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 in December 1943. She started working with her father Prithwi Singh in his department and also did embroidery under Mona Pinto for Golconde. 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 on 18 July 2018, a very interesting interview of her conducted by Raman Reddy of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, was published in the website of Overman Foundation along with some of her photographs with the Mother. The second part of the said interview has now been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
Raman : I have one very particular question. I am trying to find out when did the Mother give Her various Darshans. One of the Darshans that the Mother gave was the Blessings She gave in the Meditation Hall downstairs. I want to know when did that begin?
Sumitra : Don’t ask me about the dates. I don’t remember. When I came…
Raman : When did the Mother start coming down?
Sumitra : I came first in November 1935. She was sitting where Promode-da’s painting is there in front of Amrita-da’s office. Uday Kaka, his wife, Parichand-da’s wife, Jiji (Kiran Kumari), Rajabhai (Abhay Singh), Sujata and myself — we had come. Rani — Parichand-da’s daughter — had also come. She was not allowed to come to the Ashram at that time. But we were allowed. First day when I went, I went with them. We were told that we have to go after this person because the group was there. When I saw Mother sitting there, people going and doing pranam — I was not a quiet child, full of energy. I went there. I saw Mother. I just went and did pranam. And then afterwards we returned home all of us with Uday Kaka. He was my uncle, my father’s cousin brother. We were returning and we stayed first time in…
Raman : How old were you then by the way?
Sumitra : Don’t ask age. Mother has said never talk about age. I was very small. We stayed at the house where Dr. Agarwal later had his institute. Uday Kaka’s wife, Parichand-da’s wife and Jiji had their rooms and we three stayed in one room.
There was a cook named Satya who later worked in Ganpatram’s place. His daughter is still there — Pratima. He had come as a cook. We used to eat there. While going back, in the park, Uncle scolded me. We were not habituated to be scolded. But I did not pay any attention to his scolding. Bur afterwards Father came and he said Mother appreciated very much my spontaneity. Mother had given me flowers but I don’t remember what. She was giving flowers to everyone that time. I also had Sri Aurobindo’s Darshan in 1935. At that time, where the notice board of P.E.D. is, was a list showing who will go after whom. There I followed the procedure. Naturally I did pranam in the lap of Mother, of Sri Aurobindo, then in the middle, at the centre. So that was my first Darshan. Sujata and Rajabhai stayed on. And I went back with Father. Then in August 1936 we all came. Suprabha — I don’t know whether Sejda also had come — and Nirmal Singh and everyone came. We stayed at Fenêtres. Mother said from there you could see Sri Aurobindo’s room, not to look there. And we never looked. There is one nice incident. My bhabi [sister-in-law, Rajsena Nahar] was not keeping well; she was cooking something there. We were going to Dining Room. Bhabi sent Suprabha to where Jhunjhun Boarding is now situated. Only this much distance! She saw the servants sitting there. She came back. She could not find the V.G. House. (Vegetable Garden House) ! That was in1936.
Raman : This was the second time you went.
Sumitra : Second time we went. All of us. She was very small. She was also permitted. At that time, I don’t remember, whether there was meditation in the Hall or not. I don’t remember in 1935. I don’t remember in 1936 also. I can’t tell you.
Raman : Was there a meditation in the terrace of Dyuman-bhai? An evening meditation? In 1935-1936?
Sumitra : I don’t remember.
Raman : May be you did not go.
Sumitra : No, we were allowed from the very beginning to go for meditation. I once came with Rajabhai. Rajabhai was coming. I asked : “You write, I want to go”. He wrote to Father and I was permitted. 2-3 times we had stayed at the place which later became Minku-di’s Boarding. At that time there was not the Tennis ground. So we got lost many times in the road! Anyway, that is another thing. But in 1936 or 1937 we were allowed in Meditation Hall. Suprabha must have made a noise or something. Somebody had complained to Mother. Mother said : “No, she will come for meditation”. We were allowed. I read in Chitra’s [Sen] book that they were not allowed for the meditation. She used to sit there near the “Transformation Tree” but we were allowed. That I can tell you for everything we were allowed — going for Prosperity where Mother was giving bonbons. That time I was all alone. I was not with Suprabha. And then we were going, coming like that.
Raman : Noren Singh-da, just now I was asking Sumitra-di when you came in 1935-36, was there any evening meditation?
Noren Singh : Yes, it was there. In downstairs Meditation Hall. Mother was standing on the staircase. Before coming She would look from the window.
Sumitra : There is this small window. She would first look from there. Then She would come down. After crossing the landing, She would cross a few steps and then stand. She would stand and conduct the meditation. I remember it. There were more or less fixed places — not officially but it had become like that.
Raman : This is the earliest meditation you remember? Night meditation?
Sumitra : Evening meditation. I don’t remember the time. Probably it took place around 7-7:30 p.m. But I know we were allowed to go. Even Suprabha was allowed to go. As I said, I know who had complained. Mother said : “No, she will come”.
Raman : How many people were there about?
Noren Singh : 150 in 1935-36.
Sumitra : He came in1936. In August?
Noren Singh : No, February.
Sumitra : Suprabha and others came in August. I remember that August he did not come. Where did you stay?
Noren Singh: I don’t remember.
Sumitra : I remember, when Rajabhai and Sujata came, they stayed at the ground-floor of Dilip-da’s house. So, after 1936 we were coming and going. We used to come for the August Darshan, stay for a few days because we had our school to attend to and then we had to go back. I did not come for the August Darshan in 1941. Like that, I had come 2-3 times. When we were in school in 1941, there were quarterly exams. After the first quarterly exams were over, the second quarterly would be held. So if I came in August, I would have missed that quarterly exam. I won’t have good results. So I wrote to Father that studying is a work of the Mother and I don’t want to come for Darshan and absent myself from Mother’s work. Just imagine how I used to write! I also used to write questions after reading stories of Upanishads, Vedas, etc. These questions were coming to my mind. I still have copies of those letters.
