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At the Feet of The Mother

The Recovery

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December and January had rolled on smoothly. We were now looking forward to the removal of the splints. Dr. Rao on his weekly visits was pressing his case for the removal and was laughed at by all of us till he promised not to raise the issue again, only to break his word the next time. About the first week of February, some disquieting symptoms appeared. There was pain in the knee-joint and a mild swelling of the leg. We were very much perturbed by this unexpected intrusion. The specialist, informed about it, replied that such minor complications were not rare in fracture cases and would soon clear up. Now Rao got his chance: he argued that the unduly long immobilisation had caused the symptoms and urged the removal of the splints. Poor doctor! Nobody listened to his lonely voice. We all clung to the authority of the specialist and waited for his second visit. But Pondicherry to Madras was then no flying motor-drive! We had no cars, buses still belonged to the dreamland and the train service was as slow as it is today. I do not remember exactly when the specialist came and removed the splints, probably in the third or fourth week of February. As soon as it was done, the entire limb from the thigh downwards swelled up, to our deep consternation. The thigh looked frightful, almost double its size. The Mother kept an ominous silence, but Sri Aurobindo was as unconcerned as ever. The specialist repeated his view that such complications do set in in some cases, so we need not worry. The oedema was of no consequence and would gradually subside. He was satisfied that a firm union of the bone had taken place. With proper and careful treatment, massage, compress, gradual walking, etc., the leg would return to its normal size. The Mother was not however so easily satisfied. She questioned him very closely on the cause of the oedema, its pathology, complications and danger, or other possible sequels. When the specialist stated that sometimes movements might dislodge a venous clot and bring about serious complications, the Mother caught him at once and asked how then could he recommend massage and passive movements. The doctor was not prepared for such an astute question from a “woman” and said that the Mother was a very intelligent person! We reported this remark to Sri Aurobindo; he simply smiled.

All of us were very much depressed by this adverse manifestation, since it would delay his recovery. I was particularly disturbed and worried, for I had not met with such a situation before and had to face it all alone — as a doctor. I needed much strength and faith. So far it was Sri Aurobindo who had been giving me his constant spiritual support in my medical work. Now the Divine Physician himself was the patient. Whom should I approach for help? Though I did not openly ask him to cure himself using my poor self as the physical instrument, as I did in my other medical cases, still with the conviction that his and the Mother’s force would be there, I proceeded with the instructions left by the specialist. But I was not free from anxiety. Meanwhile, I wrote to Dr. Manilal about the complication, asking him to come down and bring with him two or three pairs of crutches from Bombay.

Then there was the right foot that drew our attention. It had shrunk and shrivelled up, due to impeded circulation and inactivity, to almost half its size. The skin of the sole had become dry like parchment. The Mother brought some fine white cream and asked me to apply it, Sri Aurobindo sat up, his right leg extended and the Mother stood by, watching the application. Her presence affected my self-confidence and I began the work rather clumsily. “No, no, not that way!” she cried out. Her protest put me at once on to the correct method. Then she smiled and said, “Yes, that’s right!” Sri Aurobindo, as usual, was enjoying the scene. The whole layer of skin of the sole, thin, candle-white, peeled off like a cast. How small and tender looked the foot! He has written of his inner fight saying, “My gaping wounds are a thousand and one”, in his poem A God’s Labour. Here was an outer wound added to his physical being. Still, no complaint! War is war!

His hair also caused some trouble, for it was in a terribly tangled “intrinsicate” mess due to its prolonged fixed position — a network as complicated as its definition by Dr. Johnson. How to untangle it? I do not know what made us bold enough to tackle that feminine problem instead of placing it in the Mother’s proper care. We had no idea then that she would be only too glad to do the job; neither did she offer to do it. And Sri Aurobindo, of course, kept quiet. It is we who must ask, must “open”! It took us about an hour’s desperate and delicate handling to disentangle that conglomerate skein like Lord Shiva’s matted locks and bring all into a decent order. Sri Aurobindo accepted this torture with his usual submission. At the end of the perpetration, he simply asked, “Have you left some hair?” We laughed. True, this was meant as a joke, but he was not indifferent to physical grace and beauty. Later on when the Mother took up his toilet and attended to his hair, after each combing, tufts of the precious glossy hair, were loosened off, and enriched Champaklal’s treasury. Sri Aurobindo on being informed of this loss, did something to stop the falling, and till the end the hair retained its glistening abundance.

