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At the Feet of The Mother

Pujalal – The Mother’s Poet (by Nirodbaran)


One of the oldest sadhaks, Pujalal passed almost his entire life-span in the Ashram except for a very short spell when he had to go back to Gujarat on some business. He was one of the few fortunate sadhaks to be present on 24th November 1926, the Victory Day as it is known now.

At the beginning we were acquainted with each other only by name. Our spheres of activity had nothing in common. I had heard that he was a Gujarti poet and Sri Aurobindo once mentioned his name to me regarding his poetry. I remember one early incident. Some of us had gone for a sea-bath; Purani and Pujalal had joined the party. We thought of swimming back to the shore from the further end of the old Pier — quite a long distance to cover. Midway from the Pier Pujalal found himself in great difficulty. It seemed both his arms had come out of the sockets of his shoulder-joints and could not, as a result, make swimming movements. Purani came to learn of his precarious condition and, swimming back, carried Pujalal on his back to the shore. That was the end of the poet’s outdoor pleasures. Since then he had to confine himself to intellectual pursuits and the daily jobs assigned to him by the Mother. One of them was sweeping the rooms on the first floor of Sri Aurobindo’s building or, as it is called, the Meditation House. He was also given the charge of the Mother’s bathroom which he kept meticulously clean.

It was at this time that I moved close to him. Coming in and out of Sri Aurobindo’s room I would see him sweeping the corridor and exchange smiles. We were then attending on Sri Aurobindo. Strange it was to find Pujalal composing short poems in English in the midst of his sweeping work. He would suddenly stop the sweeping, take up pen and paper and dash down an English lyric while the Mother was seeing visitors at the door-way nearby and wishing them bonjour, au revoir, bonne fête, etc. His compositions were woven round these themes, among others. The poems were handed to the Mother and she would carry them to Sri Aurobindo. I had to read them to him. They were very simple, sweet and spontaneous. The choice of words, the rhythm, all had a definite psychic touch. I believe it was because of these qualities that the Mother took a special interest in them and had them seen by Sri Aurobindo. For Sri Aurobindo had stopped seeing any poetry by sadhaks at that time except by Dilip and Amal. At this time I came to know that Pujalal was considered the Mother’s poet. These poems were later on published in book-form.

He carried on his ‘upstairs’ duties for a number of years till he had to give them up due to some physical trouble. He was given a room in the main Ashram compound. Now he devoted himself exclusively to literary pursuits. For a short time he was teaching Sanskrit in the Centre of Education. Now our contact became more frequent. I used always to see him sitting neatly dressed before his desk and busy writing away. Now and then I was tempted to drop in and ask him what he was composing. I was surprised to hear that he was occupied with the gigantic task of translating Savitri into Gujarati. On my inquiry, he told me that he was doing it in many metres, not in one single metre as in the original, for that would sound too monotonous in Gujarati and that the moods of the different books of the epic suggested different rhythms. Occasionally he would drop into my room or call me to explain to him some intricate verses of Savitri.

While on the subject of literature, I must admire his complete dedication to it, either composing original poems or translating Sri Aurobindo’s poetical works, eschewing all other physical enjoyments. He had been pushed to it because of his physical disabilities. He began to suffer from one ailment after another, but no suffering could stop him from writing nor affect his ever-cheerful temperament. As soon as he became all right we would see him at his old desk. Luckily for him, he had a good doctor-friend in Dr. Sourin Bose who was always at his service and took no end of care and trouble for his sake. Pujalal had also a brother’s love for him and was ever grateful for his loving ministry. In this context I cannot but recall my poet-friend Nishikanto who also fell a victim to a host of maladies but never lost his jovial mood. Death had no sting for him.

Pujalal had a number of children for friends who would flock to him to learn simple Sanskrit slokas by heart and recite them before him. At one time I also tried to take Sanskrit lessons from him, but I frankly made a condition that grammar and conjugation would be too onerous a task for me. I could not, however, proceed very far.

As years rolled on, his ailments increased. Dr. Bose having passed away he was taken care of by Dr. Raichura and Dr. Datta, and his unfailing sisterly nurse Sarala. I wonder how the Divine Mother arranges everything marvellously administering to our comfort and well-being. I don’t know how Sarala came to him, they being strangers to each other. It was the Mother’s sheer act of Grace that made it possible. Lallubhai was another stand-by and an ever-ready help. He was also surrounded by Gujarati friends in the evening to give him company.

Pujalal has been an object-lesson to me and to many others. He had shown how in spite of serious physical disabilities one could endure, keep up a serenely sweet spirit and go on with one’s vocation till the last. The great Samata that he had attained in his soul was certainly no mean achievement and was the result of his life-long sadhana and devotion to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. His name Pujalal meaning worship is amply justified.

In conclusion, I have heard it said that during the French Revolution he had helped the Mother at some critical point. This throws a significant light on the pilgrimage of his soul towards the supreme Light embodied on earth by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

(Mother India, November 1986)

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To be spontaneous means not to think, organise, decide and make an effort to realise with the personal will.