The Mother and Nirmal Singh Nahar: Unpublished Correspondence Part I

Dear Friends,

A journalist and freedom fighter, son of Prithwi Singh Nahar—a noted sadhak, poet, litterateur, disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother—and mother Suhag Kumari; grandson of Puran Chand Nahar—a noted Indologist, scion of the well-known Zamindar family of Nahars of Azimgunj, Murshidabad, West Bengal— Nirmal Singh Nahar (28 July 1922—3 September 2012) belonged to the Swetambar Murtipujak Oswal Jain sect.

Born at Kolkata, educated at Santiniketan from 1929 to 1935 during Rabindranath Tagore’s golden period, Nirmal Singh did his schooling from South Suburban Branch School where he was initiated to the student movement. He raised the national flag in the school building and as a result he was transferred to South Suburban Main School. At the Main School, along with other students, he raised funds for flood relief work and handed over the same to the Congress President, Subhas Chandra Bose, in 1939.

During this period he was initiated to the freedom movement by Phani Majumdar—a Forward Block leader and Lieutenant of Subhas Chandra Bose who later became a minister under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh.

After the disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose, Nirmal Singh was directed by Phani Majumdar to go underground to avoid arrest. So he gave up his studies and left for their Zamindari Estate at Dinajpur. There he joined his uncle Bikram Singh Nahar and elder brother Dhir Singh Nahar in starting the Nahar Farm and was entrusted to look after their agricultural farm at Nijpara, Birgunj in Dinajpur district (now in Bangladesh), a remote village 18 miles away from the nearest railway station. He cleared the jungle and bush and started farming after reclaiming 60 acres of land.

In 1943 Nirmal Singh started agricultural farming at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry under the guidance of the Mother. He was the official referee of football and volleyball at Pondicherry, the capital of French India. In 1947, he joined Reuters Associated Press of India and Press Trust of India as their special correspondent. In 1951, he was declared a persona non grata by the French Indian government and a warrant of arrest was issued for exposing French misrule in India as a journalist, but he was smuggled out of Pondicherry by the then Indian Consul General. On returning to Kolkata he joined a Bengali daily, Jana Sevak, as its chief reporter. After leaving journalism he became a promoter of the Haldia Scooter Project in collaboration with an Italian firm, Armachie Harley-Davidson SPA, in 1964.

Nirmal Singh was an author and contributor of articles in Bengali and English journals on spirituality and economics. His first book Sri Aurobindo and His Birth Place was published in 1990. He also co-edited Sujata Nahar: Loving Homage with Anurag Banerjee.

Nirmal Singh was one of the founder members of Sri Aurobindo Society of West Bengal at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan in Kolkata, nominated by the State Government in 1972. He was also a member of West Bengal State Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Celebration Committee set up by West Bengal State Government in 1971. He was a member of the Governing Council of All India Sri Swetambar Murtipujak Jain Tirth Raksha Trust and Trustee of Murushidabad Sangh Nahar Family Trust, and a Founder-Member of Overman Foundation.

In 1943, under the guidance of the Mother, Nirmal Singh had started agricultural farming at the Cazanove Garden. While he was in charge of Cazanove, he would write and send reports to the Mother regularly about its day-to-day operations. These reports along with the Mother’s replies which have not seen the light of day till date is being published for the first time in the website of Overman Foundation. The first installment of the Mother’s unpublished correspondence with Nirmal Singh Nahar covers the period from 1941 to 1943. The Mother’s replies are in italics.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee


Overman Foundation.

12 May 1941

(To Mother from Nirmal Singh before his departure for Calcutta.)

I was just informed that there is an agricultural institute in Coimbatore in the Madras Presidency. If you permit, then I can go there personally to see the place en route to Calcutta. I hope I will be able to make a personal enquiry by your kind grace.

Yes, you can go.

I heard from Duraiswami that one of the professors of that College is a friend of his, and he can write about me to him. Will you permit me to take a recommendation letter from Duraiswami in that case? If by your grace, I get an admission in Coimbatore it will be very convenient for me to come to see you more often.

Certainly, you can take the letter from Duraiswami.

After I finish my studies, I should like to come back to the Ashram and do agricultural work for the Divine.

Very good.

With my love and blessings.

16 May 1941

We came to know that the Coimbatore Agricultural College does not take students who have passed only Matriculation. The candidate must have passed Inter-science.

In that case, I pray to know: is there any use of visiting Coimbatore now?

No, it is no use going there.

Shall I then start for Calcutta now?


I heard Chittaranjan’s brother, Sudhir Ranjan is also starting on the 18th morning for his studies in Calcutta. May I accompany him in this journey?

Yes, this is the best.

I hope I will pass the Matriculation Examination by your kind Grace.

With my love and blessings

15 March 1943

(Letter from Mother to Prithwi Singh Nahar, Nirmal’s father.)

My dear child,

I am handing over your poem, to Sri Aurobindo.

As for Nirmal Singh, I am glad to have him here. I hope he will be happy and I am sure he will make himself useful.

With my love and blessings.

(Nirmal Singh started his work in Cazanove garden.)

4 July 1943

At the feet of The Mother, details of the programme and necessary requirements for the working of the Cazanove garden for the kind approval of the Mother.

Specially for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo I would like to grow the following vegetables with the Mother’s permission:





Khnol Khol (Kholrabi)




Swiss chard We do not like them [Crossed out by the Mother]




Yes. (Tomatoes are required in big quantity).

For the dining room supply I would like to grow the following vegetables, from which we will supply the best ones to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, with the permission of the Mother:

Bitter gourd


Bottle gourd

White pumpkin

Ladies’ fingers

Brinjals (eggplant)




I would like to grow vegetables in the following plots with the approval of the Mother.

Plot No. 9 will be a seedling bed and we will grow leek, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard also.

We will use plot No. IX for the cultivation of ragi.

We will use plot No. XXIV for the cultivation of cauliflower.

I will divide plot Nos. XXXVII, XXXIX, XL and XLI by making a mud drain straight from the southern border of plot No. XL, thus dividing it into southern and northern blocks. In the southern block we will cultivate bitter gourd, cucumber, bottle gourd and white pumpkin and in the northern block we will cultivate:

Ladies’ fingers


Tomatoes (specially for Mother and Sri Aurobindo) and


We can utilize the coconut grove in plot No. XXX for growing ginger. We can also grow turmeric and pachyrhizus angulatus (yam beans) in the same plot.

All right.

Except for a few seeds, I will have to get all from the seed merchant. I prefer to put good variety and good quality seeds instead of cheap and ordinary ones. From this year I will keep all the seeds myself, I know the process. We can save much money by keeping back seeds ourselves instead of buying them every year.

I would like to buy most of the seeds from Sutton & Sons of Calcutta. I am using Sutton’s seeds since a long time and have found them exceptionally good and of high quality. We will also buy seeds from N. Cooper & Co. of Poona. About seeds, I would like to correspond with them personally. The total cost will be about Rs. 50/-. Pray for the Mother’s permission.


For watering the paddy and vegetables, construction of picottah [1] (ettams) is necessary. Well Nos. 3, 4 and 6 are the three wells where construction of picottah is necessary. The cost will be about Rs. 100/- for the construction of the three. I pray for your permission.


At present, I will require the following monthly labourers. Other than those labourers, I will have to hire daily labourers from time to time according to the pressure of work. At present I have 14 men, 2 boys and 2 women, but I will require 24 men, 2 boys and 2 women. I wish to divide their work in the following way. I pray for your approval:

2 men for general work (Headman and Murgesh)

8 men for vegetables

4 men for watering

4 men for orchards

2 men for manure

2 men for flowers

1 man for plough and bullocks and manure cart

1 man for cart and bullocks

1 boy for the work of grazing the bullocks

1 boy for domestic work

2 women for road cleaning

I will also require one cart for carrying manure and other works.

I pray for your kind blessings and approval.

All right. You cannot leave servants pluck flowers, it will be a devastation. Sudhirkanti might take up this work with a boy to help him. But the boy must not be left alone. Your plan is all right and I feel sure you will carry it on with care and efficiency. There must be strict supervision of the workers. Each one must be given his day’s work and before he goes he must show that it is properly done.

My blessings.

13 September 1943

O sweet Mother,

I pray for the following points to be cleared.

