Noren Singh Nahar Recalls
By Anurag Banerjee
Noren-da, as we lovingly address Noren Singh Nahar, is the third son of Prithwi Singh. Born on 1 December 1920, he came to Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the first time in 1936 and became an inmate in 1939 at the age of nineteen. His first assignment was supervision of work in Golconde, the oldest Guest House of the Ashram which was under construction and he supervised the cutting and bending of the iron rods. He also worked in the Ashram Bakery and the Press in the printing section. His love for gardening was encouraged by the Mother who gave him a small plot of land behind the office of Pavitra in the inner courtyard of the Ashram Main Building where he, along with help from a senior sadhak named Jyotin-da, grew vegetables.
Pavitra was the first stamp collector in the Ashram. After he joined the Ashram in 1925, he brought his stamp albums from France and thus started the work of stamp collection. Noren-da used to work in Pavitra’s dining room where there was a small table and one stool. With help and guidance from the Mother (who had entrusted to him the responsibilities of the Philately Department which flourished under him) and Pavitra, he has enriched the department so much that now it houses a vast and spectacular collection of stamps of post-Independence India, French India, Canada, U.S.A., Brazil, France, Holland, Switzerland and some other countries of Western Europe. From 1975 he was helped in his work by his youngest sister Suprabha-di. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say that Noren-da and Suprabha-di are the soul and heart of the Department of Philately.
Noren-da is a beautiful person. He and his younger brother Nirmal Nahar are among the few people I’ve met who possess both beauty of form and beauty of spirit. Despite being one of the senior most members of the Ashram, Noren-da is easily approachable and his child-like simple laughter draws people closer to him. The Mother had remarked about Noren-da after seeing him that his psychic being was exactly on the front.
Whenever I visit Pondicherry, I often spend my evenings with Noren-da and Suprabha-di. During the course of the conversations, both Suprabha-di and Noren-da share with me the memories of the glorious golden days of the bygone era. And I make it a point to record those talks so that I can preserve them for posterity. Today (1 December 2009) on the occasion of Noren-da’s birthday, I would like to share with all some of the gems I have heard from him.
1. The Jail Term
I was never inclined towards politics; Nirmal was actively involved in it. I came to the Ashram at the age of nineteen so I could not participate in the Freedom Movement but I was jailed once. When I was in St. Xavier’s College, some students had organized a strike there; the gates were kept closed and many students sat at the entrance to prevent people going in. My friends, Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephews, were among the protestors. During this period I went one day to my College and sat in front of the gate with others. No sooner did I sit, the police arrived with a van and I was arrested along with the other students and was sent behind the bars. My eldest uncle came to bail me out. But overnight I became sort of a hero. Some Press reporters came to my house and took my interview which was published in a leading daily along with my photo. And the greatest advantage of this was that I came in contact with Subhas Chandra Bose and he was very affectionate to me.
2. First Spiritual Experience
It was either in 1938 or 1939. I had come to Pondicherry and was walking on the sea-beach. In those days Pondicherry was not so populated; there were hardly any cars and Pondicherry was a silent place. From the sea-beach I went to the Ashram Main Building. The more I approached towards it, I felt as if the atmosphere was becoming calmer and the silence was becoming more profound. The moment I stepped inside the Ashram, I felt as if I had entered a world of silence. My entire body could feel that sensation. It was the very first experience I had. It stayed with me for a while.
3. Becoming an Inmate
During holidays in 1939, when I came to the Ashram, the Mother wrote to my father that She would be glad if I stayed here. When my father asked me about it, I said that I shall stay on. While giving permission, She said: “If you want to continue your studies you can do so and then come back here.” But I told the Mother that I wanted to remain here from now on. Then I returned to Calcutta, with the Mother’s permission, to wind up my affairs, came back to the Ashram and became a permanent member. Since I started getting all my monthly requirements from ‘Prosperity’, I offered to the Mother whatever I had brought from Calcutta; I had withdrawn all the money I had in my bank account and offered it to Her even though the sum was negligible. I also offered my clothes to Her but She asked me to keep them with me and said: “Noren Singh, your clothes are of good quality and I won’t be able to give you such type of clothes.” After some time, while cleaning my luggage, I found some coins in my trunk. I felt bad because I had forgotten to offer them to the Mother.
4. Early Memories
In those days we were given two dhotis per year. The dhotis were short in width and measured up to my knees or a few centimetres down. Initially I found it a bit difficult to adjust with such outfits but got accustomed to it soon enough. In those days the Dining Room also seemed like the Ashram. All those who worked there worked with utmost concentration! There used to reign such a profound silence that it gave us the feeling as if we were in the Meditation Hall! The servers were very warm and would ask us if we would like to take some more food. There was Charu-da whom we used to call ‘Bhater Charu’ because he used to dish out rice.
5. Money Matters
Anurag: I’ve heard that the Mother used to sell Her saris and ornaments whenever the Ashram faced any sort of financial difficulties. Did She witness the prosperity of the Ashram before leaving Her body?
Yes, towards the last years of Her life, the Mother had seen some prosperity. I remember that once the Mother opened Her almirah to give some money to Dyuman for Ashram expenses. Since She trusted me She had opened the almirah in my presence. But things began to change after Sri Aurobindo’s departure. I remember one incident: I had asked for Rs.100/- from the Mother to buy stamps. She had approved of it and told me to collect it from Amrita-da. At that time the Ashram was going through a period of severe financial crisis, so Pavitra-da was not quite pleased with my request for money. When I went to Amrita-da, he asked me whether the payment could be made after some days. I understood the problem and readily agreed. When I was about to come out of his office, he called me back, gave me the money and said: “No, you take it. Yours is a continuous thing.” But after the Mother left Her body, the Ashram has never seen any cash crunch.
