Udar, One of Mother’s Children: A Review
By Anurag Banerjee
The birth centenary commemoration volume of Udar Pinto titled Udar, One of Mother’s Children is one of the most significant books to have come out from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (the publisher is Sri Aurobindo Udyog Trust) in the recent past. The book is not exactly a biography of Udar Pinto (1907-2001) but it is a chronicle of the journey of the one who can rightly be hailed as the architect of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The word ‘architect’ is not used in its literary sense but literal sense for Udar was indeed the one, who as per the instructions of the Mother, built up the most important departments of the Ashram from scratch.
To us, who did not get the chance of meeting him or knowing him personally but knew him only as the brain and strength behind Golconde, Harpagon, Physical Education Department etc., this book comes as a huge surprise for courtesy this book we are now able to know what a genius we had amid us till December 2001. Udar narrates, in the words of Udar Pinto himself as well as some of the prominent members of the Ashram community, how the various departments like Senteurs, Honesty Engineers and Contractors and Handmade Paper to name a few took birth and shape under his direct supervision.
He was the one who was chosen not only to design and build the furniture in Sri Aurobindo’s room or the new room of the Mother situated on the second floor of the Ashram main building but also to design and construct the Samadhi where the physical remains (not mortal remains because nothing was mortal about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother rests under the Service Tree.
The book also depicts his association with the Precast Concrete Works, Watch Repairing Department, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, New Horizon Sugar Mills, Ashram Nursing Home, Ashram Theatre etc. but also portrays exceedingly well his role and involvement in the growth of the Ashram itself. While reading the book the reader would be compelled to ponder what the present Ashram would have been without him.
The book also illustrates the unique relationship Udar had with the Mother and portrays several noteworthy memories of his life with her. For instance, when he had asked the Mother for some financial assistance to start Harpagon, she gave him just a rupee. Despite being a new inmate of the Ashram he could understand the significance of that one rupee and he took it as a compliment. He was one of the most trusted and efficient lieutenants of the Mother and to be candid, he was the most powerful and creative instrument of hers. This book, which has around four hundred photographs, is handsomely designed but its real wealth lies in the ocean of information it provides.
The book also speaks of Udar, the man and his quest. It begins with his first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in 1937 and eventually his association with the Ashram which he joined soon after. It also throws light on the unknown shades of his personality; for instance, Udar as an actor. Apart from the thousand and one responsibilities and duties that he had on his shoulders, he also worked as the Mother’s secretary and also represented Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the United States, Europe and Canada in 1972 during the birth centenary celebrations of Sri Aurobindo. His lectures, which were extempore in nature, were exceedingly well received. As an octogenarian, he began to learn Sanskrit and also memorized Savitri whose dictation he had heard from Sri Aurobindo himself which the latter did to Nirodbaran, his scribe.
In a letter to Dilip Kumar Roy, Sri Aurobindo has written: “To me the ultimate value of a man is not to be measured by what he says, nor even by what he does, but by what he becomes.” Udar’s multi-faceted personality, skills and absolute dedication for the Mother’s works had made him one of the brightest stars in the welkin of the Ashram. It is difficult to judge who was greater—Udar, the man or his achievements—but this book is certainly a testimonial of the statement which can be proclaimed in the words of Rabindranath Tagore (translated by Dilip Kumar Roy):
“You are, sire, greater than all you achieve
And so your life’s rich chariot time and again
Leaves far behind all your resplendent feats.”
Born on 13 October 1984, Anurag Banerjee is an essayist, biographer, poet and researcher. His first book, Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey was published in December 2006. He wrote the biography of Dilip Kumar Roy at the age of twenty in 2005 and translated 100 poems of Sri Aurobindo into Bengali at the age of twenty-one in 2006. His published works include Nirodbaran: The Surrealist’s Journey (2006), Achinpather Dibyapathik (2008), and Debotar Shrom (2008).
- Anurag Banerjee