Welcome to the new website of Overman Foundation

Dear Friend and Well-wishers,

On 29 March 2017, Overman Foundation completed its seventh year of existence.

In the past seven years, we have worked to create an Archives dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother help interested scholars and researchers to work on their lives and works. The Archives of Overman Foundation presently consists of and preserves around 35,000 documents, photographs, press cuttings, government documents of the British-era and unpublished correspondence and manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and the early inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. The organization also provides an intellectual sanctuary in the form of an Archives Library which houses a vast number of books in English, Bengali, French, Hindi and Gujarati on Sri Aurobindo Studies, the Ramakrishna Order and Indo-logical Studies. Selected documents and photographs from the Archives of Overman Foundation are regularly uploaded in its online forum.

As a result of our humble service to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, we have received—in the past seven years—several invaluable treasures from the members of the Aurobindonian community of Pondicherry like handkerchief used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the Mother’s saris, Darshan cards and Blessings-packets personally distributed by the Mother and the Mother’s sacred footwear.

To serve the members of the Aurobindonian community across the globe in a better way, we have created a new website titled:

http://overmanfoundation.org/

This website consists of all the post and related comments which had originally uploaded in overmanfoundation.wordpress.com.

Henceforth, we would be publishing materials on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in our new website only, that is :

http://overmanfoundation.org/

Followers of our blog are requested to kindly register their email addresses in the new website to receive intimations whenever a new post is uploaded.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Advertisements

“Borda”—Reminiscences of Rathindranath Mukherjee by Prithwindra Mukherjee

Every generation has its Elder Brother, known as Borda.

Eldest among the male children of his joint family, my grandfather Jatindranath was the Borda of all; his associates in the Jugantar called him simply Dada, as we learn from the writings of revolutionaries like M.N. Roy, Bhupati Majumdar or Dr Jadugopal. My father Tejendranath enjoyed the same status : in 1915, when grandfather fought with a detachment of colonial police and laid down his life, Tejendranath was hardly six. Under the watchful eyes of Charles Tegart, he had to be removed from home to home, school to school, city to city, district to district, earning while learning the sweet and bitter lessons of the life of a rebel’s son, away from his loving mother and aunt and siblings. Tegart’s career as an apprentice police officer had begun in the perilous track of Jatindranath (“who always carried arms”), at times made to stoop even to serve Jatindranath as lackey. In 1930, “misguided” by his father’s followers, Tejendranath was arrested in connection with the Chittagong armory raid; out of an unknown compassion Tegart – promoted omnipotent Commissioner of Police – asked the elders of the family : “Get the boy married. He has to calm down.” Further, after his marriage, to prove his bonafides, Tejendranath comfortably joined Gandhi’s personnel for a while, before leaving that stale company and turning to more spirited Subhas Bose, up to his liking.

Borda of his generation, Rothin— Rathindranath — was born on 5 February 1934. He passed away on 7 February 2017 in a Paris hospital. The little crown prince of a Hero’s dynasty, he was looked up on with a special consideration not only by members of the family, also by surviving comrades in arm of our illustrious grandfather. One of them —Bhavabhushan Mitra — though turned into a monk and known as Swami Satyananda — was a familiar figure, our Swamiji Dadu. As a man equally close and devoted to Sri Aurobindo, Barindra and Sarojini, he maintained the contact between us and Pondicherry. While absconding, once he had turned up at Pondicherry introducing himself as a “Realised Saint from Himalaya”. On looking at the Saint, during darshan, Sri Aurobindo could not help check an amused smile, which he explained later : he recognized the Saint as “Bhavabhushan (who is) even younger than Barin!”

Inspired by the Bengali poem, “If I did not train a tiger’s cub into a tiger, what have I done ?” Swamiji was a stern task master and a loving soul. On observing Rothin, he found that the kind-hearted boy was all admiration for Birendranath, our kaku — father’s younger brother — who was an all-round sportsman, especially gifted as a footballer and a gymnast : during his exercise, Kaku looked like a flash of lightning on his parallel bars in a corner of our courtyard in Ballyganj Place. Voluntarily he had remained a bachelor till late, in order to look after his brother’s family. He did not fail to observe how, naturally, Rothin was drawn by a dream to be a sportsman.

Sitting on the lap of Indubala — our grandmother — while she read her daily Anandabazar, little Rothin was fast in learning to read Bengali all alone, but upside down. While moving about, he was seen writing in the void, God knows what. Of a Sattvik temperament, he disliked maisur dal cooked with fried onion; stealthily he would slide his portion of fish under the dish, feigning to have eaten it up. Fond of painting, Rothin’s creativity caught the attention of Swamiji. Swamiji was a man who was ever welcome to see anybody he chose to, be he a statesman, a poet or an artist. Acharya Nandalal Bose had been involved in the Jugantar movement and, as such, knew Swamiji. Impressed by specimens of the boy’s painting, on consulting Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal wrote to Swamiji that Rothin was fit for admission at Santiniketan after his matriculation. Invited by Pratima Tagore, in January 1964, I went to Santiniketan, accompanied by the Jugantar leader Bhupendrakumar Datta. Informed that Nandalal was not keeping well, Datta took me, however, to have a glimpse of this great patriot. Stooping forward, seated on floor, Nandalal was meditating. As soon as his eyes fell on Datta, he stood up and saluted him with folded hands. On introducing me, Datta told Nandalal before parting, “I do not want to disturb you in your meditation. Wish you a quick recovery.”

Rothin’s happy empire had started knowing a series of unexpected odds. In October 1936 when he was two and half, I was born. In December 1937 Togo was born shortly before the passing of our grandmother. Kaku’s marriage was followed by my polio attack. On the national level innumerable calamities went on pushing us towards a breathless lassitude.

On reaching Pondicherry at last, in 1948, we found a comfort for our soul. After a few days spent at the Ashram, coached by Sudhir Dadu (Sarkar), Rothin served us as mouthpiece and informed the Mother that we, three brothers, would like to stay there “permanently”. Promising us to think it over, the Mother waited for my mother to come for blessings. Putting her right hand on my mother’s shoulder, She told her: “The boys want to stay here. But they are so young; they require someone to look after them. Will you do it on my behalf?” Tears of joy filled my mother’s eyes : she with my father had a dream of joining the Ashram once we were adults. The Mother was proposing to fulfill that dream earlier !

My mother discovered the importance the Mother attached to painting : a young Buddhist boy fleeing persecution in a remote village of Chittagong in the then East Pakistan, took to painting and received daily guidance from the Mother. My mother felt frustrated that Rothin should altogether give up painting, more concerned by sports. Both our parents had been rather our friends than censors in their ways of bringing us up. One day, however, exasperated, when my mother scolded Rothin for neglecting the chances of blossoming, he burst out in an accumulated pain : “Of course you have every reason to be angry with me, preferring to reserve patting for your own sons!” Dizzy with the tone, my mother came to discover that an inmate of the Ashram— let us call him Durjan-da — had convinced Rothin that our mother was but his step-mother; this was my father’s second marriage. Month after month Rothin had been bearing in silence the shock of this terrible revelation.

*

In 1948, all the three brothers, we were assembled in the transition “classe de dixième” (Class X) at the Ashram school where, with other new comers, we had lessons in French; most of the subjects were taught in French, according to the syllabus of schools in France, Pondicherry having been still the capital of French India. One of our teachers, Madame Gaebelé, a famous personality in French India, was renamed Suvrata by Sri Aurobindo. Generosity personified, whereas she always gave me 10.5 to 11 out of 10, Rothin had the privilege of scoring up to 14 out of 10. At the end of each class, Suvrata distributed stamps for collection and bonbons made in France. Hardly after two months of coaching in French, Rothin had a triple promotion to “classe de septième” (Class VII) in 1948-49 school year. Thanks to two consecutive double promotions, I caught him up at the “classe de sixième” (Class VI) in 1949-50.

After the passing of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother asked Nirodbaran to start teaching. Rothin and I had him for several years : whereas parched up by the Guru’s physical absence, a despondent Nirodbaran chose me to be his scapegoat, Lumière Ganguli and Rothin seemed to enjoy his affection as brilliant students. One day Nirodbaran brought us a poem by Alfred de Musset, as far as I remember, and particularly inspired, he explained the poem to the class. The next day, on my writing table, I found a beautiful Bengali version of that French poem by Rothin. Without his knowledge I sent it to the literary magazine of Calcutta, Pradeep, where I had been publishing since 1951 and having congratulations from eminent readers like Hemendraprasad Ghose and Kumudranjan Mallik. One day, when Nirodbaran came home to have a cup of tea with my father, I showed him the issue of Pradeep, just received. Much moved, he borrowed the copy for showing it to the Mother, with a comment on Rothin’s gift as a poet. I still remember the opening of the Bengali lines.

“Gobhir raate jyotsna-loker tole,
Nil akashe hajar tarar pradip jokhon jole,
Sada megher bhelaye chore sukhe
Ghum-porira neme ashe klanto dhorar buke.”

