My Dilip-da adoration
Author's prefaceEach individual has some heroes. Dilip Kumar Roy, the Golden Voice, happens to be one of my heroes. For us, he was known as Dilip-da. Let me start with my own personal connection with this great Gandharva Loka soul. Then I shall tell some other stories about him. Some stories are well-known, while others are known only to a few.
I beg to be excused for taking the liberty of paraphrasing some conversations between Dilip-da and other important figures.
Part I — My personal connection with Dilip-da
Dilip-da's compassion for a young poetI am starting with my first contact with Dilip-da. At the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I had four or five English teachers. The name of my very first English teacher was Rani Maitri. She was a very close friend of my sister Lily. My sister studied privately with her and I studied in the school.
Rani Maitri was full of affection and compassion. She heard from my sister Lily that I had started writing poems. Sisters always take tremendous pride in their brothers' achievements. Unfortunately, brothers do not take as much pride in their sisters' achievements!
Anyway, my sister showed one of my notebooks to my teacher. It was a thick notebook and it contained about a hundred of my Bengali poems. Rani-di was very pleased with the poems. She happened to be a cousin of Dilip Roy. They were very close to one another. So she took my notebook to Dilip-da. Dilip-da most compassionately read the poems and wrote two lines in Bengali about them. His comment was that some poems were fine, others were good and a few were very good. I shall forever and forever treasure Dilip-da's blessingful encouragement.
I was so surprised that he had gone through all the poems. Who was I? A silly little boy in the Ashram! This incident occurred around 1946, when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. Dilip-da was at that time forty-nine.
Dilip-da found a mistake in my poems and he made the correction in his own handwriting. When a peacock has not raised all its plumes, one particular verb is used to describe it. Then, when it looks so beautiful with its plumage outspread, a different verb is used. Poor me, I did not know that was the case. So Dilip-da cancelled the verb I had used and wrote in the correct verb. Plus he put an exclamation mark after it! I should have shown this poem to my brother Chitta or to my Bengali teacher first. They would have corrected it.
This experience was nothing other than Dilip-da's boundless affection and compassion for a young Ashram boy.
My article about Dilip-daAfter receiving such encouragement from Dilip-da in the poetry-world, I decided to write an article about him. I read his main book, "Tirthankar", plus several of his other books, "Anami" and so forth. Then I wrote about twenty or twenty-five pages about him in Bengali. The title of my article was, "Amader Dilip-da", which means "Our elder brother Dilip."
This time I gave the article directly to my teacher and she gave it to him. Dilip-da went through the article and his comment was, "I did not know that Chinmoy had such love for me."
Dilip-da's harmoniumDilip-da also helped me indirectly in my musical world. This is how it happened. My very first Bengali teacher was Manodhar. He was my eldest brother's English teacher. He lived in the same place as I did and his room was adjacent to mine. From time to time, Dilip-da would allow Manodhar to use one of his harmoniums, only for practice. It was not a loan because Dilip-da wanted to preserve his harmoniums in excellent condition.
Sometimes, when Dilip-da was displeased with Manodhar for some reason, Dilip-da would get angry and take his harmonium back. At other times, Manodhar would not allow me to play on it when he was displeased with me.
Anyway, Manodhar was the first one to teach me how to play on the harmonium — Dilip-da's harmonium! The very first song I learnt to sing and play on that harmonium I still remember. It was Tagore's famous song, "Parabasi eso…". I played on Dilip-da's harmonium from 1944 to 1946.
My sad experience with Sahana-diDilip-da was responsible for bringing so many great singers to the Ashram. First and foremost was Sahana Devi. She was at Tagore's Santiniketan, but when she saw and heard Dilip-da's supremely gifted talents, she became a great admirer of Dilip-da. She also developed tremendous love for Sri Aurobindo. So Dilip-da was the instrument to bring Sahana-di to the Ashram in 1928. And Sahana-di's uncle, Chitta Ranjan Das, was the barrister who saved Sri Aurobindo's life when Sri Aurobindo was imprisoned in the Alipore Jail.
Tagore was very upset when Sahana-di left Santiniketan. He was deeply enamoured of her singing voice. When she came to the Ashram, he sent a message, "Had I been an Emperor, like the Moghul Emperors, I would have sent my army to bring you back from the Ashram." She had such a great personality. She was very tall, stout. To go near her was really something. It was easier to go near Dilip-da. She was always kindness and seriousness at the same time.
Now Sahana-di happened to be one of my Ashram 'mothers'. I had five 'mothers' in the Ashram. These elderly women inundated me with their love and concern. My main mother was Mridu-di. Then came Sahana-di.
Somehow a serious misunderstanding arose at one time between Sahana-di and me. She had a devoted student, but later on this lady became Sahana-di's rival. The rival's daughter was in Sahana-di's music class. One day this girl was angry with Sahana-di for some reason. She stood up in the class and said, "You do not have your singing voice any more. Even Chinmoy-da says so."
It was only rivalry because this girl's mother was jealous of Sahana-di. Even so, it was very insulting and Sahana-di was so mad. It was all an utter lie, lie, lie. I had never even spoken to that girl. I was a great admirer of Sahana-di. She was so kind, so affectionate, so indulgent to me. But Sahana-di believed the story. When people speak ill of us, we always believe it. I told her that the report was absolutely false, but she did not believe me. She was so furious that she would not even talk to me.
This happened in 1947. That year Dilip-da was arranging a special programme in honour of India's independence. He wanted two hundred people to sing a song that he had composed for the occasion. The song was to be performed in front of the Governor's Palace. It was an excellent song in Sanskrit on India's freedom. The name of the song is "Avirbhuta bharata janani".
Sahana-di said to Dilip-da, "If Chinmoy sings the song, I am not going to sing." Who was I in comparison with Sahana-di? She and Dilip-da were such close friends. So Dilip-da's reply was, "Oh, who needs Chinmoy?" I received a message via one of Dilip-da's young friends that I must not join the group; I was discarded. And my brother Mantu, who could not carry a single note, was allowed!
The singers used to practise at Dilip-da's house. It was only forty metres away from our house, on the same street. Two hundred people could not be accommodated in his house, so some of them had to stand outside on the pavement.
