K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran On Nirodbaran: An Interview

Dear Friends,

K.D. Sethna (25.11.1904 — 29.6.2011) was a Parsi sadhak who joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram at the age of twenty-three in December 1927. He was a noted poet, author, scholar and cultural critic whose published works include more than fifty titles. In 1930 he received the name of Amal Kiran from Sri Aurobindo. He was the editor of the monthly magazine Mother India from the time of its inception in 1949. Some of his notable books are The Secret Splendour, The Poetic Genius of Sri Aurobindo, The Adventure of the Apocalypse, The Passing of Sri Aurobindo: Its Inner Significance and Consequence, The Indian Spirit and the World’s Future, Sri Aurobindo on Shakespeare, The Vision and Work of Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo—The Poet, Altar and Flame, The Mother: Past-Present-Future, The Problem of Aryan Origin: From an Indian Point of View, Ancient India in a New Light, The Spirituality of the Future: A Search Apropos of R.C. Zaehner’s Study in Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin, Aspects of Sri Aurobindo, The Beginning of History for Israel, The Inspiration of Paradise Lost, Problems of Early Christianity, Problems of Ancient India, Our Light and Delight: Recollections of Life with the Mother, Science, Materialism, Mysticism: A Scrutiny of Scientific Thought and The Development of Sri Aurobindo’s Spiritual Thought and the Mother’s Contribution to it.

Dr. Nirodbaran Talukdar (17.11.1903—17.7.2006) obtained his M.B.CH.B. Degree (equivalent to M.B.B.S.) from Edinburgh.  He visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the first week of January 1930. He visited the Ashram once again in February of the same year and stayed for a month. After working in Rangoon for two years, he shifted to Kolkata to take up private practice which he gave up within six months. He arrived at the Ashram on 15 February 1933 and was accepted as a permanent inmate. Initially he was given work in the Building Service Department. After Sri Aurobindo met with an accident in November 1938, he was selected by the Mother as one of His attendants. Eventually he became Sri Aurobindo’s scribe to whom Sri Aurobindo dictated His poetic masterpiece, Savitri. After Sri Aurobindo’s mahasamadhi, the Mother gave him charge of the work at the Samadhi. In the 1950s he began to teach English, French and Bengali to the students of the higher classes in Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. He has also authored a number of notable books like Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo, Memorable Contacts with the Mother, Sri Aurobindo For All Ages to name a few.

29 June 2024 marked the 13th death anniversary of K.D. Sethna. As our humble homage to him, we have published an interview with K.D. Sethna on Dr. Nirodbaran Talukdar in the website of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.


For the occasion of Nirodbaran’s centenary (November 17, 2003), some questions were put to Amal Kiran (K. D. Sethna). His verbal answers are reproduced herewith.

Question: In the early days when the Ashram was relatively new, “social norms” and collective life must have been quite different from what they are now. What was it like then?

Amal Kiran: Life was simpler then, less crowded. People did not meet as much as they do nowadays. Each one was more occupied with his own sadhana. If we did meet, then we met in the Ashram itself, only rarely in each other’s rooms. In fact, it was understood that we should not visit each other.

Question: When Nirod-da arrived, he described himself as a “man of the world”. What do you remember of him in those days?

Amal Kiran: From those early days all I remember of Nirod is his talk about life in England and the kind of work he had done there. There was no particular reference to anybody. He was naturally interested in our life here and tried to share it. He had to adjust himself to the routine of our life here, as it must have differed a good deal from the one in England. He was troubled by the idea of going away.

Question: Do you remember your first meeting with Nirod-da? What did you think of him?

Amal Kiran: We first met in the Dispensary. Nirod used to be the Ashram doctor at that time. So we first met in his capacity as a doctor. He would dispense some gargle to cure my sore throat and he would also give me injections with semi-blunt needles for little pimples in my eyes. He could be indignant with patients for being ill. Hence I called him “The Frowning Physician”. My first impression of Nirod was that of a natural friendliness; it was on the whole a good impression. He seemed to be an honest, dependable, consistent person. I felt I could depend on him. We were at ease with each other.

Question: How did the two of you become friends? Besides poetry what brought the two of you together?

Amal Kiran: After our meetings in the Dispensary we made it a habit of meeting daily in Nirod’s office on the first floor of Sri Aurobindo’s house. We discussed poetry. We discussed mutual friends and—to a lesser degree—medicine. We were both aspiring poets. Sri Aurobindo’s attention and attitude to our literary attempts were our main objects of interest. These meetings went on for several years. We became friends in connection with Sri Aurobindo’s correspondence to each of us. We had a Master in common!

Question: From the early correspondence, we gather there were discussions about Yoga, the Supermind, Death, Immortality, Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual achievements, etc. How did you deal with these topics?

Amal Kiran: It was expected that Sri Aurobindo would not “die”—he would have the power to prolong life. We definitely believed that Sri Aurobindo could change his body. To change the body specifically is not quite the same as to prolong one’s life. Most of the time we were talking about the Supermind. Somebody once remarked that we talked as though we carried the Supermind in our pockets and knew everything about it. Was there any manifestation of the Supermind in the physical of the sadhaks? The power to tackle illness was increased. But about Sri Aurobindo, I certainly believed that his body was undergoing change. Mother even asked us to try not to look at his body. People’s curious gaze at Sri Aurobindo’s body must have had an effect on its condition. Nirod used to be in intimate contact with Sri Aurobindo so he had the opportunity to see the weaknesses of his body, like its possible liability to accidents. Sri Aurobindo’s keeping aloof from people struck us as part of the process of his bodily change.

