Born on 18 July Sumitra Cazade née Nahar is the second daughter of Prithwi Singh Nahar and Suhag Kumari. She visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time in 1935 and became an inmate in 1941 at the age of thirteen. She was one of the first students of the Ashram School which started on 2nd December 1943. She started working with her father Prithwi Singh in his department and also did embroidery under Mona Pinto for Golconde. From 1950 while she was still a student she began to teach Mathematics, Science and French to the senior pupils of the Ashram School. She also taught Geography and Botany at the primary section of the School. Apart from teaching she worked with her elder sister Sujata Nahar and Kiran Kumari in the first floor of the Ashram main building. For a while she worked with Sujata in the laboratory of Pavitra which was situated on the western side of the first floor of the Ashram building. The Mother had named the room ‘Alchemy’. She also helped in classifying coins which were—in those days—kept in the Ashram Library. In 1962 she stopped teaching at the Ashram School and became the Secretary to Pavitra and continued to work under him till his demise in 1969. Later she began to work with André Morisset (the Mother’s son) as his secretary till 1978 when she married Bernard Cazade and shifted to France. She visits Pondicherry every year without fail in the month of December and stays till March.
Bestowed with a magnetic charm and a beatific smile Sumitra Cazade is a warehouse of old Ashram anecdotes in whose delightful company one can never come across a dull moment.
On the occasion of Sumitra Cazade’s birthday, a very interesting interview of her conducted by Raman Reddy of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation along with some of her photographs with the Mother.
With warm regards,
Raman : If you have anything to say immediately…
Sumitra : I want to tell about the Darshans. There were different Darshans when Mother used to come out. We used to see Mother many times. We used to call them Darshans. Not just Mother’s but Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan that we used to have 3 times a year then it was 4.
We came again in 1939 August after Sri Aurobindo’s accident. There was Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan. Before we used to go inside the Darshan Room. But after that two boxes were kept at the door of the Darshan Room. In one box people used to put flowers and in another offerings. And they were asked to just pass by, put something in the boxes and not to wait. At that time Suprabha and myself had gone separately, not together—before we used to go together. Then both of us did the pranam in the same way. We were asked not to do so but we were kids. We did the pranam in the same way.
Raman : You went inside?
Sumitra : Not inside. We were asked not to do pranam. We must have done something like that — folded hands in the same way. Then it seems, afterwards Mother and Sri Aurobindo had commented “How sweet they are!” Two sisters doing… But about Darshan. Naturally, Balcony Darshan you know. Mother used to come. We used to go up later on… Balcony…Pavitra-da’s Laboratory.. but before that long, long ago. First of all, we used to see Mother.
Raman : Do you know when did the Balcony Darshan start?
Sumitra : It started long ago.
Raman : 1938 August. Was it there?
Sumitra : I don’t remember.
Raman : When do you first recollect Balcony Darshan?
Sumitra : 1941.
Raman : 1941, which month?
Sumitra : I came in end October. It was already there. But before that I don’t remember.
Raman : Because you started coming even much earlier?
Sumitra : 1935.
Raman : Was it there in 1935?
Sumitra : I don’t know. I don’t think in 1935 there was Balcony Darshan.
Raman : 1938?
Sumitra : 1938 — I don’t remember. Might be but I don’t think so. Will ask Suprabha in case she remembers. I think it must have started in 1940-41.
Raman : 1941 you remember?
Sumitra : 1941 I am hundred percent sure.
Raman : 1941 November?
Sumitra : We had come end October. The Darshan was already there. So it must be before that.
Raman : But when you came in 1941 end October, it was already there?
Sumitra : It was already there.
Raman : And you were going early in the morning to the Balcony.
Sumitra : To see Mother from downstairs in front of Mridu-di’s house which is now called ‘Prasad House’. There we used to go and see.
Raman : How many people were there at that time?
Sumitra : All those who were there in the Ashram. About 150 of us.
Raman : But not like later days when it was much more crowded?
Sumitra : No, no, not like that. It must be less in 1941.
Raman : And what was the time?
Sumitra : Morning 6-6:30.
Raman : Around sunrise time?
Sumitra : About sunrise time. I remember sometimes we used to get really late. We then saw Her from our terrace. But otherwise we used to go there. It was very near. We used to come running. When people were there, folded hands, we knew Mother had come, then we saw Her from our house otherwise we used to come under the Balcony.
Then also, there was the staircase which is near the Samadhi that goes up to Pavitra-da’s office in the terrace. From there we used to see –naturally the Samadhi was not there. The Flower Room and these things were there. Because that you might find out when Chandulal started concreting for meditation, number of people increased so each one—one square was made for one person like that. The Window you see, Mother’s window—the first room—sometimes we used to see Her there and then later on She would come and give a cheese or biscuit to Blackie, a crow that used to come daily. Mother would come and give it. That was called ‘Crow Darshan’. Then Mother used to choose an umbrella while going to the terrace; we used to call it ‘Umbrella Darshan’. It was amongst ourselves only. Mother would sometimes look from the window and we called it ‘Window Darshan’. She would come out, go up and go till Pavitra-da’s…we used to sit at that time—when the window thing—we used to sit, we used to be there. Then we used to go to Kamala-di’s staircase. Because Mother would go up. Then from there we used to run and come in front of Pavitra-da’s courtyard, Mother used to come till there. Then again She would come down and we would run and see Her.
Raman : She used to do several rounds or only one?
Sumitra : No, only once. She will come out, go, walk like that, go like that and come down. First She would come out on Dyuman’s terrace.
Raman : Salon?
Sumitra : From the Salon She would take the umbrella, then there was a staircase on Dyuman’s terrace from which She would go up. Then She would walk. I don’t think She went on Sri Aurobindo’s side. She would go to Pavitra-da’s terrace this way and come like this. Then She would come down the same way.
Raman : Did She also come on the staircase of the Salon? Salon is different.
Sumitra : No, which one is Salon? First one or the second one?
