The Golden Path: Sunanda Poddar

 

 

Sunanda Poddar

(Caretaker of “Srismriti”, The Mother’s Museum)

 

Sunanda Poddar has lived in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram since the age of sixteen with the exception of eight years in East Africa where she worked for SABDA (Sri Aurobindo Book Distribution Agency). Her name, given by her parents and unchanged by the Mother, means “Full of Happiness”. Early on, the Mother devoted much time to and showed great interest in this engaging and charismatic woman. Sunanda is the author of books and plays of fairy tales for children, and was a teacher in Auroville and the Ashram school. She worked with her husband, the late Balkrishna Poddar, at SABDA in the Ashram and in East Africa. Sunanda is a clairvoyant and pranic energy healer working with crystals and since 1989 she has been the caretaker of “Srismriti”, the Mother’s Museum. Here begins her extraordinary story:

Where were you born and what was your family life like? Were your parents spiritual or religious people?

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on February 24, 1934. I was born into a family immersed in the inner, spiritual life and my aunt performed routine Hindu religious ceremonies in her little temple. Before moving to Africa both of my parents had worked for the freedom movement with Mahatma Gandhi at the grass-roots level in the villages of Gujarat. They dispensed medicines where there had been floods and other problems such as epidemics, etc. They had both become devotees of Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the late 1920s and in 1929 they moved to Nairobi where my father’s brother was living. They had visited the Ashram long before I was born. They did not perform religious rites in our home but meditation was a daily part of our family life. My father, Shivabhai Amin, was a lawyer and had his own office and practice in Nairobi.

What were your special talents? Did they manifest early in your childhood? What were your childhood ambitions and dreams?

I was influenced by my parents’ love of work with the freedom movement in India. I dreamed of becoming a doctor and settling in a village in India where there was no doctor so that I could treat the unfortunate free of charge. I was very idealistic.

Were you aware of a spiritual presence in your childhood? When did you first begin to aspire deeply for the spiritual life?

I loved the religious ceremonies my aunt performed and I joined her in fasting and worship of the idols in her small temple. My parents did not want me to go to the temples but explained to me that God listened to your prayers at home, or in school or on the road or whenever you called sincerely. My family did not have much of a social life and I did not have many playmates in childhood. I loved the garden in our home and as a child I entered into fantasy play there and had long conversations with flower fairies and the God, Shiva, who became my personal God. This life was so real to me that I thought everyone had a similar inner life. As I grew up, I realized that in my life with the fairies and Shiva I was not like everyone else, so there was a remote search for something of which I was not fully aware at that time. The fairies were to remain with me for my lifetime but Shiva was ultimately replaced by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

When did you come to the Ashram for the first time and when did you have darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother?

It was in 1942 and I was eight years old. I came with my parents and I was so taken with the Mother’s beauty, her love, the flowers everywhere and the quiet, nightly meditations under the service tree. I wanted to stay and go to the school that Mother was forming at that time, but there was not as yet a boarding facility and neither of my parents could stay with me there, so we had to return to Africa. I had darshan of Sri Aurobindo that August 1942 but I don’t remember how he looked. I remember the garlands we carried for the Mother and the Tulsi (basil) garlands for Sri Aurobindo. The predominant feeling for me then was that of a very special event at a very special place where I felt that I wanted to be.

When did you return for your final stay?

I returned in 1951 when I was just sixteen. My father had sent me to the Ashram on a visit specifically to ask the Mother if I should take up medicine or law for my further education. I so much wanted to be a doctor but my father wanted me to take up law. I had left home on my own for the first time and was staying in Golconde. In fact, I was the youngest person to ever stay in Golconde. The first day I went for the Mother’s darshan she gave me a flower and smiled so sweetly. In the evening in the playground I stood with the visitors. As the Mother distributed prasad she asked me, “Don’t you want to join the other children in exercises?” I said, “Yes, Mother, I’d like to.” She said, “Tomorrow you give your measurements for shorts and shirts.” That next evening one pair of shorts and a shirt were given to me and my new life began without my even knowing about it or deciding about it on my own. This truly shows the greatness of the Mother. I joined a group but was not yet in school. Every day I would go to the library which was in the main Ashram compound then. Vasanti-di was working there at that time. She would see me every day reading poetry and books. Then in the afternoons I would go wherever I could see or be near the Mother.

