REMINISCENCES OF RAMA DI CHOWDHURY, OLDEST DISCIPLE OF SRI ANIRVAN,
RECORDED WITH LOVE AND DEVOTION BY SMT KALYANI BOSE
OUR TRIP TO BADRI
In a quiet winter evening at Ramani Chatterjee Lane in Kolkata, I was sitting on a folding chair enjoying a cup of tea and eggplant fritters (Ramadi at that time was very fond of that- the Bengali Beguni).
By and large, Ramadi was always very reticent about discussing Sri Anirvan. She has told me a number of times, "People come and ask me to talk about Swamiji. Can anyone talk about him?"
Anyway, that day she was in good mood, and I think I am the lucky one in that respect. She has always answered my queries. "Tell me something about Swamiji", I asked. and this is what she narrated.
"It was when Swamiji decided to take a trip to Kerdar-Badri. He was picking up the few people who would accompany him and I decided to join. But I had some problems physically and my brothers said that I could not undertake that kind of trip. (Incidentally, that was in 1967 and travel to Kedar Badri was not easy). Anyway, I asked Swamiji and immediately he said, "How can you come? You are not physically well." I kept quiet but he knew I was adamant. He said with a little smile, which was not very common, "What if you are attacked by a tiger?" I did not answer but thought inwardly, "Does not matter. at least I shall be with a rare Sadhu."
During our trip, he told us, "Try not to sleep at night. The Himalayas are vibrating with Spiritual power mostly at night."
So all of us tried to keep awake as late at night as possible. But we never felt any excessive tiredness during our strenuous journey on foot for that.
SOME POIGNANT MOMENTS
One evening Ramadi was in a slightly pensive mood.
I asked,"what happened, are you not in touch with Swamiji?"
She said, "No, it is not that."
Then in a kind of 'far away mood' she continued, " After he became ill, Swamiji used to sleep on the
" khat" (bed), and I used to sleep on the floor. One night I had a feeling that he wants to leave the mortal body. Of course, I pushed that thought away from my mind, telling myself that was my imagination. Then on consecutive three nights the same thing happened. I said to myself, ' No Way! That is not going to happen!' Next morning he told me, ' If I stay for a longer period, my speech will be taken away.' And I struggled and struggled with myself and eventually thought, 'What good will that be, if he can not talk any more?' So mentally I gave in.
In a few days he asked me, 'Rama, give me the 'Panji', the (Bengali almanac). Then and there I knew. But he just smiled a little and said,'Madhavi (the girl who was appointed to help us serve him) wants to know when Ekadashi falls.'
But before that Ekadashi came at the juncture of Ashtami and Navami he went for the everlasting union with his Haimavati."
"At that time Swamiji was in Narendrapur (a place near Calcutta). He accepted few visitirors for a few days occasionally." Ramadi was looking splendid in a new sari and we were having tea and some fritters, our usual snacks. "He maintained the same rules for the visitors in Haimavati everywhere. The visitor would only see him at the meal times. He believed that the best way he could help anyone was by letting be what he is." I remembered that Mme Reymond also mentioned the same thing in her book, "To Live Within". " In addition," Ramadi added," nobody was supposed to do any work other than washing his/ her own garments while taking bath. " Swamiji would cook, clean, do dishes and all other household chores either himself or get it done by the young boy who used to come twice daily. Once I protested, " Swamiji, how can I let you wash the utensils I have used?" ( All of us, the Indians know how we look at the 'jutha' thing!). Swamiji calmly said, " In that case I can not let you stay here, because that is my ' Vrata' (something one observes).
"When did he and how did he cook?" I had asked. "At three in the morning, before the Brahma Muhurt started." Ramadi said. "He cooked in a cooker with the rice, daal and vegetables all together but in different pots. And when he worked in the kitchen with the utensils, it sounded like tingling of bells." Ramadi added, "Swamiji used to say,' the purpose of your being here is to open yourself to your Sourcs. For that you have to be absolutely free and not tied to anything'."
TALKS BY SWAMIJI
Once, I mentioned about the talks that Sri Anirvan used to deliver at Sri Aurobindo Path Mandir. I myself never had the chance of listening to him but my father had and also I had just read about how he had allotted only a few minutes for Q/A after each session, but while he answered one, so many others got their answers too.
