Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Affable Writer: Aju Mukhopadhyay

An Interview by: Dr. T. S. Chandra Mouli

Aju Mukhopadhyay, the poet, critic and biographer, is a bilingual writer of fictions and essays. He has done some important translations on his way. He has authored 12 books in Bangla and 16 in English. His works have been recognized with awards by such bodies as The Writers Bureau, Manchester, Poets International, Bangalore, International Library of Poetry, USA, International Poets Academy, Chennai, (Excellence in World Poetry Award, 2009), Lucidity Poetry Journal, Sugar Land, USA and others.

His poems topped the list of some e-zines and websites like asianamericanpoetry and poetsindia. Earlier he edited three little magazines in Bengali. He is in the editorial board of some important Indian English Literary magazines. He has edited the American E-zine, twenty20Journal – summer issue 3, 2011. He regularly writes in magazines, e-zines and occasionally in newspapers. Many of his works have been translated in other languages and anthologized.

More than one and half a dozen of books contain his scholarly works on Indian English Literature and other subjects. Five books contain critique on his poetry. Quite some more books on literature and current affairs, books on Indian English Literature are in the press to be released. He is a member of the Research Board of Advisors of the American Biographical Institute who offered him the American Order of Merit. He is a writer of wildlife and Nature including animals. Conservation of Nature and environment is the watchword of his life.

Sai Chandra Mouli: Namaste, Aju da! You are so kind in permitting an interview. 
Aju : Dear Friend, Namaskar. I feel that you are kind enough to interview an unknown poet and writer like me. Whatever I might have done, whatever faith I have on my work, I would not be known even to deserving readers unless supported by big media and Government or such public institutions, as it is the position.

Sai: Since you call me Sai, I wish to retain that name for this interview. Thanks for your loving concern for friends. Tell us some thing about your friends, sir.

Aju: Sai is very mellifluous and intimate word so it attracted me long back and I call you so with your support. Certainly I love you. Friends! Childhood friends, school friends, office colleagues- most remain in their world, with most of them I have very little contact for our world has become apart. Now those like you, professors, poets, writers and editors with whom I have regular and newer relationship, whether in India or elsewhere, are my best friends for after all, we live in the same world.

Sai: We all know you are an ardent devotee of Sri Aurobindo. Kindly share your views, sir.

Aju: This is a very delicate question for literary link and spiritual connections are different things though they may be interlinked. My contact with Sri Aurobindo was very spontaneous even when I did not know him much. It was certainly a psychic connection. I am fortunate that after I visited Pondicherry and had more intimate contacts with him, at whatever the level though not physical, I realised that he was a creative giant in poetry and literature besides in other fields. He was one of the very early pioneers of Indian English writing though the quality of his work was akin to or more than an Englishman, as admitted by his teachers when he was studying in England from his childhood. So it is a two way help for me and added inspiration. Not only studying, I have written his biography and other books on him including some translation of his work.

Sai: Why did Sri Aurobindo choose Pondicherry to be his place?

Aju: During a very turbulent time in his revolutionary life, on the point of his fatal arrest even after he was twice discharged he received an inner call to go to Chandernagore, as it was called then, and after living underground for about one and a half months he received a divine Adesh to move to Pondicherry. So he embarked on a ship bound for Ceylon in cognito and reached Pondicherry with another companion on 4 April 1910 to pursue his yogic life. He went so deep into that life that he never again returned to British India even when they left the country. Both Chandernagore and Pondicherry were French territories beyond the jurisdiction of the British.

Sai: How it was then, and now [about the place]? 

Aju: At the time when he came to Pondicherry it was a deserted place with some political refugees from neighbouring areas like Madras, including poet Subramaniam Bharati, and some drunkards. Long after Sri Aurobindo came there his Ashram was established mainly by the Mother’s active help. The town is almost a city now, one of the most populated places in India; a busy tourist and commercial centre. This the Mother once predicted.

Sai: Why did you choose to settle in Pondicherry? Is it the place or people that enchanted you most? 
Aju: I settled due to my love for Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, to follow their ideal path in life. I liked the calm seashore town and got my two daughter admitted in the ashram school. A little before coming to this place I began writing in English besides my mother tongue. I did find better literary connections here through my writing in English. Thus, my bond gradually became concrete.

Sai: What is the impact of Aurobindo’s works on you? 
Aju: Firstly I have written on him and the Mother, translated them and have still been studying them. Certainly Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts and ideas, the essence of them are flowing into my consciousness which are being expressed through my works but that is not apparent for I have not tried to imitate or follow, in style or in anything else, any other poet or writer. My works are my own creations.

Sai: I once commented that there is a child in you. Do you remember? How could you retain the sweet smile and simple ways of a child even today? 

Aju: Thank you. But the child is in every person including you, expressed or suppressed. I feel myself optimistic and try to get the ‘ananda’ in everything, helped by my love and attraction for Nature including the wildlife. But I too have many defects and weaknesses which I always try to overcome, taking myself as a field for research and reform.

Sai: May we presume that your love of nature, birds and animals originated from your keen observation of life and man? 
Aju: It was my inherent love for them. I remember that from my childhood I felt attracted towards plants as were being watered by my grandmother. No other child in our joint family was found interested in them. This interest and attraction for plants may be said to be not superficial but ingrained in my vital-mental make up. When I find someone interested in plant life or birds I feel some affinity with them. This work with Nature and writing on it continues. I have just finished writing on flowers for a book, as called for. I have quite some prose works besides poems on Nature. Even my work on Royal Bengal Tiger has been appreciated in a magazine published from Cyprus (Creature Feature) and included in their special collection. I have written on quite a few animals besides on plants and other aspects of Nature.

