Sudhir Kumar Sarkar: A Spirit Indomitable

 

 

Oh, to be close to Sri Aurobindo is not only an exceptional privilege, it is something unique.

Sudhir is very receptive physically. It is a gift from the Divine Grace because he has done so much for Sri Aurobindo.

Sudhir is very fortunate — a life lived in Sri Aurobindo’s aura; one can feel it immediately. A life lived in His aura!

The Mother

 

 

Sri Aurobindo

 

The Mother

 

Dedicated with infinite gratitude to
the Mother and Sri Aurobindo
whose Grace has been
the beacon light in the life of
Sudhir Kumar Sarkar

 

 

Prayer to the Mother [1]

Divine Mother,

I pray that deep in my heart I may feel Thy heavenly touch, see Thy hands in all the work I do, hear Thy voice deep within me, see Thy smile so sweet, live in Thee and sleep only in Thy lap. When I awake, let Thy smiling face and Thy lotus-like feet and hands well up from within me, let them touch my eyes, enabling me to see Thee all around me. Let me hear Thy soft and tender voice moving me to perform the works given to me. Oh, how I wish I could bring all my relatives, my friends, nay, all the people of the earth and show them to my Mother; by Her magic touch She would change their heart’s understanding, give them peace and the sweet taste of happiness! Then my rebirth on Thy lap would be fulfilled and I would be satisfied and happy.

Sudhir Sarkar

 

 

Publishers’ Note

 

“If this life be not a real fight in which something is eternally gained for the universe… it is no better than a game of private theatricals,” said the philosopher William James.

This anthology presents glimpses of the life of a real fighter — as anyone who had come in contact with the life concerned or who reads this will admit. Men like Sudhir Kumar Sarkar hardly cared to leave behind any record of their deeds. However, their deeds in themselves were too unusual to go unnoticed — or to be overlooked. Their contemporaries viewed them with awe and appreciation, the authorities which were challenged by them viewed them with fear and anguish. Despite all reservations maintained for differing reasons, at least some of the views became public.

The birth centenary of one such fighter is certainly an appropriate time to bring such comments to light from the obscurity of bygone days. This is done for three reasons: to express our gratitude to the life of the fighter, to inspire the present generation with the ideals that dominated his life and, lastly, to help the scholars of the future in their research on a significant era of India’s history as well as on lives which were led off the beaten track.

The anthology is divided into different parts, the most important of them being what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had to say on Shri Sudhir Kumar Sarkar and his compatriots. To the best of our ability, we have checked the authenticity of the utterances by others, but, of course, subjective projection of sentiments cannot totally be ruled out.

We were delighted by the enthusiasm evinced and support extended to us by numerous friends in celebrating the occasion. Exhibitions, talks, recitations and other programmes took place at Pondicherry, Calcutta and several other places. We also received a good number of articles and reminiscences on Sudhir Kumar. We regret that all of them could not be accommodated in this volume, partly because the information contained in some was already available in the articles printed and partly because of lack of space.

We are most thankful to all those who have helped in the publication of this volume. We would like to record our grateful thanks to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, the Department of Physical Education (Photography Section) and Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives for the cooperation extended by them.

Mona Sarkar

 

Preface

Sudhir Kumar: His Life was the Answer to a Riddle

 

The often-repeated observation of Shakespeare, that “some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” sounds profound, but in a certain context incomplete, for it speaks of greatness that is acknowledged, not of the sort of greatness that, like a lotus in a far off lake, remains unacknowledged, but is yet great and sublime.

The life of Sudhir Kumar Sarkar was an example of that kind of greatness which never sought to or cared to prove itself. Like a flame burning under a bright sun which can be effective without being visible, the revolutionary freedom-fighters of the first decade of the century worked with a self-effacing dedication. They were inspired souls; their only goal was to realise the ideal in which they believed. Nothing else mattered — least of all fame and power.

What characterised the early revolutionaries? An ardent love for the Motherland, of course. But an artist, a farmer, a politician, each loved his country in his own way. What made the difference between such average feeling of love and the love a man like Sudhir Kumar felt was the quality of the feeling. His was a kind of love that elevated the consciousness, a love that made not the slightest bargain, which claimed nothing, gained nothing for the lover. He reminded us:

 

“The eyes of love gaze starlike through death’s night,
The feet of love tread naked hardest worlds.”

(Savitri XI. 1)

This kind of love led men like him to be brave, a bravery that would brook no hesitation or consideration once it had been sure of the greatness of the cause.

Sudhir Kumar, as a revolutionary, suffered untold hardship. He was hunted by a ruthless imperial agency that ruled half of the world; he was tortured in the Cellular Jail, one of the most notorious of Satan’s laboratories where experiments were carried on to reduce all that is noble in man’s spirit to cowardice; failing, to a physical ruination. Sudhir Kumar was sub­jected to both the kinds of hammers but he emerged intact, both spiritually and physically.

And what an emergence was his! The ever-green spirit never knew when to be tired, never nurtured the idea that time had come for him to rest, never thought that he had done enough! For him, after its eventful and tumultuous phase, life was yet at its beginning. Perhaps his inner self knew that

A mighty life-self with its inner powers
Supports the dwarfish modicum we call life;
It can graft upon our crawl two puissant wings.

(Savitri VII.2)

The puissant wings brought him to the abode of his true Mother and his Master at Pondicherry. Already a Karmayogi, he now became a Sadhaka of the Yoga Integral.

*

We can find any number of men who are unwise but who do not suspect themselves to be so. So far, in my life, I have come across only two or three persons who were wise but who did not suspect that they were so. One of them was Sudhir Kumar. He was also the man who exemplified gratitude to the Divine, for he was simply happy! (“The best way to express one’s gratitude to the Divine is to feel simply happy.” — The Mother) Needless to say, his happiness was not dependent on external comforts, even though, at the gross physical plane he was never tired of saying that the Mother had kept him like a prince. Happiness in him was the sign of a total dedication — continuous service to the Mother and an unbroken obedience to the physical discipline chalked out by Her, an egoless attitude of affection for all, an innate humility and a Himalayan faith in the Divine.

But such qualities, far from blurring his pragmatic sense of discrimination, rather sharpened it. In the sixties it was announced that the Government had decided to dedicate the Cellular Jail in the Andamans to the memory of the freedom-fighters who had been interned there. I interviewed Sudhir Kumar on behalf of a New Delhi news magazine, to know his reactions to the decision. Was he happy? Had he any suggestion to make? Such would be the questions of a columnist to which the answers that would be expected were, “Well, it was overdue…” etc. etc. But Sudhir Kumar’s face hardly recorded any reaction. I read in it the composed and detached mind that set no store by any outward recognition of their sacrifices. But that day, in a serene and uncomplaining tone, he stated the philosophy of the revolutionaries of his generation. Mother India deserved true sacrifice, no pretentions; it deserved the act of sacrifice of the best and the bravest of her children, not the ‘acting’ of sacrifice by the clever ones who calculated strategies to limit their risks and safeguard their dear life.

Years later, in 1986, I stood before the memorial slab that bore the name of Sudhir Kumar and his compatriots in the Cellular Jail. The question that many of us ask ourselves and to others again and again surfaced in my mind: What happened to that spirit sublime depending on which Sudhir Kumar and other revolutionaries survived the Andaman ordeals? What happened to their vision of Mother India?

Slowly emerged an assurance that the answer was to be found in Sudhir Kumar’s life. The man who fought for the liberation of Mother India, later took up the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, the Yoga intended to liberate humanity from its bondage to ignorance.

Today the future of India and humanity have become one — and the deliverance of both depends on the unfoldment of a new age in evolution.

Both the phases of Sudhir Kumar’s life have been an offering, a Yajna, in the invocation of that age.

Manoj Das

 

 

Invocation

15th August, 1947

O, our Mother, O, Soul of India, Mother who hast never forsaken thy children even in the days of darkest depression, even when they turned away from thy voice, served other masters and denied thee, now when they have arisen and the light is on thy face in this dawn of thy liberation, in this great hour we salute thee. Guide us so that the horizon of freedom opening before us may be also a horizon of true greatness and of thy true life in the community of the nations. Guide us so that we may be always on the side of great ideals and show to men thy true visage, as a leader in the ways of the spirit and a friend and helper of all the peoples.

The Mother

 

 

The Mother sitting in front of the map of India

 


 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The Awakening of India

 

1905…. It was the time when the resplendent sun of India’s destiny seemed to have been eclipsed by the dark demon of imperialism, a time when the smile of the beloved Mother, the presiding Spirit of India, seemed to disappear for ever. Despair and dejection, fear and inertia, subjugation and slavery marked the character of the multitudes who were her children. Again and again, She looked up to them with hope, with expectation, but in vain. It appeared that the gloomy night of the nation would never see the dawn of freedom — She seemed prone to lose Herself and Her Soul.

Then came Sri Aurobindo, the first son of Mother India to call for her unqualified freedom. He awakened the nation by launching a new movement of Passive Resistance, Boycott, Self-arbitration Courts, National Education etc. He reached the heart of the people through his powerful speeches and articles.

Following are a few of the passages which inspired the youth of India to abandon their families, their positions, their careers, in fact their everything, and join this movement to free their Motherland.

 

Words of Sri Aurobindo

 

The sun of India’s destiny would rise and fill all India with its light and overflow India and overflow Asia and overflow the world. Every hour, every moment could only bring them nearer to the brightness of the day that God had decreed.

*

What is our mother-country? It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech, nor a fiction of the mind. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation, just as Bhavani Mahisha Mardini sprang into being from the Shakti of all the millions of gods assembled in one mass of force and welded into unity. The Shakti we call India, Bhavani Bharati is the living unity of the Shaktis of three hundred million people; but She is inactive, imprisoned in the magic circle of Tamas, the self-indulgent inertia and ignorance of her sons.

*

Our aim will therefore be to help in building up India for the sake of humanity — this is the spirit of Nationalism which we profess and follow. We say to humanity: “The time has come when you must take the great step and rise out of a material existence into the higher, deeper and wider life towards which humanity moves. The problems which have troubled mankind can only be solved by conquering the kingdom within, not by harnessing the forces of Nature to the service of comfort and luxury, but by mastering the forces of the intellect and the spirit, by vindicating the freedom of man within as well as without and by conquering from within external Nature. For that work the resurgence of Asia is necessary, therefore Asia rises. For that work the freedom and greatness of India are essential, therefore she claims her destined freedom and greatness, and it is to the interest of all humanity,… that she should wholly establish her claim.”

*

God is doing everything. We are not doing anything. When he bids us suffer, we suffer because the suffering is necessary to give others strength… this is a work God has asked us to do,… He himself is behind us, He himself is the worker and the work.

*

We say to the individual and especially to the young who are now arising to do India’s work, God’s work: “You cannot cherish these ideals, still less can you fulfil them if you subject your minds to European ideas or look at life from the material standpoint. Materially you are nothing, spiritually you are everything. It is only the Indian who can believe everything, dare everything, sacrifice everything. First, therefore, become Indians.

Recover the patrimony of our forefathers. Recover the Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives. Live them and you will be great and strong, mighty, invincible and fearless. Neither life nor death will have any terrors for you. Difficulty and impossibility will vanish from your vocabularies. For it is in the spirit that strength is eternal and you must win back the kingdom of yourselves, the inner Swaraj, before you can win back your outer empire. There the Mother dwells and she waits for worship that She may give strength. Believe in Her, serve Her, lose your wills in Hers, your egoism in the greater ego of the country, your separate selfishness in the service of humanity. Recover the source of all strength in yourselves and all else will be added to you, social soundness, intellectual pre-eminence, political freedom, the mastery of human thought, the hegemony of the world.”

*

There are times in a nation’s history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else is to be directed to that end.

*

 

INVITATION

 

With wind and the weather beating round me
Up to the hill and the moorland I go.
Who will come with me? Who will climb with me?
Wade through the brook and tramp through the snow?

Not in the petty circle of cities
Cramped by your doors and your wall I dwell;
Over me God is blue in the Welkin,
Against me the wind and the storm rebel.

I sport with solitude here in my regions
Of misadventures have made me a friend.
Who would live largely? Who would live freely?
Here to the wind-swept uplands ascend.

I am the Lord of tempest and mountain,
I am the Spirit of freedom and pride,
Stark must he be and a kinsman to danger
Who shares my kingdom and walks at my side.

*

I know I have the strength to deliver this fallen race… This feeling is not new in me, it is not of today. I was born with it, it is in my very marrow. God sent me to earth to accomplish this great mission.

*

I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore Her, I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother’s breast and started sucking her blood? Would he quietly sit down to his dinner, amuse himself with his wife and children, or would he rush out to deliver his mother?

*

When, therefore, you ask who is Bhawani the Mother, She herself answers you, “I am the Infinite Energy which streams forth from the Eternal in the world and the Eternal in your­selves. I am the Mother of the Universe, the Mother of the worlds, and for you who are children of the Sacred Land, Aryabhumi, made of her clay and reared by her sun and winds, I am Bhawani Bharati, Mother of India.”

*

Come then, hearken to the call of the Mother. She is already in our hearts waiting to manifest Herself, waiting to be worshipped….

 

Sri Aurobindo at Uttarpara

*

You who feel Her stirring within you, fling off the black veil of self, break down the imprisoning wall of indolence, help her each as you feel impelled, with your bodies or with your intellect or with your speech or with your wealth or with your prayers and worship, each man according to his capacity. Draw not back, for against those who were called and heard Her not She may well be wroth in the day of Her coming; but to those who help her advent even a little, how radiant with beauty and kindness will be the face of their Mother.

*

The Mother asks for no schemes, no plans, no methods, She herself will provide the schemes, the plans, the methods better than any we can devise. She asks for our hearts, our lives, nothing less, nothing more…. Self-abandonment is the demand made upon us. She asks of us, ‘How many will live for me? How many will die for me?’ and awaits our answer.

*

Our call is to young India. It is the young who must be the builders of the new world,… who are free in mind and heart to accept a completer truth and labour for a greater ideal….

It is with a confident trust in the spirit that inspires us that we take our place among the standard bearers of the new humanity that is struggling to be born amidst the chaos of a world in dissolution, and of the future India, the greater India of the rebirth that is to rejuvenate the mighty outworn body of the ancient Mother.

*

The young men of Bengal who had rushed forward in the frenzy of the moment, in the inspiration of the new gospel they had received, rushed forward rejoicing in the newfound strength and expecting to bear down all obstacles that came in their way, were not called upon to suffer. They were called upon to bear the crown, not of victory, but of martyrdom…. It was not their own strength, but it was the force which was working through them, and they had to learn to be the instruments of that force.

 


 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

Sri Aurobindo on the Young Companions of His Days of Trouble

 

In May 1908 Sri Aurobindo was indicted in the Alipore Bomb Case. He was kept for one year as an undertrial prisoner in the Alipore Jail. It was here that he came closer to most of the young lads who had joined the nationalist movement. In the following passages Sri Aurobindo speaks of these “companions of my days of trouble”.

 

From “Bande Mataram”

 

Today let us remember these brothers of ours… today let us recall what it is that they expect from us; forgetting for a while our selfish pre-occupations, our little fears, our petty ambitions, let us identify ourselves in heart with these nobler spirits whom it is our privilege to call fellow-countrymen, and ask ourselves whether we are really working to bring about the great ideal for which they have immolated themselves. Who is there who can really say that his work is worthy of these heroic martyrs?

 

From “Tales of Prison Life”

 

The whole of Sunday was passed in the Lock-up. There was a staircase in front of my room. In the morning I found a few young lads coming down the stairs…. Later I came to know that these were the lads from the Manicktala gardens. After a month in jail I came to know them.

*

I greatly enjoyed the laughter and the pleasantries of the accused lads, else the time spent at the court appeared wholly annoying.

*

The inexperienced spectators might have thought that these laughter-loving young lads must be some group of daredevil famous warriors. Who knows how much courage and strength resided in their bodies so that even with their empty hands they might be able to break through the impassive cordon of a hundred policeman and Tommies.

*

Let me speak about the companions of my days of trouble, the boys who had been accused along with me. Watching their behaviour in the court room I could really feel that a new age had dawned, a new type of children had begun to live on the Mother’s lap.

*

One could see a strange spectacle: while the trial was going on, and the fate of thirty or forty accused persons was being wrangled over, whose result might be hanging or transportation for life, some of these accused persons without as much as glancing at what was happening around them, were absorbed in reading novels of Bankim Chandra, Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga or Science of Religions or European Philosophy.

*

Looking at these lads… one felt as if the liberal, daring, puissant men of an earlier age with a different training had come back to India. That fearless and innocent look in their eyes, the words breathing power, their carefree delighted laughter, even in the midst of great danger the undaunted courage, cheerfulness of mind, absence of despair, or grief, all this was a symptom not of the inert Indians of those days, but of a new age, a new race and a new stir.

(Original text in Bengali)

 

From “Uttarpara Speech”

 

Meanwhile He had brought me out of solitude and placed me among those who had been accused along with me…. I found myself among these young men and in many of them I discovered a mighty courage, a power of self-effacement in comparison with which I was simply nothing. I saw one or two who were not only superior to me in force and character, very many were that — but in the promise of that intellectual ability on which I prided myself. He said to me, “This is the young generation, the new and mighty nation that is arising at my command, they are greater than yourself. What have you to fear? If you stood aside or slept, the work would still be done. If you were cast aside tomorrow, here are the young men who will take up your work and do it more mightily than you have ever done. You have only got some strength from me to speak a word to this nation which will help to raise it.”

 

From “New Birth”

 

For the past few years in India one can see as if a new race is being created in the midst of the old that was dominated by the gross influences. The earlier children of Mother India were born in an irreligious atmosphere or one of religious decline and receiving an education in keeping with that, they had grown short-lived, small, selfish and narrow in spirit. Many powerful great souls were born among these people and it is they who have saved the race in its hour of great peril. But without doing work commensurate with their energy and genius, they have only created a field for the future greatness and the marvellous activity that awaits this race. It is because of their good deeds that the rays of the new dawn are brightening up all the corners. These new children of Mother India, instead of getting the qualities of their parents, have grown bold, full of power, high- souled, self-sacrificing, inspired by the high ideals of helping others and doing good to the country. That is why, instead of being obedient to their parents, the young men go their own way, there is a difference between the old and the young, and in deciding a course of activity there is a conflict between the two. The old are trying to keep these youth, born of divine emanations, the pioneers of a golden age, confined to the old, selfish and narrow ways, without understanding they are trying to perpetuate the Age of Iron. The youth are sparks born of the Great Energy, Mahāsakti, eager to build the new by destroying the old, they are unable to be obedient or submit to the laws of respect for the parent God alone can remedy this evil. But the will of the Great Energy cannot be in vain, the new generation will not leave without fulfilling the purpose for which they have come. In the midst of the new the influence of the old lingers on. Because of the fault of inferior heredity and an āsuric education many black sheep have also taken birth; and those who have been ordained to inaugurate the new age are unable to manifest their inherent force and strength. Among the youth is a marvellous sign of manifesting the age of gold, a religious bent of mind and in the hearts of many, a longing for yoga and half-expressed yogic powers.

 

Sri Aurobindo in Alipore Jail

 

Ashok Nandi, accused in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy Case, belongs to this second category. Those who know him would hardly believe that he might be involved in any conspiracy. He had been sentenced on slander and rather incredible evidence. He was not overwhelmed, like the other young people, by a strong desire to serve the national cause. In intellect, character and life he was wholly a yogi and devotee, he had none of the qualities of a man of the world. His grandfather was a realised Tantric yogi (siddha), his father too was known to have acquired powers through the pursuit of yoga. The rare birth in a family of yogis of which the Gita speaks, that had been his good fortune. Signs of his inherent yogic powers had shown themselves intermittently even at a tender age. Long before his arrest he had come to know that he was destined to die while young, hence his mind did not take to schooling or the preliminaries of leading a worldly life, yet on his father’s advice, by ignoring the ‘failure’ (asiddhi) of which he had earlier intelligence, he was pursuing what he considered to be his duty and had taken to the path of yoga. It was then that he was suddenly arrested. At this danger, which was the result of his own action, Ashok remained unperturbed and in the jail he devoted his entire energies to the pursuit of yoga. Many of the accused in the case had adopted this path, and though not foremost he was one among these. In love and devotion he was inferior to none. His generous character, sober devotion and loving heart charmed every one. At the time of Gossain’s murder he was ailing in the hospital. Before regaining his health he began to fall ill frequently during his solitary confinement. Even when sick he had to stay during the chilly nights in a room that was open on all sides. Because of this he developed tuberculosis and then, when there was no chance of his surviving, sentenced to the heaviest punishment, he had been kept once again in that death-cell. Thanks to the petition of the barrister Chittaranjan Das arrangements were made to remove him to the hospital, but he was not given bail. In the end, due to the Governor’s generosity, he was allowed to die in his own home, looked after by his own people. Before he could be freed through appeal God released him from the body’s prison. Towards the end Ashok’s yogic powers developed considerably, on the day of his passing away, overwhelmed by the power of the Lord as Vishnu, ‘distributing’ the holy, salvation-inducing Name and spiritual advice he gave up the body with the Name on his lips. Ashok Nandi had been born to work out the consequences due to a previous incarnation, hence all this misery and his untimely death. The energy needed to usher in the Age of God did not descend in him, but he has shown a brilliant example of the natural yogic powers. Men of good deeds spend a little time in this world to work out their previous sins, then, freed from all sins, they leave the defective body and, assuming another body, they come to express their inherent energies and to do good to men and creatures.

(Original in Bengali)

 

From “Prison and Freedom”

 

Let me speak of two educated young men. These were the two Kavirajs of Harrison Road, Nagendranath and Dharani.[2] The manner in which, quietly and contentedly, they too suffered this sudden mishap, this unjust punishment, was astounding. I could never find in them the slightest anger or censure or annoyance over those for whose fault they had to pass their youth in a hellish prison. They were devoid of the glory of modern education, a knowledge of western languages and familiarity with western learning. The mother-tongue was their only stay, but among the English-educated group I have found few men of comparable calibre. Instead of complaining to either man or God, both of them had accepted the punishment with a smile. Both brothers were sādhaks but their natures were different. Nagendra was steady, grave, intelligent. He was very fond of godly conversation and religious topics. When we had been kept in solitary confinement the jail authorities had permitted us, at the end of the day’s labour, to read books. Nagendra who had asked for the Gita had been given the Bible instead. In the witness box he would tell me of his feelings on reading the Bible. Nagendra hadn’t read the Gita but I noticed with surprise that instead of speaking about the Bible he was expressing the inner sense of the Gita’s verse — once in a while it even appeared as if the sublime and divine statements of Krishna at Kurukshetra were coming out of the same lotus lips of Vasudeva in the Alipore dock. Without reading the Gita to be able to realise in the Bible the spirit of equality, renunciation of the desire for fruit, to see the Divine in all things, etc., is the index of a not negligible inner life or spiritual capacity, sādhanā. Dharani was not as intelligent as Nagendra, but he was obedient and tender by nature, temperamentally a devotee. He was always wrapt up in the idea of Divine Motherhood, and looking at the Grace that shone on his face, his innocent laughter and gentle devotional attitude it was hard to realise that we were confined in a jail. Knowing these men, who can say that the Bengali is low and despicable? This power, this manhood, this sacred fire is only hidden amidst the ashes.

They are both innocent. Imprisoned without any fault of their own, by their own qualities or by virtue of their training they had been able to reject the supremacy of external joys and sorrows and succeeded in preserving the freedom of their inner life.

(Original in Bengali)

 

Front “The Aryan Ideal and the Three Gunas”

 

The inner freedom… was a natural quality of my companions. During the days we were lodged together in a big verandah, I observed with great attention their conduct and psychological dispositions. Apart from two of them, I never saw even a trace of fear in the face or speech of anyone. Almost all were young men, many mere boys. Even strong-minded people were likely to be very upset at the thought of the dire punishment to be given to the accused if found guilty. But these young men did not really hope to be acquitted at the trial. Especially, on observing the frightful paraphernalia of witnesses and written evidence at the court, people not versed in law would have easily got the idea that even the innocent could not find a way of escape from that net. Yet instead of fear or despondency on their faces there were only cheerfulness, the smile of simplicity and, forgetting their own danger, discussion about their country and religion. A small library grew up as everyone in our ward had a few books with him. Most books in the library were religious — the Gita, the Upanishads, the works of Vivekananda, the life and conversations of Ramakrishna, the Puranas, hymns, spiritual songs, etc. Among other volumes were the works of Bankim, patriotic songs, books on European philosophy, history and literature. A few of the men practised spiritual disciplines in the morning, some used to read books, still others to chat quietly. Occasionally there were roars of laughter in the peaceful atmosphere of the morning. If the court was not in session, some slept, a few played games — it might be anything, nobody was attached to a particular one. On some days, a quiet game with people sitting in a circle, on others, running and jumping; there was football for a few days, though the ball was made of a unique material; blind man’s buff was played on some days, on others a number of groups were formed for lessons in ju-jitsu, high and long jumping or for playing draughts. Except a few reserved and elderly people everybody joined in these games at the request of the boys. I observed that even those who were not young had a childlike character. In the evenings there were musical soirees. Only patriotic and religious songs were sung; we used to sit around and hear Ullas, Sachindra, Hemdas, who were accomplished singers; on some evenings, for amusement, Ullaskar sang comic songs or acted, ventriloquised, mimed, or told stories about hemp addicts… Nobody paid any attention to the trial but all passed the days in religious pursuits or in just being gay. This unperturbed disposition is impossible for one used to evil actions; there was not the slightest trace in them of harshness, cruelty, habitual evil-doing or crookedness. Laughter, conversation or play, all was joyful, sinless, full of love.

