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Motilal Roy

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(1882 – 1959), noted Bengali journalist, novelist, and author. At his house at Chandernagore Sri Aurobindo stayed up to sailing to Pondicherry. Motilal Roy edited Prabartak for twenty-seven years. His field of activity was Chandernagore, his native town. He organised the Prabartak Sangh under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo. Around 1921, however, he gradually drifted away from his former guru (Prabartak Sangh).

On 16 February 1910, at four o’clock in the morning the boat with Sri Aurobindo, Suresh and Biren landed at the Chandernagore Strand. Sri Aurobindo knew only one person in town, Charuchandra Roy, a high school principal who had founded a revolutionary group. He and Sri Aurobindo had met in jail. Once the boat was tied up at the ghat, Sri Aurobindo sent Biren to find Charuchandra and ask him for shelter. Charuchandra asked Biren to tell Sri Aurobindo that he could not help.

Meanwhile, Motilal Roy, a member of a revolutionary group that was loosely connected with Charuchandra’s, was told by Srishchandra Ghose that Sri Aurobindo had come to town and that Charuchandra had refused to receive him. Motilal recalled: “I sprinted off at lightning-speed and came to the bank of the Ganges. Winter mist had just begun to clear up at the first touch of Spring’s feet. The sluggish river danced a rolling step in the morning breeze. The sun had not risen, shot through the cloud-range of the eastern sky. Under the arch of the peepul and banyan trees I wended my way southward.

The Strand stretched itself away from the Rani Ghat, where a pansi [country boat], brought from Calcutta, bobbed up and down in the ripples. The wind played with a portion of the gathered sail, which gave the impression of a decorative flag. On the top of the boat sat a youngman. Fixing the boat with my questioning eyes, I advanced some distance. He did not speak; I, too, could not muster enough courage to speak either, and withdrew a few paces. I turned my face towards him and advanced a few steps again in expectation of being accosted. He, too, was staring at me, I saw. I faced him this time and asked with some diffidence, «Do you hail from Calcutta?»

«Yes, why do you ask?» the youth replied.

I summoned up courage to say, «Is Aurobindo Babu in this boat?»

The youngman called me near and said, «Get into the boat please.»

I jumped in and was escorted inside, where I directly came upon an ascetic figure, the very same that I had seen at the Chinsura Provincial Conference, incumbent on the bed with his head supported on another youngman’s lap. On seeing me he asked, «Where did you get this news about me?»

I related what I had heard. «What can you do for me? Would it be convenient for you to shelter me?»

Pride tingled through my breast. I was amazed. What! convenient to shelter you? I would not hold back my life if it were wanted. My heart was swayed by a riot of emotion — it was an auspicious day perhaps! Let that be. I enthusiastically said, «Indeed, I have come to receive you.» Sri Aurobindo intently looked into my face and said smiling, «How far is your residence?»

«A little way up. Do not trouble yourself, I will personally do the arrangement.»”

Sri Aurobindo told Biren and Suresh to take the boat back to Calcutta. Then he followed Motilal to his house.

Motilal recalled: “This event changed the whole face of my future.... I led him across our unused rooms to a dark apartment on the first floor, set apart as a store-room for chairs. He followed me on tip-toe like a thief. Inside the house could be heard the noise of utensils being scrubbed, women’s confused voices and the whizzing of loud-breathing cows in the pen. We signalled by an exchange of glance: «No one could discover this place. Is not it so?»

A thick layer of dust lay settled on the floor. Bats, cockroaches and spiders reigned undisturbed about the beams; I did not dare stir them up in fear of interfering with his rest. I swept the dust away from a part of the floor and laid a carpet, which was covered over by a sheet. He sat down noiselessly like a marionette. «I will be back in a moment,» I conveyed by a sign; «there will be trouble, if someone enquires for me»... I stole into the godown very cautiously across the verandah, and went to the second-storey room without making any noise. Opening my eyes wide, I observed that Sri Aurobindo was sitting silently with his eyes fixed in an upward stare... I held the refreshment dish before him; he glanced at me innocently. I said, «My wife could not be taken into confidence. It is my own refreshment; please accept it»...”

Sri Aurobindo passed that day in Motilal’s storeroom. At night he was taken to another man’s house, where he spent the next twenty-four hours. When Motilal saw him again, Sri Aurobindo asked if he could take him back to his house. Sri Aurobindo had had to share a room with another person and found this disturbing. Motilal agreed, and readied a room. Here Sri Aurobindo passed the next few days.

Sri Aurobindo spent a month and a half in Chandernagore. For security reasons, Motilal and his friends kept shifting him from house to house. During these weeks, Sri Aurobindo later wrote, he was “entirely engaged in Sadhana.”

Motilal had long been fascinated by yoga, Sri Aurobindo answered his questions. Before leaving Chandernagore, he gave him one or more mantras.

 

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Bibliography

In English

Roy, Motilal (1882-1959)

My Life’s Partner = Jiban-Sangini

•   / Translated from Bengali into English by D.S. Mahalanobis.— Calcutta: Prabartak Publishers, 1945.

In Bengali

Roy, Motilal (1882-1959)

Āmasamarpanayoga

•   .— Kalikātā: Prabarttaka Pābaliśārsa, 1970

Roy, Motilal (1882-1959)

Bedāntadarshana: Brahmasūtra

Roy, Motilal (1882-1959)

Upāsanāmandire

•   1st ed.— Kalikātā: Prabarttaka Pābaliśārsa, 1974

Roy, Motilal (1882-1959)

Yugapurusha Sriarabinda

•   .— Calcutta: Prabartak Publishers, 1970.— 115 p.: port.; 19 cm.

In Russian