While they were practising, I used to enjoy singing the song. Who could remain silent? I could hear it very well, even from my room. I learnt it very, very nicely. But I was not allowed to participate in the final performance. That was my punishment.
I suffered so much because one girl told a lie. I incurred Sahana-di's anger and also Dilip-da got really, really angry with me.
The story does not end there. Two years ago, my disciple Rintu sent me a few tapes from Singapore. He knows that I enjoy listening to our super-excellent Bengali singers singing songs by Tagore, Kaji Najrul and others. Anyway, one of the tapes was recorded by this girl's mother, Sahana-di's rival. As soon as I saw her picture on the cover, I immediately threw the tape aside with all the anger that was at my command. How much I suffered from her daughter's malicious lie! It took three long years for Sahana-di to forgive me.
She had written one short poem and one very long poem on Sri Aurobindo in Bengali. Both of them were in the same book. One day she handed me the book and said, "I want you to translate the short poem into English. If you do a good job, I will forgive you."
I immediately translated both the poems into English. When I gave her the whole thing, she forgave me. She had only been waiting for an opportunity to forgive me.
Dilip-da performs my song for the MotherA few years later, a superlative singer visited the Ashram. His name was Swami Chinmoyananda. He was a great admirer of Dilip-da, so he stayed at Dilip-da's place. He used to wear an ochre cloth.
It was decided that there would be a physical demonstration, a display of sports. In Gujarat, there is a kind of stick dance. Gujaratis call it gorba dance. It became almost compulsory for us to learn that dance.
I was inspired to compose a special song for the stick dance. I showed the words to Swami Chinmoyananda. By that time, I had learnt from him quite a few songs. Kaji Najrul Islam's famous song, "He Paratha Sarathi", I learnt from him. Swami Chinmoyananda liked my singing voice and he was very kind to me. He agreed to set my Bengali words to music. The song was about sixteen lines long. Only the first three lines I still remember:
Chal, chalre O bhai chal,
Peyechhi amara mayer ashish
amita sahasa bal
Satyer jai manrite chal chalre
One funny story: I translated the poem into English. My English teacher at that time, Norman Dowsett — who was very, very kind to me — changed a few words and made it into metrical form. At the bottom, he wrote "Translated from Chinmoy's original Bengali by Norman Dowsett." Then the song went to the press. The manager of the press was extremely nice to me. He said, "Does he know one word of Bengali?"
I said, "He knows a little."
Then the manager said, "For God's sake, say 'adapted', not 'translated'." So he changed it to "Adapted from the Bengali song by Chinmoy." This is Norman-da's most beautiful version:
Forward, comrades, ever forward
Forward, Comrades, Forward!
On to Victory —
On to Truth and glory
We have the Mother's courage,
Her strength leads now the fight.
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
Forward to the Light.
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
To The Golden Morn
With our Lord and Mother
March on to The Dawn.
Hark to the voices calling
Calling to Her Truth —
Sing, Comrades, sing the chorus
Of eternal youth.
We fear no death no sorrow,
All falsehood we have slain —
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
To the fight again.
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
To The Golden Morn,
With our Lord and Mother
March on to The Dawn.
Forward, Comrades, Forward
On to Victory
Our code of life is amity
Faith flames within each beating heart
And each heart beats as one —
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
Till the Race is won...
Forward, Comrades, ever forward
To The Golden Morn,
With our Lord and Mother
March on to The Dawn.
– Norman 19th June 1948
[Adapted from the Bengali Song by Chinmoy]
It was decided that this song would be performed by a group of fifteen or sixteen selected boys and Swami Chinmoyananda would conduct us. Dilip-da allowed us to practise at his place in the late afternoon. He had a very big house, like a mansion. Now it is one of the nursing homes. Anyway, while we were singing, Dilip-da used to be in an adjacent room.
Swamiji made repeated requests to Dilip-da to come and sing the song with us, but Dilip-da's reply was, "No, it is enough that you are there. They are all kids! How can I sing with them?" He never came, but he was gracious enough to give us his home. It was fine with us; he was such a great singer and we were all useless by comparison. For about two weeks we practised the song.
The day of the performance arrived. The Mother was there at the playground and about five or six hundred people had gathered to watch. Many, many children were performing different things. Boys and girls did their performances separately. The girls had various kinds of drills. Our group only had two things: first we danced with the sticks. Then we did a dance with a kind of sword or small dagger — not real daggers, but wooden daggers. We did karate-type movements—full of enthusiasm!
Then the time came for us to sing my song. It was around five o'clock. We were all ready. In front of us, our leader — Swami Chinmoyananda — was ready with his harmonium. Suddenly, like a storm, Dilip-da came running, panting and huffing, and practically pushed poor Swamiji aside. Swamiji did not mind at all. On the contrary, he felt so proud, so blessed, so fortunate. He had been one hundred per cent sure that Dilip-da was not going to sing the song because we were all kids.
The Mother was only seven or eight metres away when this incident occurred. But Dilip-da was the Mother's darling and Sri Aurobindo's darling. Who could say anything? According to them, whatever Dilip did was perfect, perfect, perfect. Dilip was always right. In the case of others, that kind of behaviour the Mother perhaps would not have appreciated.
When Swami Chinmoyananda was pushed aside, we became so nervous! Dilip-da had never practised with us. Then Dilip-da started singing the song and accompanying himself on the harmonium. O God! He knew the song so well. We were standing behind Dilip-da. We were about sixteen singers and we could also sing correctly and confidently, but our voices were nothing, nothing, in comparison to his voice.
Usually he had the sweetest voice, but on that day his became the loudest voice as well! He sang so beautifully, so powerfully. He literally drowned us out! Only Dilip-da's voice could be heard. It was as if we were all silent Brahmans! He was singing and singing at the top of his voice. That was Dilip Roy. We were not at all upset. We were the proudest human beings because Dilip Roy had sung with us.
The Mother was very, very happy with the performance. Then, as soon as it was over, Dilip-da came running to the Mother and fell flat at Her feet like a three-year-old child. His whole body was prostrated on the ground right in front of the Mother and he put his head on Her feet. The Mother, with Her infinite affection and love, bent down and pressed his head again and again.