Raman : Salon is the room of those three windows on the first floor.
Sumitra : I don’t remember. I remember going up, going like that and coming.
Raman : I have to actually show you the picture so that…
Sumitra : No, I understand what you mean. That Dyuman-bhai’s terrace on the top…
Raman : Whether She walked from there? Just like She used to come to Pavitra-da’s terrace. Was She coming on the top of the staircase of…
Sumitra : She was not coming twice like that. I don’t remember. I remember Her coming and going like that. But you have to ask somebody also. My memory is not that sharp.
So much for the Terrace Darshan. On Sundays, not from the very beginning but just a bit later on, what we used to call ‘Cow Darshan’, Mother used to come out and Chandulal used to make us recite prayers from down. On Sundays when Mother would come out for ‘Cow Darshan’ we were a few of his students. We would recite from the ‘Prayers and Meditations’ in front of the Balcony.
Raman : Balcony on the north?
Sumitra : In front of Mridu-di’s house. We used to recite there and then there was also, I don’t remember, whether it was on Sundays, She also used to see Richard’s donkey — ‘âne’. As far as I remember we used to call it Richard’s âne. By reading Udar’s book, it seems, it was Udar’s. We used to think it was Richard’s. And then She would also come down from near Nirod-da’s room, there is a staircase going up. She would come down… either some people used to show Her vegetables or something. But ‘Vegetable Darshan’ was in the Meditation Hall — I was not going there. In 1942 She started taking ‘Prayers and Meditations’ class in upstairs Meditation Hall in front of the Darshan Room. Mother used to sit in front of the big sofa.
Raman : Who sat on the sofa?
Sumitra : No one. Mother used to sit there and we used to sit around Her and She used to read ‘Prayers and Meditations’ and take class about that.
Raman : This was the class which Manoj-da was also attending, isn’t it?
Sumitra : Manoj came later on.
Raman : Priti-di — Priti Das Gupta?
Sumitra : No, no, later on.
Raman : Kalyan-da?
Sumitra-di : That is in Playground.
Raman : No.
Sumitra-di : Upstairs?
Raman : Yes, upstairs. Because in 1947 there was a ‘Prayers and Meditations’ class in the same place.
Sumitra-di : No, that might be. 1947? Upstairs?
Raman : Yes.
Sumitra-di : That I don’t know. But in 1942, I know it was there. Let’s ask Suprabha immediately.
Raman : No, because that is very well documented. Because that class on ‘Prayers and Meditations’ was attended by Chitra Sen also.
Sumitra : But this one I don’t think Chitra attended.
The Mother’s ‘Prayers and Meditations’ had started in 1942. I used to go there. I remember I used to go and feel very sleepy. Suprabha used to go also.
Suprabha : Actually Mother started—Sujata-di was there –with some youngsters. We joined a bit later.
Sumitra : Mother asked us to come.
Suprabha : Mother called us.
Raman : Pranab-da was not there?
Sumitra : At that time, no.
Suprabha : He might have been there but I am not sure.
Raman : Because he came once in 1942 and settled in 1945. He came just for a visit.
Sumitra : Yes, I know. He came, I think, on 15 August. Debu had stayed on. I know because he was studying with us. But Pranab-da had come later on with Ranju-da and others. But at that time Pranab-da had not joined. It is before that.
Suprabha : Did it start so early?
Sumitra : In 1942-43.
Suprabha : It can’t be that early. We can ask Sejda. May be he used to go later. I was then working in the Press.
Sumitra : No, I had not started working in Press. It was before Press. As far as I remember, but I might be wrong.
Suprabha : It can’t be 1942, so early. I think Pranab-da also used to …
Sumitra : Then it was 1947 as you say. But at that time I don’t remember about Press.
Suprabha : How long did you work at Baba’s?
Sumitra : For quite long.
Suprabha : Even in 1947?
Sumitra : Yes, in 1947 even after the War.
Suprabha : Priti-di, Tapati-di also used to go.
Sumitra : They joined later. We went much earlier. I am sure, hundred percent.
Raman : Let’s take up the Blessings.
Sumitra : Just another thing. After Darshan — the same day in the evening or the next day, I don’t remember when, we used to have ‘Garland Darshan’—Distribution—all the offerings—I still remember the fragrance of the ‘New Birth’, ‘Surrender’ Mother used to give.
Raman : All of you went with flowers on the previous day?
Suprabha : For the Darshan, yes.
Raman : No, with those flowers that were returned to you?
Sumitra : No, not those. Everyone used to offer. Previous day, we used to take in front of the… they used to sell, we used to buy. Not we. Our elders used to give us. We used to go, there were places where flowers were put. There were two boxes. But we used to go inside in the very beginning. Later on, as I said…
Suprabha : After the accident it stopped.
Sumitra : It was put out.
Raman : Last time when I asked you, you could not remember when the Blessings started. Blessings by what I mean the Mother coming down and started sitting where She sat for the Puja Blessings. There is a big photograph of Her. She used to sit there. So when did that start?
Sumitra : I don’t remember. I remember around the staircase.
Raman : I would like you to really think about it because I did a lot of painstaking…
Sumitra : Research.
Raman : Almost thankless research. I went through Champaklal’s diaries and found that this Blessings seem to be related to the polishing of the staircase. Do you remember when the staircase was polished?
Sumitra : No, I don’t remember.
Raman : Because once what happened when the staircase of the Meditation Hall—which leads to the Mother’s apartments—was polished, the Blessings instead of upstairs was brought downstairs.
Sumitra : Might be that when Udar started…
Raman : But you don’t remember it?
Sumitra : No, I don’t remember it.
Suprabha : Lallu-bhai used to do polishing.
Raman : Yes, he used to do polishing but there was some varnishing done to the staircase. You were not into this kind of activity?
Sumitra : No, I never did that.
Raman : One more thing you might be involved with : the fruits. The Mother was upstairs—the fruits were being distributed from upstairs. Do you remember that?
Sumitra : I remember some things. Noren Singh was very much involved in that from the very beginning.