1) Sometimes we need a little carpentry work. We can do the work ourselves if we get the necessary instruments. Today we wanted to make holes in bamboo; we need bamboo for picottah. I asked Chandulal [2] to supply me with the necessary instrument but he says that he hasn’t one (?). Now I pray, what shall I do? Either I will have to call a hired carpenter or the B.S. [Building Service] will have to supply one. As we couldn’t get the instrument from B.S. we made a hole in one bamboo with an iron piece for temporary work. Even that hole is not quite all right. We need four more holes in four bamboo. In each bamboo we need one hole. Nowadays it is very difficult to get a carpenter specially for such a small work; even then if a carpenter comes, he will ask for more money.

Under these circumstances I pray for your kind direction for the present and for the future.

I shall arrange with Chandulal for a carpenter when needed.

2) Jyotin comes here almost regularly, but I do not know why he comes and what work he will do over here. I pray for Jyotin’s relation with the garden to be cleared.

I do not see much use at Jyotin going to Cazanove now. I shall speak to him about it.

3) We need all kinds of manure and in large quantities. May I buy whenever I can get it? I pray for your permission.

Yes, you can buy—but you must inform me about it.

4) From time to time we need earthen pots for seedlings and pot stands. The stands will help prevent insects from eating the seeds as we can put water in them all around the pots. May I buy them whenever I need? I pray for your permission.

Yes—but there again you must inform about what you have bought and the price.

5) From time to time we are buying different kinds of ropes for bullocks whenever we are in need. It will be very convenient if we buy a stock of them instead of buying them from time to time. I pray for your kind direction.


6) We are using cycles whenever we go to the ashram. The distance is possibly a little more than three miles. Generally we go twice a day and sometimes we go thrice. Sometimes when it is urgent I go at noon. So cycles run 12 to 18 miles daily. If a cycle runs so many miles a day one must clean it regularly and it must be overhauled at least once a week. But this is not done and when a cycle goes wrong the fault falls on us. The road connecting the garden with the main road is hopeless, it needs repair urgently. When the road is bad, the cycles need repair more often. The road between the ashram and the garden is crowded so we must have good strong brakes and bells, but unfortunately it is just the opposite. I have told Benjamin[1] repeatedly but in vain. I don’t know what to do. I pray for your kind advice.

A cycle must be cleaned every evening by one or the other of those who use it.

7) We have got about 24 lemon and green orange plants and 3 pomegranate plants. They are to be planted most urgently otherwise they may die because it is already over time. What shall I do under these circumstances? Before you told me to wait for Jagannath. I pray for your kind direction.

I pray for Thy kind blessings.

With pranams at Thy feet and at the feet of Sri Aurobindo.

Devotedly yours.

I understood that Jagannath was coming in November but if the plants cannot wait until then, plant them at once in the place reserved for fruit trees.


20 September 1943

O sweet Mother,

1) About 20 coconut trees have been severely damaged and about 20 more just slightly. From now on I will see to the trees myself with your kind permission. The trees will be cured within three to six months.

I hope this unhappy incident—all due to careless supervision—will never happen again.

2) The first work I asked Munsiff to do was to prepare the three picottahs (Nos. 3, 4 and 6) which we needed urgently. He accepted and told me everything will be ready by the 15th August. But today is 20th September. He gave me a list of the things he needed for the picottahs. Everything was arranged and he said nothing more is necessary. But now he is saying he wants a few more bamboo (about 10) for picottah No. 4. I pray for Thy permission.

You can buy the four bamboo.

Four days back he told me that picottah No. 6 is ready for work. Yesterday we worked it and at about 4 p.m. the post began to move. If it had moved a little more two men would have been killed or severely injured. Nothing happened by your kind grace.

I suppose you have fixed it again and made it more solid than it was.

3) May we pluck half-dried palm leaves for making rope from the stems? I pray for Thy permission.

Half-dried won’t do. You must take only the quite dry ones.

4) Munsiff told me that he wants one ton of groundnut oil cake to use as manure on the paddy. He needs powdered groundnut cake to spread over the paddy field. I pray for Thy kind permission.

Yes, you can buy it.

5) Today Chandulal has taken 300 woven coconut leaves. He said he has taken your permission.


6) Today I have sent a bag of horse manure to Kirankumari as she told me that she has taken your permission.


7) Noren Singh has asked for spinach and pea seeds from me, and also for tomato seedlings. He told me that he has taken your permission. May I give him? I pray for Thy permission.

You can give him the spinach and the tomato seedlings but I do [not] think he has space for the peas just now.

I pray to be Thy perfect instrument.

Pray for Thy blessings.

With pranams at Thy feet and at the feet of Sri Aurobindo.

Devotedly yours.

My blessings.

23 September 1943

1) Chandulal said that he has no coconut string in stock. So we will have to buy string with your permission. For the moment we can buy 10 kg of string so that I can get an idea of how much string I will require for tomato and vegetable supports and bowers. I pray for Thy permission.


2) Jalad wants about 100 tomato seeds from me. May I give him? I pray for your permission.

If you have sufficient you can give.

3) May I write a letter to Manoranjan? We prepared a list of necessary garden implements for Cazanove. Herewith I am giving the list excluding only what we have got. We prepared the list by consulting together with Bijon and Manoranjan. I pray for Thy permission. I don’t know which implements are available here.

Garden rake (3) for raking jungle.

 Pick-axe (3)

 Nerani [scraper] (1 dozen) for weeding out.

 Straight spade (2). This type of spade is used in Bengal. We would like to try it over here, in Bengali it is called kodali.

 Fork-spade  (2)


 Billhook (3)

Watering can (4)

Trowel (2) and Transplanter (2)

One Bengal type plough (improved iron plough) (Sabkam No. 2)

Manoranjan promised me that he will arrange to send the implements.

All right you can write.

4) May I go to see Jalad’s garden to learn how he makes the activated compost. If it is suitable it will be a great help. Jalad said he will show me the whole process of making activated compost. I pray for Thy permission.

Yes, very good.

5) I am using tobacco water for vegetable plants (i.e., tomato, brinjal, ladies’ finger, etc.). Parichand told me if I use soap with tobacco then it will give a better effect as the water will remain fixed on the leaves. The idea has struck me so I would like to try it and I hope it will be better than simply syringing the tobacco water. So I will need soap but I do not need good quality soap. If I can get the waste soap from the Blanchisserie, it will be nice. I pray for Thy permission.

If they can spare some waste soap water you can take.

6) I would like to eliminate sowing of annual flowers for the present. I want to give my full attention to growing vegetables. When there will be less need of vegetables, then and then only I would like to sow flowers in the garden. I will sow only those seeds I have with me, but from the next time I won’t put flower seeds.

I pray for Thy kind advice. Pray for Thy permission.

It is better to stop all the annuals for the moment. The seeds you have can be handed over to Jyotin.

7) I received some more seeds from Sutton & Sons of Calcutta the day before yesterday.

8) Just now an accident occurred with the picottah No. 8. The stand broke and the man fell in the water. He has injured his knee. I do not know from where to bring the things which are necessary for repairing the picottahs. From the 1st week of July, I have been asking everybody to repair all the picottahs but in vain. If I was accustomed to the place I could bring articles, etc., whenever necessary, but unfortunately I am quite new to the place. What shall I do now? I pray for thy kind direction.

Murgesh knows and can go with Munsiff to fetch the necessary things.

My blessings.

28 September 1943

1) Yesterday ragi was harvested. After threshing we will harvest the remaining ragi.

2) Today we are transplanting Bengal paddy (kataribhog) in the north-eastern corner plot of plot No. 13. By your kind grace, we hope it will come out successfully.

3) We need zinc labels for labelling varieties of vegetables. At present 50 zinc labels will be sufficient. We received 25 zinc labels before from the workshop. I pray for thy permission for 50 more zinc labels.


4) Last Sunday, I went to Jalad’s garden with your kind permission. I liked Jalad’s process of preparing manure. I will try out the same process. May I ask Jalad to come and see the garden? When he comes over here I would like to ask him to show me the process. And also I would like to ask him which site will be suitable for preparing manure.

Yes, you can show him the garden and ask his advice.

