needed to be vigilant at every moment.

Durgam giri, kantar maru, dustar parabar Langhite hobey ratri-nishithey, jatrira hushiyaar.

(Mountains impassable, deserts and dense forests, shoreless oceans— These must be crossed at the dead of the night. Be alert, O travellers!)

After accepting the flower-blessings from the Mother I came down. Everyone on the staircase was laughing. After this incident my fear of dogs was considerably reduced. I would still start calling out the Mother’s name every time I saw a dog from afar. I became frightened of fear itself.

And so in this way accepting the challenge right from the beginning and declaring war, I began walking on the path of progress.

One day while the Mother was teaching me I noticed that She was smiling. After a few moments of laughter, She told me:

“There was a person who had advanced a lot on this path of sadhana. I was describing to him the supramental beings, how they would be and what kind of life they would lead. When I told him once that supramental beings would not require food, they would be freed from the necessity of eating. He then had a vision of wonderful delicacies before him.

“‘Oh, no,’ he moaned, ‘I won’t be able to enjoy all these mouth-licking dishes!’

“He was overcome with gloom!”

And saying this the Mother burst out laughing!

This man lost such an incredible opportunity just for the petty pleasure of food! And so all of us, we keep losing the real aim of life because we get caught in some petty pleasure or the other.

The Mother is feeding us food that She has cooked but we refuse to take it. In a prayer from Prayers and Meditations the Mother says:

Since the man refused the meal I had prepared with so much love and care, I invoked the God to take it.

Nolini-da has written:

What food had the Mother prepared that man refused to accept? It was nothing other than a divine life here on the bosom of the earth prepared with supreme love and divine ananda by this Light and this Power beyond, something that only gods can enjoy.

To attain this divine life in our present state is still a distant reality for us. To convert this goal into a realisation is still beyond our reach.

Nolini-da says:

Man rejected it because for him this was too high and too great. He is an earth-bound creature and his confines are narrow. He can acquire only that, enjoy only that which is ordinary and petty, or just an atom of this gross earth....

The Mother asks mankind a simple question: “Are you ready?”

But we continue to live in the same darkness. Our arrogance, our revolt continues to strangle us. Who amongst us has escaped the grip of hurling criticisms against the Mother’s work. And besides, how full of ego we are. We humans have squandered this unsolicited Compassion of the Mother. We have been tarnished with our unrepentant nature. We have still not become worthy children of the Mother. That is why I say that we have squandered our inherited wealth.

Classes for the Little Ones

I have already said something about the classes for the little ones. Now, let me tell you how these classes began.

In 1950, on 17th November the captains of the little boys and girls aged between four and twelve decided that they would speak only in French with them during the sports activities. They informed the Mother and She was delighted. She too decided that everyday She would spend a little time with them and speak French. After their sports the children used to receive groundnuts from the Mother in the courtyard of the Guest House. This is the same Guest House where the Mother and Sri Aurobindo met for the first time on that auspicious day, 29 March, 1914.

On the first day the Mother asked Kokila, a little girl at that time:

Quel âge as-tu?” (How old are you?) Kokila answered:

Je m’appelle Kokila.” (My name is Kokila)

Et comment t’appelles-tu?” (And what is your name?) the

Mother now asked.

J’ai huit ans,” (I am eight years old) Kokila answered a little flustered.

All those present there could not control their laughter. The Mother too thoroughly enjoyed Kokila’s answers. For several days this story of Kokila’s first conversation with the Mother did the rounds in the Ashram.

Kokila’s story reminds me of another.

Frederic the Great knew each and every soldier’s face in his army. And whenever he saw a new face in the army he would ask three questions: How old are you? How long have you been in my army? Are you satisfied with your pay and food?

A new French recruit had just joined Frederic’s army. He did not know any German at all. So his general tried bravely to teach him the answers to the three questions he would be asked. Frederic would first ask about his age followed by the other two questions. However this time as soon as he saw the new soldier he asked him the second question first:

“How long have you been in my army?” The French soldier answered hurriedly: “Twenty-one years.”

Frederic was quite astonished and asked: “What! How old are you then?”

“One year,” the soldier replied.

“Dear me! Either you or I must be mad!” Frederic exclaimed.

“Yes, both,” the soldier concluded with a broad smile. That was the only answer he had learnt for the third question. Frederic was taken aback and remarked:

“This is the first time that any of my soldiers has called me a madman!”

When the French soldier noticed that the king looked rather displeased, he quickly added in French to try and calm him:

“Actually I don’t know any German!”

“Is that so?” said Frederic. “You don’t know German. Then you should get down to learning it as fast as you can. If you have decided to work in our army then it is absolutely imperative for you to learn our language.”

Tara, Usha, Nirata, Sumedha and some other captains resolved to speak in French with the little ones. The Mother also decided to take regular classes for the little ones. On 19th November 1950 the Mother brought Her first typed lesson. On this first lesson sheet was a drawing of a bee. The Mother distributed each day’s lesson to Tara who would see that all the boys and girls went through it very carefully. The next day the Mother would ask the children questions about the lesson.

The classes were stopped for a while because the Mother became extremely busy for the 24th Darshan. Then Sri Aurobindo’s sudden physical withdrawal left the Ashram in a daze. Therefore the French classes of the little ones remained suspended for some time.

The Mother resumed these French classes on the 17th of

December, the same year.

Sunday was for dictation, Tuesday for recitation and Friday for story-telling. The Mother used to write down the dictation and the recitation herself in Tara’s notebook. She generally composed the texts for the dictation and the recitation herself. The child who was best at recitation got a special prize from the Mother.

On Fridays She told them stories. This story-class started with Belles Histoires [Tales of All Times] and Paroles d’autrefois [Words of Long Ago]. From time to time She would humorously recount incidents from Her own life. She recounted so many stories from so many different countries: India, Persia, Japan, China, France and several others. The stories came alive because of the Mother’s way of narrating them. We felt as if we were living in the country where the story was taking place.

All these memories return to thrill me so very often…

The Map of India and the Mother’s Symbol

From the day this country was partitioned into India and Pakistan I have been unable to look at a map of India. I just refuse to look at it. My whole being, my body, my mind and heart feel terribly pained when I see a map of divided India. Our land of India, our birthplace, cannot remain divided. In 1947 on 15th August Sri Aurobindo declared that India will become one again.

I carry that immortal promise in my bosom everywhere. I

have just one prayer to our Lord Sri Aurobindo:

“O Lord, O God, make India one again, make India one again!”

In Bankim Chandra’s Anandamath, Bhavananda expresses the author’s inmost feeling, the Indians’ inmost conviction. Bhavananda sings:

Bande Mataram

Sujalam suphalam malayajasheetalam

Shasya shyamalam mataram!

Mahendra is somewhat puzzled as he listens to this song. He does not understand what it means. Who is this ‘sujala, suphala, malayaja sheetala, shashyashyamala’ Mother? But Bhavananda does not answer and continues singing:



Suhasinim sumadhurabhasinim,

Sukhadam varadam mataram.

Mahendra retorts :

“But we’re talking about a country, we’re not talking about Mother.”

“We do not believe in any other Mother,” Bhavananda replies. “Janani janmabhumischa swargadapi gariyasi. (The Mother and one’s birthplace are greater even than Heaven.) We take this birthplace to be the Mother. We have no mother, father, brother, wife, son, house, home. We have only that ‘sujala, suphala, malayaja sheetala, shashyashyamala’.” A surprised Mahendra then asks:

“Who are you?” Bhavananda answers: “We are the children.”

“Children? Whose children?” “The Mother’s children.”

Let me tell you now what Rabindranath said about his own country, India. Pankaj Mallick writes:

At number 1 Garsten Place at the main entrance to the Radio station, from the gate upto twenty feet in length and eight feet in width in the centre of the pathway within a circle was a map drawn in green cement. It was the map of India. The Director-General of All India Radio then was A. S. Bokhari and the director of the Calcutta station was Ashoke Sen.

Once on Mr. Bokhari’s and Mr. Sen’s invitation the

‘Vishvakavi’ (the World-Poet) visited the radio station. When Rabindranath arrived everyone got busy to welcome him with due honour and respect. I was among the various people and artists present that day.

Mr. Bokhari and Mr. Sen were showing the poet the way. Quite unconsciously they walked over the map that was drawn near the entrance. The poet, however, stopped for a few moments in front of the cement-map, looked at it with bowed head and with great dignified reverence went around the path in order to avoid stepping on the map and continued to follow the two men in front.

The radio station directors who had just a few moments earlier unknowingly walked over the Indian map, turned around to look at this reverent attitude and felt naturally deeply embarrassed. Seeing the expression on their faces I was not at all wrong in my conclusion. ‘Kavi’ then went inside and observed:

“O soil of my country, I bow down to thee!”

He pronounced the Bengali word for soil, mati, with such softness of speech, as if he were saying “You can touch your Mother with your head, how can you touch your Mother with your foot?” Because mati was mati (meaning ma = Mother and ti = like or like {{0}}Mother[[Amar Jug Amar Gaan, Pankaj Mallick.]]).

Let me now come to Vivekananda. He said:

Our sacred motherland is the land of religion and philosophy—the birthplace of spiritual giants—the land of renunciation, where and where alone, from the most ancient to the most modern times, there has been the ideal of life open to man.

I will tell you now about that well-known quotation of Sri

Aurobindo’s :

Others look upon their country as an inert piece of matter

— a few meadows and fields, forests and hills and rivers

— I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her. I

worship Her as the Mother.

The year was 1893. After his education in England, Sri Aurobindo returned to India to dedicate his life to the service of his motherland. He vowed that the country had to be freed from the shackles of foreign domination.

At about the same time another Indian set out for the West in order to lay before the world the real truth about his country and the sanatana dharma. This was Swami Vivekananda.

Eighteen ninety-three turned into a memorable year as it witnessed two voyages in opposite directions by two sons of India out of their love for the country.

We know that Bankim Chandra, Rabindranath, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo looked upon their country as the Divine Mother. And that is why they have all unveiled the real face of India to the world.

When Vivekananda returned from the West he said:

I loved India even before arriving in the West. But now (while returning to India from the West) I feel that each atom of India’s dust is pure, the very air of India is pure. India is my punyabhumi: my pilgrimage.

Vivekananda continues :

I am prostrate before these hundreds of centuries of India’s brilliant unfolding history in awe. …No force in heaven or hell can stop this march of victory.

Nineteen forty-seven, August 15th. In front of Sri Aurobindo’s own eyes his India, his motherland, was cut into two. But Sri Aurobindo came out with a luminous message on that day. He emphatically declared:

By whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.

Nineteen fifty, 18th October. It was Pranab’s birthday. And Durga-puja or Mahaashtami as well. On this day at an auspicious time, on the southern wall of the Playground (where the Mother used to stand and take the salute for the children’s March Past), the map of India was born. The inspiration and design came from Tejen-da, son of the celebrated Bagha Jatin. Tejen-da used to look after the little ones. Everyone called him

‘Borda’. Tejen-da had taken this initiative without informing

Pranab so as to give him a surprise on his birthday.

Manoranjan-da entrusted Bibha to make a royal swan in cotton to decorate the children’s courtyard for games. Almost ten full bags of cotton were used to make this swan. Bibha completed the swan with infinite patience, effort and skill. It was exquisite! This swan too was meant to decorate the children’s courtyard on the occasion of Pranab’s birthday. There is a photo of the Mother with this swan in the Bulletin. The swan was brought to the Playground at three in the afternoon. While Bibha was busy setting up the swan at the right spot, Tejen-da asked Bibha:

“Can you draw the map of India on this wall?”

Bibha happily agreed. After having strained all morning making the swan, she now had to draw the map of India! Tejen-da asked her what she would need for this. Bibha suggested that Krishnalal-ji be requested to make the outline of the map first. Some green leaves, maida (refined wheat flour) and some yellow chandramallika flowers (called Life-Energy by the Mother) to make the Mother’s symbol in the centre of the map were brought at once.

There was such excitement in the air! As if a mandapa or pavilion was being made for Durga-puja. Krishnalal-ji drew the outline of the Indian map. And Bibha at once got down to doing her part with the help of two-three other people. There was not much time on hand. By five o’clock the Mother would be back from the Tennis Ground. The map had to be finished by then. Some people were cladding the maida-dough on the wall under Bibha’s instructions and then she herself started pasting the green leaves. Once this was over Bibha quickly got down to completing the Mother’s symbol in the centre with the yellow chandramallika flowers. Both the map and the symbol looked lovely! Just as all the work was over, the Mother’s car arrived in front of the Playground door.

The Mother noticed the map of India as soon as She entered and She looked delighted. This map of India did not include Burma. Then on everyone’s request the Mother agreed to make this map a permanent feature of the Playground. In order to make it permanent She herself drew the map of undivided India before Monoranjan-da had it cemented.

Now we can see this map of undivided India on the southern wall of the Playground to our heart’s content. Besides, it was drawn by the Mother herself. On the Mother’s map, we see not only Pakistan and Bangladesh but also Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Burma and Sri Lanka as part of undivided India. The Mother drew India as She saw the nation in Her divine vision. India was no longer divided. Mother India herself, the World-Mother revealed herself. And this unforgettable event happened before Sri Aurobindo’s physical withdrawal.

Mother India herself had come down in a human form. By drawing this form with Her own hand, the Mother showed the whole world that India could not remain divided. In the subtle world this division has not happened:

…the division was not decreed, it was a human deformation, unquestionably it was a human deformation. (The Mother)

This sand and cement map drawn by the Mother is sea-green in colour. The outline is golden. Our eyes light up with joy as we drink in this vision of undivided India, of Mother India to our heart’s content.

What an interesting coincidence! That map of India drawn within a circle in Garsten Place at the All India Radio headquarters was also made in green cement!

And it is Mother India herself, the Divine Mother of the world and the universe, Mother Aditi who says :

It is the map of the true India in spite of all passing appearances, and it will always remain the map of the true India, whatever people may think about it.

The Mother’s symbol in the centre which was made with yellow chandramallika flowers by Bibha, was on the Mother’s instructions made in copper by a coppersmith known to Monoranjan-da and Gangaram got these petals fixed on the map. Here is the significance of the Mother’s symbol:

The central circle represents the Divine Consciousness.

The four petals represent the four powers of the Mother. The twelve petals represent the twelve powers of the Mother manifested for her work.


It is the symbolic design of the white Lotus of Supreme Consciousness, with the Mahashakti (the form of the Mother as universal creation) at the centre in her four aspects and twelve attributes.


India is not the earth, rivers and mountains of this land, neither is it a collective name for the inhabitants of this country. India is a living being, as much living as, say Shiva. India is a goddess as Shiva is a god. If she likes, she can manifest in human form.

Every evening the Mother would stand in front of this map of undivided India and take the salute of Her children during March Past. At that divine moment the whole being was thrilled with the firm inner conviction that India was never divided and that it could never be divided. And by accepting Her children’s salute the Mother was reassuring us that India was indeed one. As we watched the Mother’s firmness of a challenging warrior, it would fill our hearts with bliss. In a second the pain and anguish of losing part of one’s country would vanish into thin air.

The soul of India is one and indivisible.

The Body and Integral Yoga

How can one ever forget those days, Anju, Paroma? You too have grown up right from childhood sheltered in the Mother’s Love. The Mother’s laughter, the Mother’s words are still glowing in the treasure-house of your memory. Once you have known and received the Divine Mother Herself as your mother and as your friend, the very tenor of your life changes. The heart’s lyre is always heard in the strain:

Ey sansarey dori karey raja jaar ma maheshwari.

(Whom need I fear in this world, O king, when my mother is Mother Maheshwari herself?)

As a human being rests in happy confidence under a tree, we too began gradually growing up trustingly under the Mother’s Love. Without a thought, without a worry but with one single aim: to keep moving towards the Mother. There was no rest in this movement nor an end. From time immemorial we human beings have been moving towards Her, carrying the glowing torch of aspiration in our hand. A hundred Nachiketas have been born within us or rather the Mother awakened them with Her golden wand. What endless questions, endless curiosity in those hundred Nachiketas about this new life! And so on every Wednesday and Friday the Mother would sit in front of the map of India in the Playground and answer those endless questions in easy French in a simple way. The Mother wanted to light in Her children an ardent longing for the Divine, for Light, for Ananda, for Freedom, for Immortality. And year after year, those inexhaustible question-answer sessions carried us human beings forward in that conscious yearning for the Divine.

Like the sunflower, we were always turned to the Mother and our new life unfolded. A sense of total trust and openness was instilled in us in every cell by the Mother, our universal Mother. Let me give you some instances of this total openness and trust. Whatever the little ones do is extraordinary, isn’t it? You have a fever? Go and tell Mother. The Mother looks at the little boy for a few seconds. A smile dawns on the boy’s face. As soon as he wakes up from sleep, his fever has disappeared! What? Did I ever have fever?

I am reminded here of Kaké, Tara and Lata’s brother. After finishing all Her work in the Playground, the Mother used to sit and attentively watch the captains’ exercises. With limitless patience Pranab would teach each captain vaulting, parallel bars, freehand exercises and all kinds of other things. During this time, I would sit with Gauri and several others near the Mother. One day, suddenly, Kaké who must have been about four then, came out of Dortoir (a children’s boarding in the Playground) and went straight in front of the Mother. Very quietly he took the Mother’s footstool from under Her Feet and sat down near Her without the slightest fear or hesitation. He looked at the Mother, smiled a little and then became absorbed in watching the captains exercising. The Mother too smiled tenderly at Kaké. And from then Kaké would regularly come and sit on the Mother’s footstool near Her. Like a sweet little puppy.

Hema and Prema too did something similar. The Mother was sitting, watching the tug-of-war at the Sportsground with tremendous interest. All of a sudden two bright pretty little girls appeared from nowhere and came and sat down near the Mother’s Feet as if that spot had been kept for them. They sat there and started watching the game attentively. We were quite astounded to see that the two little girls had not the slightest fear or hesitation in doing this. Like two puppies they sat near the Mother’s Feet in total openness and trust. The Mother kept looking at them from time to time. The little ones had this kind of relationship. They looked upon the Mother as their best friend. And on the strength of this intimacy and openness they began to progress. The Mother’s Grace and the children’s boundless trust began working even in the atoms of the body. The Mother has asked for this work to be done? That was it! Everyone ran excitedly to accomplish that work, however difficult or strenuous it might be. A flood of ananda flowed over the Ashram then.

From 1950, the activities in the Playground were in full swing. Before the sporting activities started, the captain of each respective group would assemble his boys and girls in a line. The children were all quiet and disciplined. It started with ‘concentration’. The body was first consecrated at the Mother’s Feet before starting the activities. And there was another ‘concentration’ at the end of these activities. During the second ‘concentration’ even as they offered all the activities they had done that day, a silent prayer went up from each of us that we may be blessed with a healthy body. Such a great way of doing karmayoga and sadhana simultaneously (in the guise of sports!). This was taking place for the first time, not just in the Ashram, but on the whole earth! To have children doing the sadhana! And the Integral Yoga on top of it! And this agni-tapasya started with work on the body. The Playground became the field for life’s sadhana. Unknown to the children the great work was initiated to enable the Mother’s Force and Light to work even in the gross human body.

That is why I said sadhana in the guise of sports! How difficult this sadhana is! You cannot ignore the body. Annam Brahman, Matter also is Brahman! Until now the body had been rejected from the path of sadhana but now the Mother radically changed the course of such thinking. So great is the weight of this change that we might be able to understand its full import only in the future. The Divine Light shall break upon this earthly body itself.

The elderly watched the younger ones with great affection and stupefied wonder as the Mother’s new unimaginable mode of action unfolded! The seriousness and sobriety of speech and action brought about by centuries of hard and severe tapasya began melting under the glow of the children’s cheerful energy. The elderly also began participating in the Mother’s new way of action. They seemed as if rejuvenated in body, mind and spirit.

As soon as we entered the Playground we all felt a new atmosphere, as if we were in fairyland. As if a festival of ananda was on. The solemn seriousness of the elderly was removed by the Mother. And the elderly with new-found eagerness also joined joyfully in the Mother’s karmayoga, this sadhana of the transformation of the body. They began mixing with the children as friends. Nolini-da, Pavitra-da, Amrita-da, Dyuman-bhai, Purani-ji, Nirod-da and many others became our best friends. We could speak with them most freely. In the beginning we used to say about them (of course, behind their backs!) that these were people who were forbidden to laugh! When the elderly got into their group uniforms they started feeling young! What enthusiasm they put into their marching and exercise! Enjoying themselves just like kids! The Mother had wiped out the notion of age from all of us. All began breathing the air of the New World in the Playground. I feel like saying:

Meditation forget, leave flowers aside!

Let clothes tear, on dust-clouds let’s

ride! In Her karmayoga let us join all,

What if from our bodies sweat does fall!

Nolini-da’s eightieth birthday was wonderful proof of this notion of age having been wiped out from the grown-ups’ mind. The devotees from Calcutta, the children of the Mother all decided to celebrate Nolini-da’s eightieth birthday with great festivity.

They asked for the Mother’s permission but She refused. Nolini-da says:

I may narrate here a little incident concerning me personally. It was with regard to the question of age. When someone informed Mother that they wanted to celebrate, perhaps it was my eightieth birthday, in a magnificent manner, a gala celebration, Mother roared out: “No, no, you are spoiling my work. All the while I was trying to make him forget his age and you are trying to insist on his age.’’

Age also is a thing to be forgotten.

The elderly understood that the sadhana for the transformation of the body had now begun. A great change had come about in the life of the Ashram.

I remember 1941. I had come with Tapati and our father for the first time. It was for the Darshan of 15th August, Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. It is impossible to forget that tranquil, pure atmosphere. One automatically became indrawn on entering the Ashram. Such a massive peace reigned over the Ashram! Every sadhak and sadhika was in a meditative state. They spoke very little. Every moment of their life was a conscious endeavour to consecrate themselves at the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s feet. It is thanks to them that we have received clear directions and guidance in dealing with the various problems and difficulties on the path of sadhana, in the ways of preparing oneself for this path. They used to write innumerable letters to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo about their difficulties. Every volume of Letters of Sri Aurobindo was such a help to all of us.

These were the same people who on the Mother’s guidance began participating in the Playground activities. They resolved to try and harmonise the inward and the outward life with the aim of following this new path of sadhana: All life is Yoga. They took to it with great ease and simplicity. Nolini-da has described beautifully how these people felt on entering the Playground:

…As soon as we stepped into the Playground, a new atmosphere enveloped us, a new life full of joy, happiness and delight and freedom. When we put on our group uniform, we felt quite different from what we were normally. Old people with their blue shorts in our group, really old people—felt very young, youthful and trotting about as if they had left their age behind with all their cares.

Let me now tell you something about the elderly women. They too began participating in daily marching and other sports. They did not feel any hesitation or difficulty in adapting to shorts. They had all gone through the grind of worldly life from a very young age. Their lives had been lived within very narrow confines and constraints. They broke the confines of that rigid life and society in order to take up the path of Integral Yoga. And they deserve all our respect. On the Mother’s instruction these grown-up women let go instantaneously of all of their social habits and traditions. These grown-up women were proof of how easily the Mother’s Force works with women. In a second the Mother broke the age-old shackles that had bound women so inextricably. Sahana-di, Amiyadi, Aruna-di (Sahana-di’s elder sisters), Rani-di, Swarna-di (Minu’s mother), Usha-di (Tejen-da’s wife), Mota Kakima (Pranab’s aunt), Prafullamayi-di (Pranab’s mother), Vimla-di, Abha-di and many other elderly women took to shorts quite easily and joined the marching. In the general marching everyone, old, young, men, women, boys, girls participated with a lot of gusto. You cannot imagine how difficult it was for the elderly women to do this marching.

Shorts! And on elderly women besides! There was a flutter all around. The Mother wanted to show through them that there was no difference between men and women. It was difficult even for the disciples of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo to accept easily that girls should wear shorts, not to mention people from outside. How many letters full of criticism, anger and spiteful slander were sent to the Mother.

For Her, the marching was a challenge. Be it society, be it the world, be it age, nothing could dissuade Her. The most amazing thing was that these women had been wearing saris right from the age of ten or so. And their saris were worn in a very traditional style. Always under the strict eye of the elderly in the family. Even the young girls were not spared. Thus it is easy to understand what a huge challenge it was for these women to suddenly get into shorts. The elderly men did not have this feeling, though. They did not have to go through any revolution as far as their dress was concerned.

Eternal Sacrifice

My mind often goes back to the memories of that evening…

Pranab had just given the solemn order for ‘Rassemblement’ in the Playground and everybody ran to their spots in their respective group. The Mother came out of Her room and stood in front of the map of India. Four or five of us girls—Minnie-di, Milli-di, Violet, Gauri and I—always waited for the Mother near the map. The Mother came in front of the map of India, stretched out Her arms on either side and said:

Je suis crucifiée.” (I am crucified.)

Hardly had these words fallen on our ears that we cried out. Without even my knowing, I brought down the Mother’s arms with a brisk movement declaring loudly:

“Never, never! This can never be!”

How mind-boggling! We were speechless with pain and grief. I am crucified! Why did the Mother utter these words ? What was Her sorrow? What was Her pain?

It was but natural to think of Jesus Christ. He had to bear so much suffering and persecution and in the end he was put on the cross. The Mother told us that Jesus Christ had come down to bring Light and Love to humanity on the earth. But man’s ingratitude was such that man crucified him. But it was for this very humanity that his final prayer went up: O Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Many centuries prior to this, another incarnation of the Divine had come down to the earth. His aim was to spread divine Love amongst humanity. But people began chasing him in order to kill him. They inflicted wounds on his body as he continued to flee across the desert. Suddenly in the middle of this barren desert he saw a small bush and ran to rest in its little shade. And in order to protect him from these heartless humans, all of a sudden this little bush became enormous. No one noticed him as they went past this huge bush. They did not have the slightest suspicion that the one they were trying to kill had in fact taken refuge there and was peacefully preparing to leave his body. Each drop of his blood as it fell on the branches of this bush turned into a crimson flower. What an exquisitely beautiful flower! The Mother called this flower Divine’s Love and on Kali-puja day She would distribute this flower to us in a packet as Her blessing. What an amazing incident! We had heard this story from the Mother Herself in the Playground. The Mother also told us that this flower was for us a symbol and an expression of the Divine’s Love. This story is a Chaldean legend.

Love, gentleness, tenderness are not always destined for man. All those who came down here to spread Love, gentleness and tenderness underwent only pain and suffering. That is why when we heard the Mother say I am crucified we could not hold our emotion. A mysterious subtle smile could be perceived on the Mother’s face.

A dream of long ago comes to mind. In the dream I was freely moving in a vast, uninhabited house. On entering a very large room I noticed that seated on a high throne far away the Mother was crying profusely. Both Her hands were placed together on Her lap and Her head was bowed. I had never seen such a picture of sorrow. The Mother went on crying! Taken aback, I stood beside the door. There was not a soul in the house. I could not see anybody in this room either. A massive peace reigned all around. Seeing the Mother crying in such a setting I could not stop my tears. One question kept returning again and again from within: What pain troubles Her? What grief? I do not know how long I remained in this state. Then suddenly I awoke. The Mother was crying! I felt a heaviness the whole day. The dream came back again and again in the midst of all kinds of activities.

I found out only much later by reading about the Mother’s aspect of “The Mother of Sorrows” in Savitri that my dream had indeed some truth and then I understood the pain.

We have seen the Mother’s eyes well up with tears very often. We came to understand only much later that the Mother’s feeling for every human being, every living creature, every plant arose from Her love, tenderness and compassion. She had come down to the earth in a human form. Perhaps that was why Her love and compassion were expressed in tears in order to feel Her children’s pain and suffering.

I have been pity, leaning over pain

And the tender smile that heals the wounded heart…

(CWSA, Vol. 34, p. 504)

And look at the coincidence: the Mother asked me to recite that very passage about “The Mother of Sorrows” from Savitri for the 1st December programme in 1953. Our mother (Bibhavati) had left her body the same year on 12th October and we were quite stunned and pained by her passing. As if someone had torn off the skin from my body. And so during this painful period our mother’s illness-racked, pain-afflicted face would naturally come up before me while I was memorising these lines.

