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Early reminiscences of Dinendra Kumar Roy about Sri Aurobindo*

by on August 27, 2012

Aurobindo never cared for money. When I was at Baroda, he was getting a pretty fat salary. He was alone, he knew no luxury, nor the least extravagance. But at the end of every month he had not a shot in the locker. …

While talking, Aurobindo used to laugh heartily. … He was not in the habit of prinking himself up. I never saw him change his ordinary clothes even while going to the king’s court. Expensive shoes, shirts, ties, collars, flannel, linen, different types of coats, hats and caps—he had none of these. I never saw him use a hat. …

Like his dress, his bed was also very ordinary and simple. The iron bedstead he used was such that even a petty clerk would have disdained to sleep on it. He was not used to thick and soft bedding. Baroda being near a desert, both summer and winter are severe there; but even in the cold of January, I never saw him use a quilt—a cheap,
ordinary rug did duty for it. As long as I lived with him, he appeared to me as nothing but a self-denying sannyasi (recluse), austere in self-discipline and acutely sensitive to the suffering of others. Acquisition of knowledge seemed to be the sole mission of his life. And for the fulfilment of that mission, he practised rigorous self-culture even in the midst of the din and bustle of an active worldly life. …

Aurobindo read the newspapers during his lunch. Marathi food did not agree with my taste, but Aurobindo was accustomed to it. Sometimes the cooking was so bad that I could hardly take a bite, but he ate quite naturally. I never saw him express any displeasure to his cook. He had a particular liking for Bengali food. … The quantity of food he took was very small; and it was because of his abstemious and temperate
habits that he kept perfectly fit in spite of heavy mental labour. He took good care of his health. … For one hour every evening, he would pace up and down the verandah of his house with brisk steps. … He was fond of music, but did not know how to sing or play on any musical instrument. …

As he had little worldly knowledge, he was often cheated; but one who has no attachment to money has no regrets, either, for being cheated. At Baroda he was known to all ranks of people, and they had a great respect for him. … The educated community of Baroda held him in high esteem for his uncommon gifts. By the students of Baroda he was revered and adored as a god. They honoured and trusted this Bengali professor much more than the British Principal of their college. They were charmed by his manner of teaching. …

Aurobindo was always indifferent to pleasure and pain, prosperity and adversity, praise and blame. … He bore all hardships with an unruffled mind, always remembering the great gospel: ‘As Thou, O Lord, seated in my heart, appointest me, so do I act’, and absorbed in the contemplation of his adored Deity. The fire that would have consumed any other man to ashes has served only to burn out his l-ness and render him brighter than ever.

Aurobindo would sit at his table and read in the light of an oil lamp till one in the morning, unmindful of the intolerable bite of mosquitoes. I saw him seated there in the same posture for hours on end, his eyes fixed on the book he read, like a Yogi plunged in divine contemplation and lost to all sense of what was going on outside. Even if the house had caught fire, it could not have broken his concentration. Daily he would thus burn the midnight oil, poring over books in different languages of Europe—books of poetry, fiction, history, philosophy, etc., whose number one could hardly tell. In his study, there were heaps of books on various subjects in different
languages—French, German, Russian, English, Greek, Latin etc., about which I knew nothing. …

Whoever has once lived even for ten days with Aurobindo will never be able to forget him. It was my great good fortune that I had the opportunity of living with him for over two years. …

*DK Roy was Sri Aurobindo’s teacher for Bengali at Baroda, and lived with him for over two years.

From an e-mail

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