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. This concluding installment covers the year 1945. The Mother’s replies are in italics.
To read the first installment of the Mother’s unpublished correspondence with Nirmal Singh Nahar, kindly click on the following link:
To read the second installment of the Mother’s unpublished correspondence with Nirmal Singh Nahar, kindly click on the following link:
With warm regards,
O Sweet Mother,
I pray to be Thy simple and pure child.
Bonne Année. Love and blessings.
4 January 1945
I pray for Rs. 3-6-0 for 2 pairs of buckles which we have bought for the dogs.
I pray for Rs. 2-8-0 for 1 pair of iron chains which we have bought for the dogs.
Previously I took sanction for one pair of leather chains for the dogs which we have now bought.
I pray for Thy permission for the necessary cleaning of palm trees. We have got about 10 trees. If we clean them now, we will be able to use the rope which can be prepared from the cleaned leaves at the time of harvesting and threshing paddy.
We will need baskets, ropes and a winnower at the time of harvesting and threshing paddy. I pray for Thy permission to buy them. At present I have no idea about the price, but as soon as we know it I will let you know.
I pray for Thy permission to buy 14 kg of coconut string through B.S. We need the string for vegetable and general work.
The single bullock needs heavy work otherwise it is impossible to control him. At present he is working all right as he works 5 hours daily. If we have both the carts then we can continue working 5 hours daily.
In the morning the bullock will carry vegetables in the small cart (which is at present under repair) and in the afternoon manure, earth, etc., in the cart we are using now (the one we got from B.S. for temporary use). We feel that if the bullock doesn’t work sufficiently (6 to 8 hours daily) it will again give trouble.
7 January 1945
I pray for Thy permission to harvest paddy from Monday the 15th January 1945.
I pray for one wooden table for general office work.
I pray for Rs. 15/- for vegetable weeding and manure work.
9 January 1945
I pray for Rs. 7-8-6 for 28 baskets which we have bought. These are required at the time of winnowing and threshing paddy.
I pray for Rs. 2-0-0 for 8 winnowing pans for paddy which we have also bought.
I pray for Rs. 4-8-0 for cleaning the new platform prepared for threshing paddy. We had difficulty in removing the sand which got affixed with the cement. It seems sand was put over the cement plaster before it dried.
The fuel which is lying here for over a month or so must be removed by Saturday the 13th January 1945. I have asked Amrita repeatedly but to no effect. The fuel is lying on the road and it will be terribly inconvenient if it’s not removed before we start harvesting paddy.
Some days back I got Thy sanction chit through Chandulal asking us to supply 3000 woven coconut leaves (kith) immediately and 3000 more kiths as soon as possible.
I suppose at present we haven’t in stock more than 2000 which were dried at B.S.’s charge. They are ready now. They can take delivery as soon as possible and it will be very convenient for us if they are taken away before next Saturday the 13th January ‘45.
I pray for 200 gunny bags from Granary which we will require for paddy.
During the period of harvesting and supplying paddy we will require a sadhak to guard it. It won’t be possible for us to leave our rooms at night. Of course we can guard the paddy if someone remains in the rooms. At that period we will also keep one servant inside the garden at night.
12 January 1945
Tomorrow the main harvesting will be finished. We would like to begin threshing from tomorrow. Yesterday night when we were doing rounds we found terrible white ants in the platform so it will be very difficult to keep paddy on the platform for a long time. We want to send the paddy as soon as it is ready. I would like to show you all the paddy.
I pray for Thy permission to inform Narayan Prasad that we will deliver paddy any day after Monday the 15th instant.
16 January 1945
I pray for the following:
2 wooden chairs
2 wooden benches
1 small wooden table
1 hanging rack for clothes
1 camp cot for Sudhirkanti
We are in need of the above things and so I pray for Thy sanction.
N.B.: For Cazanove:
6 pocket notebooks
6 exercise books
2 office files
For what purpose?
Why so much at a time? It is not good to make provisions, things get spoilt and lost.
Three days back I received 1 lb of cucumber seed from Bijon.
We are giving egg and meat to the dogs now as directed by the veterinary doctor.
At present the following is the ration of each dog. Now they are 3½ months old. We have arranged this according to the doctor and Manoranjan but I pray for Thy final order.
Morning 9 a.m.:1 cup milk, 1½ slices of bread, 1 egg each.
Afternoon 4 p.m.: 1 tomato, meat (of 2½ annas), 1 bowl of rice and 1 slice of bread each per dog.
Are these eggs very necessary? It seems to me not quite necessary as they are eating meat.
At Manoranjan’s suggestion we are keeping the dogs in a dark room during the day and completely open at night in the courtyard of the main building.
But we are afraid that the above method is robbing us of the opportunity of training the dogs. He says that if the a dog is kept in a dark room it will become ferocious. When the dogs are properly trained then we can do the above suggested method.
I have no past experience about dogs so I pray for Thy direction about the proper rations, training, care, etc.
So far as I know all living beings need at least some hours of light and sun to keep good health. In Europe for training watch dogs they keep them chained most of the day and let them loose only in the night. But this can be done only when the dogs are one year old or so, because they must become strong and healthy in order to be useful.
We have already planted sweet pumpkins in 77 holes each contains 3-4 plants.
18 January 1945
I feel I am unable to give proper concentration to the garden work so I pray to be relieved of my responsibility.
And what work do you want to do?—Do not answer “Whatever work I choose” because it is I who gave you the Cazanove work.
19 January 1945
If you give me a small plot where I can work with my own hands with the help of one labourer i.e., an area of about the size of the Dining Room plot.
Of course all this has no meaning if you think I am to continue the Cazanove work. I told you what I have been feeling for some time and you are to decide. I have come here to serve you and in whatever way you want me to serve you I will try my best whatever my shortcomings may be.
My dear child,
When I give work so someone it is not only for the sake of the work but also as the best means to advance on the path of yoga. When I gave you this work of Cazanove, I was quite aware of your difficulties and shortcomings, but at the same time I knew that if you opened yourself to my help and force you would be able to surmount these obstacles and at the same time to increase your consciousness and open yourself to the Divine’s grace.
Now it is time for you to make a real progress and to check your outbursts of temper whenever your will is contradicted. If you want to please me—and I have no doubt of that—you will sincerely try to collaborate with Manoranjan and to carry on with him in the work of Cazanove. I do not want anyone of you two to be the boss of the other. I want you both to feel as brothers and children of the same mother working sincerely and courageously for the sake of her love.
I hope you will agree to this and I assure you that my love and blessings will always be with you in this endeavour.
19 January 1945
I accept what you say and I will try my best to collaborate with Manoranjan and I am sure I will be able to do so by your kind Grace.
I have not the slightest wish to become the boss of anyone if that is not your will. And I have not the slightest objection to working under anyone if that is your will.
I pray to Thee, and most sincerely I pray that you will put our work in a system i.e., what work each one has to do. We are three here excluding Amuly Sircar. And what work will each of us do?
If I make outbursts of temper when my will is contradicted, I do so without knowing it. If I am aware that I am wrong I will never make outbursts of temper. If ever I make outbursts I am sure you will show me my wrong doing.
In this connection I would like to mention that when Manoranjan joined the work of Cazanove I neither knew what he was to do, nor was I informed that he would work in Cazanove. Naturally I was extremely surprised when he told me that you had asked him to work in Cazanove. Of course I heard rumours in the ashram of his joining Cazanove prior to his coming here.
Give me the power to conquer what is hostile in me and to become Thy pure and perfect child.
The best will be if all together you have a consultation and agree on a plan and distribution of the work. The result of your consultation must be written down and sent to me for alterations and approval.
With my love and blessings.
25 January 1945
I pray for Thy permission for Nishikanta and Kanai to come to Cazanove after 6 p.m. (i.e., after our work is finished) whenever they want.
I do not feel disturbed by their coming. Already they have come three times.
I had a talk with Jalad about visiting Cuddalore to see for ourselves the work done by the Agricultural Department there.
If you permit us, we would (myself and Jalad) like to visit Cuddalore after making an appointment with the District Agricultural Officer.
We will see all their latest improvements and inform you about them.
Jalad has no objection to my asking permission for him.
I pray for Thy permission for Jalad and myself.
I do not think it is very necessary, but if you wish to go you can go. Blessings.
Up to now we have delivered 54 bags of paddy (each bag contains 2¼ kalams) to the granary.
Yesterday we started harvesting the remaining portion.
28 January 1945
This is about paddy. This year’s yield of paddy will be much less than last year’s. The cost will be less than last year even though the rate of coolies is higher.
I have found that the following method of cultivation is the best for paddy culture and is bound to give a much higher yield than any other.
The seedling beds are to be prepared at least 15 days to one month before. To keep the seedlings healthy, cow dung and groundnut oil cake manure are to be applied in the following proportions: 7 cartloads of cow dung per 1/3 of an acre and oil cake, 16 lbs per 1/3 of an acre. Ploughing should be done in the same manner as for the beds for transplanting. All the beds should be ready one month before transplanting. It’s best if manure is applied at the rate of 12 cartloads of cow dung per acre before the beds are ploughed. They have to be well ploughed and properly watered to puddle the field.
As it is difficult and costly to get water over here it is better to prepare the land in the following way. The land should be slightly moist so it can be ploughed by a heavy plough (we use plough P.S.G. No. 32B) and then it should be seen to that the land is properly ploughed. It has to be cross-ploughed twice and then watered thoroughly (say 3″ of water). After one day of watering, again it has to be cross-ploughed once with the wooden country plough. After that, the land should be kept under water for at least one month. Before keeping the land under water for one month, the land should be levelled with a leveller after the last ploughing and also all the bunds repaired.
After one month it is better to clean the weeds which will have come up by that time (we have too many weeds) and then, once again the land is to be cross-ploughed. After cross-ploughing it has to be levelled by a leveller and on the next day transplanting is to be started.
Thirty days after transplanting once again manure should be applied (if sulphate of ammonia is not available, oil cake, preferably groundnut oil cake. Sulphate of ammonia is to be applied at the rate of 60 lbs per acre and groundnut oil cake at the rate of four hundredweight (4 cwt) per acre) and the land weeded out the next day. This helps in two ways: firstly, it weeds out the land and secondly, it presses the manure into the earth. Up to seven days from applying manure it must be seen that water remains in the land because if it goes out the manure will go with it. At least 4 inches of water must remain in the land until the paddy is ripe and ready for harvest. When it is ready for harvest, the land should be properly dried. If it is not dry the grains will get spoilt while harvesting, specially the plants which have fallen.
After harvesting it is to be properly threshed and winnowed and dried for at least 16 hours in the sun before it can be stored.
Ratio of seed is 40 to 50 lbs per acre. This is sufficient to transplant in one acre.
We cultivated kisilisambha (Madras Agriculture Departmental No. is G.E.B. 24). It gives a lower yield than other sambha varieties as it is finer.
At the time of transplanting, a distance of 6 to 9 inches is to be kept. Not more than 4 plants are to be transplanted in one bunch.
We will not go to Cuddalore as you do not think it necessary. Why should we go if that is not your wish?
If you sanction me to buy 200 bamboo, I will write about the money in the money sanction book. The price will be about Rs. 30/-. I pray for Thy permission. This is for the plot in which I have undertaken to make experiments.
N.B.: I will let you know the actual weight of the paddy as soon as Narayan Prasad informs me. There were some irregularities in the weighing of paddy. The paddy was not properly measured last time. I will write in more detail next time.
I want to remind you that I wish to see whatever is cultivated in Cazanove—good or bad—even if you keep aside some vegetables or fruits to distribute to the servants, it is necessary that I should see and decide myself what is to be given and what is not to be given. When you send a basket of things that you want to give to the servants, on the basket place a note with the mention “for the servants.”
My love and blessings.
I will send all vegetables and fruits even if they are bad and spoilt.
I never kept anything aside to distribute to servants. That which I felt was spoilt we used to throw away at first. But as the servants wanted them we used to give them.
I feel fortunate that you want to see all the vegetables and fruits.
From hence nothing will be given to anyone until and unless you see them first. Paddy, ripe coconuts, woven coconut leaves, fuel, all vegetables and fruits will be shown to you and it is you who decide what to do.
It is all right for the paddy, the vegetables and the fruits. But for the woven leaves and the fuel you need not show them to me as I have already authorized their distribution.
30 January 1945
I pray for Thy permission to use all the cow dung and waste from the bullocks’ room as manure. It will be quite sufficient for the year. Apart from that I will need the following manure for the experimental plot: 1 bag (2 cwt) of steamed bone meal, 40 lbs of sulphate of ammonia and 5 carts of horse manure.
So much for a small experimental plot! It is too much—I cannot agree.
I would like to prepare the manure myself and I would like to cover over the portion of manure that will decompose. For that purpose I will need some kith (woven coconut leaves). We have some with us in our reserve stock which I can use.
As I can see only a fixed plot, I would like to prepare a sitting place which I can do myself except for preparing the overhead shed. If it is prepared then I can do all my work in working hours (i.e., reading, writing regarding my work, etc.). For that purpose also I will need some kith for which I pray for Thy permission and direction.
All that is good but have you no intention of working physically yourself? Yet, it is quite indispensable for the welfare of the body.
Whatever I do in the experimental plot I will take your permission first and only then will I proceed.
With my love and blessings
1 February 1945
I pray to know how much manure I should use for the experimental plot? The area is 1/6 of an acre.
Yes, I will work myself also. But I don’t think that I will be able to work all the time I am here.
A few days back I asked Manoranjan for 20 lbs of groundnut oil cake to manure the tomato plants in the experimental plot. We have our own stock over here from which I wanted to take. He refused saying that your permission is needed. I pray for Thy instruction. It is necessary to manure now.
The stock of manure that is in Cazanove is at the disposal of both Manoranjan and yourself and I expect that both will take what he requires for his cultivation without quarrelling over it.
Herewith I am enclosing the rough sketch of the experimental plot. It is approximate only.
In the block II and B, I have sown ladies’ finger seeds today.
In the block No. III No. C, I pray to sow cucumber seeds. I pray for Thy permission.
Potato, onion and horse gram (or Bengal gram) tubers and seeds were given by Dhir Singh.
Cucumber from the block III No. A is giving fruits which we are sending now.
I pray for Thy permission to use coconut string from our own stock. I pray for Thy permission as I fear that they will refuse as they did in the case of the groundnut oil cake.
What I have written above stands for this also, I do not want separate accounts, I do not want separate stocks either.
I wrote before that I will need 2 gardeners for the experimental plot but I think that one will be sufficient for the present.
I have asked for a daily labourer to work under me. Previously he was working as a daily labourer. He is a very good worker and knows all sorts of work. He says that he was working outside as a daily labourer at higher pay than what we pay. He wants As. 10 per day and overtime of As. 1 per hour.
Now I pray to know what shall I do? Until I know your direction he is working as daily labourer in the experimental plot. At present, I could not find another gardener whose work is better than his.
Previously while he was working as daily labour he worked under me in the engine room also. Recently when Pavitra was here one day for repairing the engine and pump he gave his good opinion of him as that day he was working in the engine room. I like his work very much.
I pray for Thy permission to take him at the rate of As. 10 per day as daily labourer to work in the experimental plot.
You can take him as daily labourer at As. 10 per day, but I refuse to pay overtime, you will have to see that he finishes his work in time. Our experience is constant that when the workmen are paid overtime they do practically nothing during the working hours and so manage to have regularly overtime pay at a very high rate. As I told you already, I refuse to deal with 2 accounts, it would simply mean double expense and I find that the whole business is sufficiently costly as it is.
I want Manoranjan and you to agree on what is to be bought (you can, if you like state separately, as for instance seeds … so much … of which … so much … for Manoranjan … so much … for Nirmal Singh … manure … etc.). You must give in detail the amount of money required for purchases and for labour, etc., this statement clear and definite must be agreed upon by both and signed by both. It is at this condition only that I shall give you the money.
I would like to know also why there were so few tomatoes today. Is this also the result of a quarrel? I have told you already what I think of these quarrels and I expect you both to make an effort and overcome these petty disputes that are quite detrimental to my work.
Show to Manoranjan what I have written on these two pages.
3 February 1945
On that day tomatoes were few because previously we gave more tomatoes than what we give generally. It is not owing to any other reason.
Last time I wrote incorrectly about the oil cake. It was my fault for misunderstanding him. He told me to ask for your permission in a general way but I thought that he was refusing. It was our understanding that whatever we need whether it is in our stock or not we will take your permission first. Now I realize my mistake of writing wrongly to you. I pray for Thy pardon.
My love and blessings.
10 April 1945
Today I had a heated discussion with Sudhirkanti over the question of putting some ladies’ fingers in the spoilt basket (the ladies’ fingers which were given separately in a dish today).
I kept them in the spoilt basket (we don’t weigh what we put in the spoilt basket) as some of them were eaten by insects or diseased or ripe. All the vegetables which are in the spoilt basket go to the Dining Room and they use whatever they think fit to use (this is what Dyuman told me when we began to give spoilt vegetables). Sudhirkanti objected to putting them in the spoilt basket. I told him that it is not his business what I put in the spoilt basket or not, that spoilt vegetables are being shown to Mother and Mother can tell whether they are to be put in the spoilt basket or not. I further told him that if he had any objection to my putting them in the spoilt basket then he can tell Thee and what is to be done can be decided by Thee. While we were quarrelling he used such strong language that I am unable to write here what he said. This is the first occasion in my life that I have heard such slang words. As far as I remember although I retorted to him I did not use any slang word except the word “Monkey.” I regret using the word and retorting to him but I am grateful to Thee and it’s by Thy Grace I was able to control myself from beating him when he used such words.
I have come to serve Thee and Sri Aurobindo. But am I here to hear such words from others? I will be gladly scolded by Thee because I know that only when I make mistakes you will scold me. I am unable to tolerate if anybody else uses slang words upon me.
I feel very much strained working in this way. I pray at Thy feet to tell me how I can work peacefully. If I am wrong tell me where I am wrong and I will try not to repeat it. I don’t know how I can work with them in the present condition.
I am considering the problem. For the moment you must be patient.
O sweet Mother, Give me light so that I can serve Thee properly. I pray to Thee.
My love and blessings.
18 May 1945
(Nirmal left Cazanove to work with his father in the Books Sales Department.
A letter from Mother to Prithwi Singh.)
My dear child,
I approve of your training of Nirmal Singh, but I hope it will not take so many months before he can be truly helpful to you.
With my love and blessings.
21st December 1945
May I have the favour of Thy kind reply to my letter which I wrote on 3rd December last?
I had asked both Nolini and Noren Singh to convey my answer to you.
I do not see any necessity in bringing out a new magazine. There are already too many, good and bad, in the world.
With my love and blessings.
Copyright: Overman Foundation.