5) Up to 27.9.1943 we have sown or transplanted the following vegetables:

 About 2000 brinjal plants

 About 1000 cauliflower plants

 About 1000 radish seeds

 About 500 ladies’ finger plants

 About 500 ladies’ finger seeds

 About 400 tomato plants

6) We have received 14 kg of coconut string from Chandulal.


1st October 1943

1)May we engage a man for cleaning the coconut trees? He will cut dried, brown and fallen leaves only and clean the dried fibre (a kind of net which surrounds the tree in between leaves, I don’t know what name is used for it). He will also clean the dried covers of coconut and pluck all the well-matured coconuts. He wants 3 paise per tree. There are about 500 coconut trees over here. I would like to have one and one man only for the above purpose because it will be convenient for me to supervise his work. After taking your verbal permission on 29th night, we engaged one man yesterday for cleaning the trees. In a day he has cleaned 64 trees. When I was giving the money to him your note fell on my eye. So I asked for your written permission.

Yes, you can engage the man, but he must be very closely supervised while he is doing the work.

2) The relation between Munsiff and myself is not yet clear to me. I don’t know why he doesn’t behave frankly with me. I was informed that he will let me know when he needs a machine for watering at least a day before. But he doesn’t inform me when he needs it. On 29.9.43 he was in need of the machine but he didn’t inform me. As I was sure that he would need the machine on that day, I requested Pavitrada to send Bala. I knew that from now he would look after paddy only, but yesterday I found that he had transplanted brinjals (about 25 and he has prepared holes for about 100) in the western border of the garden, near the coconut trees. Yesterday when I went to see the coconut trees I saw these plants. When I go to that side to put manure and soil on the tree roots, I will have to throw out the brinjal plants. He has taken a man for paddy and has done the vegetable work with him and he brought labour from outside for powdering the groundnut cakes. Before he used to explain to the gardeners the work to be done, but as soon as he left supervision work, with it he left the work of explaining. Of course, I or Sudhirkanti do not find any difficulty in explaining the work, I don’t think that we are in need of him for that purpose. I am asking for picottah for the last two months but in wilderness. I do not take any responsibility if the plants I have sown or transplanted die for want of water. Why doesn’t he say clearly that he is unable to do the necessary repairs? But he won’t say that and he won’t do the work either. It is impossible to water small plants (just germinated) by machine. From the beginning I tried my best to work with him as a partner. I do not know why we can’t work peacefully. I don’t know whether there was any trouble like this before Munsiff came to work in the garden. I pray to Thee to clear the position between Munsiff and myself. I pray for all the points to be cleared.

Amrita will speak to Munsiff.

But you must never forget that I disapprove of quarrels and always consider that both sides are equally wrong. To surmount one’s feelings, preferences, dislikes and impulses, is an indispensable discipline here.

3) We will need bamboo in large quantities. The price is Rs.14/- per hundred. We need it for bowers of creeper vegetables and for supports for tomatoes. At present I would like to buy 500 bamboo. 100 bamboo have already been bought with your permission. I pray for Thy permission.

Yes, you can buy 500 bamboo.

4) We need crude oil (80 gallons) for the working of the machine. I pray for Thy permission.


5) I would like to show you my paddy, which I am growing in pots. If you permit I would like to show it to you on 6.10.43 in the morning (at the time of terrace darshan). The paddy is of the Bengal variety. If there is no space to keep the pot in the ashram I will bring it back immediately after showing you. I pray for Thy permission.


My blessings.

11 October 1943

How did you like the paddy plants, grown in pots, which you saw on the 6th inst.? I pray to know.

They looked very nice.

I would like to know which variety of radish you like. I have seeds of the ordinary long variety only. I pray to know the variety you like and with Thy kind permission I will buy seeds them.

Big white kind.

I have no more seeds of cauliflower and ladies’ finger. From where will I buy them? I pray for Thy permission and kind instructions.

You must buy from Poona.

With your kind permission I would like to experiment whether potatoes can be grown over here or not. For that purpose I will be in need of seeds. I do not know from where to get them. I pray for Thy kind permission.

It is not from seeds but from potatoes themselves that you can grow them. Ask Dyuman for them explaining reason.

After the harvest of paddy. I would like to put cowpeas (vignacatiang, a variety of pulses) in the paddy field. Cowpeas are used as green manure. Moreover we can use them as vegetables also. We can pluck the pods when they are green and after plucking the pods we will plough-in the creepers, so that they will mix with the soil and rot in the earth within 8 to 10 weeks and if we keep mud in the field then they will rot earlier. I heard that they grow locally also. Of course in some plots we can keep them until they ripen so that we will be able to keep the seeds. I pray for Thy permission.

As the ashram requires dal [5] I have told Munsiff to grow dal in the fields when the paddy is harvested.

I would like to grow wheat as a trial in a small plot of 2 ft square. I pray for Thy permission.

You can try—but it must be in a high ground.

My blessings

13 October 1943

For the last two months I have been fighting with my mind but without any effect. I don’t know how long I will be able to fight. If I do wrong or if I make mistakes, then am I not entitled to know it clearly? What experience have I got that all my actions will be right?

What you mean by the above is not quite clear. Whenever you have made a mistake I always told you very frankly without hiding anything from you. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody has to learn and to progress. Moreover I have given you a big responsibility. I appreciate fully what you have done but there is still much to learn and I am sure that you will be quite glad to acquire knowledge and experience.

With my love and blessings

17 October 1943

Yesterday I received a packet from you, which is full of Palang Sag seeds (Indian spinach). I don’t know what to do with them as at present it is impossible to broadcast them. Here the soil is full of Cyperus rotundus bulbs (grass, it is called in Bengali mootha). If these grass bulbs can be destroyed, then we can cultivate spinach and root vegetables nicely. I pray for your instruction.

After all the ploughing you have done how is it that it is still there? You must get rid of this pest.


18 October 1943

In the last mango season we marked the trees to know which ones give sweet mangoes and which ones are of bad quality. What shall we do with the trees which give bad quality mangoes? Can we cut them? If we cut them, then we can make planks. I pray for your permission.

It is better to wait for Jagannath.

We have got about 12 broken storage boxes (wooden). If they are repaired we can use them for keeping materials for preparing seedling pots. I pray for Thy direction.

You can give them one by one.

Mahabhir wants vegetable seeds from me. He says you have given permission. I pray to know what I shall do. He wants the seeds of ladies’ finger (50), radish (50) and spinach (50). I pray for your kind instruction.

It seems to me too much. You can give him a small quantity of each.

With my love and blessings.

24 October 1943

The Dipavali festival is next Thursday. The gardeners are asking for advances from their pay for the festival. I pray for your kind instruction. They have informed us that they will not come for work on Dipavali festival day. I pray to know what I shall do if they don’t come to work.

Amrita will explain what to do.

Recently coconut trees were cleaned, so I have got dried sticks, etc., of coconut trees. It’s the rainy season and often there is rain. Sticks, etc., are getting spoiled by constant rain. I do not know if the Hot Water Service [6] needs them or not. Before they were taking them. I pray to Thee what shall I do.

Hot water service will take delivery.

I have received cauliflower (20 oz) and ladies’ finger (1 lb + 1 pkt) seeds from Cooper & Co of Poona the day before yesterday (22.10.1943). They charged Rs. 6-0-0 for the seeds.

Jalad has taken 50 woven coconut leaves. He will need 550 more.

As Ambavishnu refused to take palang sag seeds (Indian spinach), I have given the seeds to Jalad on 23.10.1943.

Murgesh was asking for an old waterproof for bringing Sudhirkanti’s and my carrier on rainy days.

We shall see.

The latrine is still uncovered. Chandulal told that he will arrange to cover it soon and we have kept 500 woven coconut leaves for the purpose. We have no place to keep them covered to protect them from rain and sun. And also I have kept 500 woven coconut leaves for garden use and 500 for covering the main bungalow’s courtyard. The woven coconut leaves (3000) are getting spoilt by rain. I pray to know what shall I do.

I am informing Chandulal


27 October 1943

I am in need of bitter gourd, cucumber, bottle gourd, white gourd and bean seeds. I sowed cucumber in large quantity but not a single one has germinated. All the seeds were eaten by a small black insect. The same insect has eaten bottle gourd and white gourd seeds. We were able to catch an insect, after looking over each and every seed, but it flew away from my hand when I was bringing it to my room to put it in a box for showing to you. From where can I get the seeds. I pray for Thy kind instruction.

