Saturday, June 25, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH SHRI UDAR PINTO By Anie Nunnally


Number 5 Rue Dumas is on the street in French Pondicherry directly
behind the main compound of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram; Golconde is just
a block down the street from this large French Colonial-style
structure that the Mother had named "Fenetres" (windows). This is home
to Udar Pinto, his English wife Mona, manager extraordinaire of
Golconde and their daughter Gauri, a teacher in the Higher Course at
the Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education. Sri Aurobindo
gave Udar (Generous) and Gauri (another name for Durga meaning the
Fair One or Golden One) their names but asked that Mona keep her own
name as it reminded him of the Mona Lisa. At "Fenetres" one enters
into a glorious courtyard ablaze with vibrant colors of
bougainvillaea, marigolds, roses, other types of flowering plants,
graceful arrangements of potted plants and an upstairs terrace filled
with orchids. Gauri's animals (she rescues cats and dogs from the
streets of Pondicherry and nurses them back to health) either
playfully greet one at the door or in the case of some dogs stand back
and snarl and growl suspiciously until one's intent for visiting is
cleared to their canine satisfaction.

Upstairs Udar has his quarters; a large vestibule where one can sit
and wait for him. He then greets guests in his expansive sitting room
with his faithful servant nearby. His bedroom is off to the side. I
shall always remember these rooms as my first public darshan of the
Mother was viewed from that very space since Udar's quarters look out
onto the balcony adjoining Mother's rooms. That darshan was February
21, 1968; some 32 years ago! As mentioned earlier, Udar had broken his
hip in 1999 and was recuperating at home after being in the ashram
nursing facility for some time. When I entered the room he was seated
in a very large, high wheelchair; very high above my own chair. He
appeared so stately and in command that this gave me the impression of
sitting before a ruling monarch of empyrean stature. In fact he told
me that when the ashram school staged "Perseus the Deliverer" one of
Sri Aurobindo's plays, that he had played the role of King Cepheus.
One day he went to the Mother in his costume. When She saw him She
said "Udar, I know where I have seen you before, you were at one time
a Roman emperor!"

Udar told me that he was born in Hubli in Karnataka (near Goa) in
April of 1907. His father was a businessman there and did many things
for the town of Hubli. The road they lived on was called Pinto Road.
His father had originally come from Goa. Goa was colonized by the
Portuguese and long back Udar's family had taken on a Portuguese name
of Pinto and had completely lost all contact with their original
Indian name. He studied at the Good School in Goa and was brought up
in the Catholic Church. He said he was a good Catholic and took his
religion seriously as a young man. Later he began to find some rather
foolish things in all religions which is what ultimately led him to
Sri Aurobindo. He passed his exams in Hubli and was sent to Mussoorie
in the mountains of North India for further study. He wanted to take a
degree in engineering and was being prepared for that goal. However,
by that time he had become rather unruly and was thrown out of school.
This was to be a turning point in his life. He stated that if he had
remained there he would have graduated, gotten a good job and settled
down to a "humdrum" life. After he was thrown out he attended another
school in Belgaum and from there went on to Bombay to the Royal
Institute of Science for a degree in engineering. He was then sent to
England in 1929 where he spent four years and earned a degree in
Aeronautical Engineering from London University. However, there was
nothing for him to do. There were no airplanes in India at that time
so he had to go into business. He settled down in Pondicherry in 1935
because it had a reputation for being a good place to do business. He
tried it out for two years and it proved to be prosperous. All of his
friends were connected with the ashram but at that time he was not
interested nor did he ever visit the ashram. He was a young man and a
bon vivant. His friends came to his home for sumptuous dinners and
whisky and sodas and "all kinds of things", he said. They would go
back and tell the Mother stories of their visits to Pinto's house. She
would say "that Pinto fellow is spoiling my children and I will catch
him one day". "Finally, She did", Udar said.

Udar had met his beloved Mona while attending school in England and
she waited 3 years for him while he got settled in Pondicherry.
Finally in 1937 he sent for her and they were married. Their daughter,
Gauri, was born at the end of that year in November.