Could you describe what it was like to be in the Mother’s presence in those days?

The Mother used to dress in a long gown with matching scarf on her head. When she came out on the terrace outside her room the time was between 10 and 11a.m. Her close companion, Chinmayee, carried a parasol to protect the Mother’s head from the scorching sun. A crow would invariably come and hop onto the ledge of the terrace. Chinmayee would hand over some biscuits to the Mother who in turn would feed them to the crow! I mostly looked at her lovely pastel — colored clothes and matching parasols and her lovely smile. In the evenings when she would give darshan at the head of the staircase, she was like a goddess from the scriptures. She wore saris and embroidered bands over her forehead. She looked taller than when I saw her during the mornings. She radiated light, light and more light. She received our flowers and we bowed down to her feet. She looked into our eyes and smiled down on us as we looked up at her. Often her smile was like a silent laugh. She gave us some flowers and then we came down the staircase. I did not want to look at anyone because her image was in my eyes and I wanted to hold on to it for as long as I possibly could. By 1951 things were quite different. The school and many other workshops were functioning at that time. The playground was a must for everyone. There were many more people then than when I first came in 1942. Mother would come down to play tennis at 4 p.m. She would come down the staircase and look at us and smile. Her smile was very important to us. She would get into her Humber car with Pavitra driving. I would run as fast as I could to the tennis grounds with Pavitra driving slowly alongside so that I could see Mother arriving and getting out of the car, then we would all sit and watch her play tennis.

When did you become officially connected to the Ashram and begin your classes in the school?

After I had been in the Ashram for two months an interview was arranged for me by my father’s friend, Dyuman. My father had written to him that I had been in the Ashram for all this time and had not written home. It was to be my initial personal interview. I sat on the ground and the Mother sat on a low chair. “What would you like to ask?” Mother said. Instead of asking her if I should study law or medicine I found myself asking her if I should stay in the Ashram or go out of the Ashram to study. She said, “What do you want to do in life?” I told her that my father wanted me to study law but that I wanted to study medicine. Mother said, “We’ll forget about law because you are not interested in it.” She asked me in great detail why I wanted to study medicine. I told her that it was not for money but that I wanted to help the poor, unfortunate people of India for no charge. I told her that I had a great love for India and that Shiva was my personal god. The Mother said, “I can see that you would make a good doctor, but what I see today you may not be aware of and you may lose that if you go out of the Ashram.” I said, “Mother, if I stay, will you accept me?” She said, “But I have already accepted you.” In those days gold was given for its inner qualities of warmth and purity, the money-oriented reasons came later. I had two bangles, a chain and earrings and I placed these in her lap. I had no money and no other valuables to give her. That was the moment when becoming an ashramite was final. Mother said, “I will arrange for you to study medicine here.”

This was so amazing to me because there was only one hospital in Pondicherry at that time…the General (Government) Hospital. So, Mother went to Nirodbaran and asked him to teach me medicine! The Mother told him to do this and he did it. Then she said that I was to go to the main Ashram school as well. Nirodbaran gave me a huge, monstrous book to read on anatomy (this was all such a humorous thing). He said, “Here, you read this” and I did it because Mother said to do it! I sat on the parapet near the samadhi with this ages-old edition (probably the one he used from the early 1900s) and religiously read page after page of the book. (Dyuman had finally written to my father that I was staying in the Ashram.) This study went on for a few months and after some time Nirodbaran gave it up. Dr. Sen joined the Ashram and opened a clinic to treat students injured in the playground. After group I would work with him helping people who had got hurt at the playground. Finally, Dr. Sanyal was given the job of training all the students interested in medicine. He took seven of us to the General Hospital to see a dead body and to view the internal organs. I think this is what ended my interest in medicine. I was around eighteen or so during this period.

You visited Mother on a regular basis for quite some time. How did you receive this special blessing?

