Reminiscences of Sarada Devi by Sudhir Chandra Samui
Sudhir Chandra Samui, Ex-Headmaster of Deopara Champamoni High School, was a resident of Jayrambati and passed away in 1994 at the age of 87. This article was translated from the original Bengali by Ms. Maloti Sengupta of Kolkata from Sri Sri Mayer Pada-prante published by Udbodhan Karyalaya, Kolkata 700 003. (Udbodhan, Vol.94, No.9, Pous 1399.) This article was published in the November,2002 Vedanta Kesari.
I had the opportunity to come in closecontact with the
Holy Mother Sarada Devi since my early childhood. I shall relate here some incidents from my memory. My father's name wasSatish Samui. My paternal grandmother was known to Mother as "Satu's Mother" and after Mother's new house was built she used to serve there as a maid, smearing the earthen floors of the rooms with fresh coats of earth every morning and washing Mother's clothes. I thus got the chance to visit Mother almost daily with mygrandmother. Mother, too, was fond of me. On her instructions, some of Thakur's [Sri Ramakrishna’s] prasad of the previous night used to be kept aside for me. It was the lure of that which made me accompany my grandmother to Mother's house very frequently.
My father was illiterate, but he was known in the village as a skilled farmer. Occasionally Mother would visit our house, being often in need of green vegetables. She used to say, "Some of my children have come. What vegetables are available for purchase?" Then stating her requirement of vegetables she used to conclude, "Satu's mother, send the vegetables to my house with your grandson." I would gladly carry them to her house. My father being illiterate could not always calculate the correct price of the goods he sold. People often cheated him. On account of that Mother used to tell my grandmother, "Satu's mother, have your grandson educated. He will do well in studies." With these words she had placed her hand on my head and blessed me. It is my firm belief that had it not been for the boundless strength of her blessings, it would never have been possible for me, the son of an illiterate farmer, to gain the distinction of being the first resident of Jayrambati to become a graduate of Calcutta University.
One of Mother's legs being rheumatic, she could not sit cross-legged on the floor. Whenever she came to our house, a rug was spread on the verandah and she used to sit on it with her legs hanging down. I have seen her seated on her bed in her room in the new house with her legs hanging down and Swami Saradananda worshipping her feet with lotuses. In childlike awe, I used to wonder who she was, why Swami Brahmananda being a monk was worshipping her. I did not have the maturity or the intelligence to understand things at that time.
In those days there was no primary school in the village. So Mother had a primary school set up in the village for the children. She also arranged to have the teacher of the school paid a salary. Bibhuti Ghose of Bankura used to visit Mother at Jayrambati very often. Mother used to call him "Kalo Manik" (Black Jewel) affectionately. He had a deep concern for the poor peasants of the village. I have heard Mother say to him: "Bibhuti, if the Amodar could be dammed and the water channelled to the tank, it would benefit the poor peasants greatly. Crops often fail due to drought. If you try and see to it that there is a regular supply of water it will benefit many."
At that time Probodh Chattopadhyay, the Head Master of Badarganj School, used to visit Mother almost every Saturday and return to the school on Sunday evening. I have seen many of his pupils accompanying him. Among them there was a young boy named "Rammoy" whom Mother came to love dearly. It was he who later became Swami Gaurishwarananda. When he came to Mother resolved to renounce the world, his parents and other relatives came to Mother, pleading with him tearfully to return home. Mother consoled them and sent them back after many words of comfort. All this took place in my presence.
The dacoit Amjad used to come sometimes to meet Mother. We were terrified of him. But Mother would receive him warmly and calling him inside the house she would fill the end of his dhoti with prasad. I have seen this many times.
In those times the supply of drinking water in the village was not satisfactory. The pond in which one bathed also served as the source of drinking water. Mother spoke to Saradanandaji and had a brick-built well sunk in the village.
On the occasion of Jagaddhatri puja every year Mother held a grand feast for all the villagers. She used to supervise all the preparations personally. Her love for each and everyone in the village was immeasurable.
