Nolini Kanto Sarkar (28.9.1889—18.5.1984) was a reputed writer, journalist and singer of humourous songs in Bengali who was closely associated with the magazine Bijoli, edited by Barindra Kumar Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s younger brother). A lifelong follower and devotee of Sri Aurobindo, he visited Pondicherry with Hrishikesh Kanjilal (noted revolutionary who had spent a year with Sri Aurobindo in Alipore Jail) in 1921 to meet Sri Aurobindo. Recalling the memories of his first meeting with Sri Aurobindo and the subsequent events Nolini Kanto writes:
‘The first impression I had of Sri Aurobindo was of a very simple man, a little dark, of medium build, with long hair, beard and moustache. He had a very calm, soothing expression on his face and his great, bright eyes always seemed to look into the beyond. He was simply dressed in a clean, white dhoti and wore a pair of chappals [slippers]… Soon it was time for the midday meal. The dishes were both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. We sat down in two rows with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and had our lunch. Only, the Mother and Miss Hodgson sat a little apart because they were vegetarian. Naturally I was a little surprised because I thought that in Europe everybody ate meat. But then I learnt that even when she was in France, the Mother did not touch meat or fish. After lunch I rested for a while. But all the time I felt the presence of Sri Aurobindo in my heart like an indwelling god. It was a most wonderful experience… Every afternoon tea was served at four o’clock. Sri Aurobindo then met the disciples on the first floor verandah and talked to them for some time. He sat on a chair on one side of a table and the disciples sat facing him, also on chairs. Only the Mother sat on the floor at his feet. On that very first day, he asked me a few questions about ordinary, personal matters, but I felt as though he had accepted me.’ (Between The Arrival and The Departure, Mother India, November 2004; translated by Aniruddha Sircar from the original book Asa Jawar Majkhane).
Nolini Kanto had expressed to Barindra Kumar Ghose his desire to be initiated by Sri Aurobindo. A few days later, Nolini Kanto was informed by Barindra that Sri Aurobindo had asked him to stay in his room in the evening. Accordingly Nolini Kanto stayed back in his room and as he was pondering over the possibilities of Sri Aurobindo’s coming to his room for initiation, he had a strange but unique experience. His mind had become tranquil and he was absolutely lost to himself. He realized that Sri Aurobindo had initiated him by transmitting His spiritual force to Nolini Kanto and accepted him as a disciple.
In 1927 Nolini Kanto joined the Indian Broadcasting Company as a singer. This company was taken over by the Government of India in April 1930 and renamed Indian State Broadcasting Service. A year later when it decided to launch a fortnightly journal named Betar Jagat, Nolini Kanto was made its editor. In 1944 he expressed to Nolini Kanta Gupta his desire to join Sri Aurobindo Ashram as an inmate. When his request was conveyed to the Mother, she asked Sri Aurobindo: “Who is this Nalini Sarkar?” Sri Aurobindo replied: “He is my old disciple.” Nolini Kanto finally settled in the Ashram as a permanent inmate in 1948 with his wife Shanti and two daughters, Gitika and Bakul. He worked in the Ashram Press where he corrected the proofs of books published in Bengali. Later he taught Bengali to the students of ‘Knowledge’. Known for his extraordinary sense of humour, he was also the author of well-known books like Dada Thakur, Shraddhaspodeshu, Hashir Antarale, Asa Jawar Majkhane and Kanchantalar Cup.
28 September 2014 marks the 125th Birth Anniversary of Nolini Kanto Sarkar. As our humble homage to him, some of his photographs have been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. We are extremely thankful and grateful to Smt. Bakul Sarkar, youngest daughter of Nolini Kanta Sarkar, for gifting the said photographs and the birthday card Nolini Kanta had received from the Mother on his 80th birthday to Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,