There were three photographs in the Ashram reception. One on the east side, one on the west side and one in the center of the room. In the photo on the left-hand side, I could not see Sri Aurobindo, I could only see Shiva. I would rub my eyes and open and close them in disbelief. I was feeling quite guilty about this as I had accepted Mother and Sri Aurobindo as my gurus and felt that I should only worship them and not Shiva. I was also continuing to fast on Mondays. A girl from my group had asked me to have lunch with her. I told her I was not taking food. She gave me quite a lecture about not being faithful and that I was worshipping old deities. I was so ashamed. At pranam I told Mother that I wanted to see her. I mentioned my situation and she listened very carefully. She asked me details about my worship of Shiva. I told her of my childhood in the garden and how I had grown up with Shiva. I asked her to help me see Sri Aurobindo. She had a small book by her table. She opened the book at random and said, “Here, read this.” The sentence was by Sri Aurobindo telling someone in a letter, “Shiva and I are one.” The Mother said, “Don’t worry about things, slowly a time will come when you will call us. She said, “It will be Ma, Shiva, Ma, Shiva at first.” Then I made a concerted effort to switch. I sat for meditation, then it happened and it was no longer disturbing to me. She also asked me other details of what I experienced when I was quiet and on my own. At that time I told her of the visions that I saw at times. She asked me if I still had these visions and I told her that I saw many things. She asked me to write down things as I experienced them and to send them to her. She said if sometimes I had something special to tell her that I should come to her room in the mornings before school. She wanted to help me give meaning and explanations to my experiences. I went to her room every day after that from 1952 to 1954. I would tell her of my visions. Sometimes I would go and spend time by the sea in the evenings. Once I saw an impression of the Mother’s feet in the sand. I started praying that the tide would not roll in and wipe out the impression. Suddenly the impression rose above the ground and into the air. When I related this to the Mother she smiled and was silent. A few months later on my birthday, along with flowers, there was a bundle wrapped in cloth given to me by the Mother. It was a pair of her gold brocade chappals that had been made in the Ashram. I knew that this was connected with my vision on the beach and that she had given them to me as a result of that experience. So much was communicated through the Mother without the use of words. There would be an understanding of what was to be said through a flower you gave or that She gave to you. I then began to speak to Mother about the fairies that I had been seeing since childhood. She would sometimes just listen and at other times explain things.

 

[Sunanda, did not even know what the word clairvoyant meant at that age, but she is one and she also has the gift of seeing auras and working with pranic energy. She can scan the body for diseases, blockages and imbalances.]

Could you share something of your voyage into the world of fairies and how your fairy stories and plays were published?

I was staying in Golconde and each day I would write about what had happened in my dreams and experiences. I would write during the night and in the morning would tear the pieces of paper up and throw them in the wastepaper-basket in my room at Golconde. One day Mona came and said, “What is it that you are tearing up to such an extent and throwing away?” I was so embarrassed. I went to the Mother and told her that something pushes me to write and then I tear everything up and throw it away. “Anything coming to you like this is not your writing and you have no business to tear it up and throw it away. Write everything down and bring it to me.” So, that started another step in my connection with the Mother. I took my writings to her every day. After a few days she said there were some nice things in the papers. She said, “Why don’t you tell stories to the children?” I asked her, “What stories should I tell? If they are fairy tales from the West then I can surely do that or Indian myths as well.” Mother said “Neither; you will go to a classroom, sit there and any children who want to listen to your stories can go to that room. The stories will come to you and you will tell them to the children.” There was such trepidation in my heart and I said, “Suppose they don’t come to me?” But I agreed anyway and started telling the stories. I would have the experiences, write them down and the next day I would tell the stories. My writings were passed on to the Mother who gave them to Nolini. Nolini read them and found complete stories in them. Mother told him to separate the ones that could be published. There were no books for children in the Ashram at that time.

One day in the playground (a famous date 23-4-56) Mother was giving prasad. She caught my hand and said, “Wait here.” Why she had stopped me I did not know. Someone went inside and brought out a newly published book titled Stories and Plays for Children and on the cover was my name at the bottom! My mother was so elated. I was just twenty-two years old. Balkrishna was there and had heard about the book. When I came away with the book I wondered how this could have happened. Balkrishna told me he saw it while it was being printed. All the while everyone knew about this but me! [Sunanda continued to write and publish stories for children.]

Are the fairies complete material formations? How do they look? Are they like extensions of the plant world?