One day the Mother took me to Her Interview room in the Playground in order to see how I had been progressing with memorising these lines. After March Past I quietly followed the Mother to Her Interview Room. And there in front of the Mother all by myself I began reciting lines about one of Her own aspects! It is impossible to express in words the pain I experienced while I was reciting these lines:

I have become the sufferer and his moan,

I have lain down with the mangled and the slain,

I have lived with the prisoner in his dungeon cell.

Heavy on my shoulders weighs the yoke of Time:

Nothing refusing of creation’s load,

I have borne all and know I still must bear…

(Ibid., p. 505)

It took me a while to collect myself after finishing the recitation. I saw the Mother looking at me fixedly, Her eyes brimming with tears. After some time She softly said: “The way you felt when Bibhavati left her body, as if ‘someone had torn off your very skin from your body’, I feel that same pain all the time and I bear it. Now you can probably understand how much pain and suffering I must undergo. I quietly go on carrying forever the weight of this indelible pain of the universe.”

I am in all that suffers and that cries.

(Ibid., p. 504)

At these words from the Mother a flooding pain overwhelmed me from within. And I understood why that day the Mother had flung Her arms on either side in front of the Indian map and exclaimed “Je suis crucifiée”. I realised that the Mother was taking upon herself all the pain and suffering and sorrow of creation. And the deep significance of this aspect of the Mother is “the Divine Mother’s eternal sacrifice”.

Ascent from Inconscience


Janaka is seated high above, down below sits Janika.

One day after Her walk, standing under the neem tree, the

Mother remarked:

“I have begun work in the Inconscient.”

I was taken aback. Who else could penetrate this bottomless dense Darkness besides the Mother? Who else could dare?

Sri Aurobindo has written in The Mother:

…she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance. But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother.

(SABCL,Vol. 25, pp. 24-25)

I had just read an Upanishadic parable by Nolini-da.

The Supreme Purusha felt very lonely and said: “How can one be happy alone?” And so the Supreme Purusha or Brahman divided himself. The Indivisible One Supreme Being by dividing himself became a Dual Being: Brahman and Brahmashakti, Ishwara and Ishwari, Purusha and Prakriti, the two standing on two poles of the earth’s axis, as it were. Having separated and moved far apart in time, the Mother, the Eternal Shakti entered the depths of Inconscience. She became the most gross inconscient Matter. And Brahman on the other side became the contrary of his Shakti, Nothingness. The Two became opposites.

Here I am now, standing next to that Divine Mother, that

Supreme Shakti. And She is herself telling us:

“I have come down to Inconscient Matter. My work in the

Inconscient has begun.”

A shiver of strange fear coursed through my whole being like lightning. And yet I told the Mother like one who knows:

“And so? After finishing Your work on the other planes You have now taken up the Inconscient. This is Your most important work.”

And I started listing out all the different planes. With eager enthusiasm I declared:

“Mother, You need to work now only on the Inconscient!”

The Mother listened quietly to my display of knowledge and ignorance, then laughed:

“No, no. Don’t think it to be that simple. The realm of the Inconscient is so dense in obscurity, so full of dangers, that no one has so far dared to touch it, let alone transform it! You cannot know what might come up at the slightest tremor. All the filth, mire, chaos, disorder, wickedness, hypocrisy, falsehood and deceit will come up and overwhelm the whole world, including the Ashram. You haven’t the vaguest notion of these things. It is difficult to imagine now the dreadful things that will happen in the Ashram. People will become aware of such wrong movements within them that they will be flabbergasted. Chaos and confusion will cover up everything, each and every human being. The sway of Falsehood will increase.”

A horrible dread came over me as I heard the Mother say all this. The Mother’s way of saying it, Her powerful, deep voice sounded like the first taste of the all-sweeping fury of pre-monsoon storms. As if the whole earth was being weighed down by the gathering black clouds of Falsehood. As if we were slowly sinking into some bottomless pit of Darkness.

I am reminded here of a strange experience from my childhood.

I was about ten or eleven then and loved playing in the pond. I would wake up very early in the morning, finish all my revision for school, and then head for the pond with a group of friends. We swam and played in the pond happily till the time when some elderly person of the family came and called us to come out. And when the rains came, our joy knew no bounds. In that solitary environment as a tenor eleven-yearold girl, I would go straight into the pond and lose myself delightfully in Nature. Nobody in the house knew about it. One day all by myself I cut my long hair short in European style! I would dry my hair, feel all refreshed and return home. So one day when one of my friends told me, “Right at the bottom of the pond is the fishes’ home,” I at once became curious and naturally wanted to discover it. How was it that I had not sought this out all these days? And so one afternoon I came out of the house through a window and ran to the pond to dive in and find the home of the fishes. I just could not get to the bottom of the pond. I found myself out of breath. Ah! it was so frightening! With that tremendous pressure of the water I felt I would never be able to come up again. I felt I was going to die under water.

I felt exactly the same upon hearing the Mother’s words, as if I was drowning in some bottomless blackness. There is no limit to the terrible pressures the lower nature creates, the kind of obstacles and hindrances it raises on the path of life, of sadhana. However, the Mother Herself is present in our midst. Her touch pushes all that is wrong in the lower nature to come out in the open at unstoppable speed. Like a dormant volcano that wakes up once again. Fire and smoke start belching out. Like Sita, the whole earth is going through a dreadfully frightening test of fire. All the filth that remained blocked up in the Inconscience stares at the whole earth and at humanity.

The “churning of the ocean” has begun. The ocean is this universal creation, and the churning is this deep turmoil in creation which is assuming rampantly worldwide proportions. Here is the original story of the “churning of the ocean”:

When Arani is rubbed, Agni (fire) is born. Arani means that which contains Agni within it, Agni that is Chit-Shakti (consciousness-force) and tapas-shakti (force of tapas). And Arani is our body, this material envelope. Arani is also called Agniyoni. Rishi Vishwamitra says in the Veda: Manthata Narah. O man, churn. Churn your being so that you can awaken Chit-Shakti.

Now let me tell you the story of the churning of the ocean as recounted in the Bhagavat.

There was tremendous darkness in the whole of creation. The Asuras were running wild. The gods (signifying divine aspiration) went to Vishnu who told them: “You won’t be able to battle with the Asuras. The Asuras are very powerful. You have to become strong. Drink amrita (the nectar of immortality). Churn amrita out. This churning can happen only when you join all the oceans. Take the Asuras along.”

Mother, give to our heart and mind a titan’s strength, a titan’s energy…

The ocean is the world-creation. The Mandar mountain is the churning stick. This Mandar mountain is our physical being. This churning goes on in this body too.

Vasuki is the rope. Vasuki is the Life-Force. And so using our Life-Force as the rope, the body as our churner or Mandar mountain, we have to churn the ocean of life.

The first thing that will come up as a result of this churning or this sadhana, is halahal or poison. On the path of sadhana, the first thing that rises in the sadhak is all the poison from inside. And it is this halahal that is graciously drunk by our ever-ready redeemer, Shiva.

The Divine, by agreeing to drink this accumulated poison that rises from the human sadhak, is in fact protecting him.1

I stood there speechlessly for some time. Then I whispered to the Mother:

“How long shall we remain in this state, Mother? Won’t the lower nature get transformed? We only want to be as you wish us to become.”

The Mother answered reassuringly with great tenderness: “It will happen, it will happen. A day will come when, if

I ask you, ‘Priti, give me a needle,’ you will ask me, ‘Where is the needle?’ Then I will tell you, ‘Go and open that cupboard. You’ll see there is a box on the left. Open this box and you’ll find another smaller box. Open that box. There will be many needles in this box. Take the one that is right at the bottom and bring it to me.’ Everything will be perfectly organised and orderly. There will be no place for the slightest looseness anywhere.”

Hearing these words from the Mother I told myself that the Mother’s work will be accomplished in this very manner, within us, in the Ashram, in the world, in the whole creation.

1. I am grateful to Amalesh Bhattacharya for the inner significance of this story. The Mother will pull us out of the deep pit of Inconscience with Her hand.

I breathed a breath of happy relief.


You will remember that I told you about that incident from my childhood when I had to struggle with all my force against the immense pressure of water to come back to the surface of the pond. What a happy relief to be able to breathe normally again. I sat next to the pond all by myself. A hushed silence was all around. Not a living creature anywhere in sight. I experienced an indescribable joy that day after escaping from the clutches of death. I felt the same after hearing these reassuring words from the Mother.

This world-encompassing churning will be followed by the appearance of the white horse, Ucchaishrava, that is the Divine Shakti. After the Mother’s work in the Inconscient is over, after the halahal is removed, the spiritual Shakti will awaken. From the Inconscient the Mother will re-emerge carrying the pot of amrita (the nectar of immortality). This pot of amrita is immortality. The asuras cannot gain immortality. Only the gods can get amrita or immortality. Man will get his part too. That was why the Mother plunged into the Inconscience. Now it is no more in the subtle world. It is down into this material world that Brahman and Brahmashakti have descended. The difficult work that the Supreme Purusha and Brahmashakti, the Mother, the Eternal Shakti began from the beginning of this creation in the subtle world is coming to a close. That is what the Mother’s reassuring words seemed to indicate. Our lower nature will be transformed when Brahmashakti herself has taken a human form in this world of Falsehood, and Brahman himself is present in the form of Sri Aurobindo.

When Sri Aurobindo was preparing to leave his physical body one of his attendant-sadhaks courageously asked:

“Are you not using your Force to cure yourself?”

“No,” he answered.

Everyone was thunderstruck. The sadhaks imagined that they had probably not heard clearly. And so the same question was put to Him once more. And once again, the same answer.

“Why not? How is the disease going to be cured otherwise?”

“Can’t explain; you won’t understand.”

The Divine, by agreeing to hold the poison churned up from the world within Him, has been protecting us. That halahal has remained within him for all this time. In answer to one of the questions by the sadhaks He simply answered:

“The time is extremely critical.”

At the moment of renouncing His body to the material Consciousness, to Inconscience, He brought down the Supramental Light.

The Mother said after Sri Aurobindo left his body: “Whenever I entered His room, I saw that He was con-

tinually bringing down the Supramental Light.”

Many of Sri Aurobindo’s attendants could also see that

His body was aglow with a golden Light.

When Sri Aurobindo had completely withdrawn from this body, the Mother addressed this prayer to Sri Aurobindo on our behalf:

To Thee who hast been the material envelope of our Master, to Thee our infinite gratitude. Before Thee who hast done so much for us, who hast worked, struggled, suffered, hoped, endured so much, before Thee who hast willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us, before Thee we bow down and implore that we may never forget, even for a moment, all we owe to Thee.

9 December 1950

Now let me tell you about the Mother. A girl (a dentist) used to go to the Mother every day. She was the only one who could properly clean Her teeth. She worked with a lot of gentleness and care. One day while she was cleaning Her teeth suddenly a lot of black phlegm came out of the Mother’s throat. Seeing that black phlegm, the Mother observed:

“There is so much Falsehood, so much corruption in man and in the creation! And in trying to protect man and the world from the grip of these negative forces, I have had to swallow all this poison. In this way I am protecting the world and man.”

We know that Shiva had swallowed halahal and it was lodged in his throat. But that was in the subtle world. And now Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were doing the same with all the poison and falsehood and deceit that were being churned out from within us and thus They were protecting the world and humanity.

Every time the Mother has come down into this physical world, Brahman too has been present near Her in a physical body. Where there is Parvati, there is always Mahadev, Shiva. Where there is Ishwari, there is also Ishwara. Even though two they are in fact One. One cannot exist without the Other. The Mother has clearly revealed:

Without him, I exist not; without me, he is unmanifest.

We have seen in the Vedic parable that the Supreme Purusha divided himself. And the One Unique Supreme Being thus became Dual: Ishwara-Ishwari, Brahman-Brahmashakti, Supreme Purusha and Eternal Shakti became opposites. But this is not their end. But did the Vedic Rishis know that the Supreme Purusha and the Eternal Shakti even after separating would come down into this world below, into this Inconscience itself? And that Ishwara and Ishwari would start their work in the Inconscience together? That They would take birth in a human body and take the plunge into Matter? Was this unimaginable, astounding event waiting to take place only for us?

They have brought down the Supramental Light into this

Inconscience. It is immaterial whether we understand or not but it is because Brahman and Brahmashakti have been uninterruptedly labouring from the beginning of time that, as a consequence, the Supramental Light has reached today this material Consciousness, this pit of dense Inconscience. Just a little more needs to be done. We shall wait for Them in eager expectancy to grant us Their vision in divine bodies on this earth.

Durga Puja

Mother Durga! Rider on the lion, giver of all strength, Mother, beloved of Siva!...

O Mother of the world, dispel all ills....

Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge….

Today is Durga-puja, 28th Ashwin 1398 (15th October 1991).

Shakuntala, Krishna and several others are decorating the Meditation Hall under Milli-di’s guidance. People keep dropping in to have a glimpse. My mind goes back to the days of yore. The first Durga-puja took place here in 1944, the year that I came to the Ashram for good. Watching the billowing white clouds unfurl on the bright blue autumn skies, I would remember Durga-puja in Bengal. That was a time when I felt a little heavy-hearted. The thought that kept weighing on me was how I was going to spend these days of the Puja all alone. I kept wishing:

“Ah, if only there was Durga-puja here too!”

In South India during this same period there were various colourful pujas connected with other gods and goddesses, especially Ganesh. But unfortunately there was no tradition of Durga-puja! I suppose each state or region focusses on one particular deity, Vishnu, Shiva, Kartikeya or Ganapati. In the Ashram itself, however, pujas had never been celebrated. That is why I could never imagine that my wish could come true.

On the saptami (the seventh day of the Durga-puja) I went to the Ashram and what did I see? Minnie-di, Milli-di, Gauri, Bibha, Krishnalal-ji, Jayantilal-da and some others were busy decorating the Meditation Hall below and the staircase with vines and flowers. Ila-di (Chitra’s mother) was also deeply absorbed in the work. Sujata, Sumitra, Suprabha, Chitra and the younger ones were running around getting everything that was needed for the decoration. Very nervously I stood near Nolini-da’s room and watched all this while my childhood memories of the puja in Bengal overwhelmed me.

In our uncle’s house (in Patgram, in the Niyogi House) the preparations for the making of Durga’s image started almost a month before the puja. The artists who made this image were truly spiritual people by nature. We youngsters would surround them in the Durga-mandapa (the pavilion where the Durga-image is made). It was but natural that we made a lot of noise and the artists would tell us:

“Keep quiet now! Can’t you see we’re making the image of the Mother?”

Some would run away out of fear but I stayed on to watch with great curiosity the making of the image right from the beginning. Once the bamboo frame was ready, the body and the limbs were made with stuffed straw. Then a coat of clay was put over it which was subsequently painted. One thought kept buzzing in my head even as I watched all this:

“Good Lord !What kind of Ma Durga is this? How can this be a goddess? This is but a doll!”

These preparations went on for over a month.

One day I could not hold myself any longer and I blurted out:

“Where is Ma Durga? When will She come?” The oldest among the artists answered:

“The day there is the cakshudan ceremony (the bestowing of the eyes), the pran-pratishtha (descent of the Presence) will happen. That is the day when Ma Durga will come down into this clay image.”

My child’s mind was delighted to hear this.

Let me tell you about another incident in this connection. I was reading something on the life of Rammohun a few days back and I found out that when Rammohun was a little boy he was once watching the making of the Durga-image. Then the puja started. Everyone recited a mantra and bowed to the image of the goddess. Little Rammohun, however, did not. He said:

“But this is only a doll of clay and straw. I have seen it being made. How can this be divine?”

Everyone was shocked. His father scolded him fiercely. An atheist had been born in a Brahmin family! Rammohun’s mother, Tarinidevi, came running to save the boy from further disgrace. Durga was a goddess, the Mother of the Universe, but little Rammohun refused to understand. He had seen the artist making the image and he himself had applied some clay onto it.

His mother began crying in helplessness. Little Rammohun could not bear to see his mother’s tears. So he quickly bowed to Ma Durga and said:

“O Lord of my Mother, I bow down at Your Feet!” However, I could not doubt this clay image like little Ram-

mohun because the artist had himself explained to me that Ma Durga descended into the statue as soon as the pran-pratistha happened.

In a child’s innocent mind such an explanation left a deep imprint. Don’t they say: It is with faith that you meet Hari, with argument you push him very far away. And so we little ones used to really feel the presence of Mother Durga in the clay image. She was for us an ever-living goddess.

Mother Durga! We are thy children, through thy grace, by thy influence may we become fit for the great work, for the great Ideal. Mother, destroy our smallness, our selfishness, our fear.

As children we were greatly attracted to lions but greatly frightened too. We would watch the lion in awe.

“The lion is the Mother’s vehicle,” the artists explained to us.

We did not quite understand what that meant.

“Can you touch the lion?” Kalpana-mashi asked me.

With firm steps I moved towards the lion and embraced him.

“See! I am not scared!”

I looked straight at the lion and said:

“What if you’re jungle-king! You cannot cross my way!” We had just read the story of Sarvadaman where these

lines occur:

World-tamer is my name, you I’ll tame today.

What if you’re jungle-king! You cannot cross my way!

And now I was bent on showing some more heroic acts! But then the chief artist came running:

“Move away, move away! You should not touch anything before the puja is over!”

“I am not scared of the lion,” I said. “That’s why I showed it to them. The lion is my friend. I love him very, very much!”

Everyone started laughing and said: “You’re a real hero!”

Let me tell you why I started talking about the lion. About a year or two after coming to the Ashram I dreamt one night that I was standing alone in the Meditation Hall. There was nobody anywhere around. But as soon as my gaze fell on the staircase I saw a huge white elephant coming down. This elephant was so stunningly beautiful that I cannot describe it. All of a sudden I saw an enormous tiger coming to attack this white elephant. But just then an extremely handsome gigantic lion jumped on the tiger. What a battle followed between the two! I quickly hid behind one of the columns of the Meditation Hall and began watching the battle. There was no way of escape me and I was terrified.

When I went to see the Mother the following morning, She asked me:

“What did you dream last night?”

The Mother used to ask me this question every morning and listen most attentively to my dream. I too enjoyed recounting it to Her. One could fill up whole storybooks just with all these dreams. The Mother used to ask almost everybody about their dreams. This dreamworld is a strange, mysterious world. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have explained the deeper meaning of dreams to sadhaks and sadhikas in writing as well as orally. So anyway, I told the Mother about my dream in minute detail. She listened with great interest and then said:

“Why did you feel scared of the lion? That is my vehicle. The lion is your friend.”

I just kept staring at the Mother, transfixed. That childhood memory returned while I was embracing the lion during Durga-puja and telling everybody:

“The lion is my friend.”

But I could not take my eyes off the Mother.

Everything in a man’s life is preordained. I began to understand this slowly with time.

When the Mother Herself said: “The lion is my vehicle. He is your friend”, my heart filled with joy. I cannot translate that experience. Quite a few years later I prepared and offered to the Mother some golden buttons in the shape of a lion’s face for Her gown. Dyuman-bhai had got me everything I needed. In the translation-class I offered a lion-shaped paperweight to keep her papers together. Bhabhi-ji (Violette) had got this brass paperweight for me from Delhi.

So the lion was indeed my friend. In childhood one’s consciousness and power are very much awake. That is what I discovered in this churning of my childhood memories.

This tremendous attraction and affection that we Bengalis have for the Durga-aspect of the Mother, this too is surely preordained. Nolini-da has written:

The Bengali’s puja is that of the marvellous variety of the Divine, of plenitude. The Bengali’s deity is not one but many, a combined Power of all the deities together…. In the image of the Bengali puja I see the synthesis of diverse divine powers. The worship of the Ten-armed one has not captured the heart of any other community as it has the Bengalis. There is in Bengal too the worship of each of the different gods but it is the worship of the Ten-armed Mother that is truly the puja of the Bengalis….

The main goal of the Bengali is that Divine Plenitude that comes about by the commingling of the divinity of all the gods in every limb and at every level. This is why the Bengali’s deity is this compound form. Silent Shiva Mahadev is above all and towers above still and firmly established. This Ten-armed One wielding diverse arms is but His expression. This Narayani Lakshmi bestows beauty, wealth and good fortune. Saraswati is the source of divine knowledge, Kartikeya, the source of divine heroism. Ganapati is the symbol of this combined sadhana. To such an extent that the representation of the pure Shakti of the physical consciousness is the lion, the king of the animal world.

On the Mahashtami (the eighth day) the puja acquired a much more festive, colourful rhythm. There was a collective arati in the evening. How our uncles used to dance while doing the arati carrying big incense-burners! Each one tried to outdo the other, showing off his skill. The whole Chandi-mandapa was enveloped in incense-smoke! Through this smoke the image of Mother Durga looked really mysterious! Father also would join this competition with the drummer. And we little ones would let ourselves go in this dancing in the courtyard. There was so much joy and enthusiasm all around!

Our uncles were from Patgram, a well-known village in the Dacca district. After undivided Bengal was cut up into two by our blind foolish politicians, this village was swallowed up by the all-destroying fury of the Padma river. No trace was left of the village. Today you see only water everywhere, just water. I feel the village was unable to bear the pain of this partition and so drowned itself into the bottomless deeps of the Padma. Like Sita’s entry into the netherworld.

We used to collect all sorts of flowers during the few days of the Durga-puja: Shiuli, land-lilies, clitoria (especially the white variety). The boys used to get white and pink lotuses from the lotus ponds. These flowers are a must in the floral offerings for Durga-puja. It was after coming to the Ashram that I discovered that every flower had an inner meaning. The Mother had named flowers according to this inner meaning. The shiuli flower was called Aspiration by the Mother, the lily was called Divine’s Grace. What is astonishing is that these flowers bloom during Durga-puja in autumn! The first line of The Mother comes to mind:

There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavour, a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers.

It is amazing to think that our reverent rishis and munis had experienced this confluence of aspiration and divine Grace in their consciousness thousands of years ago. And they established this tradition of offering both these flowers during Durga-puja. The descent of the Mother’s Compassion onto the earth is made easier when from our side the fire of aspiration rises within us. We did not know anything about the special force and importance of flowers, either in our childhood or even later, until we came here.

The significance of the white and blue aparajita that we used to collect for the Durga-puja is also particularly pertinent. The Mother called the blue aparajita, Radha’s Consciousness. Radha is the symbol of this deep yearning for the Lord in our human consciousness. Pure love and limitless tenderness, consecration and surrender. The significance of the white aparajita is Purified Senses.

A poem from my childhood comes to mind:

‘Defeated’ you are before flowers all,

Then ‘Un-defeated’ why do they you call?

No fragrance doth your heart exhale,

Or colour to lift your aspect pale!

From black-eyed flower tears run down

I’ve nothing, poor me, I have no renown.

The name you’ve given me with so much grace

Is all I have, dear, nothing more can I trace.

My only refuge is the goddess’ Feet,

Worshipful adoration is my life’s heartbeat.

Will She too, like you, send me crying away,

Who everything knows, send me crying away?

Compared with other flowers, the aparajita flower holds an important place for us and this poet’s poem is indeed so true. Worshipful adoration is my life’s heart-beat. This line seems to describe Radhika’s profound yearning to offer herself entirely to Sri Krishna. How marvellous indeed!

How we enjoy reading the Mother’s Radha’s Prayer! The Mother is showing us through this prayer how to lose oneself totally in the Divine:

Thine are all my thoughts, all my emotions, all the sentiments of my heart, all my sensations, all the movements of my life, each cell of my body, each drop of my blood. I am absolutely and altogether Thine, Thine without reserve.

Here are the significances of the red and white lotus:

Red lotus: Symbol of the manifestation of the Supreme upon earth.

White lotus: Symbol of the Divine Consciousness.

The Mother gave these significances on 2nd February 1930 on the occasion of Champaklal-ji’s birthday.

Let me tell you now about an extraordinary incident connected with the red and white lotus.

It was Champaklal-ji’s birthday on 2nd February, 1940. He felt a strong wish to give something to the Mother on this day. Champaklal-ji was a good artist and so he thought about painting the red and white lotus. And quite amazingly he found a pair of white and red lotus just at that time. Although he wanted to finish the paintings in one sitting, due to a lot of work he could not do so. He would paint a little everyday. In any case, when the paintings were done he was satisfied with them and on his birthday he took his painted lotuses to the Mother.

No sooner had the Mother seen the paintings than She exclaimed:

“Very beautiful! Very beautiful indeed!”

The Mother wanted to give these painted lotuses back to

Champaklal-ji so She told him:

“These two paintings are for you, Champaklal. They’re most beautiful! Keep them with you.”

Champaklal-ji did not say anything. Neither did he take the two paintings from the Mother’s hands.

The Mother repeated:

“Here, Champaklal, take these two paintings. I am giving them to you.”

Then Champaklal-ji replied: “Mother, I painted these for you.”

The Mother understood Champaklal-ji’s feelings as She burst into a charmingly beautiful laughter. Then as if in a most secretive way She very sweetly told him:

“Champaklal, I will take these two paintings to Sri Aurobindo and I shall ask Him to write something over them.”

“You will take these paintings to Sri Aurobindo?” Champaklal-ji asked. “If you do, then please request Sri Aurobindo to write their significances over them. That would be wonderful. Mother, Sri Aurobindo will write over the white lotus and you will write over the red lotus.”

The Mother took the two paintings to Sri Aurobindo. Champaklal-ji was in the room at that time. The Mother showed the two paintings to Sri Aurobindo and said:

“See, how beautiful they are! Today is Champaklal’s birthday. He has painted these for me. If you can write the significance of the flower then I can give them to Champaklal. Champaklal would very much like you to write over the white lotus and me to write over the red lotus.”

Sri Aurobindo smiled a sweet, gentle smile. Then saying a soft “umm…” he wrote:


The Divine Mother

He wrote under the red lotus:

To Champaklal

With blessings

Sri Aurobindo


After writing this Sri Aurobindo looked at Champaklal and gently smiled. An indescribable, marvellous smile.

The Mother wrote over the red lotus:

The Avatar

Sri Aurobindo

Then under the white lotus She wrote:

To Champaklal

With blessings to my dear child



The Mother asked Champaklal not to show these two paintings of lotuses to anyone.

Many years later blocks were prepared from these two paintings for printing at our Press. The Mother distributed this painting to all of us on an important occasion. And that is how we came to know about the significance of the red and white lotus.

I can picture before my eyes Sri Aurobindo writing


The Divine Mother

and the Mother watching this being written. Then the Mother writing

The Avatar

Sri Aurobindo

and Sri Aurobindo watching the Mother writing this.

What an unbelievable event that must have been in the earth’s history at that moment! We will probably understand its full import only later. 2nd February 1940 will be written down in golden letters on the pages of earth’s history. In that auspicious moment the Lord Himself revealed the Divine Mother Aditi and Aditi Herself revealed the Lord to us human beings. Sri Aurobindo announced in writing that She was Mother Aditi and the Mother announced in writing that He was the Lord and Avatar. What an incredible coincidence occurred on the earth! The two unveiled each other’s truth to ignorant beings like us. What an unimaginable, inconceivable divine Grace! These totally unexpected showers of Grace have been our lot uninterruptedly in our lives. And Champaklal-ji was the witness of this moment eternal, Champaklal-ji, the consecrated servitor of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Not the gods but a son of this resplendent earth was the witness of this divine revelation.

It is from the Mother that we understood the deeper significance of this tradition of offering different flowers during the puja for different forms of the Mother. That is why I wrote at length about the significance of flowers.

Let me now tell you about the dashami puja (the tenth and final day).

On the Vijayadashami day before taking Mother Durga for immersion, all the mamimas and mashimas and others from the village would bow down before the Mother and then put a sweet in everybody’s mouth saying repeatedly:

“Mother, do come back.”

Their prayer was vibrant with sincerity: “Mother, do come back.”