Raman : But were the fruits distributed upstairs at a certain point of time?
Sumitra : No, She used to send something, some She used to give to people. There was a Frigidaire – refrigerator- which was in Pavitra-da’s Laboratory where She used to keep dishes for each of us. Sometimes there would be sweets but mostly fruits.
Raman : So those fruits were sent to you?
Sumitra : No, we used to go up and get those. Each of us would go up according to our time and get our dishes.
Raman : But what about others?
Sumitra : About others I have no idea.
Raman : How did they get their fruit-bags? Do you remember when did the Fruit Distribution start?
Sumitra : Long ago because even in 1942 or something once I had got jaundice. At that time Mother was giving tomatoes and distributing other things already. So it must be… I won’t be able to say the exact date but in the beginning She was giving to some people.
Suprabha : Those who were going upstairs, I think, to them She would give…
Sumitra : In their hand.
Suprabha : Everyday She used to …
Raman : So fruits were distributed from upstairs. Actually when Noren Singh-da comes I can ask him.
Sumitra : And some I think were being sent to some houses.
Raman : Do you remember the first plays that you put up?
Sumitra : It was ‘Perseus, the Deliverer’.
Raman : Which year was that?
Sumitra : 1944 December.
Raman : Do you remember when you did your rehearsals and where did you do your practice?
Sumitra : No, I did not take part. I did not do. Suprabha had done. No, she didn’t do it.
Suprabha : Sisir-da had asked but I did not do.
Sumitra : Aster had done. She was Poseidon and Amita, Athene.
Suprabha : There was another person—Bikash.
Sumitra : Ilu was also there, Bikash’s sister. She danced or something.
Suprabha : In the right-hand side of the Playground there was a big hall.
Raman : Oh, it was done in the Playground. But I am asking when it was done in front of the Mother?
Sumitra : Not that time. It was done much later.
Suprabha : That was done in the Playground itself proper.
Sumitra : Mother did not come and …
Suprabha : At the beginning Sumitra-di : 1944 She did not come.
Raman : She did not come to the Playground to see ‘Perseus, the Deliverer’?
Sumitra : No.
Raman : So where did She see the rehearsals? I know She saw the rehearsals.
Sumitra : At Her place upstairs.
Suprabha : Upstairs or downstairs?
Sumitra : Downstairs I don’t know.
Raman : You don’t know anything about it?
Sumitra : No, might be upstairs or downstairs.
Suprabha : To some might be upstairs.
Raman : You have not seen?
Sumitra : No, I have not seen.
Raman : Next year the rehearsals was done downstairs.
Sumitra : In 1945 or 1946?
Raman : Yes, the very next year because Amita-di recounts this. Do you remember?
Sumitra : No, because I never took part. She [Suprabha] had taken part.
Suprabha : Only once.
Sumitra-di : And she became really very famous and it was played in ‘Salle Jeanne d’ Arc’. The Mother did come to see it but She had seen her before. She taught them.
Suprabha : Amita and myself— us She saw upstairs. Others She used to see downstairs in the Meditation Hall.
Raman : So in the Meditation Hall were you all present?
Sumitra : When she was doing the part of Athene. She did not …
Suprabha : I was upstairs.
Sumitra : And Mother used to teach.
Suprabha : And say “My child”. First we did it in Pavitra-da’s office. There are steps I had to get up on that and I thought I am talking very sweetly. The Mother said “Nothing, it is not at all right”. Then She showed me how to bring out the voice from the stomach. “It will be a rich voice”. Afterwards only, my interview She took in the Salon which leads upstairs. Not the Green Room. When you enter through the corridor door there is a big cupboard, in front of that She got the chair kept and asked me to stand near the –where now there is the couch, in front of that on Her footstool. Chinmoyee was standing near the door. Mother had the book in Her lap. She was reading Andromeda’s part and I had to do Athene. So that one I told you.
Raman : Noren Singh-da, do you remember where the fruits were being distributed by the Mother in the very beginning?
Noren Singh : In the Laboratory.
Raman : There was a big frig in the Laboratory?
Noren Singh : Yes. The Mother used to distribute.
Raman : The Mother used to distribute personally?
Noren Singh : The Mother used to personally distribute in the very beginning. Then afterwards Mrityunjoy-da was helping and gradually it became too big and shifted to where the new Fruit Room was done, where Ravindra…
Raman : The fruits were distributed in the Frigidaire in the Lab. Then where?
Noren Singh : There itself.
Sumitra : There only.
Raman : There only. Were the fruits distributed from downstairs at one point of time? From the Meditation Hall?
Sumitra : Later on.
Noren Singh : That I don’t know. Only upstairs where Mother used to distribute I know. And Mrityunjoy was present at that time.
Raman : There were whole lot of people going to Mother to get fruits?
Noren Singh : No, not like that.
Sumitra : No, not a lot. Those who were working up or like us. We were not working up but we used to go. Our brothers and sister used to go. Of course, Abhay Singh, Noren Singh and Sujata used to work upstairs. Suprabha, myself and another brother Bir Singh used to go up.
Raman : To those people who were working upstairs that the Mother were distributing fruits?
Noren Singh : I don’t know exactly but mostly.
Sumitra : Because I think She was also sending…
Noren Singh : To Amrita, to Kitchen.
Sumitra : No, that was different. Yes, Amrita-da and Nolini-da.
Noren Singh : But there were not many.
Raman : But never from downstairs?
Noren Singh : She never distributed from downstairs. Only She used to put them in a basket and it was given to them by Mrityunjoy or someone.
Raman : I thought Champaklal had something to do with arranging of the baskets.
Noren Singh : No, he had nothing to do there in Fruit Room.
Sumitra : No, not Champaklal-ji.
Raman : No, not Fruit Room. Upstairs.
Sumitra : He was at that time with Sri Aurobindo. He was not this side. He used to be with Sri Aurobindo that side.
Raman : But his diaries say that late at night he used to help the Mother and work with Her to put the fruits together. It used to be very late.