Sai: Your passion for pictorial presentation of Nature’s splendour is well known in your creative works, photography and poetry. Please, comment. 
Aju: Really I feel attracted by pictorial representation of the different aspects of Nature as in photography or haiku. Yes in some magazines my work has been published supported by my photos. I do it as hobby. These are allied subjects, as my doodlings are.

Sai: Is photography your passion? Perhaps, it helps in designing some of the best covers for your books. Kindly elucidate. 
Aju: Your guess is right sir. Sometimes I suggest images, sometimes they have done the cover picture as I suggested, as in the cover page of Insect’s Nest and Other Poems (a book of poems).

Sai: Now, please tell us about your childhood, schooldays, college life, sir. 
Aju: Those days- from childhood to college days, living in a joint famiy, attending evening classes as I was engaged in office after I passed the School Final - were not very brilliant, were full of struggles. On the whole they were mediocre, but I never “Loath my childhood” as loathed Jean Paul Sartre. Those days, however mediocre and struggling, prepared me on the way to what I have done, what I am.

Sai: How could you manage your career as a banker and a creative writer? 
Aju: I would rejoice becoming a professor like you but I had no option than accepting whatever jobs were available. After some jobs of no importance in some private firms I joined a bank and continued till my voluntary retirement, serving it totally for little over 30 years in different positions in various villages and towns of India. Usually I was never addicted to my office. My job was necessary for me and nothing more. As writing you know, one writes because one has to write. So I served literature as much possible even while doing the then strenuous job of a bank manager in different grades. Certainly that time was not quite suited for this purpose but I did write from time to time. After I was freed from my job through voluntary retirement, I devoted more time for literature, I am still doing it with more vigour.

Sai: Please elaborate your experiences as a banker.

Aju: It is a down-to-earth job of deposit and advance; economy and finance. Frankly speaking, I did not find people of my genre there. They were more occupied with money and finance, with career and trade union. Though I tried to do it as best possible, studied and passed some professional examinations on the subject, I did not get much of pleasure therein. But certainly the service and my tour to different villages and towns gave me some good experiences; I enjoyed living at different places, mixing with people. Some of the experiences helped me write stories like “Slavery”.

Sai: How many languages do you know, sir? We are sure it has certainly enabled you expand the horizon of your consciousness. 
Aju: It may perhaps be said that I am an adept in Bengali and English but in the other languages that I learnt, I can talk or write, do not live with me in day-to-day life as I do not practise them regularly; like Sanskrit, Hindi or French. May be I can colloquially manage with more Indian languges but that does not arise here. Different languages help me write even when I write in one language.

Sai: In how many languages do you write? Kindly throw ample light on this aspect.

Aju: Usually two as I said. Being a Bengali I used to write in Bangla, my mother tongue but gradually and more as I moved out of Bengal I began writing in English. I find larger scope to publish in this language, get wider audience scattered not only in all corners of India but throughout the English speaking world. Instead of concentrating on little magazines and on rare occasions on commercial papers to get published where the scope is rather narrow, I find that writing in English gives more variety and diversity among congenial colleagues and papers. English is an Indian language now and its spread is not only welcome but almost essential for the unity among Indians in so far as the language is concerned. The only alternative was Sanskrit, the mother of all Indian languages; even where it is not directly the mother, it can easily be called the foster mother; if one searches, Sanskrit words, tales, legends, not only religious but secular, are available aplenty in all Indian languages. Sanskrit is the greatest influence in the evolution of all Indian languages. It is one of the best languages of the world, if not the best and is still living. India was cultured through Sanskrit language. There is no scope to go beyond it. The chance of Hindi becoming the only integrating or link language of India seems no more to be there. Without going into any dispute it can easily be said that English has stayed with the Indians and it is going to stay put, considering its spread in every educated corner of India. Even Hindi remaining as it is, English has every right to remain here as it is automatically accepted by Indians. English is no longer a foreign language though it might have been born in Britain. It is international language. Language depends on its acceptability and adaptability. By all considerations English is our language though it is not a language particular to any part of India; the original mother tongue of none in this country. It has become more Indian than other countries for the largest numbers of books in English are published here. We call it Indian English language. Its spread is inevitable. Let Sanskrit too spread taking all our love but English has stayed.

Sai: Your views about poetry in general and your own poetry, please. 
Aju: My view of poetry as expressed in a book yet to see the light of day is- poetry must contain pithy sayings in any form. Ideas vague or without carrying any clear meaning are examples of inappropriate poetry. Good poetry must be a synthetic product of thoughts, ideas, dreams and visions grasped intuitively. Imagery, symbolism, subtle ornaments make the poetry enjoyable; pleasant to hear beautiful to see. Whatever the force that dominates a poem a unique creation gives ‘ananda’. I have three trends in general as I find in my poetry: poems on Nature, poems based on some spiritual feelings and satirical poetry; poetry criticising the society but all the three trends might have intermingled in some poetries making them composite creations. I have a usual tendency of rhyming and creating rhythm. The process of writing involving emotions, feelings, verve and auto suggestions, pouring in of required words and other elements are different matters.