When Dr. Manilal arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief! He was not very happy to see the new development, but hoped that everything would be all right. He was confronted with three problems: the swelling, educating the patient to walk and the bending of the knee, all of which he dealt with in his characteristic efficient manner. The swelling according to him would subside in due course. Gentle massage and hot and cold compress continued, followed later by hot douche. We used to note its diminution week by week. But it took some months to disappear completely. The bending of the knee would also take some time in view of the adhesion of the patella to the underlying tissues, in spite of passive movements. The re-education in walking seemed to be rather a straightforward job, though it was the most awkward and difficult one, for Sri Aurobindo had to walk with crutches! All that was needed was a patient and persistent effort. For Sri Aurobindo’s nature, unaccustomed to physical or mechanical contrivances, and the narrow space in the room made the venture somewhat risky. The first day he got up to use the crutches was a memorable one for us. In the presence of the Mother we made him stand up, handed him the crutches and showed him how to use them. He fumbled and remarked, “Yes, it is easy to say.” Two or three different pairs were tried out, but as he could not handle them properly, the Mother proposed that he had better walk leaning on two persons — one on either side; It was certainly a bright suggestion, for Sri Aurobindo walking on crutches would have reminded us of his own phrase about Hephaestus’ “lame omnipotent motion”, — an insult to his shining majestic figure. Purani and Satyendra were selected by Dr. Manilal as his human supports, much less incongruous than the ungainly wooden instruments! That was how the re-education started. The paradox of the Divine seeking frail human aid gave food to my sense of humour. However, both men proved unequal in stature; the Mother made Champaklal replace Satyendra on the left side. Now the arrangement was just and perfect and Champaklal had his aspiration fulfilled. His was the last support Sri Aurobindo was to give up. For, as his steps gained in strength and firmness, he used a stick in the right hand, and Champaklal on the left. Finally he too was dropped. As soon as it came to be known that the Master was using a walking stick, several were presented to him — and there was one even of tea-wood from Assam! Thus everyday after the noon and night meals the Mother would come to his room and present the stick, and he would walk about for half an hour in her presence.

While waiting for the Mother’s arrival, he would practise various bending exercises for the knee which had been improvised by Dr. Manilal. He did them sitting on the edge of the bed. He actively obeyed whatever was demanded of him. One of the exercises was hanging of the leg — which later became a common joke amongst us.

It was not an unreasonable fear that the slightest inattention in walking on his part might upset his balance and cause a fall. He had to walk with his head bent, looking at the ground, and had to be very careful, particularly at turnings, by checking his speed. We were posted at these turnings to prevent any possibility of a mishap. His steps were now not like those of Zeus on Mount Olympus! They had naturally lost that resounding force we were accustomed to hear, when he used to pace up and down above, during our meditation in the hall below. He told us that it was during those walks that he used to bring down the highest Force. As the walking progressed with of his former strength, we expected a return to his God-like steps.