Sumitra : That we won’t know. All that I know is when Mother used to distribute to us.
Did I recount to you my story of jaundice?
Raman : No.
Sumitra : I had jaundice. And naturally I was asked not to eat anything oily. I did not like anything. Then Mother asked: “Do you like this?” “No, Mother, I don’t like.” Then Mother said: “Tell me what you do like?” I said : “Fried cauliflowers.” Mother said: “All right.” She used to give me daily one cauliflower and my bhabi [sister-in-law—Rajsena Nahar] used to fry it and give it to me. With that I got all right. Actually She was putting Her Force and Grace but if you tell anyone that when you had jaundice you took fried cauliflower, what will they think! What is it? Once my bhabi told Mother: “She does not drink milk.” Mother said: “Does she like sweets?” She said : “Yes.” So Mother said : “Prepare sweetmeats for her.” I was very fussy about food. I don’t like this, I don’t like that.
Once while walking upstairs the Mother fell down and She had broken Her wrist or something like that. Which year I don’t remember but for sometime She had stopped Her Terrace Darshan.
Raman : There was a stoppage of Terrace Darshan when She was feeling giddy and She used to be in a state of trance and all that.
Sumitra : Actually She had fallen down and She had broken Her wrist or something. I can’t tell which wrist or what but for sometime the Terrace Darshan was stopped.
Raman : There used to be a gong before She went for the Terrace Darshan?
Sumitra : No, that was only for Darshan Meditation. At that time Udar used to ring a gong.
Raman : But no gong?
Sumitra : No. That we said She used to come, we used to see Her go up. At that time there was no gong.
Noren Singh : There was no fixed time for the Mother.
Sumitra : Yes, absolutely no fixed time. And at night She used to come. She was very late sometimes. Young children would fall asleep or do their homework or something like that. But Chitra at that time did not join school.
Raman : She joined the Press.
Sumitra : She joined the Press and she might be studying separately because I read somewhere that she used to do homework. Which homework I don’t know but not school homework for she did not join school. You see, as I told you, Minno, Bela, myself, Suprabha, Debu, Bikash—we used to study together. But when the school started Mother chose who would study and who would not. Mother gave to Minoo and Bela to work at the Embroidery Department. To us, Mother said : “You have to study.” We studied. In the book “Mother and Abhay” you would get the list of students who were studying with Pavitra-da : Noren Singh, Abhay Singh, Vasudha, Sujata, Mangatrai, Dayakar, Shanti—you just verify the names. So the classes were there. When we came, I also forgot to tell you—Sisir-da was teaching us and She had arranged Father to take our classes in his room. Suprabha and myself used to go and he started taking our English class also. And with Pratip and somebody else, Doraiswami used to take classes upstairs in his room in the very beginning. He was staying where Abhay Singh stayed. But it was not like that. If you see old photos of the Ashram, he was staying there. I had gone there once or twice. I remember Pratip saying : “Rover, Rover come here…”. He was learning English and he was reciting. I don’t know who was coming with…
Raman : He was not in charge of Prosperity at that time?
Sumitra : He was, I think, in charge of Prosperity at that time and Tripura—his sister—she also used to work there. We came here in 1941. In 1942 Mother called us once and said : “Now you will get” — I don’t remember which month, to Suprabha and myself — “things from Prosperity.” In the beginning my elder brother used to give us things. And She made us Prosperity members. And at that time also we used to give laundry and there was a dhobi coming in Premananda’s Library. He used to come there and we used to give our clothes for washing. When that was changed Mother said : “You may give as many clothes as possible.” Now they have reduced. But when Jyotin-da was there, we were allowed to give as many clothes we liked because Mother had arranged that. And when we came, She called Dyuman and said : “Now Rajsena has to cook for the children.” Many things She used to send daily. Yes, fruits were sent to us : pears, sweet lemons, ground-nuts and other things would be sent to us and bhabi used to make things.
Raman : Were you in the batch of young ladies who—sort of—with Priti Das Gupta—going about in the Playground?
Sumitra : No, they were Priti-di, Lilavati (Violette), Minnie-di, Millie-di, Gauri-di. We were not in that batch.
Raman : You were attending the Playground?
Sumitra : No, I was not attending the Playground.
Raman : So where were you when the Playground activities started?
Sumitra : We were playing games and other things. Tennis Ground was there, Volleyball Ground.
Raman : But you were not in the Playground?
Sumitra : In the very beginning before Pranab-da became Captain, I was the Captain. But Mother was not coming to the Playground. Mother started coming to the Playground later on. When Pranab-da came and groups were organized but I was not there. We were in Playground, Sportsground doing all the activities.
About Lilavati—Aster’s mother—Mother gave her the name “Violette”. She was staying in Puja House which is just in front of the other side of the school. That block where Achyut’s house is located. Aster, Kuku, Violette and Indra Sen used to stay in that house. We were going—Suprabha, myself, Chhobi—we used to go and we were studying history or geography and English with her. She was our teacher before the school started. Once the school started, it was another matter. At that time where we studied with Sisir-da I don’t remember but I know we did here.
Raman : You were coming here from 1935 and you settled here in 1941. And then you started doing some work.
Sumitra : Embroidery, working with father. We were also working with Jiji — Kiran Kumari. She was doing many things.
Raman : She was upstairs working?
Sumitra : Yes, she was working upstairs. But in her house—next to Michel House—she used to repair stoves, fountain pens and many things. She used to repair with Sujata. She used to help and then we also learnt to help her, prepare chit-pads from waste-papers. We also used to repair filters—also Frigidaire. In the upstairs of Nanteuil, Nishtha used to stay. We went upstairs and repaired the Frigidaire there. That’s how I came to know Nishtha. Jiji had learnt repairing Frigidaire from Uday Singh. He was very good in mechanics. She learnt everything from him. When she came she did not know anything but she learnt all of these. I think Uday Kaka used to stay where Mother’s Kitchen is there, as far as I remember, when he came. She was very good. I remember Suprabha, myself, Didi used to go to Aroumé—Dining Room. There was a pump. We used to do pumping. There was Binoy-da who had a glass eye. He used to be there. Madanlal-ji was there at that time. She (Jiji) used to do many things. Then slowly Udar took over.
