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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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