The result of this freedom of the mind began to show itself soon. The perfect fruit can be obtained only if the spiritual seed is sown in this kind of field. Pointing at some boys Jesus said to his disciples, “Those who are like these boys will attain the Kingdom of God.” Knowledge and delight are the signs of Sattwa. They alone have the capacity for Yoga who do not consider misery as misery but are full of joy and cheer in all situations. The rajasic attitude does not get any encouragement in jail and there is nothing there to nourish the tendency to worldly pleasures. Under these circumstances, since there is a dearth of things to which it is used and in which its Rajas can be indulged, the demoniac mind destroys itself like a tiger. There follows what the Western poets call “eating one’s own heart.” The Indian mind when in seclusion, though there be external suffering, turns through an eternal attraction to God. This is what happened with us too. A current, I do not know from where, just swept us all. Even people who had never taken God’s name learnt to practise some spiritual discipline and realising the grace of the most Gracious became steeped in joy. Those boys achieved in a few months what Yogis take a long time to attain. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “What you are seeing now is really nothing — such a flood of spirituality is coming into this land that even boys will attain realisation after three days’ Sadhana.” To see these boys was to have no doubt about the truth of this prophecy. They were as it were the manifest precursors of that spiritual flood. The sattwic waves overflowing the prisoners’ docks swept over all, except four or five persons, with great joy. Anyone who has tasted that once cannot forget it nor can he acknowledge any other joy as comparable. This sattwic temperament is indeed the hope of the country. The ease with which brotherliness, self-knowledge and love of God possess the Indian mind and express themselves in action is not possible in the case of any other nation. What is necessary is the renunciation of Tamas, the control of Rajas and the manifestation of Sattwa. This is what is being prepared for India in accordance with God’s secret purpose.

(Original in Bengali)

 

Four compatriots of the revolutionary era — A memorable meeting at Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
From left to right Sudhir Kumar Sarkar, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Bibhuti Bhushan Sarkar, Biren Sen.

 


 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

The Mother on the Revolutionaries

 

A portion of the Mother’s talk with Mona Sarkar on the revolutionaries of the Indian National Movement, especially those who were with Sri Aurobindo. The talk was noted down from memory by Mona.

The Mother: Did you bring the photos of the revolutionaries as I asked you to, last time?

Mona: Yes, Mother. (Mona hands Her the book “The Roll of Honour”, containing photographs and information on revolutionaries who died in the struggle for India’s independence.)

The Mother: “The Roll of Honour”. They did well to print this quotation over the photograph.

Mona: Yes, Mother. It is a quotation by Lincoln, printed over his photograph.

The Mother: It is very well done. It looks very beautiful and it is a beautiful quotation.[3] Only towards the end, it sounds a little like propaganda — it would have been better if he had put “all turn towards the Divine for guidance….” (The Mother looks at the photographs of several revolutionaries. She looks with much concentration at the photo of one young man who is dead; fully garlanded, he is ready to be taken to the cremation ground for the last rites. The Mother exclaims: ) This one was with Sri Aurobindo!

Mona: Yes, Mother, this is Kanailal Dutt; he was with Sri Aurobindo. It is he who, with the help of Satyen Bose, shot the traitor Naren Goswami in Alipore Jail.

The Mother: It is clearly written on his face that he was with Sri Aurobindo — it is like an aura. His psychic being is burning intensely; it is quite an individualised psychic being. And was he hanged?

Mona: Yes, Mother, both he and Satyen were hanged.

This patriot, Kanai, after he was sentenced to death, put on weight — sixteen pounds — during his last twenty days in jail. And when the sentries came on the last day, they found him sound asleep. They had to call him to wake him up: “Kanai, it is time to go!” Kanai woke up, smiled and followed them. A fellow revolutionary asked him why he was not afraid of death — how he could be so cheerful and even put on weight. He answered, “I have faith in the spirit of the Gita. I shall depart with the name of the Lord on my lips, thinking of Him with whom I wish to be united after death, and I shall be reborn with part of His knowledge and force.”

The Mother: It is very true.

Mona: Mother, is it always so? If at the time of death one thinks of what one wants to become in one’s next life, does one become that when one is reborn?

The Mother: Yes, if one thinks that; it is absolutely true…. (The Mother turns the pages of the book and comments: ) These revolutionaries have proved that the realisation of the embodied Motherland is dearer than life itself. That is why there is no sign of worry or grief on their faces. It is wonderful. And this one — was he also with Sri Aurobindo?

Mona: Yes, Mother, this is Khudiram Bose. It is he who with Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb at the magistrate’s carriage. Usually the magistrate travelled in a particular carriage, but unfortunately on that night two ladies were riding home in a similar carriage and they were killed. Prafulla and Khudiram did not know about this mishap. They ran away as soon as the bomb exploded. The police were soon after them. Prafulla was cornered. When he saw that escape was impossible, he told the police officer, who was an Indian, “Are you not ashamed to catch a patriot and become a traitor to the country? But I shall not allow your sinful hands to catch me.” So saying, he took out his revolver and shot himself through the mouth.

The Mother: Well said, well said. Yes, what he said was perfectly true.

Mona: And the other one, Khudiram, was hanged.

The Mother: Yes, I understand the story now….

Mona: Mother, there is no photograph of Prafulla Chaki here, the one who shot himself through the mouth. It seems that after his death, the British severed his head from his body and sent it to Calcutta for evidence.

The Mother: Oh, how cruel! To behead a patriot! They did the same thing during the French Revolution. It is horrible….

But look at his eyes — they tell you everything. He looks so innocent and at the same time very happy to sacrifice his life for the country. The fire of patriotism is burning in his eyes. And this one — he too was in the same group?

Mona: Yes, Mother, his name is Ashok Nandi.

The Mother: The aura of Sri Aurobindo is around them all, it is very clear, and their psychic being expresses it…. See this one. Oh, his psychic is very much to the front! He surely belonged to Sri Aurobindo’s group.

Mona: Yes, Mother, he is Satyendranath Bose who went smilingly to the gallows. He killed Naren Goswami, the traitor with the help of Kanai. There are others, too, who sacrificed their lives for the Motherland.

The Mother: It is not sacrifice which is written on their face, it is joyful offering to the Motherland — to Mother India. And they have proved something, they have proved that adora­tion of the Motherland is dearer than the life itself. They faced all dangers and fought bravely, whatever the cost. Their psychic beings are all individualised. It is an extraordinary group. All those photos I have seen just now have the markings of a hero. Tejen’s father [Jatindranath Mukherjee] has the markings, and others too. Some of them are endowed with almost divine qualities, rarely to be found among men…. (The Mother turns the pages of the book.) And who is this one at the bottom?

Mona: It is Indu Bhushan Roy.

The Mother: He seems to belong to Sri Aurobindo’s group.

Mona: Yes, Mother, he was a daring boy.

The Mother: And was he also killed?

Mona: He hanged himself in jail, Mother.

The Mother: But why?

Mona: Mother, they tortured him so much that he could no longer use his hands. They were so bruised and full of blisters that he could not even eat. Still he was forced to continue with hard labour, for which he had to use his hands. When he pleaded with the jail authorities, they did not listen. In revolt he hanged himself in his cell.

The Mother: Oh, that’s how they were treated!

Mona: Yes, Mother….

(The Mother turns the pages and looks at other photos.)

The Mother: Oh, this one belongs to His group?

Mona: Yes, Mother. He is Sushil Sen, the brother of Biren Sen who is here in the Ashram.

The Mother: Biren Sen?

Mona: Yes, Mother, he is here, he came a few years back.

The Mother: I don’t know, I don’t remember. If I see him now I will recognise.

Mona: Nolini-da surely spoke to you about him.

The Mother: Maybe, but I don’t quite remember his face.

Mona: Mother, he too was sent to the Andamans like my father. And he too was mercilessly tortured like the others.

The Mother: Oh, I didn’t know.

Mona: Mother, he speaks very little. He is short, about this height (gesture). He looks so quiet and innocent, but he was very courageous and bold. He was in the same group. I think he was the youngest.

The Mother: It is fortunate that he is a quiet man. In silence one finds the greatest power.

Mona: Yes, Mother, yes. And the sadness we see on his face expresses the torture he had to undergo.

The Mother: Yes, he has a strong character. There are many like him here who talk very little but work hard and have a very strong determination.

Mona: Mother, this is his brother, Sushil. Even as a boy he was considered a real patriot. Once it so happened that a police officer, an Englishman, banned a meeting at which a famous Swadeshi leader was to address the people. So Sushil went up to the officer and hit him on the head with a stick because he had banned the meeting. The poor boy was caught at once and ordered to be whipped fifteen times as punishment. A policeman with a big heavy whip started to hit the boy, but he would not be cowed down. Each time he was whipped he shouted aloud “Bande Mataram” and the whole crowd joined in with him, although the slogan was banned. The boy was ordered to keep silent, but he did not listen. It was a pathetic sight — the boy was bleeding, his back was full of scars, chunks of flesh were coming off, but even when the boy fell unconscious they went on beating him.

The Mother: Oh, they had the heart to do such a thing? It’s unbelievable. They are worse than barbarians!

Mona: Mother, no one can imagine how much the Swadeshi prisoners were tortured in the Andamans.

The Mother: The Andamans — that is where your father was sent?

Mona: Yes, Mother.

The Mother: I have heard a little about it. Well, I would like to see this man. What is his name?

Mona: Biren Sen, Mother.

The Mother: All right. There is no hurry. Let him come on his birthday….

These revolutionaries are exceptional. I did not know that Sri Aurobindo had such people around him. Their dedication, their power of endurance and their self-sacrifice were really extraordinary.

Mona: Yes, Mother, they suffered a lot.

The Mother: Yes, one can see that very clearly. It is written on their faces — but without any anxiety, without any regret as to what happened. They surrendered themselves joyfully to the Motherland.

Mona: Mother, Sri Aurobindo wrote that many of his companions in jail were remarkable spirits — noble, brave and patriotic. He even said that they were greater than himself! Of course, he said this out of modesty and humility, but certainly he saw in them a very luminous flame.

The Mother (laughing): Yes, there were people around Him who had individualised psychic beings….

I am sure that the movement Sri Aurobindo initiated in order to free India made such people spring forth, people for whom to live for the Motherland was the only life worth living. What self-abnegation and self-effacement! It is quite obvious that their love for the Motherland was the outcome of His patriotic speeches. His words inspired them to sacrifice their lives for the glory of India. It is the regeneration of India for which He worked. He shook the very foundation of tamas in which the nation had buried itself, resigning itself to its fate. Those speeches delivered by Sri Aurobindo would move any man to rise and fight for the country. How powerful and stimulating they are! He taught them how to worship the Motherland. And you see how these patriots repeat His words… I am happy you showed me these photographs. Now I know those who were around Sri Aurobindo. (The Mother turns the pages. As soon as her eyes fall on a photo of Tarini Prasanna Majumdar, she exclaims enthusiastically.) Oh, yes, it’s him, yes, yes, I recognize him, his eyes… yes, it’s him… I see him everyday. What’s his name?

Mona: Tarini Prasanna Majumdar, Mother.

The Mother: Tarini Prasanna Majumdar. When did he pass away?

Mona: On the 15th June 1918, Mother.

The Mother: On the 15th June 1918! His being came back after so many years. He spent really a long time up there, enjoying himself and then he came back to finish his work he had started. It seems he was prematurely killed. And since then, he has been looking for someone suitable with that intensity or heart, who could finish the work he started. He was Bengali?

Mona: Yes, Mother.

The Mother: A Brahmin?

Mona: Yes, Mother. A Brahmin.

The Mother: But he came back after a long time. Usually, when one dies prematurely and has some work to accomplish, one takes birth very soon. He was a very determined and sincere man, who wanted to complete his work. He wanted it almost desperately. I knew him long, long ago. The part of his being that comes to me is his vital and his subtle physical. They wanted to finish the work he started. One of his beings, the vital, was not satisfied so it wandered in these earthly regions in order to find a medium and finish his work.

Mona: So, Mother, where is his psychic being?

The Mother: It has left, it is there in the higher regions. Actually, his psychic being is a little diffused.

Mona: What does that mean, Mother?

The Mother: It means that his psychic was not fully individualised. It was still a little hazy.

Mona: I don’t understand, Mother.

The Mother: I mean that his psychic was not developed enough to choose its own destiny. His psychic could not leave the body, come back as it wished, and choose the place most suitable for its specific work. When the psychic is individualised, it chooses the place and the circumstances that will help it best to accomplish what it comes for during the whole of its earthly existence, and when this is done it departs at will. I can see that his psychic being was not quite illumined, but he had a very strong will-power. I must say that most people are not at all aware of their psychic being; it is so hazy, sometimes so clouded that one would think they have no psychic being. But in this case, the psychic is somewhat illumined, but not yet individualised or conscious — but still, it is clearly visible….

Mona: His name is Bhagat Singh. He is quite famous.

The Mother: He looks very determined.

Mona: They tortured him a lot before sending him to the gallows.

The Mother: He too was hanged?

Mona: Yes, Mother.

The Mother: Then why did they torture him?

Mona: To collect evidence from him, of parties and their secret activities.

The Mother: Oh! to hang him was not enough for them.

Mona: Here is another photo of Bhagat Singh.

The Mother: He looks like a hero! (The Mother turns the pages and pointing to the photos of some freedom fighters asks who they were.)

Mona: Oh, Mother! These were the men who captured from the British the surrounding portion of the town of Chittagong and declared the area free. They had held that freedom for a short while until new British reinforcements came. But they put up a stiff fight until they were overcome by a much larger force. Although they were short of ammunition, they never relented and many were killed. Surya Sen was their leader.

The Mother: They look so innocent, but very determined and devoted.

This is a thing I cannot understand; foreigners who come to rule a nation, to found an empire — and not only do they brutally try to enslave the people in a crude and degrading way but they forbid them to assert their human freedom, to love their Motherland, to worship the power she symbolises, to offer their work and their happiness to the Glory they adore. I cannot understand their purpose. Not only do they behave like marauders, sucking the blood of the nation and most of its wealth — its industry, agriculture, minerals — but they rule the country as it pleases them, and use all this wealth and financial power to live in even greater luxury and dazzle the whole world. All this at the expense of poor India who suffers so much, who cries out in agony — India torn by anxiety and always in need, with the disastrous consequence of famine and death. And yet she is not even allowed to raise her voice. That’s sheer barbarism!….

Oh! it was not enough for them to squeeze the last penny out of the land, they also had to empty the nation of its essential vitality, its aim and motive, its sovereign ideal. They tried to impose their low and empty culture which they claimed to be the highest and best, upon a nation whose wonderful culture has reigned supreme over the world since the beginning of time. That is why Sri Aurobindo came — he came to save India which was plunging headlong into the abyss and might have lost her soul…. (The Mother turns the pages.) It is wonderful, one can read it on their faces: no trace of grief, not the least fear of death, but a sort of anxiety because they had not been able to complete their task they vowed they would accomplish to free India from her foreign yoke. A sort of pain in their heart at the thought that they had to die too soon. Otherwise, they were ready to use any means to throw the British out of India. They were so devoted to their Motherland that they were ready to sacrifice their lives for Her. One even feels that they were proud to offer their lives on the altar of the Mother’s temple as if to adore Her. Oh, what a wonderful self-abnegation for the sake of the country! It is truly unique…. (The Mother turns the pages and sees the photograph of a woman) Ah! but it is a woman! Women too were helping revolutionaries at that time?

Mona: Indirectly, Mother. Yes, many women helped the movement and gave their support to it even at the risk of their lives. They helped by hiding weapons and money or by carrying them to those who needed them but could come out of their hide-outs only at night. They helped and inspired the political absconders….

(The Mother turns the pages and looks at the photos of Santosh Kumar Mitra and Chandra Sekhar Azad)

The Mother: Oh, these are wonderful! Each has his own character but who can say who was the braver of the two? Oh, this one, (Azad) his eyes are like a fire that burns to conquer and take its revenge over the prevailing injustice… (The Mother turns the pages and sees a photo of Jatindranath Mukherjee)

Mona: Mother, this is Tejen’s[4] father.

The Mother: But he resembles Prithwin[5] very much.

Mona: Yes, Mother. Jatin had a group, and all of them were killed in an open fight against British soldiers. They were waiting for a shipload of armaments from Germany. Unfortunately, the ship did not turn up as expected, that spoiled their plans. The British got scent of it and attacked them in force. They were all killed.

The Mother: Yes, yes, I know this man, he has exceptional qualities — his psychic is quite individualised, he knew what was going to happen, but that did not worry him at all….

And who is this one?

Mona: Subhas Bose.

The Mother: Oh, Subhas Bose!

Mona: And here again Mother, here is Subhas Bose in front of the Cellular Jails in the Andamans.

The Mother: Yes, I know.

Mona: Mother, this is the place where my father, Barin-da and others were sent after the trial. My father was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and Barin-da for life. It is in this jail that they were kept. (The Mother looks closely at the picture) Mother, it is Subhas who chased the British out of the Andamans with the help of the Japanese. This is his photograph after his conquest of the island.

The Mother: In him also the inner fire is burning. His psychic is illumined. Yes, it is very clear….

(After having seen all the photographs, the Mother says)

The Mother: It is very interesting, but where is the photograph of your father?

Mona: Mother, in this book they show only the pictures of the revolutionaries who have been killed while fighting the British. Only those who have been killed.

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar: Photograph taken by the police
on the eve of transportation, 1909

 

The Mother: Oh, only those who have sacrificed their lives.

Mona: Yes, Mother….

The Mother: It was really an exceptional time in History, and they were exceptional people to have the courage to challenge the British Government. It is an extraordinary group…

Well, bring me this book some other day. I’ll look at it in more detail and read a little. It is interesting to see how Sri Aurobindo began this movement and how it produced so many gifted people….

 


 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

The Mother on Sudhir

 

Sudhir went to see the Mother on his eightieth birthday with his son Mona. Here is a portion of the talk held with the Mother on that day, reproduced from memory.

 

The Mother: It is your father’s birthday today, isn’t it?

Mona: Yes, Mother.

The Mother: Bonne Fête (Happy birthday)! How old is he today?

Mona: He is eighty, Mother.

The Mother: Eighty! Oh, quite a respectable age! But what is the matter, he seems to be a little tired. When did he come here?

Mona: Before ten, Mother….

The Mother: There! (The Mother gives a bouquet of flowers to my father and blesses him.) He is still quite strong.

Mona: Yes, Mother. He does the marching every evening, he does his daily chores, he even washes his clothes himself. He doesn’t want any help.

The Mother: It’s good.

Mona: He says: “As long as I live, I’ll do my work myself.”

The Mother: Yes, it’s a good training. Very good, very good. Tell him that I am pleased with him. (Turning to my father) good, good. I am happy to see you like this. What does he want? He wants to tell me something?

(My father shakes his head and brings it closer to the Mother’s face. I ask him what he wants. He tells me.)

Mona: Mother, he wants to touch your forehead with his forehead.

The Mother: Oh, oh!

Mona: That’s his way, Mother, to touch foreheads. He says “Let my fate merge with Thine”.

The Mother: All right, all right, it is good. I understand. Let it be, I accept. (The Mother touches her forehead with his) It is all right, he is very sweet. Yes, yes, all right. (My father, filled with emotion, repeats “Ma, Ma,” tears flowing from his eyes.) It is all right, I accept, I agree. Tell him to remain quiet and peaceful.

Mona: Mother, that is what is most difficult for him. When there is some trouble in India or when some one doesn’t agree with him, he can’t remain quiet. But, Mother, if you talk to him, then he will obey You. Otherwise, he will never be quiet.

The Mother: He shouldn’t get excited or upset. It is not good for him to think about all that is happening everywhere; it is not good. He must remain calm and peaceful, and not concern himself with all that noise. Nothing good comes out of it. On the contrary, it empties you of all your energy. Everything will be all right. Think of Me. I have taken charge of India. Don’t worry.

(The Mother spoke these last words with great power and conviction. She seemed to give my father the assurance that she had taken charge of India’s destiny.)

Quiet and peaceful, quiet and peaceful, and all shall go well. (My father does Pranam and the Mother blesses him.) Now don’t keep him waiting. Good. Does he need help? Can he climb down the staircase?

Mona: Yes, Mother, easily.

(I told my father to go down and wait for me; then the Mother told me: )

The Mother: You know, I have noticed something quite exceptional in him: his power of absorption in the physical is fantastic. He can receive directly through the physical. Generally one receives mainly through the heart, a little through the mind and the other parts of the being, but rarely through the physical. But your father receives vibrations directly through the physical. It is an extraordinary capacity. The force and power now into him as soon as he touches me; through his physical sensation, he can absorb everything. For most people, this assimilation is done through the inner faculties, but he can receive directly, just by touching me, through the pores of his body; the cells, the muscles absorb and retain the very essence of what he sees and touches. It is a thrilling experience as they say. He is very receptive physically. It is a gift from the Divine Grace, it is because your father has done so much for Sri Aurobindo; that is why.

He has suffered a lot?

Mona: Yes, Mother, but he never complained about anything. He once asked Sri Aurobindo: “If they torture us, what shall we do?” And Sri Aurobindo answered: “Think of Me, I shall always be with you.” And more than once my father was miraculously saved.

 

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar before the Mother

 

Once in the jungle of Assam, he found himself face to face with a royal Bengal tiger, but the tiger simply growled, then jumped over his head and did not hurt him. My father was on a cycle and could do nothing.

The Mother: Yes, that is how it is when one is protected by the Grace. Nobody knows how or why, a tiger does not swallow a man who is unarmed. The mind cannot explain these things. One cannot reason it out.

Mona: Mother, he says that when he is alone and a little dreamy, he can hear the pulsations and trepidations of Mother Earth groaning in agony, trembling in pain at the pitiful condition of Mother India. And this he cannot bear Mother.

The Mother: But this is what Sri Aurobindo saw and worshipped as the Motherland a living entity, a divine being who is resplendent and fulfils all our needs.

Mona: Mother, when he does the marching at the playground, he says, he feels as if he were marching on the breast of Mother India, calling at each step for the glorious reunification, as wished by Sri Aurobindo. And he hears the Jayadhvani, the sound of victory.

The Mother: Yes, his way of looking at things is quite unique; it shows how faithful he is to Sri Aurobindo.

Mona: Mother, Nolini-da says that my father was absolutely fearless. It is he who saved Nolini-da from going to the Andamans.

The Mother: Yes, yes, Nolini told me the story. I know everything.

Mona: You know, Mother, my father had the good fortune to stay in Sri Aurobindo’s house for more than a year. The others worked at Manicktala Garden making bombs. And they came to meet Sri Aurobindo only occasionally. But my father stayed with Him. Barin-da, Sarojini Devi, and Mrinalini Devi were living there and the five of them shared the little that Sri Aurobindo earned.

During this time Sri Aurobindo was translating the Mahabharata into English verse. While typing it out, he was also teaching English to my father. So my father asked him how he could do both simultaneously, teaching and translating the Mahabharata. Sri Aurobindo told him that if one cultivates all one’s faculties, one can do many things at the same time.

The Mother: Yes, it is very interesting.

Mona: There are many other anecdotes. Once, my father was unwell and he could not control himself: he spewed on Sri Aurobindo’s papers, on his translations of the Mahabharata. Without saying a word Sri Aurobindo cleaned up everything. He did it without uttering a word. Not even an exclamation, like “Oh all my papers are spoilt”. And then he nursed my father.

The Mother: What a joy to be near Him.

Mona: Mother, my father used to say: “I don’t know whether Sri Aurobindo is a man or a god but certainly he is not a man, because men get angry and they have their likes and dislikes. But Sri Aurobindo had none whatsoever. My father tried many tricks to see if he could make Sri Aurobindo angry, but he never succeeded. Nobody could believe how patient Sri Aurobindo was.

The Mother: Yes, it is true. He was not a man but the Lord Himself.

Mona: Even in jail my father used to look after Sri Aurobindo, who was in trance much of the time. One had to be near Him to serve Him. And my father often said that it was a joy to touch His body.

The Mother: Oh, that is why he has been worthily rewarded, because he served Sri Aurobindo.

Mona: Yes, Mother, and now he says: “I must see the Mother’s kingdom established on earth before I go.”

 

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar in 1968

 

The Mother: Yes, your father has his own way of looking at things, and he has an absolute faith in that.

Mona: Mother, he says that we were traitors because we did not completely accept Sri Aurobindo’s Mother India as a living Entity, a living God; so in order to establish the truth, He has brought down now the living Mother, the Divine Mother. (The Mother laughs)

The Mother: It is very sweet. I understand, I know, it is quite clear now.

Mona: Mother, while observing Nature he feels that all the leaves and flowers, all the plants and branches are playing, they dance and smile all the time and invite man to share this joy so that he may lead a better, and more harmonious life.