Raman : You wrote them to Prithwi Singh-da?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : He sent them to the Mother?
Sumitra : Perhaps he used to tell Mother — I don’t know — he must have sent. And also once I had an experience — you know Pratip, Prabir, Lucy — there was a boy who passed away. I was upstairs, suddenly I saw a light going up. And I had written to Father. He said, Mother has said it was the soul that was rising. It was a light which was going up. I used to love that boy very much. Something was there. In 1941 Mother had decided — because bhabi was not well — she should not go home because if she goes back, she will die. So Mother decided that we will come.
Raman : Why if she went back she would die? That is what She saw in an occult way?
Sumitra : Perhaps She had seen something — She did not want her to go back.
Raman : Because her husband had already died?
Sumitra : No, no, husband was there.
Raman : Because you said somebody had passed away.
Sumitra : It was her youngest son, 1-1/2 years old. He had meningitis. They had gone to Rajgiri in Bihar and he caught it. They sent a telegram. Mother and Sri Aurobindo sent Their answer : “Blessings to others”. Not to the boy because They knew that he was not going to live. My brother used to stay here for 6 months and stay in Calcutta for 6 months. You remember Pratip, Prabir, Lucy,
Raman : I have seen them. Once they came to the Archives.
Sumitra : So we came, Mother decided that we will stay back. We arrived here on 31st October 1941 — it was raining like anything. They were staying — Sejda and Rajabhai — in Santal House. When we used to come — we would also go there. Ravindra-ji used to stay behind on the verandah. He had come just with a cot. There was Vidyabrata and his brother Vedabrata. Nishikanto-da was also there. Then we came. My second brother had come with us. He was a Pilot Officer. He was going on a tour of South India, Ceylon and other places. So he got down there (Santal House). He had accompanied us. And we went to Michel House. Somehow we had our bath and then went to Mother for pranam.
In May 1942 there was a terrific cyclone — you know that “Transformation” Tree, about which Chitra speaks, fell down. There was a hut on top of Padmasini’s Office, that too disappeared! On the 16th May, it was raining. We — Suprabha, Anusuya — asked through Pavitra-da — “Mother can we go for picnic?” Mother said: “But it is raining. In this weather…” “This is the best weather”. We went to the island — backwater. Then afterwards while coming back it was terrible. Dayakar, Abhay Singh, Shantibhai went to buy watermelon for Mother. They went to fetch and we were standing. Somehow we arrived home, had our bath.
On the 17th May it was Sahana-di’s birthday. When Sahana-di went to Mother , it was in the morning, Mother was giving blessings, Mother said : “What a stormy birthday!” Then I told you about somebody had complained to Mother that Suprabha was making noise. Mother did not tell her. She said she will come.
Raman : In 1942, that kitchen and Flower room near the Samadhi…
Sumitra : Flower Room was there like that. There were 3-4 rooms.
Raman : When did it go?
Sumitra : I can’t remember exactly; it was later on. Mother had given to Chitra some work of arranging the vases when she was coming and going.
Suprabha : That time it had already shifted to Pujalal-ji’s room.
Sumitra : First it was there, then it was broken because the courtyard was being built for meditation. At that time it was shifted to Pujalal-ji’s room. Chitra used to look after that. Vases, dishes — because everyone used to give flowers to Mother.
In 1941, when we came, Mother arranged, very soon She arranged, for our studies. Sujata used to teach us French Without Tears. And just after a few days — I think — Sisir-da was teaching us English and History and Mastermoshai, that is, Prabhakar-da, Sanskrit and Maths. I don’t know what else.
Raman : That was in 1941?
Sumitra : In 1942. He started perhaps beginning of 1941.
Raman : The question of teaching came up in 1942?
Sumitra : Did we start studying with Sisir-da in 1942?
Suprabha : We came in October 1941. So whether it was within a few days or next year I don’t remember.
Sumitra : Must be end of 1941 or beginning of 1942.
Suprabha : In 1941 Mother won’t let us roam…
Sumitra : Roam about like that. Sisir-da used to come to our place to teach Suprabha, myself and later also to Amita when she came. Amita used to come to our house. Debu, Minoo, Bela and both of us — as I said — Sanskrit, Bengali and Maths.
Suprabha : Mastermoshai used to take Bengali, isn’t it?
Sumitra : Prabhakar-da also taught us Maths. And Sisir-da taught us English, History and probably Geography. As far as I remember. Then very soon Nripen-da came. He used to teach us Hygiene. The first classes took place in the Dispensary, then in Chitra-di’s house upstairs. He was staying downstairs. Sunil-da and all had already come in 1942. Sunil-da was taking our Maths class. At that time, I remember, he took our exam. I stood first. Mother wrote “Congratulations to Sumitra for being first…”. I still have that card. I could have got full marks because he had put in a bracket which I read as 1(one). Otherwise I got very nice marks. At that time Mother told to me to study well so that later on Pavitra-da teaches us. Also, in the meanwhile, I think because of Suprabha that Chandulal used to teach us French. All the homework he will read and send to Mother. Mother will sign. I still have those notebooks. One or two notebooks are perhaps missing. Some I have got.
Suprabha : Mine I have lost.
Sumitra : Before that also not in 1941 but in 1942 we used to go up to Mother when She came in Pavitra-da’s office. It was 1942 or 1943 I don’t remember exactly. Mridu-di — she used to prepare nimki and other things. So when Mother came She used to give us prasad.