This was Dilip-da's childlike heart. He was like the most affectionate child. He took away all the glory from Swami Chinmoyananda.
Then, while getting up off the ground, he took his time. While placing his head on the Mother's feet, he did not take time, he came running. But getting up, he took his time! How can I ever forget this incident!
After our performance was over, there were other performances, but Dilip-da did not wait for them. He went home.
See how life changes. Once he was angry with me and he would not allow me to sing. Then, a few years later, he was not going to sing my song. But he gave us his place to practise singing. He never, never came into the room to practise with us, but somehow he learnt the song. And, at the time of the real performance, he came running and threw the leader out!
Regarding Swami Chinmoyananda, I wish to add one very sad experience, perhaps the saddest experience. As you know, after leaving the Ashram, Dilip-da became a Guru. I, too, did the same. Swami Chinmoyananda cherished the desire to become a Guru. He was all the time wearing ochre cloth and beads. Now it happened that five or six seekers came to the Ashram from Sri Lanka. When they saw Swami Chinmoyananda, they invited him to come back with them to Sri Lanka. They said they would open up a centre and he would be their spiritual leader. So Swamiji left the Ashram and went to Sri Lanka with these seekers. They found in him a Guru but, unfortunately, this Guru could not satisfy them. After only six months, they beat him black and blue. Then Swamiji returned to the Ashram and begged the Mother to accept him once more. Alas, for various reasons, the Mother did not take him back.
My fate was fortunately otherwise. After five years in America, I went back to the Ashram for a short visit. The year was 1969. On the day I went to see the Mother, there was a long line of Ashramites waiting to be blessed by Her. The Mother meditated on each person for two or three seconds. Thirty people were ahead of me in the line.
All on a sudden, the Mother's main assistant, Champaklal-ji, came to me and said, "Mother wants you to stand in front of Her for as long as She wants."
My turn came. I stood in front of the Mother for Her blessings. Five long minutes She kept me there! Three times the Mother brought down my head and put it on Her knee. Then, when She raised my head, She examined my eyes, my forehead, my head — everything — with such compassion and affection. After five years' absence, how much affection She poured into me!
And about the disciples, Dilip-da is so fortunate to have found so many devoted and self-giving disciples. They call him Dadaji. I am also fortunate to have so many devoted and self-giving disciples.
Saturday evening soirees at Dilip-da's houseAt the Ashram, only a small garden separated the house where I lived from Dilip-da's house. He lived on the same block. Our house was at one end and his was at the other end. Every Saturday evening, he would sing and I went to hear him many, many times. My brother Mantu attended on a regular basis. He never, never missed. I started going there when I was quite young, at the age of thirteen or fourteen. Sometimes I stayed for an hour, or an hour and a half.
Thirty or forty Ashramites would be there to appreciate Dilip-da's singing. And the tabla player was either Anil Kumar or Nolini Sarkar. Nolini Sarkar did not stay permanently in the Ashram in those days. He was a great literary figure and a great singer as well. Dilip-da set to music two of his immortal songs — one about Sri Aurobindo and one about the Mother. These two songs have become so famous. He was Dilip-da's very dear friend and also the friend of Kaji Najrul Islam. It was Nolini Sarkar who took Dilip-da to see Barada Charan, the great occultist. Sri Aurobindo said about Barada Charan, "The greatest Yogi of Bengal."
Dilip-da used to play the harmonium while singing. When he was young, he used to play on the violin. He was an excellent violinist. Then he gave up. He said harmonium is best. He said the violin needed practice, whereas the harmonium does not need practice. The harmonium anybody can play.
When we used to go to his place, Dilip-da would sing four or five songs. They were short songs, but each one would take fifteen minutes at least. First he would sing the melody, without using words. Then he would add the words. Such a sweet voice he had. Dilip-da went on, went on, in his own inimitable way. Each time he sang the words, his devotion used to come to the fore, and he used to become more soulful. This was not fake devotion, but sincere devotion. And those who could identify themselves with him used to feel that they themselves were singing.
Ravi Shankar's unforgettable performanceOne year, I believe it was 1948, Ravi Shankar came to play at the Ashram. He played at Dilip-da's house. There were one hundred and fifty or two hundred people present in three rooms, on the porch and everywhere.
I was so fortunate to sit near Ravi Shankar during his performance. I was facing Ravi Shankar. I was a young boy of sixteen or seventeen. In those days, I did not have any problem to sit down cross-legged, in the half-lotus position. I was watching Ravi Shankar playing and I was so moved. How he played! The distance between us was perhaps two metres.
Now, can you imagine, Ravi Shankar and I have become dearer than the dearest! He is eleven years older than me and now he has adopted me as his youngest brother. Our connection all began because of Dilip-da. Whoever thought that history would play a most significant role in our lives! This was God's inscrutable Plan.
A few years ago, Ravi Shankar was telling me about Dilip Roy. They were very good friends. He told me that he stayed at Dilip-da's house for two days when he came to the Ashram. Ravi Shankar said about Dilip-da, "Such a great man, such a great man. But the Sri Aurobindo Ashram did not give him due honour."
Then Ravi Shankar was asking me about Sahana-di and Nishikanto. All the names of the great Ashramites he knows and he was asking me if I had known them. I was able to tell him that each of them was extremely, extremely kind to me.
Dilip-da and his friend Yogi KrishnapremWhen Dilip Roy was staying in Lucknow in 1923, he met a young English Professor named Ronald Nixon and they instantly became very close friends. Nixon had a deep love of spirituality and specially of Lord Krishna. When he took initiation from his spiritual Mother, he received the name Krishnaprem. Krishnaprem became a great devotee and Sri Aurobindo appreciated him highly. Sri Aurobindo said his third eye was open and he had all kinds of spiritual marks.
Dilip-da and Krishnaprem exchanged numerous letters over the years. And when Dilip-da's love and devotion disappeared, Krishnaprem used to scold him and force him to get back his love for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. He was a true, divine friend. He came only once to the Ashram, in November 1948.