Mother Durga was then taken for immersion. Ganesha and Kartik too were carried in the procession. I ran behind Ganesha. We little ones were very fond of this god, Gajanana. The Mother has told us that god Ganesha’s face looks indeed like an elephant’s. The Mother loved Ganesha very much. There are a lot of images of gods and goddesses in the Mother’s room. The biggest number is that of Ganesha. The Mother used to talk with them. The statues of Ganesha and Narayana are together next to the Mother. The Mother said that in every image of a god or a goddess there is their Presence and one can experience it. The Mother had images of gods and goddesses in metal, ivory, wood. And in each of these images their presence can be felt. As soon as the Mother held a statue that particular god or goddess would descend into it. The Mother once told Satprem [Conversation of 29 April 1961]:

People have given me statuettes of various gods, little things in metal, wood or ivory; and as soon as I take one in my hand, the god is there. I have a Ganesh (I have been given several) and if I take it in my hand and look at it for a moment, he’s there. I have a little one by my bedside where I work, eat, and meditate. And then there is a Narayana which comes from the Himalayas, from Badrinath. I use them both as paperweights for my handkerchiefs! (My handkerchiefs are kept on a little table next to my bed, and I keep Ganapati and Narayana on top of them.) And no one touches them but me—I pick them up, take a fresh hand-kerchief, and put them back again. Once I blended some nail polish myself and before applying it, I put some on Ganapati’s forehead and stomach and fingertips! We are on the best of terms, very friendly. So to me, you see, all this is very true.

Narayana came first. I put him there and told him to stay and be happy. A while later, I was given a very nice Ganapati; so I asked Narayana—I didn’t ask his permission, I told him, “Don’t be angry, you know, but I’m going to give you a companion; I like you both very much, there’s no preference; the other is much better looking, but you, you are Narayana!” I flattered him, I told him pleasant things, and he was perfectly happy.

The four-year-old son of one of my maternal cousins always went around holding Ganesha in his arms. He would bathe him, chat with him, worship him with flowers. He had collected all kinds of Ganeshas, big and small, in his house and created an entire family as it were. Once he came to Pondicherry and as soon as he arrived he decided that he had to have a statue of Ganesha. Finally we bought him a big statue of Ganesha. He would spend the whole day talking to him about all sorts of things and worshipping him. Then before leaving Pondicherry he brought a statuette of Ganesha and offered it to me.

“Pishi, offer flowers to my god Ganesha everyday.”

I have kept this statuette near the photo of the Mother’s


We little ones knew that Mother Parvati was god Ganesha’s mother. Ganesha was the Divine Mother’s first child and a most loved one too. Ganesha is the Giver of siddhi (realisation). He especially controls worldly wealth and money. All worldly realisations are in his control. There are innumerable stories about Ganesha. One of these stories is very well-known but I still feel like telling it to you.

The Supreme Mother told Ganesha and Kartik:

“Let me see, who can go round the universe and return to me first.”

Kartik at once mounted his peacock and set off.

Ganesha sat on his vehicle, the mouse, and circled around his mother and stood respectfully in front of her.

When Kartik returned completely exhausted from his trip around the universe, he noticed Ganesha still standing in front of their mother. So, naturally Ganesha had not gone around the universe.

But their mother said:

“Ganesha went around me because he feels I am the universe, I am his whole world. Going around me is like going around the universe.”

Tell me, which mother would not love a darling son like him?

Here let me tell you about an extraordinary incident. Those who have come to the Ashram must have certainly seen a Ganesha temple very close to the Ashram main-building. There are crowds of devotees who go to worship him there. There was hardly any place for the devotees to go around the deity. One day Ganesha himself turned up near the Mother and told Her:

“There is not enough space in my temple for devotees to circumambulate. Please give me some extra space so that everyone can comfortably go around the sanctum. Please help me, Mother.”

The Mother sent someone to find out. And indeed the temple lacked sufficient space for a proper circumambulation. So the Mother gave some extra land by breaking down the wall of the adjacent property which belonged to the Ashram in order to make the circumambulatory space adequate. And so in this way gods and goddesses would come to the Mother and tell Her about their various difficulties.

I feel as though I am writing a story from the Mahabharata. In our small, ordinary lives we had the privilege of witnessing so many different marvellous forms of the Mother! And now during the puja we had the Mother Herself in Her Durga aspect right here upon the earth.

Now let me return to the main story.

During the first Durga-puja in this new environment I felt very lonely. Everyone was unknown to me. Suddenly Ila-di came to me and held me affectionately:

“Why don’t you go with Chitra to Golconde and bring some grass from there?”

Ila-di was very fond of me and had understood that I was feeling lonely. The memories of the pujas in Bengal were haunting me.

Tapati and I arrived here in 1941 during the August Darshan. In those days the Mother used to come every evening and stand on the staircase, just above where the large photograph of the Mother stands today in the Meditation Hall. A meditation would take place then and the disciples and devotees would meditate sitting below, facing the Mother. I sat next to Ila-di. As soon as the Mother arrived on the staircase, Ila-di signalled to me to go and sit on the step of the staircase the Mother was standing on. Faithfully following her instruction, I went and fearlessly sat down at the Mother’s Feet like a puppy. I was totally new and did not know anything about the customs or rules of the place. But as Ila-di had asked me I went and sat down near the Mother’s Feet. What was amazing is that the Mother looked at me in a very friendly way as if She had always known me. And I kept sitting there at Her Feet in total trust like a puppy. She made me feel as if that was indeed my assigned place. I was so very young then. The little girl sat there under Her intense love and confidence. What peace I felt that day! And during the whole time that I was in the Ashram on that visit I would go and sit at the Mother’s Feet for the evening meditation. That became my place and that day my life took another turn.

Sujata, Chitra, Suprabha and I went to Golconde to pluck some grass. Then I sat down again to watch the Puja-decorations. Now they began making the alpana (painted decorations with rice paste on the floor). This was Bibha’s idea so Bibha requested Milli-di to take the Mother’s permission to do the alpana. Milli-di went up to the Mother and got Her permission. The next day was Durga-puja. Bula-da also was very happy and stood there to watch the alpana being done. He remarked:

“This is how they make the alpana in Shantiniketan.” Champaklal-ji was also delighted and returned again and

again to see the work proceeding. Bibha, Minnie-di, Milli-di started in the afternoon. They also decorated the Mother’s chair beautifully. Bibha had been used to doing alpana in her house for all the pujas when she was in Bengal. Bibha’s father and elder brother, Sanjiban-da, were real artists and the sisters also had inherited this artistic and literary trait.

And so it was natural that on this first puja, Bibha felt like taking up the alpana-work. And she got permission to do it so easily, as if this entire Durga-puja work was meant for them. And so from 1944 onwards the Mother started coming down every year to give us puja-blessings. The staircase that the Mother used and the two halls were also tastefully decorated with flowers, garlands and vines. The Mother’s chair was decorated with a Benarasi silk sari and this is done with the same dedication and skill even today by Shakuntala, Krishna and others. The Mother’s chair was placed exactly where the large photo of the Mother stands today. Every year the Mother would bless us on the Mahaashtami and the Vijayadashami day with flowers. On Mahaashtami the Mother wore a red Benarasi sari with golden zari flowers. It was extraordinary to see our lovely, impressive Mother come down the staircase like a radiant flaming fire. All the sadhaks of the Ashram were delighted to see this new aspect of the Mother on the occasion of the puja as well as the very festive air but probably they were also a little surprised. It was beyond anyone’s imagination that such an event would take place in the Ashram. The joy of the puja came down into that still, sober atmosphere of the Ashram of those days.

Durga-puja became in the history of the Ashram the harbinger of a great change. The Mother revealed Herself to the whole world.

Mahaashtami and Vijayadashami are a marvellous synthesis of power and beauty and the Mother assumes an unusual form on these days. On Mahaashtami the Mother battles fiercely with the Asuras. The animal sacrifice on this day is symbolic of the offering of one’s lower nature at the Mother’s Feet: laying one’s egoism, pettiness, baseness at the Mother’s Feet is the inner meaning of Durga-puja.

Sri Aurobindo prays on behalf of all of us:

Mother Durga! We are thy children, through thy grace, by thy influence may we become fit for the great work, for the great Ideal. Mother, destroy our smallness, our selfishness, our fear.

On Vijayadashami the back and the sides of the Mother’s chair were decorated very tastefully and this continues to be done to this day. The flower that is offered on this day has been called Victory by the Mother. The Mother wore a golden Benarasi sari with zari flowers. When the Mother came down the steps we would watch Her, mesmerised. Through the darshan of this glorious, dignified aspect of the Mother, poised yet compassionate, beautiful and royal we felt blessed! How manysided the Mother was! When She came down the staircase you felt as if She was saying:

I am Durga, goddess of the proud and strong.

I remember Mohendra’s darshan of goddess Durga in Anandamath:

The ascetic said “Come by this way,” and began to ascend another underground passage. Suddenly the rays of the morning sun shone in their eyes and from every side the sweet-voiced family of birds shrilled in song. In a wide temple built in stone of marble they saw a beautifully fashioned image of the Ten-armed Goddess made in gold, laughing and radiant in the light of the early sun. The ascetic saluted the image and said, “This is the Mother as she shall be.... Behold her, with the regions for her arms,... wielder of manifold weapons, trampler-down of her foes, with the lion-heart for the steed of her riding; on her right Lakshmi as Prosperity, on her left Speech, giver of learning and science, Kartikeya with her as Strength, Ganesh as Success. Come, let us both bow down to the Mother.”...

The two men bowed down with awe and love; and when they rose, Mohendra asked in a broken voice, “When shall I see this image of the Mother?”

“When all the Mother’s sons,” replied the Brahmacharin, “learn to call the Mother by that name, on that day the Mother will be gracious to us.”

The Mother has come down to our dust-soiled earth in this age and time. She is gracious now. The Mother is now all Her children’s life-breath.

The Mother has called Vijayadashami the Victory day. On this day the Mother’s battle with the asuras ends and as Durga, the slayer of asuras, She destroys the asuras. We have been listening to this story right from our childhood. That is why the dashami day is called Vijayadashami. But we had not the slightest idea how very true all this was. The Mother has Herself said that during the Durga-puja She destroys the asuras. This battle with the asuras has been going on since time immemorial.

Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge, terrible art thou in thy own self of might, Mother beautiful and fierce. In the battle of life, in India’s battle, we are warriors commissioned by thee; Mother, give to our heart and mind, a titan’s strength, a titan’s energy, to our soul and intelligence a god’s character and knowledge.

The Mother told Mona about an extraordinary incident:

…It is something that happened here not long ago. There were a man, a lady and two children who had come to see me. It was a family and the woman was full of devotion. It was N who had brought this family. Then a strange thing happened… For me it was not an uncommon thing because…each time I was coming down to give my blessings on the days of Puja, there was always someone with me. Either Durga, or Lakshmi, there was always someone on these days. And when I need them, I call them. But on that day, as I was waiting for the family—I had seen other people already,—when they came in I felt a strong presence of Durga. I was not ready for this intrusion of Durga at that moment because each time these gods come, I know it beforehand. But this time I was not prepared and I told myself: “What is this intrusion? Durga has come and she entered within me, like that (gesture) from above, like a mantle.” Like that…and to my surprise, I saw her talking with this lady who was in front of me. This man, the lady and the children were with N, in front of me. And they remained there for a few moments. And then I understood why Durga had come. This lady was a worshipper of Durga and it was she who had called Durga… Then I told myself: “Yes, it was an exceptional lady who could bring Durga with her, even when I didn’t know it. It was very interesting, because I was there, and Durga was within me and, maybe, she was seeing Durga.”

I came to know that later, when N came back; he told me that the lady who had been there was a great worshipper of Durga. She had also some experiences; for example, when she was working, Durga came to help her and from time to time She was under the protection of Durga, and her life was moulded by the influence of Durga. “Today when she was there before You,” N said, “she saw Durga and it was Durga who was speaking with her, that’s what Mother felt.”

Then the Mother turned to Mona and asked:

And do you know who Durga is? The relation between us is that of the father and the child. Not quite, because between the father and the child, the relation is not so supple, so full of joy, it is a little restrained, whilst between myself and Durga it is a more intimate relation; she is like my daughter, my little daughter, and it is more like that… (hands interlocked in a gesture of intimate union) I mean,

…more complete, plastic, and something from beyond that that we cannot find here. A true, complete relation, in a perfect understanding. It is so sweet, so full of love, intimate and, at the same time, infinitely vast and spontaneous.

Every year the Mother manifests herself as Durga in Bengal, in India and in the whole world, to battle with the asuras during these few days of the puja and come out victorious. This is not just an ancient tale. The Mother Herself told us this story of the battle with the asuras in an evening class in the Playground. What excitement we felt that day! The Mother Herself telling us about Her own battles!

The Mother told us in the class:

You know the story of Durga, don’t you? Durga who every year has to destroy her asura; and she is always compelled to begin again. It goes on in this way till the end of the reign allotted to the titans. When they are banished from this world, things will not be the same. But till then, that is as long as they are useful for intensifying the aspiration, clarifying the consciousness, for putting to the test the sincerity of people, they will be there. The day the test will not be needed, the day the sincerity will be pure and self-existent they will disappear. Then that day, Durga will no longer need to begin her battle over again every year.


Mother Durga! When we possess thee we shall no longer cast thee away; we shall bind thee to us with the tie of love and devotion. Come, Mother, manifest thyself in our mind and life and body.


A day shall come when not a single asura will remain. That day is not far.

Vande Mataram

On every Darshan, after all the groups had reached their assigned spots during the evening March Past in the Playground, Pranab would shake heaven and earth with his resounding voice: Victoire à la Douce Mère (Victory to the Mother) followed by Vande Mataram (I adore the Mother)! It was on a 21st February Darshan, after the March Past honouring the Mother’s auspicious birthday, that Pranab’s voice very sponta-neously gave out the cry of Vande Mataram. At that divine moment a profound mystery was unveiled in our life and in that of the world-citizens: for we, the children of the Mother, had uttered Her mantra in front of Mother Aditi Herself with all that joyous enthusiasm and every atom of the body had burst forth in happy singing of Vande Mataram! Quite indescribable, really, the wonder and rapture of that moment! In the presence of the Mother, we young boys and girls, why, even the elderly, cried out in a unanimous roar Vande Mataram! Like a war cry, as it were. Vande Mataram! We clearly felt at that moment that the day of victory was indeed near. The Mother was bringing down the light of the Supramental into the sunlit heart of the earth. It was to announce and usher in Her victorious advent that the Mother’s children had cried out their hundred-throated mantra in one mighty voice Vande Mataram, Vande Mataram! Standing in the middle of the Playground, upright and dignified, the Mother accepted our salute. I just cannot describe how She looked then! This moment of history was indelibly engraved on the earth.

Vande Mataram in Sanskrit means ‘I adore the Mother’. As a mantra, these two words have an extraordinary, a divine power and their mere utterance enables man to offer his life in total fearlessness and joy.

Those who create mantras are called rishis. And it is because they are divinely inspired that they can visualise these extraordinarily potent mantras. This is why the rishi is also called mantra-drashta or seer of mantras.

Rishi Bankim Chandra was the mantra-drashta of Vande Mataram. The mantra incarnated itself in his meditation and was born out of his living experience.

Sri Aurobindo writes:

the… supreme service of Bankim to his nation was that he gave us the vision of our Mother… It is not till the Motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great Divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart that these petty fears and hopes vanish in the all-absorbing passion for the Mother and her service, and the patriotism that works miracles and saves a doomed nation is born.

From what divine experience did Bankim receive the inspiration and élan to write this great song?

It happened on the night of saptami, the seventh day of Durga-puja. Bankim bent down to bow to the idol. And then all of a sudden he found himself face to face with the beautiful, golden figure of Mother Durga herself. An indelible, unforgettable divine moment! And it was from this rare instant that he got the inspiration to compose this song. And the great hymn took on words.

How did this great hymn get published for the first time in the Bangadarshan?

One day in the year 1875, Bankim was sitting in the Bangadarshan office. He was at that time the editor. Evening had almost fallen. The magazine had gone to press. Just then a worker came out from the printing-room and informed Bankim Chandra:

“Sir, we require some more matter.”

Bankim Chandra did not know what to do as he had nothing more in hand worth publishing. He started rummaging through the drawer of unfinished, incomplete manuscripts. All of a sudden his hand fell on a piece of paper. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a song he had written. A mantra-japa that had come to him in a flash while in a state of meditation. It was a song watered with tears, coloured with the heart’s blood-red passion, a song to sway the entire being from within. Bankim read through the song again. There was a moment of hesitation: no, this cannot be published. For this was his heart’s secret innermost mantra of adoration. Would it be right to drag it into the ken of the common reader?

The press-worker stood there waiting. He absolutely needed something to fill the empty space in the magazine.

Then, very reluctantly Bankim took this piece of paper and handed it to him. The worker went back to the printing-room with that white sheet of paper containing a maha-mantra, the fire of Brahma.

And so in this way through an apparently insignificant event the seed of this maha-mantra was sown in the life of the Indian people. After the composition and publication of Vande Mataram in 1875, this mantra became known in learned circles. However, the soul of the Indian people was not yet awakened. Even after the publication of Anandamath in 1882, it did not inspire much enthusiasm. In the 1886 session of the Congress held in Calcutta Vande Mataram was sung for the first time.

Two years after Bankimchandra’s passing in 1894, when the Congress session was held once again in Calcutta, Rabindranath himself sang Vande Mataram. But even then the country was not galvanised by the living mantric power of this song. (Amalesh Bhattacharya)

Balendranath Thakur wrote in 1887 in Bharati and Balaka: On the power of Vande Mataram’s lyrics, the power of its

heart and its dharma, this song of a Bengali set to music

by a Bengali, will be sung by the whole of India as a triumphant Victory call.

It was as if the inner soul of India was giving out its divine prophecy through Balendranath Thakur’s utterance.

It was as though Indians were through this song, for the first time, awakening a living India with their heart’s fervour, devotion and adoration. The motherless country had after such a long wait found at last a mother. As if a child had called out ‘Ma’ for the first time.

And so the destined year 1905 arrived and transformed the life of India.

The Divine Mother had been waiting just for this moment.

It was known that even after the composition of Vande Mataram in 1875 and its subsequent publication, the song had still not awakened the Indian people in any considerable way. The littérateur Nabin Sen is said to have told Bankim Chandra:

Look, how a good thing written unfortunately half in Sanskrit, half in Bengali, has been reduced to a pot-pourri and has come to naught. Like those songs of Gobindo Adhikari and his travelling theatre troupe. That is why people haven’t responded to it.

This great mantra of Vande Mataram was waiting like a sleeping fire for the right ‘Mahendra’ to ignite it.

In those days Bengal, or more rightly the Presidency of Bengal, was a huge state. Bihar, Orissa and Bengal were together called Bengal. It was not easy to administer such a large province. That’s why in 1903 the British administration thought of a plan to divide the province of Bengal into two: Bihar, Orissa and the western half of Bengal on one side and the eastern part of Bengal and Assam on the other. The Bengalis were indignant. The real intention of dividing the Province of Bengal was to break the backbone of Bengali strength and will. In a flash, the whole of Bengal rose as one in rage. Curzon’s plan for the partitioning of Bengal was opposed with vehemence and demonstrations broke out against it all over Bengal. In the towns and villages of Bengal, cries of Vande Mataram rent the air and shook heaven and earth. The moment of awakening had arrived in the life of the people.

Sri Aurobindo wrote:

It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked round for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang Bande Mataram. The mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself.

Simply astounding! Even from his deathbed, Bankim had told his daughter, “You will see, one day, twenty-thirty years from today, this very Vande Mataram will ignite the blood of the people of this whole country.”

With what firm, steady conviction had he breathed his last breath! And truly, in a flash, the people of Bengal as a whole were awakened by this great mantra Vande Mataram. This awakening was as unexpected as it was inevitable and happened in 1905.

A defiant united Bengal rose up as one. They refused to accept Lord Curzon’s partitioning of Bengal. No kitchen-fire was lit in any home. In an instant, every man was transfigured. As if a huge cyclone was passing over the entire country. Quite an unimaginable event it was.

Nolini-da writes:

Almost overnight again, how very different we became from what we had been as individuals! We used to be just humdrum creatures, most ignorant and inert; now we became conscious and alert; our lives acquired a meaning, an aim, a purpose. We used to move in the traditional ruts, dull and desperate. Instead of that our lives now got a cohesion, an orientation.

Bengal was up in flames. In parks everywhere there were posters spouting ire against the British. Every speech sought their expulsion. The cry for freedom rose: India must be rid of the British.

Rabindranath played an important role in this first agitation in 1905 against the partition of Bengal. He was a great proponent of the festival of Rakhi-bandhan (a festival of bonding between brothers and sisters). On Rakhi-bandhan day, on Rabindranath’s inspiration, everyone decided to celebrate this festival with much enthusiasm. Rabindranath set out from his house. Abanindranath and other members of the Tagore household followed him. A sea of people joined in. They were all heading for the bank of the Ganges. After bathing in the river they all began tying a rakhi to one another. The public roared in unison Vande Mataram! Along the entire stretch of the Ganges there resounded the cry of Vande Mataram. Rabindranath headed now for the mosque. There too he began tying rakhis to everyone. Nobody was left out. That day Rakhi-bandhan and fasting were both celebrated in the whole of Bengal with the utterance of the Mother’s mantra Vande Mataram. The people had at last woken up. Kumbhakarna’s long sleep was broken with the quickening cry of Vande Mataram. The people of Bengal rose as one in their opposition to Lord Curzon’s proposal of partitioning Bengal. There were protests everywhere. The cries of Vande Mataram, Vande Mataram reverberated in the land and in the skies of Bengal.

Nolini-da was then a second-year student of the Presidency

College. Listen to Nolini-da recount it:

Loud protests had arisen on account of the Bengal Partition and there was going to be observed a Day of Fasting or Rakhi-day or something like that. In what manner did I register my protest? I went to college dressed as if there had been a death in my family, that is to say, without shoes or shirt and with only a chuddar on. As I entered the class, everybody seemed a little stunned. The professor cast an occasional furtive glance at me but said not a word. My action must have appeared as rather unconventional, perhaps even incorrect to many, but I felt at the same time there were quite a few who gave me an admiring look.

The Presidency College was then an institution for the children of the rich. The winds of swadeshi had not touched many here. Nolini-da, along with a few, was one among those who had been touched. The matri-mantra Vande Mataram moved Ullaskar, that same Ullaskar who by his own efforts and intelligence had managed to make bombs without taking anybody’s help. That same Ullaskar who came to college one day with a slipper wrapped in a newspaper and made good use of it on Professor Russell as soon as he got a chance. Why? Because the professor had one day said something derogatory about the Bengalis, and this was Ullaskar’s revenge. Nolini-da writes:

One of our classes had just been over, and we were going to the next class along the corridor, when all on a sudden there rang out all over the place from a hundred lusty throats shouts of Vande Mataram that tore the air with its mighty cry.

Professor Russell’s spite for the Bengalis had been avenged. The band of fearless students went back to their classes, very quiet and still as if nothing had happened.

In those days when the Indian skies were turning red and the air was becoming hot, Sri Aurobindo lived in Baroda. He wrote a letter to his younger brother Barin from distant Baroda directing him not to lose this golden opportunity. The youth became disciplined and little groups began to be formed. No town was left out. The boys started preparing themselves silently. Many of them took a vow at the altar of Ma Kali with blood drawn from their chest: they would surely liberate their Motherland from the chains of bondage. Nolini-da was one of them.

Nolini-da recounts:

I had already taken a vow about a year ago, in front of a picture of Kali at a secret ceremony at dead of night, a vow written out in blood drawn from the chest, that I should dedicate my life to the whole-hearted service of the Motherland.

And so in this way, one after another, the boys began to gather at Muraripukur Gardens. Barin Ghosh, on Sri Aurobindo’s instructions, started their training. And the matri-mantra Vande Mataram was on all their lips.

Then Sri Aurobindo quit Baroda for good. Now the boys of Muraripukur followed his instructions with newfound enthusiasm and became absorbed in work for their country. As if the whole country had been waiting for him. Ceaselessly Vande Mataram rang out everywhere now.

This is how Amalesh recounts:

The country seemed to have been waiting for the appropriate priest for this mahamantra, someone whose inspiring touch could infuse this mantra with conscious Power. And thus arrived into the life of the race Sri Aurobindo, this great sterling Voice of the soul of the country. He came and announced:

‘Vande Mataram is not just a song, it is the mantra of awakening created with the life-breath of the race. This mantra belongs not just to Bengal, not just to India but it is the inspiring mantra of the liberation of the whole of Asia, the chorus of Asiatic liberty… the religion of Patriotism.’

Sri Aurobindo called Vande Mataram “the gospel of fearless strength and force”.

The Muraripukur band of boys had arrived and India began to grow conscious. Like the sannyasi-children of Anandamath, these fearless boys went up on the gallows smiling, with Vande Mataram on their lips, and sacrificed their lives for the liberation of their Motherland from the chains of servitude:

Who, on the gallows, sang life’s victory-song.

Naturally in this context, Khudiram, the fire-child, comes to mind. The British ruler had tied the hangman’s noose around his neck. On this tender young boy’s lips that day had echoed his favourite song:

Come, ye who would be lulled by Death, O come.

This youthful boy went laughing to his death, a living embodiment of the determination contained in the matri-mantra Vande Mataram. The cry of Vande Mataram was on his lips.

The Mother told Mona many things about the revolutionaries of Muraripukur. She held them in very high esteem. Mona showed the Mother every Muraripukur boy’s photo and she looked at them with great interest. About Khudiram, the Mother remarked:

Look at his eyes intently—they tell you everything. He looks so innocent and at the same time very happy to sacrifice his life for the country. The fire of patriotism burns in his eyes. After Khudiram was hanged, Kanailal Dutt and Satyendranath Bose also sacrificed their lives on the gallows. They too went out with the matri-mantra Vande Mataram on their lips. On seeing Kanailal Dutt’s photograph, the Mother asked Mona: “Was he with Sri Aurobindo?”

Hardly had Mona said ‘yes’ that the Mother added:

It is clearly written on his face that he was with Sri Aurobindo — it is like an aura. His psychic being is burning intensely; it is quite an individualised psychic being.

It is said that after Kanailal had been sentenced to death, he started putting on weight. And when the sentries came to fetch him on the last day they found him sound asleep. They had to wake him up. And smiling he went to the gallows. He had overcome the fear of death. Vande Mataram!

Satyendranath Bose’s face too lit up with a smile as he went to the gallows. So many of them sacrificed their lives in order to break the chains of servitude of their Motherland! And Vande Mataram was on each one’s lips.

The Mother said:

The aura of Sri Aurobindo is around them all, it is very clear, and their psychic being expresses it… See this one. Oh, his psychic is very much to the front. He surely belonged to Sri Aurobindo’s group… It is not sacrifice which is written on their face, it is joyful offering to the Motherland—to Mother India. And they have proved something, they have proved that adoration of the Motherland is dearer than life itself. They faced all dangers and fought bravely, whatever the cost. Their psychic beings are all individualised. It is an extraordinary group. All these photos I have seen just now have the markings of a hero. Tejen’s father (Jatindranath Mukherjee) has the markings, and others too. Some of them are endowed with almost divine qualities, rarely to be found among men.

Let me tell you now about how two young boys heroically bore the torture inflicted on them by the police. They went on repeating Vande Mataram, Vande Mataram, Vande Mataram.

Our Biren Sen (in the Ashram) like Sudhir-da was also sent to the Andamans and mercilessly tortured. His brother, Sushil Sen, joined the Swadeshi group as a young boy. Once, an English police officer banned a meeting which a popular Swadeshi leader was to address. So Sushil just walked up to this officer and hit him hard on the head with a stick. The poor boy was immediately caught and ordered to be given a punishment of fifteen lashes. A policeman who wielded a heavy whip started lashing the boy, but he refused to be cowed down. With each whiplash he cried out loud Vande Mataram and the whole crowd joined in with him (the slogan had been banned then).

Such is the power of the matri-mantra.

Now let me tell you about Chittaranjan, the son of

Monoranjan Guhothakurta.

Sri Aurobindo, Bipin Pal, along with several other regional leaders turned up in Barisal for a meeting of a regional conference of Bengal. The gathering kept shouting Vande Mataram as they waited for the visiting leaders. When the leaders arrived, the Police made a lathi-charge. However, the young boy, Chittaranjan, continued shouting Vande Mataram. The police pounced on him, beating him ruthlessly as he slumped to the ground, bleeding. But he did not cease even once his cry of Vande Mataram. After he had recovered, Chittaranjan proudly told his father: “I cried out Vande Mataram as many times as the police hit me with their sticks. They could not silence me.”

