11 November 2011 marks the Birth Centenary of Mona Pinto, the erstwhile manager of Golconde, the oldest guest-house of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and a direct disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother whom we still remember with love and respect.
Born on 11 November 1911 to Ethel May and Augustus Lovegrove in London, Ethel Anne Lovegrove alias Mona was the eldest in the family of six children. Her family-members belonged to the Anglican Church. The date of her birth was unique—11.11.1911—and the Mother once remarked that her date of birth denoted progress. Mona was working as a secretary when, at the age of twenty-two, she met her future husband Laurence Marshall Pinto (a student of aeronautical engineering at the London University) on 27 April 1932 at a charity-concert of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial by Jury”. They fell in love and wanted to tie the knot but received no approval from their respective families. So Laurence returned to India to look for a job to support his future wife while Mona waited patiently for his ‘call’ to arrive. She had to wait for, in her own words, ‘3 years, 3 months and 3 days’, before leaving England for India to join Laurence who had, in the meantime, shifted to Pondicherry in 1934 and set up an export business and made himself prosperous enough to ask Mona to leave her country and join him. She journeyed all alone and reached India in January 1937. Laurence and Mona got married in the church Notre Dame des Anges situated on Dumas Street on 6 May 1937. The couple was soon blessed with a daughter on 16 November 1937 who was initially named Judy Ann but later renamed ‘Gauri’ by the Mother.
The Pintos had befriended some of the members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram like K.D. Sethna alias Amal Kiran, Ambalal Balakrishna Purani and Ambu. On 15 August 1937 Mona and Laurence had the darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The darshan proved to be a turning point in their lives and the young couple decided to join the Ashram as inmates. Laurence received the new name of ‘Udar’ from Sri Aurobindo; when Mona requested for a new name for her Sri Aurobindo replied that he liked her name as it reminded him of Mona Lisa.
Golconde, the oldest dormitory for sadhaks of the Ashram was under construction when Udar and Mona became inmates. While Udar was closely associated with the construction of this architectural masterpiece from the very beginning, the Mother gave Mona the charge of preparing the bed linen that would be required when the dormitory would be occupied. Along with a small group of young ladies Mona stitched and embroidered the bedcovers with hand. Once Datta, one of the earliest sadhikas of the Ashram who had arrived in India with the Mother as her companion on 24 April 1920, visited Mona’s house and was immensely impressed by the way she maintained cleanliness at her residence. She reported to the Mother: “I have been to Mona Pinto’s house. She keeps her home spotlessly clean. She may be the one to look after Golconde.” The Mother too was aware of the qualities Mona possessed and hence when Golconde was opened Mona was given charge of the dormitory and she continued to do the work till her last days. She became one of the most ideal instruments of the Mother’s work and it was courtesy her orderliness and constant personal supervision that Golconde attained the great reputation of being an ideal cave for the sadhana of integral yoga.
Krishna Chakravarti rightly remarks about Mona Pinto in her article titled ‘The Empress Abdicates’ published shortly after Mona’s demise on 21 May 2004 at the age of ninety two : “The upkeep of Golconde, the meticulous attendance to its cleanliness, to maintain its rules and regulations laid down by the Mother were the only concern of Mona. She would be there morning till evening. No other activity could take her away from Golconde. She would devote all her life in this empire of hers—its garden, its buildings, inhale the atmosphere of thiscaveofTapasya… [Golconde] represented her aspiration, her dedication, her devotion to the Mother. It represented her inner growth, her spiritual progress…”
Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were quite appreciative of the work Mona used to do at ‘Golconde’. The Mother had once remarked about her: “She is someone who truly loves to do things well, and wants to do them well and whatever she does, she does lovingly and very well.” And in one of her birthday cards to Mona, the Mother wrote: “Here is one more occasion to tell you physically what I tell you so often when we meet in the night. How much I appreciate the quality of your work and how much I rely on your faithful steadiness. We are very close inside although we meet rarely outside, but my love and blessings are always with you.”
The work of organizing Christmas celebration was also given to Mona by the Mother. From decorating the Christmas tree to arranging the Christmas gifts and handing them over to the Mother for distribution Mona materialized the Mother’s concept of the celebration of the Festival of Light. An ex-student of the Ashram School rightly remarked about Mona: ‘All over the world children have a Father Christmas. We actually had a Mother Christmas!”