Where you buy usually.

The cycle which is used by Murgesh for bringing our meals is in very poor condition. If it is not thoroughly cleaned and overhauled, it may become unusable after some time. Murgesh was complaining every day, so once I rode it myself and found it dangerous. There can be an accident any moment.

It is a shame to have left this cycle to be spoilt like that. I had written in this book itself that the cycle was to be cleaned every day. Now you will have to give it to Benjamin for repairs and once it is repaired it has to be kept very carefully. It is impossible to renew the cycle now.

My blessings

31 October 1943

On the base of the bamboo we are painting coal tar so that they will last long. I have no more coal tar in my stock. I will require 5 kg. I pray for Thy permission.

For room cleaning we need one boy cleaner and ordinary brooms. I pray for Thy permission.

We need more bamboo. Before we bought 600 bamboo. The price of bamboo is increasing. Before we were buying at Rs. 14/- per 100 but now the price is Rs. 15/- per 100. We are buying two varieties of bamboo. One at Rs. 14/- per 100 and the other at Rs. 7/- per 100. We are using the bamboo at Rs. 14/- as posts and the bamboo at Rs. 7/- as supports. I cannot say how much I will require exactly but I will need approximately 500 bamboo for posts and 1000 bamboo for supports. But I would like to buy as you suggest. I pray for Thy kind permission.

Sudhirkanti has given a torch to Bula for replacing the battery. Bula says he probably hasn’t got this kind of battery. I have got a torch with me. On rainy and dark nights, sometimes we need a torch on our way back to the garden. Moreover on our way back, sometimes the lamp blows out or doesn’t work, at that time also we need a torch. In the garden too we need a torch at night. One day when Sudhirkanti was going to open the door of his room he found a snake lying upon the doorstep. Sometimes we see snakes on the road also, even in day time. If a battery is not available for the torch he has given to Bula, he wants another torch. I pray for Thy permission.

We are running short of both torches and batteries. It would be better to look in the market to see if such batteries are available.

Now Murgesh is working hard and behaving well.

Before, we were growing flowers (annuals) in front of the main bungalow . In that place may I grow tomato and beans (the bean seeds which you gave me). I pray for Thy permission. May I get some more bean seeds from you? I pray for Thy permission.

Yes—Amrita will give you the seeds for sowing.


1 November 1943

I would like to buy 600 more bamboo at present, 200 for the posts and 400 for supports. It will cost approximately Rs. 60/-. I will buy in two instalments. I pray for Thy permission. I require it for the support of tomatoes.

You can buy these bamboos but for the payment, you must pay or else Sudhirkanti. Under no pretext whatever the money must be entrusted to Murgesh nor to any other servant.

At present 21 gardeners are working, including one domestic boy, one for paddy, one cart man, two women and Murgesh. Every day two or three gardeners remain absent. So we don’t get more than twelve gardeners for the running of the garden. But we need more and we can supervise more also. Below I give a list of how many gardeners I want and for which work. We think we will be able to supervise all the men by your kind grace.

1 headman (Murgesh)

1 man for cart and the 3 bullocks

1 boy and 1 woman for domestic work

1 woman for miscellaneous light work

1 man for paddy

14 men for vegetables

4 men for watering (by picottah and by hand)

1 man for plough and bullock cart

2 men for manure

3 men for orchard

2 men for flower trees (rose and other big flower trees)

4 men for keeping the jungle and road of the garden clean

Total: 36 gardeners: 33 men, 2 women and 1 boy.

I pray for Thy permission.

I told you already my point of view about the number of workmen. More they are, less they do. I do not approve of 14 men for the vegetables. The work can be done and well done with much less.

I need a rack for keeping books. I pray for Thy permission.

Yes—if there is any available.


2 November 1943

All the vegetables need watering; so I will require the working of the engine tomorrow (3.11.1943). I pray for Thy permission.

We searched for the battery in the market; few batteries are available. The price is annas 9 per battery. How many can I buy? I pray for Thy permission.

Buy 3 batteries.


4 November 1943

Yesterday and day before yesterday we have sown cauliflower, tomato and other winter vegetable seeds in seedling pots.

The flower plants are to be transplanted but I have no extra labour. What shall I do now? May I take 6 daily labourers for 2 weeks for planting all the flower plants? I would like to plant them along the northern wall. I pray for Thy permission. The rate for labourers is annas 8 per labourer per day. I pray to know what I shall do.

For 7 days only, you can take the coolies.

I have got about 200 croton cuttings ready for planting. What shall I do with them? I can plant them when I plant the flower plants. I would like to plant them on both sides of the road in between the coconut trees. I pray for Thy permission.


We have got two ploughs; one is made of iron and the other is wooden. The ploughs are very old. The wooden plough has become unusable. Can we buy a new wooden plough? It will cost about two rupees. I pray for Thy permission. The blade of the iron plough has decayed so it is to be changed. If the Smithy can prepare a new blade it will save the trouble of buying a new plough. I pray to know whether I can show the blade to Chandulal so that he can see whether it is possible to prepare or not. I pray for Thy permission.


The Hot Water Service has not yet taken delivery of the dried leaves, etc., of coconut trees. They are getting spoilt.

Chandulal says that the cart will go to fetch them only on Saturday.


N.B.: For bamboo I will require Rs. 30/- more. I pray for Thy permission.

7 November 1943

We couldn’t get more than one battery at a time from the market. The cost is twelve annas. I pray for Thy approval.

Chandulal has not yet prepared the shade for the latrine. He says he has not got the bamboo yet and doesn’t know how many days it will take. We have got 2-3 big strong bamboo. The bamboo was bought for picottah but as they are not straight we are unable to use them. I pray to know whether I can prepare the shade for the latrine and the shade for the main building courtyard? I have got one coolie who knows how to prepare shade. I pray for Thy permission.

Yes, you can have it prepared.

Bandicoots are eating coconuts in some of the coconut trees. Once we painted the affected trees with white (lime) in circles leaving a distance of 20 cm between each circle. After painting there was no more trouble. Again they are eating coconuts. I pray to get some lime so that I can mix it with water and paint it on the affected trees. I pray for Thy permission.

Subrya, a servant who was dismissed last August for making trouble, wants to work in the garden again. He says he will not make any more trouble. I pray to know what I shall do.

What kind of trouble it was?

With your permission I have told the gardeners, through Munsiff, that if any of them pluck coconuts or vegetables, they will have to remain outside the garden in the rest period (i.e., from 12 noon to 2 p.m.).


9 November 1943

We are searching for manure to buy. We have arranged with a place to buy it as soon as the rain stops. I pray for Rs. 20/- for that. I pray for Thy permission.

Subrya was dismissed along with three other gardeners for disturbing the work. We suspect he was one of the leaders in stopping work without any intimation and for demanding more wages. Yesterday he came again, he said that he will not make any disturbance and also that he was not one of the leaders in the last strike and that he didn’t work only in the hope of getting more wages by striking. I pray to know: what shall I do?

You can take him back, but first send him to Amrita who will give him a strong warning.

I pray to know what kinds of tomatoes you like and which variety.

Let them be fully successful and then I shall tell you which are the best.

I have no more cucumber seeds. The cucumber which you liked came from the seeds ofSutton & Sons of Calcutta. I would like to buy 2 oz of seed of that variety for the general supply. It will cost Rs. 2-4-0 [9] excluding postage and packing. I pray for Thy permission?


My blessings

10 November 1943

I need coconut string for tomatoes, beans and for general work. 14 kg will do for the present. I pray for Thy permission.

For the support of tomatoes and beans, I will require 300 bamboo for posts and 400 for supports. It will cost approximately Rs. 65/-. I pray for Thy permission.

The frame of my spectacles has become so slack that the glass is moving. May I give them to Kameshwar Rao for necessary adjustment? I pray for Thy permission.


Day before yesterday I saw that mongooses were eating tomatoes which are almost ripe. I pray to know: what I shall do?

I would like to know the extent of the damage. How many tomatoes are eaten every day? And are you sure that it is the mongoose who eats?

The seeds of cauliflower, tomatoes, etc., have germinated. Because of the cloudy weather, they have become scanty. Specially the cauliflower seedlings are very weak and unhealthy.