The fairies that I saw in the garden as a child never seemed to be a big deal to me. In fact, I thought everyone saw them. They actually had physical forms. They weren’t all the time there. Sometimes I would see them and sometimes not. Yes, they generally looked like extensions of the plant world. They appeared as one would imagine flower fairies would look. They had wings on them and were always cloaked in pastel colors. I have never seen a fairy with very dark colors. Even the red ones were transparent with a lot of light play around them. They were always full of light and very luminous as if edged in light. They were often gold and silver. They were not even as large as a small baby. They were no bigger than around four to ten inches.” This is not a permanent world, but always a changing, newly forming world.

Did the fairies wear actual clothing and do they have human-like faces? Do they speak? Do you still see them? Do you think that this world increased for you after you told the Mother about the fairies? Are the fairies the same as the beings called “devas” who preside over gardens?

Some fairies have human faces. Others have bird-like faces or flower faces. Some had crowns made with subtle light formations or flowers. The clothing was like gossamer, very transparent like dragon-fly wings. They mostly communicated with feelings but sometimes talked among themselves. I still see this world of fairies. They are the same entities as “devas”. They still come to me although I am practising yoga. Now there is more meaning in them for me. I see them as spirits of the vegetable kingdom — not just as playmates any more. Not only did this world of fairies increase through the Mother but a whole world of beauty, refinement and the realization of her perfection in works was shown. Now I call them “beings” — overseers of the vegetal kingdom. Sometimes the larger “beings” take the smaller “beings” into the tops of the trees. C. took a photo at Lake Estate. He had it blown up and gave it to a friend as a birthday gift because he took it in a beautiful spot at a lovely time of day when the light was creating special effects on the ground. A mutual friend saw the photo and found something “mystical” in it. She brought it to me for confirmation. I confirmed the presence of fairies in the photo.

[I asked Sunanda to bring me the photo the next day. I clearly saw the phenomenon. C. had definitely, although unknowingly, captured something. Sunanda had to point out some things but I saw many of these subtle images myself and in some instances they were quite visible.]

What do you see as being the purpose for this extrasensory sight that you have been given?

It has made me more aware of the consciousness of the subtle worlds. It has helped me to become more aware of the world around me as it relates to the worlds within. It has expanded my consciousness and even helps me when I heal people. It has given me an inner contact with plants and flowers and the entities behind them. It has put me in closer contact with the Mother. It is a gift from the Mother that has helped me to give meaning to my visions and contact with the inner worlds.

Have you ever seen Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the subtle worlds?

Yes, I have seen them on the subtle planes. They appear as human forms but when they “walk” they advance without taking steps. They move as though in a gliding motion over the subtle surfaces. Generally Sri Aurobindo is seen in white, blue and gold. The Mother has all the subtle pastel colors.

Can you share the story of your meeting with, marriage to and work with Balkrishna Poddar?

I was around twenty and teaching English in the Ashram school in the mornings. I asked the Mother for some additional work for the afternoons after school. Simultaneously, Balkrishna had asked the Mother for a helper at SABDA. The Mother gave this work to me. I started keeping the accounts and was introduced to book sales work. Balkrishna and I developed a friendship. He had such a pure nature and was a most sympathetic man. Eventually marriage was discussed and we put this to the Mother who gave us the permission to marry. She asked us to open a SABDA branch in East Africa and to continue the book sales there. She said, “I will keep you as my children and will call you back to the Ashram. This arrangement will not be permanent.” We remained there for eight years. Every two years we returned to the Ashram to report on the work to the Mother. For our upkeep we both took jobs in local schools as teachers. We moved around in our small Volkswagen through all the large towns and small villages with books on top of the carrier. We arranged exhibitions on the Ashram and gave talks at schools and temples and conference halls… just the two of us with no one else. We trudged through the jungles of Africa and with Mother’s grace and protection we managed to escape a herd of charging elephants, swarms of locusts and serious floods along the way. It was quite an adventure.

When you returned to the Ashram after being in Africa, what did you do?

I taught in Auroville in the Last School. There were several of us graduates from the Ashram school who went out to Auroville three times a week and came back by 12:30 p.m. to the Ashram. The children were mixed ages; post kindergarten. I did this for one and a half years. Balkrishna had come back to continue his work for SABDA. I worked for SABDA in the background only. However, in 1974 I gave up teaching and went to work full-time for SABDA. I helped to establish the SABDA branch on Rue de la Marine. In August 1989 Nishtha’s old Oat became available and the Ashram decided to use it to display the articles of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They put me in charge of the museum under the able advice of Jayantilal, Krishnalal and Vasudev.

