These are Sri Chinmoy’s original reminiscences of his mother’s passing, penned at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in India when he was in his teenage years. They are written in the highly formal and now slightly antiquated style that was favoured by Sri Aurobindo and the glittering literati of the Ashram, among whom we can number Nolini Kanta Gupta, Dilip Kumar Roy, K.D. Sethna, Nishikanto, Nirodbaran, M.P. Pandit and others.
The reminiscences were originally typed by the author and the manuscript shows editorial marks in blue ink made by K. D. Sethna, the editor of “Mother India”. The present version, however, endeavours to preserve the original version as far as possible – for beneath the stumbling and imitative attempts of a youth to express himself in an unfamiliar tongue, we are given glimpses of an immensity of grief that can never be fully expressed or assuaged.
A copy of the original manuscript typed by the author.
A lad. He was a lad of a dozen. His presence in his maternal uncle’s house was two days old. It was the month of the War God. The year forty plus four of this running century. Out of thirty-one offspring the month had already lost fifteen. The noon had exhausted its first two brief hours. As the Lamp of Phoebus was implacable and was wanting in the milk of human kindness his outer robe ran in sweat. All on a sudden the arrival of one of his cousins from his own home caught his surprised eyes. His unexpected arrival spoke volumes. The newcomer, in no time, in a tremulous tongue whispered, “Your mother!” The boy off hand captured the voice of the job’s post and did not allow him to say his say. “I have read your mind. My mother, no more.”
“You must not go to the length of saying that your mother has joined the majority. But she will before long breathe her last.”
“She is still above the ground!” The boy jumped in glee like a filly. In the twinkling of an eye the boy set off for his home, sweet but doleful. Six giant miles separated his maternal uncle’s house from his. For the first sixty seconds he was as swift of foot as a wild roe. Then a tortoise in him he saw. For about fifteen minutes he was the speed of a turtle. After that the speed of a hare dragged his outer sheath ruthlessly. He was not alone. The hound of tears was dogging his footsteps.
The four post meridiem found him in his own house. He elbowed his way into his mother’s room and threw himself down at the left side of her body’s zenith floor. He found that his mother’s life was in seconds. The traveller for the land of the leal slowly very slowly, softly very softly placed her throbbing right palm upon the head of her dearest and youngest son. A mighty satisfaction dawned upon her quivering limbs. Her sinking voice before diving into the sea of the voiceless Voice whispered to her son’s inner bird, “I fly to the clime where I came from. You will carry, my son, your outer garment to my mother, the Mother of all, in Pondicherry.”
“Certainly. I shall abide by your last wish and supreme desire before long.”
And now with a heart full of rapture the mother passed away behind the curtain of eternity. The eyes of the son were more filled with fears than tears. The entire room, along with tremendous cry and endless grief, was thrown into the sea of the tenebrous Night. No more his dearest with him. No more her dearest with her.
Dear readers, condone the writer. Your impatient query will soon be answered. You are suffering an insufferable imagination as to who was he and who was she. The male was nobody else but the first person pronoun and the female was she who was responsible for his birth.
My mother was confined to bed for six tardy months. Our fleshy eyes saw a colossal boil on the left side of her suave throat. But according to the mighty limbs of medicine it was a malignant goitre. Our aunt, mother’s youngest sister, and my brothers and sisters left no stone unturned to see the death of the giant ghoul. Owing to my short years and long ignorance they excepted me to share with their unimaginable toil anxieties. The boil spoke in its own precarious and bizarre voice, “I know, my expiry you most eagerly desire. But you too should listen to a request of mine. I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am the quoif of muffs. Therefore I cannot by myself pass behind the perpetual logs. I badly need a companion. I pray you, permit this woman who is a paragon of virtue to lead me to the heaven. For a few years there she will stay with me. I promise, again she will be the dear daughter of the mother-earth. By no manner of means I will accompany her then. Do abide by my humble request.”
As there was no other alternative we could but listen to her doleful prayer. And our mother, Yogomaya, no more.
– End –
1. “He was a lad of a dozen” is a reference to the boy’s age, since he was twelve years old at the time.
2. Madal was staying in the village of Kelishahar, East Bengal, the home of his maternal relatives, when this story took place. He then ran to his own home in the village of East Shakpura.
3. “It was the month of the War God.” This refers to March, named after Mars, the Roman god of war. It is evident that the writer is using the European calendar here. Hence, we may fix the date at March 16th, 1944. Yogamaya’s passing occurred shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon.
4. “The Lamp of Phoebus” is the sun. In Greek mythology, Apollo is called Phoebus, the sun-god.
5. “Joined the majority” – a euphemistic expression meaning “has died”.
6. “Roe” is a Eurasian species of small deer.
7. “The four post meridiem” means “four hours after midday”.
8. “Body’s zenith floor” may refer to the body being at its lowest point (nearing death).
9. “The land of the leal” – a Scottish expression meaning the abode of the blessed after death; paradise; heaven.
10. “The Mother of all, in Pondicherry” – meaning the Divine Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mme. Mira Alfassa.
11. Goitre is an enlargement of the thyroid gland, which can lead to a pronounced swelling in the neck.
12. The expression “quoif of muffs” most likely means “cap of fools”.
13. The Perpetual Log, invented towards the end of the 18th century, was used to determine the speed of a ship. The device consisted of a wooden board (the log) towed by a line attached to a clock-work system onboard. It provided a constant (perpetual) update of a ship’s movement through the water. Vessels that plied the Indian coastline during the author’s youth, would have most certainly still employed this navigational aid. “To pass behind the perpetual logs” may mean to be set adrift, beyond the rope tethered to the ship and hence, a euphemism for “death”.
14. Yogomaya, alternatively spelt Yogamaya.