Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,
On Saturday, 20 August 2011, the second ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ ceremony was held at ‘Care Nursing Home’ in Pondicherry. Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. Prof. Kittu Reddy, Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Ratna Chakravarti, Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti, Shrimati Jhumur Bhattacharya (In-charge, ‘Knowledge’—the Department of Higher Course at Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education), Shri Togo Mukherjee, Shri Raman Reddy and other inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram were present at the occasion where Shri Robi Gupta, Dr. Kireet Joshi and Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee were presented with the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ for the year 2011. Since Dr. Mukherjee is settled in France his younger brother Shri Togo Mukherjee accepted with the award on his behalf.
The ceremony commenced with a brief speech by Shri Anurag Banerjee, Founder and Chairman of Overman Foundation in which he introduced the recipients. The Chief Guest of the ceremony, Dr. Ananda Reddy, recalled his association with the three recipients in the following words:
I feel extremely honoured to be standing here in this evening. Fortunately in my childhood days I have been associated with all three of them—of course, Robi-da not so intimately and personally—but of course I have read his poems and great works and more than a man of literature we have been players of football together. So we had a childhood friendship. I have known him well enough. And Prithwin-da—of course—I’ve known him pretty close again in my childhood days because after that when he went away to France I had no contact but subsequently I have read his books on Mother and Sri Aurobindo, some of his books in French, some of his correspondence with the Mother and they are very revealing of the Mother’s work.
And among the three, I must say I know best Kireet-bhai. Right from the first day of my stay at Pondicherry in the Ashram when I came here in 1958, since then I know Joshi-bhai. Of course as a child I used to go to him for the problems of the school but it is only in the later years, in the Higher Course, that he became my teacher of philosophy. And I was just telling him before this meeting that today if I have been able to read ‘The Life Divine’— I even take classes with some other students — I can say that two people have helped me to do that: one is my own father Madhusudan Reddy and the other is Joshi-bhai. So I really feel indebted to him for the way he taught the depths of ‘The Life Divine’ and my admiration and adoration for ‘The Life Divine’ itself is thanks to Joshi-bhai for he showed me how to really read it and what the depths are. And I used to admire the way he used to teach — I mean — he would rush from his school administration after the class at 8 o’clock, sit down there and the letters — what I still remember ‘love letters’. Imagine he had enough time in spite of all the administration of the school to write to each one of his students a letter, a note, saying ‘Ananda, today you have answered this question’, ‘Today you read this chapter’, ‘Today you read this chapter from another book or “The Life Divine”’. What really interested us as students that he kept us in his mind — each one was in his mind not only as a person but what we were doing and on what page were our studies and what were our problems and then he would discuss in depth. And what he did — I have sort of been doing that — that is, to do a lot of diagrams showing us the levels of the mind but every time diagrams were easy which has become a part of my teaching today. So I can say owe Kireet-bhai a lot of things. Maybe I have forgotten those long past days but I, as a student, am always indebted to him and I was telling Joshi-bhai that I am immensely grateful to him.
So I am happy that Anurag — although a latecomer on the field — has recognized the genius of these three people. Of course, he and other two Robi-da and Prithwin-da are beyond these awards because actually the work they have done is not for any public recognition. It was their dedication and their sadhana and it was done as an offering to the Mother; only the public comes later. All these years we did not have any system of awards in the Ashram atmosphere but since some time — some years — some organizations are coming forward to recognize the work done by these giants in their field. So I am happy that Anurag and ‘Overman Foundation’ have come forward to recognize their contribution to the Aurobindonian public as much as the general public.’