Sai: How about your fiction, sir? 
Aju: I bagan writing with short stories. I have three books of short stories in Bangla and two in English. My short stories have been anthologized. Some years of ago one of my short stories got second prize in a competition conducted by Bizz-Buzz, a small press publication. Recently one of my short stories (The Pride of a Woman) has been included in a book of Indian stories translated in German language, published by the University of Mumbai in 2011. I have been writing short stories for magazines and books which have been highly acclaimed by the critics. I have written one novel and intend to write another in near future.

Sai: Your literary essays are erudite and brilliant. When you are a creative writer, why this love for literary criticism? 
Aju: Thank you sir but not all my essays are literary criticism though many are. Besides literature I have written essays on Nature, Environment, Wildlife, Travels, Social, Political and on other subjects. Writing literary criticism too is my wont as it was with many and still with some writers. I try to evaluate the works of bygone poets and writers as well as contemporary ones with a clear thrust to focus on the strength and weakness of each writer, particularly the contemporary ones. I try to focus on the heart of the creator. Though more of the positive sides I focus sometimes I mention which I feel the weaker side too. This gives an edge to my literary practice though I do not claim that my comments or views are infallible always. Literature is a field of subjective study.

Sai: Does the process help you in introspection? Is there a sort of cathartic effect? 
Aju: It gives edge to my writing and a bigger perspective to compare. The conflict that ensues sometimes gives scope for introspection but they are not very pronounced always.

Sai: You are a translator of repute. May we know your views on translation as a process as well as a product? 
Aju: True that I have translated fiction, non-fiction and poetry too in reputed journals but it is not known if I have reputation though such translated works have been acclaimed by some critics. I feel like many others that translation has helped and has yet to help the process of integration in the sense that Indian works of one corner are known to the other corner through translation. It is equally applicable to translation from foreign languages and translation of Indian works into foreign languages. One thing I feel necessary to mention is that to be a translator one needs to be an adept in both the languages one is working with.

Sai: Your personal experiences as a translator, please. 
Aju: I have not faced any problem in translating works of other writers. Only one thing I remember is that each such translation takes more time than original writing as I try to be more faithful to the writer’s ethos and his exposition in a work than translating his words though I never skip words in the original to avoid.

Sai: Which book you wish to translate and why? 
Aju: Now you have put a question which I wished not to mention while referring to works of my criticism. Though a book on contemporary Indian English poets by me is in the press I wish to avoid writing criticism and translation of more works for paucity of time than for any other reason. I do not wish to avoid not because they may give rise to controversy or there may be misunderstanding in writing criticism, I wish to face them if required; but really I am so pressed to write essays (criticism too may be an essay but that is not necessarily on a contemporary writer) in response to calls for papers, for an intense urge to write fiction, poetry or other non-fiction subjects that I want to avoid writing reviews in particular. I have my essays published in some 20 voluminous books on Indian English Literature. Quite some more are in the press.

Sai: A personal question, sir. What is your typical daily routine? 

Aju: My childhood routines were different, mostly spontaneous without much of control or regulation. After adulthood my routines have changed in the course of time for change in place of stay or change in the routine of service time, etc. But certain things I always manage to do since long; doing yogasana, bit of gardening and meditating. Now for so many years I usually live at home. While at home in Pondicherry I do some pranayama and meditation in the early morning before my visit to the Ashram for pranam. Back home I do sort of Bhuta Yagna- giving morning foods to cats, dog, fishes and crows. Sometimes the dog is fed later. Then I do some eye exercise with Surya after breakfast. The day goes on with literary works, reading and writing, but now-a-days my pens have become redundant (keeping some half a dozen pens ready to use as writing aid was my hobby until a few years ago) as the writing is mostly done on the computer screen. Pens are used to write some registers or such things, poems mostly, but their use has been minimised as a matter of course. I regret that the object of my love has no longer to give me company regularly. I go out sometimes for work at bank or Government or some other offices when needed. In the evening I do Yogasana, service to plants and brisk walking before dinner in the evening. The other things are personal and do not attract attention.

Sai: I know that it helps us know better about you as a person too.

Aju: Thanks much for putting this question. But I do not think I have much to say other than what I am replying. After all, I am and shall be known by the works I do, literary and others. Other things are otiose. The rest about my self is known to the Divine only.

Sai: How about your concerns at the moment? 
Aju: Yes sir, this is very important. More and more I am feeling that man’s basic character has remained the same. Ordinary men and women were at succeeding times under the rules of the despots; kings, feudal lords, sultans, nawabs, zamindars, dictators and the Governments (represented by the ministers) and still they remain so under differing situations in different countries. Whoever gets a chance rides over others’ backs and rules in different degrees, over their own people, over the other countries. All else are shows. All struggles lead to insignificant changes. Money, power, sex and ego (personal gratification) are still the guiding force. Man has remained the same; only the roles with appropriate dress codes have changed, masks are different. Instead of zamindars, nawabs and dictators we now see the legislators and parliamentarians ruling. It is more difficult to rule them than voting them to power. I do not say that nothing has changed, for many things have changed in spite of apparent sameness due to evolution of consciousness, in how much time as it has taken, as Sri Aurobindo has said. By will and yogic action man’s consciousness may so change that he may feel others as he. If it happens no one will have the urge to shine at the cost of others. The essential competition which mostly drags man down than pushes up will change into a scope for collective and individual progress. Sri Aurobindo never suggested any social or political method to change man’s fate but to rely on the divine and reach a stage through transformation to be one with the divine essence, when to man the world becomes one, all are relatives- the whole world, “Vasudha”, will become “Kutumba”. That is what Sri Aurobindo has dreamed for man of the soil; to live “The Life Divine”. He said that it is quite possible by will and effort.