 

 

Srismriti Museum

 

The Srismriti Museum is located in the large building across from the Ashram playground. It is quartered in the flat that was once occupied by Nishtha (Margaret Woodrow Wilson), the daughter of the 28th President of the United States. She had lived there in the late 1930s. Krishnalal, Sunanda and Jayantilal named the museum “Srismriti” which means “Sacred Remembrance” in Sanskrit.

Sunanda’s keenly developed sense of taste and aesthetics is most obvious in the way in which she has arranged and set up the museum. She also takes the greatest care to keep all objects polished, clean and dust-free. It is a joy to see the case of small stuffed animals and tiny little animal figures in wood and porcelain, given as gifts by disciples to the Mother. They carry such a life force and all appear as though they are on the verge of moving. Their eyes even shine with a lifelike sparkle. There is an indescribable charm in this unique little curio cabinet and the entire museum itself is a very special darshan experience. Sunanda would not allow me to take photographs inside but I would like to take everyone along on a “virtual” verbal-description tour of all the precious objects that are housed there:

 

Sign at entrance to Srismriti Museum, Dec. 2000

 

Sunanda working at Srismriti

 

The first room is a long, rectangular room with about nine curio cabinets. There is an immense ornate chandelier hanging overhead that was given to the Mother by the royal family of Hyderabad. It once burned wick oil lamps but was converted to electricity. In the first cabinet there are small and large photos of the Mother, photos of the last few years of her balcony darshans bearing her original signatures, a Baroque glass platter from Europe with Mother’s photo in the center, some of Mother’s original sketches and a magnificent late 19th century French clock.

The second cabinet is a collection of blessings packets from the early days to date, articles used by the Mother, i.e. combs, hair-pieces and European perfume bottles.

The third cabinet holds postage stamps of Mother and Sri Aurobindo issued by the Indian Government.

The fourth cabinet includes saris and shawls used by the Mother when she was writing Prayers and Meditations in the Ashram; Mother’s gold watch and Huta’s painting of Mother at the organ.

In the fifth cabinet one finds French boxes, hand-painted cards, purses in brocaded fabric, usually containing money, given to Mother by affluent Indians.

The sixth cabinet holds paper-weights, clocks, hand-painted writing paper, desk calendars. One of the calendars had actually been used by the Mother and was opened to the pages of March and April of 1962. In it she had times set aside for Dimitri (Feb. 4, 1962) and Sam Spanier (March 12, 1962)! Also in the case is a Parker pen that was used by Sri Aurobindo and later given to the Mother. There are some Egyptian scarab beetles and the head of a pigeon (both occult objects).

Number seven houses dishes and utensils used by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It also stores a fourteen-inch knife, made by Harpagon. It had been made especially for the Mother to cut her enormous 80th birthday cake!

Number eight is a case Filled with beautiful saris.

Number nine holds stationery, book marks and notebooks used in Mother’s French classes plus a Corona typewriter that was given to the Mother by Rabindranath Tagore while she was in Japan.

Also in this room is a stunning standing brass oil lamp with sixty-five wick lamps. On the top sits an ornate brass peacock. It was given by the poet and Film star, Harindranath Chattopadhyay. This room also holds chairs used by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo before 1926.

The second room has eleven cabinets Filled with offerings to Mother and Sri Aurobindo by disciples and the Mother’s toy collection (wooden, papier mache, clay and stuffed).

Mother-of-pearl shells, glass animals and Czechoslovakian and Russian dolls in ethnic dress are housed in this room. There are miniature elephants in varying sizes carved from ivory. Some are so miniscule that a magnifying glass is needed to identify the shapes. Jeweled Puja and ceremonial objects of worship — Vishnu on Garuda, chariots in ivory, Ganesh, Radha and Krishna in soapstone and other deities in wood and brass. Mother’s baskets, chappals (Japanese), silver articles, geodes, stones and shells. There is a handsome teakwood sideboard, a Buddhist cabinet and articles made by Ashramites for Mother’s use. A silk brocaded floral jacket in mango motif (Mogul style called Jamewar) given by the Hyderabad royal family. There are also articles given by the Mother for the theatre department such as make-up, crowns, old upholstery for cloaks and some spoons in silver and ivory.