At the time when Mother lived with her brothers I was just a little boy and therefore had little occasion to go there. But whenever I did go there, I invariably noticed Kshepi Thakurani (Radhu's mother) quarrelling with Mother. She was slightly deranged mentally, so people called her "Kshepi" (mad woman). She used to abuse Mother and reproach her bitterly. Mother bore it all with good humor. But once her patience gave way. That day Kshepi Thakurani was about to hit Mother with a large piece of wood. Inadvertently a curse escaped from Mother's mouth. She said: "That hand of yours will fall off one day." The very next moment with deep remorse she exclaimed, "What have I done!" I do not have personal knowledge of this incident, I heard about it from Revered Indubala Devi (the wife of Mother's third brother). In after times I saw Kshepi Thakurani suffer acutely from leprosy.
In the meanwhile, the number of visiting monks and devotees having increased considerably, it was most inconvenient for Mother to continue to live with her brothers. Sensing the need for a separate dwelling for her, Swami Saradananda bought the deserted homestead of Ramsharan Karmakar nearby and set about constructing a mud house there. Rasbehari Maharaj and Jnan Maharaj (both brahmacharins at the time) were entrusted with the supervision of the work. On completion of the house, Mother, Radhu and Nalini began to live in the new house. It was since then that my grandmother began serving there as a maid and I got into the habit of going there almost daily.
Mother used to suffer from frequent attacks of malaria. Whenever the news reached the ears of Sarat Maharaj [Swami Saradananda] at Udbodhan, he used to come down from Calcutta with Dr. Kanjilal. She had been so weakened by chronic illness that milk was considered an essential diet for her and a milch cow was bought for this purpose. My younger maternal uncle Ramendra Ghose was appointed to tend the cow. One day in the month of Bhadra when he had gone to the field to bring grass, the forefinger of his left hand was bitten by a bora snake. Bibhuti Babu of Bankura and a doctor, tying a tourniquet in his hand, made his finger bleed by making an incision in it. On being informed, Mother arrived there and exclaimed, "O Bibhuti, why are you doing all this? Take him to the grounds of Simhabahini's temple and leave him there. Let him take some bathwater of Simhabahini and smear the wound with earth from the temple. He will be well." The directions were followed. In a few days my uncle was well and returned home.
It is not in my power to describe Mother's deep love for Radhu and Nalini. Radhu’s husband, Manmatha Chattopadhyay of the zamindar family of Tajpur, was also very dear to her. At that time he used to visit Jayrambati frequently and used to stay at Mother's new house. He had some bad habits. He used to take ganja and in the evenings he would assemble people and entertain them by playing a gramophone. One night the music went on till very late. Mother herself came with a lantern calling out, "O Manmatha, it's so late; I am waiting with your food." Hearing this Manmatha Babu left quickly. I was present there.
Nalini used to behave like a bigoted Brahmin widow. She was intolerant of Mother's liberal ideas and often objected to Mother's practices. Mother used to answer, "Look, my children are all alike to me. I can't treat one differently from the other."
In the new house the infant son of Maku, another niece of Mother, suddenly died of diphtheria, there being hardly any opportunity for medical treatment. When we heard the news we hurried there. We found Maku's father, Nalini and other relatives weeping bitterly. Mother was very fond of the child. She too seemed sad and grief-stricken. However, in a moment she started to console the others and comfort them. Her forbearance impressed me deeply.
My account will remain incomplete without a mention of the mutual affection and friendship of Mother and Bhanu, a child widow of the Biswas family of Jayrambati. I used to notice how the two of them enjoyed each other's company. Everyday they went together to bathe in the pond belonging to the Banerjees. On festive occasions they would lead the neighboring women to the Amodar for a bath, trudging along the earthen ridges that separated the plots of cultivated land. On the way, seeing the peasants at work in the fields, Mother would comment, "How hard they toil, still they do not have enough to eat!" The ghat in which she used to bathe has been built with brick and stone and is now known as "Mayer Ghat" (Mother's ghat).
In their leisure the two friends would sit together and chat. I didn't quite understand what they used to say. But from the snatches of their conversations that still remain in my memory I realized subsequently that their discussions centered around Sri Ramakrishna and spiritual matters.
At present I have reached the twilight of my life, I am awaiting the call from the other world. But I believe firmly that since my life has been graced by the darshan of Mother, the blessed touch of her feet, salvation is certain after my death. None can prevent it.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.