12 November 1943

Mongooses are eating 3-4 tomatoes daily. Of course they are eating only those which are in the lower part of the plants. Squirrels are also eating even the green tomatoes. I myself saw the mongooses eating tomatoes and I have also seen the squirrels on the tomato plants.

Some people from outside are coming to take grass for their cattle. Some of them want to give money in exchange. But I have told them that I don’t want money. I have asked them to give their cattle manure in exchange for grass, they have agreed. I pray for Thy permission.

It is all right.

Generally I keep the main gate key on top of the key box. Nobody takes the key from there without my knowledge except Munsiff. Whenever he wants to go outside the garden he takes the key and goes out, sending back the key, generally with the domestic boy or else with another servant. Moreover when he goes out, sometimes someone else also goes out or comes in without my or Sudhirkanti’s or even Munsiff’s knowledge, as when Munsiff goes out he opens the gate, gives the key to the servant and leaves. Before, I was asking him to take the key with my knowledge, especially when he goes out and he said he would do so. Under these circumstances I pray to know: what shall I do?

I do not see that it is safe to send back the key with a servant. It is better if you are informed and you or Sudhirkanti go to fetch the key.

With my blessings

13 November 1943

All the bean seeds I had with me were sown, so I asked for more seeds as I have space to sow. One month has elapsed since you wrote that Amrita will give me seeds, but still I have not got them although I asked him several times.

Three of four days back I wrote a chit to Biren Bose, in the morning, requesting him to give the roses of Cazanove to Bimala (wife of Bijon), as once I told her that I will give her roses when she asked me. But he didn’t give them and wrote to me that they will not give flowers to anybody as the Mother has told them not to give; they can give flowers only with the Mother’s permission. Under these circumstances I pray to know whether I can give flowers to anybody or not and also when I request the flower room to give the flowers of Cazanove to somebody, whether they will give or not. I pray to know.

Generally roses are always given direct to me, otherwise they get spoilt when passing from hand to hand. Other flowers can be given to other people.

As the price of a new plough is not much, Chandulal was saying to buy a new one instead of preparing a ploughshare. He says that the cost of a ploughshare prepared by him will cost more than buying a new plough and moreover it will not last long. He said he will speak to you about it.

I do not see any meaning in giving up a plough when it can be mended.

We find it very difficult to send and to bring articles from here. Generally we do not go to the ashram in the mornings. I go only to bring money. And in the evenings, generally we do not reach there before 6 p.m. We bring whatever we can on cycles, but some things are to difficult to bring. The cart comes back from the ashram by 6 p.m. After 5.30 p.m. it is difficult to get things from there as the work stops at that time. I pray to know what shall I do, and how can we bring articles promptly. I pray to Thee.

You have a bullock cart for this purpose and it always arrives here in time to take things away. I do not quite see the purpose of this complaint.

We are in need of coal tar. We are using coal tar at the base of bamboo which we are using for the posts of tomato supports. I pray for Thy permission.

May I ask Jalad to come in the garden on Sunday 14th November 1943 for showing me the third process of preparing manure? I pray for Thy permission

Yes, Jalad can come.

My blessings

14 November 1943

I need coal tar for painting the base of bamboo posts for the tomato supports.

I will need coconut string afterwards. Chandulal said that the price is increasing; next time it will not be possible to get string at the same price. I received 14 kg of coconut string yesterday and before I received 14 kg. But still I will need coconut string for tomato and bean supports. I pray for 14 kg more. I pray for Thy permission.

Brinjal plants and ladies’ fingers plants have been severely attacked by insects, specially the brinjals. We have kept one man for destroying the insects. He is looking after each and every leaf of the brinjal plants. 1/3 of an acre is under the cultivation of brinjal. We are also using a tobacco decoction as a preventive, but without any effect. There are many varieties of insects and caterpillars.


15 November 1943

I can not give flowers to anyone if there is not your full approval.

If we can get buckets, they will be very helpful in preparing insecticide and liquid manure for applying on the plants. I pray for Thy permission.

Buckets are not available for that purpose—but you can use earthen pitchers.

I need one slate for rough writing. I pray for Thy permission.


I need two wooden planks for a wall shelf for keeping all the small implements. I pray for Thy permission.

It must first be seen if planks are available.

We have got one rice mill which is lying here uselessly. If it can be used for making rice, I think it will help. The mill seems to be in good condition. May I keep it in the engine room for the present so that it will remain in good order? I pray to know what shall I do.


Day before yesterday we have lost a big knife. I have asked all the gardeners but nobody knows where it is. I don’t know how to get it back from them. I think if we delay the advance payment for a day or two, then we may get it back or if we take a general fine of 4 annas. I pray to know what shall I do?

You can keep back the price of the knife, at least for the moment.

The gardeners are still eating coconuts. We are unable to catch the man who is plucking. I don’t know what to do. Now the gardeners are not staying inside the garden in the resting period (i.e., from 12 noon to 2 p.m.).


16 November 1943

Munsiff wants Rs. 5-10-0 for his work. He has taken your sanction.


I am in need of wood ash to prevent insects from eating the stems of brinjal and ladies’ finger plants. I have got dried coconut leaves. Hot Water Service has not taken delivery yet. I can burn them to make wood ash. I pray for Thy permission.

Amrita will speak to you about the matter.

My blessings

17 November 1943

Today I asked Jalad about the disease of tomato plants. He said if you spray Bordeaux mixture, it may act as a preventive. I asked Harikanta whether he has any or not. He said he has. I pray for Thy permission.


I asked Jatindranath[10]  about wood ash; he says they don’t get much ash but if the Mother asks them then they can get more. As soon as the work is finished they put soil in the fire and take charcoal; moreover, at present they don’t separate ash from charcoal as all goes to Sahana [11]. Under these circumstances I pray to know: what shall I do?

Amrita will give you one drum every month.

Yesterday Amrita told me to engage a woman coolie for collecting dried leaves and to send them by cart every day. But I don’t know how they can be collected by a woman coolie. They are not small leaves which a woman coolie can collect, but are attached to dried sticks. Moreover, at present I have not a single coolie to spare: I myself need more coolies. Many works which need immediate attention are stopped for want of coolies. Apart from all this, who will supervise her? How will it be possible for us to supervise only one coolie who is working in the other part of the garden while the vegetable work is going on in another part? Who will be responsible if she plucks the coconuts? I don’t think it is practicable for us to send dried sticks and coconut leaves. Before, the Hot Water Service was collecting them and taking them away. I can spare the cartfor one day every week if they come and take away the leaves themselves.[12] I pray to know what shall I do.

This is quite good


18 November 1943

But one drum of wood ash once a month is almost nothing for me. I want to give wood ash to every brinjal plant once a week at least, otherwise it is no use putting wood ash. With only one drum of wood ash I won’t be able to do more than eight lines once a month. In each line there are twenty five plants. There are approximately 1000 brinjal plants. If I can get one drum once a week, it will be something for me. I pray for more wood ash.

Amrita will see if it is possible.

I am in need of six more flat baskets for carrying flowers and vegetables from the garden. The cost will be Rs. 2-4-0. I pray for Thy permission.

If we pluck the first tomato fruits when they are green, the size of the fruits will increase. The fruits are appearing. Can we pluck green tomatoes?

On each branch you must pluck the smallest ones and leave the bigger ones to grow bigger.


20 November 1943

As the manure was not ready for the third process of activating, Jalad did not come last week; so I asked him to come on 21st. I pray for Thy permission.


I pray to know whether the gardeners will get a half-day holiday on Darshan day or not. They are asking for a half-day holiday. I pray to know what I shall do.


Bijon has sent me 7706 grams of tomato fertilizer through Dwipen Ganguli. I received it yesterday.

Manoranjan told me that he has bought some garden implements for Cazanove. I have not yet received them. As soon as I get them I will give the list.

May I know why Munsiff comes and interferes in my work instead of looking after his own work? For my part I can tell you most emphatically that I have never interfered in his work nor have I suggested anything to him about his work whatsoever from the day you told me that he will look after paddy.

Amrita will speak to him.

My blessings

22 November 1943

Today Satyakarma was telling me about lemon and some other fruit grafts. He asked how many fruit grafts I will require. I told him that I would ask the Mother. Now I pray to know what I shall tell him. I don’t know how many grafts you want to take just now. I have got sufficient space to plant them.