The days were getting hotter and he used to perspire profusely. There was no ceiling fan. We started fanning him as he walked, but what were two small hand-fans — the wing-wafts of tiny birds in the sultry heat of the closed room? Sri Aurobindo did not seem to be concerned at all, though we were. Purani hit upon a brilliant idea. He came up with a huge palm leaf fan festooned with a red cloth border, as used for the temple Deities. The Mother smiled approvingly. Stationed near the door, he began fanning with all the vigour of his bare muscular arms and a miniature storm would sweep by. We enjoyed the grand sight. It was so becoming to his giant’s nature! He handled it very well. Once for some days he could not come up, and the fan lay idle, like the mythical bow in the cave. With much trepidation I took it up, a pigmy to the giant, but seeing no question on the Mother’s face, I set to work. The performance was not bad. I felt rather proud, but alas, pride had its quick fall! By same faux pas, or should I say fausse main, one day I struck Sri Aurobindo’s back with the fan, as he was just turning my corner! He immediately looked around with an indulgent smile, and the Mother smiled graciously to lift me up from the crushing shame. But fortunately for the Guru and the disciple, it was not repeated. Afterwards both Champaklal and Mulshankar used the fan with a greater skill.

When at the end of the walk he would stand in the middle of the room with the stick in his right hand, his upright figure with the flowing beard on his broad bare chest, his two plaits of silken hair in front, and a far away look in his calm wide-open eyes, he would kindle a soft glow of love and adoration in our hearts. The Mother would then take the stick from him; after an exchange of sweet smiles between them, she would go away. Champaklal would then step in and wipe away the dripping perspiration.

Then he would sit in the chair and sponging of the divine body would begin. This practice was continued for several years till a bathroom was built nearby. Our complaint about this crude mode of cleansing was received with a disarming serenity. Neither one arrangement nor another made the slightest difference to his composure. He did not seem to be living in the body at all; or he left it completely into the Mother’s care.

Along with the sponging the talks would start: Purani from behind, I from the front, Dr. Manilal sitting on one side and Satyendra standing on the other. We all took part in the talk and worked at the same time. And Sri Aurobindo, perhaps melting by the touch of hot water, would release his silence into a many-hued speech. Sometimes Purani hurled a question from behind, Satyendra took it up, then I answered, and so the question went round with Sri Aurobindo sitting at the centre, listening quietly, answering, or to our delight, springing a surprise by a sudden joke! At times he sat still, leaning against the chair with two fingers of his right hand on his lips, as if musing on something. After a while he would relax and the talk would follow. Once in the midst of our engrossed talk, there was a mild tap at the door. Sri Aurobindo looked at us, and we wondered who could be violating the privacy. Another tap, and the door was opened by one of us; to our surprise it was the Mother who came with a piece of paper in her hand and said, “For Sri Aurobindo.” It was some important war news that had just been relayed over the radio. This little incident is a pointer to the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s vital interest in the war.

The last thing to be done was the bending of the knee. As I have mentioned, there was an exercise called hanging the leg. Manilal’s approaching visit for the Darshan would make Sri Aurobindo utter, “Oh, Manilal is coming, I must hang my leg!” or when Manilal would enquire from Baroda about it, he would reply with a smile, “It is still hanging!” The bending exercise was apparently an ineffectual one, but Sri Aurobindo persisted and we too encouraged him as if he were a little child. At any rate the result was not proportionate to the effort. Dr. Rao who was very happy to see the Master at last free from the tyrannical shackles of the splints took the opportunity, whenever he came, of massaging his leg. “May I do it, Sir?” he would ask and would never forget to praise Sri Aurobindo as an ideal patient.

Another imposition placed on him by the doctor was that in order to tone up his body he had to do some free-hand exercises. Every morning while still in bed, he would, without fail, practise them vigorously — the flexion and extension of his arms and the raising and lowering of his legs. Sometimes the arms overcome by sleep would sink into feeble, mechanical movements and then would wake up with a start to resume their duty! The summer heat or an uncomfortable position in bed could not persuade him to break the rule. When I entered the room for my morning work, this assiduous application would greet my eyes. His leg would rise and fall like a hammer, and I could not contain my feeling of amusement and admiration at this hard Tapasya to achieve the supramental perfection of the body. Perhaps this semi-blasphemy has come upon me like a boomerang, now making me undergo physical Tapasya even at this age! It cannot be denied, anyway, that Sri Aurobindo was not meant for such hard and rough gymnastics. There are some things which cannot be conceived of, for instance Tagore or Dilip courting jail during the Non-cooperation movement.