In 1952, the Mother welcomed a queer French lady called Suzanne Karpelès as our teacher. She was renamed Bharatidi. Her parents had been close friends of the Tagore family. Her elder sister Andrée was a disciple of Abanindranath and, as such, had been in charge of the women’s section at Santiniketan. Bharatidi had been Rabindranath’s secretary during his visits in Paris. As director of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, she had spent long years in wild areas of Cambodia. One day, late in the morning, during our class she looked particularly tired. On noticing that I pitied her fatigue, she got furious : “Prithwin, if you are hungry, you may leave the class.” Though humiliating, it was quite a decent solution. While I was leaving, in a shrill voice she shouted, “And don’t you forget to shut the door !” Far from forgetting, I did shut the door by locking it from outside. When the period was over and everybody was hungry, Bharatidi discovered my prank, turned to Rothin and ordered him to get out through the bull’s-eye and unlock the door. Classmates helped Rothin perform his duty. He did it religiously. When I learnt it, I commented : “In your place, I would have left her in the lurch!” In no time the incident made me notorious all over the world. Very soon she realized the metal I was made of and we became fast friends. Informed about my interest in translation, Andrée sent me a beautiful edition of Khirer Putul by Abanindranath in French, with her original wood-engravings.

*

Durjan-da’s role as evil genius did not stop with that ignoble joke. One day, Rothin was entering the Play Ground hurriedly to attend, as usual, the Mother’s class. Leisurely sitting on the footpath outside, surrounded by a few of his fans, Durjan-da called Rothin and, apparently desiring to tell him something important, stopped him from going to the class. This became systematic till Rothin considered it to be worth enjoying Durjan-da’s gossips. One day, on learning about Rothin’s brilliant results in his studies, Durjan-Da pooh-poohed : “Mother does not need idle brains. She cares more for strong hands to work for the community.” The next day Rothin stopped going to school and joined the automobile garage of the Ashram, driving to Madras air-port to receive guests. Far from any awareness of the dignity of labour, our people are in the habit of describing Pavitra-da as the “Mother’s Driver”, ignoring that this French disciple of Sri Aurobindo had one of the highest academic qualifications that France can offer. One day my mother overheard two ladies discussing loud enough for her to hear : “Here comes the  Driver’s mother!”

Encouraging Rothin in his tennis, the Mother herself invited him to play a couple of matches now and then. As a group captain, Rothin was very cautious in his programme for physical education. When his duty at the garage called for a frequent absence, as a consolation, with the Mother’s approval, Rothin joined the Pondicherry State team for football and cricket matches. His reputation had reached the ears of the 1st Division organizers of Tamilnadu : they approached him often for important matches. Thanks to his immense popularity with the local people, on 11 February 1965 when the Ashram became a prey to hooliganism, Rothin concentrated on the Mother’s Grace and with a cool negotiation managed to dissuade an intoxicated mob from setting fire to the Automobile garage adjacent to the Ashram main building.

The next day when with our mother Rothin went see the Mother, extremely pleased with the report of this successful intervention, she held Rothin by the hands to thank him, before making him a gift of her own wrist watch in gold, as I was told by my mother.

*

I reached Paris in 1966. I got Togo to be appointed in 1967 by a team of researchers in Paris to determine the therapeutic values of Hatha Yoga. Rothin came to Paris in 1969 to assist Togo. In 1970, I arranged with Pankaj Kumar Gupta (the legendary manager of the Indian Olympic Committee and coach of Dhyan Chand), to send Rothin and Togo as delegates from India in an international seminar of the Olympic Committee at Athens. Their active presence was highly appreciated. At this juncture, the Mother united me with a French student in January 1970. My parents got Togo married in 1971. Rothin married Sonia in July 1972, just a week before my daughter Adya was born. Rothin and Sonia lost Maya — their only child — when she was two and half.

All the three brothers, we had a vast number of influential acquaintances. Son of the “Hindu American” Dhan Gopal Mukerji, author of best-sellers (like the biography of Ramakrishna, The Face of Silence), Dhan junior was the Director of the European sector of Pan-American airways and presided over the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris. He and his wife Claude encouraged us to amplify my activities as a cultural link between France and India, by founding the French Association for the Knowledge of India (AFCI), with the industrialist André Prosper as President : a former comrade in arms of General De Gaulle during the Occupation, staunch Communist, Prosper with a batch of friends loved India unconditionally. On leasing a spacious apartment by the Place de la Republique, we held regular classes on Yoga, lectures on Indian philosophy, music, dance, spirituality, the secret of Integral Yoga. We celebrated the centenary of Sri Aurobindo at the Musée Guimet: unfortunately, Jeanine Auboyer’s penetrating paper on “Sri Aurobindo on Indian Art” remains as yet unpublished. We invited teams of Indian musicians and dancers for lecture tours with demonstration all over Europe. I became Producer-cum-author of features for Radio-France, while teaching at two faculties under the University of Paris. Contributing in encyclopedias like the Universalis, the PUF etc.

One of the greatest events in 1975 was the response of Nirmalendu Chowdhury, coming for three months with fourteen artists — men and women — representing various trends of folk music and dance from various Indian States : three evenings at the American Church; three afternoons at the Festival at Chateau de Sceaux near Paris; three evenings at the International Festival at Kuopio (Finland); three weeks at a stretch at the famous Theatre des Mathurins : it all left a deep impact on the European lovers of popular traditions. Another landmark was my inviting a team of four Baul singers and musicians from West Bengal, on 18 June 1981, for a concert at the Grand Auditorium of Radio France with simultaneous broadcast on France-Musique; it was followed by a European tour and several LPs. Pierre Toureille, Director of the Ocora/ Radio France publications (by lending me his office, fully equipped) and Peter Brook by requesting Nina Soufy, his secretary (a model of kindness and efficiency) to assist me. All of them helped me making of this final venture of our AFCI a real success.

Four months later, in October I left for the United States with a Fulbright scholarship.

*

Even after retiring from active life, Borda had kept on playing tennis with a group of friends at Chelles, about twenty-five kilometers north-east of Paris, where he had settled with Sonia in 1972, and purchased their apartment. He was fond of narrating the special relationship he had with the Mother : making an exception to the discipline of the Institution, she had approved his passion to play matches with the local sporting associations.

Following serious cardiac problems, even when Borda had to stop playing, a local group of friends remained in contact with him, consulting him in their weal and woe. Hailing from different countries and different social levels, they all assembled with esteem and admiration on the day when Borda was cremated. They all offered him a red rose each. Like my father, Borda too loved roses.

Sonia had put on his chest blessings of the Mother with some incense sticks.

Prithwindra Mukherjee

*

Togo, Prithwin and Rothin in 1948

“I Have a Dream”: Rothin in 1952

Rothin with his wife Sonia

Rothin in 2009

*

About the Author: Born on 20 October 1936 to Tejendranath and Usha Rani, Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee is the grandson of the famous revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin. He came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1948, studied and taught at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He was mentioned by the Sahitya Akademi manuals and anthologies as a poet before he attained the age of twenty. He has translated the works of French authors like Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse and René Char for Bengali readers, and eminent Bengali authors into French. He shifted to Paris with a French Government Scholarship in 1966. He defended a thesis on Sri Aurobindo at Sorbonne. He served as a lecturer in two Paris faculties, a producer on Indian culture and music for Radio France and was also a freelance journalist for the Indian and French press. His thesis for PhD which studied the pre-Gandhian phase of India’s struggle for freedom was supervised by Raymond Aron in Paris University. In 1977 he was invited by the National Archives of India as a guest of the Historical Records Commission. He presented a paper on ‘Jatindranath Mukherjee and the Indo-German Conspiracy’ and his contribution on this area has been recognized by eminent educationists. A number of his papers on this subject have been translated into major Indian languages. He went to the United States of America as a Fulbright scholar and discovered scores of files covering the Indian revolutionaries in the Wilson Papers. In 1981 he joined the French National Centre of Scientific Research. He was also a founder-member of the French Literary Translators’ Association. In 2003 he retired as a researcher in Human and Social Sciences Department of French National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris. A recipient of ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’, in the same year he was invited by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for the world premiere of Correspondances, opus for voice and orchestra where the veteran composer Henri Dutilleux had set to music Prithwindra’s French poem on Shiva Nataraja, followed by texts by Solzhenitsyn, Rilke and Van Gogh. In 2009 he was appointed to the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of France. He has penned books in English, Bengali and French and some of his published works include Samasamayiker Chokhe Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherryer Dinguli, Bagha Jatin, Sadhak-Biplobi Jatindranath, Undying Courage, Vishwer Chokhe Rabindranath, Thât/Mélakartâ : The Fundamental Scales in Indian Music of the North and the South (foreword by Pandit Ravi Shankar), Poèmes du Bangladesh, Serpent de flammes, Le sâmkhya, Les écrits bengalis de Sri Aurobindo, Chants bâuls, les Fous de l’Absolu, Anthologie de la poésie bengalie, In Quest of the Cosmic Soul and Les racines intellectuelles du movement d’independence de l’Inde (1893-1918) ending up with Sri Aurobindo, “the last of the Prophets”.

*

Hey Chirodiner Diner Surya by Krishna Chakrabarti

She must have gone to that Surya whom she adored and worshipped.

A shy frightened girl she passed the Matriculation at the age of fourteen and joined the Howrah Girls’ College for further studies. It was 1956. That year she had measles before the exam and a special arrangement was made for students having measles and high fever by the Government for matriculation exam. Her parents did not want her to appear as she was still young and could sit for it the next year. But that shy girl suddenly became adamant and the parents relented. Her father had one doubt that she may not clear the Sanskrit exam as the students had to use pencil instead of pen and the Sanskrit anuswar and bisarga might get rubbed. She cleared it with a second division performance. That was the year she visited Pondicherry for the first time after her exam in the summer. Mother had noted at that time the tall girl. She was teased by others for her height and the shy and frightened girl bent more to look short but her father was always proud of her height. From early age Sanskrit and singing were the passions of her life. She visited Pondicherry the same year in October Puja holiday with her family. The Mother recognized the tall girl and any reference to Mother would be ‘that tall girl’ or her father would be introduced as the tall girl’s father. She the eldest with her two younger sisters wanted to stay in Ashram. The parents with her younger brother returned to Calcutta putting the girls in Rajkumari-di’s boarding with Mother’s kind permission. The sisters joined the Ashram School and were put in lower classes to pick up French and English. Sanskrit and singing were the two subjects she studied under late Jagannath Vedalanker and late Indu Roy. Her singing teachers were late Tinkori Banerjee, late Sahana Devi and she also had classical training for a few years under late Shirin Shroff. Later she joined Narad’s choir class and had the rare opportunity of singing in Ashram Courtyard with the choir class, which the Mother sitting in her room listened. She also sang in Sri Aurobindo’s room which late Champaklal-ji arranged, as she was very fond of her music.