Dilip-da brought Krishnaprem for Darshan Day. On that day, we young boys had to carry the shoes of two thousand disciples from the entrance to the exit. Disciples entered into the main Meditation Hall, and from there they went upstairs. I happened to be near the exit and I saw both of them go upstairs.
Both of them had red tilaks on their foreheads and they were wearing japa beads. Dilip-da had a single, long, loose strand of small beads around his neck. Krishnaprem had dark, thick, round beads and he had wound them twice around his neck. I remember that Krishnaprem was very tall and thin.
How did he come to accept his spiritual Mother? It is a story at once amusing and illumining. One evening the Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University invited this English Professor to come and dine at his place. As soon as Nixon saw the wife of the Vice-Chancellor, he fell down at her feet and said, "You are my spiritual Mother!" Everybody was so embarrassed. The wife herself was so embarrassed. But he said, "No, no, you are my Mother!"
He was such a highly educated Professor, a distinguished graduate of Cambridge University, and she was the Bengali wife of the Vice-Chancellor, a very aristocratic lady. Her name was Monika Devi. She never prayed or meditated, but she had a mystic personality and tremendous hidden depths.
The Vice-Chancellor himself was deeply embarrassed. He could not show his face to others. But finally he said, "All right. I can see that your devotion is so sincere. You can worship her."
So Nixon became a great disciple of this lady. She had never cared for spirituality. But, seeing the devotion of this young Englishman, she started praying and meditating.
After teaching for a few more years, in Lucknow and Benaras, Krishnaprem gave up and practised spirituality full-time at Almora under the aegis of his Guru. She took the name Yashoda Ma. Because of him, many, many disciples came to her. They could see that Krishnaprem was so highly advanced. Finally, her husband surrendered and he also became her disciple. He saw such beautiful, spiritual qualities in his wife.
Between Krishnaprem and the husband there was a great difference of age, but they became close friends. They were both disciples of the Vice-Chancellor's wife. Can you imagine!
A chance encounter with Dilip-daI have never seen Dilip-da walking on the pavement; he always walked in the street. As soon as I saw Dilip-da, I would get such a thrill. He had such unimaginable charm.
One day, around three or four o'clock in the afternoon, I happened to be coming back home from the Ashram when I saw Dilip-da in the street. He said to me, "Do you know where Prabhakar lives?"
Prabhakar Mukherjee was my Bengali teacher. He used to teach in Calcutta University. He was so fond of me. He used to come to my house and I would read him my poems. After I had been in his class for only six months or so, believe it or not, he wrote an article about me. And he was the one who secretly took two of my notebooks to Nolini-da to get Nolini-da's comment about my poetry. Nolini-da gave a very nice comment, but he asked Prabhakar-da not to tell me at that time.
Anyway, Dilip-da wanted me to show him where Prabhakar's house was. Can you imagine! Then Dilip-da said to me, "I am writing a poem in Sanskrit. I need the proper grammar for one word."
I said to him, "I can go and bring Prabhakar-da to you immediately!"
"No, no," he said, "I will go and see him."
Then I escorted Dilip-da to Prabhakar-da's place. It was quite far. We walked for a half mile or so. I did not dare to walk by Dilip-da's side. I stayed twenty metres ahead of him. He was in his singing mood.
When we approached Prabhakar-da's house, I screamed and screamed, "Prabhakar-da! Prabhakar-da! Dilip-da wants to speak to you!" Prabhakar-da came out of his house when he heard my voice. Then Dilip-da gave me a very big smile and again I came back.
Delivering letters to Dilip-daDilip-da corresponded with Sri Aurobindo on a daily basis, often two or three times a day, and Sri Aurobindo immediately replied at great length to all his letters. Nolini-da always delivered Sri Aurobindo's replies to Dilip-da.
Many years later, from time to time, Dilip-da also received letters from the Mother. I was Nolini-da's secretary. On four occasions, Nolini-da asked me to deliver a letter from the Mother to Dilip-da. I did not walk at that time. I practically ran from downstairs, screaming, "Dilip-da! Dilip-da! Dilip-da!"
Then he would call me up and I would give him the letter. What a beautiful, blessingful smile I used to get from him! That was Dilip-da.
Nolini-da defends Dilip RoyOnce somebody criticised Dilip-da mercilessly about his singing, about his songs and everything. The article came out in a magazine. There will always be critics. I was working inside Nolini-da's room. Dilip-da came like a child and pleaded, "Nolini-da, Nolini-da, can you imagine how badly I have been criticised? Now you have to defend me."
Nolini-da said, "What do I know about music? If it is any other subject, if you ask me to write about your spirituality, I am ready to defend you like anything. I know your high spiritual standard and all this. I will absolutely defend you. But what do I know about music? How am I going to defend you?"
Dilip-da said, "No, no, you can do it, you can do it, you can do it. You have to write something."
Finally, Nolini-da said, "All right, I will do it."
Then Dilip Roy said, "It has to come out in the same magazine. I will force them to accept your version about my musical talents."
Poor Nolini-da, the subject was quite new to him. But Nolini-da was a genius, a savant. He might not have had singing capacity, but was there any subject he did not know? Nolini-da had to read quite a few books and dive deep within before he started writing. Then he wrote an excellent article defending Dilip-da and highly appreciating Dilip-da's music. The same magazine accepted Nolini-da's version of Dilip-da's musical genius. That is why Dilip-da was so happy and so grateful to Nolini-da.
Always Dilip-da used to make that kind of affectionate demand. And he was at that time well over fifty years old. So this is how Nolini-da made Dilip-da happy and made the Mother and Sri Aurobindo happy.
Dilip-da receives payment for an articleOne experience is funnier than the funniest. In comparison to American dollars, Indian rupees are almost worthless. One dollar is equivalent to 45 or 47 rupees. Anyway, one magazine begged Dilip-da to write an article on music, so Dilip-da complied with their request. Then they sent him three rupees as payment — three rupees!
I happened to be there at the Ashram gate. He was telling the gatekeepers and a few members of the Ashram, "Look, they have sent me three rupees!" Then he said one Bengali phrase, 'Jatha labha,' which means 'whatever you get is a gain.' But he was not upset at all. He was laughing and laughing. "They have sent me three rupees for my article. Something is better than nothing!"