Manilal’s prescription did some good all the same; for the soft and mellow frame got a firm nervous tone and the muscles developed fine contours, to his great satisfaction. Perfection is the supramental key-word. Any imperfection, however slight, was foreign to Sri Aurobindo’s nature. I give a minor example: one day, while talking about snoring, one of us was tactless enough to tell him that he too had the habit. It must have been an awkward side-effect of the accident due to a malposition of the body. But it came to him as a great surprise. And I was astonished to mark that from the very next day the physiological aberration stopped for good! Even while correcting our poems, he would always do it perfectly. If he was pressed for time, he would ask the poem back and make it flawless. Any perfection achieved in any field by him was a cosmic conquest. “One man’s perfection still can save the world.”

Dr. Manilal advised us to massage Sri Aurobindo’s body too, particularly the lower part. Early morning was thought by common consent to be the most suitable time for it. Three of us would massage him part by part; as he lay in bed, and we would go on talking at the same time. To some of our queries he would often answer “perhaps, perhaps”. Much amused, we asked him one day, “Why don’t you say ‘yes or no’, instead of this uncertain ‘perhaps’?” “Because”, he replied, “the Supermind alone has the certainty.” We all laughed. Thus we were merrily massaging him and chatting away without ever considering his comfort or discomfort. After quite a few days’ torture at our hands he asked me one day most gently, “Is the massage really necessary? You see, this is the only time when I have some sleep.” I replied somewhat guiltily, “We shall stop it, it is not necessary.” He could have easily dropped it earlier, but the doctor had to be obeyed!

Thanks to all these arduous and assiduous exercises, the limb gained in solid strength, and the body its requisite tone. He began now to read the daily papers himself. One day as I was passing a rapid glance over the morning paper, assuming that he was not yet ready, he enquired, “The paper hasn’t come?” I promptly handed it over to him. “Have you digested the news?” he asked. I smiled abashed! Quiet casual humour, characteristic of Sri Aurobindo.

We reached the month of April. Sri Aurobindo’s rapid progress became widely known and people began to clamour for a Darshan; they had already missed two of them, and for the next one in August it would be too painfully long to wait. The Mother also began to plead on behalf of the bhaktas, though not much pleading was needed. For we know that when the Mother’s heart had melted, the Father’s would not take long to do so. Besides, the Mother probably wanted Sri Aurobindo to take up his regular activities as soon as possible. Even for him she would not make any exception. Her dynamic nature cannot brook too long an ease. April 24th was then fixed for the Darshan, as it was the day of the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry. Thenceforth the April Darshan became a permanent feature. The date well suited the professors and students, since it fell within the span of the summer holidays. But the darshan time had to be changed from the morning to the afternoon and it would be a darshan in the true sense of the word. For the devotees would simply come and stand for a brief while before the Mother and the Master, have their darshan and quietly leave. Sri Aurobindo tersely remarked, “No more of that long seven-hour darshan!” Formerly the Darshan was observed with a great ceremonial pomp. Starting at about 7.30 a.m., it ran with one breathing interval, up to 3 p.m. The devotees offered their garlands and flowers, did two, even three or four pranams to the Mother and the Master who remained glued to one place throughout the ordeal, and endured another martyrdom under this excessive display of bhakti even as Raman Maharshi suffered from the “plague of prasads”. Now, all that was cut down at one stroke by the force of external circumstances, and all expression transformed into a quiet inner adoration which is a characteristic of this Yoga. Sri Aurobindo’s accident made the ceremonial Darshan a thing of past history.