Raman : So in 1941 you settled down and around 1943 joined the school.
Sumitra : We were asked to join the school. At that time we were working also.
Raman : Then in 1947 you became a teacher.
Sumitra : 1949.
Raman : 1949 you became a teacher up to 1962.
Sumitra : In 1962 I started working with Pavitra-da.
Raman : Oh! It is after 1962 that you started working with Pavitra-da?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : As his private secretary?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : Why after 1962 and not before?
Sumitra : Because Mother did not want to disturb me. She wanted me to become a teacher. But Sujata was helping Pavitra-da. Then Sujata had to type the Mother’s Agenda. Agenda had started long ago but she had to do this work and that work. It was becoming too much for her because she had to transcribe. I have got that letter somewhere—I might send you a copy of that when I go back. I will send it to Suprabha, she will send it to you. Then Mother said—I had written to Her something because in school all politics had entered. There would be Free School System. All these things had entered. That was disturbing me a bit.
Raman : You did not like this Free Progress System?
Sumitra : I liked it but the way it was done I did not like. I was always for Free Progress because Mother was interested in that but the way it was being done, forcing some students to be in Free Progress against their will—that is what I did not like. So atmosphere was becoming not to my liking, let’s say. Then I had written something to Mother about it. So Mother said that “Because of what you write, I did not dare ask you”—Mother telling me! I wrote to Her : “Whatever you will say we will work. It is your work.” And I was very happy to work with Pavitra-da because Mother used to consider and we used to consider him as family. We have learnt everything from him. And that was an opportunity to be with him, to learn things from him. And I started then. From the very beginning I had to type letters for Mother to sign and something. I used to type. Didi showed me once or twice how to do, where to put the envelope. Then she did not have any time. She said : “You do.” And then I used to do like that everything.
Raman : So you were there in Pavitra-da’s office until which time?
Sumitra : Till I left.
Raman : You left in?
Sumitra : 1978.
Raman : Pavitra-da passed away in 1965.
Sumitra : No, 1969.
Raman : So almost seven years you worked under Pavitra-da.
Sumitra : Yes, seven years.
I told you what he used to say when he was translating The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita. It was very beautiful. Anyway, we learnt everything from him. Naturally from Mother also. She used to say at Prosperity how to take calendars from Her hand. “Take like this, keep it like that. Not one hand—keep it like that. You have to take like that.”
Raman : Mother used to teach you how to take calendars from Her?
Sumitra : Yes. I have seen Her also telling others. At least to me in the very beginning She had told me : “You have to take like that.” First Mother distributed the calendars like…
Raman : Not just snatch away the calendar.
Sumitra : No, snatch away would never do. Really with devotion, bending down like that.
Raman : That is strange because I did not expect Mother to teach that.
Sumitra : Mother was teaching everything.
Raman : But this is what the Westerners would call an Indian ritualism that Mother taught.
Sumitra : But Mother taught us always how to be polite, when people come you have to get up. All these things.
Raman : Really!
Sumitra : Everything.
Raman : Could you give an instance of something you did wrong and She told you what exactly to be done?
Sumitra : No, like that we have not done wrong. Suppose when in school, at that time, She was very particular about dresses. Some thing falls down and She would make it alright. How to keep things. She was motherly. Suppose we felt…once I was feeling very bad, something had happened. I was feeling like weeping. Nothing with Her but something like that. She called me, She gave me one hug and that’s it. I used to have headaches sometimes and She would massage my head just like a mother because I was suffering from a lot of headaches.
Raman : She would put a balm?
Sumitra : No, no balm. It was like that She would massage. We were like a child. When we came She was really like a physical mother to us — attending to our needs, whatever we liked. On birthdays we used to have many Darshans. In the very beginning, only once She used to give Darshan. But later on, 4-5 times we used to have Her Darshan. Morning—upstairs, in the evening—so many bouquets. Once I remember She had given me “Obedience” bouquet. “You have to be obedient like that”, She told me. It was very beautiful.
Raman : This sort of teaching you…
Sumitra : All of us.
Raman : All of you. But when did She groom you like that? In the early years or later years?
Sumitra : Naturally early years.
Raman : That means before you joined Pavitra-da.
Sumitra : Long ago. When I joined Pavitra-da. Mother was not coming out at that time. In 1962 She was not coming out. When I am telling She was coming out to Prosperity. And while coming to Prosperity, She would go out of Pavitra-da’s door, go to that side. While coming out She used to distribute “bonbons”. She used to throw and you had to catch. You have heard the story of Amrita-da, no! When he missed probably he was not ready. You know that story.
Raman : You saw?
Sumitra : Yes, I was there.
Raman : No, Amrita-da’s retort that I am trying to catch something behind the toffee. Did you hear that?
Sumitra : I think so. Or something he had said : “It was too big that I …” I don’t remember exactly but we were there.
Raman : So it happened upstairs.
Sumitra : Upstairs in the corridor.
Raman : And not downstairs?
Sumitra : Not downstairs.
Raman : I see.
Sumitra : Mother used to distribute in the corridor upstairs. Suprabha sometimes used to escape because of her eyesight. She was not good to catch.
Raman : But during the last years what sort of contact did you have from 1962 to 1973?
Sumitra : Look, I used to go up till the month of May 1973. I had gone to Mother.
Raman : Were you going daily?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : On what work?
Sumitra : All office work. And then also, as I said, that Savitri—She was translating. I would read out and She translated. That was in 1972 or 1973 I don’t remember.
Raman : As late as that She was translating Savitri. And She was orally dictating it to you!
Sumitra : I will read only once. She will remember. And I also used to give Her that… till which year I don’t know.