He was so laughingly, happily and proudly telling everyone that he had received three rupees for his article. Dilip-da came of a wealthy family. And from his record albums, his books and his performances in Calcutta and other places, he used to get lots of money. He was extremely, extremely generous to the Ashram.
Fame is, indeed, gain. Because of his fame, Dilip-da brought tremendous glory to the Ashram.
The dearest disciple of Sri AurobindoEach spiritual Master has many, many disciples, but again, each Master has a connection, a very close, closer, closest connection, with a certain student or disciple. Our Indian Avatar story starts with Sri Ramachandra. Sri Ramachandra's own brother, his younger brother Lakshmana, was absolutely his dearest.
Towards the close of Lakshmana's life, after he was compelled to leave the palace, Sri Ramachandra said:
Deshe deshe kalatrani
Deshe deshe cha bandhabah
Tantu desha na pashyami
Yatra bhrata sahodara
In Sri Krishna's case, his dearest one was Arjuna. In Lord Buddha's case, it was Ananda. In Sri Chaitanya's case, it was Nityananda. In Sri Ramakrisha's case, it was his Naren [Swami Vivekananda]. In Sri Aurobindo's case, it was this one: Dilip. Sri Aurobindo said that Dilip had been His physical son in a previous incarnation.
Dilip the golden voiceDilip had the sweet, sweeter, sweetest voice. Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Bose, Romain Rolland and many, many others extolled his voice to the skies. These are all non-singers, true, but they were appreciating Dilip on the strength of their oneness, on the strength of their divinity and so many other things.
It is very difficult for singers to appreciate other voices, but there are many, many singers who had the same opinion as these great figures — that Dilip had the sweetest, golden voice.
Once it was a very hot day and Dilip-da was singing a song about Meghnabali, the hero of our clouds. While he was singing that particular melody, all of a sudden there were clouds in the sky and then rain descended profusely.
Another time he was singing and the whole audience was transported to Heaven. Out of the blue, a deer came and stood in front of him.
Like that, Dilip-da had many, many experiences. Other singers, specially some of the classical music singers, are unbearably haughty. You cannot go near them. They refuse to accept lyrical songs. Unfortunately, there is always controversy between the singers of lyrical songs and the singers of classical songs. The classical singers find it difficult to appreciate melodious songs and vice versa. Dilip Roy was an emperor of lyrical songs. My songs are also lyrical.
Even now, when I hear Dilip-da's voice on tapes and CD's, it is unique, unique. His is a most haunting voice. To be absolutely frank, his voice has no parallel. If anybody asks me, among the singers whom I have heard over the years, right from my childhood, which voice is the best, I will put Dilip Roy's. His voice is so sweet that it is delicious. It is as if you are eating the sweetness of his voice. I can listen to him singing for hours. I have never heard and will never hear such a sweet voice as Dilip-da had. And he maintained his golden voice to the very end.
Dilip-da's physical appearanceSuch a great figure Dilip-da was! Such majestic appearance! He had a supremely indomitable vital and he had such charm, such mesmerising charm. The fragrance of his soul and his body and his heart were always available. There was such fragrance in the atmosphere wherever Dilip-da went.
In the Ashram, people did not appreciate it if you wore tulsi beads, japa beads. It was not in line with Sri Aurobindo's philosophy. But Dilip-da was beyond. Some people used to advise him to keep the beads inside his kurta or sweater, but he would not listen. He had to put them outside.
Dilip-da's manner of walkingDilip-da's house was just beside the Bay of Bengal. He was always humming and singing when he walked in the street or along the seashore. A wave of delight would emanate from him. Even if he was walking two blocks away, such charm he had. You could see from two blocks away that Dilip-da's fragrance, charm and beauty were there. And then, while singing in the street, he would raise his arms. Everybody used to get such joy. To see him, was to get immediate joy.
Many times I met him face to face when he was walking in the street and he blessed me with his smiles.
Dilip-da's free advice to meOnce you leave the Ashram, in the opinion of some of the Ashramites, you have touched the abysmal abyss; you are not meant for the spiritual life; you are nothing other than a useless fellow. Then wild criticism you have to face. Dilip Roy was the darling of Sri Aurobindo, but when he left, he had to face lots of criticism. People who once upon a time had been his great friends, his great admirers, all felt that he had descended. They did not want to keep any connection with him. Because of this, Dilip-da suffered a great deal.
Dilip Roy's father, Dwijendra Lal Roy, was an extremely gifted playwright and poet. The entire Bengal knew his name, and people throughout the length and breadth of Bengal sang the national songs that he composed. Such a great writer he was! The song that I always sing very loudly, to my heart's content, "Ghana Tama Sabrita", that is also his song.
When I was still in India, I was inspired to write an article about D.L. Roy in English. It is called, "Mother India in her Sweetest." I sent a copy of the article from Pondicherry to Pune, where Dilip-da was residing. There Dilip-da had established a temple. It is called Hari Krishna Mandir.
I requested Dilip-da to correct my article. He did so and sent it back to me with a letter. In that letter he wrote much about Nolini-da. He compared Nolini-da with his most illustrious father. I showed the letter to Nolini-da and his comment was: "Dilip is really mad! He compares me with his father." This happened in 1962.
After I came to America, again I sent my article on his father to Dilip-da in Pune. This time I requested permission to publish the article in my book about India's spiritual leaders entitled "Mother India's Lighthouse". Dilip-da wrote back to me appreciating the article very much. Then he added, "I am advising you, no matter how much you suffer, never, never go back to Pondicherry. People will say that you have gone to the dogs, but never go back."
I did not mention a word about the suffering that I had gone through in my American life for about two years. But he knew what he had gone through when he left Pondicherry for Pune, so that is why he gave me this most precious advice. Unfortunately, I could not comply with his request. In 1969, after five years in America, I returned to the Ashram for a brief visit and the Mother inundated me with Her compassion and affection. Then my life changed for the better.
That letter was my last contact with Dilip-da.