FIRST DARSHAN OF SRI AUROBINDO AND THE MOTHER

After Mona and Udar were married somebody suggested that they should
have darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother so Udar arranged for
this. "There were very few people in the ashram in those days so there
was no long queue," Udar said. In August of 1937 they had their first
darshan. This is how Udar described that moment: "When I saw Sri
Aurobindo for the first time I got a shock. I had seen kings and
emperors in Europe, England and Asia whose clothes were majestic but
the person inside quite ordinary. Here was a man wearing only a dhoti
and chaddur (shawl) sitting bare-chested and looking like a king. I
said to myself "at last I have seen royalty and majesty". "After that
darshan we were very much drawn to the ashram".

THE WAR

The war began and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother took a keen interest in
it. "All wars", said Sri Aurobindo, "are begun by the asura". The
Second World War was an effort by the asura to destroy the work of Sri
Aurobindo and the Mother for the earth's evolution toward the
Supramental Light. Sri Aurobindo began to work occultly behind the
scenes for the war effort even finding an opening to His Force in Sir
Winston Churchill. Udar said there were very few radio sets in
Pondicherry at that time and no radio broadcasting. Udar owned a radio
set with sophisticated aerials and other equipment so he was able to
tune into BBC in order to receive news of the war. Pavitra (the
Frenchman whose European name was P.B. Saint- Hilaire) and Pavita use
to come to Udar's house every night at 9:30 to take down the news in
short hand and type and prepare it to send to Sri Aurobindo the same
night. Udar offered the radio set to the Mother but she refused it by
saying She had "enough of ulcers"! Later on when the war situation
escalated they finally installed a radio set in the ashram.

Udar had begun to become more and more drawn to the ashram. By then
the Government of India had started a Civil Aviation department and
they knew of his degree in Aeronautical engineering so they asked him
to come and work for them. He did not want to go as he and his family
were quite happy in the ashram. Sri Aurobindo, however, told him that
he MUST do it. He wanted his children to work for the war effort. Sri
Aurobindo told him this was not a war between the nations and people
but a war between the Divine Forces and the forces of the asura. He
took his family out of Pondicherry and worked for the government
successfully for one year and was happy in New Delhi and so was Mona.
Little Gauri, however, at 3 years of age very much missed the Mother.
After one year he took a brief leave and brought them back to
Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo then told him that he had done enough and
that he could return to the ashram to stay. He went back to New Delhi,
gave a month's notice and returned to the ashram where he has lived
since.

GOLCONDE AND HARPAGON

The Nizam of Hyderabad through his Dewan, Sir Akbar Hydari, had given
a sum of money to the Mother as She, at one time, had spoken to him of
wanting to build a residential building on some property the ashram
owned. Since the money for the building had come from Hyderabad the
Mother decided to give it a name associated with that state. She named
it "Golconde", the French form of Golconda, after the famous fort and
diamond mines in Hyderabad.

Antonin Raymond, a well-known Czechoslovakian architect and friend of
Pavitra, came to the ashram for a visit and eventually took on the
project. Working with him on the Golconde project were the
Japanese-American architect, George Nakashima and another
Czechoslovakian architect by the name of Francichech Sammer.

The building work had already begun by 1937 when Mona and Udar joined
the ashram but they were both associated with it from that time. The
Mother put Mona in charge of Golconde before it was finished and gave
her a room in which to work, to prepare the linens and train the young
ashram ladies who were to work with her. She taught them to speak
English as well. The Mother also gave Udar a small shed for his work.
She called it Harpagon. Harpagon is the name of the miser in Moliere's
play L'Avare (the Miser). She said that the land had belonged to a
very wealthy man and that he could have given the land freely. Instead
he doubled the price! At first the Mother said no, but then She
decided to buy the land and name it for the miser. Ironically Udar's
name means "generosity". Udar said there was so much work to be done.
Large amounts of money were needed for the completion of the Golconde
structure. There were things to be manufactured; some brass fittings
were needed and machines were needed for manufacturing these parts to
precision. Udar had no money as he had given all his money to the
Mother. He needed at least 2 lakhs and asked the Mother for this
amount. The Mother gave him 1 rupee to start! At first he thought She
was making a joke then he realized that if She had given him the 2
lakhs it would be the 2 lakhs that would have actually done the work.
He said "by giving only 1 rupee it was therefore I who had to do it".
He took up the challenge and worked very hard and happily and slowly
until the job was done. Of course today Golconde and Harpagon are
cherished units in the ashram. Golconde is one of the most beautiful
and unique buildings in the world with its teak furniture,
Japanese-style black stone floors, walls of crushed seashells, giant
cement/louvered shutters and of course its lovely monastic
peacefulness. Udar went on to develop Harpagon's many industries
including furniture making and stainless steel products.


ANIE: Can you describe Sri Aurobindo's voice and any other impressions
you remember of Sri Aurobindo?

UDAR: Sri Aurobindo's voice was a beautiful, well modulated sound. If
you did not see him you would think that you were listening to a
Cambridge-educated Englishman speaking. Sri Aurobindo just sat there
looking as though He were gazing out into eternity in His great lonely
days of descent into mortal life in order to help humanity.

(Udar chose not to personalize other impressions of Sri Aurobindo but
instead he quoted a passage from SAVITRI, Book III, "The Book of the
Divine Mother", Canto IV,"The Vision and the Boon". Udar said Sri
Aurobindo was writing about King Aswapaty in that passage and speaks
in the third person, but is actually writing about Himself).

.

ANIE: Can you describe what it was like when Sri Aurobindo left His body?

UDAR: I was in His room next to Him when he died. I was handling the
oxygen tank and then He went into a coma. I knew all the medical
aspects of what it was like to be in a coma. However, in the case of
Sri Aurobindo it was altogether a conscious coma. No ordinary person
talks in a coma. At one point He asked in a firm and clear voice:
"Nirod, what is the time"? Nirodbaran looked shocked."Sir, It's 1
o'clock" Nirod said. Sri Aurobindo said "I see" in a clear voice and
then returned to the coma. Champaklal was massaging His feet. His
breathing became slower and slower and then there was the last breath
which I recognized. Dr. Sanyal asked me to turn off the oxygen tank
and I went back and stood in the back of the room. I was quite calm
and interested to see all that was happening. The Mother had no look
of sorrow on Her face at all. Neither did I feel sorrow for I knew
that Sri Aurobindo had left His body consciously. In SAVITRI, the Book
of Death is very short. When Sri Aurobindo was asked about this he
said "You cannot expect to write about something you have never
consciously experienced." So, He experienced death consciously and
will return to complete the Book of Death. Dr Sanyal said "Mother,
everyone is in shock except for Udar". The Mother put me in charge of
everything. She looked at me and said "Udar take charge of everything
and come to me for instructions" and then She left the room.

Mother gave me instructions for the coffin which was made of solid
wood and lined with silk. Sri Aurobindo was still lying on His bed and
there was the most marvelous, golden light emanating from His body and
a scent like a celestial perfume. After that the Mother told me how
deep to go into the Samadhi and how to design it. I built the Samadhi
not as a hole in the ground but as a vault with thick concrete walls
9" thick with cement floors and a cement roof. I went down 8' and
built a 4' room with cement slabs. Over that the Mother instructed me
to build another room also with walls, a floor and a roof. She told me
to fill it with clean river sand and to put a large slab on the top.
Thus was the Samadhi built. The Samadhi was built according to the
same outward pattern as the flower bed that had existed there. The top
consisted of a long rectangular pattern going from East to West and
next to it was a square. The Samadhi on top has kept that same pattern
for flower decorations. The longer rectangle below houses the two
rooms where the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are
entombed.The Mother gave me a quotation to be carved into the marble
and pressed on either side. It reads:

"To Thee who hast been the Material Envelope of our Master, to Thee
our infinite gratitude. Before Thee who hast done so much for us, Who
hast worked, struggled, Suffered , hoped, endured so much, before Thee
who hast willed all, attempted all, prepared, achieved all for us,
before Thee we bow down and implore that we may never forget, even for
a Moment, all we owe to Thee." - The Mother, 9 Dec. 1950.

After the Mother died I opened up the top room. I took the clean river
sand that had been lying over Sri Aurobindo's tomb from 1950 to 1973
and kept it in barrels. I made packets from the sand and gave them out
to many people and it helped them in sickness and pain and in times of
trouble.

ANIE: What changes do you see taking place in the Ashram in the future
and will it be different in any way from what it is now?