When Sri Aurobindo passed away, it was a great shock and puzzle to all of us. We took it as if he had concentrated within his body the whole Death-power at work in the world. It was as if Death itself had died in the death of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo made a self-sacrifice. I have elaborated on this in my article The Passing of Sri Aurobindo: Its Inner Significance and Consequence which was first published in 1951.

Question: Did you share your correspondence with each other? Can you give us an example?

Amal Kiran: We did not share our correspondence directly, but we used to share our literary correspondence. I came to see how Sri Aurobindo evoked the sleeping poet in Nirod. All of Nirod’s letters to Sri Aurobindo ended with “Blessings from Nirod”. I think he was the only one in the Ashram to do so.

Question: In the 1930s there was a special force that inspired and helped creative work like poetry, music, literature, etc. We know that both of you worked and profited a lot by it. What was that period like?

Amal Kiran: It was a period of great interest to us, especially the mutual sharing of Sri Aurobindo’s help and clarifications. We used to read each other’s literary correspondence. As a sadhak, Nirod did not like to be drawn out of his concentration by queries from other people about their own sadhana.

Question: With each friend we share something unique and wonderful. What is the unique thing you share with Nirod-da?

Amal Kiran: Poetry! We have a Master in common: Sri Aurobindo! Sri Aurobindo’s trust and confidence in Nirod has influenced me deeply. Our friendship has helped in our literary aims, our literary natures.

Question: How has your friendship changed over the years?

Amal Kiran: The occasions of meeting are less now. But the inner relationship remains the same.

Question: Of the sadhaks from the early days, only Nirod-da and you remain. Nirod-da had been in physical contact with Sri Aurobindo and you by way of corresponding with Sri Aurobindo. Do the two of you ever reminisce?

Amal Kiran: We do not talk about old times as we do not realise that we are the only two sadhaks left who were in contact with Sri Aurobindo. We basically talk about Sri Aurobindo’s letters—the letters dealing with Yoga and poetry. We discuss certain details of poetry.

Question: Did Nirod-da tell you how he received inspiration while writing poetry? What form did it take (images, colours, etc.)?

Amal Kiran: He used to ask Sri Aurobindo to send him inspiration and he would write to Sri Aurobindo whatever happened as a result. The inspiration came in the form of words.

Question: Is there a difference in the quality of inspiration with respect to the plane from which it descends?

Amal Kiran: Generally, we did not know ourselves which plane the inspiration came from. It was Sri Aurobindo who would tell us. I remember Sri Aurobindo writing to Nirod that they would cooperate and that he would receive greater and rarer inspirations. Each plane lends its own particular imagery and peculiar turns of phrase. If one is familiar with these from each plane, one can recognise the plane in general. There may be a general indication, but to be precise about the source is difficult. Certain planes send their messages more easily than others.

Question: Do you have any favourites among his poems or songs?

Amal Kiran: All were favourites. Of one of his poems, the phrase “A dying warrior’s last half-uttered word” has stuck in my mind.

Question: The correspondence gives us a clear picture of his relationship with Sri Aurobindo. How was his relationship with the Mother?

Amal Kiran: Nirod had a special relationship with Sri Aurobindo. The Mother saw them like two babies playing with each other on a bed.

Question: Nirod-da held so many occupations in the Ashram: carpentry, medical services, teaching, writing, serving the Lord, etc. Any special memory of him?

Amal Kiran: I remember him supervising the carpentry work that took place next to my house. As a doctor, he did not like to be bothered very much with people’s complaints about their illnesses.

Question: Both you and Nirod-da had a unique and special association with Savitri. Did you share your experiences relating to this?

Amal Kiran: I think so. When we met, we must have talked of our experiences.

Question: In your opinion, how will Nirod-da inspire future generations?

Amal Kiran: There will be many people in a state like he was in; they will certainly learn from the advantage he got from his relationship with Sri Aurobindo. There will be some who will have a similar or the same bent of nature and temperament as Nirod’s. They surely will learn a good deal from the correspondence between Sri Aurobindo and him.


3 Replies to “K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran On Nirodbaran: An Interview

  1. So nice of you to share this interview. Both Revered disciples were very close to Revered Sri Aurobindo and going through this text enriches the reader with their deep knowledge, Grace, etc
    Thanks again

  2. Dear Anurag –
    Thanks for sharing this their precious memory –
    Both Amal – Da and Nirod – da were giant of personalities –
    – Sri Aurobindo had transformed them into great poets and yogis – so versatile , so humane , so kind and so gracious – always available to talk and share their invaluable experiences –
    They were brilliant conversationalists and speakers and writers of sublime spiritual calibers –
    Full of divine rasas – Sri Aurobindo poured all His Grace and Force upon them – May be they were His divine companions in previous lives –
    I was fortunate to receive acts of their kindnesses – specially from Nirod -Da –
    Thank you again – Anurag
    Surendra Singh Chouhan – SAICE ’69

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *