Sri Aurobindo in Baroda

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(Dinendra Kumar Roy:) “Often, in the morning or the evening, I used to see an armed Turkish rider come with a letter from Lakshmivilas Palace, sent by the Maharaja’s private secretary. Sometimes the private secretary wrote, “If you would be so kind as to join the Maharaja for dinner, he would be very pleased” or “Would you be free to meet the Maharaja at such and such a time?” Sometimes I saw Aurobindo refuse the Maharaja’s invitation for want of time!”[1]

(Dinendra Kumar Roy:) “When plague broke out, we moved out of our large old single-storied house in the dusty, crowded locality in the centre of Baroda and went to Killedar’s Bungalow on the outskirts of town. I don’t remember now the killedar’s [fortress commander's] name or whether he was still alive. His widow was the sister of the Gaekwar’s first queen. She did not appear before us, but she lived secluded in the zenana upstairs. I noticed that the Maratha women who belonged to the high Brahmin castes did not usually come out of the zenana. The killedar’s wife lived with her little son and young daughter in an exceedingly large single-storied mansion. The boundaries of this building plot were very large. There was a lawn on one side of the mansion and a flower garden on the other. Adjacent to this garden was a big tiled bungalow. We were supposed to stay in this bungalow, which was a tiled eight-gabled dwelling. We were quite stunned on seeing this place!
         Besides the servants and attendants of the killedar’s wife, an old Maratha lived there too. I never found out whether he was related to the woman. But there was no doubt that he was the widow’s guardian and a friend, philosopher and guide to the two children. He taught them to read and write and spent his days in prayer and meditation. He was a very sober sort of man. His bathroom was in the tiled house where we stayed. I passed him two or three times in a day, but strangely enough he never spoke to me. I think that either he scorned me or else he never forgave the unrightful entry of two strange Bengali young men into their empty mansion. Whatever the reason, on account of his indifference I never spoke to him either. But occasionally I saw him say a few words to Aurobindo.
         This family had good relations with Aurobindo’s friend Lieutenant Madhavrao Jadhav. I think it was thanks to him that we had got this tiled house. We did not have to pay rent for it. Lieutenant Madhavrao came to our dwelling at least once a day. As soon as he arrived, the killedar’s children came along with him to visit us. The girl was tall, dark-complexioned, beautiful, liquid-eyed, well-built and slightly serious in temperament; she must have been about nine or ten. The boy was six or seven, extremely vivacious, slim, fair, intelligent and fun-loving. They did not resemble each other at all, either physically or temperamentally. Who knows how they have grown or whether they are still alive? I don’t know why, but after all these years I still remember these children sometimes.”[2]

(Dinendra Kumar Roy:) “Our new house was very isolated. When Aurobindo left for college after lunch, I found it difficult to remain alone in that secluded house. But after a few days I got used to it. On all four sides of the house were huge trees, even some sandalwood trees. These trees were all inhabited by monkeys and squirrels. Beyond the confines of the house was a large stretch of wilderness. On the north was the wide Raj path. It was hard to live in this tiled house in summer as well as winter! During summer, the unbearable heat made the tiles fiery-hot. Unable to bear that heat I used to stay wrapped all the time in a wet towel! Then in winter the cold was so biting that the blood seemed to freeze in my chest. But neither the heat nor the cold troubled Aurobindo. I never saw him suffer from either of them. I was terribly harassed in this bungalow by flies in the morning and mosquitoes at night. At night, while lying in bed, I would feel as though the mosquitoes might drag me out into the field and eat me. The tiles in the house were old; the house had been uninhabited for a long time. During the rains water poured through the tiles over the table. Many a Bengali aristocrat’s cowshed was better than that dwelling! But Aurobindo never complained or showed unwillingness to live in such a terrible place. He lived undisturbed in that dilapidated house for a long time. Aurobindo would sit on a chair beside a table under the light of a ‘jewel lamp’ and, untroubled by the awful mosquito-bites, would read on till one o’clock. I would see him with his eyes fixed on a book, sitting in the same spot with the same concentration for hours on end, oblivious of the outer world, like an ascetic rapt in yoga! He wouldn’t have noticed if the house caught fire! In this way, staying up at night, he read countless books in many European languages: poetry, novels, history and philosophy. In Aurobindo’s library there were piles of books in various European languages, all sorts of books in French, German, Russian, English, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, about which I knew nothing. His collection contained works by all the English poets from Chaucer to Swinburne. Numerous English novels were stacked up in cupboards, piled up in corners of the room, and locked away in steel trunks. Homer’s Illiad, Dante’s great epic, our Ramayana and Mahabharata, books by Kalidasa and other such poets were all there in his library. He was extremely fond of Russian. He said that Russia would one day lead Europe in art as well as in literature. This sounded very new to me. Sometimes he read Bengali once or twice a week; at other times he did not open a Bengali book for a fortnight. ”[3]

(Dinendra Kumar Roy:) “Atmaram Radhabhai Segun and Thakkar & Co., two well-known booksellers of Bombay, used to supply books to Aurobindo. Every month, sometimes even every week, they sent him lists of new books. He selected titles he liked from these lists and sent his order. As soon as he got his salary he would send a money-order of fifty or sixty rupees or more to the booksellers. They supplied Aurobindo with books on a deposit account system. His books did not come by bookpost but in huge packing cases sent by rail parcel; such parcels came as often as two or three times a month.
         Aurobindo would finish reading these books in eight or ten days and then place an order for new books.”[4]

(Dinendra Kumar Roy:) “Even after staying with him in the same room day and night for over two years and listening to his conversation, I could never imagine, even for a moment, that he harboured sinister designs of throwing the English out of India.”[5]

  1. Dinendra Kumar Roy, With Sri Aurobindo in Baroda, p.17
  2. Ibid., p.20
  3. Ibid., p.23
  4. Ibid., p.27
  5. Ibid.

See also