UDAR: There have to be changes. We live in a changing world. The
changes in the Ashram since the Mother's passing have not always been
as good as they could be. Many people have not worked closely with the
Mother nor even seen Her physically. So, in many cases there is very
little knowledge of the Mother's way. Many people try to do things in
their own way, to do what they think best and not always necessarily
in keeping with what would have been the Mother's way. I always speak
about the Mother to everyone but many go on preferring their own way.

ANIE: What can you tell us of the Auroville project?

UDAR: Auroville was built as a city for the Divine to give a message
to the world. The Mother told me to inaugurate Auroville. The Mother
called in representatives from all the nations of the world and
assigned to me the job of Master of Ceremonies. The Charter was read
out in English. I announced each nation and while two young people
from each nation placed soil from their country into the lotus urn
there was an interpreter reading the charter in the language of that
particular nation. It all went so beautifully and was never rehearsed.
The Mother said Auroville did not need to follow the divine life of
the ashram. She said they were to concentrate on building a new city
for the Divine in their own way. So, the ways of Auroville are
different from those of the ashram and Aurovilians are not expected to
follow the ashram way of living.

ANIE: What advice would you give to new spiritual aspirants that would
help them in their development and help them to integrate their lives
in the world with its focus on materialism and the vital life?

UDAR: The word "spiritual" is often used in a loose manner. Generally
people take it to mean a higher mind and life in an elementary way but
not necessarily a "spiritual" way. Spiritual means the way of the
spirit and nothing else. Very few people know what their spirit is.
They know they have a soul but how it operates they do not know. It is
only when one becomes conscious of the soul through sincere yogic
discipline that one can become a true servant and instrument of the
Divine.

ANIE: It seems that fewer young people are drawn to the yoga in
America in these times. What more can we do to inspire interest in Sri
Aurobindo and the Mother in the youth of our culture?

UDAR: One must keep a door open for those who want to come, but we are
not here to proselytize and get disciples. If they come it is by their
own choice and what they do with it is up to themselves.

ANIE: What do you see as the strongest attributes of Americans and
their contributions to the yoga?

UDAR: The Americans who have come to the ashram are highly evolved
people and their presence is a gift to the ashram. Many Americans in
the archives department are wonderful men and women and have
progressed very much inwardly and have contributed in many ways to the
work and are of great value to the ashram. I have a very good feeling
about the Americans in the ashram.

ANIE: What were some of your experiences and impressions of North
America when you visited in 1972?

UDAR: In 1972 the Government of India asked the Mother to select two
people to give talks on Sri Aurobindo in connection with His Birth
Centenary year; one to go to the East and one to go to the West. Sisir
Kumar Ghosh was chosen to go to Japan and other Eastern countries and
the Mother chose me to go to the West. I asked the Mother "Why me"? "I
am not a speaker on philosophy". Then Mother said " I have chosen you,
so you must go"! The Mother said She would speak through me and that I
did not need to worry that at all times She would remain very close to
me. This was so in every instance. When I reached America they began
to call me "Swami-ji". I looked to see if there was anyone else
around! I told them " I am not a Swami, I am just an ordinary person
whom Mother has sent to speak on Sri Aurobindo" When I later returned
to the ashram the Mother said "They called you Swami-ji there"? I
replied "Yes, Mother". The Mother said "I knew everything that
happened to you in America". "I was with you all the time and I am
glad you did not accept the title of Swami-ji. If for any reason you
should ever fall into that trap, I will come and break your head"!

I had a wonderful trip to America. I found the people generous and
warm. We were often treated as guests at restaurants, people helped us
freely on the road when our van broke down. In private homes we were
received with gracious hospitality.

While I was visiting America there was a 3-day seminar at Cornell
University – an inter-religious conference. Leaders of all the world
religions were invited. My hosts tried to get me on the program but it
was declined because the conference had been planned two years prior.
However, they said I could come and participate in the discussions so
I agreed. Suddenly I received a call from them that the main speaker
had fallen ill and could I come and replace him? I said "yes". They
asked me to send a speech but I wrote that I only spoke
extemporaneously.

This was accepted and all throughout I felt Mother's Presence and
Help, even saw Her face before me. The Mother had told me before I
left India "You have only to call me and I will be with you at once,
at every moment I will be with you".

