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In life and in death, how was Shri Aurobindo’s connect to his wife Mrinalini?

5 December, 2022 18:26:43
In life and in death, how was Shri Aurobindo’s connect to his wife Mrinalini?

“I have not written to you for a long time. This is my eternal failing. If you do not pardon me out of your goodness, what shall I do? From now on I no longer is the master of my will. Like a puppet I must go wherever God takes me. It will be difficult for you to grasp the meaning of these words just now but it is necessary to keep you informed, otherwise my movements may cause you sorrow and regret. Already I have done you many wrongs and it is but natural this should have displeased you….”

A letter sent by Shri Aurobindo to his wife in 1908, reflects the continuity of a strange bond that he and his wife shared. We know very little of his wife and some of us even do not know he had a wife ever. But Mrinalini dedicated herself in life and death to the one man, who was supreme in her life and she hardly stayed with him.

Nursing and service of the sick was Mrinalini’s forte. She poured all her heart into it and those who were blessed with her ministration could never forget the care and solicitude she had bestowed upon them. It is amazing how Mrinalini served during Aurobindo’s illness, sitting by his bedside she would fan him gently and massage his head and feet. She would herself prepare his diet. At other times when he was absorbed in writing, Mrinalini would wait till he had finished his work. She would attend to his ablutions and serve his meals or tea at the appointed time. Her father would procure cauliflowers and other vegetables of Sri Aurobindo’s preference from special markets and her mother would cook the dishes. Shri Aurobindo would relish every bit of the various dishes. 

In singular contrast to the delectable domestic entertainments came the rude shock on the night of Shri Aurobindo’s arrest, the last day when he and his wife were living together in Grey Street. While relating that nightmarish event Mrinalini’s voice used to get choked and her eyes filled with tears. She said: ‘One night we were in deep sleep. Suddenly in the early morning, there were loud knocks on the door. I got up quickly and opened the door to see a sergeant pointing a pistol at me and asking me to show where Shri Aurobindo was. He was sleeping. Dumbfounded I pointed to him. The entire house was filled with a posse of police. I was then asked to move to the next room. Shri Aurobindo was sleeping on a rug spread on the floor. I heard the police telling him: ‘Are you, Mr. Ghosh? An educated person like you sleeping on such a bed and leading such a dirty life? It is most shameful.’ To this, he retorted: ‘What is shameful to you is a thing of honour to us.’

Since then, a period of intense darkness descended on Mrinalini’s life. Aimless and bewildered she didn’t know what to do or where to go. To her, her husband was God as she says she saw God’s manifestation in him alone. ‘When he spoke I felt as if a distant bodiless sound was coming out of his mouth. When he looked at me, I felt as if two dreamy eyes were pouring their rays on my body, when such an unearthly person is snatched away from my world I feel that death alone was my resort without him.’

Henceforth Mrinalini frequented Ramkrishna Ashram. After his release, Shri Aurobindo started the journals Karmayogin and Dharma. Mrinalini was living with him at that time. The day Aurobindo left for Chandernagore, she was elsewhere and didn’t even know about his whereabouts. Only after he reached Pondicherry, she got the news. Her anxiety was extreme. But from then on it was like Shri Aurobindo for Mrinalini was a man from the ‘other world’ --- living yet dead. This was the most crucial chapter of their lives where Mrinalini started the life of austere tapasya that continued for almost a decade. Outwardly, her marriage had come to an end, but her inner bond with her husband became intense. What Shri Aurobindo wanted her to do when she was near him, but she couldn’t, now she practiced. The painful separation induced in her a purpose. She embraced the ideal of the Godward life indicated by her husband. The only difference was that God was Shri Aurobindo. He was the Alpha and Omega of her existence. Meditating on him and trying to live in his consciousness brought about a radical change in her life. Eventually, she united herself in death with her Lord. During these 8 years, occasional letters from Shri Aurobindo were her only solace and support. 

When Mrinalini fell ill with influenza at the age of 32 and passed away within a few days, the news did come as a shock to Aurobindo. And with tears in his eyes, he read the letter sent by his father-in-law. Even in delirium, Mrinalini had constantly spoken of the night Aurobindo was arrested. Aurobindo told his cousin that he felt Mrinalini’s soul had come to him soon after her death, and her photo which he always kept on his mantlepiece, fell. 

But many often raised the question then why did Shri Aurobindo marry? His old friend Charu Dutt once asked him quite frankly one day: ‘You knew that one day you would jump into the whirlwind of political revolution. Why then did you marry?” He had replied: “You see Charu, at that time I was under a spell of despair.”

In life and death, Shri Aurobindo had a deep sense of love and a deeper mystery that shrouded his apparently failed marriage. In his letter to his father-in-law after Mrinalini’s death, he writes: 

My dear Father-in-law, 
“I have not written to you with regard to the fatal event in both our lives. Words are useless in face of the feelings it has caused, if even they can express our deepest emotions. God has seen good to lay upon me the one sorrow that could still touch me to the centre. He knows better than ourselves what is best for each of us and now that the first sense of the irreparable has passed, I can bow with submission to His divine purpose. The physical tie between us is as you say is severed, but the tie of affection subsists for me. Where I have once loved, I do not cease from loving. Besides, she who was the cause of it, still is near, though not visible to our physical vision. It is needless to say much about the matters of which you write in your letter. I approve of everything that you propose. Whatever Mrinalini would have desired should be done and I have no doubt this is what she would have approved of. I consent to the gold bangles being kept by her mother but I should be glad if you would send me 2 or 3 of her books especially if there are any in which her name is written. I have of her only her letters and a photograph.”

Source: Data from Mrinalini Devi by Nirodbaran

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