Sai: How about your feeling about your own creative work and life, sir? 
Aju: More and more I feel that creativity only sustains my life. How and to what degree it is, may be seen and judged by others who may know.

Sai: Some time back you returned from America. How did you spend time there? 
Aju: Oh great! My two daughters live in two corners of America; New York and San Francisco. They know what I want and love as they too, like me. They made all arrangements for our travel to mainly the Nature and Wildlife areas of America and of course some other remarkable cities and places we sojourned. The whole will make grand travel documents. Yes, I travelled to US and Canada this time and took many remarkable snaps to record the events. Apart from this I have observed American life to some extent and have studied a bit of their history. Together they may make a good write up on America. Let me hope, let time fix the programme, helped by the real.

Sai: Is it beneficial to participate in literary meets here or in other countries? Your own experiences, please.

Aju: I have the experience of so participating at different parts of India and mostly I liked and enjoyed them. Not only meeting each others, exchanging ideas, reading poetry or joining literary discourses, usually such meetings help understanding between men and women, they help progress of life and literature towards formation of better culture.

Sai: Awards are said to be tokens of recognition. Your opinion, sir. 
Aju: Yes they ought to be so. But by now it is known how the bigger sorts of awards and prizes depend on recommendation, push and pull, personal favour and in many cases on political compulsion. I pray that all such things melt into one consideration; the merit of creation. Not an excuse but in my case, whatever the awards and honours I have so far received have come from less known and distant quarters without any link or consideration before. Up to this that is my satisfaction. But leaving aside the defect in the system it is true that awards are tokens of recognition which helps the struggling poet, writer or artist by encouragement.

Sai: How could you manage creative work in several genres? Is there a season for any one in particular? Hahaha!

Aju: Inspiration for poetry may visit you any time, inspiration for other works too may goad one for some time but usually they depend on the call, mostly external like call for papers, for poetry submission or asking for a story. Yes I feel urge to write on many such forms of literature inwardly though they are more activated when someone invites submission. Usually when I work on serious paper or story they engage me entirely except attending to other essentials like correspondences, etc. When I do one type of work, more inspirations from the same fount press for their expression.

Sai: The word ‘season’ reminds us of your love for conserving nature and her pristine beauty. How active are you in this regard?

Aju: Yes sir, I have the urge to be active. Besides maintaining my rooftop garden and helping nature and animal welfare in my vicinity, I try to be in it by donating to organizations humbly, by renewing membership with such organizations as BNHS and Society for Science and Environment (Down-To-Earth) for support of their activities. I am in touch with quite some organizations which conserve nature and help animal welfare. I help by adding my voice of grievances, in writing messages or signing letters through some NGOs. Not an activist as earlier by taking part personally, I help through literature. On the whole everything depends on the people you vote. I had a garden with my residential home in a nearby place. I must say that the commercial minded people and their helpers with the support of petty vote seekers so planned to pressurize me that I was compelled to sell that plot with garden, witnessing its destruction. Now an apartment building hides man’s shame there with caves for living. Modern world lives in such caves but when it is over the graves of living nature they hide the shame of man.

Sai: Pondicherry is invariably connected with Auroville and the Mother. Kindly tell us about the Ashram, Auroville and the divine role of the Mother, sir. 
Aju: Pondicherry is a seaside town surrounded by Tamil Nadu but is independent; an Union Territory. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is in the heart of the town. The Ashram grew up under the auspices of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother but Mother was the de facto founder of the Ashram. While Sri Aurobindo entirely plunged into yogic life from 1926, not even coming out of his room area even once but doing the only other work of writing and guiding disciples through written words, Mother, other than being the active collaborator of Sri Aurobindo in spiritual life and sadhana, was active too in the outer life. The whole of the ashram grew up under her guidance and work and expanded until her last day. She did it. Auroville, an international township, belonging to no country, no nation, race, religion or creed; approved by the UNESCO was founded in 1968 by the Mother as per the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, taking the name from Sri Aurobindo or Auro and Ville meaning town. Auroville is some 10 km away from Pondicherry town, mostly in Tamil Nadu. People from various countries of the world have settled and work there. It is another spiritual endeavour. While Mother guided its formation and directed the activities and advised her children about the life in Auroville, she never even for once visited it physically, telling that Sri Aurobindo’s Samadhi was there in the ashram, below her room and she was there. . .

Sai: Your message for emerging writers, please! 
Aju: I too am an emerging writer going from step to step. I do not know where I am exactly . . . But if you talk about the younger writers I shall tell them to improve creatively with all efforts so their work may be of some classic nature and to create a situation so that creativity is judged in its intrinsic value. All sorts of deception or show lower the creativity. I believe that creativity is something inborn, developed by further culture. Each man or woman has some genius hidden inside, the Mother hinted, but it is to be found out with all sincerity. Family, country, relationship with the powerful and every other external influence do not help genius to bloom. Any show with such aids lowers the atmosphere, whether understood during the writer’s lifetime or after.