Mona Pinto was stunningly beautiful and was the embodiment of grace, politeness and elegance. Today, on the occasion of her Birth Centenary we remember her with profound love and admiration.
With warm regards,
9 Replies to “Remembering Mona Pinto on her Birth Centenary”
What Sister Nivedita was to Swami Vivekananda, perhaps Mona Pinto was for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in Their work for the New Consciousness!
An Empress in Golconde, Mona radiated an ever cheerful dynamism, whenevr I met her, tip top in her all white sleeveless shirt and short.
Once when my mother fell sick, fussy as she was with cleanliness, she did not accept anybody to cook for her. On hearing this, the Mother told me she consulted Mona for a suitable maid servant for this purpose.
In 1952, on a short visit to India after forty-six years of life in USA, Dr Taraknath Das was to spend a night in Golconde. Informed by the Mother that Das had been Sri Aurobindo’s follower both in the revolutionary years as well as on the spiritual path, Mona was waiting to welcome him to his room. According to Charupada Bhattacharya, our Reception-in-Charge who accompanied him, Mona in a filial gesture undid the necktie and helped the old man remove his shoes, leaving him for a rest before his interview with the Mother.
The best X’mas evenings I have ever celebrated were in the Ashram. And my X’mas memories remain intimately attached with Mona’s smiling face.
Very inspiring and beautiful article!
Thank you Anurag da!
Yes, I’ve gone through the article about Mona Pinto regarded as the second Mother. Thanks for bringing out such a nice article.
Thanks for the mail.I have already written about HER in the Srinvantu.SHE was really a great soul. With my regards to HER.
RAJAT KANTI MITRA
A beautiful face,a wonderful soul and a grand tribute from a great writer!
Every word was so filled with love and gratitude. Let Her Grace be always our guide.
My mother Susheela Santosh did early morning gate duty at Golcond in the early fifties. Mona loved my mother’ s discipline n punctuality. To walk down from Blue House at crack of dawn with utmost regularity was greatly appreciated by Mona. In later years she would write sweet letters to my mother who had moved to Bangalore. Mona was an absolute personification of utter sweetness. In fact I as a child thought of Mona as HONEY and Gauri di as the most beautiful among the young in the Ashram. Sweetest indeed are the memoriesof Mona, Gauri-di, Udar n Babu-da ! With Douce Mere around what a heaven on earth it was ! “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven ! ” Thank u for re-bringing MONA, no less sweet than Mona Lisa, to us again !
Aditi, sister of Hero-di !
Your tribute to Mona Pinto truly touched my heart as she and I had been so close for many, many years.
Here is one remembrance of her that is on our website.
I have told some friends about this extraordinary experience and thought I had written about it but now I see that I had not.
It was a day when I brought Dakshina to meet Mona upstairs at their home on Balcony Street. Mona was sitting at her small desk and greeted us both with a great smile of love. She then began by asking Dakshina to tell her (Mona) her Christian name. Dakshina replied, ‘My name is Dakshina.’ This began a repartee that I much enjoyed for neither would give in, both being unshakeable people, and finally Mona gave up trying because Dakshina would not budge from her position.
We talked for some time in Mona’s vibrant atmosphere and then we prepared to leave. As we got up and Dakshina said au revoir, Mona asked me softly to stay behind. When Dakshina left Mona asked me about Savitri and said she had been reading it. We talked for a while about a number of other things and then, suddenly, without saying anything, Mona grabbed my head in both of her hands. She was a very strong woman as we have seen on many occasions. Then, to my surprise, she kissed me on the lips, a full and long kiss, the first I had ever experienced from a 92 years old! It was a special kiss but I didn’t know at that time, its meaning. I left with her presence surrounding me palpably.
On the day I returned to the Ashram in October someone came to meet me and asked me to come to Udar’s house and help carry Mona down to the van. She had passed away as I was in flight on my way to the Ashram. I carried her with other Ashram men down the stairs and into the van and rode with her to the burial ground where she was interred next to Udar.
Then I understood. The kiss was her loving farewell to me and as long as I am in this body I shall remember the love she showered upon me and the deep connection we had in Mother.
At Their Feet,