After Dr. Ananda Reddy, Prof. Kittu Reddy, respected member of the Advisory Board of Overman Foundation, shared the memories of his long association with Shri Robi Gupta, Dr. Kireet Joshi and Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee with the audience in the following words:
‘I have been in contact with all the three persons right from my childhood days and as Ananda rightly pointed out, my contact with Robi-da was mostly in the sports field and in Nolini-da’s room. I have really not read much of his poetry so I am not in a position to comment on that but we have been very close and good friends. Regarding Prithwin: when he came in 1949 or 1950 I don’t remember but we have been very close and we have been in the same class. We had animated arguments with Nirod-da on small grammatical points. What I recount about Prithwin was, despite his physical disabilities he had a very strong will and the Mother showered her love on him and encouraged him. And I remember very clearly that he used to do 45 to 50 risings while it was very difficult to do even 15 or 20. One more thing which was very striking was that he was talented in literature and music. The Mother encouraged him to compose either a march or Indian piece of music for an event. He wrote the notation for every instrument and that was played in front of the Mother and the Mother was very appreciative and supportive at his musical talents. Once he left forFrance, we did not have so much contact. I have read some of his writings. But when he read my books on Indian history where I have a small chapter on Bagha Jatin, he sent me a very appreciative note except that the spelling of Jatindranath Mukherjee was not what I had given. I have been in touch with him for the past few months off and on. What I remember about him is the tremendous love he had for the Mother which of course the Mother was always showering on him.
About Kireet-bhai: I have a rather long association with him. I know him since when he was chosen as the Registrar by the Mother. I had started teaching in the school in December 1957. He came one day when I was walking in front of the ‘Teachers’ Room’. Kireet-bhai called me and said: “I would like you to help me in the office. Come and workme.” I said: “We have to ask the Mother?” So he wrote to the Mother and the next day, Joshi-bhai called me and said: “From now on you are working with me in my office.” From 1958 to 1977 I was very closely involved in the administration. The most wonderful thing was that we had a lot of animated discussions and in all those animated discussions we had, I would often write a letter to the Mother regarding the points which we had discussed. I believe that the period when he came in 1958 was clearly the seed-time of awakening the recognition to Sri Aurobindo and its implementation to the education system. The Higher Course was given a very sound footing. The examinations were there — all that was abandoned with the Mother’s intervention. The Free Progress System was started and the Higher Course took a completely new turn in 1967. All these with Kireet-bhai’s help. From November 1972 to March 1973 — on every alternate days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday — along with Kireet-bhai and Tanmay-da — we met the Mother and discussed mostly the school though we discussed other things also. That was the time I felt a tremendous support that the Mother gave to Kireet-bhai in his work. Many interesting things happened. Kireet-bhai was asked by the Mother to write; he used to write and read to the Mother. With very minor alterations the Mother generally approved. In 1976 Kireet-bhai leftPondicherryat the invitation of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He became an advisor in education. The contacts were reduced. When I had to go to Delhi I made a point to call on Kireet-bhai and talk to him. When he was called by Narendra Modi to take charge of education in Gujarat, during that time, I had a very intense interaction with him. I can only say this much that having seen Kireet-bhai with the Mother for so many months and the exchanges they had, I have seen his total commitment with the Mother. Secondly his understanding and clarity of thoughts, I think, is one of the best among all who have read Sri Aurobindo. Take any aspect, not only philosophy but the human side too. In 1970 when ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Action’ started, I saw that Kireet-bhai talked about the human side in all his talks. So he is one of those who, I can say, is extremely and very thoroughly well-versed in Sri Aurobindo. He is one of those who have lived out as much as taught.
I am happy that Anurag has recognized the contribution of all these personalities and as Ananda said, they have not done it for recognition but then it does come the way when you go.’
After Prof. Kittu Reddy, Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti, respected member of the Advisory Board of Overman Foundation read an article on Dr. Kireet Joshi titled ‘Kireetbhai—The Smiling Professor’.
‘He always had a smile on his face — soft spoken-amiable ready to listen to your woes and troubles, he would quietly give his assured answers and somehow his words would quieten you down and one comes out of his office bewildered — what was the reason of your troubles and also what was the solution he gave? Nonetheless his words made you calm down.
