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Unsung couple of old Shillong
Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a great revolutionary son of Mother India, was born on August 15, 1872. He turned to a great Yogin from a revolutionary and spent most part of his life in confinement and meditation, and came to be known as Rishi Aurobindo (sage Aurobindo). But in the early part of his youth, he was quite a juvenile worldly person and was more progressive than any person of his age.
It is interesting to observe that after returning from England, and while serving at Baroda College, Aurobindo had advertised in a newspaper of Calcutta for a caste Hindu bride for him (1901).
Roy Saheb Bhupal Chandra Bose, Deputy Director, Agriculture Department, under the Government of Assam, was a resident of Madan Laban who responded to the advertisement of Aurobindo for his 14-year-old daughter Mrinalini. Mrinalini was a very elegant girl with fair complexion. As there was no such educational facility in Shillong, child Mrinalini was sent to a boarding house of the Brahmo Samaj Girls’ School in erstwhile Calcutta to continue her studies. She was then a student of Class VIII and was quite a smart girl. Aurobindo selected her at the very first sight.
The marrige was settled and solemnised in Calcutta on April 30, 1901. Aurobindo was 29 years old. The marriage ceremony was performed with perfect Hindu rituals.
Soon after marriage, Aurobindo and Mrinalini went to Nainital for honeymoon and stayed there in a hotel.
As the marriage ceremony of Mrinalini was performed in Calcutta, Bhupal Bose invited Aurobindo and his bride to visit Shillong and accordingly arranged a reception party in his house in Laban. He wanted to introduce his son-in-law to his friends and relatives.
It is heard that Aurobindo, along with Mrinalini, first came to Shillong, to his father in-law’s house (present St John’s School premises) in July 1901 though there is no authentic record of his visit to Shillong, other than the reports of senior citizens of that period, who had attended the party.
Aurobindo and Mrinalini were a happy couple who started their domestic life in Baroda as usual, but irony of fate! It did not last long. It was the fiery age of independence movement and Aurobindo’s main ambition was to free Mother India from the ‘bondage’ of the British rule. Aurobindo thronged to Freedom Movement and under circumstances Mrinalini had to come back to Shillong to her parents; but she was assured that she would come back very soon.
Aurobindo was fully absorbed in Swadeshi Movement and had no sincere urge to bring Mrinalini to him but he kept whole-hearted co-operation with her in Shillong; having regular correspondence and monthly remittance.
Mrinalini also dreamt of coming back to her husband’s place in Baroda to live a normal domestic life. In her letters to Aurobindo, she always expressed her ardent desire and eagerness to be with him and to lead a normal domestic life. But many obstacles came on her way.
In protest against the partition of Bengal (1905), Aurobindo roared very boldly. He left his job in Baroda and rushed to Calcutta to join the movement in full spirit. During the stormy years, Mrinalini had no opportunity of living a normal domestic life with her husband. Her life during that period was full of continuous disappointment and despair which she had to bear solely with utmost patience and quietude. Correspondences of Aurobindo with Mrinalini gave her some happiness despite all calamities.
Teenager Mrinalini counted days and dreamt of getting together with her husband. Her letters to her husband were always with ardent request to take her to him and Aurobindo also sincerely assured the same. He hopefully thought that the days of calamity would be over soon.
But Aurobindo was arrested and was in prison from May 8, 1908, to May 6, 1909. His defence counsel was Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and due to his strong advocacy and lack of proper evidence, Aurobindo was acquitted. Mrinalini paid several visits to her husband at Alipore Central jail, with her father, but never evinced any visible agitation during those exciting times, but kept quiet and firm throughout.
After acquittal, Aurobindo turned to a completely different person other than that great revolutionary. He spent a few months in Calcutta and kept himself engaged in social services and delivering speeches at public gatherings. It is worth mentioning that maximum of his speeches were religious and about existence of God. A big change was noticed in his movements. In 1910, Aurobindo withdrew himself from all political activities and secretly left for Chandannagar, without informing Mrinalini. Aurobindo and Mrinalini could never meet again!
Aurobindo finally started for Pondicherry, remained absorbed there for long years in meditation and turned into a great yogin; during the first three years of his exile, Aurobindo hoped that someday he would return to Bengal, and meet Mrinalini; but gradually he stopped writing letters because of his exclusive pre-occupation with ‘Yoga’; but Mrinalini never ceased to write to him and think of meeting him. Poor Mrinalini, waiting for him day after day, year after year, and gradually withered in despair.
Aurobindo did not allow Mrinalini to come and stay in the hermitage of Pondicherry, that refusal deeply hurt Mrinalini. She was always worried of her unknown future, and felt insecured. She used to engage herself in the performances of religious rituals. Though she was with her parents in Shillong, she kept herself aloof and spent time in studying the books of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Mrinalini was not accustomed with puja and meditation as she was advised by her husband and felt bored and disappointed. She was only 25. A time came when her father Bhupal Bose retired from service in 1916, and had to close his establishment in Shillong. Mrinalini felt like a fish out of water. She became determined to start for Pondicherry.
After a long wait, in 1918, Mrinalini got consent from Aurobindo to come and stay with him at Pondicherry Ashram. Mrinalini was maddened with joy. Let us hear from the version of Shaibalini Mitra, younger sister of Mrinalini:-
At last arrived the year 1918, December. She (Mrinalini) received the call from Sri Aurobindo, saying, “My Sadhana is over, I have achieved my object, Siddhi, I have lot of work to do for the world. You can come now and be my companion in this work”. ‘This naturally made Mrinalini and all others extremely happy. The Government also gave permission. They arrived in Calcutta via Ranchi. But suddenly Mrinalini fell a victim to the scourage of Influenza which was raging everywhere. All medical efforts failed! After a week’s illness, Mrinalini breathed her last on December 17, 1918, in Calcutta, under the shade of the same house of her beloved uncle Girish Chandra Bose where her marriage was performed. Cruel death snatched her away untimely, at the age of 32!
(Contributed by Uma Purkayastha)
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