The next room is a decorated setting using some of Sri Aurobindo’s old furniture and belongings. There is a bed, a chair (in wicker with markings on it from Sri Aurobindo’s head), clothing, a carpet, pens, paper-weights (made from elephant tusks), Sri Aurobindo’s old typewriter (either a Remington or Underwood) that he used when preparing the Arya publications. There is also a footstool with indentations on it from Sri Aurobindo’s feet, and a photo of Sri Aurobindo etched in glass. There are trays holding the earliest teacups that Mother used when she brought tea to Sri Aurobindo in the afternoons. There are dhotis, kurtas, shawls, bed covers (painted by sadhaks), screens from Burma and India. In this room there is also a steel trunk with brass fittings that Sri Aurobindo used when he sailed to Pondicherry after his acquittal in Calcutta. (Sri Aurobindo’s acquittal took place in May 1909 and he arrived in Pondicherry in April 1910.)

The fourth and final room in the museum houses the Mother’s exquisite Japanese collections. She used these beautiful articles in Japan as well as after her arrival in Pondicherry. There are some lovely writing papers and envelopes. The paper has preserved itself miraculously well for almost a century. The Mother was a very keen collector of bottles and boxes. This case contains her lacquer writing box, painting box and many other boxes with mostly black background and embossed designs in mother-of-pearl, shells, copper, brass and silver flowers and leaves. There is also a tea ceremony set. This room has gifts to the Mother of Japanese dolls, ceramic tea sets hand painted with gold powder, very fine examples of blue and white china-ware, many varieties of chop sticks, lacquered bowls, dishes, teapots, brush paintings, kimonos and other traditional arts and crafts. The Mother collected some issues of an art magazine called “Koka”. Some of them have English translations of the articles and others are translated into French.

While living in Japan the Mother became friendly with Madame Kobayashi, the wife of a prominent doctor. The following is the beautiful description by Madame Kobayashi of their friendship.

“I loved her dearly. Have you seen those lovely wisteria[1] flowers trailing the roof of the Kasuga shrine at Nara? We call them hooji. My friend loved those flowers. She was one with them. She called herself Hoojiko when she thought of having a Japanese name…

“It was my great good fortune that, in this strange but explicable world, I should have met this jewel of my heart and this friend of my soul. The perfume of those two years, when we lived like twin roses on the same stalk, lingers like incense around the divine altar and sways serenely in the sanctuary of my mind.”

Viewing the Srismriti Museum was an experience that remains profoundly etched in my memory.

 

* * *

Mother with Madame Kobayashi in Kyoto,
Japan, around 1919

 

In closing I asked Sunanda to give me an assessment of her fifty years in the Ashram and what the Integral Yoga had done for her at her then age of sixty-six. This was her reply:

“I am here because I could not exist anywhere else. Mother has filled a void created in me in 1973 when she left her body by allowing me to see her presence in the subtle physical world that she shows to me now and then. On the days when I sincerely want to see her, she appears to me vividly. She allows my travel in the subtle physical regions on various levels. I also see and feel Sri Aurobindo more vividly since 1973 than ever before. The other world, the side beyond the curve feels very near. The psychic, the soul, the Atman, Paramatman exist in a shimmering, throbbing, scintillating light. There is no sense of separateness, no individuality. I could never tear myself from such an existence as I have here in the Ashram. How and why should I give it up?”

 

* * *

 

Two children’s stories by Sunanda Poddar, written at about age twenty-two and taken from her books Rainbow Lands and We Five and Other Tales, follow.

 

 

Fairy Friends

 

After a very special dinner, they visited the library room in the princess’s Garden Home.

It was a large room but divided into small areas. The bookcases were made with bamboo arranged in such a way that all the books had lots of breathing space. They were not cramped against each other.

There were bamboo step-ladders to reach the high shelves too.

Each small area had books classified according to various subjects like space, water, air, sky, animals, insects, trees, etc. and each section again had sub-divisions. For example the water section had seas, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, oceans as sub-divisions. And there were books and books.

There were tiny mini-books, there were huge tomes, there were sets bound in leather with gold embossed titles. Some volumes had covers of gold and silver engraved beautifully. There were talking books, musical books and books on flowers where you could smell the scent of each flower if you scratched them gently. And there were books printed on wood, leaves, bark, an cloth besides of course paper of many kinds.