Suprabha : In the early days Jiji used to bring lots of flowers for the Mother. We used to go to Pavitra-da’s room.
Sumitra : From the door of the terrace.
Suprabha : Very soon we were asked to go to Pavitra-da’s office.
Sumitra : First it was the Dining Room, then office. Mother used to come and She would give us Prasad — we were three — Sujata, Suprabha and myself. It was definitely in 1942. Jiji, they (Abhay Singh and Sujata) used to work with Pavitra-da. Didi used to type for Mother. She used to work with Mother also. They (Abhay Singh and Sujata) used to prepare pastilles for Sri Aurobindo. I don’t remember whether Sujata was there but definitely both of us were there. Mother used to give us what Mridu-di was preparing — nimki and other things.
Suprabha : Nishikanto, the poet, was also here. He used to prepare cheese.
Sumitra : She would give us to eat. I used to close my nose and put it in the mouth, put water and swallow it. Then upstairs Mother used to give us — at least once a week — dictation in French.
Raman : Where were you meeting the Mother upstairs?
Suprabha : Pavitra-da’s office-room.
Sumitra : It was office-room in the morning.
Raman : You were not going to that side where Sri Aurobindo stayed?
Sumitra : No. It was only Pavitra-da’s office-room.
Raman : You never dared to go across the corridor?
Sumitra : No, whatever it was, we were very obedient, not at all pushing.
Raman : Not even to the little Laboratory in which you worked later on?
Sumitra : Yes, but that was later on.
Suprabha : We would not even go to the corridor.
Sumitra : At that time I would not even put a foot beside whatever our place was there. Later on what happened do you know? Pavitra-da was getting books for school. He would ask us to read. Mother used to come calling “Pavitra, Pavitra”. We would be sitting. Mother would tell us “Restez assises” (remain seated). Mother is there, we did not know what to do. To obey Her, to get up or to sit. It was really…
Raman : When did you settle in the Ashram?
Sumitra : 1941 I said.
Raman : You did not tell me how exactly you settled.
Sumitra : We all came together and settled.
Raman : That’s all! You forgot about schooling…
Sumitra : At that time there was no school. Mother arranged.
Raman : No, your school outside.
Sumitra : That I forgot.
Raman : But what prompted you to settle? Was it your decision?
Sumitra : No. Mother said : “Come”, we came. There was no questioning of Mother’s decisions.
Raman : In what circumstances did She take the decision?
Sumitra : I told you bhabi was not well. The children were to come here and we were like — who will look after us? She saw that we should come. She decided that we will come. All the five of us : my two nephews Pratip, Prabir, my niece Lucy, Suprabha and myself. We will come and settle down here, stay here. Then She arranged first with Didi “French Without Tears”. She gave us work also, we were working with Kiran Kumari. She used to repair stoves, cut chit-pads for Mother and Sri Aurobindo. In the very beginning, there was a house called “Little House” where now Smithy is located. Udar used to make furniture for Golconde; in front there was a garden and just after that there was a hall where Mona used to embroider bed-covers for Golconde. There Mother had sent me from the very beginning. That is why Mona — whenever she sees me says : “I am her first worker”. Though I was not the first worker. But she used to love me like a daughter.
Raman : Rajsena was the bhabi. She came here. Mother told her not to go back. So she was here alone. Then how is it that you people came here?
Sumitra : Because Mother did not want her 3 small children there. Lucy was two and a half years old. They can’t stay without their mother. We were also very small. And she was looking after us. Even outside bhabi was looking after us since she was married.
Raman : Prithwi Singh-da was here.
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : And your mother?
Sumitra : My mother passed away when Suprabha was two years old.
Raman : Now I understand. As Rajsena could not go back, She brought the children here.
Sumitra : Actually that was the outer reason.
Raman : This is the Grace.
Sumitra : She brought us but I think long ago Mother had told Father the children are as yet too young to take a decision but later on they will take. But because we were to come, Mother decided the time was ripe to come. Because later on — suppose we had stayed outside, we would have been influenced by outside. At that time we were really very childish.
Raman : Where were you staying outside?
Sumitra : Calcutta.
Raman : Was Calcutta in a danger zone?
Sumitra : No.
Raman : 1942.
Sumitra : 1941. At that time the War had started but it was not a danger zone.
Raman : Because the story goes — some of the sadhaks…
Sumitra : That was but later on. I think it was in 1942 or 1943. Not in 1941.
Raman : So it does not apply to you.
Sumitra : No. The War thing does not apply to us.
Raman : Because you were pretty safe there and you had a good education. Everything was all right.
Sumitra : Yes, very, very fine education.
Raman : None of you regretted the fact that you were…
Sumitra : No, no. We always wanted to come here. The moment we used to come here, we were so happy! Our friends would say : “You are missing school”. We were so happy to be here. You see, the moment you saw Mother and Sri Aurobindo — Mother was really the Divine. They were the King and Queen of the entire world. I won’t say that we were not happy there. We were happy there also. But it was another kind of happiness. We were well brought-up, nobody scolded us. I never got scolded except once. I never got scolded from Father. We were loved by our neighbours. They would consider us as their sisters.
Raman : But did you miss your school?
Sumitra : No.
Raman : Friends there?
Sumitra : No.
Raman : Games?
Sumitra : No. Here we used to play games. In two houses we played, running about with Jiji and others. All the time we played : ludo, go to the sea-side, jump… After dinner, Parichand-da, Rishabhchand-da and Father used to go to the sea-side and then come to the Ashram. Rishabhchand-da would make us read stories in English so that we could speak in English. Suprabha had read some stories in English : always with “Montu Mine”. So Rishabhchand-da always called her “Montu mine”. He never called her “Suprabha”. To me he used to say “Scholar”. To Amita he used to say something but I don’t remember what.