Because of her shy nature she never projected herself in front, quietly participated in singing programme. Sunil-da took her for his music of Savitri, some of which the Mother heard, he praised her voice and was fond of her. After completing the Higher Course in 1963 she was made a teacher in Ashram School with the Mother’s permission. She taught History, Sanskrit and Music. She was made one of the Section-in-Charge “En Avant” after a few years. Thorough, meticulous and perfectionist by nature, she prepared worksheets for Sanskrit students, during holidays she would clean and re-arrange the almirahs to be ready for the next year. Preparing the time-table was another challenging job, with each teacher giving their preferences—“no first period for me, why did you put me in 4th period, the students are so tired”, “I must have this classroom and not that”. To take into consideration all these demands and make the time-table was a tricky job indeed. But she enjoyed doing it, giving her analytical mind an opportunity to express. How many people knew? No one. For History class her notes are of research calibre. And for singing class she had songs for children—for all ages. After a few years she noticed that very few teachers taught songs on Mother and Sri Aurobindo to students. She made it a point to teach these songs to elderly students and used to take their singing classes regularly in the Ashram. She participated in programmes conducted by Shobha-di and also conducted a good many programme herself—which always created an uplifting and ethereal atmosphere.

How many people know about her extra-curricular activities! That she was a very good basketball and throwball player, used to play in first division. That she was expert in English Embroidery which she learnt in Ashram. To how many people she taught tatting! She embroidered saris for Embroidery Department and also made lap cloth for the Mother which She used. Her refinement, her sensitivity would never permit her to show off her numerous qualities. She was a good cook too, would cut vegetable the same size. Her sisters teased her that they would present her with a scale to measure and cut. And because of her soft and delicate nature she would call children from school, home and give them food as they were unable to eat what was given to them. So sympathetic was she towards them. Her love for gardening was very strong. She would say that the plants were her friends, “they call me.” She would gather flowers from the road—“Transformation”—and bring them home. Her heart wept seeing the conditions of the poor. She often would give money to the old Rickshaw puller or to the Gurkha who never gave any guard at night.

She could never tolerate injustice and would flare up and fight for justice even though she was not involved.

Since last two years, she shifted to Desirée Home, continued her singing classes there, where the inmates also joined every afternoon. That was a music therapy for them. They would wait eagerly for the class with bright and joyful face.

That was Ratna-di—a shy, frightened, loving, generous, refined, soft and sensitive personality with numerous talents all hidden behind her shyness. Her simplicity and innocence showed on her face which radiated the beauty of a fresh bloomed white Dalia. Her voice still resounds

Gaane Bhuban Bhoriye Dilo.

*

About the Author: Born on 7th December 1943 to Justice Santosh K. Chakravarti and Bokul Rani, Krishna Chakravarti came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, in 1956 and was admitted in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. She completed her education in 1966 and joined the Central Office of the Ashram, the work being chosen by the Mother. An inmate of the Ashram for the past fifty-four years, she is the author of Sri Aurobindo Loho Pronam and Judge Saheb O Maharanir One-Third Dozen er Kahini (in Bengali) and A Garland of Adoration (in English). A senior Board Member of Overman Foundation, she is the younger sister of the late Ratna Chakrabarti.

*

Ratna Chakrabarti: In Memoriam by Anurag Banerjee

Dear Friends,

On Friday, 3 March 2017, the Aurobindonian community of Pondicherry lost a bright jewel with the passing away of Ratna Chakrabarti at the age of seventy-five. The word “Ratna” means jewel and she, indeed, lived up to her name.

Born in Kolkata on 28 July 1941 to Santosh Kumar Chakrabarti and Bokul Rani, Ratna received her early education in Arambagh Girls School. Afterwards she joined the Mahakali Balika Vidyalaya and Howrah Girls College and passed her matriculation examination in 1956.

Santosh Kumar Chakrabarti had an illustrious career in the judicial service and held distinguished posts of District and Sessions Judge (in Darjeeling), Legal Remembrancer, Chief Justice of City Civil Court of Kolkata and retired as the Judge of the High Court of Kolkata in 1972. But his heart was seeking the light of spiritual Knowledge. His inner quest brought him to Pondicherry in 1951. He found in the Mother the pole-star his heart was looking for. He visited Pondicherry twice again in 1953 and 1956 in the month of October when he came with his wife, three daughters (Ratna, Krishna and Rina) and son Subir. Interestingly, Ratna had visited Pondicherry in May 1956 with another group of visitors. The serene atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the aura of the Mother created a profound impact on Ratna and her sisters. As a result, they expressed their eagerness to join the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (which, at that time, was known as the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre) as students. The Mother welcomed them to the Ashram School. A year later she also accepted Subir—who joined the Ashram School as a student—and Bokul Rani as inmates of the Ashram. Santosh Kumar, who would visit Pondicherry from time-to-time, joined the Sri Aurobindo as an inmate soon after his retirement in 1972.

Having completed her school education in 1963, Ratna joined the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education with the Mother’s approval as a teacher of History, Sanskrit (which she had learnt from Indu Roy and Jagannath Vedalankar) and Music. She served the institution for more than fifty years. Her teaching capability was appreciated by the Mother who once described her as a ‘very good teacher’. To the Mother, she was known as the ‘tall girl’. Nolini Kanta Gupta too was extremely affectionate towards Ratna. On certain days, in the Meditation Hall situated on the ground-floor of the Ashram Main Building, he would read out his recent writings to a group of selected individuals who were known as his ‘inner circle’. Ratna was a part of this selected group.

Ratna learnt music—which remained her grand passion throughout her life—from the legendary Sahana Devi and Tinkori Bandopadhyay. She also received lessons in Indian Classical music from Shirin Shroff, a Parsi inmate of the Ashram. She was blessed with a voice that was divinely melodious so much so that it could take her audience to the highest layer of intense delight. Sunil Bhattacharya, the noted music composer of the Ashram known for his immortal Savitri music and New Year Compositions who had chosen Ratna, Ravibala and Minnie Ganguly to sing in his compositions, had once remarked that Ratna possessed ‘a wonderful voice’. Champaklal, the lifelong servitor of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who was also an admirer of Ratna’s devotional songs, had once invited her to sing in Sri Aurobindo’s room. The song which she had rendered in the Lord’s Apartment was Ami sob chere Ma dhorbo tomar ranga charan duti, a noted Shyama Sangeet (devotional songs dedicated to Goddess Kali) in Bengali. She considered this grand privilege to be the greatest gift she had ever received. On another occasion, she had sung in a soiree organized by Narad near the Samadhi and was heard by the Mother. She had also sung in several compositions of Shobha Mitra, the great maestro of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. A CD of her songs in Bengali titled Geetiratna was released in 2015.

Despite possessing an artistic heart and soul, Ratna excelled in sports as well. She played basketball and throw-ball quite well. She was also known for her impeccable embroidery work. Once she had embroidered and gifted a lap-cloth to the Mother. She was a remarkable cook as well who found delight in feeding others with motherly love and affection. She often cooked for the students of Corner House. Though she was soft and loving by nature, she would not hesitate to raise her voice against any act of injustice.

Ratna continued to teach in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education till the first half of 2015 when her failing memory compelled her to retire. But she continued to teach music to her students who flocked to her house. She was later shifted to Desirée Home —a sea-facing building where the senior and ailing inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram are looked after—where she took singing classes every day at 5 p.m. Her music brought new life to the residents of Desiree. For instance, one gentleman who could not speak had started to sing as a result of Ratna’s soirees. Her doctor had remarked that humorously that she was a staff-member of  Desirée Home who helped others to recover through music-therapy.

On Thursday, 2 March 2017, Ratna developed fever. She was taken first to the Ashram Nursing Home and then to JIPMER (Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research). Some complications in her heart were observed in the ECG report but the physicians opined that there was nothing to worry. On that very day she was shifted to the General Hospital.

On Friday, 3 March, at 8.30 a.m., Ratna had a talk with her doctor over the phone. She said that she was all right and there was no reason for her to stay in the hospital. She also added that she wanted to go to the Ashram. Half an hour later, at around 9 a.m., when Krishna went to meet Albert Patel, the erstwhile Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and the seniormost member of the Ashram, the former requested him to give her a blessings packet for Ratna. Usually, Albert Patel’s pockets are always full of blessings packets but on that day, surprisingly, he had none. Krishna found a blessings packet in her bag and she requested Albert to give it to her for Ratna. Albert did so. This happened around 9.05 a.m. Two minutes later at 9.07 a.m., Ratna silently passed on to the Beyond. A senior inmate of the Ashram had remarked that she left after receiving the blessings packet subtly.

Ratna Chakrabarti always strived not to disturb anyone and she left without disturbing a soul. She will continue to live and radiate in our hearts like a bright jewel who had consecrated her all to the Divine.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

With Arabinda Basu.