He was closely connected with some major decisions of our Ashram life. And one of them was the introduction of quarterly tests. With no holidays for preparation for the exam, one was expected to write papers for three hours at a stretch. For a girl who was supposed to have decided to have her schooling in the Ashram just because there was no exam — it was definitely an agonizing experience. But then the exams had their purpose — CONCENTRATION. Later my office work demanded that quality of concentration more than any other qualification — to be immersed in work continuously, without getting tired, for a good many hours. Although I grudged at that time at the exam, but since a long time I wanted to thank him for helping me to grow the quality of concentration, and I take this opportunity to say “thank you Kireet bhai.”
He was the pioneer for getting the Government Grant for the maintenance of teachers and students. We would watch him taking long strides and rushing out of school with an attaché in his hand — he was rushing to give to the Divine what belonged to the Divine, the money from the grant.
How can one forget his efforts to get for the Ashram the exemption u/s 35 (i) (ii), the work given by Dyuman bhai, to pursue inDelhi. Through his relentless effort, the Ashram continues to be recognized as a Research Institution.
He was our professor of philosophy in Higher Course. I was awed by his knowledge and also the fact that the first time he got ‘The Life Divine’ in his hands, he found it so engrossing, so captivating that he could not stop reading but read through the night to know the final conclusion. A giant of an intellect indeed! But his philosophy class went over my head. At that time I was not at all interested to know whether there was one god or a thousand gods or that it was all Maya (which I found so foolish) — I myself am reading about Maya and it is all illusion! How very strange! My philosophy was ‘cogito ergo sum’ — I think therefore I exist. So no other philosophical argument entered my head. But then I missed the finest work in philosophy “The Life Divine” and I really regret my FOOLISHNESS to let go the opportunity to study “The Life Divine” under one of the finest exponents of Life Divine — Kireet Bhai.’
Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti then recited a ‘poem for the poet’, that is, a poem written in Bengali on the occasion of her birthday on 8 December 1959 by Shri Robi Gupta. About Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee she said that though she never got the chance to speak to him when he was staying in Pondicherry, she admired his intellect and his knowledge of music.
After the reminiscences of Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti, the ‘Auro-Ratna Awards’ were presented to the three recipients. Dr. Ananda Reddy presented Shri Robi Gupta with an angavasram, Shrimati Suprabha Nahar presented him with the trophy of ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ and Prof. Kittu Reddy and Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti presented him with the ‘Certificate of Honour’.
Shrimati Ratna Chakravarti presented Dr. Kireet Joshi with the angavasram, Prof. Kittu Reddy and Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti presented him with the trophy of ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ and Dr. Ananda Reddy and Shrimati Suprabha Nahar presented him with the ‘Certificate of Honour’.
Shri Togo Mukherjee accepted the award on behalf of Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee: Prof. Kittu Reddy presented him with the angavasram, Shrimati Suprabha Nahar and Shrimati Krishna Chakravarti presented him with the trophy of ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ and Dr. Ananda Reddy and Shrimati Ratna Chakravarti presented him with the ‘Certificate of Honour’.
Prof. Kittu Reddy read out the following message sent by Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee fromParisaddressed to the Chairman of Overman Foundation for the said occasion:
‘Anurag Banerjee, Chairman of Overman Foundation, and Friends,
Since its inception in March 2010 Overman Foundation has been recognizing the invaluable contribution of scholars, writers, researchers and workers of the Aurobindonian movement in various fields. It seems that for this purpose the ‘Auro-Ratna Award’ was initiated to felicitate the ‘true children’ of the Divine, who, as defined by the Mother, are those few who have consecrated all of themselves and all they have —soul, life, work and wealth.
In last March, I was informed that — along with two other competent Gurubhais — you have selected me for the ‘Auro-Ratna’ award for the year 2011 for my “invaluable and outstanding contribution in the field of research and philosophy.” Ever since, several times I remembered that in the Court of Rajarshi Janak, the sage Yajnavalkya was asked: “How do you work in this world; with the help of what? What is the aid that you have in this world which enables you to perform your function?”