When I used to go to Mona, Mother had said that the servant must accompany you. 2-3 days I asked her to come. But everywhere we were going alone. From the very beginning Mother had asked me to help Father in the Library. About that I have written—“Publication Department”— it will come out.
Raman : When you people came, there were other young children?
Sumitra : Yes. I will tell you. Not many. Kittu was there.
Raman : Mona Sarkar? His family was here.
Sumitra : No, no, they came much later.
Raman : Das Gupta’s family?
Sumitra : They all came later on. Pavitra-da used to teach Noren Singh, Abhay Singh, Vasudha, Mangatrai, Ganpatram, Shanti. At the very end of the Publication Department, there was a table — they used to have competition with Vasudha. Once I remember, I think Rajabhai had more marks than Vasudha. He was really very happy. Vasudha knew French and everything. In his room Chandulal used to take… Then Mutthaiyan started taking French class. Many persons gave their names. Suprabha and I…
Raman : This Mutthaiyan is not the father of the Tamil girls Vimala and Amla?
Sumitra : He was a French, I think… Old Mutthaiyan, he was in the Secretariat.
Raman : Local Tamil French.
Sumitra : He was staying where Lata [Jauhar] is now staying in Guest House. Suprabha and others used to learn from Satyen-da. Some used to learn from Sailen-da, Shanti also.
Raman : So they were the first teachers even before the school started?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : It was a kind of informal…
Sumitra : Not informal, very strict. What Mutthaiyan did first two days, he gave so much homework, one whole notebook full of homework you had to do. So, later on he said : “I wanted to see those who would stick”. Many left. I remember, Amiyo-da, Kanak-da were also there. Chiman-bhai of Laundry — might be later on he became a French teacher — and few others were there. I don’t remember who but we were there. He used to give us homework. Then the school started. Before that as I said Sunil-da was teaching, Mutthaiyan also. Satyen-da used tell them what dictation he would give but still they made many mistakes. Once the school started that is another interesting…
Raman : How many hours of study you had before the school started per day? Actual teaching?
Sumitra : Quite many hours because French was there, Maths was there — Sunil-da was taking classes also. But I won’t be able to tell the exact hours. 5 to 6 hours or 4 or 5 hours.
Raman : So it was a kind of full time study.
Sumitra : Yes but we had sports too. Work was also there.
Raman : How much work did you do at that time?
Sumitra : At that time I used to work with Mona. I used to work with Father also in the beginning. When the Press started, we also used to go to the Press but I don’t remember which year it started. Later on… About the school I will tell you an interesting story. I told you Mother used to give dictation upstairs in Pavitra-da’s room. Chandulal also used to be there. Once She gave a dictée “Aide-toi et le ciel t’aidera” (help yourself and the sky will help you). But somehow in French, when we hear in the beginning, it seems there are lots of “h”. So Suprabha had added many “h” in that! Mother used to correct. I don’t know where are all those notebooks. Then in 1943 the school started. Mother had decided to start the school because number of students (children) were increasing and as Mother had told us too, Pavitra-da will take classes later on.
The school proper had not started. It was a Sunday or Saturday, I don’t remember. Chandulal was taking French class. We were quite many. We were sitting. All were in a playing mood. Nobody thought he was angry when he asked “Do you want to play or study”? They all said “Play”. And on that day I had very high fever so I did not go to play. So I was there in the classroom. I was the only one. All others were playing because we could go from one place to another, run about. There were 3 classes—A, B, and C. And downstairs it was kindergarten. The classes were held in the Old School Building, now where the Projection Room is there. Downstairs there was a corridor.
Raman : At that time the Bakery was in the School?
Sumitra : No, I am telling about the Old School. First 1943 School. It was on the side of the Gymnasium. This thing was a godown. Chandulal must have gone and complained to Mother. So next day, Suprabha, myself and I think Didi was also there. We were upstairs. Mother came and started scolding. At that time we did not understand French well nor English. But somehow I understood what She was saying. I wanted to tell Her that I did not go. She did not allow me to open my mouth. This was upstairs in Pavitra-da’s office. Then She went and told Chandulal : “I have given a good scolding to Sumitra”. Chandulal said : “Mother she was the only one who had not gone to play”. Next day, when Mother came She gave me another scolding : “Why did you not tell me?” But anyway, in a way it was good for I never felt bad because I did not go. Others would have felt perhaps bad. This was Chandulal’s story. At that time we neither spoke English nor French well.
Raman : This was after the School had begun?
Sumitra : It was before the School began.
Raman : That means those premises were being used even before the official School began,
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : Official School began in 1943 December.
Sumitra : It was probably in November or something. I remember the incident because he was taking the class there. He had arranged the benches. Everything was put there. Instead of taking class in his room, he took in the School. And nobody understood that he was angry. Suprabha was also there.
Raman : So how did the official date come to 1st December?
Sumitra : Because officially Mother started the School on 1st December. She came and gave Darshan. All of us were standing downstairs. She came, She looked at us and then officially it was opened.
Raman : Meanwhile it had started unofficially.
Sumitra : Not meanwhile, beforehand.
Raman : How many months before it had started?
Sumitra : May be in November because benches were ready, things were getting ready. But officially it started on 1st December.
Raman : Because Robi Ganguli was telling me at one point of time Mother told Chandulal to make benches for the students. Then Mother told Robi-da to sit on the bench and see how it is.
