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(199) In an effort to explain the “marvellous change” of an “obscure school-master” into a national political leader, [Jitendra Lal] Bannerji proposed to give his readers what was needed to plumb the “secret of that mysterious personality which has drawn to itself so much love, hope and reverence.” Glowing portraits of Rajnarain Bose and Dr. K. D. Ghose were followed by a potted biography of Aurobindo that stressed his intelligence and self-sacrifice. Released from jail after a year’s confinement, he “is like gold, thrice tested in fire.” Some called him a visionary and a dreamer. Jitendra Lal had no quarrel with that: “Yes, Aravinda Ghosh is a dreamer — but he has dreamed golden dreams for his country and people — visions of glory and triumph.” <Footnote 115> This article may be said to mark the beginning of the Aurobindo legend, which would assume new forms in the years to come. But Aurobindo does not seem to have been taken Jitendra Lal’s article too seriously. In December he published a letter by a professor named Hiralal Haldar that scoffed at Jitendra Lal’s hero-worshipping tone.<Footnote 116>
<para> Critics of Aurobindo could be as zealous in detraction as Jitendra Lal was in praise. Annie Besant again proclaimed him dangerous, even fanatical on account of “his refusal to work with any Englishmen.” <Footnote 117> Members of government used the same terms to describe the man they were trying to imprison. Some added that they thought he was slightly off his head: “There is madness in his family,” wrote the Viceroy to the secretary of the state, “and he probably has a bee in his bonnet.” Minto seems to have picked up this notion from R.C. Dutt, a onetime friend of Aurobindo’s, who had been asked for information by the political agent of Baroda. “Arabindo’s mother was off her mind,” Dutt volunteered, “and Arabindo himself was eccentric.”<Footnote 118>
<Rest of paragraph and long citation from Sri Aurobindo omitted>
Text of footnotes:
115. J. Bannerji, “Aurobindo Ghose — A Study,” 476–487.
116. Letter from Hiralal Haldar, November 5, 1909, published as “Comment and Criticism” in Karmayogin 1 (December 11, 1909): 5.
117. Besant in Central Hindu College Magazine 9 (September 1909): 210.
118. Minto to Morley, April 14, 1910, Minto Papers; Diary of R. C. Dutt, August 7, 1909, Baroda State Papers.
Sri Aurobindo’s adesh
(204) Years later Aurobindo explained that when he heard Ramchandra’s warning, he went within and heard a voice — an adesh — that said “Go to Chandernagore.” He obeyed it without reflection. Had he given it any thought, however, he would have found good reasons to comply. Chandernagore was a French possession, one of five scattered enclaves that made up the French settlements in India. Outside the jurisdiction of the British police, it had become an important center of nationalist activity. For a man with a British warrant against him, it was the best place near Calcutta to go. The adesh also came at an opportune moment. Aurobindo had written ten days earlier that he would “refrain from farther political action” until a “more settled state of things supervenes” — something that was unlikely to happen very soon. This period of political paralysis coincided with his own wish to retire from politics and spend more time practicing yoga. In December, he had looked into the possibility of buying land outside Calcutta to found a spiritual ashram.<footnote 134> Nothing came of this idea, but his urge to leave politics remained. It was only his awareness that his party depended on him that kept him in the field. But the return of Shyamsundar and the other deportees meant that the movement would not be leaderless if he left. In addition, the arrival of his uncle Krishna Kumar Mitra meant that his last family duty — looking after his aunt and her children — had come to an end.
This is not to suggest that he thought all this through when he decided to leave Calcutta. By his own account, his “habit in action was not to devise beforehand and plan but to keep a fixed purpose, watch events, prepare forces and act when he felt it to be the right moment.”<footnote 135> The moment for his departure had come. As he sailed up the Hooghly in his little wooden boat, he probably was not looking further ahead than the next few days.
Texts of footnotes 134 and 135:
134. Government of India, Home Department Proceedings, series A, January 1910, 141–142: 4.
135. Sri Aurobindo, On Himself, 18.