Chapter 11. A Few Months in Madras

At the close of the year 1914 the question came up of my going to Madras and of my lodging there. It was decided that I should be put in M. Srinivasachari’s house. His house was a big one and quite near the temple of Parthasarathi at Triplicane.

February, 1915.

A crucial stage arrived in my life. Along with this came a quietude of mind, a constant memory of something which was fundamental.

I had not yet developed the capacity to comprehend what I might achieve by tapasya or that for a while I had come to prepare myself here for things. Even the desire to understand them had not been born in me. The Matriculation examination solely occupied my mind. The thought of it, burdened with the heavy feeling of my family’s poverty, did not allow me to stand erect, depressed my spirit and created a struggle, made me live a half-alive and half-dead life, a life beset with hardships. The time then was like this.

The whole of our village had experienced failure of rains for two or three years in succession, resulting in a drying up of its fields and then followed ceaseless rains for ten or fifteen days inundating the village, bringing down and tearing to shreds a number of houses, rendering the villagers homeless and throwing them in utter distress. It was a time when our stored paddy and other grains in the granary had been consumed even before the interminable rains broke out. It was a time when even the cash-crop like groundnut could not be cultivated. It was a time of dryness and barrenness for us and other villagers without any way out of it. And it was time I should have to go to Madras. I was short of Rs. 9/- for the deposit. I found no way to make up this deficit. A month of the year 1915 had already passed.

On some occasions, when I sought for Sri Aurobindo’s advice for deciding whether I should appear in the examination or not, he always exhorted me to do so. His purpose behind this advice and his jokes at such examinations which I heard four or five years later when I finally joined him, I could not for long comprehend. I may cite the case of an Andhra friend of mine to illustrate my point. It was Chandrasekhara, and he had passed creditably the B.A. examination. Sri Aurobindo made him the butt of such a volley of jests for this success in the examination that he all but wept for it.

I was at a loss to know how to procure the amount needed. Once I broached the subject to Sri Aurobindo. I also informed ‘him of the approaching time-limit. The day after this talk, when I went to him, he handed over to me the sum of Rs. 9/- and ordered me to deposit the fee. Astounded and forgetful I stood statue-like in his presence.

In 1915 I went to Madras to sit for the examination. Back to Pondicherry from there, I first met Sri Aurobindo and then Bharati. There being no longer any place here to stay at, I went back home.

One part of my being was given to endearing play and prattle with my mother; another and greater part of it felt all bonds with my parents and relatives loosened. I felt them as strangers only. This major part unknowingly and imperceptibly was captured by Sri Aurobindo. The small part enjoying my mother’s caresses and fondling stood in my way.

A letter from my friend Krishnamachari apprised me of having passed the Matriculation examination. That I had passed, even if not very creditably, gave me satisfaction. I immediately started from home for Pondicherry to convey this news to Sri Aurobindo. I put up in Bharati’s house. In Pondicherry I stayed only for a day or two. At the time when I informed Sri Aurobindo of the result, he encouraged me in a way for further studies. But I felt perplexed. If I went on studying like this, when should I join Sri Aurobindo? This apprehen­sion, partly perceptible to my heart and partly imperceptible, evoked a struggle in me.

On coming back to my village, I set myself to collect all that was necessary for higher studies — money, books, clothes, etc., etc, I had to find also a lodging at Madras.

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