Sumitra-di : Might be to Robi She might have told. When we went, benches were ready. I think Mother must have consulted Pavitra-da. As far as I remember, because Pavitra-da had the experience of teaching and other things. As he was from there (France), he knew everything, how the benches should be.
Raman : This is interesting that the School had already started before the official date.
Sumitra : Only one or two classes were there. All the classes were not taking place. It was only Chandulal’s class.
Raman : Then when did you start working with the Mother?
Sumitra : Working with the Mother, with Pavitra-da in December 1962.
Raman : Until then you were studying?
Sumitra : Studying and working also. Going regularly to the Press.
Raman : That started in 1945. As soon as it started you were there?
Sumitra : All of us were there.
Raman : So you started with Chitra Sen who was one of the…
Sumitra : Not Chitra Sen. Mother had first asked Sujata. Though Chitra says so, but I remember Mother asking Sujata upstairs. Because it was through Father’s enthusiasm that this started. Pillai — the Director from Hyderabad — was also coming. His daughter was here, she was teaching drawing in School. And Mother had told Sujata that all of you go and work there. Priti-di, Tapati-di, ourselves. I think Chitra and Amita also, Amiyo-da, Kanak-da. Amiyo-da was the In-Charge. And the entrance was not on the sea-side, it was on the back side.
Then also I was looking after — I don’t know from which year to which year, Mother’s coin collection. First Father used to look after that collection. It was kept upstairs with Mother. Then Mother sent it to the Library to be kept there. And Mother told me to look after that collection. Father came a few times to show me how to do. There was Hu Shu — he used to come and help me because there were Chinese writings. He will do (translate in English). Ravindra Khanna also helped me. Then there was Welingkar — he also used to come and help me. Later on I stopped that due to some reasons which I do not want to say. It was becoming very difficult to work there. So I told Mother…
Raman : For personal reasons?
Sumitra : It was not personal reason.
Raman : Just physical strain?
Sumitra : Not physical strain. I was full of power and energy. There the timing was — somebody was coming and working so it was becoming very diificult. Ravindra-ji, Hu Shu or someone will come but someone used to take their chairs and not give them back! It was annoying for those who were coming to help. So I told Mother about it. Mother said : “All right”. Then later on She had asked Noren Singh to look after the coin collection. I don’t remember which year. And now it is in the office of Stamp Department. The coin collection remained in the Library for quite some time and then She asked him to look after it.
Raman : Meanwhile he had already strted the stamp collection?
Sumitra : No, no, long ago from the beginning, Pavitra-da had a stamp collection, he was looking after it. When Anilbaran-da left, immediately Mother asked him to go there or else others would ask for that room. Overnight the collection was transferred from Pavitra-da’s office.
Raman : So that there will be more space for Pavitra-da?
Sumitra : That is true but it was not only space. It was the question of getting that room. Sri Aurobindo used to stay there so that was another reason because She did not want to give that room to anyone. And She was much interested in stamp collection.
Raman : So, coin collection, Press.
Sumitra : Stiching
Raman : Stiching for Golconde.
Sumitra : No, that I had stopped. Teaching I started in 1949. In 1949 December, Mother said : “Now I will take your French class. You teach also.” Suprabha, myself — I think both of us in 1949, we became teachers. Mother asked me to teach Maths in “classe de seconde” (2nd grade class). I asked “Mother I am in “classe de première” (1st grade class) how can I take “classe de seconde” (2nd grade class)? Mother said : “If you teach you will learn better”. Then I asked Sunil-da — Sunil-da was our teacher — we used to love him very much. “Sunil-da, you please take classe de seconde”? Then I took “classe de troisième” (3rd grade class). In the classe de troisième many of my friends were there. We were also playing together. That class also I took. I think lower class also I have taken. In 1950 I joined other classes. And I have worked till December 1962. I used to take Maths in highest class, French also in the highest class. Prior to that I had taught physical geography, zoology and a few other subjects to the children. But that was long ago. Later on I was taking only French and Maths.
Then in 1962 Mother asked me to replace Sujata because she was working also with Satprem-da. “Too much work”, Mother would say. She used to type, it was becoming too much for her. I had written something to Her. Mother told me “Je n’ai pas osé vous demander” (I did not dare ask you). You will help Pavitra in his work. I was naturally very happy because Mother used to consider all of us as Pavitra-da’s family. Mother, on Her birthdays and special days, will have cake. She would give that to Pavitra-da saying “vous et famille” (you and family). Mother used to say : “vous” to Pavitra-da. So we used to have cakes. Mejda, Noren Singh, we three sisters, Abhay Singh — were his family. Three brothers and three sisters. Upstairs in the Laboratory there was a Frigidaire where Mother used to keep for us dishes with fruits and other things. Whatever She wanted to give us. There was a fixed place and we used to take our dishes from there.
At that time I was going upstairs, long ago, for a few years, Balcony Darshan took place down but we used to go upstairs to Pavitra-da’s Laboratory. We brothers and sisters were there. Pavitra-da will be in his room, Mrityunjoy-da would be at the corridor, Amita will be there and Kalyan-da. Udar on the corridor on the other side. We used to go to Pavitra-da’s Laboratory for Mother’s Darshan through the corridor.
Raman : Mother used to pass through Pavitra-da’s room to the Laboratory?
Sumitra : First corridor, then Laboratory then Balcony.
Raman : Because between Laboratory and Pavitra-da’s room, there is a door.
Sumitra : That door She used to take. Rajabhai used to stay near the door.
Raman : And what was Pavitra-da doing at that time?
Sumitra : Standing. All of us were standing there, waiting for Her to come. There was timing. Mother sometimes used to come early and see whether people were open to… they want to come, ready or not. If She was late… Sometimes in our house we got late because there was only one bathroom and all of us had to have our bath. We would run and enter through the Meditation Hall door and run upstairs so that at least when She came back from the Balcony, we would see Her.