Presenting Arabinda Basu with the First “Auro-Ratna Award” in 2010 with Suprabha Nahar.

[From left to right: Dolly Mutsuddi, Ratna Chakrabarti, Prof. Kittu Reddy, Amal Kiran, Krishna Chakrabarti, Suprabha Nahar and Dr. Dilip Dutta]

With Dr. Kireet Joshi during the Second “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony in 2011.

With Dr. Ananda Reddy and Togo Mukherjee at the Second “Auro-Ratna Award” ceremony.

With Arabinda Basu at a musical soiree organized at his residence in October 2010.

With Prof. Kittu Reddy.

With Krishna Chakrabarti and Anurag Banerjee.

*

Facsimile of the chapters of The Mother by Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Sri Aurobindo has described the Mother as the one who ‘is the divine Conscious Force that dominates all existence, one and yet so many-sided that to follow her movement is impossible even for the quickest mind and for the freest and most vast intelligence. The Mother is the consciousness and force of the Supreme and far above all she creates.’ In his Savitri, he has described the Mother as ‘the golden bridge, the wonderful fire./ The luminous heart of the Unknown is she.’

Sri Aurobindo’s booklet The Mother (published for the first time in 1928) consists of six chapters, all of them were written in 1927. The first chapter was originally written as a message, the second to fifth chapters as letters. The sixth chapter was written for inclusion in a booklet that eventually consisted of the message, the letters and Chapter 6.

As our humble tribute to the Mother on the occasion of Her 139th Birth Anniversary, the facsimile of all the six chapters of Sri Aurobindo’s booklet The Mother (in Sri Aurobindo’s own handwriting) has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

*

(Courtesy: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

*

Maurice Schumann’s Recollections of his meeting with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Dear Friends,

Maurice Schumann (10 April 1911—9 February 1998) was a French politician, journalist and author. He was also an inspirational radio spokesman of General Charles de Gaulle and the French Resistance in broadcasts to Nazi-ruled France from London during the Second World War. He was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France from 1969 to 1973.

On 27 September 1947 Maurice Schumann (at that time he was the head of a French cultural delegation) had met Sri Aurobindo and the Mother during his visit to Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo supported Maurice Schumann’s plan to make Pondicherry “a meeting place between France and India” and suggested establishing a university where pupils from different parts of the globe could study Indian culture. Years later Maurice Schumann would recall his meeting with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in an interview to the late Pournaprema, the Mother’s grand-daughter.

The text of the said interview, translated into English from French, has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

So the question was to find out if there was a way to negotiate with the Government of India, not the perpetuation of our presence in the five enclaves, but a delay, a time for reflection which would enable later negotiations to enable these enclaves to attain independence.

At first, when I was sent to try to obtain this result, I was told, the diplomats explained to me that the chances were very, very meagre, not to say nil, given the fact that India in its entirety, at the time when she was torn by civil strife—which I personally witnessed and which made so much blood to flow, (mainly in Calcutta, and where ‘Mother India’, as Gandhi used to say, was broken in two by the birth of Pakistan, which at that time was a Pakistan itself split in two, as there was an East Pakistan and as Pakistan,) it seemed inconceivable that a continuation of a French or Portuguese colony was possible.

François Baron told me then that there was a strong French influence in the Ashram.

She [The Mother] arranged a meeting with Sri Aurobindo which was all the more surprising because as a rule Sri Aurobindo was not seeing anybody… He made an exception for me. Given the stature he had, his immense moral influence, it was in itself an event. And from the moment he received me on this earth that his presence sanctified, the idea of use of force against a place where he had, pursued by the British police, taken refuge, was inconceivable. He had an opportunity to express his gratefulness to France, he did it immediately and the interview he gave me, the audience he granted me, went even further. Actually, it is an important phenomenon that I have understood better since, that the colonizers of India, their more important figures, had the feeling, to use Kipling’s phrase, that never would the East and the West meet.

Whereas the greatest Indians held the absolutely opposite opinion. That was the case with Gandhi when I met him. I met him after I met Sri Aurobindo. I went to Delhi and it is there that I met him. But Gandhi was fully aware of what he owed to English culture. And Sri Aurobindo was fully aware of what he owed to Western culture.

The political result, I have just spoken to you about it. I was received by Nehru, it could not have been otherwise after having been received by Sri Aurobindo who had permitted that a report of it could be made, and so he [Nehru] could not but receive me, Gandhi could not but receive me, and both of them had to discuss with me,— mainly Nehru, for Gandhi had other concerns—the future of the decolonization of the five enclaves, to discuss but not to think even for a moment, to take recourse to arms. That was then the success of my first diplomatic negotiation. I am not able to say the same for the others I had later as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Pournaprema: And do you think that, at present, if there is this French presence in Pondicherry, for there are important French institutions in Pondicherry—it is due to this.

It all started with that. For it was not possible to hold on to a colonial status. There was a deputy from French India who was an Indian, Saravan Lambert, in the National Assembly, my colleague; there was a Senator representing French India,— it was already the situation before the War and so it continued during the Fourth Republic, but we could not be happy with a colonial status as in the earlier days. Therefore we created, within what was then known as the French Union, a body consisting of the representatives of the five enclaves. The first meeting was held in Pondicherry. I was present. I spoke to the delegates; and there an idea came up, which was immediately developed further. It was this:

We salute Independent India. We know perfectly well that the whole of India will one day be independent. We would like that the departure of France as a power and as an authority should coincide with an agreement regarding Pondicherry which would become a window open to France, to the whole French entity, French culture, and the French language.

A half-century later, there are definite signs for which I am infinitely grateful to Sri Aurobindo and to your grandmother, for it is evident that without her the first stone of the edifice would not have been placed.

Pournaprema: It is wonderful to hear that. I thank you very much. After all these years, what do you still recollect of your meeting with Sri Aurobindo? An inner impression…

The extraordinary radiance of the divine life, the Life Divine. The radiance that was there on his face. I always thought that faith manifested as a breath. One feels, in certain circumstances, the Breath of God—Spiritus—it means ‘breath’, and felt it as soon as I saw him. One had the impression—there was no artificial light falling on him—one had the impression that he was himself a radiant centre.

Pournaprema: How long did the interview last?

One hour. It was more philosophic than political, but its political importance was that it did take place. The single fact that it happened guaranteed the success of my mission.

Pournaprema: And Mother, where did you meet her?

In the room where Sri Aurobindo meditated. It is because of her that the interview took place. The idea came from François Baron who was himself an adept of Sri Aurobindo whom he called “My Master.”

*

Thirty Photographs of the Mother Inaugurating the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

Dear Friends,

During the early years of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, children were not allowed to live in the Ashram. In the early 1940s, when a number of families were admitted to the Ashram, the Mother decided to open a school to provide education to the children who had come with their parents. On 2 December 1943 she formally opened a school for about twenty children and she herself was one of the teachers. On 24 April 1951 she presided over a convention at Pondicherry where it was resolved to establish an “international university centre.” On 6 January 1952 she inaugurated the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre. This name was changed to Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1959.

Thirty photographs of the Mother inaugurating the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre on 6 January 1952 (taken by noted photographers of the Ashram like Venkatesh, Robi Ganguli and Chimanbhai) have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

18

*

Photographs Courtesy: Ms. Tara Jauhar

*

Sixty Photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s Mahasamadhi

Dear Friends,

On 5 December 1950 at 1:26 a.m., Sri Aurobindo the “Colonist from Immortality” had left his physical sheath as a supreme act of sacrifice for the sake of mankind. To quote the words of the Mother: “Sri Aurobindo was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.” In the bygone years several photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s mahasamadhi have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

Today, on the occasion of his 66th Mahasamadhi Day, sixty photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s mahasamadhi have been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation. These photographs were taken by Robi Ganguli, Vidyavrata Arya, Venkatesh and Chimanbhai Patel.

In some of the photographs, Champaklal Purani (Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s most faithful attendant) is seen seated near Sri Aurobindo’s feet.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

 

*

(Photography Courtesy: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; Ms. Tara Jauhar and Overman Foundation Archives.)

*

Chitra Bose: In Memoriam by Anurag Banerjee

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, 13 August 2016, the firmament of the Aurobindonian Community of West Bengal lost one of its brightest stars with the passing away of Chitra Bose, founder of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir, one of the eminent pre-primary schools of Calcutta, and Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre.

Born on 17 March 1933 to Harendranath Majumdar and Shanti Devi, Chitra Bose grew up in an atmosphere where politics and spirituality existed simultaneously for Harendranath, who hailed from an illustrious zamindar family of Basirhat (situated in North 24 Parganas) was a nephew of Swami Brahmananda (1863-1922), one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the first President of Ramakrishna Mission, and a noted leader of the Indian National Congress who actively participated in the freedom struggle of India. He went on to become a minister in the cabinet of Dr. Prafulla Ghosh, the erstwhile Chief Minister of West Bengal, in 1967. He served Sri Aurobindo Society of West Bengal as its Chairman for several years. As a result of her father’s political activities, young Chitra Bose came in touch with legendary politicians like Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Dr. Prafulla Ghosh (both were former Chief Ministers of West Bengal) and Atulya Ghosh, erstwhile Secretary and President of West Bengal State Congress Committee, Treasurer of All India Congress Committee and two-time Member of Parliament.

Chitra Bose received her early education from Brahmo Girls School and later graduated from the famous Presidency College of Calcutta with honours in Economics. During her years at the Presidency College, she got Prof. Amartya Sen and Prof. Sukhomoy Chakravarty as her batchmates and Prof. Bhavatosh Dutta as her professor. She married Khagesh Chandra Bose, the later Additional General Manager of Eastern Railways in the Indian Railway Service. She spent a considerable period of time at Mumbai and Secunderabad where her husband was posted.