On the eve of the Darshan, the Mother washed Sri Aurobindo’s hair with our help. It was such an elaborate and complicated affair that had it been left in our hands, it would have ended in confusion, particularly because it had to be done in the bedroom. Hot and cold water, basins, soap, powder, etc., etc., had to be kept ready. What a ceremony really, this washing was! No wonder ladies go in for bob or shingle. Formerly, Sri Aurobindo, it seems, used to wash his long hair every night, but I am sure he did without all this paraphernalia. His secluded life had, of course, simplified the whole complex process. Later on when a bathroom adjoining his living room was built, washing lost its formidable character. Sri Aurobindo bore all this torture as a part of the game, I suppose.

The Darshan day at last! In the morning, the Mother arrived in his room with a flower, probably a red lotus, knelt before the Lord, placed the lotus on his bed and bowed down to receive his blessings and his sweet smile. This was the second time I saw her doing pranam to him. The first time was on her birthday, February 21. It was a revelation to me, for I did not expect her to bow down in the Indian way. On every Darshan day since then I enjoyed the sight. On other days she used to take his hand and lightly kiss it. With her customary drive, she chalked out the Darshan programme, the time for Sri Aurobindo’s lunch and of her coming for the Darshan. We had to be ready and keep the Master ready too. From the early morning time began to move fast, the Mother was seen rushing about, she had so many things to attend to! Everything finished, clad in a lovely sari, a crown adorning her shapely head, looking like a veritable Goddess, she entered Sri Aurobindo’s room with brisk steps, earlier than the appointed time, as was her wont. She gave a quick glance at us. We were all attention. The entire group was present, it being the first Darshan after the accident. She was pleased to find us ready. Sri Aurobindo was dressed in an immaculate white dhoti, its border daintily creased, as is the custom in Bengal; a silk chaddar across his chest and his long shining hair flowing down — a picture that reminded us of Shiva and Shakti going out to give darshan to their bhaktas; Sri Aurobindo was in front and the Mother behind. They sat together as on other Darshan days, she on his right, a glorious view, and the ceremony began.

It was, however, a simple Darshan. One by one the sadhaks stood for a brief moment before the One-in-Two, and passed on quietly thrilled and exalted by their silent look and gracious smile. The feelings of the sadhaks can be imagined when they saw their beloved Master restored to his normal health! The Darshan was over within an hour, and when Sri Aurobindo was back in his room Dr. Rao remarked in his childlike manner, “Sir, you looked grand at the Darshan!” Sri Aurobindo smiled and we retorted, just to tease him, “At other times he doesn’t?” Rao, nonplussed, replied, “No, no, I did not mean that.” Truly, Rao had expressed the sentiments of hundreds of devotees who had a glimpse of him during the Darshan. What a grandeur and majesty in his simple silent pose! What a power, as if he held the whole world in the palm of his hand! If ever a human being could attain the stature of a god, he was there for all to see and be blessed by. Many have had a deep change after just one touch of his God-like magnificence. “A touch can alter the fixed front of Fate.” Many had visions and boons they had long been seeking for, and for the sadhaks each Darshan was a step to a further milestone towards the Eternal. Sri Aurobindo had said: “Darshans are periods of great descents!” It was not for nothing that Hitler chose the 15th of August for his royal ascension in Buckingham Palace and got the first heavy blow. Nor was it for nothing that India gained her independence on that immortal day.

Now that Sri Aurobindo was physically all right, the Mother must find some work for him too! Most opportunely came a demand from the Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, for a book from Sri Aurobindo, preferably The Life Divine. The work had appeared long ago in the Arya and it could now be published in book form. The Mother caught hold of the idea and asked for his approval. Sri Aurobindo wanted to write one or two new chapters. So he set to work. A new writing table was made and placed in front of him across his bed, provided with three pens, two pencils and paper. For me it was a moment of great curiosity to see him at work. We had heard so much about the silent mind through which ideas, leaping down from above, passed directly into the pen, that I thought I could now put it to the test; as if one could see the silent mind as well as the invisible ideas descending one by one from above the ranges of the mind! At least I could see how he wrote. Was it at all like us, human beings, scrapping, stopping, thinking?