The Mother: Yes, it is quite true; he has this capacity to see the reality behind things, as they are in the subtle world. He has this inner perception which enables him to communicate with nature. This power of physical absorption, this vision of the subtle world, are Sri Aurobindo’s great gifts to him. Because your father took care of Sri Aurobindo, because he is so close to Him, he has been well rewarded. He is among the “gifted” ones who have an individualised psychic being. That is why he has been so often saved from dangers as if by miracle. Yes, it is not only the Grace, but the assurance of being blessed for ever perpetually.

Mona: Yes, Mother, it is so evident; whatever he has attempted in his life has been a formidable success.

The Mother: Yes, that is how one is rewarded. If one is a little grateful to Sri Aurobindo or helps Him or thinks of Him with gratitude, the Lord sees everything and His kindness em­braces you, His mercy flows, immeasurable, infinite, and His protection makes you invincible. For a little service, you receive something eternal, a gift to cherish for ever. No doubt, your father has had his share.

Tell him to remain quiet. Explain to him lovingly that the Mother has taken charge of India. I know how difficult it is for him, but let him not worry.

Oh, to be close to Sri Aurobindo is not only an exceptional privilege, it is something unique.

What a joy! What a splendour! for Him, everything is possible. Your father is very fortunate.

A life lived in Sri Aurobindo’s aura — one can feel it immediately. A life lived in His aura.

 

Facsimile of the Birthday Card given by the Mother. As 21st February
is a Darshan day, the Mother changed the date to 22nd February.

 


 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

Suniti Devi – Sudhir’s Wife

 

Part I

 

The Mother said she was a being from another world.

Here is a portion of the Mother’s talk on Suniti Devi with her son Mona.

Mona: Mother, here is the photo of my mother that you wanted to see.

The Mother: Ah! show it to me. She is your mother… (The Mother concentrates on the photo). She is very pretty and endowed with a deep intelligence. Her psychic was illumined — that is quite evident. Ah, let me see. (The Mother goes into trance) But she did not belong to this world. She belonged to the world of Gandharvas. Do you understand what it means?

There are beings who take birth from time to time, who come down upon earth to complete some experience or realisation, and your mother is one of them. She lives there, above our earth, but very close to us, in the world of Gandharvas; these beings are blessed with exceptional qualities.

Her devotion and self-abnegation are quite extraordinary. She is very, very devoted, and patient. She has very distinct spiritual qualities. Her eyes are quite similar to yours; in fact, you have inherited many things from her…. I know her very well. It is because she was very open to Me that she had these experiences. It is I who guided her. She was a very sweet woman.

Mona: Yes, Mother, it is true.

The Mother: Do you remember her?

Mona: Very well, Mother.

The Mother: But you were very young.

Mona: Still, I remember her quite well. Once when she was ill, she called me to her side and talked to me asking me not to repeat it to anyone. “Your place is in Pondicherry, in the lap of the Divine Mother. I have told the Mother and have arranged everything for you. When I leave the body, you will go there; in fact, all of you will go.”

The Mother: You see, she was right. It is true that you received much from her.

Mona: And from my father?

The Mother: You inherited some qualities from your father too: courage, frankness — and you are well-built…. (Then the Mother went into trance for sometime; when She came out, She commented: ) These people like your father, who served Sri Aurobindo during the revolution in India, were truly a class apart. They were all valiant warriors who sacrificed everything for their Motherland, and only the Motherland existed for them. They had an unswerving sense of duty to the country. They worshipped India as the Mother — Aditi. Such was their devotion. Truly speaking, they were not ordinary people, they were beings from a higher world who came down here upon earth only to work with Sri Aurobindo, to accomplish His work.

Suniti Devi, wife of Sudhir Sarkar

 

They suffered a lot, but this did not alter their character. They had the capacity to do everything for Sri Aurobindo, attempt everything, offer everything to Him. They were very open to Him; that is why they were so successful. As I told you, their psychic beings were quite individualised, so they knew what their duty was: to free India. They launched themselves into this adventure not for any egoistic motive, certainly not for fame, but to sacrifice their lives for the country. And so many of them died. We saw their photos the other day. And they did their duty with utter devotion. One after another, they gave up their lives, humbly, quietly. They were true disciples and patriots of Mother India, courageous, noble, brave and selfless workers. Sri Aurobindo shaped them according to His will, and they gave themselves to Him. It is something exceptional.

Mona: Yes, Mother, they had no sense of fear at all, they were ready to do anything.

The Mother: Yes, that’s what they had been taught — the sense of duty and a total self-abnegation. Because at that time only a handful of people had come down here to do this specific work of helping Sri Aurobindo. They did what they had to do, and then they left without caring for themselves. That chapter is closed now.

 

 

Part II

 

Delusion or Prophetic Vision?

 

An article written by Sudhir in 1952 on his wife Suniti Devi.

I had been released from prison and was then travelling extensively on business in Assam, Calcutta, Rajshahi, Khulna. At the Calcutta office of the Bengali magazine “Bijoli” I received a telegram: “Suniti ill come at once.” I took the night train and reached Khulna, my home town, in the morning. My mother opened the door and in a tear-strained voice whispered, “Something is very wrong with your wife. She has stopped eating, sleeping, bathing. She just lies in bed and smiles as though she is watching something wonderful. If questioned, she utters strange truths about one’s past and future destiny. For the last few days people have been pouring into the house to consult her about their future. Unable to control the crowd, your father now keeps the main gate locked…”

But still the crowd did not diminish.

One of my younger brothers had just come home after appearing for his medical examination. When he asked my wife about his result, she announced, “You’ve passed.” My youngest brother had left college and joined our family business. When there was a theft in our shop, following my wife’s instructions he caught the salesmen who had stolen the money and hidden it in a secret nook under a cupboard. My wife had never seen that shop in the market-place and yet she correctly predicted that the money would be found under cupboard No. 6!

My elder sister had been married to a high caste brahmin. Later when we learnt that the man was a habitual drunkard and wife-beater, my father brought her back to live permanently in our house. One night she dreamt that her husband was missing. When she narrated her dream to my wife, Suniti informed her that he had died quite some time back. My sister put on a widow’s dress and renounced non-vegetarian food….

All these incidents had created a tense and heavy atmosphere in our house. When I had heard everything, I too was worried. After getting over the first shock, I began to think, “What was going to happen in the future? In her present condition how will my wife be able to meet the many social demands that a joint Hindu family like ours imposes on her?”

However, for the present I decided to ask her a few questions of my own. I wanted to know what Sri Aurobindo was doing in Pondicherry. I had heard that in Alipore Jail Sri Aurobindo had attained the realisation of the omnipresent Vasudeva. (After observing silence for nearly a year, he had made predictions about our sentences long before the judicial verdict was out. Later we found that every word had come true!) So what puzzled us was why a man who had already gained divine realisation should go to Pondicherry for further sadhana? What more was there to achieve? Of course, once in a while we got news from Pondicherry from our co-revolutionaries — Bijoy Nag, Nolini Gupta, Upen Banerjee and Hrishikesh. We heard that around the year 1920 Sri Aurobindo had said that India’s freedom was already a reality in the subtle world; its earthly manifestation was being delayed only due to our own defects….

I asked my wife, “Is it true that you have become a fortuneteller, that you are telling people truths about their past and future?”

“It is not me — my Mother tells me everything.”

“Who is that Mother?”

Suniti was lying in bed. She pointed to a photo behind her head and murmured, “How beautiful the Mother is, her face is like the moon, her smile is like moonlight. When I turn to her, she takes me to all sorts of places. When I ask her a question, she shows me things and tells me the answer. Her voice is very sweet, like the sound of the flute.”

I asked her, “Can you tell me what is happening now in the ‘Bijoli’ office?”

Without pausing for breath, she replied, “Bibhuti-da is playing the harmonium, Barin-da’s room is closed, and so is Upen-da’s but Upen-da is writing something. Sarojini-di is reading a book.”

Since all this tallied with my knowledge of their habits, I asked again, “Now tell me what Sri Aurobindo is doing.”

For a long while she gazed at the ceiling, then replied, “The Mother says, ‘That is none of your business.’”

Shamelessly I persisted, “Don’t you have any feelings for me? As my wife you should know how eager I am to learn about him. Why don’t you plead with your ‘Mother’ on my behalf?”

At once a change came over her. She gradually began to turn blue, like the colour of her veins; her breathing stopped, her body became cold and damp with sweat. My mother, who was fanning her, burst out crying, “Sudhir, you’ve troubled me all my life and now you’ve done something which has killed my gem of a daughter-in-law!”

I was badly shaken. I struggled hard to control myself lest I should join my mother in her wailing.

After two or three minutes, my wife sighed deeply. Then the blue began to fade from her body. She looked around, laughed and clapped her hands like a child. “Look, look, my mother has come!”

“What had happened to you,” I asked her.

“The Mother had abandoned me and I felt as if I had fallen into a deep well. It was so dark there!”

From Pondicherry Bijoy Nag came to our house to see things for himself.

He asked my wife, “Can you tell me what I want?”

“You want everything. You want to satisfy all your worldly cravings and at the same time you want salvation. But that you cannot have.”

Bijoy was embarrassed, because indeed there was a kind of all-devouring greed in his nature.

Taking this opportunity, I again asked her about Sri Aurobindo.

She answered, “The Mother says, ‘Why do you want to know?’ (then as if consenting) Oh, all right. Do you see that two-storey building with the terrace facing south and tastefully arranged with flower pots? Sri Aurobindo is in the room which goes out to that terrace.”

“Can you see him,” I asked her.

“Of course I see him. He has long hair, a beard and moustache. In our house I’ve seen that photo of his in which he is standing with a corner of his dhoti wrapped round his shoulders. But now he looks a little different — he is sitting very still, as though in a trance.”

I was greedy to learn more. “Tell me what he is actually doing.”

“That I cannot tell you. The Mother keeps saying that it does not concern you.”

I consoled myself with the thought that it was not in my destiny to reach that place, but still I asked her, “Why don’t you ask your Mother to tell you. If you know it, that’s enough for me.” She was silent.

The day after Sri Aurobindo was informed about my wife’s condition, she became completely normal. She got up in the morning as usual and went about her daily activities. Of the happenings of the previous few days she did not remember anything.

After returning to Pondicherry, Bijoy Nag reported the whole incident to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo, it seems, commented that in the spiritual world there are such “mothers” who are unwilling to take a human birth and yet want to experience motherly feelings and human love — it is they who take possession of a person in order to fulfil their desires.

 


 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

Part I
A Life Sketch of Sudhir K. Sarkar

 

Mona Sarkar

 

Sri Sudhir Kumar Sarkar “one of the bravest and most fearless sons of the Motherland,” as Sri Nolini Kanta Gupta put it, was among the first batch of revolutionaries that, at the turn of this century, became active under the leadership of Sri Aurobindo. Born in Faridpur (Bogra, now in Bangladesh) on 21st February 1889, he was the son of Dr. Prasanna Kumar Sarkar (Bagchi), an eminent medical practitioner, who was also a close associate of Dr. K. D. Ghosh, Sri Aurobindo’s father in Khulna.

Sudhir was endowed with a strong body; it was a natural gift from god. He could not bear the inequality by which the Europeans enjoyed a high-nosed superiority. Once at school a British inspector’s son, a fellow student insulted Sudhir. Quick to react, he beat the boy up badly and was summoned to court, though he was not yet in his teens. Luckily for Sudhir, the judge was sympathetic and pooh-poohed the whole issue saying: “Perhaps next time you will bring babies in their cradles into the court-room because they quarrel with each other.”

The dauntless and irrepressible youngster could not be moulded into the narrow pattern of the prevailing system of education. Dejected and revolted by its dreary method of teaching, he set fire to his school with the help of a friend. Fortunately not much damage was done. The authorities threatened to remove him from school, but relented.

Sudhir began to absent himself from school, instead he often went to the outskirts of the town to help the poor. This social work gave him ample opportunity to mix with these illiterate villagers and become a part of their life. Hardly fourteen years of age, he was already striving to relieve his countrymen from the agony of subjugation. All his life he would pursue this work with steadfast diligence.

Then came the turning point when in 1905, Bengal was divided by the rulers. This blow struck off, as it were, the Mother’s limbs from Her body and left Her maimed. In the unrest that followed it seemed that a new nation was struggling to break forth from the turmoil and rising to challenge the mighty authority of the British Raj. Sri Aurobindo held the helm of the rising nation and demanded unqualified freedom for India. His speeches and articles inspired the youth of the country to undaunted courage. They felt one with the Motherland, worshiped Her as the Mother and offered their life at Her feet. They were ready to sacrifice all for Her sake. Nothing was dearer to them than the Motherland.

Sudhir was naturally drawn to this new credo. He involved himself fully in the drive for independence. How could he devote his time to studies? His mind was enmeshed in the throes of the revolution. The desperate boy failed in school. Sudhir’s father hoping to keep his son out of the Swadeshi movement sent him to study with his elder brother, who was living in Sahebganj. The year was 1907. This was precisely the opportunity that Sudhir was waiting for. He ran away and joined the staff of Jugantar, a revolutionary newspaper, in Calcutta. There he met Barindra K. Ghose, the younger brother of Sri Aurobindo, who assigned him work on the newspaper. Later he was chosen by Barin to train in revolutionary warfare at Manicktala Garden. He thus became one of a select few in an intrepid group moulded by the laws and rites of Ma Bhavani. Sudhir was initiated into the group only after he had pledged himself with a solemn Oath: Voluntarily drawing blood out of his chest he wrote in red before the image of Mother Kali: “I hereby promise to abide by the laws and rules that govern the revolutionary party, and to follow its strictest norms even at the cost of my life.”

Now for Sudhir nothing was greater than the imperative need to serve the Motherland, to adore Her, even to die for Her. This was the clarion call that Sri Aurobindo had sounded and Sudhir’s inner being responded to it unhesitatingly. Urged on by that inner call, Sudhir plunged into the cauldron of revolutionary activity with fearless determination, brushing aside all comforts of life. He denounced all that resisted the liberation of India. Inspired by the lofty ideals of freedom he found himself amidst some of the most valiant sons of the Motherland, whose courage, devotion and sacrifice for Her have been unparalleled. Although just eighteen years of age, he became a trusted colleague of such notable revolutionaries as Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Ullaskar Dutt, Hemchandra Das, Profulla Chaki, Khudiram Bose, Kanailal Dutt and Satyendranath Bose. Thus was forged the link that shaped Sudhir’s destiny.

 

Profile of Sudhir K. Sarkar on the eve of transportation

 

An occasion arose when Sudhir with six other revolutionaries were sent to Jamalpur to punish the anti-social elements who had disturbed the age-old communal harmony of the region. The revolutionaries confronted a huge crowd of rowdies. The police came and arrested the revolutionaries; Sudhir alone managed to escape. When he returned to Calcutta he was lauded as a hero. In the eyes of the leaders he was a brave and dependable fighter. As if in recognition of his capability he was given the opportunity to attend upon Sri Aurobindo. Thus Sudhir lived, studied and worked with Sri Aurobindo as a member of the family. One of his tasks was to deliver letters from Sri Aurobindo to several people in order to raise funds for the revolutionary cause. Sometimes he was entrusted with plans and programmes of the revolution to show them to sympathisers and potential patrons.

In December 1907 Sri Aurobindo went to the Indian National Congress session at Surat. Sudhir accompanied him as his personal attendant and served him as his bodyguard. After the break-up of the Congress he went with Sri Aurobindo in the latter’s lecture tour of Western India.

On April 30th 1908 an attempt was made to assassinate the Muzzafarpore magistrate — Kingsford. The Government decided to crack down on the revolutionaries. On May 10th, Sudhir was arrested in Khulna. Sri Aurobindo and many others had already been apprehended. Finally, thirty-eight were indicted and spent one year in jail as undertrial prisoners in the celebrated Alipore Bomb Case. Their attitude towards life puzzled the jail authorities. They had no fear of punishment or death.

For much of his time in jail, Sri Aurobindo remained in trance, unconcerned about his outward needs. This was a great opportunity for Sudhir, to accomplish the work assigned to him. Faithfully he served his Master.

In August two revolutionaries shot an approver, Naren Goswami in the jail precincts. With the result the swadeshi prisoners were put in solitary confinement. The only place where they could meet and speak with others was the courtroom. Here, Sudhir once threatened to assault a sentry who dared to manhandle Sri Aurobindo.

When judgement was delivered in May 1909, Sri Aurobindo and eighteen others were acquitted; Barin, Sudhir and seventeen others were convicted of waging war against the King and they were sentenced to transportation for life to the Andaman Islands and their property was to be confiscated. Upon appeal to the High Court, this sentence was reduced to seven years, for Sudhir. In the Andamans, the Swadeshi prisoners were subjected to inhuman tortures — the jail officials tried to crush them physically, with compulsory hard labour, tormenting them mentally and morally. Unpalatable food, scarcity of drinking water, a host of abuses, a heap of unthinkable punishments, such was their daily lot. But nothing could break their inner strength; these valiant warriors were sustained by an inner fire. Had not Sri Aurobindo written thus?: “When a young worker in Bengal has to go to jail… he goes forward with joy. He says: ‘The hour of my consecration has come, and I have to thank God now that the time for laying myself on this altar has arrived and that I have been chosen to suffer for the good of my countrymen. This is the hour of my greatest joy and the fulfilment of my life.’”

The political prisoners put up a strong resistance. Many tried to escape, some even prepared a time-bomb in those trying conditions. Sudhir was among them. All these movements kept the officials at the Devil’s island busy and worried.

Finally in 1914 Sudhir was transferred to jails on the main land. Four years later on May 22, 1918 finally he was released, having spent ten full years of his blossoming youth in those putrid dungeons. Though free he was a mere breathing skeleton sapped of all vitality. It was a miracle that he survived the ordeal… What sustained him was his undying patriotism, his experience of the Motherland as a living being. This was the source of his inspiration and strength; it gave him courage to make unlimited sacrifices.

In the following years, the Government never left Sudhir alone; their eyes were always on him. To avoid harassment he sometimes went into hiding. But he could never abandon his urge to liberate the Motherland; that was the centre around which his life revolved. Bound by the conditions of his release Sudhir could not openly express his feelings, but secretly he instilled them into the hearts of the next generation of young revolutionaries.

In 1918 when Sudhir got out of prison, the freedom movement had petered out due to Government repression. Almost thirty, Sudhir had to make a living. But he was too independent to work under anyone. He sought to build his life in a different way. With the help of a family friend in Khulna, who provided him with a small amount of capital, he tried his hand at several business ventures, and achieved considerable success. He had the mind of an innovator and pioneer, and the deft hand of a practical man. He went to the forests of Assam to extract Catechu from Accacia trees; he was one of the first to manufacture it on a large scale. He also manufactured large size reinforced concrete pipes for carrying water, a rare enterprise at that time. He also experimented with the constructions of flush toilets with septic tanks. Though he never studied civil or mechanical engineering nor received proper training, many of his projects were highly fruitful. But in these activities Sudhir was not worldly minded nor motivated by profits. Much of the money he earned was channalised towards helping young revolutionaries. He himself always sought to live a simple life.

Sudhir did not marry until he could stand on his own feet. He agreed to marry because an enlightened Kapalik had advised him to do so; it was also a condition laid down by the Government for his release. In the early 1920s he wedded Suniti Devi of Pangsha, Faridpur. In her he found a true friend and guide. It was an extraordinary blessing for him. Highly gifted and a source of inspiration to Sudhir in his dangerous revolutionary activities, she was also a patient mother and a comrade in his spiritual quest.

Suniti Devi often had visions of mystic realities in a state of trance. She was in contact with the Mother and it was the Mother who guided her inwardly although she never came to Pondicherry. The Mother once said that she was a being from a higher plane. She passed away in 1940.

 

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar

 

After her passing Sudhir’s only wish was to bring his family to live at the Mother’s feet in Pondicherry. For it is here that he found the culmination of his highest ideals. From 1938 he started coming regularly to Ashram once or twice a year and started many new ventures. In 1943 She granted him his cherished wish to join Her with his family. He surrendered everything to the Mother and settled down in the Ashram with his children.

As the need of the Ashram grew, Sudhir’s professional talents found many expressions. Among his enterprises over the years he introduced were the constructions of flush toilets with septic tanks, the manufacture of hand-made paper, washing soap, lime, dyeing of clothes and the establishment of the pottery. A tireless worker with an indomitable will and an adventurous spirit he became a willing and humble instrument in the Mother’s hands.

In character, Sudhir was simple, unassuming and rustic. What he said he believed and what he believed he practised. There was no division in him, no sense of high and low. Sudhir was always independent in temper and chose to be different from others.

Sudhir was a warrior to the core, but there was also a tender side to his nature, he had the sweetness of heart and childlike disposition that belong to the simple and spiritual. Loving and generous he was always ready to help others. Precisely for this reason he practised homoeopathy; indeed from his childhood he had a passion for homoeopathy. Had Sudhir not been dragged into the Swadeshi movement he was planning to go abroad to learn homoeopathy. During the last years of his prison life, when he was confined alone in the jungle island, he studied books on homoeopathy and learnt the system all by himself. People who were treated by him clearly felt that his diagnosis was always intuitive. The medicines he gave were charged with a power of love and a trust in the triumph of the Grace.

Sudhir was endowed with a fine bodily strength which kept him healthy and joyful. He was a great believer in physical fitness. His solid hands which could easily chop wood with an axe could also skilfully darn a piece of silk.

His intense love for the Mother, in whom he saw the embodiment of his Motherland and his sincerity and integrity made him Her worthy child. Of him the Mother once said, “Sudhir is my true Bhakta”.

Sudhir’s thoughts, dreams and actions all concerned Mother India. He was one of those visionaries who saw India not merely as a geographical or political entity, but as a spirit that was an emanation of the Divine. For him the concept of Mother India as a Divinity was not a figure of speech but a living experience. Sudhir fervently believed in Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a united India. His ardent wish was always to see a strong India and the Mother’s kingdom established on earth.

Sudhir passed away on April 27th, in 1974 at the age of 85. He was at once a yogi and a Bhakta; he was as Jayaprakash Narayan observed “a lion among men”. May his life inspire the youth of today. To remember him is to remember the idealism and spirit of sacrifice that once inspired a chosen few and through them electrified the multitudes of this country. To remember him is to remember the faith they had in India’s greatness, in her mission of the spiritual regeneration of mankind. To remember him is to remember the noble vision for which they lived and died, the vision of their Master, Sri Aurobindo.

 

 

Part II

Incidents in Sudhir’s Life

 

(We present here some interesting episodes in Sudhir’s adventurous life. Some were written by Sudhir himself;[6] others were narrated by him to his children and friends. Mona has recounted them from memory. The incidents written by Sudhir are indicated by an (S) at their end; those by Mona, by an (M). There are others based on reminiscences of persons who came in contact with Sudhir.)

 

1907 – Jamalpur, Bengal

The Riots

About the incident at Jamalpur [7] Sudhir observed:

When all efforts for a compromise failed and the disguise of the seven revolutionaries proved futile they had no other option but to open fire with the pistols they carried in order to defend themselves. Their orders were to aim only below the knees, and that too only in dire necessity. Soon the police arrived and the seven were cordoned off and arrested on charges of murder. Sudhir gave them the slip taking with him the firearms of his friends to lessen their trouble. Mingling in the crowd, foiling the plans of the police with his ingenuity he was far away by nightfall. Tired and thirsty he took shelter in a cobbler’s hut. Later on, he moved homeward in the disguise of a cobbler. The only thought which gnawed at his heart was that he had escaped alone, leaving his colleagues behind. What a shame! But back home in Calcutta, the leaders cleared all his doubts consoling him by saying: “If everyone gets caught, how will the work continue? You have done well to join us again; what is more you have given slip to the British”.

(M)

 

1907 – Calcutta

Bodyguard of Sri Aurobindo

With Sudhir Sarkar as his bodyguard, Sri Aurobindo went to the Surat Congress meeting. After accomplishing their work in Chandernagore Barinda, Upenda and others proceeded to Surat. There Barinda, Upenda, Ullasda and others created the pandemonium at the Surat meeting and then returned to Calcutta.

Upon reaching home I heard that Sri Aurobindo, along with Sudhir Sarkar, had left for Bombay, Baroda, Pune, Amravati and other places to proclaim nationalism. Later he returned to Calcutta.

On the 5th or 6th December Sri Aurobindo started for Midnapore. Dada (Ashwini K. Bhattacharjee) sent Sudhir Sarkar with Sri Aurobindo, because from Midnapore Sri Aurobindo would have to make arrangements for going to Surat Congress meeting.

— Upendra Chandra Bhattacharjee

 

Printing ‘No Compromise’ and ‘Bhavani Mandir’

After my return from Baroda the second time, I printed with the help of Sudhir Sarkar of Khulna and a Marathi youth known as Joshi, two booklets No Compromise and Bhavani Mandir written by Sri Aurobindo in his hand-writing. We worked late at night at the “Gupta Press Panjika”, having secured the permission of its owner.