Meeting the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry cast a lifelong influence on Chitra Bose. She strived to become an able instrument of Her work and dedicated her entire life to translate Her teachings into reality. In the early 1970s, a plot of land with a dilapidated building at New Alipore (South Calcutta) was offered to the Mother by Shri Deviprasad Bhaduri for the purpose of establishing a meditation centre where spiritual seekers and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would meet to study and discuss Their lives and teachings. The Mother duly sent Her blessings for the Centre. Accordingly ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ was established on 10 May 1972. But with the demise of Deviprasad on the very next day, the work of setting up the meditation centre was suspended temporarily. But Harendranath Majumdar came forward and under his leadership and guidance, ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ evolved into a vibrant centre. Following her father’s advice, Chitra Bose established a kindergarten school at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre named ‘Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir’ on 2 January 1977 with five students and an equal number of mattresses. Thus started the journey of the one who went on to become not only the pole-star of all those who were associated with Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir but also for those innumerable ones who looked upon her as their beloved ‘Bordi’ (meaning elder sister). Under her stewardship, the dilapidated building of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir got transformed into a two-storied structure which presently houses an art section for young pupils, a spectacular meditation hall (inaugurated by Swami Lokeshwarananda, the then Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture) and the ‘Shri Ma Library’, a fully-computerized library with a vast collection of books, named after the Mother. And in her work as a service to the Divine, she was ably helped and guided by her husband. History can never forget the invaluable contribution of Khagesh Chandra Bose who, with his rich experience of administration in the Indian Railways, put Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre on a firm foothold. It was due to his initiative that Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre was converted into a trust in 1999 and Chitra Bose became its Managing Trustee in 2000.

Chitra Bose was a rare soul who shunned publicity and preferred to work silently. Despite being a pioneer in child-education, she chose to stay away from limelight. A charming personality with an ever-smiling face, she radiated love and affection. Easily approachable to one and all, she was the personification of compassion and grace. Her entire life was an offering at the feet of the Mother. Service was her motto and mission in life. She not only had imbibed the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and his consort Saradamani, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother but also synthesized and applied them in her day-to-day life and activities.

Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir—which began with only five students—now provides education to over three hundred students every year. The aim of the school is not just to strengthen the foundations of brilliant students but to create ‘living souls’. The educational ideologies of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are practised here in the best possible way.

As a humble recognition for her invaluable contribution in the field of education, Overman Foundation had presented her with the inaugural ‘Bulbul Mukherjee Smriti Puraskar’ and ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ in November 2014 and July 2016 respectively.

Unlike many, Chitra Bose was well aware of the merits of succession planning. When her health started to deteriorate towards the end of 2015, she felt that the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir should be delegated to a young and capable individual. She voluntarily resigned from the post of Principal of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir in February 2016. She was also keen to give up the post of Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre but as a mark of respect for her untiring efforts in giving the institution its present shape, the Trust Board refused to accept her resignation.

From July 2016 Chitra Bose’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. On being hospitalized, it was discovered that she was suffering from ovarian cancer. Even when she was suffering due to the dreaded disease, she was concerned only about the institution she had created. ‘The Mother’s work must not suffer’, was her constant insistence. When the month of August approached, she informed her son and staffs that in case something happened to her, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August must not be cancelled.

On 13 August, 2016, at 11.55 p.m. Chitra Bose breathed her last. She is survived by her two sons (Dr. Pinaki Shankar Bose and Partha Sarathi Bose), daughters-in-law (Supriya Bose and Sanchita Bose) and grandson Saptarshi. As per wish, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August were not cancelled and carried on with usual devotion. As a mark of respect for Chitra Bose, the staffs of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir reported to work on Sunday, 11 September 2016.

The smile that shone at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre is no longer present but atmosphere of love and affection which Chitra Bose has left behind will continue to vibrate till eternity.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

*

At the shrine of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

At the shrine of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

At her office in Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre

With the staffs of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir

Celebrating the Mother’s Birth Anniversary

With her youngest son Shri Partha Sarathi Bose

With Shri Partha Sarathi Bose, Smt. Dhanavanti Nagda and Shri Anurag Banerjee

With Pravrajika Divyaprana Mataji, Shri Subrata Sen and Shri Anurag Banerjee

With Shri Biswajit Gangopadhyay

With Pravrajika Divyaprana Mataji on 21 February 2016

*

Happy Birthday to Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee

AVT_Prithwindra-Mukherjee_5336

Dear Friends and Well-wishers,

20 October 2016 marks the eightieth birthday of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee. Born on 20 October 1936 to Tejendranath and Usha Rani, he the grandson of the famous revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin. He came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1948, studied and taught at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He was mentioned by the Sahitya Akademi manuals and anthologies as a poet before he attained the age of twenty. He has translated the works of French authors like Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse and René Char for Bengali readers, and eminent Bengali authors into French. He shifted to Paris with a French Government Scholarship in 1966. He defended a thesis on Sri Aurobindo at Sorbonne. He served as a lecturer in two Paris faculties, a producer on Indian culture and music for Radio France and was also a freelance journalist for the Indian and French press. His thesis for PhD which studied the pre-Gandhian phase of India’s struggle for freedom was supervised by Raymond Aron in Paris University. In 1977 he was invited by the National Archives of India as a guest of the Historical Records Commission. He presented a paper on ‘Jatindranath Mukherjee and the Indo-German Conspiracy’ and his contribution on this area has been recognized by eminent educationists. A number of his papers on this subject have been translated into major Indian languages. He went to the United States of America as a Fulbright scholar and discovered scores of files covering the Indian revolutionaries in the Wilson Papers. In 1981 he joined the French National Centre of Scientific Research. He was also a founder-member of the French Literary Translators’ Association. In 2003 he retired as a researcher in Human and Social Sciences Department of French National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris. A recipient of ‘Sri Aurobindo Puraskar’, in the same year he was invited by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for the world premiere of Correspondances, opus for voice and orchestra where the veteran composer Henri Dutilleux had set to music Prithwindra’s French poem on Shiva Nataraja, followed by texts by Solzhenitsyn, Rilke and Van Gogh. In 2009 he was appointed to the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the Order of Arts and Letters by the Minister of Culture of France. He has penned books in English, Bengali and French and some of his published works include Samasamayiker Chokhe Sri Aurobindo, Pondicherryer Dinguli, Bagha Jatin, Sadhak-Biplobi Jatindranath, Undying Courage, Vishwer Chokhe Rabindranath, Thât/Mélakartâ : The Fundamental Scales in Indian Music of the North and the South (foreword by Pandit Ravi Shankar), Poèmes du Bangladesh, Serpent de flammes, Le sâmkhya, Les écrits bengalis de Sri Aurobindo, Chants bâuls, les Fous de l’Absolu, Anthologie de la poésie bengalie, In Quest of the Cosmic Soul and Les racines intellectuelles du movement d’independence de l’Inde (1893-1918) ending up with Sri Aurobindo, “the last of the Prophets”.

On the occasion of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee’s eightieth birthday, an interview of his conducted by Sunayana Panda has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with some of Dr. Mukherjee’s photographs with the Mother and some tributes paid to him by luminaries of the East and West.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

Photographs of Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee with the Mother

Meeting Prithwindra Mukherjee

Sunayana Panda

Prithwin-da’s story is remarkable not because of what he has achieved but the odds against which he has achieved it. He was a victim of the polio virus and from his early childhood had to walk with the help of crutches. He has faced outer as well as inner difficulties and has achieved some-thing that people even in normal circumstances would find hard to attain. True, he has lived in an advanced country like France and worked in an environment that encourages intellectual growth but let us not forget that moving to France forty years ago could not have been the smooth ride it is today for students and research scholars. But we are running away with our story. The right place to start from would be the beginning.

Prithwin-da’s connection with the Ashram is directly linked to the fact that he is the grand-son of the heroic Bagha Jatin, who at the height of the revolutionary movement in Bengal was closely associated with Sri Aurobindo. Prithwin-da’s parents had visited the Ashram earlier, as Sri Aurobindo’s guests. Then, in 1948, along with his mother and two brothers, Prithwin-da came to Pondicherry. His father, known to us as Tejen-da or Bod-da, continued to go back and forth be-tween Kolkata and Pondicherry until the Mother hinted that it was time he too settled down to the regular life of the Ashram. This was the Mother’s way of showing her love and concern. Prithwin-da reminds us that the Mother was particularly generous in her hospitality to the members of the families of those who had been a part of the political life of Sri Aurobindo and had participated in his work. This is the way she had opened her arms to Sahana-di and her sisters because they were the nieces of Chittaranjan Das, who had so ably defended Sri Aurobindo in the Alipore Bomb Case. This is the way the Mother had also been full of solicitude for Sudhir Sarkar and his family.

Growing up in the Ashram of the post-War years was an experience that clearly marked and moulded Prithwin-da. Already he had had an inner contact with the Mother before coming to Pondicherry. One day, when he was still a child, he had fallen down and broken his arm in several places and was in excruciating pain. While his mother had gone to fetch him a glass of water, he was looking at a picture of the Mother when he saw her coming down a stair of light and coming towards him. When his mother came back she found him fast asleep. Once they settled down in Pondicherry the Mother took a special interest in him. The ­Mother had often said that many human difficulties were present in the Ashram in a symbolic way and by working on them here she could transform them on a larger scale. Prithwin-da’s physical infirmity was also, in her eyes, one of those difficulties and by healing him she would win a battle against the force of inertia in the material physical and would be able to extend the limits of conscious-ness. With this work in mind she asked Pranab-da to help Prithwin-da. So Pranab-da set aside two hours three times a week to massage Prithwin-da’s leg and to make him do exercises. A chart was made and a programme strictly adhered to. The Mother followed very keenly even his smallest progress. To extend her help on a subtle level she gave him flowers with special significances such as “Perseverance” and “Concentration”. When he was leaving for Paris, many years later, the Mother reminded him that there were excellent surgeons in France.