Raman : And She dictated and you wrote it down?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : So that is what the Mother’s translation of Savitri.
Sumitra : No, She had translated other things also. With me it was Her translation.
Raman : I thought it was not done as late as in 1972.
Sumitra : I did it in 1972. In 1972 She had done something because I remember having written down…
Raman : When Pavitra-da was there, were you going with Pavitra-da?
Sumitra : No, I was not going with him. Pavitra-da used to go. I was not going with him.
Raman : He used to go everyday?
Sumitra : He used to go everyday. Not just office work. He must be having other work with Mother. I started going regularly to Her after Pavitra-da passed away.
Raman : On what work again?
Sumitra : Office work. Correspondence outside. Mother said whatever you write, it will be all right but about certain things I was not 100% sure. Some things needed Mother’s attention. I used to take those letters to Her and read them to Her.
Raman : And you would read that letter to Her?
Sumitra : I would ask Her and She would tell me shortly. And I would tell Her of the stamps and She would look at the envelopes. She used to look carefully at the stamps and ask me to give the stamps to Noren Singh. It was office work. And sometimes naturally She would give flowers. Daily I used to bring “Divine’s Love”. I was very particular about flowers I would bring for Her. So, sometimes I used to choose roses from Abhay Singh’s. If it was not according to my liking, I did not take that flower. Mother said : “Aujourd’hui tu n’as pas apporté les fleurs du jardin de ton frère” ( “Today you have not brought the flowers from your brother’s garden”). By seeing the roses She knew whether it was from Rajabhai’s or from outside. I did not tell why I did not bring. And then I used to bring daily “Divine’s Love.” Mother used to say : “Sumitra m’apporte l’amour divin” (“Sumitra brings to me Divine’s love”). Till the last day I had brought Her “Divine’s Love.” Parichand-da had sometimes asked me to go here and there. Wherever it was possible I used to go to get at least one “Divine’s Love” flower for Mother.
Raman : Tell me, over the years you have seen Mother from 1935 to 1973—what were the various phases of the Mother as you saw? How did She change? We know now that She was getting supramentalized in the last years. Outwardly what difference did it make?
Sumitra : Not much. For me it did not make much.
Raman : In the early years She was an absolute mother to you.
Sumitra : She was always an absolute mother to us. Always. Whatever happened, anything we can tell Her or something. Her physical change and all these things never changed anything. We were never paying attention to it, to tell you the truth. Sometimes at Balcony Darshan some people saw Her gown but we never paid attention to it. Some people would ask us to see the gown but when we went for the Darshan we used to forget to see. We were only seeing the Mother, not talking with Her, just pranam. We were just seeing Mother.
Raman : I am sure it must have been an external seeing. I mean, all of you did feel something and it must have made a change in your personal life as you also grew up.
Sumitra : Yes. Naturally with Her we learnt slowly to be more reasonable, to be more inward, more something – all these things we learnt from Her. It is not only inwardly that we can learn. I was a girl who was always full of energy, always doing something but I learnt to be quiet also.
Raman : You got a few scolding?
Sumitra : I got two scoldings. I told you.
Raman : You did not tell me. Once you told me…
Sumitra : Next day also. That Chandulal…
Raman : Why, you didn’t tell me.
Sumitra : In those two days I got scoldings otherwise I never got.
Raman : But, you got any out of the way appreciation?
Sumitra-di : Yes, She used to appreciate sometimes athletics, tennis, table-tennis—as when She started table-tennis at Nanteuil. First day She asked us to play—we changed balls with Her. Once She told me—in tennis—“If your service was good you can become a champion.” My service was always horrid, it remained horrid. Once, I remember, hop-step-and jump. She said : “I think step was …otherwise you could do so good.” Like that She was always… Once during the Balcony Darshan I was late. She had said to those who were in the Lab—Kaya—when she jumped, it was a real jump. That day I was late. She said “Sumitra, elle fait bien mais elle n’est pas parmi les meilleures”. (“Sumitra does well but she is not amongst the best”). Like that…
In one of gymnastics competition, all the figures would be done in 2nd December. Those figures once we used to do in front of Her individually. Many had done. Mona got 10 out of 10. I got 9.75. Maniben had got, I think, 9.50. Bonolata—Mona’s sister—did well but completely forgot one figure. We had to do figures. Like that She had seen all of us. I don’t know whether Suprabha had done or not. Mother used to appreciate very much. She would say : “You did this way” or “You did not do…”. Once I remember, after having done rings I did like that. I used to perspire a lot. After coming down you have to be like that, do that so the number would be less! She told me : “Tu as fait comme ça”. (“You have done like this.”) She would appreciate everything. If something was amiss, She would say : “This was okay but you have to improve in that.”
Raman : So, in other words She was very much involved with your life.
Sumitra : Our life and the things which is naturally involved. You ask anyone, they will say She was involved with that person. How much time She managed to involve with Her children is itself a miracle. But as it is a divine miracle, it does exist.
Raman : But have you ever seen the divine aspect?
Sumitra : Only once I saw.
Raman : What was that?
Sumitra : It was : one day, Dilip-da or someone else was singing—1947 or something—Mother was near the corridor window. At one place of the Samadhi—Service Tree from there I suddenly looked up at the window where Diana used to stay—that window where Mother used to give to Diana—there I saw Mother—Her aspect was Mahakali. Just Mahakali! I couldn’t forget that. I got struck.
Raman : Did you see the form of Mahakali as shown in Bengal or…
Sumitra : Mother as Mahakali.
Raman : Mother as kind of force She projected in…
Sumitra : Not projected. She became Mahakali. White Mahakali—not black.
Raman : But how did the form change?
Sumitra : Her face I saw only. Her face and this whatever was there was of Mahakali.
Raman : But the form was there of idols of Bengal?
Sumitra : No, it was Mahakali. I don’t know, I can’t tell you. I knew She was Mahakali, but white.
Raman : But She was not the way as Mother looks? She did not resemble the human mother that She was?
