On Saturday, 13 August 2016, the firmament of the Aurobindonian Community of West Bengal lost one of its brightest stars with the passing away of Chitra Bose, founder of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir, one of the eminent pre-primary schools of Calcutta, and Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre.
Born on 17 March 1933 to Harendranath Majumdar and Shanti Devi, Chitra Bose grew up in an atmosphere where politics and spirituality existed simultaneously for Harendranath, who hailed from an illustrious zamindar family of Basirhat (situated in North 24 Parganas) was a nephew of Swami Brahmananda (1863-1922), one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the first President of Ramakrishna Mission, and a noted leader of the Indian National Congress who actively participated in the freedom struggle of India. He went on to become a minister in the cabinet of Dr. Prafulla Ghosh, the erstwhile Chief Minister of West Bengal, in 1967. He served Sri Aurobindo Society of West Bengal as its Chairman for several years. As a result of her father’s political activities, young Chitra Bose came in touch with legendary politicians like Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Dr. Prafulla Ghosh (both were former Chief Ministers of West Bengal) and Atulya Ghosh, erstwhile Secretary and President of West Bengal State Congress Committee, Treasurer of All India Congress Committee and two-time Member of Parliament.
Chitra Bose received her early education from Brahmo Girls School and later graduated from the famous Presidency College of Calcutta with honours in Economics. During her years at the Presidency College, she got Prof. Amartya Sen and Prof. Sukhomoy Chakravarty as her batchmates and Prof. Bhavatosh Dutta as her professor. She married Khagesh Chandra Bose, the later Additional General Manager of Eastern Railways in the Indian Railway Service. She spent a considerable period of time at Mumbai and Secunderabad where her husband was posted.
Meeting the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry cast a lifelong influence on Chitra Bose. She strived to become an able instrument of Her work and dedicated her entire life to translate Her teachings into reality. In the early 1970s, a plot of land with a dilapidated building at New Alipore (South Calcutta) was offered to the Mother by Shri Deviprasad Bhaduri for the purpose of establishing a meditation centre where spiritual seekers and followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother would meet to study and discuss Their lives and teachings. The Mother duly sent Her blessings for the Centre. Accordingly ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ was established on 10 May 1972. But with the demise of Deviprasad on the very next day, the work of setting up the meditation centre was suspended temporarily. But Harendranath Majumdar came forward and under his leadership and guidance, ‘Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre’ evolved into a vibrant centre. Following her father’s advice, Chitra Bose established a kindergarten school at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre named ‘Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir’ on 2 January 1977 with five students and an equal number of mattresses. Thus started the journey of the one who went on to become not only the pole-star of all those who were associated with Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir but also for those innumerable ones who looked upon her as their beloved ‘Bordi’ (meaning elder sister). Under her stewardship, the dilapidated building of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir got transformed into a two-storied structure which presently houses an art section for young pupils, a spectacular meditation hall (inaugurated by Swami Lokeshwarananda, the then Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture) and the ‘Shri Ma Library’, a fully-computerized library with a vast collection of books, named after the Mother. And in her work as a service to the Divine, she was ably helped and guided by her husband. History can never forget the invaluable contribution of Khagesh Chandra Bose who, with his rich experience of administration in the Indian Railways, put Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre on a firm foothold. It was due to his initiative that Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre was converted into a trust in 1999 and Chitra Bose became its Managing Trustee in 2000.
Chitra Bose was a rare soul who shunned publicity and preferred to work silently. Despite being a pioneer in child-education, she chose to stay away from limelight. A charming personality with an ever-smiling face, she radiated love and affection. Easily approachable to one and all, she was the personification of compassion and grace. Her entire life was an offering at the feet of the Mother. Service was her motto and mission in life. She not only had imbibed the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and his consort Saradamani, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother but also synthesized and applied them in her day-to-day life and activities.
Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir—which began with only five students—now provides education to over three hundred students every year. The aim of the school is not just to strengthen the foundations of brilliant students but to create ‘living souls’. The educational ideologies of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are practised here in the best possible way.
As a humble recognition for her invaluable contribution in the field of education, Overman Foundation had presented her with the inaugural ‘Bulbul Mukherjee Smriti Puraskar’ and ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ in November 2014 and July 2016 respectively.
Unlike many, Chitra Bose was well aware of the merits of succession planning. When her health started to deteriorate towards the end of 2015, she felt that the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir should be delegated to a young and capable individual. She voluntarily resigned from the post of Principal of Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir in February 2016. She was also keen to give up the post of Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre but as a mark of respect for her untiring efforts in giving the institution its present shape, the Trust Board refused to accept her resignation.
From July 2016 Chitra Bose’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. On being hospitalized, it was discovered that she was suffering from ovarian cancer. Even when she was suffering due to the dreaded disease, she was concerned only about the institution she had created. ‘The Mother’s work must not suffer’, was her constant insistence. When the month of August approached, she informed her son and staffs that in case something happened to her, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August must not be cancelled.
On 13 August, 2016, at 11.55 p.m. Chitra Bose breathed her last. She is survived by her two sons (Dr. Pinaki Shankar Bose and Partha Sarathi Bose), daughters-in-law (Supriya Bose and Sanchita Bose) and grandson Saptarshi. As per wish, the birthday celebrations of Sri Aurobindo on 15 August were not cancelled and carried on with usual devotion. As a mark of respect for Chitra Bose, the staffs of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre and Sri Aurobindo Bal Mandir reported to work on Sunday, 11 September 2016.
The smile that shone at the premises of Sri Aurobindo Sakti Centre is no longer present but atmosphere of love and affection which Chitra Bose has left behind will continue to vibrate till eternity.
With warm regards,