6. Contacts with the Mother
Anurag: I’m told that the Mother did not see anyone except for one or two of Her attendants for some days after Sri Aurobindo left his body.
Yes, but I had met the Mother during that period. When Sri Aurobindo’s body was kept in state I used to go to His room several times a day. It was either on the 6th or 7th of December 1950 that I went to the Mother’s room with a stalk of ‘New Creation’ flower and to put it in the flower vase quietly. She was in her apartment next to Sri Aurobindo’s and in deep concentration. She saw me and told me that the water of the flower vases has not been changed for a few days. “Can you do it?” Since then, for eight or ten days I was doing this regularly. At the same time the Mother told me: “Sorry, I cannot give you tomato.” This She used to give me daily in the morning after Balcony Darshan. Even when She retired to Her new room upstairs in 1962, my visits to Her were not interrupted. Satprem and Sujata used to go to Her twice a week for their interviews and I carried the tape-recorder which recorded her voice. So, in this way, I regularly met Her till May 1973 when She completely withdrew.
7. A Gift from the Mother
I had a green pen—a Sheffer’s life-time with a white dot on the cap. One day the Mother saw it lying on Pavitra-da’s table. She liked the pen very much and asked Pavitra-da whose pen it was. Pavitra-da said that perhaps it was Noren Singh’s. Next day the Mother asked me: “Noren Singh, can I keep this pen? It goes well in the Green Room”. I readily offered it to Her. Then She took me to Her Green Room and showed me that room. She said, “I shall give you my pen which I am using.” After a few days, the Mother gave me the pen which She Herself was using.
8. The Mother’s Nails
One day I went to the Mother’s Green Room and saw that the Mother was paring her nails. I wasn’t mature enough at that time for if I had stretched my hands, Her nails would have fallen on my palms and I could have got Her nails. But I didn’t do so. Her nails fell on the carpet. It is a regret that I have.
9. A Dictionary
In the beginning of 1940 my father received two dictionaries for me: English-French and French-English. They were two big volumes. As usual I showed them to the Mother. The Mother saw them and said: “I shall like to have this latest dictionary. In exchange, I shall give you mine.” After a few days She got the old one well bound and gave it to me.
10. Lord Ganesh
Once the Mother said: “Ganesh is much more beautiful than he is usually depicted.” I made a monumental mistake by not asking Her to draw a portrait of Ganesh as he actually is. She could easily have done it as She was the greatest artist I have ever known.
11. A Regret
Once the Mother had told me: “Noren Singh, I’ll draw your portrait.” But it didn’t materialize for some reason or other.
12. Sri Aurobindo’s Return
I had once asked the Mother: “When will Sri Aurobindo return with His supramentalized body?” The Mother replied: “My child, five hundred years is nothing in evolution.” This means that there is little chance of His return before five hundred years.
13. Dark Force Behind the Mother
There was a long corridor in front of Pavitra-da's room. On its right was the door leading to the Mother's apartment and on the left was the Green Room. The Mother was walking on the corridor while I was standing in front of the door. Suddenly I saw a dark force was following the Mother. I felt very bad. The thought of informing Pavitra-da did not occur to me; I thought that maybe something was wrong within me that's why I saw it. Afterwards the Mother went to play Tennis; even then the impact of the dark force was there. I was feeling uneasy. I went to the beach for a walk. After some time when I returned, I heard that the Mother had fallen down in the Tennis Ground while playing. I understood that it was a hostile force that was following Her.
14. Experience of a Force-Field around the Mother
A protective shield existed around the Mother all the time and once I witnessed how it worked. The Mother was playing Tennis in the Tennis Ground and I was also playing in the court next to hers with a gentleman. While we were playing, my opponent hit the ball which was near the net very hard and as a result the ball hit my racket and rose upwards and went to the next court where the Mother was playing. To my horrors, I saw that the ball was about to fall on Her. But suddenly the ball, as it was falling down, deflected towards another direction and fell on the ground. Thus, I experienced how the force-field worked around Her.
15. Memories of Anilbaran Roy
Anurag: Were you close to Anilbaran Roy?
Not really. He was much senior to us and he hardly interacted with others. But I remember two humorous incidents about him. The first one happened when I had just joined the Ashram. In those days the Mother used to take collective meditation in the Meditation Hall and each inmate had more or less a particular place where he sat for meditation. I did not know which place was reserved for whom so I sat on a side of the floor which happened to be Anilbaran’s reserved place. When Anilbaran came, without wasting a word, he just sat on my lap! I hurriedly got up and vacated his place.
On another occasion, I saw him climbing the Psychological Perfection tree in my garden in front of ‘Prosperity’. He climbed up and sat on one of its branches and hung his feet low. When I went near him, he said: “Krishna used to sit like this on the Kadamba tree, isn’t it?” Anilbaran used to have many spiritual experiences. It would have been good if I had asked him if he had seen Sri Krishna in vision because he was very fond of Bhagavat Gita. Then we could have had a real image of Sri Krishna before us.
When Anilbaran left the Ashram, the Mother called me and said: “Many have approached me to have his room. You go and occupy it as fast as possible.” I did accordingly and took possession of the room. The room was absolutely empty, not a single piece of furniture was there. And this room has now become the Department of Philately where the Mother’s stamp and coin collections are preserved.
16. Rain of Golden Light
I’ve told you about how I saw Sri Aurobindo, on the road itself, with my eyes open in 1951 in the western sky while coming back to Golconde. His luminous face covered the last part of the western sky. On another occasion I saw that there was a drizzle of golden particles around and in front of me from the crossing of Balcony road up to the crossing of Golconde road (Rue St. Gilles to Rue Dupuy). I just walked through the golden drizzle. This is an unforgettable experience, I remember it as vivid as it can be. Noren Singh Nahar Recalls