Once you lavish affection

I have told this story, or fragments of this story, many times. Now it is my wish that it come out in book form.

My mother had two sisters. They were her younger sisters. The youngest one left behind two sons when she passed away. Her husband had passed earlier. When she left the body, those sons were teenagers. Everybody in our family loved those two brothers. They were very, very close to our family.

The older one, the hero of this story, was in between my brothers Hriday and Chitta in age. His nickname was Khudha. Khudha means “hunger.” He entered into politics and became a revolutionary. Naturally he was arrested, and he was in prison for a year. I was, I believe, two years old then. On the day he was released, he thought of me. I was the youngest in the family. He put on his suit and tie. Then he hid a tiny, cute animal for me. He put it on his head and put a hat over it. He took it from the right place — from jail! Then, so happily he came to our place.

Khudha’s younger brother, whose name was Bhuta, was innocence incarnate. He was so nice! He could jump from a very high roof, and nothing happened to him, absolutely nothing.

Khudha was extremely fond of each and every member of our family, and our family was also extremely fond of him. My parents loved him deeply.

My mother’s other sister was older than the mother of this hero. She was also very fond of Khudha. This aunt of mine, who lived for 104 years, had only one question each time I went to see her. First she would grab my hands and put them on her head, and then she would say, “Father, when am I going to die? When am I going to die?”

I said, “How can I tell when you are going to die?”

Luckily enough, during one of my visits to Pondicherry, I went to see her at around 7:30 in the evening, and as usual I blessed her. She recited three of her poems. Nobody could understand a word. She used to brag that she had written eight or ten poems in her entire life. Then, at around two o’clock in the morning, she passed away. I think she waited for my blessings.

This aunt was very, very fond of our family. Her husband was quite rich. Then he passed away. It was one of her daughters, Pushpita, to whom I showed my occult power for the first time. In an affectionate way, she wanted to kick me! I have told the whole story. She lifted up one leg and she was holding on to a pipe. Then she could not bring her leg down. Although she was very, very fond of me, she could not recognise me when I spent half an hour with her the last time I saw her. Three weeks later she wanted to know why I was not sending her a photograph from my visit with her! She had been silent, in a coma, and then she remembered me. She was very, very kind and very, very affectionate. She died at the age of ninety-four.

To come back to the story, Khudha was a vagabond. He could not keep a job for more than three months. Wherever he went, he would be fired, fired, fired! He was a character. That aunt of mine who died at the age of 104 was very affectionate and compassionate to him.

It is not that Khudha was crazy. He was quite normal. He went to college, but he was a revolutionary! If somebody enjoys what we call mischievous pranks, what are you going to do? Sometimes mischief entered into his brain, so he did all kinds of things.

In our family, Hriday declared, “No marriage,” Chitta declared, “No marriage,” and Arpita declared, “No marriage.” The others were young at that time. But Khudha agreed to get married. The whole family was in the seventh Heaven of delight because he agreed to get married.

Finally the time came for Khudha to get married. The husband and wife were very happy. His wife, whose name was Jyoti, was absolutely affection incarnate in the family. She used to cook for everybody. Although we had a cook, she herself used to cook.

Once Khudha asked that aunt of ours for a large amount of money. She said, “I cannot give you that amount, but I will give you some.” Khudha wanted more money, so he decided to punish her! It was the time of the Durga Puja festival. Everybody would come to the village from the town. Usually every weekend my father used to come to the village. During the rest of the week he lived in the town. Since it was the time of the Durga Puja festival, the guards and other workers at our bank all went home. My cousin Khudha wanted to guard the bank. He was so nice, so kind, so affectionate. My father agreed that he could stay and guard the bank.

Alas, at night Khudha brought in a locksmith! Very nicely the locksmith opened up the safe. Khudha knew the things that did not belong to our family, so most of those he did not touch. Very little he took from our family, but from that old lady, our aunt, he took all her jewellery and everything else that she kept in the safe. He took those things away to punish her. How compassionate she was to him! But this was how he punished her: he took away everything of hers. He took only a little bit from our family.