Sai : What is your prognosis about Indian Literature in English? 
Aju: I have already said that the situation as it is, English remaining the most popular and chosen international language, remaining the real link language in India, its growth and development forecasts that it shall grow to a greater height in India and Indian English Literature will be a treasure of all Indians.

Sai: Thanks for sharing your views and sparing your invaluable time for us. We seek your blessings, sir. 

Aju: Oh, feeling shy of your last remark. I appreciate that your questionnaire covers the large canvas of our life and literature. I have for all poets, writers, editors and others in the field, hearty wish for better and greater success in the times to come.

[Parts of this interview published in Studies In Multicultural Literature, edited by T.Sai Chandra Mouli, published by Aavishkar Publishers & distributors, Jaipur recently]  

India forever India by Aju Mukhopadhyay

India, a vast country like a continent, containing almost all the physical, mineral and environmental varieties of the world, a fountain head of spirituality, was the cradle of one of the oldest civilizations on earth. I think like Swami Vivekananda that it was the swing of my childhood, grove of my youth and it is the Varanasi or the divine refuge of my mature age. I wish to share Rabindranath Tagore’s emotion that my birth here is significant:

 Born in your lap, nurtured by you, living in different parts of your body, I shall die somewhere in you, O Mother! 

Rig-Veda is the first primary source and available record of Indian civilization. Of this Sri Aurobindo said, 
“Rig-Veda is itself the one considerable document that remains to us from the early period of human thought of which the historic Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries were the failing remnants, when the spiritual and psychological knowledge of the race was concealed, for reasons now difficult to determine, in a veil of concrete and material figures and symbols which protected the sense from the profane and revealed it to the initiated.” (Veda/5-6)
Bounded by the mighty mountains on the north, extending to the north-west and north-east, peninsular India has sea on all other sides. These are the natural boundaries for millennia. It was the birthplace of Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayanaand Mahabharata, the cultural and intellectual products of the great Aryan civilization. Mohenjo-daro and Harappan sites may be some of the physical remains of the same and related civilization. There has not been any proof of Aryan invasion and destruction of any preexisting Dravidian civilization. With Innumerable admixture of peoples from other countries and cultures India remains great throughout the ages. It has spread its cultural fragrance to other corners of the globe but seldom invaded others to spread its territories. Though not politically, culturally and physically Bharat has ever remained one; a unified country, which is revered by her sons as the mother. 
“I look upon my country as the Mother. I adore her. I worship Her as the Mother. What would a son do if a demon sat on his mother’s breast and started sucking her blood? Would he quietly sit down to his dinner, amuse himself with his wife and children, or would he rush out to deliver his mother?” (Sri Aurobindo/82)
Rig-Veda keeps the secret of herself in it, to be treasured by the flowing humanity.

Efforts to Desecrate Ancient Indian heritage foiled

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the ruling British scholars took special interest in finding the truth of ancient India. They made indepth study of Sanskrit language and its relation with other European groups of languages. Their similarities led them to name the whole group of languages as Indo-European language of which Aryan comprised the leading part. After the discovery of Harrappa and Mohenjo-Daro sites, known as the Indus Valley Civilisation, the rulers and the like minded scholars found out, to satisfy their superiority, that Aryans were the people originating in Europe spread to India and other areas who destroyed the Dravidian or the Indus Valley Civilisaiton.

Beginning with Mortimar Wheeler numbers of foreign scholars took interest to prove that India had the Dravidian people and other ignoramuses like hill living tribes who were driven out by the superior Aryan people. Many Indian scholars too helped them in explaining and elaborating such theories. Frederick Max Muller, the German scholar living in England, favoured specially by none of the two countries, took great interest in proving the above theory with apparent show of educating and civilising India with the aim of and by way of conversion to Christian religion. Historians and Indologists like Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, R. K. Mookerjee, D. D. Kosambi, Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, K. D. Sethna, N. Rajaram, Romila Thapar, and many others were and are on the job of elucidating the Indian past.

Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900) was a great Indologist and scholar who twistedhis scholarship, sometimes contradicting himself, to propagate his ideas for a distinct purpose of denigrating Indian past, to help getting it converted to Christianity. Professor Ratna Basu of Calcutta University in her paper “Max Muller’s Indology Revisited” observed, (Read at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata; 15-16 December, 2000). 
“If we survey his long life, we find India alone had been the centre of all his herculean intellectual efforts and outstanding academic creations. He tried to uproot our established perceptions of our own past and transplant new ones in their place. We had believed that our Vedas had a divine origin and had existed from eternity. He, by publishing for the first time the full text of the Rig-Veda along with the 14th century commentary by Sayana in six volumes between 1849 and 1873, tried to convince us that Rig-Veda was man made and that its antiquity did not go beyond 1200 B.C. We knew that Rig-Veda led us through a maze of multiplicity of cosmic deities to one ultimate reality, but Max Muller told us that Rig-Veda reflected the religious yearnings of a nature fearing primitive man and it neither represented polytheism, nor monotheism, rather henotheism, a word coined by him.”
She further wrote, 
“Not that Max Muller was not aware of the hoary antiquity of the Rig-Veda. In his Autobiography, written in his last days and published after his death by his son, he admits: ‘As to the actual date of the Veda … if we were to place it at 5000 B.C. I doubt whether anybody could reduce such a date, while if we go back beyond the Veda, and come to measure the time required for the formation of Sanskrit, and of the Proto-Aryan language, I doubt very much whether even 5000 years would suffice for that. There is an unfathomable depth in language, layer following after layer, long before we arrive at roots, and what a time and what an effort must have been required for their elaboration, and for elaboration of the ideas expressed in them.’ [1]
“Max Muller knew the thing at heart but wrote the opposite and talked controversially. His design is clear from his letter to his wife in 1866, ‘I am convinced, though I shall not live to see that day, that this edition of mine and the translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India … . It is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years.’ (Max Muller/V.1)
“In a speech delivered in the hall of St. John’s College on request of the Vicar of St. Giles in 1887 he said. ‘When I undertook to publish for the University Press a series of translations of the most important of these sacred books, one of my objects was to assist the missionaries. What shall we think of a missionary who came to convert us, and who had never read our Bible . . .’ (MaxMuller/V.2/455)
While he wrote for his own purpose it struck the right cord in another heart without his knowing.