ANIE: Can you share some of the advice that the Mother gave to you for
your own personal sadhana?

 UDAR: One day I asked Mother. "I have been doing the yoga for many
years but I am not absolutely certain how to do the yoga of Sri
Aurobindo. I read all the books and try to do the yoga but I am not
certain how far I have progressed". I asked the Mother to help me.
"You are doing it all wrong", She said. I said "What shall I do"? She
said, "I will do the yoga for you". I was thrilled! "What do I have to
do"? I said. "Give yourself over to Me and I will do it for you". Udar
said "How do I surrender"? She said to me "Do you sincerely want to"?
I said "Yes, certainly Mother". Mother said "When you get up in the
morning what is the first thing you do"? "I brush my teeth and as a
matter of course I am thinking of all kinds of things and not at all
consciously", I said. Mother said "Try and think of Me while you are
brushing your teeth. Talk to Me keeping fully conscious while you wash
your face and brush your teeth. When you eat that is the time you must
be very conscious of Me. Feel that I am eating with you and talk to Me
and enjoy your food. Let all the parts of your being remain conscious
of Me. Eat every mouthful with Me and you will find that things taste
so much better when you enjoy the food with Me. When you go to sleep
that is the time when you should be very conscious of Me. Let Me put
you to sleep and then the whole night you will have a conscious sleep.
When you awaken and begin your day you will then begin it in a more
conscious way".

Since that conversation I have sincerely tried to make this effort. It
may not always be complete and whole but I make the effort to remain
fully conscious of the Mother's Presence in all my actions and
activities.

ANIE: How is the sadhana different for you at this stage in your life;
what new forms, if any, has it taken?

UDAR: At this stage of my life I just want to be always conscious of
the Mother's Presence in me. I am always calling Her and She never
refuses to come. If I ask Her for anything She gives it to me if it is
useful for my sadhana. If not, then I know it is not and accept that.
I have no regrets about anything at all. I am very happy to have
served the Mother consciously and I want to be like that up to the
end. If there is an end! The Mother told me not to accept death as
inevitable She said "Don't say you are not going to die, but don't say
you have to die" When it comes face it in full confidence of my
support but fight it"! "Do not accept death"!

Udar remained silent for a few moments and then began to chant
Mother's mantra "Om Namo Bhagavate" and then "Om Anandamayi". I sat
quietly with him for some time and then left him in the atmosphere of
that still, quiet space.

A few days later I returned to see him. It was December 17th, the day
before my birthday, and Udar had developed a bronchial condition. I
felt he was too weak for the interview and I did not want to tire him.
However, he called me in to present me with flowers and beautifully
wrapped birthday gifts. Udar had been my liaison to the Mother,
delivering my numerous chits and letters to Her during my years in the
ashram and prior to the time that I went there to live for 3 1/2
years. He had been privy to all my innermost questions and concerns
that were put before the Mother. He advised and counseled and inspired
me as well with his great strength, wisdom and positive outlook. What
a fitting name...Udar...for he is truly generous with his time, help,
work, friendship and most of all the largesse of his inner being and
spirit. He was always wearing his ever-present red rose given to him
by the Mother and for years after Her passing he continued to wear a
red rose.

Udar was ill with bronchitis for most of the remainder of my stay in
Pondicherry. I saw him one last time before my departure with a group
of French visitors who had come to see him.

He was in good humor that day and had us laughing heartily. About
losing his voice to bronchitis he said: "In my household it did not
make much difference as the women do most of the talking anyway"! He
said "Did you know that generally speaking, women are generally
speaking"?

After all the time that I spent with Amal Kiran and Udar Pinto I
reflected on these two souls who, with their very divergent
backgrounds; one a scholar and writer and the other an engineer and
businessman, had come to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as young men and
in a common bond had devoted their lives to the service of the Divine
and to the Yoga of the Supramental. At this stage in their lives both
have focussed their priorities on remaining open to the Divine Light
of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo for as long as they are in their
present bodies. I could not have been more deeply touched nor blest to
have been in their inspiring presence.

Om shanti



Anie Nunnally

March 2000

Courtesy and Link :

http://www.sriaurobindocenter-la.org/newsltr5/UDAR.htm


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