It was indeed the best library of books they had ever seen.

At ten o’clock the huge clock glowed up with sparkling beams. The chime of ten was created with tinkling bells, dingdong gongs, ringing ting-a-ling, trembling bars and thrilling drum beats.

“With the musical notes still fresh in our ears let us go to our rooms,” Shekhar sir said softly.

“Oh, not so soon,” several voices were heard.

“You have all had a long day,” argued Mona’s aunt.

“But this is a picnic!”

It was then decided that they could all have a little walk in the garden before going to bed.

“Look there, in that jasmine bush, there is a glow-worm,” someone whispered.

“Yes, but there are more than one.”

“One, two, three, four and two more there makes six and that little one seven!”

“Yes, there are seven of them!”

Virat pointed at the seven stars that make the group called Saptarishi.

They walked around the garden adding up other seven things and enjoyed the night breeze that carried, with its coolness, the fragrance of flowefs and leaves.

And as if from nowhere rain drops were felt. Everyone had to hurry back to their rooms at last.

Mona and Bharat went straight to their windows to look for the glow-worms.

“They must have taken shelter just as we have,” Bharat said.

“Yet the outside looks so fine at night” Mona said, as she gazed at the trees swaying in the wind that was gaining force slowly.

“I think we will have a storm tonight. Come, let us get into bed,” Virat Uncle called them.

“If the storm comes, the rest of our picnic may not be such fun as it was today.” Bharat was worried.

“But we shall have a rainbow in the sky when the sun comes out in the morning.”

Mona jumped out of bed early. She woke up Bharat and both of them tiptoed out into the garden.

The rain and the wind had made their retreat. The clouds broke up and parts of pure, melting blue peeped out. The sun was restless to burst forth and paint the east with red, orange, yellow and gold. The colors poured a flood of glory over the earth.

Every flower and leaf shone, dripping with moisture, and started to breathe again. This was indeed a changed place.

“This feels like your land over the rainbow,” Bharat whispered very, very softly.

“Yes, now the fairies and little people will come out to greet the sunlight.” Mona’s voice was even softer than a whisper.

And there were millions of glittering sun-filled sparks all around. Scarlet, white and blue, pink, red and violet, yellow and orange all tangled in utter confusion. The fairies were getting up and stretching their tender limbs and shaking their dainty wings and limp dresses. Little men dressed in green shirts and caps ran out of their leafy homes and hopped about and turned cartwheels. The fairies shook their wings dry and started flying around. But most of them went to rest among the flowers and leaves to receive the warmth of the morning sun.

But there was one little being left on the heap of bruised flower petals and broken leaves. It lay there absolutely still.

Mona picked it up tenderly. Now she was holding a fairy in her hand. She was a glowing, slender bundle. Careful not to crush or even press her tiny body, Mona held her most tenderly.

“Is she dead?” Bharat asked gently.

“No, she is so perfectly lovely she cannot be dead. Besides, I don’t feel sad. So she must be alive though she is hurt,” Mona explained.

She bent on this precious form and blew a whiff of light air on her. There was a faint little thrill in the tiny form in her hand. An answering thrill of joy ran through Mona and Bharat. More softly, tenderly they both sent warm breaths to the hurt fairy. In a few more moments, Mona began to feel the smallest fluttering pulse of life throbbing faintly. In a few more minutes the fairy stirred more visibly and stretched her wings.

Now they saw. One of her wings had broken just near her shoulder and was holding on only by a silken thread to her body.

Oh God! what were they to do? How could they help her? How could they help to put right the wing?

They both looked around the garden. A large spider web was held up, in all its silvery glory, between two plants.

“Shall we take a thread from the web to repair the wings?” Bharat asked very quietly.

“Will it hold” Would it not do more damage?”

“Can we ask the dragon-fly to give us some broken wings from the ground?” Bharat wanted so much to help the fairy.

“To put a patch? No, I don’t think it would take the weight. Our friend’s wings are so very delicate”.

“What then?” They were desperate, so keen to help.”

When nothing else helps and there is no other way, we pray. Let us pray,” Mona said.

So they just closed their eyes and called for help.