Raman : Did it ever happen that you came across the Mother while returning or going?
Sumitra : No, if She was in the Balcony, I was sure I will have…because She used to stay for quite a long time. It happened a few times. Gradually, we were waiting for Her. All of us. Till the last day.
Raman : Because in 1962 the Balcony Darshan stopped.
Sumitra : Yes, 1962 March Balcony Darshan stopped. 16th or 18th March. Because on Mounnou’s birthday She did not come. She was coming — like that. So, it must be before 22nd March. She was upstairs.
Raman : So, Mounnou’s birthday was the first day She did not come.
Sumitra : No, before that. I remember, on Mounnou’s birthday we were thinking that She would come because one day She was coming and then not coming. We were hoping that She would come but She did not come.
Raman : She did not come one day. She missed one day, then She came next day and after that She did not come at all.
Sumitra : I think it was the mid of March. And then naturally I started working with Pavitra-da.
Raman : Pavitra-da passed away in 1965.
Sumitra : No, 1969.
Raman : You were helping out Pavitra-da?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : In what?
Sumitra : His correspondence and everything. There was his foreign correspondence which I used to type. In the meanwhile he had accumulated so many old letters so I told him “Give me, I will draft the answers and you correct it”. And I finished all the letters. Then I was doing also his “Le Yôga de la Bhagavad Gita” (Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita) — the book. You should see the manuscript. He got all the corrections typed. He got it cut and paste on the errors. Pavitra-da’s publisher has said that they never have seen such a beautiful manuscript. Actually Yatanti had started translating. He did not like it. It was full of grammatical mistakes — in grammer I don’t know how she made so many mistakes. She was making mistakes that I have also seen. Pavitra-da started tranlating. And later on he said that whatever he was translating he was having the experience of yoga. And when he passed away and Mother said that She did not know. He had told me : “Sometimes I don’t know in which world I am living, whether living in the material world or in other world”. So he used to tell me sometimes, when he kept something — “I am keeping it here. You remember, I might forget because I don’t know in which world I am living. Because I am living in another world and am living in this world also”. He was saying he was having all those experiences.
Raman : I know this nice description in the Agenda where the Mother says he is a great yogi, rishi.
Sumitra : Mother said She did not know but he had told me this.
Raman : When did he develop the cancer?
Sumitra : I think he had developed and it was cured.
Raman : By the Mother’s Force?
Sumitra : By the Mother’s Force. Because Mother had said “I can cure cancer”. Mother had done. But another thing: because he was taking so much of other people’s things, that also gave cancer. Many people used to come, tell their problems and difficulties which he was taking on himself and he could not eliminate all these and that’s how it came out.
Raman : It sort of came out a second time.
Sumitra : Second time it came out. But he was so smiling. But Nirod-da has written about the servant telling that he could not go, that is not true.
Raman : Go where?
Sumitra : Up to Mother’s room. It is not true because I had asked the servant Tanapan. I asked : “What have you told Nirod Aiyya”? He said “Nirod Aiyya never asked me. I have not told him anything”. And it is true that Nirod-da does not write correctly. Because what he has written, I have sent a letter of correction — I have sent the copy to Manoj and to him also. I used to go upstairs to Mother in the evening before Nirod-da and André-da. I used to go first, then after me Nirod-da will go, then André-da will go. I never went with André-da. I went on his birthday or Pavitra-da’s birthday.
Raman : What did Nirod-da say I don’t remember.
Sumitra : He has written that I used to go with André-da like that. No, I never went with André-da. That work was not with André-da. Mother had asked me to bring letters and read out to Her. Later on also She was translating Savitri, I used to write in big letters like that a few lines. I would read them out to Mother and Mother would tranlate. I would read only once. Not talking like that, just ordinary, and She would translate it in French. Only once! That naturally I used to type, later on a few came out — Mother’s Savitri Translation. Mother used to like my writing very much. She said : “Tu écris très bien” (you write very well).
Mother, long ago when She was coming to the Balcony, had told us : “Look people think I can’t hear. I can hear very well if you speak like that, I could hear. But if your thought is not clear, if it is confused, I can’t hear anything. “Ca fait du bruit dans ma tête” ( it makes noise in my head). And I tell you, we have always talked with Mother like that. We never raised our voice. And when I used to come down, I could hear Nirod-da reading out to Mother so loudly! I told myself : “Oh! poor Mother, She must be suffering”.
That reminds me of an interesting incident. As I told you, I used to up to Mother. Mother asked me one day : “Est-ce qu’il y a de l’orage, est-ce qu’il pleut, il y a une tempête”? (“Is there a thunderstrom, is it raining, there is a strom”?). “Il n’y a rien” (“Nothing is there”.) Then we came to know that it had rained somewhere in Hyderabad, some places — it was like that. And She had heard — somebody must have called Her — She was thinking that… She asked me. I told Her : “No, Mother”.
When we used to go to Mother upstairs, when Mother used to give Blessings near the door, before that She was coming down in Meditation Hall. In 1941, you won’t believe I was so daring, Mother used to come down and stand, I used to go and sit near Her Feet.
Raman : Where She used to come down?
Sumitra : Meditation Hall staircase. At the top. Then She would come down to the landing, then She would come down a few steps, stand there, give meditation. On the staircase I used to sit. And Mridu-di was there. She said “Sit, sit”. She had lot of appreciation for us. Then afterwards I changed.
