IN his fiction, the author has recounted the story of Sri Aurobindo’s life in the form of a novel. A fictitious character by the name of Harimohan Datta has been created to show that he meets Sri Aurobindo at different times and places as the lives of both happen to come together.
Arup Mitra’s story takes the reader to the pre-Independence days and recreates the mood of the nationalist movement. The protagonist is a 15-year old boy named Harimohan, who is adopted by a British couple, Julia and Horace Cockerell, when his mother dies, though he has a father left but he is a philanderer.
Harimohan belongs to a Kayastha family. He takes a liking to a poor girl Saraju from a poor Brahmin family and who is forced by poverty to marry a 42-year old Nepal Gupta. After four years of marriage, Saraju becomes a widow and is in an advance stage of pregnancy at the time. She gives birth to a boy whom she names Indraneel at Harimohan’s suggestion when he visits her to offer his condolences at her husband’s death.
When the child becomes four-years old, Harimohan takes him away to Calcutta to make him study while he provides shelter to Saraju and her old parents in his own house, now lying vacant. When Harimohan’s father, Gourmohan comes to know of Harimohan’s action, he gets Saraju’s mother taken to prison on a false charge of robbery while getting Saraju abducted and killed. But the man, who is a hired thug appointed to kill Saraju, takes pity on her and leaves her in Assam with a family and returns home. Here in Assam, a well-off family sees her and they take Saraju to their home in Shillong to look after their children.
Meanwhile Harimohan’s father Gourmohan wants to fix his son’s marriage but Harimohan leaves for England as his foster mother Julia is on her deathbed. Here he meets Sri Aurobindo and they become friends. Meanwhile Harimohan’s foster mother dies, leaving Harimohan distraught. He returns home to India.
Next year again Harimohan goes to England to attend his foster mother’s first death anniversary. He again meets Sri Aurobindo who gives the ICS examination but returns to India and takes up a job at Baroda with the Maharaja of Baroda. Meanwhile his father reaches Bombay port to receive Sri Aurobindo, but his son does not come as he has left directly for Baroda. Aurobindo’s father dies a couple of days later “just as lonely in death as he had always been in life, without meeting his dear son but with his name on his lips.”
In Baroda, Sri Aurobindo and Harimohan get together and the latter listens to Aurobindo expound on the need for awakening the people to the concept of fighting for India’s Independence. Harimohan is deeply impressed with Aurobindo’s views.
By now, Indraneel becomes 20-years old while Harimohan goes to attend Aurobindo’s marriage to Mrinalini, whose parents are the same couple who had provided shelter to Saraju. Harimohan sees her and proposes to her though both are above 40 years of age by now. They get married and so does Idraneel to his friend Kusum.
The story could have stood on its own due to its interesting contents and style of narrating without bringing in Sri Aurobindo unless the author thought that the latter’s name would sell or add to the narrative’ value.
(Niyogi Books, D-78, Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-I, New Delhi-110 020; www.niyogibooks.com)