Sri Aurobindo’s biographer writes, 
“While reading Max Muller’s translations in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ series, he came across the idea of self or Atman. This struck him as some reality and he decided in his mind that Vedanta has something that is to be realized in life.” (Sri Aurobindo/35)
It will not be out of place to add the address of Lord Macaulay to the British Parliament on 2 February, 1835 to view the similarity of their purpose.
“I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that, I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and ummariz heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.” (Web)
Taking a clue from Professor Asko Parpola of the University of Helsinki, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu made huge propaganda in favour of Tamil language and covertly of the community for his political purpose which was resented later by other personalities of similar importance. True that Tamil is one of the oldest extant languages of which some links were discovered by professor Parpola with the Indus Valley scripts which remains, in spite of all claims so far, undeciphered. Asko Parpola was awarded ‘Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award’ on 23 June 2010 by the President of India at Chennai with much fanfare.

Let us quote from the speech given by Parpola on the occasion, as reported by a newspaper: 
“‘While Tamils were entitled to ‘some pride’ for having preserved so well the linguistic heritage of the Indus valley civilization, Tamil was not alone in India in possessing a rich heritage’, Asko Parpola, Professor-Emeritus of Indology, Institute of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland, said on Wednesday. . . . ‘There are, of course, different opinions, but many critical scholars agree that even the Rig-Veda, collected in the Indus Valley about 1000 BCE, has at least half a dozen Dravidian loan words,’ he told a large gathering.” [2]
In the introductory part titled, “The Indus Civilization and its historical context”, Parpola, the author of the book writes, “No unambiguous information has been preserved to tell us the names of the Indus kings or their subjects, the name of the gods they worshipped, or even what language they spoke. The Harappan language and religion continue to be among the most vexing problems of South Asian protohistory.” (Parpola/ 3)

But inside the book he has the other story to tell following the footsteps of some early Western scholars with some details like, 
“In the third millennium when the Aryan languages had probably not yet arrived and the Gangetic Valley had not yet become intensively cultivated . . . the Harappan languages are likely to have formed the majority of the South Asian population . . . . the Dravidian family is the best match for Harappan among the known non-Aryan families of long standing in South Asia . . . . about one-quarter of the entire population spoke Dravidian.” (Parpola/169)
He thought that the Aryan language did not arrive before1000 B.C.

Let us now come to Sri Aurobindo, the scholar, social thinker and philologist who was the greatest interpreter of Vedas as he linked up with the origin of it as seen or heard by the Rishis, the recorders of such Shruti, through his yogic power. He found out the symbolic meaning of the words of Veda and wrote them with elaborate explanation which was far from the ken of an archaeologist or a scholar. He wrote as if he visualizing the scene of awarding professor Parpola, 
“The philologists have, for instance, split up, on the strength of linguistic differences, the Indian nationality into northern Aryan race and the southern Dravidian, but sound observation shows a single physical type with minor variations pervading the whole of India from Cape Comorin to Afghanistan. Language is therefore discredited as an ethnological factor. The races of India may be all pure Dravidians, if indeed such an entity as a Dravidian race exists or ever existed, or they may be pure Aryans, if indeed such an entity as an Aryan race exists or ever existed, or they may be a mixed race with one predominant strain, but in any case, the linguistic division of the tongues of India into the Sanskrit and Tamilic counts for nothing in that problem. Yet so great is the force of attractive generalisations and widely popularized errors that all the world goes on perpetuating the blunder talking of the Indo-European races, claiming or disclaiming Aryan kinship and building on that basis of falsehood the most far-reaching political, social or pseudo-scientific conclusion.” (Veda/553-554)
Let us read some more pieces out of the vast work he did on the Veda.
“The symbolism of the Veda depends upon the image of the life of man as a sacrifice, a journey and a battle. The ancient Mystics took for their theme the spiritual life of man, but, in order both to make it concrete to themselves and to veil its secrets from the unfit, they expressed it in poetical images drawn from the outward life of their age.” (Veda/ 175)

“Secret words that have kept indeed their secret ignored by the priest, the ritualist, the grammarian, the pundit, the historian, the mythologist, to whom they have been words of darkness or seals of confusion and not what they were to the supreme ancient forefathers and their illumined posterity . . .” (Veda/202)
These are the words of revelation by the yogi and the greatest interpreter of the Veda. If there are half a dozen Tamil loan words in Sanskrit language there are hundreds and hundreds of Sanskrit words in all the languages of South India. See everywhere; in personal names, names of shops and institutions and parks, in songs where they love to add Sanskrit words; in every temple Vedic chanting is done. Even when attempts were made to appoint priest from the common folk in Tamil Nadu it was resisted vehemently and the court had to disallow it.