— Barindra K. Ghosh

 

1908 – Deoghar, Bihar

With Vishnu Bhaskar Lele

I received a letter from Sri Aurobindo saying that Vishnu Bhaskar Lele would be arriving and we were to take good care of him. We felt that a Sadhu had no part in our scheme of things and so we looked on him with distrust. In addition, Lele-ji demanded of me that I massage him with white clay and bathe him, the water being drawn from a deep well. This, he said, was to enable me to practise Brahmacharya, of which proper service to the Guru was an indispensable part. Although I did not like him, because of Sri Aurobindo’s instructions I adjusted myself to Lele-ji’s demands.

 

Sri Aurobindo in Surat Congress

 

One night during dinner, Lele-ji said to Barin, Ullas and others, “If you continue with your bombs and pistols before realising the Mother Bhavani, you will hasten your own downfall”. Barin answered, “When we see vultures sucking blood out of our Mother’s body, how can we sit down to meditate?”

(S)

 

1908 – Alipore Jail

Co-prisoner with Sri Aurobindo

In practice I have seen very few men like Sudhir who can endure by adopting a “don’t care” attitude.

I have seen many who have desperately fought with bombs and pistols, but none was so courageous as Sudhir. I never saw him step back. Anyone would shrink back out of natural fear when bombs exploded before him, but Sudhir would not even blink. He did not seem to have a trace of fear in his consciousness. That is why he came out of all the difficult situations.

I remember an incident that took place during the trial in the Alipore Sessions Court. We Swadeshis were herded into a cage in the courtroom and all sorts of evidence was demanded from us. At that time a sentry on duty noticed that Sri Aurobindo looked quite unconcerned and unmindful of all that was happening. The sentry got upset and shook him roughly. Sudhir, seeing the sentry handle Sri Aurobindo so roughly, jumped from the gallery where he was seated. Seething in anger, with his raised hands shackled in handcuffs, he was about to strike the sentry on his head. We were alerted by the loud thump made by his jump and were shocked to see Sudhir raging in anger and about to hit the policeman. Some of us shouted, “Sudhir, stop! What are you doing? Stop! Stop and calm down!” Luckily we managed to push him aside. Sudhir spewing out fire, muttered to himself: “What audacity that fellow has to touch Sri Aurobindo! I will finish him off!” Furious, he tried to wriggle away from us in order to hit the sentry. Had we not intervened in time to stop him we might have witnessed a murder in the courtroom. With his strong and stalwart body, a blow from those metal handcuffs could have killed that sentry. Fortunately we were saved that day. Sudhir remained completely unper­turbed after that storm passed by. His only regret was that he had not been able to take revenge on that fellow who had dared to manhandle Sri Aurobindo.

Such were his nerves of steel. I have never seen Sudhir shrink with fear, never in my living memory. He would jump into any fray, not caring for the consequences. His life has been full of adventures and it is unbelievable how the Grace has plucked him out of all dangers. How brutally he and the others were tortured in the Andamans! It is beyond man’s imagination. What man has done unto man — and that too by supposedly civilised people.

(Recounted by Nolini Kanta Gupta to Mona)

 

1908-1909 – Alipore Bomb Trial

Sri Aurobindo’s sick attendant

Arabindo was in the No. 1 ward of the hospital in the charge of the senior hospital assistant. Arabindo had a sick-attendant. Sudhir was his sick-attendant. I saw him there. Arabindo was treated upstairs.

*

Then there is the case of Sudhir Kumar Sarkar. We find that this prisoner was allowed to be in the hospital, and that he acted as the “Attendant” upon Aurobindo Ghosh. His name is not en­tered in any register. He had no business to be there. We are of opinion, in these circumstances, that the medical officer did take certain liberties of the bomb case undertrial prisoners into the hospital, or allowed them to be there, who were not suffering from any serious illness.

(Statements of the Hospital Prison staff in court)

 

Misleading the Witness

An interesting scene comes to my mind. Nolini and I were the chief actors in this drama. To identify Nolini in the Alipore Bomb Case, the postmaster of Joshidi and the level-crossing pointman had been summoned to the Alipore court. Some forty of us accused were made to stand in two rows for the identification parade. I positioned myself just behind Nolini and told him to look directly at the identifier, while I made frightened gestures and avoided his eyes, pretending to be the guilty one. The ruse worked. The witness identified me as Nolini Kanta Gupta. To the utter chagrin of the honourable judge, the whole court burst out laughing. Even the lawyers and barristers on both sides could not suppress their merriment. Perhaps my expert acting annoyed the judge, but he had to acquit Nolini for lack of evidence.[8]

 

No Statement by Sri Aurobindo

When the approver Noren Goswami was assassinated in the Alipore Jail, Sri Aurobindo was in a separate cell. We sent Barin-da to him, asking for guidance. Sri Aurobindo said that he was not going to say anything. Following his example Nolini also made no comment. But we followed Barin-da’s lead and gave statements making ourselves out as patriots and revolu­tionaries. As a result, in spite of the inadmissibility of the evidence given by Noren Goswami, the judge convicted us, transporting some of us and sending others to the gallows.

(S)

 

Sri Aurobindo’s Servitor

When asked about his prison days, Sudhir-da’s face used to light up. “Oh how to describe those days! Like dreams of happiness they were. The constant company of my Lord! I used to serve him, sponge his body, bathe him. I used to do everything.” Then Sudhir-da used to spread his palms before my eyes, “Look, these mine hands still remember those touches. How soft was my Lord’s body! from his eyes affection and benevolence seemed to rain incessantly on us.”

— Shobha Datta

 

About 1909-1914 – The Andaman Jails

The British Government was secretly shipping us off to the Andamans in small batches. There the jail authorities at once segregated the political prisoners from the ordinary convicts perhaps to prevent them from catching fire from our sparks of revolution. After the assassination of Noren Goswami in the Alipore Jail, the authorities had realised how dangerous we were.

Aura jante perechhilo, amra ki cheege — They had come to know of what metal we were made.” They seemed to be somewhat afraid of us and at first treated us with sufficient consi­deration. But gradually their innate tyranny began to manifest itself.

(S)

 

Coir Pounding and Rope Making

Each prisoner was made to do coir pounding and rope making. It was the first work that all had to learn. The dry coconut husk had to be pealed off; then soaked in water and thrashed. The fibres were then separated in small strands and rubbed on the floor to be finally weaved into a rope. It was a tough and rough job. Our hands were bruised and bleeding. But at any cost, the length of the rope fixed for the day had to be finished. Sometimes we could not even fold our stiffened and bruised palms to put a morsel of food in our mouth.

*

Oil -Mill

Our jobs used to change. We were made to work at the dreaded oil-mill. Usually a bullock or a horse is made to turn the grinding mill. But in the Andamans men were yoked to the handle of the turning wheel instead of bullocks. Even bullocks plodding along all day, could not turn out more than 16 lbs of oil. Yet each one of us was forced to yield 30 lbs of oil daily. Sometimes three of us were yoked together and the demand then was to grind out 80 lbs. The work started at 6.00 in the morning and continued till 6 in the evening. It would amount to running round and round nearly 40 miles a day with that heavy yoke on our shoulders and the jamadar shouting at us, “run, run, run faster.” The time for our meal and rest was shortened to a few minutes, and then back we went to work. For if we did not finish our daily quotas, our punishment was — no food, work at night and a shower of unmentionable abuses by the jailers. This grinding was one of the toughest jobs and all the prisoners dreaded it. But all without exception had to do it for a certain period. Even Barin-da was not spared, though he had a weak body and suffered from malaria. Often the prisoners, though tired themselves, would lend a helping hand to a suffering brother who was about to collapse. We had developed a lot of fellow feeling among ourselves, but sometimes the officer in charge would have the tired man bound to the yoke and goad the others to run around dragging him along bruised and helpless. What man can do to man! For us those drops of oil trickling out as a result of the grinding were no more drops of oil but drops of our blood.

 

The cellular jails – Andamans

 

In the Andamans the authorities tried their best to ruin us physically and to break our morale. We would say, “We refuse to abide by your prison rules!” And they would suspend us against the wall, our legs, waists and hands in fetters. They would torment us in that fashion for long eight hours at a stretch, for days together. Although suspended in this way, our compatriot Ullas-da (Ullaskar Dutt) would break into songs and produce music by banging the shackles on the walls. His joyous outbursts would make us all forget our anguish. When the authorities observed this, they separated us and threw us into solitary cells. Thus, we were deprived of company and books.

(M)

 

Stolen Envelopes

After a few years the Sergeant General relaxed some of the hardships imposed on us. He arranged for us to come out of the jail and work separately on different islands. The Divisional Officer was an Irish gentleman who took me to the Viper Island, gave me books and some training and put me to work on a cotton plantation. His house was always open to me. I used to go to his office, and quietly pick up some stationary from his desk and send it to Barin-da. He would write detailed reports of our ill-treatment and post them in those envelopes which bore the officers’ seal. Letters would thus find a way out of the Devil’s island and reach Calcutta without being checked. On the information given in those letters Surendranath Banerjee used to base his fiery speeches and raise storms in the Legislative Council. The jail authorities were at a loss to understand how all their secret misdeeds were known to the outside world. Many English and Bengali newspapers began to publish details of the atrocities committed on the exiled revolutionaries. The whole country seethed with resentment.

(S)

 

Eating Fodder

Sudhir-da once told me: “Here is an incident which may appear very trivial to you, but it occupies a significant place in my life. I was sent to the Andaman jails along with others. We were given very meagre food and if we asked for more we would be whipped. One day, the food given was very scanty and our hunger that day was awful. After the hard days’ labour we could not bear any more. Driven by our hunger, we ate the cow fodder that lay in our reach. Somehow the news spread in the jail. The jailor grew extremely nervous. If any of us died from eating the fodder, he would be given a ‘show cause’ notice by the Government. The doctors gave us purgatives, examined our stool and confirmed the presence of fodder. The jailor was repentant, but our ration of food was not increased even a bit. This bitter experience of jail life taught us the lesson that we should never waste food. And after that, we never did so.”

(Anon.)

 

Losing a Friend

Mr. Indubhushan Roy, accused of throwing a bomb at the Mayor of Chandernagore and overturning the car of the Gover­nor, came here to serve his twenty-year jail sentence; later, however, his sentence was remitted to ten years. He was kept in the cell next to mine. We used to communicate with each other in a code language by knocking on our common wall — something like morse code.

One day Indubhushan’s knocks spelt out the following message: “I don’t want to live as a slave of the British. I shall come back…” That night he: hanged himself from the ventilator of his cell. He had made a rope by tearing strips out of his prison uniform.

In the seclusion of my prison cell I shed tears on this proud hero, saying, “Farewell, my friend!”

*

Hunger Strike

Noni Bhattacharya, a student of Hugli College, joined us. He had thrown a bomb at the Inspector General of Police! He was still in his teens then. One day, protesting against the atrocities of the warders, he tore off his convict’s uniform and moved about stark naked. The Chief Commissioner himself came on the scene and appealed to him. “Mr. Noni Babu, you come from a respectable family. Why don’t you wear your clothes?”

Prompt came Noni’s reply, “I don’t count you as human beings. You people don’t know how to behave with a political patriot.”

After this Noni went on a fast. We too joined him and refused food. The authorities used to tie us up and force feed us with egg-flip (a mixture of milk and eggs) by means of a rubber pipe passed through our nose. A sergeant general was brought from Bombay to enforce strict discipline; for a while inside the jail we were fighting for our rights as political prisoners, those of us who were kept outside were trying to escape from the Andamans. The usual practice was to build secretly a wooden raft, pile it with coconuts for provision and then set out for the open sea with the help of the tide. Some tried to reach Burma while others made for the coast of Africa. British patrol boats used to be sent out looking for them and almost all were recaptured. They would be tried again for this new offence and punished, with additional prison terms. But all the same these escape-attempts kept the authorities on tenterhooks.

At last the commissioner announced that anybody giving information about these secret attempts of the freedom fighters would be released from the Andamans. But surprisingly, inspite of such a lure of freedom, no convict ever divulged our secret plans.

*

Time-Bomb

For a few years the officers remained careful about us, but then they relaxed a little. We then started meeting on Sundays in very small groups. There was a proposal to make a bomb with the medicines we got and kill some of the Jail’s tyrants. Upen-da who had knowledge about bomb-making offered to do the job. Even in those trying conditions we succeeded in making a time-bomb. But one of the local prisoners betrayed us and the news reached the authorities, before we could use the bomb.

(S)

 

“Think of Me”

Life thus went on at the Andamans. Yet we noticed that we had somewhere deep within us a source of quiet strength, a peace which always remained with us. This helped us to brave the fury of the authorities. It was this faith in the heart that Sri Aurobindo was with us that enabled us to live on even in that hell. It was this mantra, “Think of me, I shall be always with you” which sustained us.

(M)

 

Other Jails in India

We continued with our efforts to escape from the Andamans. The ordinary convicts too tried to follow our example. The British Government was worried. They began, under any pre­text whatsoever, to send us back to the mainland to be lodged in different Indian jails. I was sent to Nagpur via Madras. Once again my life was confined to the prison walls.

(S)

 

1918 – Assam-Bengal Border

The Kapalik

In 1918 Sudhir was interned on a lonely island in a river, isolated from the company of people. The island was densely forested and inhabited by ferocious animals. There Sudhir lived immersed in the immensities of nature. A lover of nature, he would roam about the forest armed with a stout stick to fend off the attacks of wild and dangerous animals. He also passed his time in the study of homoeopathy. But Sudhir was not happy to remain there as a prisoner and he would cry out openly to God like a child. One night, when he was feeling very morose, he heard a beautiful voice from the depth of the forest. This haunting and melodious voice was singing, “O my comrade, can you not hold the helm of the boat?” Sudhir was entranced. Slowly the voice grew louder as the singer approached Sudhir’s cottage. Sudhir opened his door and stepped out into the moonlit forest. A towering Kapalik — a Tantrik devotee — appeared in the clearing. Spotting Sudhir, he asked, “O Brahmin, will you give me something to eat?” Sudhir was astonished. “How does the Kapalik know that I am a Brahmin,” he won­dered. “I threw away my sacred thread while I was imprisoned in the Andamans”. Sudhir had finished his supper, so he had no food ready. Apologetically he said, “Kindly wait, I will cook something for you”. The Kapalik replied, “No, it is late; I cannot wait. But I will come back on the night of the next full moon to taste your food. Now I have to go.”

Puzzled but thrilled, Sudhir returned to his cottage and went to bed.

Sudhir was impressed by the awesome Tantric, though in general he did not have much respect for Sadhus. For during the great uprising of 1905, it had been rumoured that a lakh and a half armed naga sannyasis, a fierce sect of naked sadhus, would come down from the hills and chase the Englishmen out of India. Sudhir waited for them, but despite his fervent hope they never came. Infuriated, Sudhir could no longer trust or respect Sadhus, whether naked or clad in ochre-coloured robes. To him they were all cheats and rogues.

Sudhir once said that whenever something in life repelled him, or appeared to be useless, later it would always reveal to him its hidden benign aspect and force him to accept it as if a secret Will wanted him to be free of all prejudices, and bigotry. Something similar was happening this time too. Despite his reservations, Sudhir was eagerly waiting the return of the Kapalik.

On the fateful full-moon night, the whole forest was bathed in soft white light. Late in the night the Kapalik at last appeared. Smiling he said, “Perhaps you thought that I would not keep my promise. Let me see what you have cooked for me?” Sudhir offered him some Khichuri, a salty porridge of rice and dal. The Kapalik poured it into a bowl, got up and bellowed a loud ululating “Oo-oo, oo-oo-oo!” A huge brown dog came bounding towards him. The Kapalik sat down to eat. The dog also sat down beside him, and started eating from the same bowl. The Kapalik sometimes lovingly entreated the dog to eat, sometimes restrained the dog with his left hand. But the dog would not be put off for long. Together they finished the supper.

After the meal the Kapalik spoke. “I have eaten well after a long time,” he said. “O Brahmin, no one will be able to make you a prisoner for long.” Sudhir mused, “How does he know that I am a prisoner?” Then putting his hand inside his shoulder pouch, the Kapalik took out a small packet of sacred ashes (Vibhuti). He gave it to Sudhir and told him to keep it with him. “No harm will ever come to you now,” he said, “Keep always a dog as your pet. Everyday put aside part of your lunch and dinner, and feed it to him. This will benefit you”. He continued, “Listen, if you are asked, do consent to marriage.” Sudhir was dumbfounded. Recently he had received a letter from home saying that the government would release him only on condition that he would marry and settle down to a family life. But he did not want to marry and settle down until independence of India was achieved. Was this strange advice of the Tantric a sign that God wanted him to marry?

The Kapalik rose and said good bye to Sudhir and with his fearsome dog companion, he walked away into the dark forest.

As Sudhir agreed to marry, he was released. The other predictions of the Kapalik were also fulfilled. The ashes protected him in many difficult and dangerous years during which he had several brushes with death. Twenty years later, in 1938, when Sudhir went to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he sent the ashes to Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo accepted them and sent word to Sudhir, “Now that you are here, you will no longer need them.”

(M)

 

1920-1930 – Calcutta

The Pathan

Sudhir had just been released from jail. He was jobless and did not know how he would earn his bread. One day he visited the shop of his cousin brother and they started chatting. Suddenly a gigantic Pathan entered the shop. Thrusting a huge palm in front of Sudhir’s cousin, he ordered, “Give me!” Startled and trembling the cousin brought out an eight anna coin from his pocket and put it in the huge palm. Without a word the man turned and left. Sudhir was curious. The cousin told him, “He is a dangerous fellow. He murdered someone in Afghanistan and escaped to India. He comes here and asks for money from all the shop-keepers. If we give the money, we are safe; otherwise it could be very dangerous for us”.

Sudhir got angry with his cousin. “Why are you tolerating this fellow?” he said, “You are so many Bengalees here; he is only one Pathan. Can’t you tackle him together? At least go to the police.” The cousin replied “Once an owner of a shop here tried to stop him. The Pathan threatened him with a drawn knife. Since then no one has bothered him. The ruffian has warned us “Go to the police at the cost of your life!” Sudhir said “Okay, tomorrow I will pay him. You don’t worry.” But the cousin became very upset. He told Sudhir, “Please don’t come here tomorrow; you need not do anything”. Casually Sudhir answered “I am not going to do anything.”

Next day Sudhir reached his cousin’s shop at about the same time. Soon the Pathan arrived and demanded money. Sudhir, who was seated, got up and approached the Pathan with his hand in his pocket. He told him, “You want money? Here, take it.” In a flash he brought out his hand from his pocket and slapped the Pathan fiercely. The Pathan fell down stunned. He was utterly surprised and could not believe his eyes. Before he could pick himself up Sudhir rushed at him and asked, “Want some more?” and hit him again. The Pathan regained his feet and headed to the door. From there he growled, “Come out on the street. I will stab you to death.” Sudhir told him in a thunderous voice, “Get out of here! Don’t you know I have been to the Andamans (Kalapani)? I will strangle you with my bare hands.” The Pathan simply fled.

All the owner’s of the shop were deeply disturbed. “What have you done!” they exclaimed! “You have not only endangered your own life but ours as well. How will you get out now?” Sudhir replied to them, “Had he wanted to kill me, he would have tried to do it here and now, not afterwards. He is a coward. He will never come back here again to bother you fellows.” So saying, Sudhir left the shop. And actually the Pathan never returned; he simply vanished. No one ever saw him in that area again.

(M)

 

1920-1930 – North India

The Naga Sanyasis

Once while travelling in North India, Sudhir was waiting for the train at a small station. The train pulled in, crowded with people. Sudhir got up on the train at the last minute. His only luggage was a small bed-roll. The compartment of the coach he boarded was occupied by a large number of sanyasis, a sect of fierce and proud naked ascetics. The Naga sanyasis had spread their bedding and were comfortably lying down. There was no extra space, but Sudhir could not get down from the train for it had started running. He requested a Naga sanyasi who was lying down, “Please make a little room for me”. The sanyasi growled, “This compartment belongs to us. You Bengali chap, go to another compartment”. Sudhir got annoyed and told him, “I too have purchased a ticket, so do not trouble me. Give me a place to sit.” But the Naga sanyasi refused and gave a rude reply. Sudhir got angry. He pulled the sanyasi’s bedding from beneath his head and threw it out of the window, then shoved the sanyasi aside and made other hapless passengers, who were kept standing, sit down in the space vacated, and he himself sat on a metal box. All the Naga sanyasis in the compartment were furious and rushed at Sudhir, who was helplessly outnumbered. But Sudhir did not get frightened. He sat coolly in that corner and warned them, “Whoever touches me will be a dead man”. The sanyasis tried to provoke him into a fight and were puzzled at his behaviour, but Sudhir remained calm. One old Naga sanyasi tried to mediate and pacify his angry companions, but they were keen to regain their prestige. At last their leader managed to control them and bring the quarrel to an end. Still Sudhir remained alert and did not sleep throughout the night. In the morning when the train reached the destination, Sudhir got down and left. How he managed to remain unhurt in the midst of such a big crowd of Naga sanyasis is really a miracle.

(M)

 

1920-1930 – Khulna

(Sudhir has narrated the following unusual experience to several people at different times. The details may vary; but the substance is like this):

A Supernatural Phenomenon

One evening in Khulna when the days’ hustle and bustle had subsided and the conch-shells were announcing the time for evening prayers, Sudhir and his three brothers heard repeated screams coming from the west side of their house. The gallant brothers rushed to the spot, found the gate open and entered. Suddenly the gate shut behind them, but no one was around! They tried to force the gate open but it would not budge. Left with no option, they walked towards the courtyard. Lo! full-size bricks were flying across the open space, coming from outside and over the wall. Cautiously they moved towards the servants’ quarters, for they suspected that the servants were behind the strange mischief. And they found the servants shaking and cold and unable to figure out what was happening. The brothers headed to the main building; there they heard the upstairs doors and windows bashing open and shut. Puzzled and confused, they went upstairs and discovered the old house holder, his wife and his daughter-in-law cowering in a corner of the room. Seeing the young men they regained their confidence, but not for long for the commotion continued. By now everyone was frightened to death excepting one who had come back from the dreaded cellular jails of the Andamans, Sudhir Sarkar, to whom the emotion of fear was unknown.

Sudhir listened as the trio spoke of their plight, of being physically assaulted by some invisible malevolent spirit. Unable to escape, they had resigned themselves to its molestations without any hope of survival.

Worse followed worse. Down with a thud came the noise of a big photo of the grandfather of the house, crashing into bits. The family accountant who had hid himself was hunted down by the spirits and chased upstairs along with the servants. There was no respite for anybody. A heavy chest, which four people can barely lift was levitating all over the place, threatening to smash the hapless fellows under its weight.

Suddenly the bizarre events stopped and there was a strange silence. The atmosphere was no longer heavy with menace and oppression. For some time nothing happened. They waited, not knowing what to do. But the old man was hungry and so he sat down to eat. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a big pot of salt flew across the kitchen and overturned on his meal. Panic-stricken, the group decided to go out of the house. But then a vegetable cutter came flying by, ready to chop anyone who moved. Everyone lay flat, seeking for shelter against this calamity, their blood froze in terror. Again the heavy chest began levitating. At last the fearful demonstrations of the malicious spirit stopped. Everyone fled from the house. Frantically they talked among themselves, trying to figure out the reason for this terrible attack on them. Then the accountant said, “when the heavy chest levitated upwards, I had a doubt. For I know that the master is keeping there his dead son’s burnt navel as a last memento.”

Hearing this grisly tale, Sudhir decided to go back into the haunted house, hell broke loose when they tried to open the chest. Then they collected the navel and immersed it in the Ganges, performing all the last rites required. Thus ended the terror. And there also ended the sceptic in Sudhir. Realising the folly of the doubting human minds, Sudhir now believed in the existence of the unseen and its mysterious power.

(M)

 

1920-1930 – Calcutta

The Puffed Rice

Sometime around 1930 Sudhir-da was putting up with his younger brother Sushil in Calcutta. On hearing the news of his arrival, I went there and met him. He told me, “I am going to Dakshineswar on Sunday. Would you like to come with me?” I accepted the invitation.

On Sunday morning we started. Pointing towards a shop selling rice and paddy, Sudhir-da told me, “Please get three packets of puffed rice.” He gave me the needed money and I bought them.

We were about to do justice to the contents when Sudhir-da said, “Look, those little boys are picking bits of food out of the dust-bin and eating them. Do one thing. Go and give them these packets of puffed rice. Poor chaps, let them survive this morning at least by taking some food.”

 

A Shop for Shoes

Another day Sudhir-da asked me to accompany him to Barabazar, the famous trade centre of Calcutta. “Listen”, he said, “at last I have decided to do some profitable business in Calcutta itself. I have seen the site and am going to take possession of it now.” We went to a spacious room on the first floor of a building at the Harrison Road crossing. The arrangements for rent were finalised with the Marwari owner. After we left and came down to the street, Sudhir told me, “I am going to sell shoes. Look, I have printed hand-bills.” He produced a handful and showed them to me. I read, “This shoe shop is run by a politically oppressed, educated brahmin chap just released from the Andamans Jail.” The shoe business ran well for a few months, but then business tapered off. After a few years he told me “I am folding up the shoe business.” When I asked why, he replied, “I used to sell shoes on credit, but I couldn’t recover the money, so I was running the business at a loss.” Smiling, he added “Let it go. At least it is a consolation that the poor benefited by wearing new chappels for a while.”