Yajnavalkya gave an immediate, open and simple answer: “It is due to the light of the sun that people perform actions in this world. If the light of the sun were not to be there, activity would be impossible.”
That is why John Milton was to raise the humble question: “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
For me the source of all light has been the Love I received from the Mother. Without her Love, I would be nothing. I could do nothing. Hence I honestly feel that by awarding me today you recognize how potent Love can be.
By choosing to thank you, I thank that Love.’
In his acceptance speech, Shri Robi Gupta said:
‘I will speak in Bengali. I don’t give lectures and I am unaccustomed to it so I will say a few words in my mother-tongue, Bengali. I don’t have much to say in addition to what Ananda Reddy and Kittu have said about Kireet-bhai but I would like to add a few words. He was not only a good teacher, he was not only a good administrator but I think he is a great instrument; a very great personality also. About Kittu, I like him very much; he was one of us — we played football and cricket for a long time. About Ananda Reddy — I know that he is a known figure; I have read his articles and I have liked them. And about me — I don’t know what to say; all that have been told I don’t know how far they are true but I will tell something in Bengali for a lot of Bengalis are present here.
The place where I was born had lots of trees, flower-plants and books. By books I mean detective books, especially those penned by Dinendra Kumar Roy whom Sri Aurobindo had taken to Baroda. In our house the complete set of Dinendra Roy’s books was discovered by me one day. Thus my interest in Bengali language was born. Afterwards I did not feel any difficulty while reading the works of Bankim Chandra, Vidyasagar and Rabindranath. I feel no other language in the world is as rich as Bengali as far as rhythm is concerned though there has been several controversies about rhythm. Quite unexpectedly the miracle-wand of poetical-metre came to me as it had come to Prabodh Sen, Dhurjatiprasad, Rabindranath and Satyendranath Dutta. It was a miracle. When I came here [to Pondicherry], I received the help, cooperation and assistance of Sahana-di [Sahana Devi], Dilip-da [Dilip Kumar Roy] and Nishikanto. And everybody knows the comment of Sri Aurobindo that ‘I’ve been the perennial source of inspiration ever since.’
I will share two humorous anecdotes with you. I never had to think and write. Whenever I had taken up the pen, thoughts came to me easily and sometimes when the thoughts came I began to write. Once Nirod-da was struggling with his pen to write but nothing was coming. After struggling for quite a while he dozed off. Later he informed Sri Aurobindo that nothing happened, ‘I struggled and then I fell asleep.’ Sri Aurobindo said in reply: Who said that nothing happened? You have discovered a very beautiful medicine for sleep. On another occasion: at that time Sri Aurobindo used to give a special yogic force to the writers of the Ashram. Once Sri Aurobindo said that he would not be able to provide the force any longer for he had other important work to do. Nirod-da asked: “Can Mother take up the work.” Sri Aurobindo replied: “No, that’s my department.”
Shri Anurag Banerjee then told the audience about a little-known but remarkable praise that Shri Robi Gupta had got from Sri Aurobindo. On one occasion, Sri Aurobindo had addressed him as the ‘Tagore of the Ashram’.
In his brief but sweet acceptance speech, Dr. Kireet Joshi said: ‘I thank you very much. I thank your foundation. I have only one prayer to the Mother: “O’ Mother, make me a better coolie in your workshop.” And I have been so so far.’
The ceremony ended with a note of thanks to all the assembled guests and the authorities of ‘Care Nursing Home’ especially Shrimati Debjani Haldar for all their kind help and assistance.
Shrimati Suprabha Nahar, Shrimati Jhumur Bhattacharya and Shri Robi Gupta.
Shri Anurag Banerjee, Shrimati Jhumur Bhattacharya and Shri Robi Gupta.
Shri Raman Reddy, Dr. Kireet Joshi and Dr. Ananda Reddy.
Dr. Kireet Joshi and Shri Anurag Banerjee.