All depends on how many trees can be planted in the space of which you dispose.

Rats are disturbing and eating things. I pray for two rat traps.


I am in need of key rings. I pray for 12 key rings.

Do you have so many keys?

I am in need of baskets for carrying weeds, bricks, etc., after cleaning the plots and also for general purposes. I pray for six baskets which can be had from B.S.


I want to buy bottle gourd seeds locally, I pray for Thy permission.


25 November 1943

At present I could plant 48 lemons or any other citrus grafts. As the plot I proposed for orchards is on a low level, whenever there is heavy rain the plot becomes full of water. In that plot the grafts cannot be planted. On the eastern side of the garden wall there are no plants. We could plant citrus plants on that side along the compound wall. There I could plant 48 plants from those I have with me. I pray for Thy permission.


I have 20 keys with me which are kept in the key-box for regular use.

On 23rd November last I received 2 oz of cucumber seeds from Sutton & Sons, sanctioned by you previously. The cost was Rs. 2-13-0 including V.P.P. commission. I paid from the cash I had for other expenditure. I pray for the sanction of the money.

Today I received 5 bags (each bag containing 224 lbs) of steamed bone meal. May I use ½ bag of bone meal for coconut trees and ½ bag for plantain? There are 500 coconut trees.


26 November 1943

I have no bitter gourd, sponge gourd and bottle gourd seeds with me. May I buy them locally? It will cost Rs. 1/- to 2/-.

I am not eager to have bottle gourds and sponge gourds.

From B.S. I have taken 6 thattes with your sanction. I need baskets also. I can buy them from the local market. Khirod was saying they haven’t got any more baskets with them. I would like to buy 24 baskets at a time so that I will not need to buy any more in 1944. The price of 4 baskets is Rs. 1/-.

One dozen baskets will be sufficient.


27 November 1943

There are more than 12 keys in the garden, which are required for day to day use. I pray for 12 key rings.

I saw that the paddy planted in the ashram, has been sucked by some insects overnight and the husk is turning white. There is a kind of insect in Bengal, called shyama poka which is very small in size and sucks the milk of paddy in the night. The only known preventive measure in use in Bengal, is to put a light near the paddy so that the insect falls into the light and dies.

A few months back I hired some gardeners on monthly wages of Rs. 8-8-0 or 8-0-0. At that time I told them their pay will be increased to the general pay level (i.e., Rs. 9-0-0 per month) if they worked well for at least one month. Some of them have now worked for more than one month and others for just one month on that pay. Now they are asking for the increase to make their pay equal with the others’. May I increase their pay to Rs. 9-0-0 per month?


At present I have 24 gardeners with me: 21 men, 2 women and 1 boy. Out of 21 men, 1 man is working in paddy (under Munsiff). One is Murgesh, one is for the cart, two work in the flower plants and pluck and cut coconuts in the morning, one is for general work, one plucks vegetables from 7 a.m. to 8.30 a.m., another helps Sudhirkanti plucking flowers and after that they put the baskets in the basket room and go for other work, in the evening one man cuts grass for the bullocks. Out of 15 men one or two are absent daily. One woman cleans and sweeps all the buildings, brings water to the veranda for our use and pumps water in the bathroom, another woman collects and brings mangoes and leaves to the manure ground. The boy (Murgesh’s son) does domestic work as no suitable young man is available for that work.


29 November 1943

All the vegetables need watering. If I can get them watered by the engine pump, I can water them in one day. I pray for the working of the engine on 1st December, next Wednesday.

Pavitra told you already that the engine is under repair.

On the night of 27th inst. some outside people were throwing big bricks inside the garden. I don’t know why. They were throwing bricks on the southern side of the garden. It seems they were trying to enter the garden, so first they threw bricks to see whether there was anybody inside or not.


1 December 1943

I wrote to you asking your permission to work the engine on 29.11.1943 before I met Pavitrada, otherwise I would not have asked. When I met Pavitrada, I told him that it won’t be difficult for me if the engine doesn’t work: I will manage by working picottah, although it will take more time.

I have received the following instruments for garden use from Manoranjan:

4 kodali (offered by Bijon)

6 Nirani

6 khurpi [spud—small narrow spade for cutting roots of weeds]

6 weed cleaners

1 big heavy knife

2 small pick-axes

3 rakes

1 big scythe (saw)

2 scythes

1 scythe (sharpened)

Sometimes we need a rammer for repairing roads inside the garden. May we get 1 rammer to keep here. I pray for Thy permission.


6 December 1943

I have woven coconut leaves for sale. At present I do not want any leaves for my use. After keeping 1000 leaves in stock I can dispose of all the other leaves. I pray to know: what shall I do?

Yes (how many are the rest?)

Two days back Munsiff has given me the municipal permit to harvest paddy. But I pray to know whether I am entitled to keep it or not as Munsiff looks after paddy. Munsiff told me that Amrita has asked me to keep it. I pray to know what I shall do?

Yes, you must keep the permit as it must remain in Cazanove itself.

At present I haven’t got a pen-knife for garden use or for cutting vegetables. We are using Sudhirkanti’s pen-knife and one of Nirmal Singh’s for cutting vegetables. Before we had one pen-knife but we lost it. I pray for 4 pen-knives.

I am informing Chandulal to do some.

The Hot Water Service is taking the cart and cart man as well as another man for taking away the dried coconut sticks and leaves every Thursday evening. The cart makes two trips a day. At the time of the first trip Janardhan does not go with the cart, he stays in the garden and goes with the cart on the second trip.

It is all right like that.

Atal is taking the cart every Friday for his work. He wanted it twice a week but at present it is difficult for me to give it twice, so he is taking it once a week.

About twenty days back I informed you that we have lost a big knife. We have got it back about 15 days ago by your grace.

Where was it found?

For cleaning hands, after working in the engine room, we need coconut oil. I pray for 2 oz of ordinary coconut oil.


We have got bottles for keeping kerosene and lubricating oil in the engine room, but measures are not marked on the bottles. I pray for two 1 litre bottles.

Not available.


December 1943

Munsiff has taken sanction of Rs. 7-8-0. I pray for the money.

I have got about 2000 woven coconut leaves for sale.

The big knife was found inside the garden near the bean plot. But it seems that someone put it there after our threatening that we will keep back the price of the knife from the gardeners’ wages. It was lost on 13th or 14th November and it was found on the morning of 17th (advance payment day) at about 10 a.m.


9 December 1943

In some brinjal plants we have found grubs biting the roots underground. I found in Agnes W. Harlar’s The Garden in Plains, that the author suggests using a disinfectant solution to be prepared in the following way:

1 part creosote or phenyl

20 parts water

If I can get phenyl I would like to try the method to see whether it is successful or not. So I pray for 1 bottle of raw phenyl.


Mrs. and Mr. Pellai want to come and see the garden. Mrs. Pellai asked me today and I told her that I will ask the Mother. I pray to know what shall I tell her?

They can go to see Cazanove.

May I ask Ashok and also Ardhendu to come and see the garden? I pray for Thy permission.

Did they ask to go?

We have some drains, over the roads, for irrigation and also for outlets. But by preparing drains in the roads, the roads get spoilt. In the market earthen pipes are available. If we can put earthen pipes in those drains, it will look nice. The price of each pipe is 0-1-6.

How many pipes would you require?

The bell which we are using has cracked. I pray to know what I shall do now.

Show it to Pavitra who will say if something can be done.


12 December 1943

Yes, Ashok and Ardhendu asked me. I pray to know what I shall tell them.

They can go to see Cazanove.

I will need 24 pipes for drains which will run through the roads.Today I was writing the accounts given by Munsiff. In the accounts I found he has made expenses which were not sanctioned by you. I pray to know what shall I do?

Amrita will speak to Munsiff to-night.

Today Munsiff’s labourer went inside the bathroom and spoiled the water.

There are three gardeners and one woman gardener who are good for nothing: they don’t work and they don’t know how to work. Several times I have told them that if they do not work better, I will be obliged to inform the Mother and to dismiss them. They are not working well even now. May I dismiss them?

Are you sure to find some better ones?

Bidyabrata wants 6 tomato plants. I pray to know whether I can give them to him or not.

You can give.


13 December 1943

I hope I will be able to get better ones, but until then I won’t take anyone. May I dismiss them?