— Tejen Mukherjee

 

1920-1930 – Khulna

The flood

About 60 years ago there was a flood in Khulna after heavy rainfall. Khulna was flanked on the east by the river Rupsa and on the north by the Bhairab. Both of them were big rivers. Owing to the rains the rivers were in spate and the city and its suburbs were submerged under water. All the mud houses had collapsed and brick-built houses had their ground-floors under water. Our house was a two-storey building. Young volunteers brought old people, young children and ailing persons from all corners of the city and left them safe in our house. This rescue operation went on throughout the night. Towards the morning, I saw a young man carrying an old lady on his shoulder, holding her up and wading through chest-high water. He brought her to our house. Later I came to know that he was Sudhir Sarkar. As long as the flood raged, Sudhir, along with his volunteer helpers, supplied food and medicine to the needy and succoured the endangered people.

 

Preparing Freedom Fighters

After the floods abated, he caught me one day on the street and took me to his house. There he placed his hand on my shoulders. “Do you want to be a freedom fighter?” he asked me, then he added, “But you cannot be a freedom fighter with such a thin body.” Later on, Sudhir-da’s nephew Sailen, who was my classmate, told me that his uncle was a revolutionary, recently released from the Andamans.

At that time members of the revolutionary parties formed cadres from young people in the schools, colleges, clubs and libraries.

I too was associated with the revolutionaries and got the opportunity to work with them. Sudhir-da never talked to me openly about revolution and freedom fighting, even though he was our neighbour. Then suddenly one day he visited our house, called me aside and advised me: “If you want to save yourself from the clutches of the police, be careful of your movements.” I was astonished to say the least. How did Sudhir-da know that I was mixing with the revolutionaries? But there was no doubt that out of his affection and love for me, he was warning me of the impending danger. Whenever anybody, owing to his connection with the revolutionaries, was captured by the police, Sudhir-da enquired about his family and his difficulties. He always extended a helping hand.

When I became a little older, Sudhir-da advised me how to avoid the police and how to open a club to gather new recruits, I was told that we should choose Government officials and Britishers as the president and important executive members of the club. We ought to meet those officials regularly to avoid the suspicion of the police.

We started one such club. Sudhir-da told us to learn boat rowing! He said that rowing boats in big rivers against waves would give us physical strength and mental courage. I started a rowing club. Sudhir-da used to join us from time to time and encourage us.

We learnt from him many other forms of social service. Whenever a fire broke out or there was an epidemic of cholera or small pox he called us. He would plan how to meet the situation and of course he took an active part in the execution of the plan too.

— Shambhunath Bhadra

 

About 1924-1934 – Assam

Change of Name

In the mid-1920s, several years after his release from prison, Sudhir settled in Assam with his family. He was in fact a political absconder living in disguise in Sorbhog (now Barbeta). Because he was preaching violence to young revolutionaries and giving them monetary help, he was pursued by the police. During this time he was again arrested on charges of political unrest but he avoided conviction on the ground that his name had been mistitled instead of Sudhir K. Sarkar he was known as Sudhir K. Bagchi.

 

New Ventures

He was also affectionately known as ‘Rangababu’ for his benevolent public service in Sorbhog. He distributed homoeopathic medicines freely to the needy, poor and rich alike. He was one of the first persons to produce Khair or catechu from Acacia trees industrially in a big way in the jungles of Assam.

He also exported simul cotton. And he was one of the first to construct flush toilets with septic tanks in that area. The larger size reinforced concrete pipes were also a new venture he started!

He took the initiative to open and finance a primary school for children which has now developed into the Sorbhog Railway Colony High School.

He took the trouble of getting Government permission from the deputy commissioner of Kamrup for the installation of three temples on his property, known as the Sorbhog Kalibari, Rambari and Shibbari temples.

Sometime in 1934, he left behind everything in Sorbhog without anyone’s knowledge and went and settled in Khulna. Here he started many new business ventures.

— Paritosh Roy

 

1938 – Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Finding the Mother

After his release from jail, Sudhir contacted Sri Aurobindo. He started a regular correspondence with Nolini who was staying at Pondicherry in Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Finally in 1938 he came to Pondicherry for the first time. It was difficult for Sudhir, who for so many years had fought against foreign rule, to accept the Mother who was French by birth, as head of the Ashram. Sri Aurobindo had retired in 1926 and now everything was guided by Her. Sudhir felt like going back, rather than bowing down to Her! But this feeling was momentary. At the very first glimpse of the Mother, his whole being prostrated before Her. Holding Her feet, he sobbed like a child, forgetting all. All his arrogance melted away in a single gesture, his ego disappeared and he understood his folly. Then he completely surrendered himself to Her. She was his Mother, his Motherland, the universal Mother all in one — there was no doubt left in him.

 

Building Flush Toilet with Septic Tank

And so Sudhir stayed on for a few days. Pondicherry then did not have many modern facilities, even essential ones like flush toilets with septic tanks in the houses. Early in the morning one would see scavengers with earthen pots on their heads going from house to house. Once the scavengers were on strike. Sudhir could not bear to see the result. He informed the Mother that he knew how to construct flush-toilets with septic tanks and offered to build some in the Ashram compound and other buildings. The Mother consented happily and the work began with the help of other Ashramites. This project required reinforced concrete pipes, so Sudhir manufactured them too. This work also he had learned previously. The work was finished quickly and done well. To this day the flush toilets with septic tanks built by him are there in the Ashram main building.

 

Hand-made Paper

On his next visit to the Ashram, probably in 1939, Sudhir told the Mother that he knew how to make hand-made paper. She asked him to make some. All the necessary arrangements were made in a corner of the building which is now the centre of Education. Waste-paper was collected from all the residents. With the help of others he prepared some samples of hand­made paper. The Mother was delighted to see them and encouraged him to continue. Thus began hand-made paper making at the Ashram. The Mother regularly used this paper for writing messages, letters etc. She preferred that the edges were not trimmed and left as they were. She even remarked once that this is the best paper to write on. Today the hand-made paper factory is one of the largest industries of the Ashram.

 

Washing Soap

In the early 1940s, Sudhir began making washing soap at the Ashram laundry. A large quantity was made and distributed to the inmates of the Ashram. The size of the soap-cakes used to be really huge! Even today the Ashram produces different types of soap for distribution to Ashramites.

 

The facsimile of Sudhir Kumar Sarkar’s report to the Mother
on work along with the Mother’s observations

 

 

 

Sudhir Kumar supervising chunam-making at the Ashram

 

Cloth-Dyeing

A physical education uniform was designed in the late 1940s. The Groups were formed according to age. The Mother decided that each group should be identified by a special colour. Here Sudhir’s talent found another opportunity — he prepared the dyes used for colouring the group shorts. The Mother was very particular about the shades She had chosen for each group. Sudhir dyed the cloth to Her specifications. Soon the dyeing increased, as saris, bedcovers, and other materials were sent to him by Sadhaks happy to have a little more colour in their life. The Mother gave Sudhir permission to do this extra work provided there was enough colour for the group shorts. Thus started cloth and yarn dyeing in the Ashram, which continues even today.

 

Chunam (Lime)

In the late 1940s, Sudhir tried another venture with some of his friends, that of making chunam (lime powder) for whitewashing the Ashram buildings. He made it by heating and then pulverising sea-shells brought to him by the local village fisher-women. Sudhir had an inborn sympathy for the poor. He noticed that the village women sold the shells to a contractor at a low price; the contractor then increased the cost substantially before selling and gained a big profit. Sudhir started buying the shells directly from the village women so that they could earn a little more instead of its going to the contractor. When the contractor came to know about it, he prosecuted Sudhir and threatened to put him behind bars! Jovially he informed the contractor that he had been to the Andamans and these petty city jails meant nothing to him. However, because of certain regulations, he had to stop buying shells directly from the village women for whom he always had thoughtfulness and love.

 

Pottery

In the 1950s, the Ashram was in need of flower pots and other earthen-wares. Often there was no stock in the market and its quality was not good either. This prompted Sudhir to start a pottery. He received the Mother’s permission and soon was turning out flower pots, water-carrying pots, Kujas and other items needed by the Ashram. He also tried his hand at ceramics. The pottery he started functions even today.

 

Homoeopathy

From the time Sudhir settled permanently in the Ashram in 1943, he dispensed homoeopathic medicines to all who needed them. Those treated by him trusted him — they felt that his diagnosis was intuitively correct. The medicines he gave seemed to be charged with a force of love and a healing power of the Grace. Loving and generous, Sudhir always carried homoeopathic pills with him to treat those who were in need. Whenever he heard of someone in distress, he would immediately go to help the person, even in the dead of night. One of the Ashram homoeopaths once remarked, “Sudhir-da taught us to go to the patient, rather than wait for the patient to come to us. He also taught us that love and sympathy that the patient needs, must flow from the heart.”

(M)

 

1950 – Pondicherry

Operation

Once I went to Nolini-da’s room for some work. From inside came Sudhir’s excited voice. “Nolini, go and tell the Mother that I am not going to Delhi. No, on no account. Does the Mother want me to go there and die? I don’t need any operation. If I must die, I will do it here in the Ashram. No where else am I going to die. I don’t want them to cut open my body.” Later I heard, that when Nolini-da, told this to the Mother, She replied, “Why does Sudhir think of death? He will come back cured and live long. It is I who am sending him to Delhi for an operation. I assure him that I will stay with him always during the operation. I will be with the doctor. Tell him not to worry. He will come back freed from his disease, reinvigorated, rejuvenated.” Receiving this assurance from the Mother, Sudhir agreed to the operation with a light heart.

— Mrityunjoy Mukherjee

 

Sudhir K. Sarkar in the running competition

 

 

*

I accompanied Sudhir-da to Delhi sometime in February 1950. With the Mother’s approval and blessings, he was going to have a prostate operation performed by my uncle, Dr. S. K. Sen in my uncle’s nursing home. The operation was completed in twenty minutes or so. Sudhir-da recovered very fast due to his excellent physical condition that too at the age of sixty-one. In fact, six days after surgery he was walking and exercising, which everyone considered as very unusual. Generally it takes twenty-one days for recovery. My uncle refused to believe that the speedy recovery was due to the Grace of the Mother, but stated that it was owing to Sudhir’s perfect health condition.

When we returned to Pondicherry it was evening. The Mother was in the Playground. When She learned that our car had arrived, She immediately went to meet Sudhir-da. Sudhir-da hearing that the Mother was coming started to get out of the car, not caring for the instructions of the doctor. The Mother told him not to move and blessed him.

Later, we heard that at the time of the operation, ten in the morning, the Mother suspended her usual programme of giving blessings to the Sadhaks and retired to Her room to concentrate. She stayed there for about an hour. Later in the evening she informed Gama, Sudhir-da’s son, that the operation was successful.

— Dr. Satyavrata Sen

 

Keeping his Word

In August 1955, I came to the Ashram with my wife for the Darshan. It was my first visit. Every day at 9.00 p.m., Sudhir-da would show up in front of the cement bench near the Mahasamadhi. We would glance at each other briefly. He always looked at us straight, holding his head a little backward. One day, I looked at him in the same way. He smiled and said “Ah! Well done.”

That was our first encounter with Sudhir-da. He invited us to a tea next day. In the course of conversation, he asked my wife about her father and his profession. When he learned that he was a jailor, Jogen Sen Gupta by name, Sudhir-da’s face was lighted up with gratitude. Slowly he told the story: “I was in the Jessore Jail. Your father was the jailor at that time. One night there was an urgent necessity for me to go home. I asked for his permission. Very calmly he replied: ‘You are the true children of our Motherland. We do not do anything. Well, I will permit you to go home for a night. But if you don’t turn up tomorrow, I will not only lose my job, but will be punished!’ I replied, ‘I give my word’. I returned the next morning.” Half a century had elapsed since that incident, but Sudhir-da’s gratitude was still writ large on his face as he told us the story. The Mother once remarked, “The index of a man’s greatness is in his sense of gratitude.” Judged by this standard, Sudhir-da was indeed a great man.

— Sachin Sen Gupta

 

Veteran Parliamentarian Surendra Mohan Ghose, Nolini Kanta Gupta
and Sudhir Kumar Sarkar

 

1973 or 1974 — Pondicherry

Still like a Lion

Surendra Mohan Ghosh, a member of the Rajya Sabha, used to visit Pondicherry regularly. He would often come to see Sudhir-da in order to hear about Sri Aurobindo.

In 1973 or 1974, when Sudhir-da was in a semi-coma, Surendra Mohan came to Pondicherry, and as usual went to Sudhir-da’s house. But this time he brought with him, Jayaprakash Narayan.

Surendra Mohan told him, “Chal téré ko purānā kāl kā swadeshi dikhāyegā. Hamārā kāl kā swadeshi nahin, yé bābā, kālā pāni sé āyā hai. (Come, I will show you a revolutionary, not of today but of yonder days, who had been to the Andamans.)

They came and stood quietly near Sudhir-da’s bed. Jayaprakash Narayan lifted up the chaddar covering his feet. He then bowed down and touched Sudhir-da’s feet with his forehead. After looking at him again for a few minutes, he said, “Still he looks like а lion.”

(Recounted by Surendra Mohan Ghosh, Rajya Sabha M.P., to Mona)

 

The Descent of Vishwakarma

At one time the Mother used to bring down the Gods and Goddesses into us — Varuna in one, I mean the overmental Gods and Goddesses in others. It was not merely an influence by the Gods and Goddesses; it was a material descent of them into the physical consciousness of the sadhaks so as to effect a complete identification. The result was that the total personality of the Sadhak — his conduct, habits, thinking and feelings all underwent a sea-change. We used to act like the Gods themselves. It was a strange experience. We felt as if we had been transformed into Gods. Thus the Mother experimented in bringing about a change in earth-consciousness.

I think the Mother brought down Vishwakarma in Sudhir. His mind and heart are so vast and he has so much love for everybody; that is why he wants to do good to all and make them happy. Just as Vishwakarma the god pours down his power to help build the world, so is Sudhir ready to help everybody. He cannot bear to see anybody suffer. He is simple, frank and upright.

Once Sudhir’s name was mentioned in Sri Aurobindo’s presence. After a little pondering Sri Aurobindo said, “Oh, that fearless Sudhir…”

We used to be worried that he would do something catastrophic on the spur of the moment when in an excited mood. I used to call him “Pagla Sudhir” — Mad Sudhir — but he loved me so much that whenever I advised him to do something he obeyed. He was noble and generous — without the traits of distrust in him. He was a true man among million.[9]

(Recounted by Nolini Kanta Gupta to Mona)

 


 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

Mémoires of Sri Aurobindo

 

(Sudhir lived with Sri Aurobindo like a family member for almost a year. Later, he looked after Sri Aurobindo when they both were in the Alipore Jail in the year 1908-1909. Here are a few experiences and anecdotes recounted by Sudhir, originally in Bengali.)

It was the year 1907. I had stepped into my seventeenth year. The idea of a University degree was extremely repugnant to me and accordingly, I gave up my studies in the wake of the great stir for National Education. This was done by me with the solemn intention of snatching my country back from the clutches of the British.

There was a mood of expectancy in the air. Rumours were floating about. It was said that all the provinces were ready for a battle and that a hundred and fifty thousand Naga Sannyasins (naked ascetics) had pledged themselves to come to the aid of Bengal and fight unto death. Such stories filled the atmosphere. I was boiling with an inexpressible excitement and was completely under its sway. Home and family comfort no longer held any charm for me. I started using pompous phrases and high-sounding words in conversation with my parents, brothers and sisters. Indeed I believed at that time that I had become an extraordinary mortal, a kind of superman, and that nothing was too great or too difficult for me to do.

 

I joined the Revolutionaries

When news reached Calcutta that idols of Durga had been smashed in the temples at Jamalpur, seven of us started at once for the place, intending to teach the miscreants a lesson. There was a big meeting, a gathering of thousands. Fighting flared up and we had to use firearms to defend ourselves. My six companions were arrested on charges of murder; I alone escaped and after going through excruciating hardships, I managed to reach Calcutta. There I received, from known and unknown alike many a pat on the back for being plucky. Detailed reports of our exploits were published in the newspapers. I was acclaimed hero. While the others had been caught, I had escaped! Till then I was doubtful about my reception; least of all did I expect any praise. Rather I had misgivings that I might face disgrace for having left my comrades in the lurch, while I escaped alone. But the leaders of those days made a lot of noise about me. Perhaps because I qualified myself through this examination, I became trustworthy in the eyes of the seniors; at any rate I was promoted to the next higher grade. I was directed to stay in Sri Aurobindo’s house and to look after him.

I continued my studies there. I felt greatly honoured for the privilege of being able to stay with such a great and learned man, one who was so gentle and quiet, one who had sacrificed so much. Perhaps I wanted to show off this privilege before my friends and relatives a little. Till then I had not been able to feel any real sense of achievement or glory unless I received acclamation from others.

 

Sri Aurobindo in Jail

 

Was He a God?

The house was a small two-storey building with three living rooms. There Sri Aurobindo used to translate the Mahabharata into English verse and write articles for Bande Mataram, the most prominent newspaper in those days, and at the same time he would explain things to me, such as Carlyle’s idea of the French Revolution and Hero-worship. For the first time I observed that it was quite possible to direct one’s mind towards three or four activities at the same time. Once I could not help asking how this was possible. Sri Aurobindo answered: “It is not very difficult. If the mind is sufficiently trained and cultivated, it can easily do many things simultaneously”. An innate bashfulness and seeming humility was still my wont. Sri Aurobindo’s simple and easy manner, his politeness, friendliness and equanimity overwhelmed me. I wondered at that time if he was really a being of this world or some other. Yet my mischievous mind had the temerity to test him — I had been brought up in an atmosphere of insincerity and suspicion, a life beset with want and struggle, misunderstanding and jealousy, the play of hide and seek and duplicity. I could never convince myself that a man could be of his height. Could it be really possible? Yet I could not help liking Sri Aurobindo. On how many occasions I tried to look searchingly through him with my mischievous eyes to discover some little bit of human weakness; later, I felt overwhelmed with shame and disgust at my own lowly mentality.

 

He called me a ‘friend’!

Sri Aurobindo used to mingle with us unreservedly, eating, sleeping, talking and joking with us! There was no barrier at all. At that time so much liberality appeared a little too much for me. One day I went so far as to protest. It happened when I found he had written in a letter to his friend Sundari Mohan Das, “My friend Sudhir Kumar is going to see you”. I asked him point blank, “How do I become your friend? You, who are so much above me in learning, age, accomplishment and fame — in fact, in every respect. Rather it is proper that I should venerate you, seek advice from you, be humble to you; instead I am described as your friend and equal. And that too while writing to someone who is much older than me, and higher in status!” But Sri Aurobindo brushed all this aside and would not let me go before convincing me thoroughly of my misconception. In his faltering Bengali which sounded so sweet in his English-accented tongue, he said, “Because our aims, our hopes and our aspirations are so much the same how can we be any other than friends? The diffidence you feel is due to the tradition of this country. At present it has gone beyond limit and taken an exaggerated form which seems so unnatural.”

 

The Mahabharata — is it all true?

Seeing Sri Aurobindo absorbed in his work on the Mahabharata, I asked him one day, rather with a motive, “Do you really believe everything that is written in Mahabharata? I have heard that there is much in it that was added later.” That day I was caught quite off my guard and I exposed myself openly. Sri Aurobindo seemed to be extremely surprised at the question, as if he never expected it from me. I felt very ashamed and my words became confused. But Sri Aurobindo seemed to understand and was pained at my feeling of embarrassment and went on to explain in his gentle and halting Bengali, so sweet to hear; the story of Vasuki supporting the earth on its head is as true as our existence — but the vision which revealed it has been lost to us. And the vision through which we observed the modern scientific world, which has evolved through a long process of action and counteraction, is not the whole of man’s vision. Vasuki represents vital power and is a symbol of total Life-energy. Man becomes conscious gradually after passing through all the gradations of evolution, organic and inorganic, animate and inanimate. All those multitudinous expanses of innumerable lives journeying through which we have attained to our present human consciousness, lie embedded in us fold upon fold, in deep kinship with us. Because of that, the snake and the jackal, the tiger and the lion are all our old relatives. Man’s kinship with the snake is indeed very close. Behind the body of all creatures lies the subtle body of the great creative Energy in seed form. That subtle body becomes veiled upon taking this gross body. The ideas and beliefs of the Hindus were not false. We have now to regain that Vision. Because of our present state of ignorance, there is so much suffering and want, so much stress and anguish for awakening.

 

Read the Mahabharata

Out of Sri Aurobindo’s remuneration for the post of principal of National College, which was 75 rupees, 23 rupees had to be paid for house rent; the rest of the amount was spent for the maintenance of four or five persons in the family. One day he suddenly told me that I should read the Mahabharata translated by Kaliprasanna Sinha. The price of the book was 18 rupees. I reflected. He ordered the book without ever thinking of our household expenses. Moreover, I have neither the patience nor the inclination to read such a big volume. I went to a bookshop and found a Mahabharata by Sourendra Mohan Tagore, a neat and smaller edition for seven and a half rupees. I bought it and read it. A few days later when the topic of the Mahabharata came up again I brought out the book with some diffidence and placed it in Sri Aurobindo’s hands. Seeing the book he glanced at me and said with a little smile, “There is no profit in reading this Mahabharata. It is written according to the modern historical ideas, these are but the outer husk. It is like taking out the kernel of its spirit and leaving only the husk. Return this translation and get the translation of Kaliprasanna Sinha instead.” As if I would be able to follow Sanskrit even if I read it! I thought of raising the question of domestic expenses. Anyhow, I did not return the book and considered many a way out if asked a second time. I pondered over something which I could offer as an excuse in order to acquit myself.

 

Nothing ever perturbed Him

Our bomb factory was located in a garden house belonging to K. D. Ghose in Manicktala. In those days cheap pistols could be bought from Chandannagore. The armoury of the bomb factory was kept in a small underground room beneath the garden. No one was staying in the garden at that time except Sachin Sen and Bijoy Nag. Our leaders had gone to the Vindhya Hills to arrange for the opening of Bhavani Mandir — (a temple to Mother Bhavani) — and were busy there. A police inspector frequently visited the garden to cultivate holy men’s company — Sadhu-sanga! We regarded him as a spy, but later he was sacked from service because of this very association with us. At last the visits of the alleged spy were reported to Sri Aurobindo; hearing of them, he said, “Tell him, please do not come here. The police cannot enter someone else’s garden without a proper warrant.” I was taken aback at this instruction. I thought, “Was it for this reply that I approached him?” Anyhow, I acted on my own counsel. I got four or five carts, filled them with all the armoury and transferred the lot to a friend’s house. After finishing the whole operation, I came back and reported to Sri Aurobindo what had been done. He listened quietly and at the end said only this, “All right!” I did not find the least trace of anxiety or worry on his face.

 

His Kindness and Nobility

I got malarial fever from my frequent visits to Chandannagore. Sri Aurobindo took me with him to his maternal grandfather’s house in Baidyanath (Deoghar) along with his wife, sister and a cook. A large thick cotton carpet was spread on the floor and we all slept on it. Sri Aurobindo used to type on long foolscap paper; his rendering of the Mahabharata in verse form. Dr. Prankrishna Acharya treated me. One day I had an acute attack of fever. I shivered very much and felt thirsty and nauseous. The typed sheets lay nearby and I spewed on them. Sri Aurobindo’s serene face did not betray any sign of dismay at what had happened, nor did he come hurrying to save his manuscripts. Slowly he rose and was about to clean up the mess. I felt mortified beyond description. My soul melted in gratitude and at the same time I felt terribly embarrassed. Never had I experienced such love and kindness. At least, I expected to hear some kind of exclamation such as “Oh! now he has spoiled everything!” But no, nothing came out of him. Nothing perturbed his serene face, not a line moved on it. Previously I had been roundly rebuked by others on so many occasions for unintended mischief. But all the while I was with Sri Aurobindo more than a year I never heard from him, even on a single occasion, so much as a “Don’t!” Not even an order or admonition. If I went beyond the limit, Sri Aurobindo would just keep silent, but it was not that gravity of silent disapproval, he just remained unmindful, as if he had not heard what I was saying, being immersed in some other thought. Even that unmindfulness was not due to any indifference or neglect; he repeatedly found out if I persisted in some sort of mischief, but he always remained outwardly the same as ever. Now as I reflect upon it, I seem to see the truth of it. A high and noble mind develops a large outlook and vision, while a small mind seeing defects everywhere, becomes blinded by them.