Again in October 2011 the Madras High Court has dismissed a writ petition challenging the engagement of security guards from the pool run by other religious denomination for a temple under its jurisdiction, telling that even a contractor cannot be engaged if it is run by other religionists as the temple is Hindu temple and it is a matter of their faith; it is not a state affair.

Sanskrit is the backbone, the flowing blood in all Indians; they love it with the love for their regional tongues. It is the source of the Mother Tongue of most of the north Indian languages. Ancient India still runs through the veins of India as the river Saraswati flows unseen. Indian people are the same with innumerable variations due to huge admixture in the past and present but basically, culturally India is one. Any fissiparous tendency and attempt is doomed to failure. Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, M. K. Gandhi, Radhakrishnan, K.D. Malavya, Jawharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad and host of other great names in the nineteenth and twentieth century were the voices of integration and unity. Going forward in tune with the past, breaking from it whenever it is obscure and obsolete, is our holy aim.

Speaking about the vigour and achievement of India in the past Sri Aurobindo observed,
“Not only was India in the first rank in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, surgery, all the branches of physical knowledge which were practiced in ancient times, but she was, along with the Greeks, the teacher of the Arabs from whom Europe recovered the lost habit of scientific enquiry and got the basis from which modern science started. In many directions India had the priority of discovery,- to take only two striking examples among a multitude, the decimal notation in mathematics or the perception that the earth is a moving body in astronomy,- cala prithvi sthira bhati, the earth moves and only appears to be still, said the Indian astronomer many centuries before Galileo.” (Indian Culture/67)
In general, he said, 
“The ancient Indian culture attached quite as much value to the soundness, growth and strength of the mind, life and body as the old Hellenic or the modern scientific thought, although for a different end and a greater motive.” (Indian Culture/427-428)
The soul of Indi has survived all barbaric onslaughts for two thousand years. In the concluding part-4 of his ‘Indian Polity’ Sri Aurobindo’s ever positive mind ummarized his long discourse on India. He said,
“India has never been nationally and politically one. India was for close on a thousand years swept by barbaric invasions and for another thousand years in servitude to successive foreign masters . . . . (Indian Culture/363) 
He further analysed, 
“The problem that presented itself at the beginning was that of a huge area containing more than a hundred kingdoms, clans, peoples, tribes, races, in this respect another Greece, but a Greece of an enormous scale, almost as large as modern Europe.” (Indian Culture/366) 
The whole of the continent was divided into many kingdoms or different divisions, there arose no question of political unity except under some great or powerful kings who won and unified as it happened during reign of Asoka, during the Mughal period and during the British period. India has peculiar mental and spiritual make up. This Sri Aurobindo explains, 
“The whole basis of Indian mind is its spiritual and inward turn, its propensity to seek the things of the spirit and the inner being first and foremost and to look at all else as secondary, dependent, to be handled and determined in the light of the higher knowledge and as an expression, a preliminary or field or aid or at least a pendent to the deeper spiritual aim,- a tendency therefore to create first on the inner plane and afterwards in its other aspects. This mentality and this consequent tendency to create from within outwards being given, it was inevitable that the unity India first created for herself should be the spiritual and cultural oneness.” (Indian Culture/366)
He further explained that Rome and Greece though militarily unified, could not endure. He did not find a fault in Indian mind, rather a special trend he found in it:
“It is due to this original peculiarity, to this indelible spiritual stamp, to this underlying oneness amidst all diversities that if India is not yet a single organized political nation, she still survives and is still India.

“After all, the spiritual and cultural is the only enduring unity and it is by a persistent mind and spirit much more than by an enduring physical body and outward organization that the soul of a people survives.” (Indian Culture/366-67)
1. Max Muller, My Autography. Indian reprint, N. Delhi, 2002, pp. 120-121. Published in ‘Dialogue’; a quarterly journal of Astha Bharati. January – March, 2008. V. 9. No.3
2.The Hindu. Chennai, dated 24 June 2010

Work Cited
1. The Life of Sri Aurobindo. A. B. Purani. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department. 1978. Fourth Edition.
2. The Secret of the Veda. Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry; SABCL, Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 1971. V.10.
3. Life & Letter. Max Muller. Asian Education Service. 2005. V.1 and V.2
4. Deciphering The Indus Script. Asko Parpola. New Delhi; Replica Press Pvt. Ltd. 2000. p.3
5. The Foundations of Indian Culture. Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry; SABCL, Sri Aurobindo Ashram. V.14.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Did Sri Aurobindo & The Mother Foresee This Time? By Bhaga