Just imagine how powerful this matri-mantra is!

This cry of Vande Mataram bound all hearts together, from Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and from every province of India. Vande Mataram became a cry of bonding, of mutual love, goodwill and greeting. The educated classes of Punjab greeted one another with the cry of Vande Mataram.

Vande Mataram is indeed a tremendously victorious and powerful mantra of awakening.

I am naturally reminded here of Bagha Jatin and his heroism. In the battle for independence Jatindranath Mukhopadhyaya was the hero of heroes. A follower of Sri Aurobindo, Bagha Jatin showed such prowess in battle against the British on the banks of Budibalam in Baleshwar that even some British officers could not but praise him.

The deputy inspector of police, General Riland, once asked

Upendranath Ghosh, the lawyer of this revolutionary group: “Have you read the three articles in this envelope? What an

extraordinary man, this Jatin Mukherji! What a mastermind! Had he been alive today the whole world would have looked upon him as a leader.”

There were three English articles in the envelope. Justice McPherson remarked about the article titled “The Children of Mother India—The Voice of a Devotee”:

“This political article is ablaze with fire!”

When a wounded Bagha Jatin was being taken to hospital he told magistrate Kilby:

“These boys with me are innocent. I am solely responsible for everything that has happened. Please see that injustice is not done to them.”

Even while breathing his last he made the same appeal to

Kilby again.

On 10th September 1915, Charles Tegart came to see Jatindranath. He was accompanied by some highly placed British officers. Jatindranath reiterated his appeal to Charles Tegart.

“I am glad to have met you. It is time for me to leave but those who remain are innocent. It was at my urging that they chose this path. Kindly see that they are not unjustly persecuted.”

What a vast, generous nature! Even in the final moments of his life he was concerned about Niren, Monoranjan, Jyotish and the others.

Then a paroxysm of coughing shook Bagha Jatin and he threw up blood once more. His humour did not leave him: “Amazing that this body should still contain so much

blood! What reassures me is that I could offer it at the altar of the Mother. This blood shall never go waste.”

And with these words this hero of heroes was no more. After Jatindranath’s passing, Charles Tegart told Barrister J. N. Roy:

“You know, Mr. Roy, we had to do our duty, but our admiration and respect for Jatindranath is immense. He was truly an invaluable son of India.”

Our Prithwin (Bagha Jatin’s grandson) has written a book on his grandfather. Here are some incidents I have picked out from it to give you a feel of this great personality.

Now this is what Sri Aurobindo has said about his beloved disciple:

He was one of my trusted lieutenants, a wonderful man who could belong to the front rank of humanity, such beauty and strength combined in one I have not seen. His stature was like that of a warrior.

The ideal that Bagha Jatin established by offering his blood at the altar of the Mother is what he left behind to his comrades and associates.

Twenty-second November 1915. It was the day Niren and Monoranjan were to be hanged. Both of them went laughing to the gallows, they felt such joy on that day! Who would reach the noose first: this was the competition between them! Repeating the cry of Vande Mataram they had conquered the fear of death. And as they were being hanged, hundreds of prisoners’ voices rang out with the same cry: Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

Another group of young boys appears before my eyes and I remember their fearless faces and feats of bravery. They were born much after the Muraripukur boys. But these boys too were fired by that intrepid self-confidence that was lit by the matri-mantra Vande Mataram and they had set out to liberate their Motherland from the chains of slavery.

We are all familiar with the courage and heroism of boys like Benoy, Badal and Dinesh. One day at noon in front of the

‘Writers Building’ a group of these revolutionary soldiers got off their vehicle. They went up to the first floor, determination writ large on their faces. Three pistols were aimed at Colonel Simpson and shots rang out. The ‘Writers Building’ was in tumult. People started running helter-skelter, terrified.

In Lalbazar, Charles Tegart heard a voice crying out carried by the wind, ‘Help! Help!’ He rushed out to try and finish off Benoy, Badal and Dinesh in a man-to-man combat. But he had to concede defeat. Despite so many soldiers around he could not handle three young Bengalis. The famous Gurkha regiment was called to confront this fearless trio. Where on earth did these three boys get such tremendous force to take on the formidable British Army and inflict a shattering defeat on them in battle prowess? The smoke of exploding bullets and the smell of gunpowder! A black darkness descended and through it Benoy, Badal and Dinesh would be heard roaring from time to time Vande Mataram! When their guns had run out of ammunition one after another they rushed into a room. They were now face to face with death. Benoy gave the order, cry out Vande Mataram one last time before dying. The three of them roared as one, Vande Mataram! Look at the sheer power of this maha-mantra!

Dinesh was hanged on 7th July 1931. With firm, quiet steps he climbed up on the gallows and said simply: “I am ready”, and then like a clap of thunder, he cried out Vande Mataram! And within seconds hundreds of prisoners from the entire jail echoed Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

Let me now tell you something about the young Pradyut Bhattacharya.

This happened on 11th January in 1933. Nobody had slept that night at the political prisoners’ jail. They were all thinking about Pradyut. Suddenly Pradyut’s voice wafted in with the breeze. He was sweetly singing:

O Death! Thou art dear to me as Shyam.

Unimaginable that such a young boy should sing this before dying!

Khudiram too had burst into song before being hanged:

Come, ye who would be lulled by Death, O come.

Where did they find this power of self-sacrifice? Its source was the maha-mantra Vande Mataram. Every revolutionary embraced Death with a laugh with Vande Mataram on his lips!

And so on the morning of 11th January 1933, Pradyut got ready. He washed himself, finished his puja and waited. The sentries were amazed. Then he climbed up the steps on to the gallows all by himself. A large smile lit up his face. Like Kanailal, he too had put on weight.

“Are you ready, Pradyut?” questioned the Jail Superintendent, Mr. Burge.

“Absolutely!” he replied with a laugh. “I am ready. Now do what you have to do.”

His being cried out Vande Mataram one final time. Within a flash hundreds of political prisoners roared Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram! shaking heaven and earth.

Pradyut was just 17 and on the power of the maha-mantra Vande Mataram he had laid his life at the feet of the Motherland in order to liberate her from servitude. Just two words: Vande Mataram — but the power within them is incalculable. And the life and character of every revolutionary merely exemplifies this. The revolutionaries were able to bear all that pain, persecution and torture because they kept repeating the maha-mantra Vande Mataram.

Now let me return to the Playground where we heard for the first time the cry of Vande Mataram. As soon as Pranab had uttered Vande Mataram we too, unknowingly carried by the tremendous force of that maha-mantra, echoed it again and again, Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

Four heroic sons of the past were present in our midst in the Adult-Group. I turned to look at them. Nolini Kanta Gupta, Sudhir Sarkar, Nolini Sarkar, Narendranath Dasgupta stood quietly on their spots as if absorbed in meditation. Had the repetition of this mantra stirred something in them? After all, this bija-mantra had been their constant companion.

I was myself transported to the distant past by the story of their lives.

Nolini-da (Nolini Kanta Gupta) had taken his vow in a secret ceremony at the altar of Kali at midnight with blood drawn from his own chest: “I shall one-pointedly serve my Motherland with body and soul.” That same Nolini Kanta Gupta is standing now so quiet and poised, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s beloved child.

Sudhir-da, who had to undergo terrible suffering and torture for a long time in the Andamans, was there too, his eyes aglow with light. Whenever I met him he would tell me: “You know Priti, mati is actually Ma-ti.” (The land is the Mother.) The way he uttered Ma-ti opened the gates of such tremendous love and respect for the Motherland! He told Mona one day: “We did not completely accept Sri Aurobindo’s Mother India as a living Entity, a living God, so in order to establish the truth, He has brought down now the living Mother, the Divine Mother.”

When Mona recounted this to the Mother, She just laughed.

Sri Aurobindo had remarked about Mona’s father: “That fearless Sudhir.”

The Mother told Mona:

Your father is among the ‘gifted’ ones who have an individualised psychic being.

Mona took his father to the Mother on his eightieth birthday. After seeing Sudhir, the Mother told Mona:

Tell him to remain quiet. Explain to him lovingly that the

Mother has taken charge of India. I know how difficult it is for him, but let him not worry.

Nolini-da (Nolini Sarkar) was not associated with the Muraripukur boys but he never hesitated in giving his total help and support to the revolutionaries in silence from behind. He had the deepest reverence and love for Sri Aurobindo.

After these people, there were many more heroic sons who dedicated their lives one-pointedly in the service of the Motherland under the direct guidance of Bagha Jatin. Narendra Dasgupta or our Naren-da was one of them. Narendra Dasgupta stands out among the youthful revolutionaries who on Bagha Jatin’s instructions had committed a successful robbery. This money was brought in bags and was to be used for the work of the Motherland. He hid the money under his mattress and quietly slipped into the adjoining room. The police entered this room and searched everywhere in vain and finally left. It was in the course of a conversation that Sri Aurobindo had made that famous remark: “Oh! that Naren!”

After Naren Dasgupta passed away the Mother observed:

…a man who lived his whole life with the idea of serving Sri Aurobindo, he died clasping my photo to his breast. This was a consecrated man, very conscious, with an unfailing dedication, and all the parts of his being well organised around the psychic.

They are indeed worthy of our reverence. Blessed are they! Among the worthy sons of Sri Aurobindo they had the privilege and honour of hailing Vande Mataram in front of the Mother. Earlier they had vowed to work for the liberation of their Motherland from her chains, and now as they uttered Vande Mataram they were bound by oath to advance on the path of Integral Yoga.

“ ‘Jeevananda, come at once, the one who reaches the summit first will win. Say Vande Mataram!’

The Vaishnava army cried out loud: Thou art wisdom, thou art law,

Thou our heart, our soul, our breath, Thou the love divine, the awe

In our hearts that conquers death.”

Here, the summit we must climb is that of ‘Truth’ and so for us it is an ‘Ascent to the Truth’.

Like the children of Anandamath we are the children of the Mother and on the strength of the mantra Vande Mataram, we are committed to scaling the summit of truth. And so with the cry of Vande Mataram, a wave of fire swept over the whole Playground and a new life began. An immense change overtook the life in the Ashram. In 1905 the cry of Vande Mataram had released a tremendous force that awakened the Indian people and now that same maha-mantra, Vande Mataram, was awakening the whole world. A time shall come when every human being on the earth will cry out Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!

The Four Aspects of the Mother

The Mother used to tell us so many things on Her own…

She was once walking in the Playground as the March Past was to begin in some time. She came and stood under the Neem-tree leaning against the wall in silence for a while. Then rather unexpectedly She began:

“I have come this time in all my aspects. This has never happened before in the history of the earth, I have never come in this totality.”

I looked at Her, wonder-struck. Looking gently at me, the

Mother just smiled. I asked Her all of a sudden: “Are you Mother Durga?”

The Mother smiled a little once again and nodded in agreement. I saw Mother Durga before me! What an indescribable form! Sri Aurobindo’s Durga-stotra flashed in my mind:

Mother Durga! Rider on the lion, trident in hand, thy body of beauty armour-clad…

Then I asked:

“Are you Mother Mahalakshmi?”

The Mother nodded once again in the same way. A mysterious smile lit up Her face yet again. An otherworldly loveliness flowed from Her. Standing close to Her, my heart filled up with a marvellous newborn joy. I felt the magic of the Mother’s immaculate beauty. There was so much enchantment in that magnetic beauty of Hers. Sri Aurobindo’s lines echoed in my ears:

Above them is the miracle of eternal beauty, an unseizable secret of divine harmonies, the compelling magic of an irresistible universal charm and attraction….

My uncontrollable curiosity compelled me once again and I

could not help asking:

“Are you Mother Mahasaraswati?”

The Mother answered each of my questions with the same compassionate love and for a few seconds revealed to me Her Mahasaraswati aspect. Her patience was infinite. I couldn’t control my curiosity and the questions kept coming.

“Mother, are you Rajrajeshwari?”

Once again the Mother nodded in agreement.

“Tranquil is she and wonderful, great and calm for ever.”

I felt the Mother very distant as She stood before me solemn and immobile.

I kept naming all the gods and goddesses and it was always the same question: “Are you Mother Anandamayi? Are you Mother Chandi? Are you Mother this, Are you Mother that?”

The Mother just kept nodding in assent. My bag of questions was inexhaustible! Finally, at the end, I asked Her:

“Are you Mother Mahakali?”

That vast amazing form of the Mother comes up before my eyes even today. How unattainable She looked as I stared at Her helplessly. Where was that ever familiar Mother of ours? That form of Hers was so unfamiliar that a terrible fear gripped me. But the Mother came back to normal within a flash. With a soft smile She took my hands into Hers. However, I could not come out of that state even with the divine touch of Her hands. I just stood there silently.

Sri Aurobindo’s description of Mahakali in the sixth chapter of The Mother flashed in my mind. Seeing the Mother in these different forms, I was overwhelmed by an unearthly sort of feeling. The Mother began talking to me as before and my fear slowly dissolved. The Mother was smiling again. I again found my Mother in the form of my friend.

I had the same experience on another occasion. One day

Manoj asked the Mother in the Playground: “Mother, why did you create boys and girls?”

The Mother kept quiet for some time. Then She laughed and said:

“Your seeing humans as boy or girl is not quite right. When I talk to you, I don’t think this is Manoj or that is Priti. I talk to the soul or the inner being that is within each one of you. This soul is not male or female. So don’t rack your brains with all these outer differences. You know that I am neither male nor female. One day you will realise who I am.”

The Mother looked at both of us with mysteriously happy eyes. It felt as if somewhere…I had a vision of Her in Her immensity. Just for an instant. And then once more She assumed Her usual form. I don’t know why but I felt that was indeed Her real form.

The Mother in Her Maheshwari Aspect

Quite unexpectedly the Mother would become still, immobile, quite distant…and keep staring into space. Her eyes were looking into some faraway place of which we had no idea. She was giving flowers and blessing each one with a gentle smile on Her face. But She was so steeped in a meditative state, so majestically immense and deep at that time that we could not find our everyday Mother then. This Maheshwari form of Hers was beyond our comprehension. She was surrounded by an infinite vastness, by an unparalleled, incalculable glory. I do not have the words or the ability to describe that incredible loveliness. Why, even a little child would come in front of the Mother and gape at Her face overawed. Even the little ones would feel as if the Mother was lost somewhere faraway…. As soon as they had received the flowers from Her hand they would run away and then keep looking at the Mother from a distance. Had these sensitive children experienced something? As they all assembled at a distance and looked at the still, tranquil image of the Mother, they would become quiet too. The usual cackle of children inside the Ashram would abruptly cease. And in that atmosphere of quiet everything felt wonderful even if I did not quite understand the reason for this. Like the rays of the sun, this stillness and tranquillity would penetrate each one of us and make us quiet. There was pin-drop silence all around then. How can one ever forget that kind of atmosphere? This inexhaustible, tender stillness and silence pervading the air?

If Lord of the Universe I call thee, Ah then, so far dost thou seem to me!

Experiencing the Mother in her Maheshwari aspect or Aditi made us feel very faraway indeed since we were so used to knowing Her as our friend and comrade. Like the five Pandavas who had always known Sri Krishna as their friend, we had the same rapport with the Mother. Even after receiving the vision, and experiencing the Mother in Her different forms and aspects, we were still used to seeing Her as our friend and that is how She was always present in our hearts and minds. Like Bhishma, Dronacharya and the others looked up to Sri Krishna as an Avatar, Nolini-da, Amrita-da, Pavitra-da, Andréda, Nirod-da, Dyuman-da, Purani-ji and so many other senior sadhaks always looked upon the Mother as Mother Aditi Herself, as Maheshwari. Whenever the Mother called out Pavitrada’s name he would at once answer the call with the greatest humility and obedience. As soon as André-da entered the Tennis Court, the Mother would wave Her tennis racket to greet him. And André-da would respectfully advance towards Her with folded hands.

Our rapport with the Mother was the rapport of Arjuna with Sri Krishna.

The Mother in Her Durga Aspect

The Mother is arranging flowers in Her first-floor room. Mridu-mashi is sitting by the door with her flower-garland. Mridu-mashi would come daily at this time to offer pranam to the Mother with her flower-garland. I don’t know what happened on that day but as soon as I entered the Mother’s room to get her flower-blessing, Mridu-mashi exclaimed:

“Mother, Priti is Saraswati, Pratima (Sarkar) is Lakshmi, and myself, I…” And saying this she jumped up and rushed to the Mother’s Feet and roared:

“I am Mahishasura!”

And she laughed a terrible laugh. She kept laughing like that looking at the Mother and I could hardly recognise Mridu-mashi. Her features looked strangely altered. Suddenly the Mother stood up and strongly pressed Mridu-mashi’s head down with Her Foot. I felt as if Durga was slaying the demon Mahishasura. For an instant the Mother revealed Her Durga aspect. Mridu-mashi’s uncontrollable laughter would not cease as the Mother, her eyes blazing, stood with Her Foot firmly pressing Mridu-mashi’s head.

The Mother in Her Mahalakshmi Aspect

Come! O Queen in golden garb, conch and lotus holding bright,

Come! Ma Lakshmi, take thy seat and fill this dwelling with thy light.

The first Lakshmi-puja, like the Durga-puja, took place in the Ashram in 1944. This first Lakshmi-puja was most significant. For this puja too, the Meditation Hall and the staircase were decorated with all kinds of flowers. There was an abundance of Harmony flowers. All the walls were covered with these lacelike flowers. One couldn’t take one’s eyes off from the two halls. These were my favourite flowers in childhood as I was always greatly attracted to their delicate beauty. It was only after coming to the Ashram that I found out that the Mother had called this flower ‘Harmony’. These pink, white and red flowers would fill my heart with joy.

When I was a child I used to leave for school very early in order to pluck these flowers along my way. The garden in the S.D.O’s house was fenced with these flower-vines. This property was beyond that well-known tank called the Naveen Sen tank. Sitting in a boat on this tank Naveen Sen had written his famous book Amar Jeevan. He had come to Feni as the S.D.O. and got this tank excavated and deepened. Its surroundings were most beautiful. On one side stood two houses: the munsif ’s and a tribunal. On the other side were the S.D.O’s house and another tribunal in front. There were all kinds of tall trees and flowers on this property. We felt we were in a dream-world here. Big Patience trees lined the boundary wall. Early in the morning the girls from the neighbourhood used to collect flowers from under these trees beside the Treasury house that was guarded by the police. Gathering these flowers required indeed infinite patience and so I was surprised when I learnt on coming to the Ashram that the Mother had named this flower ‘Patience’. The neighbourhood girls made garlands of Patience and offered some to Lord Sri Ram and left some in Babaji Gambhirnath’s puja-room. I used to make garlands for my father’s deity. We knew that this deity was Sri Aurobindo but we did not know then who he actually was.

Cormorant-like diving birds used to swim in the middle of the tank and from time to time plunge into the water looking, probably, for fish. We would stand in a group on one side of the tank and cry aloud to the birds:

“Dive again, dive again!”

And we felt as if the birds were obeying us as they dived into the water. And we would clap in delight. And then the girls put these flowers in their hair, some around their buns, some along their plaits. And as soon as the huge dog of that house began barking we would run off in a flash. On days when the dog was not on the leash we did not venture in that direction. We would go to school past the tribunal on the other side of the tank.

As we filed past the tribunal on our way to school, a wellknown lawyer of Feni stood in the verandah. On seeing us he always exclaimed:

Rows of maids with earrings dancing…” And then suddenly shout:

“Eh! Why aren’t you wearing earrings?”

We would flee in fright. And then from a distance we completed the verse:

With flowers freshly-plucked enchanting!” And then disappear altogether…

This gentleman was endowed with a huge belly. So one day, I came up with a trick to teach him a lesson. I told the girls:

“Look, as soon as we spot this man, I’ll ask: ‘Who goes there?’ And you will reply: ‘Me, big Belly.’ Then I’ll ask: ‘Who is behind?’ And you’ll loudly answer: ‘Me, Chandrakant.’ ” (His name was Chandrakant-babu.)

So a few days later when we took that path again to go to school we spotted Chandrakant-babu standing on the verandah as usual. As if he were waiting for us. Immediately I asked:

“Who goes there?” My friends replied: “Me, big Belly.”

“Who is behind?” I enquired.

And then I too joined my screaming friends: “Me, Chandrakant-babu.”

The man blurted out:

“Catch these girls, catch them!”

But we darted off in a wink. Running away on Sher Shah’s Grand Trunk Road laughing breathlessly as we arrived at school!

Let me recount one more amusing incident. The guard of the Treasury house next to the Patience trees would click his feet together as soon as he saw us. Then he lowered his gun to the ground and asked:

“Who goes there?”

Very scared we would all respond with one voice: “A friend!”

The guard would start laughing. The girls then asked: “What is he saying? What is the guard saying?”

Our knowledge of English was limited to “a cat sat on a mat” at that time, so, naturally, to be able to say “friend” made us terribly proud. It is from my elder brother, Saroj, that I had picked up this word.

Oh, there are so many amusing things that come flooding

Despite my fear of dogs I still used to take that path to Making alpana would start right from the afternoon. Bibha, Gauri, Minnie-di, Milli-di did this so beautifully. In Bengal on Lakshmi-puja day especially, the women covered the floors of their house, the puja-area, all the rooms and even the courtyard, with their exquisite alpana. Every house in every locality was adorned with alpana in order to welcome Ma Lakshmi. How could we invite her to stay in a place that had the slightest ugliness?

Sri Aurobindo has written in The Mother:

…But all that is ugly and mean and base, all that is poor and sordid and squalid, all that is brutal and coarse repels her advent. Where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come.…

We had heard from our elders right from our childhood never to close the door loudly because Ma Lakshmi would be displeased. Our things were to be properly kept, neatly washed or cleaned. Otherwise Lakshmi would leave the house and go away. We always had to be measured and harmonious in our actions, thoughts and feelings, true worshippers of beauty, otherwise Ma Lakshmi would not stay.

What sort of goddess was she, I used to wonder in amazement. How quickly she gets offended! It was only when I read Sri Aurobindo’s description of Mahalakshmi in The Mother that I understood how much truth there was in what the elders said. My mother and grandmother and all the elderly ladies of the neighbourhood always said: “Don’t laugh loudly, especially at night, don’t walk with long, noisy strides. Do everything with beauty and measure.” Their nagging advice used to irritate me very much then. Now I feel: amazing! How did they know and understand the hold Mahalakshmi had over us?

Ranga-didima [maternal grandmother], mother’s jethima [elder aunt], was in charge of the provisions for the enormous Niyogi household. She herself stocked the rice, pulses, vegetables, spices, etc. required for the family. She would meticulously clean the pulses and cereals herself and store them properly. Though very young then, I used to help Ranga-didima. I enjoyed listening to her. While cleaning pulses or spices nothing that had fallen on the floor was thrown away but put back into the canisters carefully. I was quite astonished:

“Why are you picking this up? The canisters are full to the brim already!”

She always replied with a laugh:

“Do not waste even a single grain! Mahalakshmi doesn’t allow it. She abhors any sort of waste.”

These elderly ladies remembered the Mother quite unknowingly in different ways as they lived their lives. Probably this too is the Mother’s divine Grace.

Ranga-didima came to the Ashram two or three times. She even had the Mother’s darshan in Her room. She was very keen on getting the Mother’s charanamrita and so I told Nolini-da about it. As soon as Nolini-da told the Mother about it She touched some water with Her Feet and sent it to her. Naturally Ranga-didima was thrilled and with all her devotion drank this blessed charanamrita and shared it with all of us. In this way a long-cherished desire of mine too was fulfilled. Once when this didima was coming away after the Mother’s darshan, the Mother gestured to her to come back. She held her by the arms and looked into her eyes for a long time. Then She gave her flower-blessing a second time. This was to be Ranga-didima’s last darshan of the Mother. About a year after leaving Pondicherry she passed away. Probably that was why the Mother had called her back to give her a second flowerblessing. She had worshipped Ma Lakshmi all her life. How people follow the Mother’s guidance without even knowing it! And thus it was at Ma Lakshmi’s feet that she finally found refuge! It is amazing how these ladies of those times, right from their childhood, were so detached from the world even though they respected all the rites and rituals of a Hindu family. She had understood at the very first glimpse of the Mother during the darshan that She was Mother Aditi herself. The Mother had heard her call.

The same thing happened in the life of my Mejo-mashima [second maternal aunt]. In 1972 she came with the ‘Pathmandir’ group and went to the Mother’s room for Her darshan and blessing. Everyone slowly filed past the Mother in a line. When our mashima (Naresh-da’s mother) got up to leave after the Mother’s darshan, the Mother bent down slightly and held her hand and pressed it gently. It was quite an unexpected sight as the Mother had practically ceased all activity then. That is why this little gesture from the Mother was for her a sublime gift. How many times has she recounted with tearfilled, happy eyes this gesture of the Mother’s compassion!

I am always wonder-struck by the devotion, faith and love that these women had for the Mother although they had taken up the worldly life from their infancy itself. Their worship was not in vain as the Mother always remained very close to them in Her form of Ma Lakshmi. They always tried to incarnate Her in all their life’s activities by doing everything with beauty and grace.

Here is Sri Aurobindo’s description of this aspect of Mahalakshmi in his book The Mother:

Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi.…

If she finds herself in men’s hearts surrounded with selfishness and hatred and jealousy and malignance and envy and strife, if treachery and greed and ingrati-tude are mixed in the sacred chalice, if grossness of passion and unrefined desire degrade devotion, in such hearts the gracious and beautiful Goddess will not linger.

Here the question of knowledge, wealth or riches does not arise at all. In Mahalakshmi’s vision even a very rich man might appear terribly destitute just as an extremely poor person might be in Mahalakshmi’s eyes very beautiful and rich provided inwardly he is generous and large-hearted.

Lakshmi-puja was celebrated with a lot of festivity in my mama’s [uncle’s] house (Pattagram Niyogi House). Each and every room of this huge house and the inner courtyard was decorated with such exquisite alpanas! Marvellous really! All of us, mashimas [aunts], mamimas[aunts] and we little ones participated in this. The ingredients were rice powder and sindoor. The little ones used to dot the flower-alpanas with red sindoor on directions from the elders. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to be allowed to draw the Feet of Ma Lakshmi. One year on such a Lakshmipuja day I was very excitedly making the Feet of Ma Lakshmi when suddenly mamima came rushing in:

“Pushpo, you can’t do this. You are in a period of impurity. Move away, move away.”

I fell from the sky. I was making Ma Lakshmi’s feet. How could impurity come into that?

Mamima continued:

“You are in a period of impurity. You cannot participate in any puja-work.”

Leaving the bowl of rice-paste I ran out.

What joy and what excitement! In front of the room reserved for ‘deliveries’ a big crowd had gathered. Rangadadababu, Dadababu [grandfathers], everyone had come to see our brother Manoj.

Let me return to the main story then.

In 1944 on the occasion of the first Lakshmi-puja, the Mother came down in the evening to bless us. Milli-di, Bibha, Minnie-di and Gauri had beautifully drawn Ma Lakshmi’s feet right from the bottom of the staircase up to the Mother’s chair. Then Milli-di lit some earthen lamps and covered these with a terracotta shade that had a hole in the middle. All the electric lights were switched off. In the soft muted light of the oil-lamps, the Meditation Hall had a marvellous, celestial glow. The Mother came down the staircase wearing a gorgeous, green Benarasi silk sari. Seeing the Mother in the midst of all those vines of Harmony my heart sang in delight!

The Mother had come down in Her aspect of Mahalakshmi. The Mother stepped on the alpana-drawn feet of Lakshmi and slowly came and sat in the chair. On seeing the Mother in this form, my mind flashed back to the time of my childhood when in radiant joy Ma Lakshmi’s feet were drawn out in alpana. It was beyond my wildest imagination then that one day I would have a vision of Ma Lakshmi Herself to my heart’s content!

Had I ever imagined that one day Mother Mahalakshmi Herself would step on the alpana-drawn feet of Ma Lakshmi? Sri Aurobindo has written:

Magnetic is the touch of her hands and their occult and delicate influence refines mind and life and body and where she presses her feet course miraculous streams of an entrancing Ananda.

The memory of that divine moment still makes my heart dance. That is why the first Lakshmi-puja of 1944 was so significant for me. After 1944 on every Lakshmi-puja the Mother would come down but Her walking over the alpana-drawn feet of Ma Lakshmi happened only the first time. The Mother revealed Herself in Her Mahalakshmi aspect: what an incredible event that was on this beautiful earth of ours! And we were its blessed witnesses!