 

His Infinite Compassion

One day I was about to go for target practice, and took a shotgun with me. Nearby in a small hut with mud walls and a thatched roof lived Sri Aurobindo’s maternal uncle. He always kept his doors and windows shut and sat on a thick pile of old newspapers. Through this eccentricity, he persisted in his silence and seclusion, never coming out of his room. I resolved to have a look at him. I gathered information about him from Didi, Sri Aurobindo’s sister, and learnt that he was very much scared of the sound of a gun. So on this day I crept under his window and fired the gun. A terrible howl came from inside the room as if I had fired right at him. A pitiable groan was heard. I became very perplexed and also anxious. I would truly have been happy to escape, so ashamed did I feel. I saw his mother approach. Then a face pale as a candle with a thin overgrowth of black beard appeared at the window. Before granny could ask anything I blurted out, “I never thought it would turn out like this!” She seemed to grasp the situation and was relieved. She went towards her son with some words of comfort, such as, “Oh, what has happened!” In no time I saw Sri Aurobindo, his wife and sister coming. I grew thoroughly frightened and mortified at this development. Taking cover of the rooms in a big house, I ran away as fast as I could to the farthest corner of a wrestling ground belonging to another uncle. To him I unburdened the gist of the event. But this uncle, being a wrestler and a daredevil, paid little attention to what I said and started on some topic of his own which had nothing to do with it. Gradually it became midday and as I failed to appear for lunch, Didi came out in search of me. Standing in that wrestling ground, I tried to explain what happened and exonerate myself of the crime. But the more I persisted, Didi turned the talk to other topics and kept on saying, “It’s getting late, Sejda (Sri Aurobindo) is waiting for you for lunch.” I entered the house feeling like a thief apprehended. I decided I would admit my mischief at the first opportunity. But I failed to detect any sign of disapproval or concern on anyone’s face. I felt as if my eyes, my face, my whole body was bending low towards the floor in shame. How a boy like me with such an insubordinate and misbehaving nature could be disciplined was perhaps known only to him. I felt as if I were dead, Sri Aurobindo took in my sorry plight with a single glance and said nothing.

In this way I indulged in one mischief after another and received inner blows. This made me reflect: “Such a man, he is really like a god! I will never, never hide anything from him or speak a lie to him. To disturb such a godlike being is the worst of sins!” His never saying anything, never reproaching me, only looking on as if he neither approved of my wrong-doing nor ignored it, as if he never gave any place to them in his thought, this silence tormented me and filled me with indescribable anguish. I longed above all that he should say something. I even went so far as to speak to him of my weaknesses. He only said: “Human beings are weak. It is not good to make them still more weak by dwelling on their weaknesses. Rather one should think only of that which gives strength to the mind.”

 

His “Anger”?

Now let me narrate Sri Aurobindo’s “anger”, of which I learnt during my long stay with him.

One day Didi had asked our cook to make some hot water for her. The cook, being disturbed during his cooking, replied with some irritation and annoyance. When we all sat down for lunch, Didi complained against the cook. Sri Aurobindo listened attentively. But when the cook came to serve us two times, three times, and Didi saw that her Sejda did not say so much as a word to him, she could not contain herself. She exclaimed “If you don’t say anything to the cook, he will become more and more insolent!” Sri Aurobindo looked surprised, as if he had not grasped the thing before and only when Didi alerted him could he understand its seriousness! When the cook appeared again, Sejda said, in an even tone, “You don’t listen to Didi? Cook, this is very bad! Do you understand? You must never do it again, — Never!” After he had repeated this verbal disapprobation a few times, the cook started to justify his own case in his native tongue. “Didi had ordered hot water while I was frying fish — how could I manage both? So I had objected to her, but later I made the hot water, etc.”… And so the matter ended.

 

His Tenderness and Consideration

After the Pujas, having spent a month in Baidyanath, we returned to Calcutta. My parents had become anxious, not receiving any news of my whereabouts and had sent my elder brother to enquire at the Yugantar office and take me back home. I mentioned all of this to Sri Aurobindo. He gave me some money and asked me to go home to Khulna. I asked him the reason — for I thought he had had enough of me and wanted to get rid of me. But he gave me those instructions: “Visit your mother once every week. When you go away, inform her the first time about your departure. The next time you go, tell her two or three days before your departure, then leave without any further message.

On subsequent visits, go to your house after a fortnight, stay for two or three days, then leave the house, letting someone else inform your mother about your departure. When you go the next time, don’t put up at your own house, stay in some one else’s house, but visit your family. When you leave, don’t inform them at all. In this way, after you have paid visits to your home five or six times, your absence will be taken as natural, and there will be no anxiety.” Such a tender-hearted and considerate person Sri Aurobindo was at the same time the main figure in a secret revolutionary conspiracy!

 

At Alipore Jail

The next phase was one of searches and arrests. At Narayangarh, there was a bomb attack on the viceroy’s train; the engine was damaged and the train derailed. Then came the Muzaffarpore bombing; there were searches, bombs and pistols were found, and arrests made.

I escaped to Khulna, my object being to hide in the forests of Sunderbans. But as a result of Naren Goswami’s treachery, Samsul Rahaman came to Khulna with a warrant of arrest. Out of consideration for my father and others who were in service, I surrendered myself voluntarily. There were about ninety of us lodged in Alipore Jail, all arrested in connection with the Alipore Bomb case. Besides us there were some others brought from Bombay and Madras. The jail became a veritable den of high spirits and amusement. Sri Aurobindo went into meditation in the evening and in the early hours before dawn. On days when there was no court to attend, he would often spend the time with us, sometimes we played word making games for learning the Bengali language; sometimes there would be a mock court in which Ullaskar would be the judge and Sri Aurobindo himself would become the Public Prosecutor imitating the arguments of Norton. He would expound on subjects like the philosophy of British law and justice, the morality and immorality of Anarchism, Imperialism, revolution, the morality of political dacoity, bombing, killings etc., he spoke with such lucidity, arguing on both sides, that it seemed he had a map of all these topics spread out before him.

 

His Humour

A certain speaker from the student community of Harrison Road arrived after surrendering. His name was Probash Deb. The subject of discussion was Formula of the Bomb. Probash’s habit of speaking, eating and moving was always brisk. His features were short for his body, his face was shaped in conformity with the close-cropped hair on his head. When giving an oration he would throw his arms and legs about just like a boy of ten, though he was twenty-five or more. At times when the orator became grave, we would tease him in order to lighten things. Here is an example.

Seeing Sri Aurobindo meditating, we also started to meditate at night. Bijoy Bhattacharya was arrested while making bombs. He used to join us in these activities. Everyone liked him. One day, seeing Probash, the orator, deep in meditation at midnight, Bijoy took a palm-leaf fan in hand, held it like a flute in the pose of Krishna, stood before Probash and whispered “Here I have come!” What insolence! How dare he make fun of spiritual emotion! Pandemonium broke out! Probash jumped up and chased the fake god through the whole length of the big hall. The noise of the stampede woke all of us up. Finally Bijoy Kanta took shelter under Sri Aurobindo’s wings. The complainant then and there demanded justice from Sri Aurobindo. He threatened that if the case was not dealt with, either Bijoy Kanta would be annihilated or the sadhak himself would commit suicide! So a court was set up at two in the morning! At the orator’s request, Ullaskar was made the judge and Sri Aurobindo agreed to take upon himself the role of counsel for the defendant. The court began. The counsels for the accused were Upen Bandopadhyaya, Hemchandra Das and others. The rest of us became witnesses for one side or the other.

 

Yoga in the Jail

Every morning after taking his bath Sri Aurobindo selected a corner in the hall as his living space. There, with his head on the floor and feet in the air, he spent hour after hour. One day the Governor of Bengal, Mr. Baker, came to see our ward. Sri Aurobindo was then suspended in that pose with his feet upwards. Baker remained standing there for about half an hour without uttering anything. When Sri Aurobindo did not respond in any manner, he left, thinking the posture to be another instance of the occult and unintelligible performances of Indian mystics. We were filled with apprehension: “Now”, we thought “we are finished. The Governor surely came to speak with him. He must have felt that he was being ignored. Obviously they will shoot us now. Perhaps a little conversation would have softened him.”

On the day Naren Goswami was killed by Kanai, the sound of the firing brought cheer to our hearts. For, it had been decided beforehand that we would make an attempt at Jail-break by forcing our way through the main gate of the prison as soon as help in the form of bombs and pistols arrived from outside. We thought that help had come. But those repeated sounds of firing seemed to come not from the direction of the main gate, but from the hospital. By and by news reached us that Kanai had overpowered and finished off Naren Goswami in front of the jail hospital. We felt like dancing out of sheer joy. The alarm bell had already started ringing following the sound of the shots.

Sri Aurobindo was then taking his bath and he went on with it as if he had heard nothing. I was wiping his body. At that time I used to bathe Sri Aurobindo in the presence of the guards every morning since during that period he had ceased to make any effort at doing things himself, eating, bathing or anything; he had even stopped making comments. He remained in the state of perpetual unmindfulness. Our elders, Upenda and others, finding me a strong and healthy lad, had selected me to look after him. I told Sri Aurobindo that the guards were asking people to get inside their rooms, and that the alarm bell was ringing because Goswami had been murdered. Shots could still be heard outside. Sri Aurobindo seemed to be totally unaware of all this as he slowly entered the room. Such a big event for us! He seemed hardly to take any notice of it. He never made any comment on these events even afterwards. His silence was something totally unlike that of ours, which is just the shutting of our mouths. Slowly his silence spread itself inwardly and outwardly; all became silent, as if all the inner mechanisms of his body, even the breathing, was suspended. When I could not reconcile his silence with my own feeling; I would mutter to myself: Has he gone mad? But inside myself I could not accept this. Whenever I came in contact with him, I felt a deep attraction towards him, a sympathy, such as one feels towards one’s very own.

 

Self Lost

Then Sri Aurobindo stopped speaking altogether. His eyes seemed far away, though they were not vacant, as if he dwelt in some far off twilit region. He used to go to the court wearing his dhoti tightly tucked up in the manner of working men. He would put on his cotton shawl drawing one end below his right arm and throwing it over his left shoulder. Was this the dress or manner of one who could have become a district magistrate in the I.C.S.? Rather he looked like a mendicant, a fakir! He was just like any other prisoner, a criminal, a thief, a robber. He had nothing to discuss with his lawyers, C. R. Das and Byomkesh, no comments to give them about his case. He would sit in a corner of the dock and sometimes laugh uncontrollably, be­coming almost red in the face. What he saw there he alone knew. During the identification parade he failed to move aside even when he was told to do so. Was it reckless madness or some profound reliance? His black hair glistened always as if oil was dripping from it. His face resembled that of a child’s, without any lines of thought or anxiety, a tender face perpetually filled with a happy smile. His eyes were full of profound peace and tranquillity. His smile was unlike ours; it was expressed in the glance of his eyes. His body exuded a fragrance like that of a baby’s tender body. His nails grew to half an inch, his hair and beard grew longer and longer. Our hairs never had that oily sheen of his. I ventured to ask him: “Do the European warders bring you oil in secret?” He neither smiled nor answered, as if he had not heard me. At night the warders would come and tell us, “Arvind remains standing the whole night, his bedding folded in the corner.” They did not disturb him by pressing him to lie down. They did not even call him up at night as was their practice with us; in our case they called us quite regularly to make sure that we were there and no one had escaped.

 

From age to age, in life after life, we come down into the human body, do thy work and return to the home of delight. Now too we are born, dedicated to thy work.

— Sri Aurobindo

 

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar

 

Sri Aurobindo

 

An Interesting Incident

One day a Scotch warder went crazy. Picking up Sri Aurobindo on his shoulders, he started dancing wildly in front of our cells. He had a big carrot-like nose, a heavy jowl and little eyes — a distorted face filled with demonical laughter! It was really a bizarre sight! The poor fellow seemed unable to decide what to do in his ecstatic state. But Sri Aurobindo was totally still. There was not a trace of smile or vexation on his face. He did not even try to resist. He was in some other world far from this earth. Only the body, separated from his consciousness was held on the shoulder of the warder.

 

I Took Care of Him

Thus a whole year passed for us. When C. R. Das could not get any assistance from Sri Aurobindo, he would stand looking helpless, wipe away his tears in dismay and go away. We would say among ourselves, “Political leaders, when the blows fall hard and mercilessly, either turn into sadhus or else they go mad!” In the afternoon we were given refreshments at the dock in the court — puris, sandesh and pan (betel leaves). Sri Aurobindo would eat them all together — puri and betel leaves both! — so I had to help him eat properly. I enjoyed sitting beside him and felt like touching him, but I dared not do so for fear of taunts from friends who had other views. But sometimes I would stealthily put my hands out and touch his soft body and feet. I smelt his head, I fed him, I washed his face.

 

The Mantra He Gave Me

At the end of one year, after the case had been fully heard, the court assembled to decide the date of pronouncing judgment. We were all present. Sri Aurobindo opened his mouth and spoke. He was talking about his realisations and Sadhana to Upen Bandyopadhyaya, Ullaskar Dutt and Nolini Kanta Gupta. He said “Vasudev Narayan has spoken to me, saying, ‘I have much work still to be done through you. I will take you out of prison’.” We then, one after another, taking advantage of the opportunity, asked about our future. Vasudev had already told Sri Aurobindo that we would be given sentences, and that Ullas and Barin would not be hanged. Getting this chance, I asked, “How will I be able to bear the days in prison at this young age? If I become weak and falter, what should I do?” Sri Aurobindo replied, “Think of me; I shall always be with you.” How deeply touching were these words! Out of jail, whenever in difficulty or danger, whenever in my helplessness I have been able to remember him, always I have seen that the difficulty has become a blessing, or if I have had to face it boldly, someone has always delivered me out of danger.

Later, during our life in exile, whenever the tyranny of the British Government tried to oppress us, we noticed how Sri Aurobindo’s Grace was always there to protect us. In the midst of endless abuses and suffering a heavenly cheerfulness wrapped us in its warm embrace, shielding us, comforting us.

 

Mrinalini Devi

In those memorable days of 1907, I have seen Mrinalini Devi take out suits used by Sri Aurobindo during his stay in England and put them on us with her own hands; in this way she would dress us up, when we had occasion to visit subscribers of Bande Mataram and Yugantar for funds.

 

The Universal Identify

I have heard it said that Sri Aurobindo had realised identity with all things — earth, trees, stones, birds, and beasts — with his own body, more intimately than we tend to feel towards our kith and kin. But this identity in body and soul does not make things dissolve into some undefined and undifferentiated mass. In fact each separate object is given its due place and value, and in that unique realisation its value goes on increasing more and more. The country, the body, everything appears uniquely in its distinct truth. What human beings can only conceive mentally, becomes living facts, as living and true as life and death itself. When we try to assess a person, we form an idea of him by observing his facial expression and his features; we can even have some glimpse of his mentality. But Sri Aurobindo saw things with some other power of sight: from the gross to the most subtle, all the different planes were revealed to his eye. All our thought and aspirations are derived from those subtle planes. But we can give expression to only a small portion of them. All that we receive comes from those planes. The Gods, Agni, Varuna and others — are not imaginary entities, they are beings as real and existent as we are. We human beings have to depend on those Deities; and they are connected not only with us but with animals. All things are complementary to each other; all that takes place in our world is interlinked with what takes place in those worlds! As the truth of this harmony is revealed to us more and more, all our actions tend towards perfection.

(Sudhir had an interesting way of understanding the happenings of life. He links here a few events in Sri Aurobindo’s life, revealing a deeper truth behind them.)

 

“Yet I will Escape”

— Sri Aurobindo

 

Here are a few instances of how the mighty British Government in India planned to kidnap Sri Aurobindo, but was foiled in its effort every time:

  1. The Government prosecuted Sri Aurobindo for editing the Bande Mataram newspaper, but he was acquitted for want of proof.
  2. In 1908 a Scotch Sergent entered Sri Aurobindo’s cell in Alipore Jail and said to him: “Arvind, now you have been caught!” Sri Aurobindo replied in a mild voice: “Yet I will escape.”
  3. Naren Goswami turned King’s evidence and implicated Sri Aurobindo as the Supreme Commander of the All India Revolutionary Party. Kanailal Dutt shot and killed Goswami in Jail. The Judge, for want of corroboration, acquitted Sri Aurobindo from complicity in the Alipore Bomb Case.
  4. In 1908, the Lt. Governor of Bengal, A. Fraser, informed the Governor General, Lord Minto that if Sri Aurobindo were left free he would undo everything and that it would, therefore, be better to remove him to a fortress or some other place beyond human reach (Vide Home Dept. Progs. May 1908, Nos. 104-111). But the Governor General, instead, set up spy-nets around Sri Aurobindo, as Bengal then was surging in waves of fire because of her amputation by the British. Sri Aurobindo continued to publish the two papers — Dharma and Karmayogin upto 1910.
  5. At repeated insistence from certain quarters, the Government decided to lock up Sri Aurobindo charging him for seditious writing. But they swooped down on his residence a bit too late. Following an Adesh, he had left for Chandannagore.
  6. At Pondicherry, a stevedore from a French ship, being an agent of the British, arranged to kidnap Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s companions suggested that he should shift to another house for safety. Sri Aurobindo said: “I am not going to budge an inch.” It later transpired that the stevedore was shot dead by another sailor for a personal grievance. The sailor later committed suicide.
  7. At last, when the British Government in India could not succeed in kidnapping Sri Aurobindo, they sent an Envoy in a special Railway Saloon to persuade him to go to Darjeeling which, they suggested, would provide a better atmosphere for his Yoga-Ashram. Sri Aurobindo rejected the proposal.
  8. During the First World War, the British twice approached the French Government to remove Sri Aurobindo to Algeria from Pondicherry, but did not succeed.

Thus Sri Aurobindo’s voice, “YET I WILL ESCAPE!” resounds for ever.

 


 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

Tributes and Reminiscences

A True Man

NOLINI KANTA GUPTA

(Life long associate of Sri Aurobindo and
Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Ashram
)

 

Sudhir — Mānusher madhyé mānush ek

Sudhir — A true man among millions

 

Lieutenants of Sri Aurobindo

DYUMAN

(Trustee, Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

What shall I say? Nolini is Nolini. Sudhir is Sudhir. They will ever remain with us like that. Nolini as Nolini; Sudhir as Sudhir — as the lieutenants of Sri Aurobindo. We shall always respect them, honour them. They stood with Sri Aurobindo from the beginning, and that is why they had to bear the brunt of the struggle for Independence. They were the pioneers of Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary movement. They lived not only as revolutionary lieutenants, but followed Sri Aurobindo to Pondicherry and remained with him until their last breath.

 

Sudhir-da – True Bhakta of the Mother

NIRODBARAN

(Physician turned poet — privileged to attend
upon Sri Aurobindo
)

Father of our Athletic group-captain Mona, Sudhir-da, Pagla Sudhir, intense revolutionary of the Andamans fame, had a streak of sweet madness in him. He had a sturdy and rough exterior, but a heart throbbing with mellowed tenderness within. Both these qualities expressed themselves at once whenever you accosted him. I met him for the first time when he had settled in the Ashram. Knowing perhaps that I was one of those who were attending on Sri Aurobindo as he had done in his youth, he took interest in me, his antithesis in every other way. I was also curious to know him for his fiery spirit that went through the long ordeal in the Andamans jail, when as a young man he had responded to the call of Sri Aurobindo.

Whenever we used to cross each other in the street, he would block my passage with a smile, and his hands in a pugilistic attitude. I do not know what made him welcome me in that militant fashion, when I was a meek servant of the Lord. Was it because I hailed from Chittagong of the Armoury Raid reputation? He would then start narrating some thrilling episodes of his heroic exploits. His mood would change, madness vanish, his dreamy eyes, turned far away, while his nostalgic voice was recreating the remote past. I could not leave him before he had finished his tale. Afterwards when owing to the call of duty I would try to bypass him, “He’, He’, listen, listen,” he would bawl out. “No, Sudhir-da, too busy”, and I would escape.

Simple and unassuming as he was in his dress and living and at times uncouth in his expressions, one would take him for an ordinary man, devoid of elegance. Once when the Mother was giving darshan from the terrace opposite the Boiler Room, he was heard muttering, “Look, look at the বূড়ী (old woman)! Be careful! Don’t try any hypocrisy before Her! She knows everything”. One sadhak incensed at the vulgar expression complained to Sri Aurobindo about it. The letter was sent to Nolini-da for enquiry. Nolini-da called Sudhir-da and gave him a sharp rebuke, saying: “What are all these foolish things you are saying?” Sudhir-da, much perplexed, could not understand what Nolini-da was driving at. On hearing the charge against him, he admitted using the term. “But I didn’t mean anything wrong or disrespectful”.

In fact, বূড়ী is very often a term of endearment in our social milieu.

Nolini-da reported it to Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo in his return explained to the Mother the whole storm in a tea cup.

The Mother replied, “It is of no consequence. Sudhir is my true bhakta”.

It is significant too that quite a number of people came to the Ashram from Khulna through him and had taken up the spiritual life. Khulna was the place where Sri Aurobindo’s father was loved and adored like a god. And Sudhir-da belonged to Khulna; his father was a close associate of Dr. K. D. Ghosh, Sri Aurobindo’s father.

I forbear writing about Sudhir-da’s other activities, as they have been amply brought out by other writers. One appreciative remark of the Mother sums up the man’s true metal.

 

Our Sudhir-da

PRANAB BHATTACHARYA

(Director of the Ashram’s Department of Physical Education)

I first met Sudhir-da at the Pondicherry Railway Station. It was in 1942, towards the beginning of April, just before dusk. Four friends — Sunil, Gora, Ranju and I — had come to Pondicherry for the April Darshan. It was our first visit.

I was not acquainted with Sudhir-da then. But when he looked at me, I read only trust and love in those eyes. I too, for some unknown reason, felt an attraction of love and deep respect for him. The bond of love and affection that was established on that day, never got strained or sundered.

In those days we had meditation every night at 8 p.m. in the meditation hall. After a half-hour of meditation the Mother would get up and climb to the top of the staircase. While She stood there we would approach Her one after another, do Pranam and receive flowers. On that day Sudhir-da arranged for us to have our first darshan of the Mother and receive Her blessings.

On the same day I asked Ranju: “Who is he?” Ranju replied, “He is Sudhir Sarkar, Sri Aurobindo’s co-worker.” Hearing this my respect for him grew even more. I felt that we had met the right man from the very first day.

Sudhir-da was a very simple man. Usually he wore white cotton shorts and a banian. His hair was close-cropped, half white and half black. I heard that he himself clipped his own hair. When I looked at his strong, compact body without flab, I felt that in his youth he had surely possessed perfect health and tremendous strength. He had a simple mind of a child, but he also had a very strong will and an abundant vitality. Whenever he spoke or heard about an act of bravery and courage, he got warmed up with enthusiasm. Later I snapped a photo of him and showed it to the Mother. She commented, “Exactly the carved features of an ancient Roman.”

 

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar with Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya
(at the centre is Wilfred Pinto)

 

Sudhir-da loved his Motherland more than his own life. He used to keep track of all developments, good or bad, affecting the country. He identified himself with everything relating to the country. In 1947 after the partition of India, communal riots broke out. Sudhir was ill. When the Mother came to know of it, She agreed with the doctor that the news of fresh riots breaking out in the country were disturbing him greatly and this was the cause of his ill-health.

But above all, Sudhir-da had an integral loyalty to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. He has proved this throughout his whole life.

I came to live permanently at Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 7th May 1945. Within a few days of my arrival, I took up the responsibility of the Ashram’s physical education department, with the Mother’s blessings. From the very beginning Sudhir-da encouraged me in my work for physical culture. When the Group for elderly persons was started, he joined it. I used to conduct the gymnastic marching of this group of Grown-ups. Sudhir-da was very enthusiastic about this marching. He used to cry in delight, “Pranab, they perform the Bharat Natyam, but we perform the Mahabharat Natyam!”

As I was his neighbour, whenever I got the chance, I would go to him and listen to stories of the old days. Oh, innumerable were the stories he told! Now unfortunately I can’t remember most of them.

I have seen many political sufferers trying their best to secure the monthly allowance offered by the Government of India. But when the proposal for the monthly allowance came to Sudhir-da, he said, “I have served my country because I love her, not for a monthly allowance. Besides, when the Mother has taken responsibility for me, where is the need for a dole from the Government of India?” One rarely sees such a lack of greed combined with complete trust in the Mother.

The Mother once told me that when an Avatar descends on earth, He brings with him several followers to do His work. I can firmly state that Sudhir-da was one of those followers. On the eve of his birth centenary, I would confidently declare that Sudhir-da was in the frontline of Sri Aurobindo’s followers.

I conclude this homage to Sudhir-da with my heartfelt love and gratitude for him.

 

Sudhir-da – A Chosen One

PARICHAND

(In-charge of Ashram Garden Service)

As Sri Ramakrishna gave a call to some young souls and they responded to it for the Mother’s work, so must have gone out a call from Sri Aurobindo to the first few pioneers who gathered around him for the Mother’s work.

They heard the call, responded to it and had implicit faith in the guidance of Sri Aurobindo; they lived and had their being in his consciousness. One of the pioneers who readily replied to the call was Sudhir Sarkar; to him Sri Aurobindo revealed the vision of the Mother in Her physical embodiment. That vision of the Mother in Her resplendent form, Sri Aurobindo saw as a living image of Mother India, and He gave it to a chosen few. For Sudhir-da, that vision was a life-long cherished possession.

By virtue of long association with Sri Aurobindo at a tender age, Sudhir-da imbibed certain great qualities in his heart.

He had an innate simplicity and frankness which endeared him to all of us.

At the slightest touch of physical suffering or mental affliction in others, he was easily moved to sympathy and knew no rest till he found the remedy. An ingrained nobility of nature governed his behaviour from day to day and therefore Sudhir-da never stooped to serve any selfish ends.

Sri Aurobindo kindled in his heart an undying fire which was offered first at the altar of Mother India and finally at the altar of the Mother of the universe.