There he was, then, sitting on the bed, with his right leg stretched out. I was watching his movements from behind the bed. No sooner had he begun than followed line after line as if everything was chalked out in the mind, or as he used to say, a tap was turned on and a stream poured down. Absorbed in perfect poise, gazing now and then in front, wiping the perspiration off the hands — for he perspired profusely — he would go on for about two hours. The Mother would drop in with a glass of coconut water. Sometimes she had to wait for quite a while before he was aware of her presence. Then exclaiming “Ah”, he took the glass from the loving hand, drank it slowly, and then plunged back into his work! It was a very sweet vision, indeed, the Mother standing quietly by his side with a smile and watching him, and he forgetful of everything, writing away; then a short exchange of beatific glances. At the end of the writing, the place where he sat would be completely drenched — there was so much perspiration in the summer months. But remarkably free from any odour! We used to wipe his body and change the bed sheets. But what shocked me most was when finishing the first chapter, he asked us to tear it and throw it into the wastepaper basket! It needed rewriting! I was very much tempted to keep it intact, but that would be a violation of his order. Champaklal told me that he kept some of the torn pieces as a souvenir. I noticed what a fine calligraphy it was with hardly a scratch, almost without a scar or wound. Not at all like his “correspondence” handwriting which he himself could not decipher sometimes! We have cut many jokes with him about his handwriting. Once I wrote, “Sir, will you take the trouble to mark those portions of your letter that can be shown to others?” He replied, “Good Lord, sir, I can’t do that. You forget that I will have to try to read my own hieroglyphs. I have no time for such an exercise. I leave it for others.” I do not know if all great men write in this spotless and spontaneous manner. It seems he wrote all his seven volumes of the Arya directly on the typewriter. How I wished I could one day write at this “aeroplanic speed”, to use Sri Aurobindo’s own expression. However the writing of Savitri was quite a different story. There he had to “labour”, change, chisel, omit, revise; all this, of course, from a silent mind. Only a few poems like Rose of God and A God’s Labour just came down en bloc and not a word was changed! The Mother must have been very pleased to see him resume his activity after the passage through the long dark night.

With the improvement of his health, he began to spend some hours sitting in a chair and devoting his entire time to spiritual, intellectual and creative activities. The accident had released him in a drastic manner from the 8 or 9 hours’ labour of “correspondence”. He could now take up the revision of all his major works, one after another. The first to see the light of day was the first volume of his magnum opus, The Life Divine. It was the end of 1939, the year of World War II. The publication of the Arya of which the Divine Life was the basic theme, started in 1914, the year of World War I. Can we call these mere coincidences? The two other volumes came out on the heels of the first one and were extensively rewritten. He composed many sonnets also. We used to see his pen indefatigably writing away page after page. We could not know what was being written, because, except for the sonnets, he passed everything to the Mother. She received it as a gift from God and sent it on to Prithwi Singh for typing. Though his eyesight was bad, his typing was so neat and clean, done with such minute care, that Sri Aurobindo was very pleased with his work.

So long as Sri Aurobindo could use his own eyes, we had no direct means of knowing what he was about. Of course, we could sometimes overhear or he would himself tell us about the topics, how far he had come, if something new he had added, etc. Purani and Satyendra were interested in The Life Divine, and the former would try to fish for some information regarding it. Sometimes Fate or Chance or even necessity helped us in knowing what the Master was doing.

Srinivasa lyengar sent his manuscript of Sri Aurobindo’s life for his perusal. Sri Aurobindo began to add to it a substantial portion about his political life of which none had any authentic knowledge. He was in the habit of using a small pad called “bloc” manufactured in France and meant for writing short letters or notes. But as he used it for the former purpose, many sheets were needed. He tore them out of the bloc and tried to pin them together, but because of their bulk, he failed to do it. Neither would he call for our assistance; he would go on fumbling. We would enjoy the scene from a distance till Champaklal, unable to restrain himself, would rush up and take the awkward business away from him. Thenceforth, recognising his limitations, perhaps, he waited for Champaklal to do the job. Nolini who knew Sri Aurobindo’s ways from his early days, instructed us not to leave all these slight material vexations to him. But how to spare him unless he himself called, was the point! One had to be bold and “open”!