Chandulal says that he can prepare trowels and transplanters in the smithy without much cost. At present I have got only one trowel and I haven’t got a single transplanter. May I ask him for 3 trowels and 3 transplanters?


Murgesh is suffering with fever for the last four days.

The tyre of the bullock cart is worn out. We are giving it to Chandulal for repair every time it gives out. A few days back he said that the tyre is too old for repair. It is five-years old at least and it should be replaced by a new one otherwise the cart will become unworkable.

Of which cart are you speaking? The one bullock cart? In that case you can ask Benjamin if he can arrange to replace it.

A few days back we engaged one scavenger for thorough cleaning of the latrine and he has kept the night soil in a pit inside the garden. He was paid Rs. 5/- for the work.


14 December 1943

Yes, it is the one-bullock cart. The two-bullocks cart has no tyre. The wheel of the two-bullocks cart is covered with steel plate.

I pray for 1 lb of soda, the stock I had being exhausted.

I need one dustbin. Here we have not a single one. I pray for Thy permission.


17 December 1943

Specially for want of mumtis (spades), some of my work is delayed. If I get 8 mumtis more it will be very convenient. If it is not possible to get them now, then if I can get them for at least 20 days temporarily, I can finish the top dressing and applying manure on plantain plants. The plantain plants need top dressing urgently but I am unable to do it as without mumtis I cannot engage men. I pray for 8 mumtis.

Perhaps Chandulal may lend them.

The cart man who drives our one-bullock cart wants a loan of Rs. 5-0-0 for buying new clothes for his wife.

Consult Satyakarma. [14]

Yesterday night an incident happened when I came back as I was about to open the gate. I had a torch with me as it was dark when I came back. Reaching the garden I jumped from the cycle to open the gate. Before opening it, I focused my torch in that direction and saw a snake, which seemed to be poisonous, lying in front of the gate. As soon as I saw it, I focused my torch on its head and called Murgesh. With the light the snake was unable to move. Murgesh came immediately and from inside the garden pressed the snake with a stick. After that I threw the key of the gate to Murgesh’s son who opened it and the other gardener came out and killed the snake. So nothing happened by your kind grace.

Again, today morning when I was plucking roses, I found another snake in the rose plant. It was green. I had nothing with me at that time except secateurs, so I pushed the branch of the plant where the snake was lying. It tried to flee but a gardener came and killed it by throwing a brick. This time also nothing happened by your kind grace.

I pray for 6 empty cigarette tins for garden work i.e., for keeping seeds, measuring liquid manure or insecticide, etc.

Some days back I asked Chandulal about pen-knives. He wanted to know the size and when I showed him, he said that those kind of pen-knives are available in Prosperity.

I pray for one easy-chair if it is available.


18 December 1943

I don’t know whether I am right or wrong in writing the following facts, but I feel that I will fail in my duty if I don’t write.

It seems to me that there was much wastage of labour at the time of harvesting and now it is continuing with the threshing. Munsiff was supervising alone at first, but the work was going on at three places. When harvesting was going on in the south-east corner of the garden, where about 40 or 50 men and women were working, the threshing was going on in the north-east corner, where he was supervising about another 20 men and women. After two or three days’ work he found difficulty so he asked Sudhirkanti to help him. Sudhirkanti helped him with Thy permission for all the next harvesting days. He slept there in the night also and put mud around the door where the paddy was kept. After harvesting was finished, he put the threshed paddy on two bandstands. One platform is just over the road in the southern side of the garden and the other is in the western side. In two places there was paddy and in another place the threshing work was going on. Two servants were given to look after the paddy and Munsiff was supervising the threshing. How can a servant who is with us for less than six months and another who is with us for less than fifteen days be entrusted to look after the threshed paddy?

B.S. has no spades to spare. They have given me only one spade. They say spades have to be bought.

The toll tax of paddy was paid by me. Up to now 32 bags of paddy have been delivered to Narayan Prasad.

Herewith I am enclosing Indian Farming of June 1943.


20 December 1943

The price of spades is minimum Rs. 55/- per dozen. There is another type: the price is Rs. 90/- per dozen. Both are made in England. Rishabhchand enquired in the market. I pray to know how many we can buy.

Buy a dozen at Rs. 55/-

Today Surendra informed me that the plough ordered from P.S.G. Company has come. I pray for you to see the plough before we start using it. I pray for Thy permission to know when and where you will see it.

10.30 a.m. in the courtyard.

May I join the Tamil class which Sankaran takes every Thursday at 10.30 a.m.? To know Tamil is essential for me in working with the locals. Nowadays I am going every alternate day in the morning and I can’t come back before 11.45 a.m. I pray for Thy permission and full approval.

Yes, you can go.

Today I couldn’t control my temper with the domestic boy who used slang language when I accused him of stealing tomatoes. Yesterday I kept five nice tomatoes in my room for today morning. Except for myself and the domestic boy, nobody enters my room. Today I found only two tomatoes. After coming back from the ashram, I accused him and he used bad slang in reply. I caught him before also when he stole my and Sudhir’s hair oil, breads, lemons, milk, etc. I am ashamed because I couldn’t control my temper. I pray to Thee so that I can remain always cool by your grace.

Did you beat him?

I have taken a gardener who was dismissed for the bad behaviour of his wife. He was living inside the garden when he was dismissed, a month ago. His wife has left him. I pray for Thy permission.

Yes, you can take him.


22 December 1943

Yes, I slapped him once. When I couldn’t control my temper, I beat him. I will try not to repeat it any more and I hope I will succeed by your kind grace.

Yes, I expect you never to do it again. To beat an inferior is a disgrace. Blessings.

22 December 1943

I feel that sometimes I write bad English when writing to you. If it is corrected, it will help me to write correct English. I pray for necessary corrections whenever I commit mistakes. I pray to Thee.

Yesterday, I went to the ashram at noon to see the new plough and to bring money for paddy. When I was coming back, I remembered that I had to inform Atal that I would be unable to give the cart next Friday also; so I went to his garden on my way back and informed him. At that time I saw his garden also.

Today Ashok and Ardhendu came to see the garden. They ate two small tomatoes.

The workman who works under Munsiff at present was working under me before. Still his name is under general work for the roll-call and also in the pay book. Before he was coming regularly for roll-call and when he was not coming, Munsiff was informing me beforehand. This arrangement was going on until now, but from this month, almost every day he has not come for roll-call. In the beginning I used to ask Munsiff or he would tell me before or after roll-call whether the workman would come or not for roll-call or if he was working or not. But for the last seven days he has not told me anything nor has the workman come for roll-call. Several times I have drawn Munsiff’s attention to this fact but in vain. I pray to Thee and pray most earnestly to Thee for an arrangement which is convenient for us so that we can work smoothly and also with the most brotherly cooperation.

Today we found that the threshed and un-threshed paddy, which was lying on the threshing platform, has germinated. When we found it, Narayan Prasad was here. He took some samples to show to you. After he left Sudhirkanti and I thought it would be better if we could thresh all the paddy so there wouldn’t be any chance of it getting spoiled further; so without Your permission I have separated all the paddy as far as possible with all the gardeners I had at that time. When the job was almost finished, Narayan Prasad came back and told me that you have asked us to do it with all the gardeners. Only half an hour before, Munsiff had told Narayan Prasad that there was only straw and no paddy from the place we got the paddy. In one bandstand on the western side of the garden, nicely winnowed paddy was lying for the last three days. Almost all the straw had been spoilt. Some more work has to be done: there is still some paddy to be threshed by bullocks. Paddy which got wet is to be nicely dried, all the straw is to be dried in the sun and kept nicely so that it won’t get spoilt any more.

Up to 22nd December, 80 bags of paddy have been delivered to the granary in ten trips.

I think that the bell we were using before was cracked because of the wooden hammer which is circled by an iron ring. The wooden portion being decayed, the bell was hammered by the iron ring. Of course it is my mistake that I didn’t inform you as soon as it was cracked. I will try to be more careful in future.

I am keeping the accounts of the garden from 1st April 1943. I pray to know when the yearly account is to be closed, on 31st December or on 31st March?

End of December

I would like to engage 10 labourers for 7 days as soon as I get new spades for topdressing, digging up and applying manure to the banana plants.

… and meanwhile what your usual men will do? Is it not possible to do the work with them?