 

Love for Motherland

(Recounted by PURNANANDA,
an Inmate of the Ashram, to Mona
)

Once Bhupen-da (Bhupendranath Dutt, the younger brother of Vivekananda) spoke to me about Sudhir-da. He told me: Oh, Sudhir! he is a realised soul. Could one recognise him by his outwardness? All those young revolutionaries descended from another world. At the dawn of the century, they came down and built a new path. Their endurance is beyond our comprehen­sion. When the power of Mother India, coursed in waves through Sudhir’s veins, he forgot himself and he was able to do anything. What identification he had with the Motherland! I have rarely seen so much love in anyone.

Sudhir-da’s passionate love for the country is akin to a saint’s one-pointed love for the Divine. When I see him, I feel that the Mother’s call has entered his blood, his flesh and bones and marrow. Always the overwhelming idea activating him, is the freedom of the Motherland. During that period everybody was against them — their courage and sacrifice in the face of this opposition is unthinkable. Much that was done for the Country’s progress is due mainly to them. The power Sudhir was born with — the warrior strength — always burst out vehemently whenever there was any wrong-doing around him. When that anger entered in him he could crush anything.

The Lord must have been exceedingly pleased with Sudhir’s deeds, for He blessed him by sending a wife godly in character, to relieve him of his sufferings. It was the union of two great souls.

Sudhir’s wife was not an ordinary woman. Her patience and skill in work were extraordinary. How great were her love and compassion for all. Whenever I saw her, I felt a deep and abiding peace; it seemed to surround and illumine her lovely face. From her behaviour one could sense her purity and elevated consciousness. When she used to cook and entertain us with food, it seemed that we were partaking of the nectar of heaven. How tasty the food was and how beautifully it was served! It was due only to her spiritual power that she alone could master Sudhir’s virility. She used to calm him just by uttering a few telling words. At that time I wondered at their power of endurance — in Sudhir it was physical endurance, in his wife it was mental endurance.

How wonderfully Sudhir’s wife accepted everything due to her trust in God. Whenever there was any political agitation in India, C.I.D. agents would pursue Sudhir. For the Government saw his hand behind all anti-British activities. What a dangerous and harrassed life Sudhir lived then. How anxiously his wife passed her days and nights. For months together there would not be any news of Sudhir, nor any message from him. Lest the police should trace Sudhir, no letters were written. Oh, how miserable and gloomy her days were then. But it was her faith in the Mother that brought her through all the vicissitudes of life.

 

Sudhir Kumar: Kshatratejas Incarnate

RANAJIT SARKAR

(Former student of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of
Education and now a Professor in Holland
)

When I think of Sudhir Kumar, the image that arises in my mind is that of a burning flame, a portion of kshatratejas, warrior power. He was fashioned by the spirit of the 1905 agitation against the Partition of Bengal. This agitation had drawn Sri Aurobindo into active revolution. And it was around him that a group of young men gathered together to dedicate their lives to the great sacrifice for national emancipation. Sudhir Kumar was one of them.

Speaking of this sacrifice Sri Aurobindo writes in The Doctrine of Passive Resistance (1907), “Liberty is the fruit we seek from the sacrifice, and the Motherland, the goddess to whom we offer it; into the seven leaping tongues of the fire of the yajna we must offer all that we are and all that we have, feeding the fire even with our blood and lives and happiness of our nearest and dearest….” And when I heard Sudhir Kumar speak of those days I understood that he was indeed one of those who had come to the yajna with a firm resolve to offer all that he was and all that he had, ready to sacrifice his life for the liberation of the Motherland.

Sri Aurobindo speaks of two kinds of power, tejas, that were needed for the revolution; one was the “peaceful and self-contained” brahmatejas, and the other the power of the warrior, kshatratejas, of which the important characteristics are abhayam, fearlessness and sahasam, courage.

In Sudhir Kumar I felt this fearlessness and courage. “Politics,” wrote Sri Aurobindo, “is the work of the Kshatriya and it is the virtues of the Kshatriya we must develop if we are to be morally fit for freedom. But the first virtue of the Kshatriya is not to bow his neck to an unjust yoke but to protect his weak and suffering countrymen against the oppressor and welcome death in a just and righteous battle.” Sudhir Kumar fitted perfectly into this description of the Kshatriya. Even after India’s independence, when Kashmir was treacherously invaded by Pakistan or during the border-conflict with China, that power would sometimes blaze up in him; it seemed that he would if he could sacrifice the remaining years of his life to fight back the aggressors and protect his beloved Motherland.

Brahmatejas, of which one expression is Passive Resistance, is a great power, but, says Sri Aurobindo, when the demons are fierce and determined, the bow of the Kshatriya has to be called in; “without Kshatriya strength at its back, all political struggle is unavailing.”

Sudhir Kumar was, as I feel it, one of the Kshatriyas made by Sri Aurobindo in whose close contact he came very early in his life. He was drawn to brave and dangerous action. But action must be founded on knowledge. For Sudhir Kumar the knowledge came by self-giving and service to his leader and master. For Sudhir Kumar there was no questioning, only self-giving and service. He served Sri Aurobindo with love and unquestioning obedience. And Sri Aurobindo taught him.

When I think of Sudhir Kumar, I remember the Upanishadic words so dear to Vivekananda, nāyamātmā balahinena labhyah, “This self is not to be attained by one who is weak.” I believe that Sudhir Kumar’s seeking of the Self, his sādhanā, followed the path of the divine power. All through his life he offered his strength to serve his Master and his Mother.

 

Sparks of Fire

RAJEN GANGULI

(Managing Editor, ‘The Advent’,
Ashram Publication
)

I first met Sudhir-da here in the Ashram in February 1940, at Jyotin’s room, opposite the Ashram Gate. His personality at once captivated me; he had such fiery eyes and a transparent simplicity. I found through him a new meaning in the words patriotism, love and affection. Yes, he had some sparks of the Fire of Sri Aurobindo within him. He freely gave of this Fire to anyone who wanted it. Perhaps, it was this Fire that saved him and brought him out alive from the dungeons of the Andamans.

I can still hear his lion-like voice roaring against all hostile forces.

 

Magnetic Influence

(Recounted by BIKASH MUKHERJEE, former student of
Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, to Mona
)

When I think of Sudhir-da, the first thought that comes to my mind is his simplicity. He was a very simple man, inwardly and outwardly. No showing off, no pretence, a transparent simpli­city. He used to speak casually of the profound truths of life in such a simple language. And then I remember his truthfulness. His motto was “Speak only the truth in spite of all adversities.” He was never afraid to express himself straightforwardly. That is why persons guilty of some offence used to be ill at ease in his presence, for they regularly got exposed before his truthfulness. He never cheated anybody; perhaps he didn’t even know what cheating was. There are some people who have a compromising nature. In order to avoid complications and misunderstandings, they take recourse to half-truths. But not Sudhir-da. He used to judge himself with the same rigour with which he judged others. He had such an atmosphere of truthfulness around him that in his presence one had to be truthful oneself — there was no question of lying.

Sudhir-da had the knack of discovering the vein of goodness in people. Once he found something good in a person, he would forget all about his faults. That is why everybody, whether known or unknown, felt attracted to him. Sudhir-da was a unique personality. Some power seemed to possess him when he recounted the days he spent during the great struggle for India’s freedom from the English. Even now I can hear his thunderous voice goading, “Will you be able to do it?”

“What are you talking about, Sudhir-da?”

“To fight, to give battle.”

“Against whom?”

“Against Pakistan. Can’t you see that we must strive to make India one?” That is how Sudhir-da used to speak about his cherished wish, the union of Pakistan with India. He used to say, “Well, if you can’t sacrifice your lives for the Motherland, then for whom are you going to do it?”

Sometimes he would get angry with us and shout, “What is the use of living such a life if it is not sacrificed at the feet of the Mother?” And speak of his courage — he had tons of it! When he spoke in an impassioned mood, he could instil that fearless courage into us and make us as ardent and fiery as he. I remember how in his company I would feel myself charged with courage and enthusiasm. I think that even timid persons would have dared to accomplish dangerous tasks in the presence of such a man. He seemed to radiate courage and assurance. In him strength of character was married to physical power and courage. It seemed to be a divine gift to him.

 

A Fighter Within

(Recounted by Dr. HIRANMOY GHOSH, a well-known Chiropractor
and family friend, to Mona
)

It is difficult to fully understand what sort of combination made up Sudhir’s character. Few people will ever be able to comprehend the way in which he accepted the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. That power and forthrightness of nature, that warriorlike character, which comes out only when a person enters the field of work and discovers the great battle going on behind everything — that was his characteristic mettle. And how openly he has given evidence of it. Throughout his life, he kept on the fight unflinchingly, never retreating, never showing any sign of weakness, even in his duel with all powerful death. I can still see him struggling with the force of his god-gifted health and vigour and the rugged frame that lodged his soul. How full of conviction his speech was and how totally fearless! Indeed he had a character in which there was no separation of profession from practice. Whatever he resolved to do, he did it — it could not be otherwise. When one takes up Yoga, one has to fight within himself to conquer all kinds of desires; for that one has to be a fighter. Sudhir had that fighter within him, and it could tame and subdue all kinds of forces.

 

My Uncle Sudhir Sarkar

NANDALAL BOSE

(Family Friend – then residing in Khulna)

One day we were gossiping in the house of our uncle. Suddenly Sri Madhav Bhattacharya, head of the Sanskrit school, taunting my uncle in an insulting and provoking tone, said, “The Mother of your Ashram is a European lady?” No sooner had he finished the statement than my uncle started to strangle him, shouting, “What have you uttered against my Mother?” We were all stunned. Somehow we checked him. The aged Pandit, recalling the incident, said, “I was really astounded by Sudhir-babu’s devotion to his Guru”. That violent behaviour was totally unexpected of my uncle. But his strange conduct clearly shows that he believed in the adage: To hear adverse criticism against one’s Guru is a great sin.

 

Why Worry?

ARABINDA BASU

(Professor of Philosophy, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education)

Once I pressed Sudhir-da to tell something on Sri Aurobindo. He remained silent for a long time. I could read on his face his effort to master his emotions. Slowly, very softly he said, “What can I say? Was He a man?” His manner of speaking forced me to silence for a while. At last I said, “Okay, tell me of the God then.” Sudhir-da replied, “Later on outwardly we did not have much contact with each other. But inwardly he could silently inspire and entrance people in a way I have never seen anyone else do.”

Sudhir-da’s life was utterly dedicated at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I never heard him utter weighty sentences of Yoga. All his actions were centred in Sri Aurobindo. He used to say to me, “Why worry any more? Have you not reached the Ashram?” To my query, “But what should I do?” he replied, “Why? you should love! Have you not seen how They love?”

 

A Century’s Salutation

NIRMALYA ROY

The heart of this revolutionary was soft as a flower. When he would refer to Mrinalini Devi, his eyes would be filled with tears. He would refer to her as Ma Mrinalini. She too looked upon him as her son. At his instance, Sri Sailendranath Bose, Mrinalini Devi’s younger brother, wrote the memoires of her life. Sudhir-da used to say, “No one really knows what a great sacrifice Ma Mrinalini made!”

Another incident that I remember will reveal what a deep inner relationship of love he had with the Mother. One morning Sudhir-da was standing in the Meditation Hall. Nolini-da came out of the Mother’s room, saw him there and said, “Sudhir, the Mother has called you.” He replied in a jocular vein, “How long shall I see the old Lady?” Nolini-da chided him, “The Mother has called you, go to Her.” Sudhir-da always obeyed Nolini-da. He went upstairs and entered the Mother’s room. What did he see? Wonder of wonders: There was the Mother, seated in the form of a girl of sixteen! An unforgettable sight! An experience of his life!

 

My Uncle Sudhir Sarkar

Dr. BALAI MITRA

(Ophthalmologist — Calcutta and family friend)

My respected uncle Sudhir Sarkar was the brother of an intimate friend of my father. I discovered two uncommon qualities in him. First, his unbounded love and devotion for Sri Aurobindo; when he returned from Pondicherry, he used to say, “What have I seen! What have I seen!” His devotion was infectious — it absolutely pervaded us. My uncle’s second great quality was his love for the Motherland. He was a great nationalist. He used to say, “This is the time to drive out the British! Can’t you all do something?” Hunted by the British, he left Assam and came to Khulna. In Khulna District, my uncle was the first to introduce sanitary privies with septic tanks. My father Amritalal Mitra, an overseer by profession, spoke highly of this.

My uncle learnt homoeopathy all by himself and never charged any fee from anyone. When I was a medical student, I developed tonsil trouble. The doctors advised operation. He said to me, “I will give the medicine. For one whole night you will suffer, then you shall be cured.” Indeed it was true; I never had any trouble afterwards.

Both my uncle and aunt loved me very much. Whenever my aunt would cook something delicious, she would invariably keep some of it for me. The memory of my noble-hearted uncle and aunt is even today sweet and fresh.

 

Sri Aurobindo’s Sudhir

PRITHWIN MUKHERJEE

(Former student of Sri Aurobindo International
Centre of Education, and a research scholar in France
)

We were children at that time. My parents had just returned from Pondicherry after Darshan. They were full of talk about the Ashram. All through their eloquent description of the events there, the name of certain ‘Uncle Sudhir’ occurred repeatedly. As I listened, a picture of the person took shape in my mind, though I had never seen him. It was the portrait of someone who seemed to be very intimate and close — an old revolutionary.

Sudhir-da stood tall and erect and looked rugged as a ‘Sal’ tree. There was not an ounce of superfluous fat on his perfectly proportioned body. He wore a white short — sleeved banian and a light pair of shorts, he seemed to feel most comfortable in them. Was it in fond remembrance of his Prison days? His neck was really beautiful, like the stem of a young green eucalyptus, solid and tender. His face was that of a Roman warrior frozen in bronze, such as are pictured in history books. His eyes sparkled incessantly with a suppressed, mischievous smile, while his restless right hand elaborated through gestures every word he uttered, giving them an added meaning.

Once Sri Aurobindo told Sudhir to go to Belur Math and see Sushil Maharaj. The Maharaj (monks are addressed by that name) — spoke about many things, giving illustrations from the Gita, the Upanishads and the Puranas. But Sudhir was not impressed. He came back and told him so. But Sri Aurobindo said: “One should not have prejudices against people. As expe­riences accumulate, one should observe, discriminate and repeat them where necessary. Man is indeed weak, yet hasn’t this same man been created in the very image of God and the Divine Mother? He has been created to taste all kinds of experiences.”

*

Once in 1907 or 1908, a non-Bengali gentleman came to Sri Aurobindo’s house in Calcutta. He wanted to see ‘Aurobindo-babu’. Sri Aurobindo was occupied with his writing. Deciding not to disturb him, Sudhir politely took the gentleman inside, but made him wait in the outer room. After some time Sri Aurobindo came downstairs for something; seeing the visitor he greeted him warmly. The visitor in this case was none other than Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Sudhir, faced with this embarrassment, hung his head!

*

Sudhir’s sadhana was based on the motto: “I shall come to Thee, О Mother, with the simplicity of a child.” And indeed everything hidden within him, he brought out without the least hesitation to Sri Aurobindo.

*

Our parents had contemplated returning to Calcutta from Pondicherry after having Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. We all three brothers wished to stay back in the Ashram. In some mysterious way the old man derived what was in our mind, and with a mischievous smile and a flicker in his eyes, he suggested: “To-morrow all three of you go and meet the Mother and tell Her directly your intentions.”

“But in what language are we to speak, Sudhir-da?”

“Speak in Bengali, slowly and mentally stressing on every word within yourselves. You will see how the Mother understands every thing.” But observing doubt on my face, he taught us how to say in English: “Mother, we want to stay here permanently.” My elder brother repeated it to the Mother. We were granted the permission and our mother too was asked to stay back with us.

Like a victorious warrior Sudhir-da bore down on us, took us in his arms, pressed his forehead against ours and hugged us with all the warmth and endearment in his command and said: “Did you see, how the Lady does things!”

 

Like a Father to Me!

(Recounted by SHYAMA-DI, an Inmate of
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, to Mona
)

Oh!! Baba! Was he really human? He was so godly! What compassion, what great love he bore towards all. He would draw all the affliction of others into himself.

Baba’s seeing was different from ours. He could see the reality behind things and discover truths which escaped our notice. Sometimes we would criticize people, judging them. Baba would say: “Look, whatever you are whispering in my ears the Mother is listening too! She is standing behind you, so beware!”

Again Baba would tell us: “Never retreat! never be small! never show weakness! That demeans the Mother! It is a sure way to remove the Mother’s presence from you. You must become a true worker of the Mother. Be cheerful, banish all levity from your nature, all meanness. Widen your mind and heart so that you may be able to hold a drop of the Mother’s love in you.

It is not enough merely to be good-natured and inoffensive — a goody-goody type. It is discernment that sifts the true from the false, the good from the bad; it is discernment that penetrates into the heart of a thing. To follow that discernment is a great thing; for it alone can indicate the Truth.”

Whenever Baba spoke of Sri Aurobindo, he became meditative and self-lost. At such moments his face seemed to glow with a radiance. He spoke with such tenderness! One wondered how a reckless and stubborn person as Baba, who had faced death unflinchingly could suddenly be overcome with tears of emotion welling up from his heart. I could never account for such contradictions in his character.

Sometimes, while speaking, a gust of emotion would suddenly grip him. Whenever it happened he would become intoxicated with the Mother’s love and tell us: “What are you staring at? Have you looked into the eyes of the Mother? Do you know what Her love is? If you add up all the love that hundreds and thousands of Mothers feel for their children, it could not fathom the oceanic depth of Her love, so deep, so vast, so infinite it is. Did you come here to know Her, to understand Her? And that too with your puny intelligence? What stupidity! When will you grow wise? Only one person truly recognised Her — Sri Aurobindo.”

How true all that was, and how authentic the ring in Baba’s voice as he spoke — it brings tears to my eyes when I remember it. He would say: “Listen, if you do a little for the Mother, even a tiny bit, you will see how She will make you one with Her, with all Her deep love and Her unfathomable compassion. It is unthinkable! Not to speak of man, even God cannot fathom that firm bond of love. Can you ever find such a Mother? Can you discover Her anywhere?”

 

An Ecstatic “Baul”[10]

ABANI SINHA

(Inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

Fidelity of his ideal and boundless courage characterised Sudhir-da and set him apart from others. On the night of 11th February 1965, at the time of the anti-Hindi agitation, a large number of anti-socials under some false pretext attacked the Ashram. With the Mother’s permission the young members fanned out to oppose the attackers. The spirit of the freedom fighter flared up in old Sudhir-da’s heart — he was in his mid-seventies then. Out he came totteringly, armed with a stick. The young boys tried to make him go home. But Sudhir-da answered, “Do not stop me please. I know my fighting days are over, but nothing can change my attitude. At least I am capable of dying, if not of fighting back.” Can you forget such a personality?

Ramakrishna once said, of the God-intoxicated dervishes of India, “The Bauls came, they sang, they danced and they departed, but none understood them.”

At the time of the joint manifestation of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, there appeared on earth a group of Bauls. Truly, they possessed the qualities of Bauls. They were not attached to anything on earth. They were born free. They came down upon earth to express their heart’s ecstasy by hailing the divine manifestation on earth.

Sudhir-da was one of those ecstatic Bauls.

 


 

APPENDIX

 

 

Historical Documents

 

(As is well known, the revolutionaries of the first decade of the century took great care to erase their own footprints on the sands of time, partly because they had no desire to be adored by the posterity and partly because of the very nature of their activity, the need to carry on their mission in utmost secrecy so that the foreign rulers could not nip the movement in the bud. Here are a few documents which have come down to us, surviving the vicissitudes of time and the practice to dispose of accumulated papers in the different departments of the government from time to time.

However, despite their meagreness and discrepancies for obvious reasons, they give us glimpses of Sudhir Kumar’s life and activities which are significant and of which [such as his role in a conspiracy against the Chief Commissioner of the Andamans] he had never cared to shed any light himself.)

 

“The Hindu”[11] – Madras

(The following is published in the ‘Indian Telegrams’
columns of “The Hindu” of 12th. May 1908:)

Development at Khulna

“A hospital Assistant’s son arrested.” Calcutta, May 11 — A Khulna wire of yesterday’s date says: A Muhammadan detective from Calcutta came here this morning with instructions from the authorities and assisted by District Superintendent of Police, Inspector Bhowani Charan Nandi and a posse of Sub-Inspectors and Constables surrounded the house of Prasanna Kumar Sarkar, Hospital Assistant, at 7 a.m., in connection with the Muzaffarpur Bomb Outrage Case. Every nook and corner of his house was ransacked but nothing was taken away except some private letters. Prasanna Babu’s son, Sudhir Kumar, was arrested under Section 121, Indian Penal Code. He was all cheerful and found to be freely talking with the Police officers without the least indication of nervousness. His father was a little overpowered, but he consoled him. The search lasted three hours. Sudhir will be taken to Calcutta by night under Police custody. He has not been handcuffed.

(Madras Newspaper Report — English, 1908, p. 297/2)

 

Statement of Sudhir Kumar Sarhar of May 11, 1908

(The statement of accused aged about 18 years, made before Mr. L. Birley,
Magistrate of the 1st Class, at Alipore on the 11th day of May 1908, in the English Language
.)

Sudhir’s confession:

Q: Do you wish to make a statement to me?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you understand that I am a Magistrate and that anything which you say to me can be used as evidence against you?

A: Yes.

Q: Has any pressure been used to induce you to make a statement?

A: No.

Q: Where were you at School?

A: I was a pupil at the Khulna Zilla School until nearly 2 years ago.

Q: Why did you leave?

A: For 2 reasons, first because of the Swadeshi agitation, and secondly because I failed in 2 subjects in a School Examination.

Q: What did you do then?

A: My father sent me to Sahebganj to my brother Narendra Kumar Sircar, who was assistant Jailor at Bhagalpur. My father wished me either to get employment or continue my studies. I had no mind to learn at the Calcutta University or to get an official employment. I therefore left my brother after about 15 days and went to Calcutta and became acquainted with Barindra Kumar Ghose.

Q: When was that?

A: About a year and a half ago.

Q: How did you make this acquaintance?

A: I met him at the Jugantar Office where I used to get the Jugantar newspaper: the office is at 41 Champatola 1st Lane. I assisted at publishing the newspaper.

Q: Who were managing it then?

A: Abinash Chandra Bhattacharjee was Manager and there were also helping in the office Upendra Nath Banerjee, Barindra Kumar Ghose, Dindayal and Sailendra Ghose, Dindayal was only living there; He was employed by the Tramways.

Q: How long did you help in the office?

A: I lived there one month. I took no pay. Upendra gave me some books and I bought others on his recommendation: he instructed me to read them.

Q: What Books?

A: “The Works of Mazzini”, “Garibaldi”, “Desherkatha” by Sakaram Ganesh Deoskar, Bankim Babu’s works, Bhudeb Babu’s works (he was Director of Public Instruction), Upanishad, Gita. After being at the Jugantar office one month I went to Khulna and occasionally came to Maniktola and used to stay for 7 or 8 days at a time in the Garden house of Barindra. I first got to know the garden house while I was in the Jugantar office. Barindra took me there saying that there was a mission for religion and self-abnegation and political purposes.

Q: Who used to live at the Garden house?

A: Upendranath Banerjee who used to teach me from the books named above. Others also used to be there: Barindra, Sishir Kumar Ghosh, Bejoy Kumar Nag; there were many others who used to come sometimes for a day at a time or a few hours. I cannot remember their names.

Q: What were the political purposes of the mission?

A: To serve the motherland and to serve the people.

Q: When did you last leave the Maniktolla Garden House?

A: Nearly 2 months ago, since when I have been at Khulna, reading.

Q: How do you support yourself?

A: I was supported by my father who is a Government Hospital Assistant.

Q: Have you anything else to say?

A: I intended to teach illiterate people religion.

Q: How was the mission supported?

A: Barindra had a lot of money.