The Mother in Her Mahakali Aspect

Mahakali is of another nature. Not wideness but height, not wisdom but force and strength are her peculiar power…for she is the Warrior of the Worlds who never shrinks from the battle.

It is Kali-puja celebration in the Ashram Meditation Hall. The Mother’s chair has been tastefully decorated with a red Benarasi silk sari. There are red hibiscus flowers everywhere for the red hibiscus is the flower of Mahakali. On Kali-puja this flower is offered at the Mother’s Feet. We had known this since our childhood but I did not know why. It is after coming here that I found out that the Mother said ‘Power’ was the spiritual significance of this flower. And what else can Mahakali as the incarnation of Power be offered! Isn’t it amazing! How the munis and rishis had attained this knowledge through their subtle vision so many aeons ago! For every god or goddess there is a different flower. Holy Basil leaves or tulsi are offered at every puja. The puja in fact starts with an offering of tulsi. And the Mother’s spiritual significance for tulsi is ‘Devotion’. Without devotion one cannot find god. Isn’t the phrase the ‘devotee’s god’ most apt? That is why you start the puja with an offering of tulsi. In this context I am reminded of a strange aspect of the Mother as recounted by Mona:

One day the Mother entered with a tray filled with Devotion leaves (Ocimum sanctum or tulsi in India) crying out as if in an auction:

“Who wants some devotion? Who wants some devotion? I give it to the one who asks for it. Who wants... Do you want?”

You want it? Do you care for all these things? Does it mean anything to you, or are these only words? Look! No effect. He is like a piece of stone. No reaction at all. What? Do you want some? No need? No?

Mona: But Mother, didn’t you feel it? Didn’t you hear what I want?

You cunning little one, there, take. Can’t you speak? What are you made of?

Mona: Don’t know, but it is your fault. My fault, but why?

Mona: Because you made me like this. You have made me, so you know.

But I have not forbidden you to ask me anything.

Mona: Yes, you did.


Mona: You told me: when one keeps silent before you, then one receives better.

Ah! Really, you are…

Satisfied with the answer, the Mother turned all of a sudden and went into her room.

What a wonderful incident!

One day the Mother put a garland of tulsi leaves around

Champaklal-ji and told him:

“Tie yourself with devotion.”

A line from a song comes to me:

Bhakter kangaal ami chirakaal, bhakta amaar praaner praan.

(Devotees’ beggar have I been forever, for the devotee is the heart of my life.)

And so through this mysterious game the Mother made us conscious about the invaluable need for devotion.

Every year on Kali-puja day, the Mother used to come down to the Meditation Hall wearing a red Benarasi sari embroidered with flowers in zari (golden thread). She gave everyone flowers as blessings. Inside the small envelope there were dried petals of the pomegranate flower (Divine’s Love). The Mother used to shower this divine Love on us on this special day. On this special day the Mother used to bring down Mahakali. Mahakali was seated within the Mother. And unknowingly we would all feel a little of the different aspects of the Mother. When one is close to the fire, one cannot but be touched by its warmth.

The Mother kept the Rudra aspect of Mahakali always under control but in spite of that sometimes this terrible aspect of hers did come through.

I remember an incident.

One day a young man of about 23 was talking very excitedly. Soon the tenor of his conversation went beyond the acceptable. I was standing just behind him in the queue on the staircase and so could hear everything. All of a sudden the Mother’s voice rose as she sharply said:

“Stop! Stop! Otherwise you will provoke Mahakali, you will provoke Mahakali.”

The Mother was doing Her utmost to try and spare Her own child from the terrible wrath and fury of Mahakali. I stood on the staircase and went on praying to the Mother:

“Ma, Ma, please spare the boy from the awful wrath of

Mahakali. Please save him. Please calm Mahakali down.”

I peeped in and saw that the Mother was still straining very hard to control Mahakali’s unstoppable fury. A tremendous shiver ran down my whole body like lightning. It was only a few years earlier that I had asked the Mother: “Mother, are you Mahakali?”

And the Mother had just nodded in agreement. Today She herself was saying:

“Stop! Stop! Otherwise you will provoke Mahakali.”

That vast, fearful figure of the Mother, that tremendous brow of Hers emerged before my eyes. Finally the boy calmed down with the Mother’s Grace. He took the flower-blessings and came down. He probably did not realise the frightening catastrophe he had been spared thanks to the Mother’s Grace.

Another incident took place some time earlier. In those times all the sadhaks were having all kinds of experiences. By the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s Grace each one would reach a very high level in his or her sadhana. One such sadhak was getting such significant experiences that he lost all control. He went up to the Mother and exclaimed:

“I am Sri Aurobindo.”

There was no escape. The Mother roared: “What? What did you say?”

Mahakali was awakened. The sadhak was so terrified seeing this frightful aspect of the Mother that he began desperately calling out to Sri Aurobindo:

“Sri Aurobindo, save me, save me.”

Sri Aurobindo came out of his room on hearing his voice. He came to the Mother and requested Her:

“Mother, forgive him this time.”

The Mother brought Mahakali back under control.

From time to time this ferocious aspect of the Mother would come through. She could not then tolerate even the smallest of mistakes. Sometimes She would erupt like a volcano with Her tremendous power, sharpness and divine fury. Her hand was ruthless over anything that was ignorant and unconscious. This incident also gives us an unmistakable glimpse of man’s treachery and propensity for malignity. Sri Aurobindo describes this aspect of Mahakali in The Mother:

Intolerant of imperfection, she deals roughly with all in man that is unwilling and she is severe to all that is obstinately ignorant and obscure; her wrath is immediate and dire against treachery and falsehood and malignity, ill-will is smitten at once by her scourge.

I remember seeing a very beautiful well-known painting by Pramode Kumar Chatterjee: Mahadeva lying at the feet of Mahakali in her fearful dance in order to destroy the whole creation with that terrifying dreadful aspect of hers. She will not tolerate falsehood or the slightest deviation from the divine work. Mahadeva sees the danger and lies down at Mahakali’s feet. And unknowingly her feet fall upon Mahadeva’s chest and she suddenly stops. She withdraws her power. The battleloving Mahakali calms down and the universe is saved.

This sadhak was saved only because Sri Aurobindo had Himself interceded on his behalf with the Mother. I still cannot forget that scene. Shiva, Mahadeva himself, taking Mahakali’s tremendous power upon him!

Once while taking the French class in the Playground, the

Mother spoke at length about the different forms of Kali.

The Mother had once gone for a drive by the sea near Ariancouppam. After travelling a little distance She asked that the car be stopped. But She did not get out of the car. Suddenly an awfully black, frightfully skinny figure with dishevelled hair came and stood near the Mother and began begging:

“Please help me. If I can get your force and help then a lot of people will come to me. Then my power will increase.”

The figure went on begging in this way. So then the

Mother replied:

“You don’t need any more force or people. Be happy with whatever you have got.”

The car re-started and when the Mother reached the Kali temple in Virampattinam and entered She understood that the dark figure She had met was in fact the deity of this temple.

One day someone asked the Mother:

“What plane does this Kali belong to?” The Mother answered:

“The most material vital plane.” Then someone else asked:

“Why is she called Kali?” The Mother continued:

I don’t know. It is one of the Kalis—I have a vague impression that the head was cut off or that she was buried up to the neck or I don’t know what. Something like that. There is a story of a head which comes out of the sand, buried up to the neck… It is a form of Kali—there are countless forms of Kali. Each believer has his image, has his particular relation with a certain Kali. Sometimes it is their own Kali: there are family Kalis—lots of family Kalis. I knew families that had very dangerous Kalis. If what they wanted was not done, some misfortune always befell the family. There was a very strong formation. I suppose it was the family who were still more responsible than their Kali. And I knew people who when the misfortune came, a real misfortune in the family… someone’s death—took the image of Kali and went and threw it into the Ganges.

Then someone enquired:

“This Kali has no connection with Mahakali, has she?” The Mother’s answer:

No. She has a very close connection with the human mind. I believe these are almost exclusively constructions of the human mind… But I have found that there is really a Ganapati…something I didn’t believe. I used to think it was a purely human formation, that story of the elephant head—but there is a being like that. I saw it, it is quite alive, and not a formation. So too there is a black Kali with her garland of skulls and her huge hanging tongue. I have seen her. I saw her entering my room with her eyes wide open. So I am sure she exists. And it was not a human formation: it was a being—a real being. Now, it is possible that some of the details may have been added by human thought. But still the being was a real being, it was not purely a formation.

I suddenly remembered these lines from Sri Aurobindo’s Durga-stotra:

Mother Durga! Thou art Kali, naked, garlanded with human heads, sword in hand, thou slayest the Asura.

The next question put to the Mother was: “What does that black Kali do?”

The Mother replied:

Well, I believe she does fairly bad things! It is obvious that she takes a great pleasure in destruction.

And in this context the Mother spoke to us about one of Her own experiences. We all sat in the Playground in rapt attention listening to Her:

…It was at the time of the First World War, the early days of the First War. I was here. I was staying in the house on Dupleix Street, Dupleix House. From the terrace of the house Sri Aurobindo’s room could be seen, the one in the Guest House where Sri Aurobindo was staying. He had two rooms and the small terrace. And from the terrace of the Dupleix House the terrace of the Guest House could be seen (…) And I used to sit on the terrace to meditate every morning, facing Sri Aurobindo’s room. That day I was in my room, but looking at Sri Aurobindo’s room through a small window. I was in meditation but my eyes were open. I saw this Kali entering through my door. I asked her, “What do you want?” And she was dancing, a truly savage dance. She told me, “Paris is taken, Paris will be destroyed.” We used to have no news, it was just at the beginning of the war. I was in meditation. I turned towards her and told her, “No, Paris will not be taken, Paris will be saved”, quietly, just like this, but with a certain force. She made a face and went away. And the next day, we received the “dispatch”. In those days there were no radios yet, we had telegraph messages, “dispatches”, which were posted on the gate of Government House. We got the news that the Germans had been marching upon Paris, that Paris was not defended, the way was quite open, they had to advance only a few kilometres more and they would have entered the city. But when they saw that the road was clear, that there was nobody to oppose them, they felt convinced that it was an ambush, that a trap had been set for them. So they turned round and went back! (Laughter) And when the French armies saw that, naturally they gave chase and caught them, and there was a battle. It was the decisive battle: they were stopped. Well, evidently it was that. It took this form. When I said to Kali, “No”, they were panic stricken. They turned back. Otherwise if they had continued to advance it would have all been over.

The Mother as Mahashakti dominates all Her other aspects even though Her different individual forms work quite independently. But from time to time the Mother as Mahashakti does intervene to control them.

The Mother has observed:

To a certain extent (these four are independent) but not totally. It is always the same thing. There is an independence which at times seems to be total, and at the same time a very close link and even one which is, so to say, absolute. The central consciousness, that is to say, here in the material world, is the Mahashakti, you know. Well, she always has the poer to control the action of these different aspectsthough they are quite independent and act according to their own aspirations. And yet she can control them.

Take for example, the instance of Kali. If Kali decides that she is going to intervene and the Mahashakti, who has naturally a much more total and general vision of things, sees that the moment for intervention is not opportune or that it is too soon, well, she can very easily put a pressure upon Mahakali and tell her, “Keep quiet”. And the other is obliged to keep quiet; and yet she acts quite independently.

The next question was about Mahakali’s intervention, for by her action what would have taken centuries could take place now.

I say it is for this that Mahakali is there and does her work. But Mahakali has a particular way of seeing the work; and when one has the total vision, one can see that this, you know… She sees only her side of the work, and when one sees the whole, one may say, “Ah, no, this is not quite the time!”

Then a child asked: “What is Mahakali like?” And the Mother replied:

Well, my children, when you see her, you can tell me! She is not like that Kali. All I can tell you is that she is not black, she doesn’t stick out a big tongue, and she doesn’t wear a necklace of human heads!

Here I am reminded of an incident.

Almost daily at about midday, the Mother used to stand on the Meditation Hall staircase and throw toffees to everyone, especially to the children. And everyone would jump to catch them. There was such excitement in the air then! The Mother enjoyed this moment immensely. Amrita-da, trying to catch a toffee with both his hands stretched out wide, was a real spectacle! And the Mother would laugh along with us at Amrita-da’s style of catching the toffee. Amrita-da explained to the Mother:

“Mother, actually I am trying to catch the force that is present behind the toffee!”

And we would all burst into laughter once again!

One day in the midst of all this gaiety someone suddenly came running to the Mother and said:

“Mother, there’s a fire in the Ashram!”

Abruptly the Mother became most solemn. She asked: “How did it happen?”

In the meantime another person came to the Mother. He was holding two 5-year-old children:

“Mother, these are the culprits. There was a pile of old papers behind the Flower-room (Pujalal-ji’s room). These two set fire to the papers.”

Her aspect of fury slowly came over the Mother’s face. The two children began trembling like goats at a sacrificial altar. We really saw the Mother that day revealing Her fiery, furious, fearful aspect of Mahakali. The Mother had stared at them in such an unflinchingly piercing way that even we began trembling with dread. But because these were two little boys, they were spared. Then She climbed up the staircase with firm, strong steps, and every step felt that terrifying shiver while we just went on looking at Her in stunned silence.

The Mother in Her Mahasaraswati Aspect

Just as for Durga-puja, Lakshmi-puja and Kali-puja, the Meditation Hall was tastefully decorated for Saraswati-puja as well. The Mother would bring down the Mahasaraswati aspect on this day. We received a special flower-blessing then.

When the Mother came down, I was naturally overcome with memories of celebrations of Saraswati-puja in Feni when school-children and all the little ones from the locality participated with so much fanfare. There was a competition between the schools and colleges of every locality to see whose depiction of Ma Saraswati was the most beautiful. How lovely those depictions of Ma Saraswati used to be, really! It was as if this goddess robed in white had come and installed herself within us on this day. With all our devotion, faith and love we would make offerings at her feet. For this was the puja of the little children and the young. The boys would come together to make a little mountain of earth and sand. And a little stream would come cascading down it. On either side were placed beautiful flowers, birds and different types of creatures. The children would run to gather palash (‘Beginning of the Supramental Realisation’) flowers. We girls used to collect genda (‘plasticity’) flowers. Feni is full of flowers. There were endless rows of trees on the way to Birinchi bursting with palash. These flowers were placed all around the image of the goddess and on the mountain. This puja cannot be done without this offering of genda or palash. We would fill our hands with these flowers and offer them at the feet of the Mother. The priest went on reciting the verses in a solemn voice filled with devotion. We would repeat the verses after him trying to keep in tune and go on offering flowers to the deity. And in due time the Mother’s feet were covered with these flowers.

On this Saraswati-puja day, Parichand-da and Jatin-da used to get us huge quantities of these flowers. After coming here I found out that these flowers were meant for decorating the Mother’s chair and the space around it. The spiritual significance of the palash, the Mother has said, is ‘Beginning of the Supramental Realisation’. Without Ma Saraswati the work of the other goddesses would not be complete. Therefore for the full Supramental realisation this goddess too is needed. That is why Mother Nature beckons her with this offering of palash. And so from age to age by offering these two varieties of flowers at Ma Saraswati’s feet the youth are marching ahead on the path of Supramental realisation.

We girls used to wear a red-bordered light-orange sari and flit around like a swarm of butterflies. Wearing this sari on Saraswati-puja is a must. Books, notebooks, pens and inkpots were laid at the Mother’s feet. In everybody’s heart was the prayer: O Mother, grant us knowledge and intelligence. In the evening the boys performed an arati-dance in front of the Mother! They put so much heart and feeling into it as they lit the incense powder and worshipped the goddess that we felt Saraswati had really descended! Then plays and dance-dramas and song and music and recitation were organised in every locality.

I had never imagined that one day I would see this beloved goddess Saraswati in such a lovely form with my own eyes! My heart spilled over with delight. A long-cherished dream of childhood got fulfilled all at once!

Sri Aurobindo has written:

Mahasaraswati is the Mother’s Power of Work and her spirit of perfection and order.

We were always surprised by the Mother’s guidance in the field of work. She was at every moment showing us how to accomplish the smallest work with perfection.

The Mother always expected from us work that was flawless and perfect. She did not tolerate any defect or imperfection. Here I am reminded of an amusing incident. Our press had just started printing books then. A few copies of these newly printed books were first sent to the Mother. The Mother’s eye fell straight on the page where a word had been misspelt: in place of a ‘t’ there was an ‘f ’. Oh Lord, how upset She was! We had to open all the books and replace the ‘f ’ with a ‘t’. We sat quietly rubbing out the ‘t’s’ and writing ‘f ’s’ in their place. We did this with the utmost concentration. The Mother was naturally delighted with this response from us. It was quite astonishing that every time in proof-reading a book or any other publication, the mistake that had escaped our eyes would inevitably be picked up by the Mother!

All these departments that have come up in the Ashram have done so only because of Mother Mahasaraswati’s untiring, skilful, sleepless guidance and working.

Sri Aurobindo writes:

When she takes up the transformation and new-building of the nature, her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless.

How the Mother would keep giving detailed instructions, hour after hour with such infinite patience, about the running of each department! Day after day, year after year, the Mother continued doing Her work in us in Her aspect of Mother Saraswati.

I had gone to see the Mother. Everyone was standing on the staircase, flowers in their hand. Nobody, however, seemed to be coming down after the pranam of the Mother. Slightly impatient, we peeped in to see that the Mother was speaking with a young boy. Unbelievable! We were taken aback. Sometimes She would stand in a corner of the Playground and explain something to a little girl. At other times, the Mother would be engaged in a conversation with someone in the Interview-Room while the ‘marching’ was going on. Until the Mother came out, Pranab could not stop the ‘marching’. The people had to go on marching. Then the Mother finally would come out of the Interview-Room, totally calm, relaxed, walking firmly and quietly. She did not lose any patience at all until She had finished Her work to perfection. How many things have we learnt from the Mother, really!

Bonjour! I greeted the Mother and entered the room. After taking the flower-blessings I was planning to go to work and so I was somewhat in a hurry.

The Mother greeted me and became absorbed in Her work. She had a lot of work! She was taking one rose after another and arranging them in different flower-trays. However, She was in no hurry at all. There were so many people waiting outside. I always managed to arrive just when it was time for the Mother to arrange flowers! So I kept watching the Mother and thinking: Why can’t She just ask me to help Her arrange them? And the work would be done in no time. But by Herself the Mother would take a long time. The Mother looked at me a little and then once again became absorbed in Her work. It was only much later that I understood that the Mother was at every moment showing us how to accomplish work to perfection. And time was invaluable in flawless work. Our aim is perfection, and so however long it might take, the Mother kept working relentlessly with every child of Hers and with every department of the Ashram. And She continues to do so even today. The Mother has given the name of Mahasaraswati’s Perfection to one of the flowers. It was our good fortune to have got a taste of this sleepless, untiring way of the Mother’s working. In Her eyes no work is too small or too big. Whatever the work, to do it as perfectly as possible is Mother Mahasaraswati’s principal goal. We can give innumerable instances of the Mother’s untiring, sleepless work in each one of us.

Sri Aurobindo has written:

…leaning over us she notes and touches every little detail, finds out every minute defect, gap, twist or incompleteness, considers and weighs accurately all that has been done and all that remains still to be done hereafter. Nothing is too small or apparently trivial for her attention...

The Mother’s Close Rapport with Plants, Flowers and Trees

After Her tennis, the Mother would come to the Playground and take a short walk. The children continued playing while She walked around the Playground. On the northern side of the Playground there was a boarding for little boys and girls. A neem tree stood inside next to the wall, a very beautiful neem tree. When the flowers bloomed on this tree you couldn’t take your eyes off them. Their sweet fragrance filled the whole Playground. The Mother’s name for these flowers was ‘Spiritual atmosphere’. When the Playground was renovated and a new building erected in its place the boarding had to be torn down and this neem tree uprooted.

I had the privilege of walking alone with the Mother in the

Tennis Ground. One day all of a sudden She told me: “We will go to the Playground and walk a little.”

So we were walking there that day when the Mother suddenly stopped under the neem tree and leaning against the wall She started telling me stories. The Mother loved this neem tree very much. The flowers of this tree would suffuse the Playground with their spiritual atmosphere. The tree looked unbelievably beautiful as if the Mother’s love had increased its life force. Like Krishna who by playing his heart-rending flute under the Kadamba tree gave it his love, the Mother also would stand under that neem tree and permeate humanity with this all-pervading spiritual atmosphere. The Mother had named the Kadamba flower ‘Supramental Sun’. I still remember the Kadamba tree in Doctor Patil’s courtyard when it was all covered with flowers.

The Mother did not like trees and plants to be cut down or leaves, flowers and fruits plucked without reason. Trees would go and complain to the Mother. The famous Banyan tree in the centre of Auroville came one day to the Mother to express its grief. So the Mother sent a sadhak to Auroville to find out what was wrong with this tree. When the sadhak arrived there he saw an axe had been stuck into the tree. He at once removed it and returned to the Mother to inform Her about it. There are innumerable such stories that reflect this deep friendship between the Mother and trees.

The Mother used to go for walks in a famous park of Paris which had huge ancient trees in it. The Mother meditated under one such tree. One day while She was meditating these trees came to Her to tell Her of their sorrow. It had been decided to chop some of them down. The trees complained to Her in their language. We could never imagine that such things could happen.

On the first day of every month the Mother gave with Her own hands all the inmates of the Ashram their essential requirements for the month. Around two o’clock the Mother would go through Pavitra-da’s room, cross the terrace and go to the southern room of this block and take Her seat. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had lived in this block at one time. Everyone came in a line and took from the Mother’s hands his or her monthly requirements. The first of every month (known as ‘Prosperity’ day) was a particularly busy day for the Mother. The Mother’s day began with a rush of activity in the morning. As soon as we were informed that the Mother had returned to the Ashram people would rush through different streets as if in a race to see who would climb the staircase and reach Her first. How could we leave the Mother sitting alone! Needless to say no one could keep up with the Mother’s pace. She did all Her work with such lightning speed that even machines lagged behind. Even while receiving blessings from the Mother’s hand I would get extremely nervous for fear that the flowers might drop from my hands in the rush.

An amusing incident comes to mind. On one such ‘Prosperity’ day I was walking to the Ashram in a hurry. I knew that the Mother had already reached there because just ahead of me a man was heading for the Ashram with his son. They were walking quite fast and from time to time the father kept urging this little boy to walk faster. Poor boy! He was so tiny that he could not keep pace with his father’s stride.

“How can I walk as fast as you? I am a shishu (a little boy).”

The father angrily exclaimed:

“You are not a shishu but a poshu (animal)!”

As soon as I heard this I burst into such uncontrollable laughter that I had to sit down on the footpath. Only when they had moved further away could I start walking again.

The Mother had finished the ‘Prosperity’ distribution and come out. Lots of roses had bloomed in the pots on the terrace. It was still very hot in the afternoon and the sun was very strong. As soon as the Mother arrived in the passage through Pavitra-da’s room She cried out loud:

“Don’t pluck them!”

Nolini-da, Amrita-da, Pavitra-da and the others who were present there were taken aback on hearing the Mother’s voice. She said:

“These roses came and complained to me that they should not be plucked at odd times.”

The poor sadhak who wanted to pluck the roses and offer them to Her was terribly embarrassed.

Similarly when the Mother was in Japan and would go to pluck carrots or some such vegetables a few among them would cry out:

“Pluck me! Pluck me!”

And those that were not ready would exclaim: “Don’t pluck me!”

Isn’t it extraordinary! The Mother has such an intimate rapport with all things. It is through incidents like these that we found out about the Mother’s deep kinship with the world of plants and flowers. We came to know that plants could talk. Even the scientists have not yet been able to prove that plants can communicate. Of course Jagdish Chandra Bose had discovered that there was life in plants and that they could feel pain and sorrow just like us, that they had consciousness and felt joy and sadness. He invented an instrument in order to prove this about plants. And that marked a new beginning in the world of science. Jagdish Chandra Bose became a muchadmired scientist.

So this neem tree was finally not chopped down. Pranab and the other elders knew how much the Mother loved trees. However this tree had to be removed from there so it was finally decided to transplant it by lifting it out of the soil with a crane without causing it too much pain. The tree was finally moved with a lot of patience and effort and it was planted in the Dining Room garden near the gate. Unfortunately the poor tree could not bear the shock of all this transplanting. And it did not survive. We all felt as if we had lost a member of our own family. You readers might feel a little astonished by all this but this is how we learnt from the Mother to love trees.

There is so much research going on today in the world of plants and trees. Deserts have been created in so many countries because too many trees have been cut down. That is why people have at last woken up. It is only now that they have realised what a bond of friendship exists between man and nature. In several countries movements for planting trees have been initiated. Many organisations have been set up to promote this and they even have a tree-planting day every year!

I got diverted into telling you so many things while talking about this neem tree. So let me get back to the real subject. The Mother came and stopped under this neem tree and suddenly said:

“You know at every second everyone is put to a test.”

I was taken aback. A test? I had just completed my studies and come to the Ashram. I felt a huge relief at having finished school. The moment I heard the word ‘test’ it made me think at once of school and college. I was extremely scared of tests. Even now I dream that I am getting into a room to take a test. Everyone is sitting in his assigned seat and has begun writing the answers. I open the test paper and I am taken aback. What’s this? But this is the history paper and I had come prepared for English! What will I do now? You can’t imagine how terrified I felt. And just then I would wake up and realise it was only a dream.

During Durga-puja I had once gone to my uncle’s house (Patgram Niyogi House). I loved wandering through the fields of the village. Good riddance to books! In the evening, incandescent gas lamps were lit in the outer and inner courtyards. The children went wild with joy but then all of a sudden the thought would cross our minds: “Oh Lord! Our annual exams will start just after the puja!” And in a second our joy would just evaporate! It was really dreadful! What kind of a life was this? There was no running away from exams.

I turned to the Mother and said:

“No, Mother! How can anyone pass? Impossible! Nobody can pass such tests! It is not easy to pass tests every second.”

The Mother laughed:

“There are many who do it. They pass these tests of every moment. Especially in the world outside there are many who do it quite easily.”

I kept looking at the Mother in disbelief. I somehow was not convinced by what She said. I told Her:

“Perhaps, Mother, some can do it in the world outside but here in the Ashram nobody can.”

When I kept repeating this, the Mother replied:

“In the Ashram there are also many who go through these tests at every moment successfully. There are five or six who pass them wonderfully.”

I could not say anything more. I just stood silently leaning against the wall and the whole of life appeared to me like a huge riddle.

Every day at the end of the class the Mother would stretch

Her arms and tell me: “Can you lift me up?”

And an impish smile would light up Her face. I would get very nervous being unable to lift Her up.

Then the Mother said:

“Now you sit and just see how I make you stand up.”

So I had to sit down. On the floor, naturally. With just one jerk the Mother raised me up on my feet. And then how She laughed! She looked like a beautiful young girl. I just could not feel at ease and was always a little uncomfortable. I would hear the Mother’s laughter echo within me all day.

A few days later another girl called Minu was allowed to join this class. So we were then two to study with the Mother. And She would recount to us stories and tell us so many things. We would just keep staring at Her to our heart’s content. As soon as the class was over the Mother stretched Her arms in front and said to me:

“Lift me up now.”

And much as I tried to pull Her by the arms I just could not move Her. I would break out in a sweat out of shame and embarrassment. It was just impossible for me to lift Her out of the chair.

The Mother would then laugh a lot, enjoying the spectacle. That open-hearted laughter-filled face of the Mother appears before my eyes even today. Then it was Minu’s turn. She would ask Minu:

“Now let me see if you can pull me out of my chair.”

And Minu would succeed in pulling Her out of the chair with her two arms. And the Mother exclaimed gleefully:

“Ah! You are strong!”

And putting Her arms on our shoulders She would start walking again. Then She went into Her room and selected different types of flowers to give us. She would look at our faces for some time and say:

“I would sketch your faces if I had time.”

And She kept standing at the open door and watched us go down the staircase. We would go down a few steps and then turn around to look at Her one more time. She would then wave “Au revoir” and close the door.

