Nolini's official secretary

I had a cousin who was dearer than the dearest. She was extremely fond of me. Her name was Nirmala. When I was one year and three months old, I came to Pondicherry for the first time. Nirmala made the supreme sacrifice. She took care of me and allowed my mother to be with the Divine Mother. And I knew how to cry! Such affection she had for me.

Nirmala used to scold me in the street. Why had I changed my hairstyle? According to her, if you parted your hair in a particular way, you were a gunda, a ruffian. She did not allow me to part my hair in that way, the way only gundas did it. That was her realisation.

Nirmala would observe my shirts and see if they were properly ironed. On Thursdays we gave in our laundry, and on Sundays they would return it. But my brother Mantu worked at the laundry. Every day he used to take my clothes and bring me clean clothes. That was his job! That kind of affection he had for me.

Nirmala used to scold me for everything. If my sandals were not properly polished, I got her “blessing”!

People who scolded me in those days had such affection and concern for me. They were not actually scolding me; only they were showing how much they cared for me.

Nirmala did not like the fact that I was washing dishes at the Ashram. That was too much, too much for her! She begged me to give a present to Nolini, the General Secretary of the Ashram. After the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, Nolini stood first — not in spirituality of their height, but in high experiences, in ocean-vast knowledge, in wisdom. He got tremendous appreciation from Tagore.

One year passed. I said to my cousin, “I have nothing to give to him.”

The following year she again said, “You have to give him a gift!”

I said, “I have nothing to give.”

She said, “Give something!”

Nolini had written a very short article about Mother Durga. To please Nirmala, I transferred it to poetry. By that time I had learnt English metre quite well. I turned the article into blank verse pentameter. Nirmala was so proud to take my achievement to Nolini.

The following day I was summoned. All the butterflies of the world were flying inside my chest! I said to myself, “O God!” Nolini was the greatest person at the Ashram. We did not go near him. If we saw him, we turned around. His personality was so powerful, so powerful! We could not say anything near him.

I stood at Nolini’s door. Both his feet were on the table. He was reading a very well-established newspaper, The Hindu, which Sri Aurobindo used to read every day. He saw me out of the corner of his eye. One minute, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes elapsed. After about five minutes, I was losing my patience.

Then, loudly and powerfully Nolini cleared his throat and addressed me: “Come in!” I went inside. Then he took me into his inner chamber, his bedroom. There was a cabinet — we called it an almirah. Inside there were more than two hundred fifty folders. Nolini said, “You have to go through all the folders. Many, many Ashram secrets are there, from long before you were born. You must not breathe a word! Make one copy for me, and one copy for yourself.”

I said, “I will make two copies, both for you. I will leave them here.”

My sisters and brothers, specially my sisters, were in the seventh Heaven! My brothers were very happy, but my sisters’ pride-expansion you cannot imagine! They were so happy that Nolini had taken me as his assistant.

Nolini said, “You are my official secretary. Every month, regularly, you have to translate one of my articles into English.” He was a great savant. His writing was the topmost Bengali literature. He said, “In order to flatter me, many Ashramites who hold very high degrees translated my writings into English. I did not accept their translations — I discarded them. Now you have to translate for me every month.”

Nolini had such trust in me! When I gave him my translation, he would never consult his original work. Once I asked him, “Do you not want to see the original?”

He said, “I do not have to see the original. I do not want to see it.”

He had written the articles even fifteen or twenty years earlier, but he would never look at the original after I gave him a translation. Like this it continued. I became his only secretary.

One day a member of the Indian Parliament came. He was President of the Parliament at that time. He and Nolini were chatting. I came to get my typewriter. Nolini stopped me. He said to that member of Parliament, “Chinmoy is my only authority.” I got that kind of appreciation from Nolini!

Many years later I was working at the Indian Consulate in New York. That gentleman who had been President of the Indian Parliament was coming to America. Who was going to receive him at the airport? The Ambassador himself was hesitant. The Consul-General also did not want to receive him. They were afraid that if he was not satisfied, he would go back and tell the Prime Minister, and they would be fired. Nobody wanted to go and receive this gentleman at the airport, because he was so powerful! If they did something wrong, they would be in trouble. But a junior clerk said, “I am ready. If you want me to go, I can go and bring him, because I know him well.” They could not believe it! They were so happy and relieved, because I went to receive him. He also knew me so well.

10 December 2006, Antalya, Turkey.