The magic of Dilip-Da's nameThis is how Dilip-da's name saved me. It is such a significant story. When I first arrived in New York, I obtained a position as a junior clerk at the Indian Consulate. I worked there from June 1964 until June 1967.
One day I was summoned to go upstairs and see the Consul General, S.K. Roy, immediately. "What have I done wrong?" I asked myself.
The Consul General's very name used to frighten us. He was so strict, so powerful. On another occasion, I was waiting for the elevator. It arrived and the doors opened up a little. When I saw that the Consul General was inside, I ran away. He screamed at me, "Ghose! Ghose! Come in!" I went inside. Then he said to me, "Am I a tiger? Am I a snake? What are you doing? Why did you go away?" I did not know then that he had developed some special concern for me.
Anyway, I went upstairs trembling. All the butterflies inside my heart were flying! The Consul General said, "Ghose, sit down." He was looking at me very sympathetically. Then he went on, "Here is a letter all against you from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is saying not to keep you at the Indian Consulate. You will cast a slur on it. All kinds of things they have said against you. They want me to dismiss you."
Here I was, poverty-stricken, helpless — and I was on the verge of losing my job. I was earning only $210 per month and, out of that, sixty or seventy dollars used to go for rent. I had a tiny room in an apartment with two other workers. The length of the room was only one foot longer than my height. Sometimes I would get hurt if my feet came down the wrong way. When I remember my poverty, I shed tears.
Suddenly, out of the blue, the Consul General asked me a question: "By the way, Ghose, do you know Dilip?"
I was surprised. I said, "Sir, do you mean Dilip Kumar Roy?"
The Consul General said, "Yes."
I replied, "I know Dilip-da so well. At the Ashram, I basked in the sunshine of his affection. He was always very kind to me. I can tell you so many stories about him."
"Then say something," said the Consul General.
I started telling him all about my connection with Dilip-da, beginning with my notebook of Bengali poems and the suggestions that Dilip-da made. So many incidents I related. I also told the Consul General that I had recently sent Dilip-da my article about his father, D.L. Roy, and that Dilip-da had sent me a letter highly appreciating the article. I added that Dilip-da had given me unsolicited advice: no matter how much I suffer in America, never to go back to the Ashram.
Then, in front of me, the Consul General tore the letter up into minute pieces and threw them away. He did not show me the letter. He said, "I am a personal friend of Dilip. Now I know what he went through."
About fifteen years earlier, Dilip-da went through the same thing when he left the Ashram and opened up a centre in Pune. The Consul General continued, "Since Dilip likes you so much, the matter is finished." The Consul General smiled at me and it was all over.
Can you imagine! The magic touch of Dilip-da's name saved me. Otherwise, God knows, my fate would have taken a wrong turn. My best credential was Dilip-da's affection for me. These things bring tears to my eyes.
Dilip-da's birthdayDilip-da was born on 22nd January 1897. Every year, on the occasion of his birthday, no matter where I am in the world, I observe that day with about four hundred of my students. We place Dilip-da's photograph at the front of the room and my students sing the songs I have written for Dilip-da. They also perform plays based on Dilip-da's life. This is our prayerful tribute to his great soul.
Then, the following day, on January 23rd, we celebrate the birthday of Dilip-da's dearest friend, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
In 1997, on the occasion of their Birth Centenaries, I wrote a series of poems entitled "Subhas and Dilip: The Mystic Friend Versus the Psychic Friend."
I discover a great admirer of Dilip-daIn June 1999, I was in India for a few days to visit my brother Mantu at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. One day I decided to visit Ramana Maharshi's Ashram, which is only two and a half hours away from Pondicherry. This was my fourth visit. I went there in 1956, 1958 and again about fifteen years ago.
When I arrived, I immediately felt that the entire Ashram was full of peace, peace, peace. I entered the main meditation hall. The statue of Ramana Maharshi inside the hall is most sacred. In 1956, when I first saw a statue of Ramana garlanded, I felt Ramana Maharshi's living presence inside the statue. This time also, this particular statue was absolutely living. Unfortunately, because of the condition of my knee, I was able to go round the statue only once. Then I sat down to meditate. The atmosphere inside the meditation hall was so sublime.
Afterwards, I wanted to go to the cave where Maharshi actually meditated when he arrived at Arunachala. I was told that it is a forty-five minute walk. Alas, I could not walk at all. When I went there, fifteen years earlier, I saw the cave and I had a very good experience. But this time it was impossible.
I decided to go and ask the President of the Ashram if it is really such a long walk. The President was not there, but the Vice-President was available. His name is Mani Ramanan. He and his older brother Sundaram, who is the President, are the direct descendants of Ramana Maharshi.
I entered into Mani's office and we began talking and talking. As soon as he heard that I had come from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, he was curious to find out if I had known Dilip Kumar Roy, the Golden Voice.
I told him that I knew Dilip-da in my adolescent years at the Ashram. Then I was able to tell the Vice-President many stories about Dilip-da and my own personal experiences with him. He was so happy and so moved to hear them. He is a great admirer of Dilip-da.
Part II — My favourite stories about Dilip-da
Tagore showers his affection on DilipRabindranath Tagore showed his nobility many, many times. This is one most significant incident.
Dilip Roy's father, Dwijendra Lal Roy, composed many national songs which are extremely soulful, powerful and authentic. Immediately they bring tears. Your tears will be found not only inside your eyes but inside your heart as well. The whole of Bengal is flooded with D.L. Roy's patriotic songs. He wrote quite a few supremely beautiful songs to arouse the slumbering sub-continent. Love of his country welled forth from his heart like a fountain. Some say his patriotic songs even surpass those of Tagore.
One of his most famous songs is "Bharat Amar". This song I sang in public with six boys. According to me, this is our most beautiful, most powerful, most meaningful national song. No Bengali villager will be ignorant of this song. He also wrote many, many plays. Tagore was no match for him as a playwright.
In the beginning, Tagore and D.L. Roy were good friends but, unfortunately, in human life friendship does not last. They became rivals and then they became virtually enemies, and Tagore gave up going to D.L. Roy's house.