When Mother was giving Blessings upstairs we would go up to Sri Aurobindo’s… One day I remember, I had gone there, sitting there. There was Adil, Bilkish’s brother. He must have said something and we were laughing. Mother opened the door. I could not stop. Mother said “What has happened to you”? We could not tell Her what had happened. I don’t remember now. At that time, you know, you can’t stop. There are many other stories like that with Mother.
Raman : Tell me about Pavitra-da’s last days. He, in spite of everything, went to the Mother?
Sumitra : He was going to Mother daily.
Raman : Limping?
Sumitra : Not limping, walking very slowly.
Raman : Because he had cancer of the knee, I think.
Sumitra : I don’t think so.
Raman : Where was the cancer?
Sumitra : I don’t remember. Where the cancer had affected I don’t know.
Raman : But he was limping, I heard, for many days he had difficulty in walking.
Sumitra : He had difficulty in walking that is why he walked very Slowly. I have not seen him limping. Nirod-da has written it though. People had thought that. He was never limping. He used to walk very slowly, not limping. When Kireet-bhai would come, there was an easy-chair, he would sit there and talk with Kireet-bhai about School and other things.
Last two-three days he could not go.The last day I remember, Didi used to come and Sejda was also there. He was eating there. They asked him “How are you”? He told them “pas du tout bien, ça va pas” (“Not at all well, not at all”). I used to come sometimes before time to his room. He had gone to the bathroom. The bathroom door which was near the office door, from there he could not come in. So, what to do ? I told Tanapan : “We will just bring him inside.” He could not lift his leg. Then I ran and called Rajabhai. He came and I think with Barin also. They somehow took him and put him on his bed. One or two days after he left his body. He was not bed-ridden for more than two-three days.
Raman : And mentally alert?
Sumitra : Absolutely. Mentally he was very much alert.
Raman : And what was his relationship with the Mother? Was it absolutely…
Sumitra : Devotion, full of submission and devotion.
Raman : Not the Western…?
Sumitra : Oh, no, no. Always “Oui, Mère” (Yes, Mother).
Raman : Was he bowing down before the Mother?
Sumitra : Yes.
Raman : Bowing down to Her Feet?
Sumitra : I think so. But I won’t be able to tell you that. When Mother was coming, when I was seeing for some work, he was either cutting bread for Mother or doing some work. Mother will come, at that time we were doing pranam to Mother at Her Feet in the Laboratory but Pavitra-da was not doing at Her Feet at that time.
Raman : He was doing the Indian sort of pranam?
Sumitra : I think so but I never paid attention to that.
Raman : Why am I asking you is that nowadays it is floated that the Westerners had a different approach.
Sumitra : No, not with Pavitra-da. That I can, hundred per cent, tell you. He was all the time full of humility. “Oui Mère”, “Oui Mère” (“Yes Mother, yes Mother”). I tell you it was devotion and submission. He will never say “Non Mère” (“No Mother”). I have never heard him say “Non Mère”.
Raman : It seems he used to be quite scolded by the Mother.
Sumitra : Priti-di has written so. Not so much scolding. You see the photos in Udar’s thing. Priti-di has exaggerated and some of her information is not exact. But Mother used to scold him also. But he will take it really very submissively. He will always say : “Oui Mère”. I never heard him say “Non Mère c’est pas comme ça” (No Mother it is not like that). He will read out or something. Whatever Mother will say, he will do. Whether any difficulty he can’t do, he will try his best.
Atelier was first downstairs where his office is now. There he came down, he took “Service flowers”. On the opening day, I don’t remember on which date it opened, he put those in front of Mother’s photo — “Service flowers”. Always service to Mother, devotion, submission. He was very, very humble. I don’t know about other Europeans.
Raman : Why was there not more intellectual output by Pavitra-da? Why has he not written much? He was a fine writer. I have read some of his articles. They were very beautiful. One expects that he should have written more.
Sumitra : First of all, he was very busy. He was always doing work! Once he wanted to bring out a book of letters he had written to others. Mother said this is not the time to bring out.
Raman : Which came out — that itinerary?
Sumitra : Itinerary is letters he wrote to his father which his nephew has published. Itinéraire d’un enfant du siècle. His nephew — his name is also Philippe — has published letters he wrote to his father.
Raman : But this is sounding different.
Sumitra : He was answering all the foreign letters: all the French people, American also. When I started working — all foreign letters he used to answer. Except a few which Father used to answer.
Raman : So, he had planned to publish his letters to others.
Sumitra : Long ago he had thought of publishing but Mother had said it is not yet time. And then he translated… and Education and and Aim of Human Life. He also did Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita. It took quite many years to do.
Raman : One last question : You have read Pavitra-da’s conversations with Sri Aurobindo. How much truth is there in this rumor that a few pages were torn out by somebody else? Who might that somebody else be?
Sumitra : I know but I don’t want to tell.
Raman : Why were those pages torn out?
Sumitra : Some say… I don’t know. Might be it was something personal and they thought it should not be published.
Raman : But Pavitra-da agreed to that?
Sumitra : It was later on, after he passed away. It was not before. His things were all there, his diary and everything were there. It was later on.
Raman : Those papers were destroyed?
Sumitra : Many were destroyed. Some were saved.
Raman : Was it under the instruction of the Mother?
Sumitra : I don’t know.
Raman : Because I have studied very keenly those conversations. Just as he approaches the Siddhi Day, when you would expect the maximum number of interesting things, suddenly the pages are missing.
Sumitra : I don’t know why they destroyed it. I would not have destroyed them. That I can guarantee. I would not have destroyed a single page of Pavitra-da. I know who destroyed but I don’t want to say. Now they are not here so it is better not to name them.
Raman : But what may have been the reason?