26 December 1943

Of course I will try to get the work for banana plants done by the gardeners as far as possible. But I don’t think that they will get time to do it at the moment. Now it is time for preparing the fields for summer vegetables. I would like to grow cucumbers, brinjals (local variety), ladies’ fingers, bitter gourd and white pumpkin. This time I would like to grow country varieties for general supply. Last time brinjals, cucumbers and ladies’ fingers were not successful so I couldn’t supply the Dining Room. From that experience I propose the following for Thy kind approval:

For the Dining Room supply I will grow local varieties. The seeds and plants are to be bought locally.

I will grow vegetables of all varieties as an experiment in a small plot (about 1/3 acre), giving all of them the best available manure. Those vegetables will be grown specially for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. As the plot will be small, it will be easy for us to take extra care of it. The plot will be experimental and the vegetables for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, if it is successful. Two of our best gardeners will work in that plot always under my sole instructions. I would like to grow all sorts of vegetables in this plot. For that I will buy seeds separately for Rs. 25/- annually.

All right.

As for the Dining Room supply, all seeds or plants are to be bought locally as far as possible. If any vegetable comes out successfully in the experimental plot three consecutive times, then and only then I would like to grow that variety for the Dining Room supply. This summer I would like to grow the following vegetables and I pray for Thy permissiocucumber of local variety (seeds are to be bought locally), bitter gourd of local variety, brinjal of local variety. I have seeds for ladies’ fingers, beans and white pumpkin, they are not to be bought.

All right.

As I will have to prepare land for the above purpose, it will be very difficult to spare my gardeners for bananas at present. So I pray for 10 labourers for 7 days.


May I fine the gardeners whom I caught eating tomatoes? If so, how much per head can I fine?

It is difficult to say without knowing how many tomatoes they have eaten.

All the paddy work will be finished by today. Now only Bengal paddy remains which I hope will be ready in the next 10 days. The Bengal paddy is still standing, it was not spoilt by the rains.

For the last three days the hired labour worked 9 hours as is the custom outside. Before they were working 8 hours at the time of weeding, harvesting and threshing. When they transplanted the paddy (in last August and September) they worked 9 hours every day.

Up to 26th December, 88 bags of paddy (each bag contains 1½ kalams [16] of weight were sent to the granary. Two more carts (i.e., 16 bags) will be delivered by the 28th December. A total of 104 bags of paddy are expected. The toll tax was paid by me. I pray for Rs. 3-4-0 towards the payment of Circulation Tax.


29 December 1943

For carrying manure, a wheelbarrow is very helpful, but we haven’t got one with us. At present when I need manure the labourer brings it from the manure ground in baskets on his head, so it takes a lot of time. Chandulal says that he can spare one wheelbarrow if you permit it. I pray for one wheelbarrow.

One daily attendance book for 1944 is necessary for the roll-call of the gardeners. The one I am using will be finished this month, so I pray for 15 pages of paper.

I want to give New Year’s tips to the gardeners on the 1st January 1944 and their payment on 2nd as usual. I want to give tips and payment separately because I think they will be more pleased to get it separately. Last time, at the time of August darshan, tips were given with their payment, but afterwards they asked me whether they have got their tips or not; and even when I told them, they didn’t believe me, so I had to calculate presence, absence, dearness allowance and overtime for almost everyone, then they understood. So I pray for Thy permission.

Herewith I am giving a traced copy along with the blue print of the Cazanove garden.

In the traced copy I have tried to give the present divisions and I give my proposal for Thy kind approval.

1) Roads:

At present there is no road on the eastern side of the garden. The existing roads have been drawn in violet pencil. Proposed roads for construction have been drawn in red pencil. Blue pencil has been used for drains, irrigation and for outlets. The main vegetable plot is in the eastern side of the garden, but there is no road. The layout of the garden is the first most important thing for gardening. I propose the roads drawn in red pencil for Thy approval. For construction of roads we can have debris from B.S. and soil from our own paddy fields so that the paddy fields will become a little lower which is very good for cultivation. If the work of construction of roads is done by the B.S. it will be convenient because my attention will not be diverted from supervising the gardeners working in the vegetable garden. The existing roads are also to be repaired once.

2) Tank

The tank is in poor condition. Around it there are many big mango trees and other trees. It needs a thorough cleaning and the banks have to be repaired. There are a few mango trees which have become old and they can be cut. Then the condition of the tank will improve. If some good varieties of fish can be put in the tank, the water will improve by at least 60% from what it is now.

3) Cisterns

One cistern is necessary for the bullocks’ drinking water, and one for moistening the grains before giving them to the bullocks for food.

In the manure ground I need four cisterns for keeping water and liquid manure. Out of four, one is to be underground so that it can be filled easily from well No. 9 by picottah.

In the vegetable plot two cisterns are necessary. Both are to be underground: one filled from well No. 3 and the other from well No. 6.

When we transplant or sow plants or seeds the beds are to be watered by hand for at least one week for plants and three weeks for seeds. It is very difficult to water by hand if there is no cistern.

4) Orchards

I have not proposed any plot for an orchard intentionally. I am not in favour of putting an orchard in the eastern side of the garden because it means blocking the morning sun which is most essential for all vegetables, plants and flowers. If an orchard is to be grown at all it is better to select a plot in the western side of the garden. At present in the western side the plot is used for paddy cultivation, but in wet land and clay soil, mangoes will grow nicely and I think other fruit trees will grow also if we make a good arrangement for water outlets which is not very difficult.

5) Gate

If we can cover the main gate it will be very good. Sometimes the gardeners go to the gate and talk with outside people, and it is also easy for them to pass something through it. At the time of the last harvesting, it was reported that a labourer had given paddy to people outside; of course we didn’t see nor could we catch him. But I saw that outside people were giving food to inside labourers during work time and also talking to them. If the gate is covered with corrugated sheets or something else, the problem may be solved. If we cover the gate we will have to keep a bell to be rung from outside when anybody comes to the garden. One hole in the gate will be necessary so that we can see from inside who is ringing the bell.

6) Supervision

At present we are only two to look after the work; but practically we are only one since one of us always has to go to the ashram especially in the mornings. I pray for 2 more supervisors. One to look after the coconuts, bananas and other fruit trees, and a second one for opening the gate, going to the ashram with the vegetables, keeping, receiving and delivering tools to gardeners, keeping records of gardening work—in other words, for the work of storekeeper.

I put my proposals at Thy feet for Thy kind perusal and approval. I don’t know how much it will cost but I am writing as I feel it necessary to let you know the difficulties.


[1] An ancient machine for raising water, which consists of a long lever pivoted on an upright post, weighted on the short arm and bearing a line and bucket on the long arm. The name comes from a Portuguese marine term: picota. Ettam is the Tamil name.

[2] The Ashram engineer.

[3] Benjamin, a French Tamilian, was a shoe maker and looked after the Ashram Cycle Service.

[4] The Ashram Laundry.

[5] Split pulses

[6] For sadhaks and sadhikas to take bath.

[7] 1 anna = 1/16 of a rupee.

[8] Manibhai was in charge of the Smithy. He came from Old East Africa and joined the ashram in 1930.

[9] Rupees 2 and four annas.

[10] Jatindranath was in charge of both the Laundry and the Bakery.

[11] A niece of Deshbandhu C.R. Das, Sahana was born in Faridpur (now in Bangladesh) on May 17, 1897. She was a great singer with a golden voice. She joined the Ashram in November 22, 1928 and never left. She was at that time making a fuel made from cow dung and ash (gul in Bengali).

[12] Underlined by the Mother.

[13] Baskets made of cane.

[14] Satyakarma was the Mother’s cashier. He came from Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.

[15] Narayan Prasad was in-charge of the Granary which was then in Ganapati House in front of the Ganesh Temple.

[16] An old Tamil unit of weight.

Copyright: Overman Foundation.

Photograph of Nirmal Nahar courtesy: Shri Sekhar Nehar.

4 Replies to “The Mother and Nirmal Singh Nahar: Unpublished Correspondence Part I

  1. Extremely interesting reading! The Mother crossed out Swiss Chard “Swiss chard: We do not like them” and yet it was grown: “Plot No. 9 will be a seedling bed and we will grow leek, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard also.”, a bit confusing!
    Arindam Gupta

Leave a Reply

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