One day at the end of the Mother’s class when She was walking out into the front room, one of Her attendants started groaning in pain from a headache. Hearing her groan like that in front of the Mother I became a little nervous. The Mother suddenly turned very solemn and looking at us declared:

“Only sincerity touches me.”

We just stiffened with fear hearing these words from the Mother. My God! What power there was in that voice! Who would have said that just a few moments earlier the Mother had been heartily laughing and talking with both of us? How She used to overwhelm us with Her interesting, amusing stories! This change of the Mother’s face from moment to moment would never cease to amaze us but we never managed to understand the mystery.


Birthdays come year after year to whisper softly in our ear: know this life to be ever new

As at break of morn

Each new day is born,

Lit up with a joy forever true.

On our birthday we are immersed in a sea of infinite joy without even knowing it. No sooner have we met than friends and acquaintances happily greet us with ‘Bonne Fête’. What an extraordinary atmosphere is created on this day as we are led to recharge ourselves for taking our life forward through the coming year. One feels such eagerness, enthusiasm and joy on one’s birthday. One feels: ‘My soul is ageless, eternal. Eternity is my birthright.’ On this day our soul bows to the Mother in a movement of total faith and devotion with the resolve to walk on the path of life with renewed energy.

In the outside world this day also brings every year a special happiness and love into our lives. Many of the Mother’s children who live far away come rushing back to the Ashram even today in order to offer their pranam on this special occasion. They go to Sri Aurobindo’s room to meditate and as they bow to the Mother and the Master a prayer for progress rises in their heart and a marvellous divine glow lights up the face before they return to their everyday lives.

We would start making gowns, salwar-kameezes, handkerchiefs, right from the beginning of the year. In between work, especially on Sundays, we would all be busy with embroidery. So little time and so much to offer to the Mother! The Mother looked at all these offerings with a lot of interest. Smriti used to offer a lot of hand-painted handkerchiefs to the Mother on each birthday. On one birthday Smriti did not have enough time to prepare them. When she went to the Mother the Mother asked her:

“Haven’t you made anything for me?”

Smriti was both terribly surprised and embarrassed. From that time she never went to the Mother empty-handed. And even today she never fails to make as many handkerchiefs as she can in order to offer them to Her. The Mother must certainly be still appreciating these handkerchiefs from the subtle world and blessing Smriti with Her infinite love. Sumedha, Sudha, Kokila, Nirata and several other young girls from the school used to offer all kinds of embroidered things to the Mother, all exquisitely beautiful. The girls remained busy through the year with this.

The Mother too gave us all kinds of gifts on our birthday. We received books of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. The younger ones received bags full of toffees. The Mother would fill up the bags with the same number of toffees as the years the person had completed. The children were so thrilled really!

You must have all seen this photo of the Mother: She is sitting and on Her lap She has placed a tray of flowers over an exquisitely embroidered cloth. She is waiting for the birthday people. Her eyes are looking very far away, towards the skies. When you look at this picture you feel that the Mother is praying for Her children’s well-being. What a marvellous picture it is indeed!

On every person’s birthday the Mother would personally bless him or her with Her special birthday blessings. Along with flowers we all received from Her a personalised envelope and a card inside. The Mother wrote the person’s name very carefully on the envelope and a few words on the card. The Mother used to keep a notebook which had the birth-dates of everyone. All the birthday people were given the opportunity of going up to Her for pranam. Everyone waited with bated breath for this happy moment. On waking up the first thought used to be, and still is today, ‘Ah! Today is my birthday!’ A mysterious joy coursed through the mind and heart. On this day we felt love for each and every thing: love and affection for one and all would flow out from the inmost heart!

How my heart has bloomed today,

In warm embrace with the world at play,

Ah, what’s this feeling at break of light?

Whose face to touch my eyes delight?

We would inwardly bow down to the Mother and launch a new year on our birthday.

Be it young or old, the Mother filled each one with Her inexhaustible Love.

Why did the Mother give such importance and significance to the birthday?

She told Mona many things about this:

Yes, it is truly a special day in one’s life. It is one of those days in the year when the Supreme descends into us—or when we are face to face with the Eternal—one of those days when our soul comes in contact with the Eternal and, if we remain a little conscious, we can feel His Presence within us. If we make a little effort on this day, we accomplish the work of many lives as in a lightning flash. That is why I give so much importance to the birthday, because what one gains in one day is truly something incomparable.

This is truly an opportunity in life. One is so open and so receptive that one can assimilate all that is given. I can do many things, that is why it is important.

The birthday celebration was equally joyous in the Playground too. All the groups would greet the person on his birthday with a loud Bonne Fête (Happy birthday) as the person, whether from the group of small children or from the group of grown-ups, stood before them. And immediately after this the birthday person would respond with Victoire à la Douce Mère (Victory to Sweet Mother)!

This custom was continued by the captains of the different groups very beautifully. It was lovely to hear the little children sweetly exclaim Victoire à la Douce Mère.

The grown-ups were one step ahead. They enjoyed singing all kinds of amusing songs on the birthday person, Udar Pinto and an elderly sadhak in particular. He is a jolly good fellow sounded beautiful in Udar’s voice and I can still hear the strains of that song…

Once there was a lot of hullabaloo in the Playground on Dyuman-da’s birthday, even though he was not a member of any sports group. A few people lifted him on their shoulders and took him around the Playground singing songs. And the Mother watched this childlike behaviour of the grown-ups, smiling and amused.

On Nolini-da’s birthday everyone would exclaim Bonne Fête à Nolini-da and there was respect in their greeting. Normally the birthday person used to respond to this greeting with Victoire à la Douce Mère but Nolini-da responded with à la Douce Mère, Victoire! It was very moving to hear Nolini-da utter à la Douce Mère, Victoire. The entire Playground resounded with this cry repeated by all the group members together: à la Douce Mère, Victoire.

Ah, so many incidents come flooding into the mind…

On Pranab’s birthday there used to be a lot of excitement in the Playground. The Mother personally celebrated his birthday in a very special way.

In his hometown, little Pranab’s birthday used to be a very simple affair. His mother, Prafullamayi-di, would fast on his birthday and pray for her son. Little Pranab was served a bowl of rice-milk dessert which he ate with great relish.

In our days this is how birthdays were celebrated back home. All the mothers spent the day in deep prayer for their son’s well-being. There was absolutely no ostentation or excitement.

In the Ashram a birthday took on quite another meaning. On this day each one received from the Mother a big bouquet of different flowers and some books of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

When that same little Pranab grew up and came to the Ashram, the Mother began celebrating his birthday in a special way from the very beginning. A wave of joy would unfurl over the Playground. On the Mother’s instructions, a special physical demonstration was organised by the boys and girls of the different groups. The Mother watched this demonstration along with Pranab. Before starting, the groups would stand in the Playground in their assigned spots. The Mother stood in the centre and called out Bonne Fête four times in the four directions. Then everyone repeated Bonne Fête after Her, all together. The whole atmosphere at that time was indescribable.

The Mother would start collecting gifts for Pranab on his birthday right from the beginning of the year: seven or eight boxes of different clothes, shoes, socks, toiletries, perfumes and colognes. Half a dozen people would go to fetch these boxes. She would offer him two boxes full of chocolate. He received two birthday cards from Her with the instructions that one could be shown to those who wanted to see it while the other was strictly for him. She also gave him a beautiful envelope filled with money. And the amount of money increased with each birthday. I still am amazed when I think of all those times.

Pranab was very fond of red. That is why the Mother would wear a red dress on his birthday. A new salwar-kameez was lovingly stitched by Minu, Bela, Jayi and others for the Mother at Her tailoring department under Vasudha’s directions. A red kameez with zari flowers was made for the Mother out of a Benarasi silk sari.

Vasudha, myself and the boys who used to play tennis with the Mother waited for Her at the Tennis-court. And then we would hear the horn! The Mother’s car gently entered the ground. We would all stand in rapt attention. And then as soon as Amiyo opened the door the Mother would come out smiling and stride ahead. It is impossible to describe the Mother’s beauty then. How marvellous She looked!

The Mother explained to Pranab the significance of the birthday:

There are some special days in the year when an individual can take a leap on the path of progress by making use of such a day like a spring-board. The birthday is one such day.

Even today the birthday brings to us the Mother’s invaluable love and Her blessings.

Our Mother of Mystery

Chitra, Suprabha, Tapati and I used to study German with Medhananda-da. We translated the Mother’s book, La Découverte Suprême with him. In fact, the final German version that came out was our translation with Medhananda-da’s corrections and modifications. Obviously the effort was ours. One evening the four of us along with Medhananda-da went to the Playground and surrounded the Mother. We told Her with a lot of enthusiasm:

“We must publish La Découverte Suprême, Mother. We need one of your photographs.”

The Mother simply smiled. We were a little taken aback. The Mother then said:

“It’s a good idea to have a photo of me in this book — but which one?”

“That’s exactly why we’ve come to you. Tell us, which photograph shall we use?”

The Mother kept smiling. After some time She said:

“Why don’t you use a photo of me which shows how I

would look at a hundred?”

And She burst out laughing. We somehow could not fathom this mysterious utterance of the Mother.

Before our eyes emerged the picture of an extraordinarily young and beautiful woman. We were firmly convinced that the Mother’s body would indeed be transformed when She was a hundred. Her body would be integrally transformed with the light of the Supermind. Our hearts filled up with an unearthly joy at that thought.

On seeing our reaction the Mother once again broke into laughter.

But Her exquisitely beautiful face kept swimming before my eyes. What a face, unforgettable!

One day, just as the Mother was entering the Tennis Ground, an Ashram photographer came forward to take a picture. The Mother looked at him and said with a laugh:

“Don’t take a photo now. Take one when I am a hundred years old!”

And She broke into the limpid laughter of a young girl. I was standing next to the Mother and we were all taken aback. What was this mystery coming from the Mother? How could we humans get a clue to understand Her utterances and Her acts? She kept everything about Her cloaked behind a veil of mystery.

Many years later, (the Mother had left her physical body by then), I was coming out of the Ashram when one of the elderly sadhaks offered me a flower called ‘Psychological Perfection’ by the Mother. At once it flashed on my mind that almost every evening when the Mother used to come down to the Meditation Hall, She blessed everyone by giving this flower. I do not know why but I just could not help exclaiming:

“When the Mother comes back, we will once again receive this flower from Her hand.”

I realised what I had said and felt a little embarrassed.

“Do not mind what I just said,” I quickly added, “I always feel that the Mother is coming back.”

The sadhak replied removing my discomfort:

“Of course, She will return. You are absolutely right.” I could feel his profound conviction in what he said.

“Let me tell you something. Many years ago, I once went to the Mother for some work. After telling me various things the Mother suddenly remarked:

“‘I am going to leave this body.’

“I just stood there in stunned disbelief. I had never imagined that I would hear this.

“‘I shall give up this body, no doubt, but I shall return. And you will be able to recognise me because my new body will look exactly like the present one.’”

I was thrilled on hearing this from an old sadhak. An unearthly joy filled my whole being in silence.

“I hope when the Mother comes back, we will still be there to see Her.”

The sadhak looked at me slightly dismayed and said: “This thought has never crossed my mind.”

And saying this he went on his way to wherever he was going. I just stood there speechless. The Mother shall surely return, this thought kept going round and round in my head.

The Mother has said many things about this new body to Satprem. She even described Her form. This description was so vibrant that we all felt that it was this body of the Mother that would take on that new form. But Satprem understood at once with his sharp intelligence and asked the Mother:

“Hasn’t this new form entered your subtle body already?”

The Mother changed the topic and started speaking about something else. If this is not the sweet maya of the Mother then what is? In Notes on the Way, the Mother has given such detailed descriptions of the transformation of each envelope of the body, but it is beyond our capacity to understand that She is describing the transformation of Her subtle body. How we used to impatiently wait for each coming issue of the Bulletin! Who knew that the Mother would leave this present body? She had covered our understanding with Her sweet maya.

Sri Aurobindo has written in The Mother:

All the scenes of the earth play have been like a drama arranged and planned and staged by her with the cosmic Gods for her assistants and herself as a veiled actor.

The Mother had determined all the events from before but we could not grasp that with our intelligence, we did not have a clue. Champaklal-ji told Sri Aurobindo one day:

“I cannot understand how Mother could give different explanations to different people, different answers to different persons, for the same person, for the same question.”

Sri Aurobindo replied gravely: “She has her reason for saying it.”

When the Samadhi was prepared for Sri Aurobindo, the Mother had already made arrangements at that time to make a second chamber above Sri Aurobindo’s. However, we could not understand anything. Why, we could not even imagine it in our dreams. The Mother after all is “a veiled actor”.

Sri Aurobindo has written in his Bases of Yoga:

The ways of the Divine are not like those of the human mind or according to our patterns and it is impossible to judge them or to lay down for Him what He shall or shall not do, for the Divine knows better than we can know. If we admit the Divine at all, both true reason and bhakti seem to me to be at one in demanding implicit faith and surrender.

The Pranam

Having bowed before Thee, to my worldly chores I go.

I am standing on the staircase. One after the other people are coming down with a flower-blessing from the Mother. I keep looking at their faces. A mere instant’s contact with the Mother and how changed everyone is! A divine glow has lit up their faces. Everyone looks so beautiful!

I had gone to the Mother at the end, after everybody had met Her, to enjoy watching this sight. Who dares say that we human beings will not be transformed? The change brought about by a moment’s touch of the Mother in each one was truly incredible! And it just goes to prove that one day man will surely be transformed.

Everyone had his own way of doing pranam. And the Mother accepted each one’s pranam with exceeding love. A soft mysterious smile lingered on the Mother’s face.

It was a girl’s birthday. She went in to see the Mother just before me. As soon as the Mother’s eye fell on the girl She joyously exclaimed Bonne Fête! and gave her many flowers and various books. She poured Her affection on her and kept repeating Bonne Fête! Bonne Fête! As I listened to the Mother’s melodious voice, I was deeply moved. The girl went down shyly with all those flowers and books. Now I entered the Mother’s room. I found Her standing, looking somewhat displeased. “What has happened to the Mother?” I thought to myself. As soon as the Mother saw me She said:

“Just see, she left without doing pranam and today is her birthday.”

I at once tried to explain it away:

“You gave her an armful of flowers and books. The poor girl probably didn’t want to put your gifts on the floor. That’s why she was unable to do pranam. You will see, when she comes back, she will bow down before You. Everybody wants to offer their pranam to You, especially those who wait in intense expectation for the whole year just for this one birthday pranam, this most sacred auspicious moment.”

The Mother was filled with joy like a little child, as if the Mother were Ashutosh or Mahadev, so easily pleased with so little.

After doing my pranam I immediately went out looking for the girl and found her in the Ashram main building itself. I told her:

“Next time when you go to the Mother, do not forget to do pranam.”

I told her what the Mother had said and the girl naturally was a little embarrassed.

From time immemorial men have unknowingly worshipped out of fear trees, mountains, the sun, the moon, the stars, fire, wind, whatever they felt had the presence of some strange, great, mysterious Power. Why, they have felt that same mysterious Power even in our earth. In the course of time that era gave way to the age of rishis and sages. They, by the light of their strong intelligence, consciously felt that there was indeed a great mystery behind the creation of the sun, moon, stars, fire, wind. Through their meditations they discovered and experienced the great, exalted Purusha who is at the heart of this mysterious creation. They also experienced the presence of different gods. It was during this period that the Vedas and the Upanishads came to be composed. It was also during this time that man learnt consciously to worship and bow before God or the Supreme Purusha. Man learnt spontaneously to offer his obeisance to the Lord and the Divine Mother.

The touching of the elders’ feet in our country is part of this same mystery. When we bow to somebody, we are bowing to the One who abides in him. Of course, we don’t always do this consciously. The human person is but a channel. This bowing to God from time immemorial was born in man quite spontaneously. Isn’t it incredible? Who taught him to bow in reverence? Bowing or emptying one’s body, mind and heart in order to fill them with devotion is an extraordinarily astonishing event of our creation. How many rishis and sages have composed verses to such a pantheon of gods and goddesses! They have composed verses, eulogies, invocations, performed yagnas. They have all bowed with the greatest devotion. And all these experiences have been compiled in the Vedas and the Upanishads.

And these pranams of man have not gone in vain. It is because he called out from his deepest being by emptying his body, mind and heart and filling himself with love and devotion in order to offer his pranam that the Supreme Purusha and the Divine Mother have themselves come down on to the lap of Mother earth.

The Mother prostrated Herself before Sri Aurobindo when She first saw Him. Very spontaneously She laid Her physical being at His Feet by offering all of Herself, mind, body and life. With this gesture, the Mother taught us that day how humanity should offer itself at the feet of the Divine.

The Mother told Nirod-da a lot of things about the pranam. Nirod-da and two other teachers from our School often went to see the Mother. The ‘Free Progress’ system had just been initiated in the School. The teachers were facing all kinds of problems and difficulties and the Mother would try to explain each problem to them and give Her view. If they had overstayed their time then both the teachers and Nirod-da would hasten to leave after taking the flower-blessings from the Mother’s hand. Once Nirod-da was the last to leave. As he was leaving after taking the flower-blessing from Her hand, the Mother called him back and asked:

“You haven’t offered your pranam today?”

Nirod-da was terribly embarrassed and tried to wriggle out of it.

“Oh, I didn’t want to trouble You.”

“Trouble me?” asked the Mother rather surprised, as if She were saying, “What a strange idea indeed! Is it a lot of trouble for me to lay my hand on your head!”

Nirod-da suddenly found the answer. He said: “Sometimes, You seem to be in a hurry. We try and take

our leave quickly so that you are not further delayed for dinner. This is why.”

The Mother was finally satisfied.

“In that case I have nothing to say,” She added.

The following day Nirod-da went to the Mother alone. He was to read out to Her one of his writings. Hardly had he sat down that the Mother remarked:

“Let me first finish yesterday’s discussion. Indians believe (or at least that is their experience) that the Divine resides in man. Westerners don’t believe this. They feel the Divine resides somewhere high above. Only Jesus Christ has come down once. That’s why they do not bow to any human being. But if someone bows to a man in whom one can say with unmistakable confidence that there has been a descent of the Divine consciousness, then this person can spread or inspire that same consciousness and experience more easily among others.”

A few days later the Mother explained the significance of the pranam in French to the Western teacher who normally did not do the pranam. The Mother said:

“When pranam is done with true faith, then it becomes symbolic of a self-offering to the Divine present in the whole creation. It is the Divine who is its principal inspiration and it expresses one’s acceptance and surrender to that Divine present in the creation.”

Not even one in a thousand might do pranam with this consciousness but that is its real significance.

This deeper meaning of the pranam is truly wondrous. And the Divine Mother Herself revealed its inner significance to us!

We human beings have received this golden privilege to offer our pranam to the Lord and the Divine Mother immanent in creation. Indeed, how very fortunate we are!

In the midst of this world I bow to Thee!

I bow to Thee in life’s activity!

The Name-Mantra

The Mother, on hearing the name of Sri Aurobindo in a chant, entered a state of samadhi-like trance.

It is said that the divine name is divine power.

Sri Ram Thakur [a well-known yogi of Bengal] always told his followers:

“Repeat the name, just go on repeating the name. There is nothing more you need to do in life.”

One day when he wanted to give us, the little ones, a name-mantra, I told him:

“No, I don’t want to accept a name-mantra. I won’t be able to close my eyes every morning and evening, and meditate like father and mother. If you can so arrange it that I am able to do this anytime I want, then I will accept a name-mantra from you.”

All those who were sitting in the room started laughing. Oh, how old must I have been at the time? Nine or ten at the most.

Sri Ram Thakur, however, did not laugh but replied: “That’s fine. You can repeat the name whenever you feel

like. You can do it while playing, you can do it while eating, even while studying, if you wish.”

After he had spoken, I felt it was all so simple. One needn’t sit down to do this. There was no need to do proper japa. So he gave to all of us girls a different mantra each. And we never revealed our mantra to anyone. I adored repeating the name.

One Name there is, hid deep within.

A number of festivals were celebrated in Feni. For three or four days and nights people would do the name-kirtan. During those days when I looked at people’s faces, I felt a great purity in their expression.

When I came here that name-mantra of childhood blended with the names of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. When I showed the Mother a photograph of Sri Ram Thakur, She looked at it for a long time and then remarked:

“He is with me always.”

The Mother Herself used to tell us:

“Keep calling ‘Mother’. You will see all obstacles vanish.” Such is the divine power in a name.


Minnie-di, Smriti and Manoj’s sweet voices waft in…

Sri Aravindah sharanam mama.

Om namo bhagavate Sri Aravindaya.

Om namo namah Sri Mirambikayai.

In the Playground the Ashramites are listening to this chanting. Everybody is sitting still, silent.

Whenever I read poetry at college the following lines would set me thinking:

Friend, who has whispered the name of Shyam?

Through the ear into my inmost heart?

With fervour my life now overspills!

I always doubted if this was possible. Somehow Sri Radha’s love and self-offering at Sri Krishna’s feet would fill us with sadness. We did not know then that like Sri Radha, the Mother too would fall into a samadhi-like trance on hearing the name of Sri Aurobindo. And what is more, we would get a darshan of the Mother in this state. It was in this very Playground that we were witness to this unimaginable happening.

Minnie-di, Smriti and Manoj’s sweet voices are wafting in the air….

Sri Aravindah sharanam mama.

Om namo bhagavate Sri Aravindaya.

Om namo namah Sri Mirambikayai.

What an enthralling hush reigns in the Playground as those assembled there listen to this chant of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s names.

With fervour my life now overspills!

That day the deeper significance of this line entered our hearts with such simplicity as we sat around the Mother and watched this change come over Her. This same fervour of self-offering began to rise within us too.

I suddenly remembered how Sahana-di had told me about the Mother teaching her Radha’s dance. Sahana-di even showed us a little of this dance. The Mother kept showing Sahana-di how to express this kind of self-offering in a dance movement. It was actually for this dance that the Mother had written Radha’s Prayer.

My God! All this happened so long ago.

In this context let me tell you something that happened in my life.

I had settled down here for good. One day very hesitatingly I asked the Mother:

“Mother, how does one surrender?” The Mother laughed and said:

“When you offer flowers to me, it is, I suppose, with devotion and love. You offer yourself completely, exactly in that same way. Physically offer yourself completely to me, every part and limb. That is how you surrender.”

Taking the flowers from me in Her hands the Mother raised them high in a gesture of offering. Her eyes had an extraordinary look. It is impossible to describe that gesture of the Mother’s self-offering. She had lifted Her body high above, very high above while I just kept staring at Her.

I remembered two lines from a poem:

This body of mine, uplift,

O Lord, In thy temple to be a lamp of God.

At that moment I felt offering oneself was so very simple! I felt

I had understood everything.

The Mother continued:

“Every cell, every atom of your body, every worry and feeling of your heart, offer them all to me in this way.”

Seeing the Mother in the Playground in that state of selfoffering awakened that same longing for this self-offering within us. Every heart in the ground that day was steeped in that longing.

Sri Aravindah sharanam mama.

Om namo bhagavate Sri Aravindaya.

Om namo namah Sri Mirambikayai.

This mantra kept echoing in me.

The Mother was sitting still, upright, listening to that chant of Sri Aurobindo. Every cell, every atom of Her body was thrilled with the name of Sri Aurobindo. That is how we all felt. Never had I dreamed that I would get to see such a sight.

Everyone in the ground kept staring at the Mother with tear-filled eyes even as they quietly listened to the names of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo:

Sri Aravindah sharanam mama.

Om namo bhagavate Sri Aravindaya.

Om namo namah Sri Mirambikayai.

The Darshan

For Thee O Lord, my eyes sleep not,

But where art thou, O where?

They pine for thee, O still uncaught,

So sweet this pining, ah, blessed is my lot!

How we longed for even a moment’s darshan of the Mother, to get from Her divine hands a flower-blessing. Day after day, hour after hour we would wait in silence on Her path. In the evening we sat on the staircase that the Mother used to go to Her room. And we would keep sitting there waiting for Her to pass. It was almost ten o’clock. All of a sudden the door would open and to each one of us She would give a flower-blessing on Her way down. People were waiting for Her down at the Meditation Hall.

And thus years went by. Sometimes the Mother did not open Her door because She had gone into a trance. So everybody would quietly go back home. Such a joy we got, simply waiting for the Mother! But it was a little painful too!

But where art thou, O where?

They pine for thee, O still uncaught,

So sweet this pining, ah, blessed is my lot!

And thus the years flowed on. Who could have imagined that all this would one day come to an end?

Sitting in the dust by thy door,

This beggar-heart doth thee implore

Compassion-alms of thy Grace outpour.

The Mother was talking to us in the Playground one day about different things. She told us:

“I used to go almost every evening for a drive some distance away. Pavitra would drive and when we reached the chosen place he would stop the car, open the door of the car and go out to walk by himself. On one such occasion I was sitting in the car. The air was very peaceful and I could see many beautiful scenes from the car. Suddenly from somewhere a huge cobra got into the car. He came straight towards me and swaying his large hood stood near my lap. I watched him for some time. Then I told him:

‘All right, now you can go.’

At once the cobra lowered his hood and slithered out.”

I did not like the Mother’s playing with the snake in this way. I blurted out:

“You really should not have encouraged that snake like that. You should have killed it straight away.”

The Mother was taken aback and said:

“No, that can’t be. How can I kill? I am the Mother.”

The way the Mother said “I am the Mother”, I could not say anything more. I just sat there speechless. “I am the Mother” kept echoing in the universe. Isn’t it amazing how from a little incident I got to hear from the Mother’s own lips this tremendously significant utterance “I am the Mother”.

Let me tell you about another incident. The Mother had come to the Playground after finishing Her game of tennis. Mota-kaka, Charuchandra Bhattacharya (Pranab’s uncle), walked into the Playground with a group of miserable looking boys. They were students of a primary school and looked extremely poor. They all wore dirty shorts and torn shirts. Their hair was unwashed and dishevelled. God knows how long they hadn’t applied oil to it. Mota-kaka accompanied this group of children to the Mother. I was standing near the Mother. The Mother lovingly gave to each one of the boys a toffee. Suddenly Mota-kaka exclaimed:

“Mother, I think Priti is feeling a little disgusted seeing these poorly-dressed children.”

The Mother threw a glance at me. I felt slightly ill at ease. I had no feeling of disgust at all for these poor children but Mota-kaka enjoyed embarrassing me in this way. After She had finished distributing the toffees to the children the Mother got up and started walking towards Her room. I followed Her. The Mother walked a few steps and stopped. Turning towards me She said:

“Never forget that they too are my children. I am their

Mother too.”

From the Mother’s heart an inexhaustible infinite love poured out for each and every child of hers. “I am their Mother too”, hearing these words from the Mother Herself I became speechless. Quite enchanted.

I suddenly remembered what Sri Aurobindo had written in The Mother:

In her vision they are all her children, an integral part of her.

But what an unforeseen joy to have heard this divine declaration “I am the Mother” from the Mother’s own lips. These words uttered with so much tenderness often return to me and oh, how unbelievably enchanting She looked at that moment!

Bearing the burden of universal love,

A wonderful mother of unnumbered souls.


Ah, if only I could recreate those moments!

After the Mother’s physical passing, evening meditations were started in the Ashram main building. So I started going to the Ashram in the evenings. The lights would be turned off and everybody became absorbed in meditation. I would sit at the entrance of the Meditation Hall. The moonlight suffused the night all around and everything looked simply entrancing. The soft gentle breeze stilled our minds and then proceeded to offer its obeisance at the Feet of the Mother, like a friend.

After the meditation, one evening, as I was returning home with Jyoti, I remembered a childhood prank of mine. In fact I cannot help thinking about this whenever it is the fortnight of the waxing moon. And as we walked on that deserted moonlit street, I recounted that incident to Jyoti.

I had just settled here permanently. The year was 1944. I used to go in the evenings for a walk along the seafront all alone and I enjoyed this immensely. The walk naturally would become even lovelier during the fortnight when the moon was in its waxing phase. I used to enjoy sitting and watching the sea for a long time as I was greatly attracted by the sea.

It was a full moon night. The sea looked so enchanting that I could not bring myself away. So I just kept sitting there. When I finally got back home I realised that it was half-past nine.