Yes, we are rapidly coming already towards the last part of this famous Year 2012 that is supposed to mark the end of things as we know them, and the beginning of… Something Else.
Did Sri Aurobindo and the Mother foresee such a special period as the one we find ourselves in presently?
In Sri Aurobindo’s great poem, ‘Savitri’,  there is a passage when Ashwapathy, the King in ancient India who will become the father of the feminine divine Incarnation that will be Savitri, tells how his consciousness, in a moment of extraordinary vision, saw the far future of the Earth:
‘It saw from timelessness the works of Time.
Overpassed were the leaden formulas of the Mind,
Overpowered the obstacle of mortal Space:
The unfolding Image showed the things to come.
A giant dance of Shiva tore the past;
There was a thunder as of worlds that fall;
Earth was o’errun with fire and the roar of Death
Clamouring to slay a world his hunger had made;
There was a clangour of Destruction’s wings:
The Titan battle-cry was in my ears,
Alarm and rumour shook the armoured Night.”
Well, even for those readers from the West who have no idea what ‘A giant dance of Shiva’ might mean, the following lines make it pretty clear, and rather frighteningly so, I would say. The present period, with its extraordinary profusion of earthquakes and tsunamis and cyclones and weather extremes and the floods or raging fires they bring all over the planet, to the extent that the kind of catastrophe that usually made the headlines in the news, now hardly gets mentioned at all, seems quite correctly described in Sri Aurobindo’s lines, along with the constant threat of generalized war among the bomb explosions by fanatics murdering people in the most unexpected places and circumstances.
As is said from the start, what this ‘giant dance of Shiva’ does is to tear the past. An awful period, but useful…
And then, surprise: the next lines of Sri Aurobindo’s poem and of Ashwapathy’s vision couldn’t be more in contrast with the preceding ones:
‘I saw the Omnipotent’s flaming pioneers
Over the heavenly verge which turns towards life
Come crowding down the amber stairs of birth;
Forerunners of a divine multitude,
Out of the paths of the morning star they came
Into the little room of mortal life.
I saw them across the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvellous dawn,
The great creators with wide brows of calm,
The massive barrier-breakers of the world
And wrestlers with destiny in her lists of will,
The labourers in the quarries of the gods,
The messengers of the Incommunicable,
The architects of immortality.
Into the fallen human sphere they came,
Faces that wore the Immortal’s glory still,
Voices that communed still with the thoughts of God,
Bodies made beautiful by the spirit’s light,
Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy,
Approaching eyes of a diviner man,
Lips chanting an unknown anthem of the soul,
Feet echoing in the corridors of Time.
High priests of wisdom, sweetness, might and bliss,
Discoverers of beauty’s sunlit ways
And swimmers of Love’s laughing fiery floods
And dancers within rapture’s golden doors,
Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth
And justify the light on Nature’s face.’
Thus we come to know, together with Ashwapathy, that ‘All shall be done for which our pain was borne’.
This is already quite a comforting revelation, which can give us the courage to go through the ‘tearing of the past’ that in our time is possibly still not over.
And some of the parents who have read the lines above may have recognized with awe some of the amazing children that have been born to them in the recent years.
Children being born more conscious than was usually the case before have been noticed also by the Mother among the new-born babies from Auroville who were brought to her as early as 1965, and in the next few years. As the Mother left her own body in the end of 1973, after that date we don’t have her testimony any more to tell us whether this phenomenon continued, but if I myself can judge just from some of the few more recently born Auroville children I happen to have met, my answer will be a resounding ‘Yes’.
I remember also how stunned I have been in my early years of life in Auroville, as I discovered in some documents retrieved from the hasty oblivion of most other human beings,  that the Mother, speaking about Auroville, had made the casual but startling remark that in the future, there would be snow here.
This was said in the late Sixties, at a time when no one had heard yet of Climate Change; and even now what is talked about mostly is the global warming that comes first, but only a few scientists are aware that it is all a cyclical, recurrent change, in which the initial warming is followed later by some form of short Ice Age.
Did Sri Aurobindo or the Mother ever give any date for the major changes they too foresaw in the future of the Earth?
I remember another passing remark by the Mother, in a volume of her ‘Agenda’; she was chuckling while talking about the year 2000: that year, she was saying, would be ‘the beginning of the real changes’…!
As for Sri Aurobindo, as far as I know (but I may be mistaken) he didn’t give a definite date as the beginning or the end of that critical period we seem to be in. But the way he described the final Major Change seems to indicate at least quite clearly that it will happen very abruptly; here are some other lines from ‘Savitri’, on page 55 already, where it is all revealed in advance:
UNIQUE PICTURE: Earth as seen from the outer S...
UNIQUE PICTURE: Earth as seen from the outer Solar System (Photo credit: Icarus Kuwait)
‘Thus will the masked Transcendent mount his throne.
When darkness deepens strangling the earth’s breast
And man’s corporeal mind is the only lamp,
As a thief’s in the night will be the covert tread
Of one who steps unseen into his house.
A Voice ill-heard shall speak, the soul obey,
A Power into mind’s inner chamber steal,
A charm and sweetness open life’s closed doors
And beauty conquer the resisting world,
The Truth-Light capture Nature by surprise,
A stealth of God compel the heart to bliss,
And earth grow unexpectedly divine.
A few shall see what none yet understands;
God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep;
For man shall not know the coming till its hour
And belief shall be not till the work is done.’
I don’t know about you, but I hope we are very near the moment when all this will happen and we find ourselves all of a sudden in an inexplicably but wonderfully changed world.
Does the darkness need to deepen yet more? Do we have yet to reach the stage when our corporeal mind is the only lamp? Really, I hope not, for things are already difficult enough, I would say, I certainly don’t want that they get still worse, if that can be at all avoided.
But even if it cannot be helped… Wow.  What incredibly magnificent Future is awaiting us. It was truly all worth it…
Courtesy: Bhaga - ‘Laboratory of Evolution’ in Auroville