Prithwin-da’s life had many restrictions because of his physical handicap but the life of the Ashram gave him the opportunity to interact with many extraordinary people. The Ashram was in full phase of growth and in this creative and warm atmosphere he could cultivate two interests which have finally become his field of expression and research. One was literature and the other was music. Because of his contact with Pranab-da he started working in the library that the Physical Education department was starting. Pranab-da took out subscriptions for four magazines from Kolkata for young readers. Prithwin-da’s first attempt at writing for publication was made when, at the age of thirteen, he sent a story to one of them. It was accepted and appeared in one of the issues. Prithwin-da recounts how he took the five rupees he was paid for this to the Mother as if it had been five lakhs and how the Mother accepted it with great joy.

Even before he finished his studies he taught English, French and Bengali at the School. Encouraged by Bharati-di (Suzanne Karpeles), he started translating original works of well-known writers from Bengali into French. He also wrote his own prose and poetical creations at the same time. He participated in the Ashram band and wrote musical notations of Indian pieces as well as original compositions for them.

Around the time he turned thirty, he felt that literary success had come quite easily to him, and now he wanted to make an attempt to test his boundaries. As he was equally interested in music and literature, he could have gone into either field. The first possibility which opened itself was at the Juilliard School in the United States. He was accepted. However, the Mother cautioned him against this choice, saying that she could see a dark cloud over that course of action. She also assured him that a better opportunity would come his way. Soon after that, he received a scholarship from the French Government to write a thesis at the Sorbonne University. Arriving in France in the mid-1960s he was helped by friends to make the transition. It was a transition which must have been difficult though, considering that neither communication nor travel were as easy then as they are now, and the gap between the life of the East and the life of the West was a wide one then. However, he continued to keep in touch with the Mother and kept his goal very clearly in front of him. Among others there was André Morisset who looked after him. He came back regularly to India and kept in touch with his roots.

Prithwin-da started writing from a very early age and was published in reviews and magazines, not only of the Ashram but also those which had a national circulation. He wrote poetry in both English and Bengali and was even included in anthologies of Indian poets. In France his first years were consecrated to his thesis on Sri Aurobindo after which he taught Indian Civilisation at University level. He was granted a Fulbright Scholarship which enabled him to do further research in the United States. Then he took up his thesis on the Pre-Gandhian Freedom Movement, for which he was conferred a PhD (Docteur d’Etat) by the French Government. After this he worked as a researcher in the CNRS which is France’s national centre for scientific research. Although he has now retired he continues his literary career.

What makes Prithwin-da such an exceptional writer is that he writes in three different languages. There are many in the world who can speak several languages and quite a few who read more than one language, but rare are those who can express their abstract thoughts in more than one language in writing. Even in India, where there are so many official languages, urban Indians have great difficulty in writing even one Indian language correctly. In such a context Prithwin-da’s language skills are remarkable. He can not only read several regional Indian languages but knows Sanskrit too.

One of the first translations he did for the UNESCO series was of a collection of three short stories by Sharat Chandra into French. He is one of those very rare translators who go directly from Bengali to French. He also translates in the other direction, that is, from French into Bengali. He has translated authors like Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse and Rene Char into Bengali. He has created links between the two languages, which is invaluable to both cultures. He points out that curiously enough the Bengalis are more eager about knowing French writers than the French are about Bengali ones. When he had first arrived in France the main focus of attention was Rabindranath Tagore since he was the only Indian writer who was known in the West. Now people prefer to read the new writers who write directly in English and who are instantly translated from the English original into French. His original creations cover a wide range. He has written poetry and prose, fiction as well as non-fiction. He has written on philosophy, musicology, history and Indian culture. His most noteworthy contribution to the world of literature is his biography of Sri Aurobindo written in French and published in 2000. This French biography has very clearly his own reflections in his characteristic sensitive style. He has himself translated Sri Aurobindo’s original Bengali texts directly into French. He has also produced programmes for Radio France and made a couple of documentary films. His poem “Danse Cosmique” on Shiva Nataraja has been set to music by Henry Dutilleux, senior composer, and included in performances all over the world.

The French national award of “Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres” is not his first. He has received several awards and honours in India and in France before this. He has also been honoured with the Sri Aurobindo Award in Kolkata in the year 2003. This recent award has been given to him by the French Minister of Culture for his contribution to the cultural life of France, for the whole body of his work and for bringing a knowledge of India to France and vie-versa. Usually this award is given to French citizens only after the age of thirty but it has been given to many non-Francophone writers, artists and actors as well.

Prithwin-da has answered our questions and shared his experiences as well as his views on life.

How was the passage from the Ashram to life in Paris?

First of all, the geographical contrast comes to my mind. My father used to name the three seasons prevailing in Pondicherry as: (a) hot; (b) hotter; (c) hottest. I reached Paris on 9th November 1966, when autumn was turning into rainy winter.

Invited by a friend to my first dinner in Paris, I chose for dessert an ice-cream! A cheerful inner attitude helped me enjoy with precaution every bit of legitimate experience that life here had to offer. Vegetarian on the whole, I discovered that the main courses at the university canteen mostly consisted of meat: I started selecting before tasting anything out of curiosity. In Pondicherry I did not know the market. With eyes wide open like those of Prince Siddhartha, while crossing streets in Paris, the sight of an entire cow neatly peeled and hanging in front of the butchers’ shops left me giddy. For weeks together I could not eat. Worried, I went to consult Dr Deniau, a homoeopath near our hostel. He advised me: “Young man, you are running a low pressure; eat as the Romans do as long as you are in Rome. Or go back to the place you have come from.” On entering his chamber, I had noticed behind the doctor’s seat a shelf packed with Sri Aurobindo’s books. I told him where I came from. Just upstairs lived Samuel Beckett. One day, leaving Jean-Louis Barrault at Théâtre Récamier, Beckett was driving me to a friend’s house, where we were invited to lunch. On the way he stopped to pick up a packet, with the comment: “I live here.” I told him that I often went there to see Deniau. Glad to hear that, Beckett replied, “I too am Deniau’s patient.”

The second point was handling of money. In the Ashram I had no contact whatsoever with money. The French Government scholarship allotted me 480 Francs per month. I rented my room at the hostel for 125 per month. The ticket at the canteen was 1.20 per meal, as far as I remember. We paid 5 francs for a simple cut at the barber’s shop, or a film in a normal cinema. In certain theatres we had concessional cinema tickets for 1.50. It was the glorious epoch of the New Wave French films, along with the experimental Italian and Swedish masters: each film brought me a new impetus. The evening paper Le Monde was sold for 30 cents. For a local telephone call we had to introduce two coins of 20 cents into the slot. Some friends even found out how to recover the coins after the conversation was over. The transport — metro and bus — was pretty cheap. As suggested by the Mother, André Morisset had appointed François Chan and Georges Gambelon to look after me. Grandson of a great literary figure, François helped me as a secretary. Gambelon had had correspondence with Sri Aurobindo. A bachelor, proprietor of real estate, he used to let out flats and consecrated all his income to the service of the Mother. As such, he took me out every Saturday afternoon shopping at the departmental store Belle Jardinière to purchase whatever I needed: toothpaste, stockings, shirts, underwear, for everyday use. At five o’clock, on the river side, we took our wafers with hot chocolate. A fine connoisseur of art, Gambelon made me discover the major museums. A Picasso exhibition simultaneously at the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais struck me with the tremendous creative vital and the masterly craft that animated this artist’s vision. Gambelon paid my railway trip back from St Paul de Vence when friends drove me to the Riviera to meet Picasso. Himself a musician, Gambelon offered me a sophisticated transistor to listen to good music. In addition to a costly overcoat, Paolo brought me elegant suits, neckties, pullovers regularly from Rome. His friend, the fabulous tailor Roberto Capucci was to take us around Rome (in his Rolls Royce) and even to visit Assisi, haloed by the presence of Saint Francis. The Mother had promised me to be constantly present: I never suffered from the lack of a single franc; nor did I save a single franc throughout my life in Paris.

The third point was politics: though we had faint ideas about the leading figures of India and of the world, as Ashramites we had other topics of interest than politics. In Paris, everything seemed to depend on the political options each individual had. We were not far from the Students’ agitation of May 1968, when politics stormed through the university gates.

What were your plans at that time and did you fulfil them?

My main objective was to write a thesis on the transition between Sri Aurobindo, the radical nationalist leader, and the dreamer of World Union. In 1970, I successfully defended it at the Old Sorbonne. The president of the Jury, Jean Filliozat (holding the Chair of Indian studies at the Collège de France), suggested that if I stayed on, it would be useful for studies on India, and it would do me good too. In 1955, I had started my research on the pre-Gandhian freedom fight launched by Sri Aurobindo and pursued by my grandfather; in 1965, over several months, I had serialised my findings in a Calcutta weekly. I waited for an opportunity to start my second thesis — for the coveted Doctorat d’Etat — on the intellectual roots of India’s freedom movement (1893-1918).