The sun warmed Mona’s palm. The warmth and the heat felt good. The wind mildly blew over them. The gentle breeze shook the leaves above in the jasmine bush. The fragrances from the white star-like jasmine came and touched Mona’s hand and the fairy’s wings. The sunbeams and the scent-filled wind and the tiny drops of water enveloped them.

Everything was so peaceful. Feeling a slight movement in the fairy’s wing, Mona opened her eyes. The prayer was still on their lips. It was delightful to watch the slow return of life to the wing.

The emerald green of the garden, the blue of the sky and the golden glow of the sun were healing their tiny friend.

“Oh look, she is standing up,” Bharat noticed.

“Yes, she will soon fly away to her friends,” Mona said, a little sadly.

Soon some other fairies came out from their flower-beds and leafy canopies.

They called the fairy in Mona’s hand and danced in a circle around them.

After a while they took off, flying up above the trees.

“Look, they are flying in seven lines. Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red.”

And there in the sky, the rainbow came out to receive them.

 

 

One Plant Many Flowers

 

In a small garden, on a plant in the corner there were lots of Bowers all bursting out at a time to bloom. The playful breeze came and whistled and played hide and seek with the blossoms. He whispered to them the stories of distant lands and when he left, he carried with him their fragrance.

The breeze left.

The leaves and the flowers rustled no more. Calm peace was everywhere. But in this quietness the flowers became restless.

They wanted to do something. The silence was too much to bear. They started wishing for something to happen.

A man came. He wanted to collect some flowers. But he would only take those that wanted to be taken. When he saw a flower not willing to be plucked, he left it alone.

The new flowers on this plant were very happy when the man came. At last something was happening. They wanted to be plucked, to be taken to new places.

The man plucked many, but there was one flower who turned its head away when he reached out to take it. The man understood at once. He let the flower be. The flowers already in his basket asked all at once “Why don’t you come? We will be able to do so much. We will go to so many places.”

But that flower was not willing to go.

The man took the other flowers. Only one flower remained on the plant. Once again there was peace.

After some time the breeze came back to play with the flowers. Most of the flowers were gone. He was shocked. “Where have they all gone?”

“To different places.” the remaining flower replied.

“But why?”

“They wanted to do something. It was too quiet here.”

“Oh! and I came to take a little more of their lovely fragrance.” The breeze looked sadly at the flower.

But the flower smiled beautifully and with that smile a huge amount of fragrance poured out. The breeze was so happy, it started dancing around this flower. It ruffled the petals and the flower gave out more and more of its lovely scent.

Then the breeze took some of this scent and left.

The flower became quiet once more.

It grew up all alone.

Some more time passed.

The breeze came once again to the garden. The lone flower was fading its colors. The petals were drooping. The breeze was very sad. It was afraid to go near the flower. But the flower smiled and called him near.

“No, if I come near, you will lose your petals,” the breeze said.

“In any case I am going to fall. Please come.”

The breeze went near very gently. The flower swayed with joy in the breeze and fell. It lay on the ground.

The breeze took the last fragrance of the flower and left.

Now, he wanted to go and see where the rest of the flowers from that plant were and what they had done. He was sure he would recognize them because he had known their fragrance.

So he went in search of the flowers. He felt the fragrance of those flowers in all directions. A whiff from the left and from the right. A mild smell pulled him in front while a strong perfume came from the back. Some of it was on the ground, some of it in the air. He was really happy and moved fast to meet these flowers spread in all directions.

One by one he visited them.

All of them had done their various works and were fading away now. They all smiled at him as he went near them. They told him what they had done.

One flower had sat beautifully in the long hair of a lady who was getting married. One had gone to the hospital to cheer up a sick child. One had decorated a vase in a huge drawing room. One was woven in a garland for a victorious hero. One had been given as a gift with a silent message and was now resting between the pages of a book lovingly looked at from time to time. One had been offered to God at the temple. One had found its way to a student’s table and had made the student learn all about the plants, the petals, the pollen, the leaves, the branches, the roots.

Collecting all these stories of the flowers, the breeze went back to the garden. He wanted to tell the one flower in the garden all that he had seen. He went near the plant and saw there a fading flower.

He looked and he searched. At last he saw a very tiny new plant that had just begun to grow.

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  1. The Mother’s significance for the wisteria flower is Poet’s Ecstasy.[]