Sumitra : The thought-processes of people are very difficult. Very difficult. Your thought-process and mine won’t be the same.
Raman : They thought there are too occult things to be revealed?
Sumitra : I think they could have at least kept, if not published but not destroyed. Because they say it had something as the Day was approaching. I also read later. But what is to be done? So many things of Mother and Sri Aurobindo have been destroyed.
Raman : Pavitra-da’s own correspondence with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother — is it there? Because we have not received any correspondence of Pavitra-da.
Sumitra : Should be there. What has happened I don’t know. With Mother there was not much correspondence. He was working with Mother. With Sri Aurobindo might be, I don’t know. But during the War time, He was sending Pavitra-da and Pavita to Udar’s House. She used to write short-hand and then send it to Sri Aurobindo. We used to see them going from our balcony of Michel House. And we really admired him very much. But why were the papers destroyed don’t ask me.
Raman : Because there are still papers by Pavitra-da which have not been touched upon. C was saying : “Pavitra-da has told me not to touch”. Which means they would just go to dust.
Sumitra : Pavitra-da, first of all, had said nothing to C. Might be André-da has said.
Raman : C was not working with him?
Sumitra : Working with him. But he was telling whatever has to be done to me. He was seeing C very little at that time. I used to go up. C would come some time. She said once “Oi Burota to ghumochche kebol” (that old man is sleeping all the time). “Buro mane ki” (what do you mean by Buro)? I knew he was having experiences. So he needed that. Pavitra-da never told her anything. Either an illusion or André-da must have told.
Raman : But aren’t there important papers in that collection?
Sumitra : Some are very important.
Raman : That you know of?
Sumitra : I knew some were important. There was a paper I have shown to some people. Where has that paper gone? Satprem also did not have the papers in Mother’s own words. There were writings of Sri Aurobindo. There were many private… I know about many, sadhaks. Either Mother has told me or I have read in letters which Mother had passed on. It will never come out of me. If you cut me, it won’t come out what was private.
Didi never said a word. She will tell general things after coming out from Mother’s room. Mother has told us about so many people sometimes. It was just the moment. It is not necessarily that the person is all the time like that. I remember once when Mother allowed us to go to the sea-side for bathing after considering it for long. Next day Didi asked : “Mother shall I go”? “Quand on a une cheville foulée on ne va pas nager” (“When one has a sprained ankle one does not go for swimming”). Then Suprabha said “Mother can we go now”? “Est-ce que tu sais nager? Non Mère. Alors quand on ne sait même pas nager, on ne va pas…” (“Do you know how to swim”? “No, Mother. Well, when one does not know even how to swim, one does not…”). I felt it was not the day to ask. I did not ask. After quite sometime may be one year or a few months, one day we asked Mother : “Mother can we go now?” “Oh, c’est très bien de nager à la mer. Ne restes pas très longtemps. 15 minutes ou comme ça. Ca doit te donner de l’énergie. Après ça te…”(“Oh, it’s very well to swim at the sea. Don’t remain very long. 15 minutes or something. It should give you energy. After that it…”). She did not ask whether we knew how to swim, nothing. She immediately gave permission to both of us. She was so enthusiastic. What She says is not contradictory. She sees the whole thing.This is just a point.
Raman : We do the wrong thing by pointing out somebody’s defect but that defect should be seen in the larger context.
Sumitra : Suprabha and I were very timid. When table-tennis started in Nanteuil, the very first day Mother asked me to play with Her. 2-3 balls like that. Then after sometime, we were all playing there. After sometime there was a table at Michel House. We had timings and all. The 3rd was Fenêtres. And then Dozo.
Bibha-di was staying at the ground-floor of Fenêtres. Later on it had all changed. I have some papers where Mother is saying who would play with whom, who has stood first and who second. If you want I can make a copy and send it to you.
Raman : Do you have any earlier dates mid-1940s, 1945-47?
Sumitra : The War ended in 1945. I remember my paternal grandmother and one of my aunts had come. The Mother had lit a lamp on the terrace of Dyuman-bhai. Mother had read out that message and we were all downstairs listening to Her.
Raman : The Victory Day message?
Sumitra : Yes, the Victory Day message. When She started going out, Chinmoyee was with Her.
Raman : Chinmoyee was going with Her?
Sumitra : In the beginning Chinmoyee was going with Her. When Playground started, the first ground was taken was the Volley-ball Ground. First Mother had named five captains. I was the treasurer. There was a casting vote. There was Vishnu-bhai, Shanti, Myself, Nirmal-da and Benjamin. We had a warm relation with our Treasurer Satyakarma. He taught me how to do things : how to keep money, how to count… When Mother decided about the Playground there were two possibilities. There was Pranab-da and Hriday. Pranab-da was not chosen immediately. Pranab-da was working here full time and he used to love children. He and Hriday stayed where Mona now lives. But Hriday was studying outside. We had a talk about who will become Director of Physical Education. Two persons voted for Pranab-da and two persons for Hriday. Mother had told me : “You will always have the casting vote”. So, I thought Hriday is studying outside. Pranab-da loves chidren. He is there all the time. So I voted Pranab-da. That’s how Pranab-da became the Director of Physical Education Department.
The Mother distributing school prizes on 1 December 1951. Also seen with the Mother: Rina, Rameshwari, Sumitra Nahar, Sati, Rani, Indulekha Gupta, Chhobi Ganguly, Nirodbaran Talukdar, Sanat Banerjee, Sujata Nahar, Debou Bhattacharya, Sunil Bhattacharya, Shanti Doshi and Samir Kanta Gupta.
The Mother on 6 January 1952 at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. Also seen with Her: 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.
Same as above. Also seen with the Mother: 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.
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.