My great-uncle wanted to sue Khudha, but my father said, “Oh no, I cannot, I cannot! I cannot take him to court — he is like my son. If Hriday had done this kind of thing, I could not have taken him to court. There will be no punishment for Khudha.”

Khudha’s wife, Jyoti, was so ashamed. She cried and cried. She went back to her parents’ place. My father was so kind and affectionate to her, but she said that she could not show her face to our family. She went back to her own parents.

Then Khudha decided to punish my aunt even more. He lived in a village about three miles away from our place. I went there so many times. From there he came to my aunt’s place, crying, with the message that my father had got an electric shock and died. Khudha said my father’s dead body had been taken to our village. Khudha was crying and crying!

When my aunt heard this, she believed Khudha. She came all the way, crying and weeping, to our place. When she was about eight hundred metres away, she saw our family doctor. She knew our family doctor well. The family doctor asked, “Why are you crying?”

She said, “You do not know what has happened?” Then she gave him the news about my father.

The doctor said, “No, no! Just now I saw his wife near their house, reading.” Still my aunt would not believe the doctor. She came crying, crying, crying to our house. My mother was basking in the sun and reading either the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. She used to do that when I was a little boy. When my mother wanted me to sleep, she would read out loud. When she felt that I was fast asleep, she would stop reading. But I was so naughty. I only pretended that I was fast asleep. Then, when she herself fell asleep, I ran into our garden. We had a very big garden, and from there I snatched mangoes and all kinds of fruits. After an hour or so my mother would wake up, and I was nowhere to be found. Our famous servant, whose name was Kailash, was all mischief. He was my accomplice.

To come back to the story, when my aunt reached our house, she was hysterical. She was screaming at my mother. How was it that my mother was not crying? My mother could not believe what she was saying.

At that time Khudha was fifty metres away. He came up to my mother and my aunt and showed off. He said he wanted to punish my aunt because she was not giving him enough money. What a character!

When Khudha came out of jail after his revolutionary activities, he tried to work here and there, but he was not successful. Then my father gave him money. He wanted to buy all kinds of fruits and sell them, but in that field also he was not successful. He was not successful in anything. It was beneath his dignity to work anywhere.

In spite of Khudha’s behaviour, our whole family liked him. One day he was inspired to dance. He entered into my sister’s room and took a petticoat. He started dancing and making everybody laugh and laugh! Everybody liked him.

My mother’s eldest brother was so fond of my father. When he came to learn that our bank had been robbed, he said, “O my God, how will you meet with the expenses? How will you bring up the family? How will you do it?”

My father said, “We have property, so much property! We have money. He has stolen next to nothing from us.” But my mother’s eldest brother would not believe my father. He thought that we had become very poor overnight. Alas, alas, alas! It was too much for him — he committed suicide. A train was fast approaching. People threw hotter than the hottest water to stop him, but he did not care. He jumped onto the track in front of the train and died. This was his fate.

This uncle of mine had three daughters. One daughter’s name was Shephali. She was at that time at our place. She knew what had happened. My mother was crying, weeping and practically turning somersaults with grief. It was too much for her. But who was consoling her? My cousin, Shephali. Her own father had died, and now she was consoling her father’s sister, since at that time my sisters Lily and Arpita were in Pondicherry. This was how this uncle’s life ended.

That maternal uncle was so fond of my father. He used to bring me, and my father also, three gifts of the same type. In my case, the first one I used to hold, and then perhaps I did not like it, so I threw it away. The second one I broke, because I wanted to see how it was made — I ruined it! The third one I kept.

I had a cousin who was the youngest daughter of this maternal uncle. Her name was Dipali. She was two years younger than I. One day she was crying and crying for a gold chain. Her family was not giving her a real gold chain. At that time I was nine years old and she was seven, perhaps. I said, “I will give you a gold chain.” I did not say, “When I become rich” — I said, “When I become great, I will give you one.” Everybody laughed! The story was buried in oblivion. Many years later I was in America. She had married somebody very rich and she had three or four children. At that time she reminded my sister Lily, “Madal promised me a gold chain! He has to keep his promise!” She did not need my gift, but affection is like that. I gave money to my sister, and she got a very, very nice necklace for Dipali.

