Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How the ashramites could eat the same food for years

8 A.M. I reached Pondicherry with a glow in my face. After all I am getting a holiday after long time. What I noticed after stepping my foot in the city is its cleanliness and beauty. Pondicherry is a clean city, with well-polished roads, trees on either side of the streets giving a cool protection from the sun. In fact, I found it cleaner than Bangalore. I took an auto and went to Oriya Nilayam, one of the many ashrams belonging to Sri Aurobindo trust. I reached the ashram after a 15-minute ride from the station and found that it’s nothing like an ashram. The room were well built and maintained. You can say it’s more like a hotel, but the atmosphere was serene and peaceful. I set out to explore the city after having a refreshing bath. As soon as I stepped out to the streets, I felt the scorching heat. After 10 in the morning, the city becomes very hot and humid. If you can brave the heat, then the beauty of Pondicherry can enthrall you. Nicely designed buildings, beautiful parks, churches, streets named in French and the sea beach – it’s all so nice to see.

I had my first meal in the canteen of the Sri Aurobindo ashram. After eating I could faintly remember the taste of the food as I had the same food while I had visited Pondicherry almost 20 years ago. There had been no change in the menu in all those years. You get rice, a bowl of Dal fry mixed with vegetables, curd, dalia kheer, two bananas and a bowl of buttermilk sometimes. The food is healthy and hygienic, but I wondered how the ashramites could eat the same food for years.

As we all know, the crisis in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, still continues, and perhaps by the end of this month the Supreme Court of India will give a major judgment in the Enquiry Case pending against the Ashram Trust. It is in this backdrop that I am replying to Benimadhav Mohanty who made the silly accusation of “self-aggrandisement” on those who have stood up to the Trust instead of whimpering down like puppies, as most Ashramites have done, to the insidious threats of the Ashram Trustees – threats of depriving their rations, cutting down on their petrol expenses, not allotting the accommodation of their choice, not admitting their relatives into the Ashram (as in the case of Benimadhav himself who apparently wanted to admit his cousin into the Ashram so that she could serve him for the rest of his life). Or the threat of not giving them proper medical care; not hauling them up for sheer indiscipline or not removing them as a teacher in School or captain in Group or boss in Department; or not publishing their articles in Ashram magazines or not allowing them to stage their plays in the Ashram theatre! The list can go on, for the Trustees have many such deterrents to make all sections of Ashramites think ten times before taking on a confrontational mode. 

Let me mention only one more, perhaps the most intimidating one for those who are vulnerable to it – the permission to go to Sri Aurobindo’s room. This threat really knocks the bottom out of the best and the brave, for who can miss out on the experience of meditating in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s rooms? Unfortunately, it is the very attachment to this ineffable experience that is used strategically by the present Managing Trustee against those who seek to protect the dignity of the Masters in their own Ashram. The present situation then is that of the invisible Gurus (backed by a small group of motley supporters who feel deeply aggrieved by the insult to their Gurus) versus the visible mortal remains of the same Gurus, the custody of which lies in the hands of the current Trustees of the Ashram, who use every argument on the planet (including the clever excuse of leaving things to the Divine), to let the Gurus be thoroughly insulted in their own Ashram. What other proof do we need to show that this is verily the period of Kaliyug!

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