Dilip's mother died when he was only six years old and he was brought up by his father. Alas, his father passed away in 1913, when Dilip was sixteen. By that time, Tagore had become so great. Dilip had the strongest desire to meet with Tagore and, at the same time, he knew that Tagore and his father had been at daggers drawn. How could he go and seek Tagore's blessings? Dilip did not dare to go and visit him.
One very famous Bengali novelist, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, wanted to put an end to this unhappy situation. He had tremendous affection for Dilip and he was also close to Tagore. Tagore once confessed that, as a novelist, he was no match for Sarat Chandra.
Anyway, this great writer took up the challenge. He said to Dilip, "Dilip, do not worry. Tagore will forgive you; he will hold nothing against you."
Dilip said to Sarat Chandra, "My father and Tagore were on such bad terms. Will Tagore agree to see me?"
Sarat Chandra assured him, "You are young. I am sure he will see you."
So, full of fear, Dilip went with Sarat Chandra to Tagore's place. Dilip was then still in his adolescent years. The young boy said to Tagore, "My father is gone. Can we not be reconciled?"
Then Tagore completely forgot his ill-feelings against Dilip's father; his magnanimous heart did not carry any animosity towards the son. On the contrary, he lavished all his kindness, affection, love and blessings on Dilip.
Dilip's nickname was Mantu. Tagore used to call him Mantu. My brother's nickname was also Mantu. Tagore was compassion incarnate. He encouraged Dilip in so many ways and Dilip visited him many times at Santiniketan and other places. This is how Sarat Chandra solved the problem.
In a letter to Dilip, Tagore wrote, "I have a sincere affection for you. My heart is attracted by your unmixed truthfulness and frankness."
This was Tagore's great nobility. Everybody will remember Tagore's greatness.
Dilip's conversations with TagoreDilip Roy had so many illumining conversations with Tagore. He used to visit Santiniketan for a few days and they would talk and talk. They also enjoyed their voluminous correspondence.
One conversation was so striking. Dilip was fearless. He said to Tagore, "Kabiguru [Guru of the poets], your songs, why do you not allow others to set music to them? Forgive me, but they could give better melodies to your most beautiful words. Why not allow them? They are great singers. They will do a far better job. Your own melodies are so simple."
Tagore responded, "Look, I give much more importance to my words than to my music. I am totally identified with the words. Words convey what I have from within. Words convey my feelings. When I write, words come to me first. Then the melody I give. Melodies do not convey feeling. So if others can give a better melody to my songs, I will not allow them because I know the words convey my feeling. They come from me directly. They give me such a sweet feeling. Words are so important in my life." This was Tagore.
Then a few years later, to somebody else, Tagore said about his poems which were set to music, "My words are like widows. But when they are set to music, they become like brides, most beautiful. When music comes, it is like a beautiful girl with all kinds of ornaments. But if the poem remains only as words, then it is like an Indian widow. The words have to give up all their beauty."
In those days, Indian widows could not have beauty. They had to cut off their hair, they could not wear jewellery and they had to lead an austere life. They became simplicity incarnate. They were all the time mourning the loss of their husbands.
To Dilip Roy, Tagore had to say that words come first, he did not care for melody, and then to somebody else he said that without melody the poem is a widow, there is no beauty, no charm. He changed his opinion. He gave two versions and I have read both. The thing is, he did allow five or six of his students to compose music for his poems, but it was very limited.
Tagore entertains Dilip and his friendsOnce Dilip Roy and his friend, the great poet-composer and singer Atul Prasad Sen and another very great singer, Uma Bose, were invited by Tagore to Santiniketan. When they arrived, they saw that Tagore was very upset. They said to him, "Why are you so upset today? We have come. You always show us such kindness and affection. Today something has gone wrong."
Tagore said, "Wrong? I have just received a letter from someone. He is getting married. He wants me to write a poem on his wedding. Can you imagine? I have to write a poem on his wedding! I am so upset. This is a joke."
Then he said, "Dilip, do not get married. And then, if you do get married, please do not ask me to write poems on your wedding."
Dilip assured him, "No, no, you do not have to worry."
Tagore said the same thing to Uma Bose, "Never get married. Marriage is not good at all."
Then Tagore told them a comical story about marriage. He said it happened in his name, but I doubt it very much. Tagore was another joker. This is the story that Dilip and his friends heard directly from Tagore.
Tagore's relatives found a bride for Tagore. In India, that is the tradition. First the relatives make the arrangements. Sometimes the bride and groom do not even see each other before the wedding; they have such faith in their elders. Anyway, the relatives went to see the future bride and they were very, very pleased with the girl. They said she was most beautiful, plus she was an accomplished pianist. She could also play some other instruments. She was expert in everything. So the marriage was all settled.
Tagore went with a few of his friends to see the prospective bride before making a final decision. After they had waited for a few minutes, a lady who was beauty incarnate came into the room and started playing the piano. She was playing so hauntingly. Tagore was so moved, so excited and so delighted that he was going to marry this particular lady. He was swimming in the sea of ecstasy.
For about ten minutes she played. Tagore could not resist. He said to his friends, "Let me tell her that I am ready to get married. I am ready to marry her!"
Tagore's friends said, "No, no, it is not proper etiquette! Do not do that kind of thing. You will definitely get married, but do not act out of turn. We will make all the arrangements."
They did not want him to misbehave. For ten or fifteen minutes, she played, and Tagore was all the time dying to tell her that he was going to marry her.
Then, after playing the piano so hauntingly, the lady turned to the guests and said, "Now I am sending in my daughter. She will come and play for you. She has been getting ready."
When the daughter entered the room, Tagore's heart fell. She was ugliness incarnate! The mother was so beautiful and they all thought that she was the one who was supposed to be the future bride. Tagore himself was all eagerness to marry her. But she was only entertaining the guests while her daughter was getting dressed. When the daughter showed her face, it was enough. She had no beauty, nothing.
Tagore was so disappointed and disgusted. He did not want to hear her music. He only wanted to disappear. But his friends did not allow him. They said, "No, it is not appropriate, not appropriate. You have to stay here with us for some time."
The daughter played the piano and went away. Then the friends informed the mother that the marriage was cancelled.