Here is another incident. My father used to smoke cigarettes, but on rare occasions he smoked an Indian hookah. For two days a week, when my father was home, my poor mother could not smoke. From Friday evening until Sunday morning, she did not dare to smoke. She had such respect for my father! But she used to take lots of betel nut, and her lips became all red.

That uncle of mine never smoked. He begged and begged and begged my father to stop smoking. My father never listened to him. But then, the day my uncle committed suicide, my father said, “That is it!” My father lived for another two years or so. From that day on, he did not smoke at all. He gave up smoking. My father said, “I have to fulfil his request.”

I was very fond of going to the court. It was at the top of a hill. It was called Kachari. I went there only to see the thieves, who were chained. I had such curiosity to see the thieves and how they behaved. What a habit, or hobby!

Once, after my father passed away, I went to the court, and whom did I see? Khudha! He grabbed me with such affection and said, “Tell your mother I have no money. I am living only on potatoes. Please tell your mother to send me some money. I am living on potatoes!”

He was so much stronger than I was. What could I do? I went home and told my mother. My mother was furious! But her anger lasted only for three or four minutes. Then she started crying because he had no money. She asked me, “Did he not tell you where he lives?”

I said, “He did not tell me. He asked me only to tell you to send him some money.” My mother cried and cried. We had another servant whose name was Phani. He lived in the same village as Khudha. My mother gave Phani some money to give to Khudha.

Family, family, family! We Bengalis are made of affection.

My aunt had a daughter whose name was Vijali. She lived in Patiya, which was five miles away from our place. Her husband was so sweet, so affectionate. He was a lawyer. He used to practise in the court. One afternoon he came back from the court, climbed up a tree and remained there until the evening. He would not come down. From there he did all kinds of things. He would not come down. He was absolutely all right, but all of a sudden something happened inside his brain. Finally, at night he came down and entered into a pond. There he died. This is also our family story. He was so kind, so affectionate.

In this way our family life went on. I had no connection with Khudha after we came to Pondicherry; it was all finished.

Many, many years later, a young medical doctor was transferred from Calcutta to the Pondicherry General Hospital. At that time I was living in America. Somehow he knew that our whole family was living in the Ashram. One evening he came to our place, where my sister lived. He started shouting, “Grandmother, Grandmother, Grandmother!” Who was his grandmother? My aunt was there. He came up to her and embraced her as his grandmother. My aunt started screaming, insulting and scolding him. She said, “What are you saying? I am not your grandmother!”

He said, “Oh yes, you are my grandmother!” He proved it. He told her who he was. Then my aunt embraced him like a grandmother and completely forgave his father, Khudha. Before, she had taken an oath that she would never forgive Khudha, because of how he tortured our family, specially when he lied and said that my father had died.

How bad Khudha was! But our Bengali life is such that, no matter what someone does, once you lavish affection on him, even though he may be a scoundrel, it is very difficult to withdraw that affection. My aunt started to become very attached to this young fellow. Once a week he would come to eat at our place. Then his mother came, without even informing anyone, although one needed permission to come to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. She came, and her son told her where our house was. My sister Lily was so overjoyed to see her! This was our family reunion. She stayed at our place for about two months.

Now the story ends. When I was ten or eleven years old I saw Khudha for the last time. His wife, Jyoti, said that her husband was so fond of me. He used to say, “I knew all along that our Madal would be another great spiritual figure. His Guru was Aurobindo Ghosh.” Khudha never said “Sri Aurobindo.” Those revolutionaries never called him Sri Aurobindo; it was always Aurobindo Ghosh. Khudha used to talk about Aurobindo Ghosh and Madal, and he started saying that he saw how great I was when I was an infant, and so many other things. By that time I had quite a few disciples, so he knew about my life. He said, “Aurobindo Ghosh and Madal Ghose come from the same place.”

From where to where this story goes! The son of the scoundrel was able to reconcile our whole family. Khudha was absolutely notorious, but nobody lost an iota of affection for him. This was our family.

18 December 2006 Antalya, Turkey.