Ramadi smiled. "You would never imagine how his talks had effect on me", she said.
"Even long after he had finished, I could not get up. It seemed as if somebody had srcrewed me down to the seat". She smiled very sweetly, " everybody used to go away, and I was still there and felt so bashful, fearing Swamiji must have had understood my position. At that point Swamiji never looked at me, never uttered a single word, but waited patiently till I collected myself, got up and left the room." I
do not think this happened in the Path Mandir, but most probably when SA used to take classes at the Dharmapals or in other places, because she continued, " Just imagine. He used to sit in Veerasana at a stretch for three hours and delivered such profound talks on Gita, Upanishads and Srimadbhagavat one after another without any break."
Once I read somewhere else an excerpt from a well-known scholar that once or twice during the talk by Sri Anirvan, the audience had actually SEEN the terms he was using to explain Upanishads, to float around the room.
One day Swamiji said," Ramadi started during our usual evening tea session, " 'You have to do slot of work, Rama.' I did not attach much importance but wondered what did he mean by that. I had asked him, ' What do I have to do,Swamiji?' but he did not say any more.
"After he passed away, I was in a very depressed mood for a long while. All on a sudden I remembered that Swamiji had said that I have a lot to do. What is there for me to do and take away this feeling of tremendous loss from my mind? The same evening a young man came to see me carrying a large package. ' I came from....Sri Anirvan wrote to me all these letters. I have brought them to you for publication. I sincerely believe that these will be cherished by any aspirant and I would love to share these with them.'
" That was the beginning of the long line of publications by Haimavati Anirvan Trust."
“I DID NOT DO ANYTHING”
"I doubt how many people know Sarada Maa (the Consort of Sri Ramakrishna) as well as I do". Ramadi said in her usual quiet manner. I was taken aback. This definitely was not like Ramadi, the unassuming, sweet modest lady! " What do you mean?" I asked. With her eyes looking beyond Ramadi started: " Somehow or other, I never felt much attracted towards Sarada Maa, even though I always am a staunch devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, and this bothered me. A couple of times I had mentioned to Swamiji about that and as usual he always kept quiet. One evening I again raised that topic. That night, as usual I slept on the floor of Swamiji's room. I had always done that since he was bed-ridden, incase he needs anything during the night. In sleep, I felt I have become one with the Holy Mother. I could see her from outside but she was my own self. Then I heard a voice which I knew was of Sri Ramakrishna. He was asking her how much money she needed to run the monthly expenses. Sarada Ma said she needed six rupees for her monthly expenses.( this is what I,kalyani bose remember but the amount might have been different). Next day I came across a booklet published by Sri Ramakrishna Mission which mentioned that Sri Ramakrishma arranged with his devotees six rupees for the Holy Mother's monthly expenses! I can not tell you how I feel about the Holy smother from that time onwards. I approached and asked Swamiji," Swamiji, what have you done!" Quietly he said, " I have not done anything, it was the Mother!" But I did not even mention to him about the dream.
“HE IS ALWAYS THERE”
"When I could sense that Swamiji decided to leave us," Ramadi was musing, "I decided that I was not going to shed a drop of tear." It was raining outside but Ramani Chatterjee Lane was busy with honks and other usual Kolkata street noises and the air was cool. In a couple of days we were to leave India. So my mind was heavy too. "When the time came actually," Ramadi continued, " I was brave and according to Swamiji's wish, we took his body to be cremated in the electric furnace. All on a sudden, I broke down. Tears came down in such profusion, that people around were looking at me. But I simply could not control myself. Suddenly I saw Swawmiji, walking along. The same as always: tall and skinny, in his white clothes with the inseparable cap. I forgot all my grief. He was moving around like one of us. The last rites were completed, he was still there. We got in the car and he too did the same. He sat by me and even the end of his Chaddar(the part of the clothing, used to wrap around the upper part of the body)was touching my arm. And he stayed with me for almost three days." "What happened then?" I was almost breathless. "Then, of course he left", Ramadi smiled sweetly." But by that time I knew that he would never leave me completely, and he did not. You know that too." Ramadi smiled again. But this time mischievously. " He is always there, whenever you need him urgently."