The publication of the first volume of The Life Divine was a great event and was hailed with delight. From all lips was heard a jubilant chanting, “The Life Divine is out, The Life Divine is out.” Dara((( A Mohammedan disciple.))) composed some light verses to celebrate the event. Sri Aurobindo, informed about it, asked, “What sort of a poem?

Life Divine
Full of wine?”

Purani answered, “Yes, you have caught it. It goes:

Life Divine,
Mother’s wine.
The book is out
Let us shout.”

There was a rush to buy the book and get Sri Aurobindo’s autograph in the bargain! For a divine policy was announced — whose brain-wave it was, I do not know — that all buyers would be favoured with the autograph of the Master. Volume after volume began to pour in with the names of the buyers appended to them. The names were sometimes quite long, such as Purushottamdas Thakurdas Chintamani Patil, and he would ask, “Am I to write all that?” And there were fanciful spellings to boot! Dates as well! At times the names of the husband and his wife together! If sometimes a name struck his fancy he would ask, “Who the devil is he?” or “Who is this Lord Shiva?” or we, would ourselves say that he was so and so. Many were the bhaktas who could not understand a word of the book but bought it for the sake of his blessings. For us sadhaks who could not afford to buy it, the book was given free on our birthday, with the autograph added to it. Later all the books of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo when published, were given to us according to our needs, on our birthdays. The Mother would ask, “Do you want any book? Have you got this book?” One wonders how much money was spent on this; and the custom continues even now, though in a modified form.

When Vol. III came out, it being the bulkiest, Sri Aurobindo remarked, “What a fat elephant!” And when they entered the room in packs and were heaped on the side-couch waiting for the autograph, they made an impressive herd and thrilled us with joy that The Life Divine had at last been delivered on this woe-begone planet of ours! But with the encroaching dimness of his eye-sight, the Mother stopped the practice of giving autographs altogether.

Another significant event that was shaping itself in 1939 was the political situation in Europe. Hitler’s barking for lebensraum had been reverberating throughout the continent for some years and the war-clouds seemed to be gathering. Sri Aurobindo was watching the situation closely. In 1938 the war was almost imminent. Sri Aurobindo told us that “for many reasons war was not favoured at that time”, and it did get stopped, as Sri Aurobindo wished. We used to hold daily discussions on the fate of the nations, of India and other dark consequences that would follow in the wake of Hitler’s mad ambition. Chamberlain’s “peace mission” failed and within a year of Sri Aurobindo’s accident, the war broke out. We came to learn from him that England had at last declared war on Germany. He had learnt it from the Mother who had got the news from Pavitra. There was then no radio in the Ashram. We shall deal further with the topic of War in a separate chapter.

These are the highlights of the first year following the accident. Sri Aurobindo’s leg had now become quite strong, he could walk without any support. When at the end of the year 1939, Dr. Manilal asked Sri Aurobindo if the accident had done any good, he replied, “Yes, I have advanced much further since last November. I have found time to complete some books. Now I get more time to concentrate!”

Owing to the accident, the Mother’s programme also had changed a lot. She had had to suspend all Pranams and personal interviews with the sadhaks. But now they were resumed, though in a different form. Old things as they used to be never come back. I remarked before the Mother one day, “Now that Sri Aurobindo is all right we shall soon be packed off!” She heard and gave a broad smile.

The year 1940 found us, on the contrary, firmly established in Sri Aurobindo’s service. He could not dispense with his old medical team. Life had now taken a definite pattern and ran, with minor variations, a regular course and our duties were fixed. The years that followed brought him closer and closer to us at first, then took him farther away at the end. The interlude will have as its theme the divine event that had unrolled during the twelve years of our stay with the supreme Actor. I shall begin with his external life.