At last in 1974, on examining my documents, the renowned historian Raymond Aron declared my choice of these twenty-five years to be the missing link in contemporary history. He gladly accepted to supervise my thesis: he had never believed that it could be possible for a man coming from South Africa in 1915 to ask a people — under bondage for centuries — to stand up and join a non-violent mass movement. For Aron, my grandfather (Jatin Mukherjee) was the thinker in Action. In 1981, Aron obtained for me a Fulbright scholarship to explore American archives from coast to coast. When I came back with more than 8000 pages of notes, Aron thanked me: “What a gift for French re-searchers!” By the time I completed the thesis and Aron started constituting the jury, in 1983, he passed away accidentally. After more than two years of desperate attempts to defend it, at last I met Le Roy Ladurie (Professor at the Collège de France, a disciple of Aron and Fernand Braudel, and Father of the New School of History in France): he remembered that Aron had wished him to participate in my jury; so did Jean Naudou, specialist on India, François Bourricaud and Annie Kriegel, two eminent professors. I defended the thesis, and it was welcomed unanimously by the jury as “most honourable”.

With my knowledge of French and Bengali, I had wished, however, to be of use in teaching Bengali which, normally — like many modern Indian languages — should enjoy the status of a major world language. Appointed for several years as a lecturer by University Paris III-Inalco (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), I was proposed as candidate for the Chair of Bengali which was going to be created with a special fund. On enquiring with competent authorities — viz. the then Ambassador of India (a relative of Rabindranath Tagore), Collège de France (Filliozat), Sorbonne (Etiemble, Father of Comparative Literature in France) and UNESCO (Roger Caillois) — the President of the Institut, René Sieffert, was convinced about my profile as the ideal candidate. The National Professor Sunitikumar Chatterjee, on hearing about this proposal, committed himself to back my candidature. Unfortunately, local politics did not permit the Chair to exist. Fed up, I joined University Paris XII where a special course on Indian Philosophy was created to welcome me. Then, in 1981, I joined the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (Department of Ethnomusicology) till I retired in 2003.

How did you keep your contact with the Mother in the beginning?

I wrote regularly to the Mother as well as to Dada (Pranab), Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Amrita-da and my parents. Punctually the Mother herself replied to all my letters and Pavitra-da sent them with a covering personal word, by registered air-mail. Gambelon grumbled at times: “It seems the Mother does not write herself any more!” Once the Mother was not pleased with the construc-tion of one of my sentences and did not hide it when she wrote me back; it amused me because that sort of construction had become quite in vogue, whereas in the Mother’s time it was not.

With reliable friends, I used to send small jars of rose-petal jam made in Greece: it was very close to the Indian gulkand that the Mother seemed to like. In 1972, as a guest of the Hebrew University for lecturing on Savitri, I made the acquaintance of Yehuda Hanegby, editor of the monthly Ariel. As if he had been waiting for my visit, all of a sudden, Yehuda decided to leave for Pondicherry, to meet the Mother. What could he take as offering? I suggested honey, made in the kibbutzim. Madame Themanlys, commissioned to interview me for Kol Israel, the official radio, revealed her identity as the daughter-in-law of a personal friend that the Mother had in Paris, belonging to Max Théon’s group.

What were the lessons learnt in the Ashram that helped you most in your work and in your life in Paris?

The greatest and the most concrete lesson learnt in the Ashram is the alert attitude towards the body: however limited be its capacity, the body has always agreed to collaborate in the teeth of hard circumstances. It allowed me to spin through four continents. Next comes obviously the use of languages. Quite a few items from

What a Sadhak should always remember kept on prompting my decisions. An endless optimism and cool thinking has been of a great help in the midst of crucial tests. I often remembered an incident: one day, an infuriated man at the Ashram gate had taken to insulting Nolini-da vehemently; instead of commanding one of the young men to drive the fellow out, Nolini-da stood there for a few seconds, still like a steadfast flame, before stepping back and going his way silently, without a single reaction on his face.

In the core of my being I bear what the Mother told us: “The best gift that you can make to the Divine is gratitude!” A Bengali song has for refrain, tumi dhanya, dhanya hé!

You have written so much. Which particular writing gave you the most happiness?

I had long been waiting to write Sri Aurobindo’s biography for French readers. Since the limited edition of Monod-Herzen’s book published in the ’40s, people had been looking for a complete biography. When the Director of the series ‘Biographies’ published by the prestigious French firm Desclée de Brouwer invited me to write a volume on Sri Aurobindo, I felt really grateful to the Mother for having given me this chance. Every page I wrote was for me a communion with what the Mother called the psychic being. When the Ambassador of India released it officially, it was for me a fulfilment.

There were other occasions. For instance, in the United States, I used to hear about Eleanor Rosch and the theory of categories in cognitive studies. While working on the scales of Hindustani and Carnatic Music at the C.N.R.S., suddenly I made a rapprochement between those categories and our age-old system of seventy-two mélakartâs. Very happy to declare this identity, I was greeted with a cold shower accompanied by an increasing animosity from the guardians of the temple called cognitive research, for mixing up [human and social] science with fiction; my career came to a standstill for seven years; while I felt more and more convinced, my promotion remained desperately immobile. Making use of an international congress of linguists at Paris, I presented a paper on my topic: as it was appreciated by a few specialists, favourable echoes came from professors working on Indian music in European and American universities. I went a step forward by conceiving two electronic gadgets: one, for singling out the successive degrees of any of the mélakartâs; the other one, for situating the height of the twenty-two microtones (shrutis) used in Indian music. Once they materialise, these two diapasons may bring about a very modest revolution in the world of composition, as I have hinted in my book published by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, with a foreword by Pandit Ravi Shankar. The CNRS authorities chose to recognise my discovery with a bronze medal. My happiness welled from the fact that the Mother had led me to detect some truth and, with perseverance, I saw it conquer all hostility.

How did you feel when you came to know that you were being given this award?

Excepting the Sri Aurobindo­ Award that came to me from India and the medal from the Society of Encouragement to Progress at UNESCO, I have had two CNRS medals in my professional life. Busy executing plan after plan, I have had little leisure to stop and stare at awards. Recently, on his receiving the Légion d’Honneur, a friend of mine told me that he had been wondering why, in spite of all I have published and accomplished, there has been no official recognition. The way he posed the problem betrayed his intention to enquire further into the matter. When I received the letter of appointment from the Minister, I thanked the Mother who has been guiding me since I left Pondicherry physically. On seeing the joy it has caused around me, I try to convince myself about its importance.

How do you see the future of the world?

The Vision that Sri Aurobindo has revealed concerning the future of the world and of mankind is infallible, however long it may take to be realised. A few pioneering personalities I have occasion to meet here are aware of Sri Aurobindo’s prediction: some of them have already started thinking in terms of a World Government. In spite of a shy way of acknowledging man’s debt to Sri Aurobindo, in spite of our worshipping spurious idols, the Truth shall prevail. Our conviction is our strength.

What are your most cherished memories?

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, after a series of wonderful adventures, Dorothy disappointed the Mother by proclaiming, “There is no place like home!” Then the Mother gave a meaning to “home”: it was this physical world, the field of all realisations. In the Bâul tradition, they believe that even the gods wait for their turn to receive the boon of an earthly life, in order to progress in their spiritual quest. The medieval Bengali poet sang: janama abadhi ham rûpa néhârinu/ nayana nâ tirapita bhéla (“Since my birth I have contemplated Beauty, and mine eyes are not yet satiated”): quite a crowd of cherished memories run rioting in a flash.

In 1950, the Mother reserved the Mani House, 3 Easwaran Koil Street, for us (my parents and three brothers). She insisted on the fact that the house belonged to her and she knew perfectly all its nooks. We had no more to budge an inch. At times, in my adolescent years, desiring to live on my own, whenever I approached the Mother, she reminded me: “Do you forget who Tejen is? Who Usha is? Are there many children as fortunate as you are, to have them as parents? You have so much to learn from them! And that house is your field of realisations!” Indeed it was. The entrance was made of traditionally carved solid wooden doors. There were two small rooms leading to a large hall. From the walls, Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s portraits seemed to hold us in their arms. A store-room opened on a kitchen, followed by the dining space with one of the first specimens of a large mosaic table made in the Ashram.

My mother wrought her everyday miracles in the kitchen: like my grandfather, my father had been used to sharing his meals with friends; and my mother served us all varieties of tasty dishes and sweets. Usually the Mother and Sri Aurobindo did not partake of milk or its derivatives. Sri Aurobindo, however, was glad to make exceptions with pântuâ, and the Mother seemed to be fond of chhânâr pâyés prepared by my mother.

Upstairs was an open terrace on the South, full of rose plants. As Sunil-da’s student, I had spent nights together there, observing the positions of the constellations season after season. There was a covered L-shaped verandah where, on a cot, slept my elder brother Rothin and, perpendicularly, my mother’s cot. Then there was a large hall with three beds. I slept on the left, my father in the middle, and Togo, by the side of two windows receiving the sea-breeze. This was the haven where the Mother accommodated our souls. Wherever I go, down the years, this is the nest I long for.

Who influenced you most during your growing up years in the Ashram?

The Ashram in our childhood was a rendezvous of great minds. Philosophers, musicians, poets, painters were ready to be of help to us, as a service to the Mother. Precocious and curious, by the age of fourteen I enjoyed the “friendship” of veterans like Pavitra-da, Nolini-da, Sahana-di, Dilipkumar Roy, Nishikanta, Amal Kiran (K.D. Sethna). But, for a very special reason, it was Dada (Pranabkumar) whose overall influence enriched me the most.