I noticed that the Mother gave me flowers in a somewhat serious mood. I just could not figure out what the matter was. Neither did I have the courage to ask Her. I could not sleep at night and kept sitting in front of the sea longer and longer overcome with sadness, almost depressed. Only when I felt a little lighter would I return home. One day when I went to the Mother I found Her very serious indeed and I just blurted out:

“But what have I done, Mother? Why do You give me flowers with that stern expression? You know I have come here only for You.”

And as I said this my throat choked with grief. The Mother answered:

“You spend a long time on the seafront. You wander about all alone till very late at night.”

I was quite surprised and I told the Mother with great earnestness:

“Yes, Mother, I sit by the sea for a long time. I really enjoy it. Especially now when the moon is waxing. The sea looks so enchanting. I’ll take you tomorrow for a walk on the seafront. You’ll see how much You really love it! Will You come?”

The Mother held me by the shoulders and looked into my eyes. Her eyes were smiling. I was slightly taken aback.

“Listen,” the Mother said, “the war is on at this moment. There is a blackout in the town. It is not right for you to go at such a time to the sea all alone. Moreover, you know how rickshaw pullers get drunk in the evenings and move around. Make sure that you are home by nine.”

I fell from the sky. Why hadn’t She told me this much earlier? All these days I had spent feeling downcast!

When the Japanese were bombing Cox-Bazaar we were in Feni. On Sri Aurobindo’s directions our family was the only one that had stayed on in that deserted town for quite some time. And we never felt the slightest fear at any time. Then when we went to Calcutta, the curfew was on there too. The Japanese went on bombing but I did not feel frightened at all. Tapati and I continued to study in the room on the terrace and as soon as the siren was sounded we would go under the staircase and quietly stand behind the sandbags like everyone else. And when the all-clear signal was given, we would return to the terrace to study. At that time the young did not pay much attention to the war and the soldiers. At Feni our school, college and the three or four hostels for boys were situated just beyond the open field in front of our house. During the war the soldiers had occupied all these places. We did not know anything called fear. As soon as the Mother mentioned the war, all those memories of our life overtook me. A girl who had lived her childhood through wars and blackouts—how could such a girl be scared of the blackouts in Pondicherry?

I gratefully bowed before the Mother, extremely surprised to see Her concern for a girl who had newly come to the Ashram. How She thought about each and every child of Hers. And that day’s incident was quite inconceivable for a young girl who had just arrived in the Ashram. After a long time, I slept peacefully once again.


That day the Mother was not to meet anyone after the balcony darshan. I was leaning against the gate of the ‘Mother’s kitchen’ opposite the balcony and thinking that I would not be able to meet the Mother. In the meantime, the Mother appeared at the balcony. I stood there, my eyes fixed on Her as I filled myself with Her presence knowing that She would not meet anyone later that day. As the Mother was re-entering Her room She stopped on the threshold, turned and signalled to me to come up. Everybody had left and the balcony street was empty then. I stood a while leaning against the gate of the ‘Mother’s kitchen’ on the same spot where I would always stand and wait for the Mother for the balcony darshan. And even today whenever I take that street my eyes automatically look up at the balcony. Who knows when She might suddenly appear and bless me with Her darshan! Anyway, after a lot of hesitation I finally entered the Ashram and nervously went up the stairs to go to the Mother’s room. As I entered I saw Her arranging flowers. On seeing me She at once remarked:

“Ah! So you understood that I was calling you?”

I stood there, a little shy. The Mother gave me a handful of flowers and blessed me. I swam in a sea of bliss all through the day. Isn’t it puzzling how the slightest prayer somehow reaches the Mother?


Tapati and I went to work in the morning. I noticed that everyone, Baudi (Rajsena Nahar), Sujata, Sumitra, Suprabha, Shivani-di and a host of others were busy tidying up things at the Press. Such enthusiasm filled everyone! The Mother had told Chitra that She would come to visit the Press in the afternoon. Chitra was running about everywhere doing a lot of work. Come afternoon we all stood up and waited for the Mother. The Mother entered but did not look at anyone. She went into every room, stood near the machines and asked a number of questions. We followed Her everywhere close behind.

In one of the rooms a chair was arranged for the Mother to sit. She came into this room, inspected everything and sat down in this chair. A bag of toffees was kept near Her chair. We all stood in a line and received a toffee from Her one after another. Then we went back to our spots and continued looking at Her. Now it was Chitra’s turn. She looked rather glum and I wondered what was wrong with her. Then the Mother returned to the Ashram.

When I went to the Mother in the evening, the Mother asked me with some concern:

“Do you know what was wrong with Chitra? I found her very glum while I was distributing toffees at the Press.”

“Mother, it was Chitra whom You informed about going to the Press. She did everything with a lot of eagerness, tidying and arranging everything. She really put in a lot of hard work. We all worked very hard, Mother. But You came to the Press and did not look at us even once. Poor Chitra is the youngest amongst us and so she must have felt a little hurt.”

The Mother heard me and went into a trance. After a while She gave me a flower-blessing and I went down. A little girl had come to Her looking slightly sad and even that received the Mother’s attention. Nothing escaped Her eye, however small!

In this way how many such little frailties and shortcomings in us were picked up by the Mother! And She always tried to help us get over these human weaknesses. Truly we learnt so much from Her.

To wipe out sorrow in this life, we cannot hope.

But strength to bear that sorrow, O grant us in our heart.


The Mother came down to distribute flower-blessings to everyone after ten. We watched Her sitting in the hall and giving to each one a flower according to his or her need. And each person bowed gratefully before Her before leaving. After awhile I noticed that She was looking towards Bula-da’s room. In fact that is where people were lining up to come to the Mother in the Meditation Hall. Malavika-di was also standing there in the line and I realised that the Mother was actually looking in Her direction. Malavika-di used to suffer terribly from sciatica. I noticed that she was dragging herself with great pain towards the Meditation Hall in order to get the flower-blessing from the Mother’s hand. Malavika-di’s pain did not escape the Mother’s eye as She kept focussing on her painful leg. Even after she had taken the flower from Her hand, the Mother continued watching her leg as she limped away. One day, I told Malavika-di about this incident and she was deeply moved and her eyes welled up with tears of joyous gratitude. Thus she got from the Mother’s infinite Grace, the strength to battle against pain and disease.


I went to see the Mother in the morning. Everyone was standing in line on the staircase. In front of me stood little Lucy, Baudi’s daughter, who was also waiting to go to the Mother. She had in her right hand a beautiful, small bottle of perfume. It must have been French. Lucy was very fond of this perfume. And she had brought her favourite thing to offer to the Mother.

“Bonjour, Lucy,” the Mother greeted her as soon as she entered Her room.

“Bonjour, Douce Mère,” Lucy replied and handed Her the perfume.

The Mother looked delighted as She inspected the bottle from different angles. Then She showered Lucy with all Her caresses and gave her many different flowers. A little girl had given away her most-loved thing: that is the real value of ‘offering’.


An incident comes to my mind. Father had planted a pumpkin plant at home. The plant began yielding huge pumpkins. Father kept the biggest of the lot aside. One day he announced: “I will give this pumpkin to the Mother. I’ll take it to the

Playground and offer it to Her.” I was taken aback and said:

“You’re certainly not going to the Playground with that pumpkin!”

Father did not say anything.

I went happily to the Playground that evening as usual. The Mother was distributing toffees to the group after the Gymnastic Marching. What did I see at the end of the line? Father! Advancing towards the Mother with that pumpkin in his arms! The Mother inspected the pumpkin for quite a while. I was dying of shame in the meantime and furious with father as everybody was giggling away.

We ran and waited near the Garage in the Ashram for the Mother’s car to arrive, for one more darshan. The car came and stopped but the Mother did not come out. She called for Dyuman-da who came running. The Mother showed him the pumpkin and asked him to take it to Her room on the firstfloor. Only after Dyuman-da had taken the pumpkin away, did the Mother come out of the car. I cannot tell you how very embarrassed I felt. The Mother went directly upstairs. She had brought back with Her a commonplace pumpkin in the car! Father’s dream of offering the pumpkin to the Mother was fulfilled.

It was only later that I understood that more than the thing being offered, however ordinary that might be, it was the earnestness that was more precious in the Mother’s eyes. What was important to the Mother was not what was given but how it was given.

The story of Bhakta Sudama naturally comes to mind. He went to Sri Krishna’s royal court carefully carrying in his chaddar a fistful of humble nadus (a rural sweet of Bengal) for his childhood friend. But then on seeing Sri Krishna in his royal robes he felt a little embarrassed and hesitant about giving his simple offering to his friend. So Sri Krishna himself asked for the nadus. He sat on his royal seat and joyfully began relishing those rice nadus.


One day the Mother said:

You know I have prepared a straight path, a path by which the soul can go directly to the psychic world. It does not have to go through, after death, the suffering of the vital world. If someone leaves even with a little bit of desire then the vital beings will follow. And they cause a lot of suffering. Just imagine the state of the soul then. It is in that terrible state that one can understand how much the body protects the soul. Haven’t you ever had a nightmare? As if someone is pursuing you. You want to be safe from them and you cannot stop running…and then you wake up with a start. You were convinced that you were fine in your bed but in reality you had gone out of your body. Some vital being was pursuing you. As soon as you reentered your body and the soul found its shelter you were safe from this vital being. You woke up. So you understand how man has to suffer after death. The soul then has left the body. It is in a terrible state then.

This path that I have created, it is just a quick passage after death directly into the psychic world. You must remember me just at the time of death. From wherever the call comes, in whatever condition, I will be present there. I will take the soul safely straight to the psychic world. You have to call me.

So I asked Her:

“But does everyone know You? Then? Very few people know that You are here.”

The Mother listened to me, then laughed.

“Am I present only in this particular body? Whenever anyone calls the Divine in any form from anywhere, I am present. I am after all the Mother.”

Here I remember those famous lines from Nishikanto.

Here in human forms you tread

On golden path by silence led.

How many are they who know you are

On this earth immense in wordless tread?


31st December 1954

New Year’s Eve. It was a Wednesday. The Mother distributed the New Year’s message in the class and everybody waited eagerly to hear what the Mother would say. The class started with the Mother’s announcement:

This message was written because it is foreseen that next year will be a difficult year and there will be many inner struggles and even outer ones perhaps. So I tell all of you what attitude you should take in these circumstances. These difficulties may perhaps last not only twelve months, that is, one full year, but perhaps fourteen months; and during these fourteen months you must make an effort never to lose the attitude about which I am going to speak to you just now.

In fact, I insist that the more difficult things are, the more you must remain quiet, and the more should you have an unshakable faith. Of all things this is the most important.

Usually, as soon as things become difficult, human beings get agitated, become irritated, get terribly excited and they make the difficulties ten times more difficult. So I am warning you right away that this is not to be done, that you must do the opposite; and what I am going to read to you is precisely what you must repeat to yourself as soon as you feel some anxiety or worry within you; you must remember what I am telling you today and remember it throughout the year. You can repeat it morning and evening profitably.

First She read the message in French and then in English:

No human will can finally prevail against the Divine’s Will. Let us put ourselves deliberately and exclusively on the side of the Divine, and the Victory is ultimately certain.

But She did not give us any further hint. She just kept repeating that tremendous obstacles and difficulties lay ahead. We would need to battle for fourteen months.

The path of sadhana, especially Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s chosen path is full of hardships, a path on which one needs to wage huge battles at every step. And now the whole of 1955 lay ahead.

Man’s life moves forward only through suffering and hardship. He learns to progressively recognise himself only through painful blows.

I recognised myself in blow after blow, in pain after pain. And so when the Mother kept repeating that the coming fourteen months were going to be testing times, we were all naturally a little crestfallen.

But the Mother also uttered a few words of hope. After telling us at length about the tremendous hardships and obstacles that lay in store for 1955, the Mother read out the following poem by Sri Aurobindo:

One Day

The little More

One day, and all the half-dead is done,

One day, and all the unborn begun;

A little path and the great goal,

A touch that brings the divine whole.

Hill after hill was climbed and now,

Behold, the last tremendous brow

And the great rock that none has trod:

A step, and all is sky and God.

Then She read four lines of another poem by Sri Aurobindo:

Even in rags I am a god;

Fallen, I am divine;

High I triumph when down-trod,

Long I live when slain.

I understood that tough times were ahead. We had to get ready for fourteen months of great disturbance and difficulty.

Not the awful echo of rustling forest is this,

But the ocean swelling with python’s hiss.

The class ended with a lot of questions and answers.

We began resolutely preparing ourselves for the hardships and difficulties of the new year. In just a few hours the new year — 1955 — would be upon us. Carrying high hopes and enthusiasm we vowed to overcome all obstacles.

O Bird of my Heart, O dear Bird mine,

Flutter not in darkness, cease not from forward flight!

The Mother had packed into Her message all the power and energy needed to battle against the tremendous obstacles in the coming year. We had understood from the Mother’s words that in fourteen months some new, extraordinary event was to take place. Everyone eagerly waited as the seconds ticked away. Days and months rolled by.

With bated breath the universe waits, Still, solitary, mute witness of Time.

Fourteen months were now almost over. The final moment was near. What was going to happen? On 1st January 1956 we received from the Mother Her New Year Message:

The greatest victories are the least noisy.

The manifestation of a new world is not proclaimed by beat of drum.

And so we all waited with bated breath. And finally breaking through all the obstacles and resistances, the victorious, irresistible Supramental Light came down onto the earth. Our waiting had come to an end, although we could not actually see the event.

On one Wednesday evening, in the Playground, during the meditation after the class, the Supramental Light came down with full force in the most unimaginable way. There was an uncontrollable, irresistible power in the descent. It was the

29th of February 1956. Just as the Mother had announced, the descent of this new Light took place exactly fourteen months later.

The grown-ups had been talking about the manifestation of the Supramental Light for quite a few years. “You will see that the Supramental Light will descend in our Playground itself.” The astonishing thing is that it did happen there. How a thought enters the human consciousness is truly amazing! It might be more apt to call it an intuition rather than a thought.

It was later that we came to know from the Mother something about the Supramental Light. On 29th February 1960 during the special blessing, the Mother revealed what had happened in 1956:

This evening the Divine Presence, concrete and material, was there present amongst you. I had a form of living gold, bigger than the universe, and I was facing a huge and massive golden door which separated the world from the Divine.

As I looked at the door, I knew and willed, in a single movement of consciousness, that “the time has come,” and lifting with both hands a mighty golden hammer I struck one blow, one single blow on the door and the door was shattered to pieces.

Then the supramental Light and Force and Consciousness rushed down upon earth in an uninterrupted flow.

She explained later:

What happened on February 29, 1956, is not so much a vision or an experience as something done. During the Evening Meditation in the Playground, I went up into the Supermind, and saw that something needed to be done, and I did it.

It is interesting to note that the words “The time has come” which express what I simultaneously knew and willed when I found myself in front of the massive door on whose other side was the world, were heard by me in English and not in French. It was as if Sri Aurobindo had spoken them.

When I came down from the Supermind after that flood of light had swept all over the universe, I thought that since the outpour was so stupendous everybody who had been sitting before me in the Playground would be lying flat! But on opening my eyes I saw everyone still sitting up quietly: they seemed perfectly unconscious of what had happened!

After the descent of the Supramental Light, the Mother modified the last four lines of Her prayer of 25th September 1914 in Prayers and Meditations from:

The Lord hast willed and thou dost execute;

A new Light shall break upon the earth.

A new world shall be born,

And the things that were promised shall be fulfilled.


Lord, Thou hast willed, and I execute

A new light breaks upon the earth.

A new world is born,

The things that were promised are fulfilled.

We used to recite this prayer of the Mother every morning and we still do. At the very beginning of the prayer She addresses the Divine Mother:

O Divine and adorable Mother, with thy help what is there that is impossible?

After the manifestation of the Supramental Light, the Mother finally revealed Herself to the earth. Thou dost execute was changed to I execute as the universe heard in hushed wonder the Mother’s proclamation.

In 1956 on 24th April, the Mother said:

The manifestation of the Supramental upon earth is no more a promise but a living fact, a reality.

It is at work here, and one day will come when the most blind, the most unconscious, even the most unwilling shall be obliged to recognise it.

On 10 July 1957, during the class in the Playground, the Mother emphasised that a new world is born, born, born. It is not the old one transforming itself, it is a new world which is born.

And this was the message She distributed on the first ‘anniversary’:


The Golden Day

Henceforth the 29th February will be the day of the Lord.

The Mother

Bangladesh — a new birth for East Bengal

Bangladesh was born in 1971, on 16th December. East Bengal regained its soul by cutting itself off from West Pakistan. ‘East Pakistan’ was abolished forever. We were simply overjoyed.

As soon as the Mother came to know about the liberation of Bangladesh She told Dyuman-da to start preparing sweets. Dyuman-da went running to the Dining Room and requested that rasogullas be made. Everybody was unbelievably excited. Anandamayi-di, Renu-di and a host of others made big rasogullas and the next day we all received the Mother’s prasad even as we prayed in our hearts with love and goodwill for Bangladesh. The Mother’s inexhaustible love had helped liberate Bangladesh. During those difficult times it was the Mother’s untiring dynamic power that gave strength and limitless courage to the youth of Bengal. This part of history is known to all and we were its witnesses.

My birthday is on 31st December and so I went to the Mother with a bunch of ‘Victory’ flowers. As soon as I entered Her room I exclaimed:

Victoire à la Douce Mère!” (Victory to Sweet Mother!) The Mother was delighted.

“You are saying ‘Victory to Sweet Mother’? Everyone has been telling me the same thing since this morning.”

I offered Her the ‘Victory’ flowers. “Mother, Bangladesh is my country.”

The Mother took both my hands into Hers and said: “Ah! So you are from that country?”

“Yes, Mother,” I replied happily, “Bangladesh is my country. I came from there.”

The Mother pulled me closer to Her and looked at me with affectionate eyes. I could not take my eyes away from Her. My whole being, my heart, mind and body accompanied by the Mother went wandering across Bangladesh through every town, village, open expanse, river, hill and paddy field. I had never had such an intense experience of love for my country.

Bengal of Gold, country mine, I love you in every soul, Your sky, your breezes in my heart forever with

music roll. An intense prayer had surged up in me from early morning:

May the Mother protect my country,

Let both parts of Bengal awake and become one. Bengal’s hearts, Bengal’s minds, brothers and sisters in

every Bengal home, Let them all become one, O Lord, One, One, One.

The Mother gently pressed both my hands and nodded Her consent. I understood that the country would be safe and united, come what may. My prayer was answered and my whole being spilled over with gratitude and love. I bowed to the Mother and came away.

How tremendous has been the Mother’s force behind this rebirth of East Bengal. The Mother followed the progress of this war in great detail. In the end Her force vanquished the Pakistani army. The Mother’s children proved once again that they were not cowards. They offered their lives in order to free their motherland and this happened during Sri Aurobindo’s birth centenary year. This was also the Mother’s intense aspiration and Sri Aurobindo fulfilled it.

The two parts of Bengal finally became one with the birth of Bangladesh. The Bengalis of East Bengal sought and got this name for their country from West Bengal which yielded it with delight. In that moment who could object? Not for giving a name. That East Bengal was finally free was what overjoyed everyone’s hearts. West Bengal gave proof of her inner magnanimity. Both the Bengals were tied with the same string. Two brothers came together again and this was amply proved during the war.

When Vivekananda visited East Bengal he wrote:

At last I am in Eastern Bengal. This is the first time I am here and never before knew Bengal was so beautiful. You ought to have seen the rivers here — regular rolling oceans of fresh water, and everything so green — continual production. The villages are the cleanest and prettiest in all India.

He wrote again:

I paid a long visit of two months to Assam and the different parts of East Bengal. For combined mountain and water scenery this part of the country is unrivalled.

O earth of my country,

My head is bowed at Thy feet.

The Mother of the Universe holds you

In her love embrace so sweet.

Amusing Incidents

Listen to an amusing incident. From the time I settled here, I kept hearing about the Supramental manifestation from the elderly sadhaks. They talked about this all the time. There was a sort of repressed excitement in their conversations. We younger ones were not at all bothered by this: “When would the Supramental manifestation take place? How would it take place?” Such questions never cropped up in our minds. You can imagine how very ignorant we were. My friend Gauri and I would sit on a cement bench in our Nanteuil house under the huge Ashwattha tree and chat about all sorts of things. One day Gauri asked me:

“Do you understand anything about this Supramental manifestation that the elderly keep talking about? What is it?” “That is not our concern,” I replied. “It is not possible for

us to move even a little bit. We needn’t go so far ahead in a single life. It is like counting chickens before they hatch. Ours is only to love the Mother and if She finds us worthy then we will certainly feel something about this in this life. So let us not dance our brains out with this.”

Both of us sat quietly. The leaves of the Ashwattha tree rustled overhead. Suddenly I burst out laughing. Gauri looked at me very puzzled.

“Why are you laughing, Priti?”

“You know, Gauri,” I said, “when the Supramental Light manifests, the Mother will distribute all Her sarees to Her girls. We will wear those sarees and go to the Mother to get Her blessings. Won’t that be lovely?”

Gauri was a little nonplussed.

“How did you ever get such an idea?”

“I don’t know. It just occurred to me. Maybe an intuition.”

We again fell into silence.

You know what was astonishing about this? When the Supramental Light came down, the Mother, in fact, gave away Her own sarees to all Her girls. She discussed with Vasudha which saree to give to which girl. She took a long time to select the saree. While selecting the saree for Tapati She told Vasudha:

“Tapati is a very jovial sort of girl. Should I give her this georgette saree with the cherry blossom print?”

The Mother loved that particular saree very much and had worn it on several occasions.

For the April Darshan we all wore those sarees given by the Mother and went to Her for blessings. Gauri and I were both astonished beyond words. We had never imagined that what I had said in jest would become a reality.

So the Mother definitely understands all our thoughts and desires!

Let me tell you about another incident. It was 1956 after the descent of the Supramental Light when everyone was asking the Mother all sorts of questions about it. Our curiosity knew no end. One day in the translation class the Mother uttered the word ‘Gnostic’ and suddenly stopped. I was full of uncontrollable curiosity. My mind was not at all in the class. After the class ended, I followed the Mother, staying very close behind. After some time I called out to Her. The Mother turned around:

“What do you want?”

“Mother, in the class you said ‘Gnostic’ and then became silent. What was on Your mind, Mother?” The Mother looked quite surprised.

“Ah! so you caught that moment.”

“Please tell me, Mother, what You wanted to say.” A mischievous smile lit up the Mother’s face.

“If I tell you something about this then your head will split in two. Go and get Nolini.”

I ran as fast as I could and called Nolini-da. The Mother took Nolini-da into the interview-room and stood there in a corner telling him various things. Nolini-da simply listened quietly while I leaned over the window sill and waited silently. If only I could catch a single word!


We need to give up all samskaras. I understood this one day from the Mother Herself.

Every evening in the Playground, the Mother would sit in front of the map of India and distribute toffees made by Ganpatram-ji to everyone. An American lady named Rijuta would take the toffee from the Mother with her left hand. I found that very improper. How could she take the toffee with her left hand? And so one day I blurted out to the Mother:

“Why does Rijuta take the toffee from You with her left hand? It doesn’t look good.”

The Mother looked at me greatly surprised and holding both Her hands up in front of me asked:

“What is the difference between these two hands?”

I just sat speechless and a little embarrassed. That this was a samskara was for us hard to understand. To the Mother the left or the right hand were both the same. How difficult it is to free ourselves from our old samskaras. The most important thing is the attitude with which we receive something from Her. If we wish to be totally free from all types of samskaras we need to have a very generous mind.


He who gets your flag to hold

Gets from you a strength untold.

The Mother would stand in front of the map of India, erect, to take the salute of the March Past. Beauty and force surrounded Her. She looked marvellous.

The first March Past took place on one of the Darshan days, I don’t remember which. For the March Past in front of the Mother, Light used to be the standard bearer of the

‘E’ group (women) walking in front of us holding aloft the Mother’s blue symbol on a white silk flag. It was truly admirable the way Light marched upright with steady steps holding the enormous flag of the Mother. Light exuded beauty and power. I felt the Mother was pouring power into her. Abhay Singh was the standard bearer of the men’s group. Light and Abhay Singh would gently lower the flag in front of the Mother in a gesture of obeisance. An aura of strength and beauty enveloped both Light and Abhay Singh. And we members of the group would feel at that moment a descent of tremendous power. Even today during the March Past the boys and girls of the different groups and even the spectators feel the same power of the Mother. The Mother came and always stood in front of the map of India to take the salute during the March Past. Those who have a subtle sight are still blessed with that vision of the Mother.


One could never go to the Mother with a complaint against anybody. Even if we had noticed the gravest of faults in somebody’s nature we were supposed to accept it. We were taught to ignore defects and focus on good qualities since we are all composed of both good and bad. We all have our flaws and defects but we also have our good qualities. This is what I learnt from the Mother through a very ordinary incident. We were waiting in the Playground for the Mother. When she came the Mother looked at us and smiled and said a few words. Plucking up a little courage I told the Mother:

“Look, Mother! This girl doesn’t study at all.” (The girl was standing near us.)

The Mother looked at the girl and sweetly smiled:

“But see how beautifully she embroiders. She is like a fairy where work is concerned.”

And saying this, the Mother looked tenderly on the girl.


One day, while discarding a saree, I remembered an incident. We are used to discarding clothes as soon as they are torn or old.

I would notice while going to the Mother for Her blessing that flowers were embroidered on the Mother’s gown at several places. It was quite puzzling to me. Minu, Jaya, Bela and others were responsible for stitching the Mother’s gowns. So one day I asked Minu:

“Why do you keep embroidering flowers here and there on the Mother’s gown? Can’t you do it in a certain pattern? It looks so strange.”

Minu laughed and said:

“Is the Mother short of gowns? But the Mother will not throw any of Her old gowns away. As soon as there is a tear in the gown, She asks us to patch that area and embroider a flower over it. All the flowers on a gown just go to show how old they are. The Mother has many such gowns on which we have embroidered flowers on Her instructions.”

What Minu said came as a revelation to me of how we need to take care of every little thing as long as it can be used. The Mother was showing us this through Her own example. Every little act of the Mother revealed to us so many useful things that it is impossible to describe in words: the way She talked, the way She looked, the freshness and beauty of every bodily movement beckoned us, as it were, towards some subtler world and transported us onto streams of ananda.

From the ocean of bliss an arrow has come today. The Mother of Bliss is Herself present in our midst. Doubts, despair, sorrows, death—nothing can impede our march ahead. Each new day is a declaration of war against these forces. Thanks to the Mother’s unearthly Grace we have overcome so many of these obstacles and difficulties.

The Mother always used to mitigate the punishment that we merited for our conduct. The Mother’s Body was our protective shield. Like Karna on whom She had put the shield of the sun at the time of his birth, the divine Mother Herself, Aditi, was our shield. And this shield will protect us forever. It will protect us now from the attacks of the subtle world.


After the Mother’s physical withdrawal Nolini-da wrote:

So long her physical body was our protection; we did not suffer the full consequences of our Karma because her body acted as a buffer: it broke the force of the impact of the Karma and reduced its evil effects to a minimum.

Let me write about a vision that Nolini-da had. This vision is a clear proof that the Mother, though She did leave Her body, hasn’t left us. In times of pain and difficulty She continues to protect us as always. And therefore ‘Do not fear’:

The Mother says, “Look at me, I am here, come back in my new body, divine, transformed and glorious. And I am the same Mother, still human. Do not worry. Do not be concerned about your own self, your progress and realisation, nor about others. I am here, look at me, gaze into me, enter into me wholly, merge into my being, lose yourself into my love, with your love. You will see all problems solved, everything done. Forget all else, forget the world. Remember me alone, be one with me, with my love.”


One day I found the Mother with a very stern expression. I wondered what the cause was. The Mother looked at me and said:

“I still cannot understand you human beings. How can you continue to tell lies to my face?”

I replied:

“Mother, normally everyone is afraid of You and that is why they resort to lying. How many are there who are truly courageous and truthful? Out of fear of punishment they cannot accept responsibility. On the other hand, they know perfectly well that You know and understand everything. And still they cannot get rid of their fear. Mother, we all love You so much but in our reverence for You there is a tinge of fear that hides in our hearts. Why, Mother?”

The Mother just kept looking at me with exceeding tenderness.