 

Statements made by Sudhir:

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar, of Khulna —

I met Barindra about a year ago. I left the Zillah School about a year and a half ago, as I joined the Swadeshi movement, I learnt all about this from books, vernacular papers and speeches. Among the books I read were Desher Katha, Bankim Babu’s works, Bhudev Chandra Mukherjee’s works, Instruction in politics and social matters. From these books I learnt to love my country and countrymen. I read up to the second class but I was not desirous of continuing my studies. I left the school. My father then sent me to my brother Norendra, who is Assistant Jailer, Bhagalpur, to get some work to do or to continue my studies, my father’s objection being that I should thereby cut off all connection with the agitation that was going on in Khulna. I remained in Bhagalpur about a fortnight and then fled to Calcutta and put up in 46, Ramtanu Bose’s lane, students’ and officers’ mess. I cultivated the friendship of Barindra Babu in the Yugantar Office, as I used to go to the office to get papers. This was about a year ago. I stopped at the mess only two days and then removed to the Yugantar Office, where I worked as an accountant, I received no pay but all my expenses were defrayed by the manager. There was mess in the office where I used to feed and live. At this time Abinash Bhattacharjee was the manager. Others used to visit to the office whose names I do not recollect, but if I see them I will be able to recognize them. I used to see at the Yugantar Office, Barindra, Upen Babu, and Dindayal Bose and Sishir Kumar Ghose. I remained at the Yugantar Office about a month or so. I then returned to Khulna, but was in the habit of paying periodical visits to the Yugantar Office. I used to study Philosophy, History, Geography and religious politics on the quiet, both at my father’s house and the Yugantar Office, with the intention of serving my country. I did not dare to attend political meetings openly on account of my father, but whenever I could, I attended without my father’s knowledge. I used to receive instruction at the Yugantar Office from Upendra Nath Banerjee on Mental Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Physical Philosophy, and from him I learnt what it was to sacrifice my life for my motherland and self-abnegation. I have visited Calcutta about 10 or 12 times and each time I put up at the Yugantar, where I received my usual instructions as already quoted above. I had a desire to visit America for the purpose of learning Homeopathy at the expense of the Calcutta Science Association, but my father did not approve of it and would not give me the requisite certificate. This was about the time I entered the Yugantar Office. During the last six months when I visited Calcutta I stopped at 32, Maniktolla, Barindra’s garden. Upen Babu used to stop there — many boys used to visit the garden and stopped there, a short time only and then go away. I cannot remember their names and I did not make enquiries as regarding their names as it was against the rule (prohibited). My first introduction to the garden was about eight months ago, when Barin Babu took me there and told me that there was a secret mission awaiting me there. The secret mission was that we should, after receiving instructions, travel all over the country and teach the people religious ideas and thereby prepare them to resist the Government by becoming independent. Our mission was to travel all over India and preach this religious war. On being questioned what this involved, he replied that the ultimate aim and object was to turn out the foreigners. I know nothing about the manufacturing of bombs, etc., in the garden. About three months ago I visited Allahabad, Bindhachal, Chunar and Benares in order to see what the country was like. After I left the Zillah School, i.e., about a year ago, I preached Swadeshi with Sishir Kumar Ghose in villages, Sagardari (Jessore), Bagerhat, Kumora, Khalishkhali, Raoli, Katpaca and Banka. At Sagardari, I put up at the house of Sishir, at Bagerhat in the house of Debibar Chatterjee. At Khalishkhali in the house of the postmaster, who is a Chakravarty. At Raoli in the house of the maternal uncle of Sishir. My travelling expenses from Calcutta to Khulna and back were paid by Upendra Banerjee and others from the secret mission fund. I know of an advertisement which appeared in the paper called Motherland, edited at Bankipore, in which Entrance passed youths were wanted for political missions. I also know of another advertisement which appeared in the Yugantar to the effect that a society was being formed for political mission and members were wanted. This was about the time when I joined the Yugantar Office.

 

A paper headed “The Sahebgunj Students’ League” was found among the letters taken possession of during the house-search of Prasanna Kumar Sarkar. On being asked who supplied him with this, he replied that the draft was in the handwriting of Phani Bhusan Mukherjee, a student of Sahebgunj.

L.H. Barton
Superintendent of Police
The 10th May 1908.
Criminal Investigation Department,
Bengal.

 

The Alipore Bomb Trial was the first State Trial of
any Magnitude in India

A few Reports of Evidence and Cross Examination of Witnesses:

  1. Mr. Norton then dealt with the case of Sudhir Kumar Sarkar.

Counsel placed the documentary evidence against Sudhir before their Lordships. These documents consisted of a number of letters written to Sudhir by his brothers asking him to be moderate in Swadeshi. There was a letter addressed to Sudhir at 41 Champatola Lane. This showed that at that time Sudhir was living with the conspirators. Counsel referred to another letter writen by Sudhir and found at his father’s house at Khulna in which Sudhir said that he had taken a vow to serve his motherland. Mr. Norton then referred to several letters written by Sudhir but none of which were proved by Sudhir’s brother.

  1. “Exhibit 394 is a letter of 6th December from Aurobindo explaining why he was not able to send some “brandy”. He says, “Abanish is not here, nor is Sudhir. Barin was not here.” He also refers to the time as being one of anxiety.

This letter is relied on as showing Arabindo’s connection with Sudhir”.

  1. Exhibit 300-21 was found in Aurobindo’s house in an unopened envelope, addressed to Sudhir Kumar Sirkar, C/o Late Raj Narain Bose, Esq., Baidyanath, Deoghar, and across the envelope is written “Confidential.” The envelope bears the Baidyanath postmark of 24th November. It was opened by Mr. Denbam on 11th May. The point of this is to prove that Aurobindo knew Sudhir, the accused. Sudhir says that he stayed at Deoghar for two or three weeks after the Pujas, and that in March he put up at Raj Narain Bose’s house. We know that Aurobindo was at Deoghar in November. It does not follow that the two were there at the same time. On the contrary, the fact that the letter was not delivered to Sudhir at Deoghar suggests that he was not there when the letter arrived. In paragraph 17 of his written statement Aurobindo gives an explanation as to how Sudhir stayed for a short time at Deoghar. He says he does not remember even seeing the letter.
  2. There was a riot in Jamalpur in April 1907. A Mahomedan was killed. Four Calcutta volunteers including Indra Nath and Sishir Ghose were arrested on 27th April. Some Hindu Idols were outraged and Hindus alleged that they were opposed by Mahomedans. Police did not take sides with Mahomedans… Volunteers did not act in opposition to the local authorities.

 

The Roll of Honour on the wall of the Court in Calcutta

 

  1. What was alleged was that Indra Nath and Sudhir were in company with two local men of Jamalpur and as there was an apprehension of a disturbance between the Hindus and Mahomedans being caused by these persons they were bound down under section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code to keep the peace. Counsel could not understand how that could possibly be used as evidence for establishing the association with the offence of waging war against the King. That occurrence was in April 1907. As regards this part of the case Counsel preferred to wait before making his submission until he had heard Mr. Norton as to how the latter proposed to establish a connection between Indra Nath being bound down to keep the peace in April 1907 and the offence of waging war against the King.

Answers from Prison Hospital Staff

  1. “Then there is the case of Sudhir Kumar Sarkar. We find that this prisoner was allowed to be in the hospital, and that he acted as an “Attendant” upon Aurobindo Ghosh. His name is not entered in any register. He had no business whatever to be there. We are of opinion, in these circumstances, that the medical officer did take certain liberties of the bomb case undertrial prisoners into the hospital, or allowed them to be there, who were not suffering from any serious illness. We are of opinion that in so doing he acted in contravention of the orders of the superintendent.”
  2. “The 7th charge is that bomb case prisoners made a practice of coming to the hospital, without any record being kept of such visits. Besides the specific cases of Aurobindo Ghosh, Asoke Nundi, Bijoy Nag and Sudhir Kumar Sarkar, referred to above, there is evidence to show that other bomb case prisoners came to the hospital, without any receipt being given for them, or any record being kept of their visits in contravention of jail code rules and standing orders. We have reason to believe that this hospital assistant was aware of such visits, and that he either connived at them, or intentionally omitted to have any record kept in respect of them.”
  3. “Aurobindo was in the No. 1 ward of the hospital in the charge of the Senior Hospital Assistant. Aurobindo had a sick attendant. Sudhir was his sick attendant. I saw him there, and heard he was Aurobindo’s sick attendant. I did not ever see Barindra in the hospital. Aurobindo was treated upstairs.”
  4. “I know that Sudhir K. Sarkar, one of the Bomb-case prisoners, was attendant on Aurobindo Ghosh for a couple of days. Sudhir K. Sarkar was not a patient: He was simply an attendant. I also saw Barindra Ghosh here. That was about 20 days before the murder.”
  5. “On Saturday 29th about noon when I came back to the hospital after my rounds, I saw Sudhir K. Sircar, who said to me, ‘Gossain says, that I shall be released,’ and laughed. I warned Gossain in the evening and waited till Monday to inform the other officials. But before I met the superintendent the fatal occurrence had taken place.”

(Murder of Noren Gossain 31-8-08)

 

If their Lordships were satisfied that exhibit 774 was written by Sudhir, then his case stood on a different footing. Exhibit 774 was a post-card addressed to Upendra Nath Banerjee, Seal’s Lodge Deoghar, and was signed by Sudhir. There was nothing in that post-card about the garden except the postscript which ran as follows: “The condition of the garden is bad; monkeys are entering. There is possibility of spoiling. The boys are like that.” If their Lordships were not satisfied that Sudhir wrote that post-card then the case against him was one of mere suspicion only.

Mr. Das: … For instance, in Sudhir’s case, he (Mr. Norton) gets hold of a letter that he has picketted and at once he rushes to the conclusion that he joined the conspiracy. It is that sort of arguments against which I protest.

Referring to the case of Sudhir Mr. Das first of all drew their Lordships’ attention to the confession made by the appellant. He admitted having assisted in the publication of the Yugantar. This confession was obtained by the police by inducement and pressure. But the confession did not show that he was a conspirator. Apart from this confession there was nothing in the evidence to show that Sudhir had agreed to the general objects of the conspiracy. The documentary evidence connecting him with the garden was no evidence of his complicity in the conspiracy.

With reference to Abinash, Sailendra and Sudhir, Mr. Das submitted that the case against them was due more or less to the fact that the prosecution wanted to connect Arabinda through them.

After dealing at great length with the case of Sudhir Sarkar, he (judge) said: On a consideration of the evidence I hold that Sudhir’s presence at Seal’s Lodge is established, and also that Seal’s Lodge was intimately connected with the head-quarters of the conspiracy in Calcutta. I am further convinced that Sudhir was a frequenter of the garden, and the conclusion to which I come is that he is proved to have been guilty of an offence under Section 121A of the Indian Penal Code.

Mr. Norton, continuing his address on behalf of the Crown, said that at the last sitting of the Court he was dealing with the case of Sudhir Kumar Sircar and was discussing the post-cards. The case for the Crown had always been, and still was, that the postcards and the other letters did go from Khulna and were written by Sudhir. But should it be that it was not so, and should it be that these two letters were in the handwriting of say Nibaran, then Counsel submitted that the fact, if true, made the case against Sudhir infinitely worse. There could be no doubt whatever that Sudhir had been proved to be up to the very hilt in this conspiracy.

 

Alipore Jail — Judgement

Sudhir Kumar Sarkar has been found guilty by the Sessions Judge under section 121, 121-A and 122 of the Indian Penal Code, and sentenced to transportation for life. He was arrested in his father’s House at Khulna on the 10th May and he was brought down to Calcutta and placed before Mr. Birley on the 11th when he made a statement.

The case for the prosecution is that Sudhir was a member of the conspiracy, and this is sought to establish by proving his connection with the garden, and the Jugantar Newspaper, and also with Seal’s Lodge. According to his statement before Mr. Birley Sudhir was a pupil at the Khulna Zilla School which he left first because of the Swadeshi agitation, and secondly be­cause he failed in the school examination. He was then sent to his elder brother Narendra Kumar Sarkar, but as he had no mind to learn at the Calcutta University, or to get an official employment, he came to Calcutta and then made the acquaintance of Barindra Kumar Ghose, whom he met at the Jugantar Office. He assisted in the publication of the Jugantar paper for a month, he says, and then returned to Khulna “and occasionally came to Manicktollah and so used to stay for 7 or 8 days at a time in the garden house of Barindra.” Barindra took him there saying that there was a mission for religion and self-abnegation and political purposes. The political purposes were to serve the motherland and to serve the people. He intended to teach illiterate people religion.

The evidence confirms his statement that he left the Zilla School at Khulna in January 1907; that in the following April he was taken to Sahebgunge, and that in the same month he went to Calcutta. That he was in Calcutta in May is to be inferred from Exhibit… which further indicates that on the 28th of that month he had returned to Khulna. The next indication we get of his movements in 1907 is from a letter addressed to him by a friend who signs himself Monindra, apparently an old school fellow. The opening sentence of this letter in the light of what appears on the envelope Exhibit… in which it was enclosed, suggests that about the 20th November he must have been staying in the house of the late Raj Narain Bose at Baidyanath, Deoghar. This letter was found unopened at 48 Grey Street, Aurobindo Ghose’s residence, when those premises were searched by the Police, but how it came there does not appear, except that it did not come through the post. The explanation possibly is that Aurobindo was staying at Raj Narayan’s bungalow in November and December 1907, and he may have brought the letter with him to Calcutta. To link him with the garden the prosecution rely on his own statement, on the testimony of witnesses, and on documentary evidence.

His statement places this connection beyond all doubt, but he withdrew it before the Magistrate on the 13th of August attributing it to police influence, but offering no explanation. In the court of Sessions he refused to give any oral answers, but relied on a written statement, which in no way explains how he came to make his statement before Mr. Birley. Though he did withdraw his statement I agree with the Sessions Judge that there is no reason to suppose it was other than voluntary, the cross examination of Inspector Shamsul Alum having failed to prove that he was responsible for it.

General evidence as to his presence at the garden is given by Satish Chandra Banerjee, Suresh Chandra Ghose and Fazle Huq, but their inability to connect him with any particular incident, naturally detracts from the value of their testimony, which is also open to the comment that it does not harmonize with Sudhir’s statement as to the time when he was absent from Calcutta. Turning to the documentary evidence we find that the note book, Exhibit 76, contains the name Sudhir in more than one place, and this, so far as it goes, supports his own statement that he was at the garden, for there is no trace of any other Sudhir being there.

In Exhibit 239, which was found at the garden, we find in more than one place initials that might refer to Sudhir, but as they need not necessarily refer to him, it will be safer not to rely on them. Exhibits 652 and 667 were found at No. 134, Harrison Road: in the first name Sudhir appears in an account next to that of Sisir as was the case in Exhibit 76, a circumstance by no means conclusive, but at any rate significant, and in the second, initials corresponding with his appear.

 

The descriptive roll card for Sudhir Kumar Sarkar prepared
after conviction (from Police File)

 

This is the evidence as to his relations with Calcutta centres of conspiracy.

Then it is sought to connect Sudhir with the Jugantar. Inspector Purna Chandra Lahiri of the Criminal Investigation Department declares that when he searched 41, Champatollah 1st Lane on the 1st of July 1907 he found Sudhir Kumar Sirkar among others there. He asked those there “what they were as regards Jugantar,” and he was told, but apparently no mention was then made of Sudhir. It casts some doubt on the accuracy of this witness’ statement in the Session Court that before the committing Magistrate he did not know Sudhir’s name, while in the search list prepared at the time of the search no mention is made of his name. It is further to be noted that prior to this occasion the witness did not know Sudhir either by name or by sight.

If Sudhir was present and was engaged in the publication of the Jugantar, it is difficult to understand why his name was not included in the search list. This evidence is not convincing. Still we have Sudhir’s statement to Mr. Birley that it was at the Jugantar Office he first met Barin, and that he assisted in publishing the paper. But even if he did assist, as he says for a month, that by itself would not greatly strengthen the case against Sudhir, though it would not be without some value when taken in connection with other circumstances. The evidence of Sudhir’s presence at Seal’s Lodge is in part oral and in part documentary. The oral testimony is that of Hira Lall, the Post Master at Rohini and Tarini Raut, the postal peon. If the evidence of these witnesses be credited, then there can be no doubt that Sudhir was at Seal’s Lodge as be alleged by the prosecution.

This evidence in my opinion receives strong confirmation from the documents produced by these witnesses, and it was believed by the Sessions Judge before whom these witnesses on them. Exhibits 652 and 667 were found at No. 134, Harrison Road: in the first name Sudhir appears in an account next to that of Sisir as was the case in Exhibit 76, a circumstance by no means conclusive, but at any rate significant, and in the second, initials corresponding with his appear.

Though the Assessors were not for convicting Sudhir, it does not appear that they disbelieved this evidence, on the contrary such indication as we have of the opinion of the 1st assessor, and he alone alludes to this matter, points to the view, not that he did not think Sudhir was at Seal’s Lodge, if he was there, this was not any evidence of criminality on his part. Then there is documentary evidence which confirms the testimony of these two witnesses. Exhibits… and… are letters on which reliance is placed to show that Sudhir was at Seal’s Lodge in March 1908. The prosecution attribute Exhibits… and… but not to Sudhir. But neither is shown to have been signed by Sudhir, nor is it possible to read the signature at the foot of either as his. The only circumstance that suggests a connection with Sudhir are the facts that in Exhibit…, written from Seal’s Lodge, is a request that Newspapers should be redirected to “Khulna Charitable Dispensary,” and that in Exhibit… purporting to be written from Khulna Hospital is an instruction that all “letters and papers should be redirected to the above address”; i.e., Khulna Hospital. Sudhir’s father, it should be noted, was at that time Civil Hospital Assistant in charge of the Dispensary at Khulna. Then there is other evidence on which reliance is placed as showing Sudhir’s presence at Seal’s Lodge.

Thus there is the counterfoil of the money order, Exhibit… whereby Sudhir sent Re-1 to his brother Narendra Kumar Sarkar from Rohini. This is not disputed, but it is said it does not show that Sudhir was at Seal’s Lodge, and it is suggested that he was staying at Raj Narain Bose’s house, which is also in the village of Raidih. But the prosecution point to the words “Seal’s Lodge” after Sudhir’s name on this counterfoil of this money order, and the Post Master declares that he added those words at that time. The Sessions Judge believed this evidence and I see no reason for saying that his appreciation of this oral evidence was erroneous. Then there is the village postman’s visit book which supports the fact to which the postman deposes that Sudhir did sign that book and was at Raidih on the 18th of March 1908. This is not disputed but again it is said that though in the village of Raidih, Sudhir was not at Seal’s Lodge.

On this evidence I hold that Sudhir is proved to have been at Seal’s Lodge in the month of March 1908.

Now I will examine the evidence by which it is sought to establish the connection between Seal’s Lodge and the conspiracy in Calcutta.

To begin with we have correspondence which relates to the taking of this house from Debendra Nath Seal. (Exhibits 818, 697, … and …) This correspondence was between Debendra Nath Seal on the one side and Prokash Chandra Bose on the other. Who Prokash Chandra Bose was is not clearly established, though the Crown suggest that in all probability Barin assumed this name. But this at least is clear, that the letters addressed to Prokash were found at 134, Harrison Road. There were also found at this same place two plans, Exhibits 641 and 642. In the corner of Exhibit 641 is written “white and very small pucca house; very near the line: one house surrounded by a wall,” while the plan seems to indicate the neighbourhood of Seal’s Lodge.

Exhibit 642, the other plan, derives its importance from the fact that endorsed on it is the name of Prokash Chandra Bose with the address Seals Lodge. It is a curious coincidence that among the garden documents is Exhibit … a plan evidently of the same general locality as that depicted in Exhibit 642.

Exhibit … is a rough plan of the neighbourhood of Seal’s Lodge which was found at the garden, and Exhibit 276 is a gunny bag also discovered in the garden on which are the words “P Chaki, Baidyanath”. This becomes material in the light of the oral evidence of the postal peon that Profulla Chaki was at Seal’s Lodge. Among those proved to have been at Seal’s Lodge was V. B. Lele, and Exhibit … contains his name with the address, 12, Wellington Square, Calcutta, while Exhibit 382 found at No. 15, Gopi Mohan Dutt’s Lane, and Exhibit 667, found at 134, Harrison Road, also contain his name and address.

Then we have Exhibit 774, found at Seal’s Lodge, a post-card written by Sudhir to Upendra Nath Banerjee at Seal’s Lodge. It bears the Baidyanath post mark of the 11th of March but it does not appear from where it was written. The internal evidence points to its having been written by Sudhir on his arrival at the garden from Seal Lodge, but to be on the safe side and avoid anything in the nature of speculation, I will merely treat this card as going to show that Upendra Nath Banerjee, one of the conspirators, was at the Seal’s Lodge, and that Sudhir, under someone’s orders, was writing to him there directing him to come at once. Then Exhibits 1006 and 1006A show that Rs. 50 was sent by money order from Jasidi by Prokash Chandra Bose to Upendra Nath Banerjee at the garden in February 1908. This is borne out by Exhibits 920 and 921, and the evidence of P.W.’s 85 and 77.

In Exhibit 201, discovered at the garden we find an entry of a corresponding amount. Exhibit… is a rent receipt for Seal’s Lodge made out in the name of the Satyendra Nath Babu, found at No. 134, Harrison Road. Though he was not positive at a point, Debendra Nath Seal, by whom the receipt was given, thought Bibhuti Bhusan Sarkar was like the man. Exhibit con­firms the fact of payment being made by Satyendra Nath. Exhibit 769 are two wrappers found at Seal’s Lodge with Prakash’s name on them.

 

The Roll of Honour at the Cellular Jail, Andamans

 

Then Exhibit 777 one of Messrs. Hewlett’s labels was found at Seal’s Lodge, while similar labels were found at 15, Gopi Mohan Dutt’s Lane and 134, Harrison Road. Eight pieces of tin and one of zinc were also found there, which in the opinion of the Chemical Examiner, corresponded with similar fragments taken from the garden; and tin and zinc are used in the manufacture of bombshells. There were other articles discovered at Seal’s Lodge, e.g., Exhibits 767, 768, 770, 772, 773 and 771, but they do not call for separate notice.

Exhibit … is a declaration in favour of Swadeshi principles found in Sudhir’s home at Khulna, and is only relevant if at all, so far as it indicates his interest in the movement. Apart from this nothing was discovered at Khulna that calls for notice.

On a consideration of the evidence I hold that Sudhir’s presence at Seal’s Lodge is established, and also that Seal’s Lodge was intimately connected with the head-quarters of the conspiracy in Calcutta. I am further convinced that Sudhir was a frequenter of garden, and the conclusion to which I come is that he is proved to have been guilty of an offence under section 121A of the Indian Penal Code.

 

Records of Home Department

On the 12th December (1909) seven of the Convicts sentenced to transportation in the Alipore bomb case were despatched to the Andamans. Every precaution was taken to maintain secrecy and there was no gathering or demonstration at the jetty. Three of the prisoners, Poresh Chandra Maulik, Upendra Nath Banerji and Sudhir Kumar Sircar, are detained temporarily in the Alipore Central Jail owing to illness.

 

From the Records of Home Department Political

Sarkar, Sudhir Kumar, son of Prasanna Kumar, of Lakhipur, Police-station Pangsha, Faridpur. Year of birth 1890.

A member of the West Bengal revolutionary party. Sent up for trial in the Alipore bomb case (1909) and sentenced to transportation for life. Sentence subsequently reduced by the High Court to one of 7 years’ transportation. While in the Andamans, was concerned in a conspiracy to assassinate the Chief Commissioner by means of a clock-work bomb. On his release was again concerned in revolutionary activity. Took part in an attempt to cash a Rs. 1,000 note which was one of the notes stolen in the Kantapukur robbery. Interned, vide Go­vernment order dated 7th June 1917. Released on 22nd May 1918, on guarantee.

 


 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

We are grateful to the following persons and many others, too numerous to recall at the moment, who have given us assistance and encouragement and have contributed in some way to the making of the book.

Late Sunderlal Pateseria

Late Ashit Gupta

Pranab Bhattacharya

Jayantilal Parekh

Mrinal Das Gupta

Bishwanath Roy

Manik Mitra

Dr. Srinivas Iyengar

Pulak Banerjee

Abani Sinha

Hriday Narayan

Mrityunjoy Mukherjee

Samar Sen

Aniruddha Sarkar

Cristof Pitoёff

Nishit Roy

Amalesh Bhattacharya

Simanta Narayan Chattopadhya

Kanupriya Chatterjee

Ajay Virmani

Sushil Deora

Sudhir Dewan

Dr. Mitra

Nirmalya Roy

Vishwajit Talukdar

Ashish Majumdar

Peter Hees

Ramen Sen Gupta

Mira Sen Gupta

Panu Sarkar

Bono Sarkar

Gama Sarkar

Kalu Sarkar

Debkumar Sarkar

We are especially indebted to Manoj Das, Vijay Poddar, Arabinda Basu, Munindra Nath Sharma and Robert Zwicker for their kind help and co-operation, without which the publication of the book would not have been possible.

 


  1. From a prayer written on the Mother’s birthday, 21st February 1943[]
  2. Thinking that the police had come to know of the bombs Ullaskar, one of the conspirators, removed a package containing bombs to the house of his friend Nagendranath, who knew nothing about its contents. Later, to save his friend, Ullaskar made a confession, but the police did not release the brothers.[]
  3. …“It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause, for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” November 19, 1863  Abraham Lincoln[]
  4. Tejen Mukherjee, a member of the Ashram. (Son of Jatindranath Mukherjee[]
  5. The grandson of Bagha Jatin.[]
  6. These episodes, published in several Bengali journals, were written in a couple of note-books which contained other reminiscences as well; the notebooks, lent to a publisher, unfortunately cannot now be traced.[]
  7. Referred to Chapter Six – Part Seven – “I joined the Revolutionaries”.[]
  8. Nolini-da himself has written about this incident in his reminiscences. See Collected Works of Nolini Kanta Gupta, Vol. 7, pp. 371-72.[]
  9. Sudhir used to say with admiration, “Nolini Gupta is not Nolini Gupta he is Gupta Nolini (‘gupta’ means ‘hidden’). You need to look into his eyes to fathom the hidden depths.”[]
  10. Baul – Spiritual minstrel.[]
  11. Editor — S. Kasturirangan Aiyangar, B.A., B.L. Hindu, 44 years. Published at National Press, 19, Wallajah Road, Madras (3130 copies)Madras Newspaper Report, p. 4[]