After telling this story, Tagore once more advised Dilip, "Dilip, never get married!"
This was Dilip Roy's funny, funny story about Tagore. Whether it actually happened in Tagore's life or not, we do not know.
By the way, I have recently come to learn that Atul Prasad's cousin was Sahana-di, my Ashram mother. What a small world! He himself was an excellent composer. I have freely borrowed the melody from his supreme song "Balo balo balo sabe" for my song "Chalo chalo chalo chalo".
Part III — Subhas and Dilip: The mystic friend versus the psychic friend
1.Dilip was born on 22nd January 1897, just one day before his dearest brother-friend Subhas Chandra Bose, who became known as Netaji, the Pilot Supreme of the Indian Boat.
Subhas is power's gong.
Dilip is beauty's song.
Dilip was a singer of the Source.
Subhas was a marcher on the Course.
True, two different approaches
To the Ultimate Reality.
They plied their life-boats
Lovingly and self-givingly
Between their reciprocal
Subhas said to Dilip,
"Dilip, come and join me immediately!"
Dilip said to Subhas,
"Subhas, come and join me wisely!"
God, the Author of all Good, said to them,
"My sons, both of you should remain
Wherever you are.
I want Subhas to fulfil Me
In his own indomitable way.
I want Dilip to fulfil Me as well
In his own inimitable way.
After your earth-departures,
In Heaven, one will march with Me
And for Me,
While the other will sing with Me
And for Me."
From the inmost recesses of his heart,
Subhas confided in Dilip,
"I am frequently in the vortex of politics.
I deal with many friends. Most of them
Are quite often perfect strangers to truth.
At least in you — in your soul, in your heart,
In your life — I have found
An unceasingly dependable friend.
Dilip, how can I ever forget
Your heart's spontaneous generosity?
You gave me ninety pounds
When I was in dire financial need.
A friend in need is a friend, indeed!"
Two affection-flooded friends;
Two true God-believer-friends;
Two heart-offering and life-illumining
Subhas the Truth-seeker
Or Subhas the God-lover
Remains either undiscovered
Or buried in oblivion.
Dilip is the dire challenger.
With his inner might,
He brought to the fore
His dearest friend's God-hunger-breath.
Dilip wanted Subhas to accept
The spiritual life
In the purest sense of the term,
For Dilip had always found in Subhas
A God-seeker par excellence
And a mystic of pinnacle-heights.
Dilip was all eagerness to bring Subhas
To meet with Sri Aurobindo.
It was Dilip's dream that his dearest friend Subhas would one day accept Yoga and go to the Source, the Goal Ultimate. Then, from the Absolute Supreme, he wanted Subhas to learn how to execute earth-bound ideas and Heaven-free ideals.
Subhas felt that Mother India's liberation should be his first and foremost goal. He did subscribe to Dilip's view that the highest Goal is God-realisation. But he was neither ready nor willing to have that loftiest Goal as his own, very own, for the time being. He believed that when the Hour of God strikes, the Hour itself will do the needful. Subhas wanted to climb up the life-tree progressively, step-by-step, giving due attention to each successive height.
Dilip was adamant. He did not want his dearest friend's burning God-hunger in the inmost recesses of his heart to remain totally, if not shockingly, dormant. Therefore, time and again, he made soulful attempts to bring to the fore his friend's genuine God-hunger-cries. No, never cleverly, but selfgivingly.
In return, Subhas offered his gratitude-heart to Dilip. Something is at once interesting and illumining: whenever he received blessings, concern and goodwill — even indirectly — from Sri Aurobindo, Subhas the heart blossomed into sincerity-appreciation.
[This chapter is an extract from a book which I wrote in 1997 on the occasion of the Birth Centenary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It is entitled, _Mother, Your 50th Independence-Anniversary! I am Come. Ever in Your Eternity's Cries and Your Infinity's Smiles, Subhas._]
Part IV — The birthday of Dilip-da
The birthday of Dilip-daI place my head at the Feet
Of the Absolute Lord Supreme.
I am now weaving a poem-garland
To offer to someone who is
A divinely and supremely high
Seeker, singer and poet.
Although I do now know
How to adore him,
I do know that his heart is all affection.
I wish to steal his heart
And I wish to hear his message divine.
Many great men and women
Of teeming virtues come to see him,
As in a pilgrimage.
I do not know how to offer my love,
Admiration and adoration to him.
The language of my silence-heart
How can I express in words?
I am only standing outside his heart-door
To salute him.
This poem, flooded with my admiration
And adoration, I offer for his birthday.
My heart is all eager
To conquer his affection.
–- Chinmoy, 22nd January 1948
Part V — My soulful song-offerings for Dilip-da
Dilip-da, Dilip-da, Dilip-da,
Tumi bhitare sada bahire sada
O Golden Voice, Golden Voice,
Your heart was everybody's choice.
Gandharva Lok hate esechile
Dharanire pran bhare diyechile
Tirthankar, Among the Great, Tirthankar
Vishwa sabhar apurba vidagdha antar
Gurudev Sri Aurobindo dulal
Tomar lagi animesh karuna dayal
Amader Dilip-da2Amader Dilip-da amader
Nil nabhe nil pakhi prabhater
Amader Dilip-da amader
Puta hiya Guru bani pracharer
Amader Dilip-da amader
Madhu priti madhu giti oparer
Amader Dilip-da amader
Saundarjya saurabh Gandharva Loker
DDA 27. Words and music by Chinmoy 24th January 1997.↩
Sri Aurobindo sneher baridhi Dilip Dilip Dilip3Sri Aurobindo sneher baridhi
Dilip Dilip Dilip
Sabar hiyai jwalate perechho
dibya premer pradip
Ekadhare tumi bhakati plaban
sangit giti sudha
Nimeshe nimeshe tomar jiban
turiya dhamer khudha
Sri Aurobindo's Compassion-Ocean,
Dilip, Dilip, Dilip!
You were able to ignite the lamp of
Divine Love in every heart.
You were at once the flood of devotion
And the nectar-song-music.
Sleeplessly your life was for
The Absolute Summit-Realm.
DDA 28. Words and music by Chinmoy 1st July 2007.↩