After Sri Aurobindo’s physical departure it was the Mother who pulled us out of our deep gloom by pouring Her infinite love and joy on us. Right from very early in the morning till late in the night the Mother would spread cheer all around carrying all of us in Her heart. From under Her protective wing we slowly emerged stronger to bear the deep pain and sorrow of losing our Lord, Sri Aurobindo. The Mother gave of Herself to humanity so that we could all receive this strength.

During the Marching in the Playground and at every moment we were dazzled by the ever-changing ever-new form and movement of the Mother. There was a deep sense of void that descended on us after Sri Aurobindo left his body. The Mother was acutely aware of this. She would tell us all sorts of amusing things to bring back laughter and joy on our crestfallen faces. One day She recounted to us the story of Hans Andersen ‘The invisible dress’ with so much fun and humour that we were all rolling with laughter. Suddenly She became very serious and whispered to us:

“I don’t think Pavitra is enjoying our laughter very much. So let us keep quiet.”

And like a little girl She folded Her arms and began watching the marching seriously. All this playfulness and mischief of the Mother helped to take us out of that solemn grief into which Sri Aurobindo’s departure had plunged us. The Mother was now totally alone. This fact caused us a lot of pain. From time to time the Mother would become extremely serious. We could not understand this. The thought that was uppermost on our minds: when would Sri Aurobindo come back? We used to feel a strange sort of pain for the Mother.

Let me tell you about one of the Mother’s pranks. During the Playground marching the Mother would often be engaged in interviews. She used to sit in the interview room and remain there for a long time. One day after finishing an interview She came out striding towards the map of India, holding Her hands behind her back. Her eyes glinting with mischief, She looked at us and suddenly held out a photograph before our faces. It was the photograph of the person with whom She had just had the interview. This gentleman had given Her one of his photographs. Can you believe that! We just laughed like mad! The Mother also broke into a childlike laugh, full of mischief. All these little incidents of playfulness by the Mother took place after Sri Aurobindo’s physical withdrawal. The Mother would not allow anyone to sink into any feeling of despair.

Another day, She came striding out after an interview and moved towards the map of India. We were all waiting there for Her. On seeing Her face we knew at once that She was going to give us some good news and good news it was. The Mother said:

“I have had a very good interview today. I hadn’t spoken with such a full heart as I did today. The gentleman I met is very honest and sincere and really feels a great love for Sri Aurobindo and me. He is a high-court judge.” (By the way, this gentleman was my elder uncle, Subodh Kumar Niyogi. So it was quite natural for me to be curious.)

The Mother went on:

“Ah! He looked so wonderful in his judge’s gown. Elegant, well-built, erect.”

The Mother’s eyes and face were glowing with a marvellous tenderness. Probably it was from this divine Mother that human mothers had learnt to praise their own children. While She was saying this, the Mother looked exceedingly beautiful. It was after a long time that I had heard something like this from the Mother. After the descent of the Supramental Light in 1956, the Mother started becoming strangely worried or serious. I felt She was slowly withdrawing into Herself, getting more and more absorbed in the work of the transformation of the body. So one day finding Her close again, I exclaimed to Her:

“The judge’s work is only to punish people. How many people they must have sent to the gallows! I really don’t care much for the judge’s profession.”

The Mother looked at me a little surprised:

“Whoever told you that these judges spend their time punishing people? You have no idea how much time and energy they put into trying to save the innocent. This judge for instance who came for the interview wakes up every morning at four in order to meditate. Then he sits down to write a judgement and remembers me before putting down each word. I can hear his call. He hasn’t sent a single person to his death.”

I can still hear the Mother’s voice. The Mother always helped all Her children and devotees whenever they called out to Her.

Needless to say, I was filled with joy on hearing so much praise for my uncle. The Mother probably didn’t know that this Subodh Kumar Niyogi was my uncle. He was, in fact, my younger uncle Himangshu Kumar Niyogi’s elder brother. When I got back home from the Playground my father and elder uncle enquired:

“What was the Mother telling you for so long?”

I told them and they were both very happy. My elder uncle felt a little embarrassed. I was happy because after a long time, I had found the Mother once again close to me as before.

After the marching had begun the Mother would sit down in a chair in front of the map of India and watch it. Five of us young women, Minnie-di, Milli-di, Violette, Gauri and I, were given the privilege of staying next to the Mother. The Mother used to enjoy talking to us about a host of things. She would watch very attentively how each person marched. One day all of a sudden She exclaimed:

“Look there, a spider!”

We turned and saw that one of the sadhaks was stretching his arms sideways in such a way that he really looked like a spider. Gauri and I could not help laughing. Then I exclaimed:

“Mother, look there, an elephant!”

Our Dilip-da used to come and join the marching on some days. The Mother put a finger on Her lips and asked us not to make any remarks about Dilip-da. I was slightly taken aback. Dilip-da was Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s very dearly loved child.

And so through such varied, apparently insignificant talk the Mother came close to all of us. As the marching went on, the Mother taught us French on some days. Chitra, Minu, Nebu and I would bring the essay that She had asked us to write in French and She would correct it sitting in Her chair. I had observed from the very beginning that the Mother was equally interested in both studies and sports. In Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Integral Yoga everything is equally relevant and meaningful.

After the concentration, the Mother distributed groundnuts to all the groups. All the groups used to line up to receive groundnuts from the Mother’s hand as Amiyo, carrying a pot full of roasted groundnuts and a large spoon, walked along with the Mother. The Mother would scoop out the groundnuts with this spoon and distribute some to each one. Some received one scoop and some two. To some She would give just one groundnut! We could not hold back our laughter then. The sadhaks felt very embarrassed. Then this custom of going round the Playground distributing groundnuts stopped. The Mother started distributing prasad sitting in Her chair in front of the map of India. Now everyone present in the Playground, including the visitors, had the privilege of receiving prasad from Her hand. Everyone felt happy. The Mother would also give prasad and Her blessings to those whose birthday it was. Only after She had finished this would She begin Her other work.

Pranab taught his group of captains all types of exercises. He was most attentive while teaching his captains, especially the women captains. He would stand very vigilant next to them while they practised vaulting on parallel bars. There was absolutely no chance of any accident. These girls were doing such difficult exercises for the first time! The Mother just sat quietly and very attentively watched each person.

A well-known leader and educationist once came to the Ashram. After seeing the sporting activities in the Playground he observed:

“I have been to many educational institutions all over India. I have seen girls do gymnastics. But here in the Ashram I have seen for the first time girls doing vaulting, and even parallel bars. I have never seen this anywhere else.”

He was greatly impressed. The girl captains who used to practise these exercises were Chitra, Sujata, Minu, Kusumben, Mani-ben, Kumud, Tapati, Sushila, Arati, Amita, Mridula and many others. They also practised on the malkhamb and had become very skilful. Amita used to perform the Swiss drill marvellously. From among all the girls she would stand out. Among the men captains, Mona, Sumantra, Bacchu, Batti, Narendra, Manoj, Ranjan picked up everything beautifully with exemplary concentration.

We had absolutely no difficulty in discovering or understanding this new life. The Mother was constantly with us guiding and helping us along the path. Whenever we faced any difficulty we went to the Mother and told Her everything without any diffidence. And the Mother always listened to us with a ready, sweet smile. As She nodded Her head we knew that everything would be resolved. And with renewed enthusiasm we resumed the journey. And in this way our days unfolded from moment to moment. The more we endeavoured to walk on the path shown by the Mother, the more we encountered difficulties, obstacles, desires, temptations of all sorts that tried to push us off the track. The Mother firmly held the hull of our boat and there was no way we could go off-course. We did everything according to Her instructions. And if ever we went awry the Mother would unveil Her Rudra aspect. There is no child of Hers who has not received Her scolding. Quite clearly I am talking here of the young. This scolding was not necessarily expressed in words. She could make us feel without verbalising the awful weight of Her strong dissatisfaction. It was like the tremendous Himalaya. Every boy and girl of our time had a taste of this tremendous psychological pressure at some time or the other. Probably the adults did not totally escape this either. The Mother did not always express Her feelings through words but those who were sensitive understood at once Her displeasure about an act, a thought or conduct. And immediately we set about trying to locate that dark spot in us. We needed to be alert and conscious at every moment of our lives if we wished to walk with one-pointed earnestness on the path shown by the Mother.

I remember an incident. At that time Mr. René used to be in charge of our press. Mr. René was born into an aristocratic Muslim family of Hyderabad.

The Mother needed some envelopes and She entrusted

Baudi’ (Rajsena Nahar) with this work. René showed ‘Baudi’ how to make these envelopes. Sujata, Suprabha, Chitra, Tapati and I sat down to make them under ‘Baudi’’s instructions. From time to time René kept checking our work and seemed rather happy. As soon as he turned up ‘Baudi’ would hold up the envelopes one by one before him and ask him jocularly:

“Is it all right, Monsieur?”

Although we quietly enjoyed ‘Baudi’’s prank we went on seriously with the work.

Mr. René, however, complained to the Mother. When I

went to Her She gave me a flower rather sternly. I could not figure out what had caused the Mother’s dissatisfaction. Then

She explained:

“René was complaining that ‘The fair girl teased me a lot today. She kept showing me each envelope and saying, “Is it all right, Monsieur?”’ You probably do not know that René loves perfection in work. That is why he came back repeatedly to check if each envelope was made properly.”

“It was Rajsena who kept showing the envelopes to Mr. René, it wasn’t I.”

“You did nothing at all?” the Mother asked.

Even after much reflection I could not detect anything that I had done wrong.

“Just think a little,” the Mother insisted.

Then suddenly it flashed on me that I had indeed been enjoying ‘Baudi’’s prank, although outwardly I had shown no sign of it and went on working in all seriousness. As soon as I told the Mother this, She was extremely pleased and remarked:

“This kind of conduct on your part is not becoming at all.”

That I had been able to find my mistake on my own pleased the Mother very much. On the other hand She also told Mr. René:

“They work very well and I love these children very much.”

The following day Mr. René came to give us this happy piece of news. And we got down to our work very seriously.

The smallest of faults could not escape the Mother’s eye. I was really quite impressed by this incident; similar incidents occurred in my life on several occasions. This made me ever so alert and helped me to correct the little fault in me.

The Playground

When you and I, we played together,

Who my playmate was I did not know.

Without a fear, without a shame,

Life in quiet ease did flow.

Gauri and I used to exercise with the Mother. On some days after coming back from the Tennis Ground, the Mother would take Gauri and me behind the stage. (In those days the cultural programme of 1st December took place in the Playground itself on a stage that was specially constructed for it.) And then the exercises would begin. We stood on either side of the Mother and stretched Her arms in a kind of drill. We would make Her do all sorts of exercises while doing them ourselves. You cannot imagine the enthusiasm we put into it. The Mother went on doing everything we told Her, like a little girl. One day something very amusing happened. The Mother called us and said:

“Today let us play a new game. My hands on your hands and your feet on my feet, we will move and dance together.”

And the Mother showed us how. I fell from the sky! How could I ever do this? How could I ever touch the Mother’s Feet with mine? And the more the Mother showed us, the more nervous I became and just stood there transfixed! Then the Mother called Gauri. And both of them began this new game together. I said to myself that if Gauri moved her leg too vigorously then the Mother would surely fall. I felt extremely nervous and told Gauri so as soon as the exercise ended:

“Let us bow down before the Mother. Whatever it be, you have touched the Mother with your feet.”

And we both prostrated ourselves before the Mother. The Mother was very pleased and caressed our heads affectionately as if She were caressing two puppies.

We used to play all kinds of games with the Mother in this way. One day the Mother was sitting on a bench. She asked both of us to come and sit on either side of Her. We rushed towards Her and sat down on the ground at Her Feet. To sit on the same level as the Mother! No, not in this life! She understood. After talking to us about different things the Mother got up and we both bowed down at Her Feet.

And so these exercises with the Mother continued for some time.

One day we collected some tennis-balls. There used to be a wall between the Playground and the Guest House then. A basket was put up on this wall and then the game began. Effortlessly the Mother kept shooting each and every ball into the basket. And we had to do the same! Nobody managed to shoot all the six balls into the basket. Minnie-di, Milli-di, Gauri, myself, Sutapa, Violette, we all kept practising every day. Violette could put in three or sometimes four balls. The Mother congratulated Violette. Sutapa managed to sometimes get one or two. But the Mother managed to put in all six each and every time. Her attitude and concentration were incredible. She stood immobile and totally one-pointed as She put one ball after another into the basket. I could not help thinking of Arjuna in the Mahabharata hitting the target.


We also did marching with the Mother in the Playground for some time: Minnie-di, Milli-di, Gauri, Violette, Vasudha, Kakima (Bina-di, Pranab’s Kakima) and I. We were the Mother’s

satkanya’ (the seven daughters). The Mother used to walk so fast that we could not keep pace with Her. What a funny sight that was! The Mother could not restrain a gentle smile as She hugely enjoyed beating us.

One day an American lady suddenly joined our marching group without asking the Mother for Her permission. On seeing her, the Mother whispered:

“Today I shall march even faster. Let me see if I can beat her!”

And She broke into quick long strides. All of us had to run to keep alongside Her. I looked back and saw the American lady trailing behind, hopelessly panting. She just could not keep up with the rest of the group. All of us had a good laugh that day seeing this mischievous aspect of the Mother.

After the marching the Mother would get into the small room and sit on a raised seat. We sat on the floor around Her. Gauri would then give the Mother something to eat. The Mother distributed some of it as prasad to us. That same American lady suddenly turned up in the room! She began talking to the Mother in French. The Mother glanced at us with a fleeting smile, mischief glinting in Her eyes once again, and started speaking to her so fast that this lady could not understand a thing. After some time she left the room. Then the Mother told us with a laugh:

“She doesn’t know much French actually. She was just trying to show off.”

We all laughed. Trying to show off before the Mother!


The marching went on for a few days. Then some new work came up before the Mother. Things happened successively after a few days’ interval. Now physical activities started in a regular way at the Playground in the evenings. There were also various cultural activities like dance and music in between. The Mother was present in all of these. We just followed Her everywhere. Then there was creative dance. After finishing Her game of tennis at the Tennis Ground She would come to the Playground and sit in a chair in a corner by the wall. The girls would one by one present the dance they had prepared before the Mother. Anju, Dalu, Jaya, Bela, Leena Dowsett and many other girls showed their dance one after another. Once even Udar presented a dance in front of the Mother! One day Leena Dowsett performed a snake-charmer’s dance. She began by playing the flute used to charm the snake. What a sight that was! The Mother watched everyone’s dance most attentively and seriously but sometimes we could not control our laughter. The whole atmosphere of the Playground was such in those times that everyone felt childhood had returned to their lives.

Let me tell you something about Priti. Our Priti danced in front of the Mother when she was a little girl. When she was hardly six or seven she put up a play with her friends and presented it to the Mother who watched it with great interest. Right from the beginning Priti had a most natural, spontaneous rapport with Her. Today that same Priti has become a well-known artist. All her paintings reflect a new idea and style. It was from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri that she found the inspiration to paint.


The Mother inaugurated Malkhamb, Asana and weightlifting activities by cutting the ribbon. I still remember that day. I noticed Bhavatarini standing in the midst of all the boys. An iron rod was placed under her chin and effortlessly Bhavatarini managed to bend it with the strength of her neck. I saw that no boy was able to repeat this feat after her. It was amazing how effortlessly Bhavatarini accomplished this and then she put the rod back on the ground with the greatest humility. How old must she have been then? A mere girl! But so simple, natural and generous indeed! I at once remembered the character of Shanti from Anandamath. How effortlessly Shanti too had taken up the bow and the arrow. After stringing the bow she put it at the feet of Satyanand in all simplicity. Only four persons succeeded in stringing the bow and passing the test. It was not at all easy to string this bow. Satyanand was baffled, awe-struck, stunned. I had read this description of Shanti’s strength many years ago. Today Bhavatarini was standing before me as Shanti. Bravo, Tarini!


In 1949, the Mother did a sketch of all of us who had practised Marching with Her. She called one of us each day and within no time She would finish the pencil-sketch. We just stood and watched Her in speechless awe. Minnie-di, Milli-di, Gauri, Violette, Kakima, Vasudha and I were all sketched by the Mother in a minute! Had we not witnessed this we would never have believed that it was possible to sketch a face in such fine detail in such a short time. The Mother has done sketches of a number of sadhaks and sadhikas. All of them along with other paintings and drawings of the Mother were later published in a book.


One day the Mother was sitting in a chair, Her face turned towards the west. We were all seated near Her. All of a sudden She began looking at everyone’s hands. She read each hand and said different things. As soon as She saw mine She exclaimed:

“Not a working hand at all!”

And She dropped it. What could I do? I knew that I was not the working type. And all of you too would accept this as true. In the Ashram documentary all of you surely remember me typing on the monotype very slowly at an ant’s pace. In fact it was a dictionary that I was typing and so, you understand, I had to do it very attentively and slowly. Anyway... The Mother went on looking at me and smiling gently said:

“Sit and write poems, that’s all.”

And She stretched out Her right hand towards me, saying:

“Here, look, this is what is called a working hand!”

The Mother’s hand had an amazing form. Like a perfect rectangle! Her fingers were like the buds of the champa, incredibly lovely! I bent over to look at the Mother’s hand. She had one line on Her palm that went right from the wrist to the little finger. I had never seen such a line before. So I asked the Mother:

“What does this line signify, Mother?” She replied:

“Only those with occult power have this line.”

The Mother’s palm was so soft as if made of cotton. We all felt Her hand one after the other while She smiled.

After inaugurating the weight-lifting section, the Mother opened the asana-room. Ambu-bhai taught asanas. Malkhamb started after this. Vishnu-ji became the malkhamb-instructor. Tara and Parul learnt the malkhamb-exercises very quickly. At the Tennis Ground, Purani-ji taught wrestling. It was quite unbelievable how even at that late age, Purani-ji could wrestle with the young boys. Purani-ji was a very close friend of my father’s. He loved all of us brothers and sisters very deeply. On the day of the inauguration of the wrestling pit, the Mother came and sat at the entrance and the wrestling lessons started. With Purani-ji, girls too learnt to wrestle beautifully. Everyone was quite wonder-struck to see girls take up wrestling!

Then boxing started. There was no discrimination between boys and girls who picked up boxing skills wonderfully. They boxed fearlessly. Boys and girls wore the same kind of dress which was quite unthinkable in those times.


A French lady used to come to the Playground every evening. Her name was Doutsie. In the beginning she would conduct medical check-ups for us girls. Today where the Playground bathrooms and toilets are, there used to be a small single-storeyed house. It was here that the ‘E’ group medical check-up took place and Doutsie carried out all the tests.

You might be astonished to hear that the Mother would be present and She assisted Doutsie in this work. Isn’t it unbelievable!

So one day this lady proudly declared in the Playground: “I can run very fast. I’m sure nobody can beat me!” Pranab was standing next to the Mother. The Mother

whispered to him:

“Get some of your girls and prepare for a race.”

So Pranab at once called out some of the girls and told them:

“Get ready for a race with Doutsie.”

As far as my memory goes Sujata, Minou, Paru, and Tapati were selected. We were standing near the Mother and could see Her face light up with a smile full of mischief. And so the race started. Panting and puffing, poor Doutsie arrived behind everyone else. We just could not stop laughing. I turned to see the Mother: She too was laughing heartily.

Let me tell you of another amusing incident. An elderly

French gentleman told Pranab:

“You know I can box very well. I’d love to box with you.”

So Pranab and the gentleman got into the boxing ring and began their boxing match. The Mother sat in Her chair and watched the fight. We also followed it with great eagerness. There was much excitement among the young in the Playground. Everyone waited to see who would win. After some time the gentleman became so breathless that it was too painful to watch. Then he himself conceded:

“I am out of breeze!” (He was obviously translating literally the French ‘souffle’ with ‘breeze’ instead of ‘breath’.)

Pranab withdrew while all of us burst out laughing on hearing the gentleman’s English. The Mother, however, was quiet as She sat quite still.


On Darshan days, all sorts of programmes were put up. Two little girls, Selvi and Yamuna, would do a Bharatanatyam dance before the Mother. They danced beautifully.

On one such Darshan, a French lady named Monique came to show her dance. She had made a ring of flowers and in the course of her dance she brought this flowery ring right in front of the Mother’s face. What an incredible dance that was! We really had great trouble stifling our laughter as we sat near the Mother and watched. However, the Mother looked on with great seriousness. At the end of the dance she offered that ring of flowers at the Mother’s Feet.


One day a gentleman arrived at the Ashram and proudly declared:

“I can materialise all kinds of things from the invisible world.”

He said many other such things with great pride. After listening to him Pranab made all the arrangements in the Playground for him to show his skills. The Mother was present too. He began by saying all sorts of things and doing all kinds of movements. Then suddenly Pranab roared out and approaching the gentleman told him:

“I know this game of yours. You are not materialising anything from the invisible world, you are just making a fool of us all.”

The gentleman simply shied away, quite baffled. The Mother suddenly got up from Her chair, went through the Guest-house door and began walking out. I followed Her, close behind. Without looking to the left or right She continued walking straight ahead, all alone. She got into the Ashram through the main entrance and went straight to the first-floor. I still cannot forget that scene. What cheek we humans have, trying to cheat the Mother!


One day, Mota-kaka (Pranab’s uncle, Charuchandra Bhattacharya) and a European gentleman, both rather roly-poly and dressed up, turned up for a programme in the Playground before the Mother. After bowing to the Mother both of them started such a dance in the centre of the ground that the whole place began roaring with laughter.

The Mother also laughed so much that waves of ananda kept rippling all around. This was the first time that I had seen the Mother laugh after Sri Aurobindo’s departure. And in that moment the whole mood of sadness just dissolved into thin air.


How many different types of programmes were held in the Playground! The Mother would sit in Her chair and watch. One after another, the various items followed. The younger ones performed all kinds of shows. ‘Musical chairs’ for the children was the sweetest of them all. For the senior girls, one of their many items was walking with a pot on their heads. The pots kept falling and breaking. Lakshmi-bai was the only one who could reach the finishing line without dropping the pot. The Mother would watch all these games with such incredible interest!


The tug-of-war was the most exciting item of all. We enjoyed watching this and it was tremendous fun. Udar would call out to all the groups to get ready for this item. Once, towards the end of these games, Udar suddenly announced:

“Mother’s group versus ‘E’ group!” (‘E’ was the group for senior girls.)

All of us who stood near the Mother were taken aback. Gauri, Milli-di, Minnie-di, Violette, Vasudha and I had never taken part in any games. We looked at the Mother in utter helplessness. By calling out the Mother’s group, it was as if the Mother Herself was being challenged. Who was Udar challenging? He just did not think of this at that time. The Mother looked at us and said:

“Go ahead, all of you!”

Repeating the Mother’s name we moved forward. I felt so extremely embarrassed in the middle of the ground in front of all those people! We hadn’t the slightest idea how to pull the rope! Not even how to stand! On the other hand the ‘E’ group girls were greatly experienced! I kept calling out to the Mother. Then as soon as Udar signalled, we began pulling the rope. I don’t know what happened then, but all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, the Mother’s group won! Her force worked on us quite miraculously that day. We returned to Her filled with gratitude. She showered Her praises on us, especially on Gauri and Violette.


Let me tell you about another amusing incident. As I said earlier, Pranab used to teach the captains after all the classes in the Playground were over. At that time the Mother would come and sit in the open ground. Many of us like Gauri, Debu, I and several others sat round the Mother. I remember, once it was very cold. I was freezing, sitting there. Gauri and I decided to put a cape over the Mother. She must surely be feeling cold. Immediately we two friends went and selected a cape for Her. Gauri used to look after the Mother’s capes in the Playground. Both of us put the cape over Her shoulders but with a single movement She removed it. However, we did not get disheartened. After some time, we once again put the cape over Her shoulders. Once again it was the same story. She flung the cape away. After two-three audacious attempts on our part, the Mother finally yielded. So then we came in front and buttoned up Her cape. Whenever the Mother was concentrated on something She would not tolerate any kind of disturbance. This incident was a clear proof of this.

Let me tell you something about the Mother’s capes. One day it suddenly occurred to me to get a cape made for the Mother. As soon as the idea came to me I told my uncle, Himangshukumar Neyogi, to get a cape made in Calcutta for Her. Then when the cape was ready both of us offered it to Her in Her room in the Playground. After this I offered Her many more capes, all of which were brought from Calcutta by my uncle. Now the Mother did not object anymore to wearing a cape. Both Gauri and I were delighted. I once offered the Mother a milk-white soft velvet cape. But I was not sure whether She would like it since it had a high neck. The Mother came and stood in front of the map of India. She was wearing that milk-white velvet cape. She said:

“This cape is very beautiful, soft like a cat’s fur.”

Unsure whether the Mother liked that style, I mumbled a little hesitantly:

“But the neck is high, Mother.”

“Oh, it’s lovely! And it’s very stylish!” the Mother answered.

And in this way the Mother started wearing capes. Gauri would put the cape over Her in Her room. Only then did She come out and stand in front of the map of India. Then the March Past would begin. How enchanting the Mother looked then!


Gauri and I were sitting near the Mother. The play had begun. The stage had been set up on the western side of the Playground.

A gentleman came and stood on the stage and started singing. He sang with such a shrill voice that Gauri and I had great difficulty suppressing our laughter. Then I looked all around and saw that everyone was laughing, although softly. It is hard to find a voice more out of tune than this! When he finished one song and started another both Gauri and I burst into laughter. It was impossible to pretend, or be polite any longer. However, when I looked up at the Mother I saw that She was listening to the song in silence. Good Lord, what infinite patience the Mother had!

The Mother’s Eyes

Let me do my work, my head bowed to Thee, Thy Eyes in my inmost eyes shall see.

The poet-sadhak’s heart’s yearning is reflected in this prayer. He is longing for a touch of the Divine eyes in his inmost heart. He never dreamed in his wildest dreams that the Mother would come down in a human body of flesh and bone on this very earth.

But then probably this is how we express ourselves. After getting this vision of the Mother we seem to boast:

…is there any who knows what honour lies

In meeting Her Eyes with our common eyes?

We have no idea how very blessed we are!

The Mother’s eyes changed constantly. I saw those long golden eyes for the first time when I went to Her for Pranam on the evening of my arrival. That was my life’s first blessing of the Mother. On seeing Her then I felt that She was Mother Durga herself. Those same golden eyes overflowing with love. This golden light used to radiate from Her eyes from time to time, from those iridescent golden eyes. Absolutely incredible!

We used to wait for hours in a hush just to get a touch of that Divine Sight!

The Second World War

During the Second World War the Mother helped countless people come out of their difficulties and sorrows in countless ways. As soon as the inner call came from any of them She would go at once towards them however busy She might have been. She would come back to Her body only after She had lifted them out of their trouble. She used to go into a trance. Hours went by but the Mother would keep standing immobile. Sometimes holding a glass because She wanted to drink but She never did. For the call had come.

A few words from the author

From the very beginning of my sojourn in the Ashram, I was blessed with the Mother’s love and grace in the different aspects of my life — in my soul’s seeking, in my acts, my thoughts and my experiences. The Mother strove, constantly and single-mindedly, to nurture in our being the vast purpose of existence through simple, spontaneous experiences; She was always there as a friend to help us solve the smallest of our difficulties and through every ordeal She stretched out Her arms to protect us. I still cannot fathom how great a boon this was for our life.

It was my elder brother, Nareshchandra Dasgupta, who impelled me to gather some of these jewel-moments from my treasure trove of nearly fifty years of memories and bring them out in a book. These reminiscences first appeared in the Bengali monthly Srinvantu.

If this collection of blessed moments of grace with the Mother can open the path to a reader to a more luminous life, I would feel my endeavour to have been worthwhile.

Priti Dasgupta

Back Cover:

From the very beginning of my sojourn in the Ashram, I was blessed with the Mother’s love and grace in the different aspects of my life — in my soul’s seeking, in my acts, my thoughts and my experiences. The Mother strove, constantly and single-mindedly, to nurture in our being the vast purpose of existence through simple, spontaneous experiences; She was always there as a friend to help us solve the smallest of our difficulties and through every ordeal She stretched out Her arms to protect us. I still cannot fathom how great a boon this was for our life.

Priti Das Gupta