Relay race

In our Ashram athletic competition it was the relay race that used to give the athletes an automatic elan. Competitors of all ages, from children to old men and women, would take part in this event. Tagore's immortal utterance, "There is a race about being the first to offer one's life," cannot be applied here. Here what holds is: "Who can outrun whom and win the first place?" Our former groups C and D were like East Bengal and Mohan Bagan, engaged in terrible rivalry. And their supporters also gave themselves over to wild excitement.

In 1954, Baburam and three other children of Group A outran Nolini's team and Baburam was beside himself with joy. A youth questioned him: "By outdoing old people you become so happy?"

"No, no," came the prompt reply from Baburam. "We are happy just because we were able to defeat the Secretary of the Ashram. Can you dare defeat him in anything?" The poor questioner could not find his tongue.

It was through sports that Nolini could so intimately mix with children. Even now he keeps up that capacity. There is an affinity of soft feeling between Nolini's heart and the children's.

Here is one unforgettable incident: On the first of March, 1961, at about 3 p.m., Nolini was standing in front of the room where incense sticks are lighted for us at Sri Aurobindo's Samadhi. A child named Gopal who enjoyed his affection happened to be there. He asked Nolini: "Such a big line, one is going behind the other to the Mother for her blessing. What do you call it in French?"

"Queue," came the answer from Nolini with a gentle smile.

"No, it's wrong. My teacher Jayanti-bhai told me something else."

"All right. Ask Jayanti-bhai about the French word for 'line' and tell me tomorrow," said Nolini, patting Gopal on the back.

"No, why should I tell you?"

"I shall learn it from you."

"Then I am ready to ask Jayanti-bhai and let you know the word tomorrow."

One day Gopal will grow old. By that time most probably Nolini's French poems will be brought out in book form and Gopal as well as the rest of us will have the opportunity to read those valuable works. One day he will hear the great French savant Sylvan Levi's high appreciation of Nolini's command of French. Gopal may one day study Plato and Aristotle. Plato's comment on Aristotle was: "My academy consists of two parts — the body of my students and the brain of Aristotle." Perhaps Gopal will then find no difficulty in pointing out the Aristotle of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Perhaps also he will know the Matthew Arnold of Bengal in our Ashram, the author of Adhuniki, one among the first hundred Bengali books, and Tagore's comment on its rival sister Sahityika: "Nolini Kanta Gupta's contribution to Bengali literature is unique." According to Barindra Kumar Ghosh, "Nolini is the intellectual son ( manas-putra ) of Sri Aurobindo."

Let us end this account of Nolini's athletic career on a symbolic link with his spiritual career.

Nolini beginning his sprint and finishing the race can be seen in a composite photograph which makes him start at the Mother's feet and arrive at Sri Aurobindo's — an illustration of his Master's advice: "Accept the Mother. She will bring you to me."