(This is a rare interview of Sri Aurobindo which he gave to a correspondent of the Empire, a Calcutta-based daily journal, on 15 August 1908. The interview took place in the Alipore Magistrate’s Court on the date of Sri Aurobindo’s thirty-sixth birthday. The spellings have been kept intact.)
Ever since the commencement of the trial until Saturday Arabindo [Sri Aurobindo] has preserved a stolid lethargic demeanour.
From the first day’s hearing to the thirty-sixth, he has occupied one bench, his eyes immovably fixed on the floor, totally indifferent to the unfolding issues of the case.
The Arabindo of Saturday was, however, quite another being. His personality, hitherto grave and prepossessed, had been metamorphosised into one of sprightliness and sunniness. The cause of all this jollification, as Arabindo explained, was to a certain extent remarkable. “In the first place,” he explained, “today is my birthday; and we are celebrating it as best we can under the circumstances. I was born on the 15th August 1872, and on that anniversary in 1906 the National College opened its doors to teach among other things, the principles of Swadeshism. It was either the day before or the day after my birthday, 1907,” he continued waxing warm with the subject “that I was arrested in connection with the first ‘Bande Mataram’ sedition case. And more remarkable still my birthday is round again today and the Magistrate has given a definite assurance that he will commit on the evidence given in this, a case not of sedition but revolution.
“Besides all this my brother Birendro [Barindra Kumar Ghose] is threatened on my birthday to be charged with abetment of murder in the Mozufferpore affair, besides having to stand his trial for conspiracy. These are what I call a remarkable string of coincidences,” he added with a smile.
“Are we getting tired of this protracted trial you ask? Well, to be candid we are, although we don’t mind it in the least. As a matter of fact it is useless pumping witnesses about my supposed editorship of the ‘Bande Mataram.’ I certainly have edited the ‘Bande Mataram,’ but this only I did on different occasions when Bepin Babu [Bepin Chandra Pal] first edited it, and I will state now once and for all I never, never did occupy its editorial chair. I must also deny that I fathered the many brilliant leaders that have appeared in that paper. I certainly did write some of them, but I cannot claim the authorship of the best of them. I wish I could,” he added with a twinkle.
Arabindo’s facetious parting shot to the “frequenter” was: “You can add to those coincidences the fact that I shall be very probably coming back from the Andamans on my birthday next year.”