The Mother seemed to gather around her at the Ashram representatives of particular problems that required her force to be rectified, transformed from the spiritual point of view. The virus of polio had caused the loss of my lower limbs at the age of five. Busy extending the territory of Consciousness by conquering inertia, the Mother had proposed me her help, provided I collaborated willingly. In the process of that unwritten pact, Dada had stepped forward to execute her will. Muscle by muscle, in the Mother’s presence, he defined the nature of his intervention. He typed out two big charts and pasted them on cardboard: one, for active home exercises that I followed every day; the Mother had asked Rishabhchand to devise a solid bench specially for the purpose. The other chart was for passive exercises that Dada gave me along with an oil massage during two hours, three mornings every week, at the tennis ground, on the verandah separating the two apartments that housed Wilfy and Raju Garu; it was followed by bathing in the sea. Whenever there loomed a new response from a muscle, Dada invited the Mother to appraise it.

Enjoying Dada’s company, I asked the Mother whether I could assist him — by the side of Tara — in cataloguing valuable books and magazines on physical culture that his library contained. It was at the tail end of 1949, as far as I remember. Rajen-da’s nephew Hiren Ganguli used to come regularly for Darshan and, as an active business-man, he had a portable typewriter with him. On Dada’s request, Hiru-Kaku agreed to teach Tara and myself efficient typewriting. Very soon I was to learn from Sanat-da shorthand, too. On retro reflection, I discovered that my grandfather had been a professional stenotypist. Dada since his school days had been in contact with revolutionaries directly brought up by my grandfather and, as such, held my grandfather in high esteem. As a student of history, he encouraged me in my re-search on our freedom movement.

During the gymnastic marching at the Play Ground, at times Dada improvised melodies by whistling on the microphone: they seemed to rush down from another world. On noticing my interest in music, Dada offered me the first bamboo flute of my life. He had received a clarinet as a gift from the Mother, to learn both European and Indian music. He noted down in a fat register whatever ragas he learnt from Ardhendu-da and made it accessible to me; soon I started taking lessons of Esraj with Ardhendu-da. When the Ash-ram brass band reached its final shape with brand new instruments from Paris, I picked the piccolo for my instrument. In addition to whatever the bandmaster taught, Dada offered me a book with solo notations for piccolo. While I practised, amused by the tunes, he started supplying words — often humorous verses in Bengali — and sang heartily. I still remember his parody of Auprès de ma blonde, London Bridge and a more serious poem on the melody of The Bluebell of Scotland. He was sincerely pleased with my compositions for the band and ordered me to write the Mass Drill music for the annual function of 2 December 1957 and 1958.

Dada got me subscribed to four juvenile Bengali magazines. On noticing my intention to write for them, he mentioned it to the Mother; she liked the idea and, out of the four, she chose Shishu-sâthi — the most rigorous one — to begin with. Once a week, the Mother used to tell stories to the children. I started rewriting them for my Bengali readers. Ignorant of my age, the editor went on publishing me religiously every alternate month and also invited my contribution for the special Pûja annual: impressed by its attractive layout, Dada called it “ice-cream sandesh”, a Bengali­ delicacy.

After composing the Mass Drill music for the annual function of 2 December 1957 and 1958, my score for 1959 was ready; now let me tell you why it was not played. We were no angels and we did not necessarily live on honey-dew. The Mother warned us against the churning of the inner ocean under the action of her Light. Even Dada for a time became subject to bouts of an opaque depression; it could be accompanied by a slap or a blow meant for activating recalcitrant elements. Though we were not indifferent to his suffering, some of us humorously called it the “Mahakali Spark”… One day the Mother declared that she had conquered the Asura of Despondency. Dada was no more gloomy. Soon the Mother stopped coming to the Play Ground. During the rehearsal of the 1959 Mass Drill music, some members of our JSASA brass band — out of quite a comprehensible human reaction— refused to play my composition. It was rather an unexpected blow as much for me as for Dada. When I turned towards him, with a broken voice he advised me to withdraw my score. It was not an easy matter. Forty double sheets of staff notation, some representing individually the Eb instruments; others transposed to Bb; a group playing the melodic parts; another — complex — with the counterpoints : months of labour for me and for the Band Master who had copied out my notation in his professional calligraphy !

At this juncture, my publisher Prafulla Chandra Das of Cuttack — as one of the organisers of the All India Writers’ Conference — sent me an invitation with a first class train ticket, hotel reservation and participation to read my poems; Jawaharlal Nehru was to preside over this session. Prafulla Babu brought out even a bunch of my selected poems on this occasion to be annexed to the Souvenir. Finding it to be a delicate matter to disturb the Mother for her permission during her illness, I decided not to attend the Conference. Nolinida’s messenger asked me to go and see him. Nolinida was waiting for me with two messages. First of all, he told me that the Mother was pleased to hear about my discreet decision. Secondly, his personal counsel: the less I frequent such gatherings, the deeper will grow people’s esteem for me.

Tributes to Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee

• “His [Prithwindra Mukherjee] mastery of Bengali, English and French makes of him one of the persons who contribute the most to the cultural bringing together of India and Europe.” (Jean Filliozat, Professor and Member of the French Academy).

• “I know him [Prithwindra Mukherjee] since many years and I have always very much appreciated his personal dignity, his affability, his care in accomplishing perfectly all his duties. These moral qualities honour him as much as his intellectual qualities.” (Olivier Lacombe, Professor and Member of the French Academy)

• “I have very great pleasure in testifying to my high opinion of the character, personality and linguistic and literary attainments of my friend Sri Prithwindra Mukherjee. He belongs to one of the most distinguished families in Bengal and India… Prithwindra had his education in one of our most advanced Institutions in India… associated with the hallowed name of the great national leader and thinker and saint, Sri Aurobindo. Here he got a thorough training in his mother-tongue Bengali (in which he is a very prominent writer in both verse and prose) as well as English and French…” (Suniti Kumar Chatterji, National Professor of India in Humanities)

• “Ardent in his research, very well placed in receiving and utilizing apt documents, Prithwindra Mukherjee has been tenaciously carrying on his work since many years. Combined with his human qualities of rectitude and affability, these characteristics draw towards P. Mukherjee the sympathy and esteem of my colleagues and myself.” (Jacques Maitre, Director of Research and President at the Section of Sociology, C. N. R. S.)

• “I have the pleasure of certifying that Dr. Prithwindra Mukherjee, now teaching at the University of Paris, has been for several years my pupil at our International Centre of Education in Pondicherry. He was always a diligent student and had an inner urge for knowledge and progress which made him take interest in many subjects such as languages, music, poetry and translations… In Bengali he is already one of the leading modern writers… He has been an able exponent of Sri Aurobindo’s vision and of Indian culture over the French Radio. An original musicologist, scholar and linguist, poet and writer, he is serving as a precious bridge between India and the Continent and helping to bring them closer to each other.” (Dr. Nirodbaran Talukdar, author and Sri Aurobindo’s scribe)

• “I have been delighted in noticing in these poems [Alo’r Chakor] the blossoming of a keen-eyed genuine poet: a poet indeed, established in the conviction of his own dharma (God-given Duty)… Therefore I congratulate Prithwindra with affection… Wherever he has been capable of responding to the higher Consciousness, he has composed successful poetry. So beautiful, simple, sincere a style and aspiration and vocabulary—at liberty conveyed through a flowing rhythm. We shall expect in his poetry an increasingly confirmed expression of this Aspiration. May Prithwindra continue to follow the loftiest inspiration which is his own, may he sing on—ever-awake in his radiant dream of a luminous ideal and of beautiful diction. It is certainly these which have found utterance in a cluster of poetic resonances through the poet-voice of Prithwindra…” (Dilip Kumar Roy, author, singer and composer)

• “The major components of the personality of Prithwindra Mukherjee are quite singular: the erudition of a university professor welded to the intensity of an inner concentration and to the elevation of a mystic. Added to this after all the freshness of soul of a stripling…To us Europeans, the musician who reminds the most of Mukherjee is Schubert:… I could as well cite the names of Saadi and Hafiz, the first Persians to speak of love with a human accent leading to God. But in the East, as soon as one goes upward, the various metaphysical trends converge towards the same Absolute. Mukherjee renders this Absolute accessible to our senses, just as the petal of a lily gives us the racy transcription of the delicacy and of the bursting force hidden in purity. He is, in Paris, a living example of the mystical radiation of India throughout the world.” (Gerard Mourgue, Poet, Novelist and Director of France-Culture—Radio France)

• “You have a mastery over the language, you have caught the melody…” (Syed Mujtaba Ali, renowned author)

• “I thank you quite cordially for your collection of poems, where I have the delight of rediscovering a mystical atmosphere so dear and familiar to me, a breath of vastitude, the metaphysics of Sri Aurobindo, and the simplicity of heart, probably the most difficult thing in the world… You are helping us to rediscover our soul, by this ‘icy night’ which you transcend audaciously…” (Jean Bies, Author and Professor)

• “Your words ring with a strange freshness in this West so often a desert, but at the same time how can we not see—and the thing is of a dazzling evidence—that all mystique is one?” (Gerard Engelbach, Poet)

• “How far is it possible to convey in Bengali the lukewarm sweetness or headiness present in the language and the atmosphere of Spain? Our translator is young and, probably owing to his age, even in his verbal constructions he has been able to recreate some sort of a taste of these qualities. Thanks to an identity of temperament, he has been able to capture at least something—a good deal, I was going to say—of the original savour, simple yet intense.” (Nolini Kanta Gupta, Philosopher and Author)

*

« Older entries