Sumitra : No, first I saw Mother. Then I saw Her change into Mahakali. I looked up at Her. Then after sometimes I could not continue looking at Her. Then She again became Mother. And there somebody was sitting — I did not pay attention. I just put a step on that person and said : “I am sorry.” I was not in my normal state. That was once only. Otherwise we always used to consider Mother as the Divine Mother. For us Divine means Mother and Sri Aurobindo. There was no other aspect for me. Even if I saw Her as Mahakali — I never thought — whatever I think, I think of Her as the Divine Mother. Sri Aurobindo as the Divine. That was one aspect. But when I think of Mother, I don’t think of Her aspect. Even when I read all the four aspects of the Mother, I never think of anything. I only think about Mother. For me Mother is always Mother.
Raman : That’s the way for all of us. But I am wondering whether this faith—how did it come about?
Sumitra : Just like that.
Raman : People will say it is inculcated.
Sumitra : Not inculcated.
Raman : Did anybody tell you?
Sumitra : No, nothing, nothing. Nobody used to tell us anything. It was all of a sudden.
Raman : There was a point of time meaning all of a sudden. So, at one point…
Sumitra : I was looking at Mother, She changed. That day was a soirée of songs. And Mother was to come down from upstairs. That I know. I think it was Dilip-da who sang or someone who sang.
Raman : Where did he sing by the way?
Sumitra : It was in the courtyard. This thing happened in the courtyard.
Raman : Bhishmadev?
Sumitra : No, not Bhishmadev. As far as I remember, it was Dilip-da.
Raman : That experience apart, now we come to this question. I am asking you this because this question has come up. How did you have faith in the Mother?
Sumitra : First of all, we are Indians. And Indians are born with faith. At that time, there was no question of not…might be with others who were not having faith—communist ideas—but we were born with faith.
Raman : When you came here, you were believing in the Mother?
Sumitra : Of course.
Raman : Right from day one?
Sumitra : Right from the time we were living at Santiniketan and Father had told us about Her.
Raman : You had no other, say, like Ramakrishna?
Sumitra : No, nothing. We were Jains. That puja I used to go but I was not a Jain at heart. No other idol. I loved Krishna, Radha.
Raman : Krishna was not the Divine for you?
Sumitra : Krishna was the Divine but the Mother and Sri Aurobindo were real Divine. Krishna was also Divine but there was no one to replace Mother and Sri Aurobindo. They were All.
Raman : Even from Santiniketan days?
Sumitra : Since I remember. Once we heard from Father, it was Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Raman : So, it means your father really influenced you.
Sumitra : No, he did not influence. He had just told us about Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Raman : What did he tell you?
Sumitra : That he had come here. When he went back, he told that he had been here. “You must now learn to meditate, to become quiet.” He had written a poem to Sujata : “You play under a banyan tree” then there is another kind of play. Have you read?
Raman : I have gone through but I will go through again.
Sumitra : Yes, go through it. “Another kind of play you will play with Mother.” But I did not understand anything but I knew about Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Raman : When you came first in 1935, what were your inner experiences?
Sumitra : I don’t remember. I only remember that I was very happy seeing Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Raman : But you had accepted Her as the Divine.
Sumitra : Before coming here. It was not a question of acceptance, it was something self-evident. It was something with us before we were born. I think we were born with it—born with the idea.
Raman : So you never knew when it came actually?
Sumitra : No, I think from the very beginning it was with us. Or, perhaps, in a previous birth. Perhaps Father used to read Mother and Sri Aurobindo before we were born. So it might have influenced our father and mother. Hence, it might have come from them. But as far as I think, as Mother has said—this is not the first time you are with us. We have met before. So that’s all. These are all mental questions. “Les Occidentaux ont le mental très développé, extrêmement développé, ils essaient d’analyser, et la foie est quelque chose qui est au-delà d’analyse! Qui existe et qu’on ne peut pas analyser. Le moment où vous commencez à analyser ce n’est pas une foie.” ( “The mind of westerners is very developed, extremely developed, they try to analyze and the faith something which is beyond analyzing ! It exists and one cannot analyse. The moment you start to analyse, it is not faith”.) That is the thing.
Raman : Did you ever revolt against…?
Sumitra : No, never. The idea did not…
Raman : The idea will not come, I know. But is it possible that even if your heart does not revolt, your nature will revolt? Your physical nature cannot bear the Divine. That is possible.
Sumitra : It never happened.
Raman : Say, you want to go out because you cannot bear the sadhana which is very possible, isn’t it?
Sumitra : But it never happened to us.
Raman : But you did go out finally.
Sumitra : Finally I went out otherwise… Mother had told I am now all over the world. When Champaklal-ji came, he said : “Your home has the same Ashram atmosphere.” How is it possible if Mother was not there? And luckily, I went out because with all that happened with Satprem-da and Sujata and after André-da will go away, that office would have been taken away by others and other things might happen. Because I don’t have the guts of Chum to keep. As it is, I was being disturbed upstairs. Mother had asked me to sit on Pavitra-da’s terrace. Others were coming, disturbing me because I was a pain in their back. I was being disturbed quite a lot. It was becoming very difficult so it was in a way good that I went out. I tell you—I don’t know what would have happened to me! With Satprem-da, Sujata like this…
Raman : You must have suffered a lot.
Sumitra : Afterwards I used to suffer.
Raman : No, during that particular time when this happened.
Sumitra : When Sujata and Satprem were expelled, naturally we suffered. Not because they were expelled, anyone else could have been expelled because it was going against Mother’s… Mother never allowed these things to happen. And it was against Mother’s writings. It could have been anyone else. It so happened that Didi was my sister. Suppose she was not my sister, suppose this had happened to someone else I would have suffered the same way because it was Mother’s work which was being hindered. There were so many false rumours circulating like this. That made things worse.
Raman : Do you believe that if they had not touched the Mother’s body, something else might have occurred?
Sumitra : Yes, I believe because Mother had said to many never to touch Her body because from the very beginning She had said that “I might go in a deep trance.” And She has also explained when She was talking about it in Agenda, not to touch when it happens, what has to be done. As Mother had told not to touch…
Raman : Did She tell you also?
Sumitra : No, not to me. She had said it to Didi, Satprem and Nolini-da. But it was touched before Nolini-da was informed.
Raman : If Nolini-da had been there he would not have touched?
Sumitra : How to say? What would have he done?
Raman : Just that touch has made the difference?
Sumitra : The link which was there got cut. Mother has explained in the conversations –Entretiens —where She told about Madame Théon. Whether it was intended or not, what happened. Somewhere there must be a sanction because it happened. But Mother said we always have a choice. So humanity chose this one instead of choosing the other one. In my opinion, they should have waited. Now, why they did not wait, that is…
Raman : After how many hours did they inform Nolini-da?
Sumitra : Not hours but after some time I think. Already they had touched the body.
Raman : But if the heart stops then they have to do some sort of pumping. Even that you consider touching the body?
Sumitra : No.
Raman : Because they did. Dr. Bisht…
Sumitra : The thing is—She was given some medicines which were not to be given to Her. And without Her knowing She was given the medicines. That they should not have done. Because some were not believing in Her experiences and they were giving some medicines which were very… So what would you say? Where do we have faith in Her? How can the doctors give it to Her? They don’t believe in Her experiences.
One day, when I was going upstairs, She asked me “Sumitra, est-ce qu’il y a tempête dehors, est-ce qu’il pleut beaucoup?” (“Sumitra, is there a storm outside, is it raining heavily?”) So you see, She is not in one place but She is everywhere. She is having experiences. If we don’t believe in Her! So where is our Divine Mother?
Raman : Would you consider Pranab-da as someone who would not want Her transformation?
Sumitra : No I would not consider. I would consider it as ignorance.
Raman : So they did it out of ignorance and not willful…
Sumitra : And they were too tired of attending to Her because we used to hear downstairs : “What need you have to know the hour?” “What are you doing?” All these things he used to tell Mother. Was he tired of attending to Her? What happened I don’t know. It could be ignorance, it could be tiredness of attending to Her. Because he was not believing in all that She was saying.
Raman : But Satprem-da had sort of accused the trustees of sort of willful…
Sumitra : That I don’t know whether he accused or not.
Raman : Because I read in the Agenda…
Sumitra : Might be. I have read but I don’t remember. But Her body was not to be touched, She has said. So when you touch the body it is disobeying Her. That way you can say. But whether it was done deliberately or out of ignorance how to say? It is only Mother who can say. You can’t say, I can’t say.
Raman : So the question mark will remain, I suppose, for ever.
Sumitra : It will remain for ever. It is only when we go to the Supramental, we will know the whole truth. Or if anyone is capable of going, where the historical scroll is there. You know, someone has to go there and find out because everything is written there.
Raman : For that you have to be much developed.
Sumitra : Yes. I don’t know what he thinks or others think…
Raman : But that sort of gave you a lot of pain because of which you finally left.
Sumitra : No, none of these. Not due to these. I told you the things were different. In office and surroundings. I will never say due to this I left. I was here. I was continuing to work. I had no problem. But afterwards things started getting worse upstairs and in our office also. All these things. Due to that. Many things were happening which I don’t want to say. Some people are involved. I don’t want to name them. That is how…
Raman : This unfortunate thing that happened due to the passing away of the Mother, it did not affect you?
Suprabha : Personally it did not but naturally it affected Sujata. Personally it affected that Mother is no more physically very much but in the working it did not disturb me. When I was working in the Laboratory, still preparing things, Kumud is still very friendly with me. She would come and talk; it was too difficult to work. And also my work in the Stamp Office was increasing. So I wrote a letter to Harikant and stopped the work. But no ill-feeling or nothing. And when Aruna wanted some help. Even now I help her when she prepares blue water. But I wanted to come out also.
After Mother passed away, she wanted to take over that part also. So one day she kept the Mother’s dress on the marble table, it is still there. When she [Sumitra] objected, she said “Even Mother’s things she does not want to keep.”
Sumitra : The table was not meant for Mother’s things.
Raman : So it was these little things that put you out sort of.
Suprabha : For her it was difficult for she was working there. Then one day Champaklal-ji saw all the things. She would come at night and God knows what she was doing. So it was difficult for her to work. I was mainly working in the Stamp Office and Father’s Office.
Raman : So she was trying to take over.
Suprabha : Kumud was trying to expand.
Sumitra : You see, when Vasudha was here, she never came this side. Kumud started coming to this side. Champaklal-ji told me : “I understand now what you feel.”
[To be continued]
The Mother on 6 January 1952 at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. Also seen with Her: Udar Pinto, Sisir Kumar Mitra, Lilou, K. Amrita, Suprabha Nahar, Sumitra Nahar, Sujata Nahar, Tara Jauhar, Parul Chakraborty, Krishnakumari, Nolini Kanta Gupta, Shane, Norman Dowsett, Dakshinapada Bhattacharya, Shanti Doshi, Usha M, Ajji, Dhanvanti Nagda, Dyuman, Bibhash, Sunil Bhattacharya, Narendra, Arun, Mrityunjoy Mukherjee, Soli Albless, Bubu Ganguli and Jhumur Bhattacharya.
Same as above. The Mother with Sumitra Nahar, K. Amrita, Suprabha Nahar, Lilou, Sujata Nahar, Krishnakumari, Sisir Kumar Mitra, Norman Dowsett, Pavitra, Chandrakant, Udar Pinto, Dakshinapada Bhattacharya, Shanti Doshi, Dyuman, Dhanvanti Nagda, Jyotin, Vishwanath, Soli Albless.
The Mother with Sunil Bhattacharya, Amiyo Ranjan Ganguly and Sumitra Nahar.
The Mother with Champaklal, Nirata, Sumitra and Ritendra on 25 October 1954.
Photographs courtesy : Ms. Tara Jauhar.