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Writing in medicine

Shifting to the Dispensary

Sri Aurobindo and Dr. Nirodbaran

Dr. Nirodbaran, a medical doctor trained in the UK, was among the foremost disciples of Sri Aurobindo. He looked after the medical needs of the Ashram inmates for a long time. Over the years he developed a sweet and intimate relationship with Sri Aurobindo whose letters to Dr. Nirodbaran are often full of wit and humour. These healthy banters were often directed towards the medical field as it was during that time. In January 1935, Dr. Nirodbaran took charge of the Ashram Dispensary.

Dr. B asked me to shift over to the Dispensary today itself, but I refused, waiting for your full instructions about the furniture, table lamp, management work, etc.

I think there is everything needed over there, table lamp and all. You had better go and see. If so, you will need to take only your personal things. One thing the Mother wants to say — she asks you to keep the Dispensary meticulously clean... As a “foreign degree doctor” you will understand the necessity. You can move in whenever you like, handing over your wooden responsibilities to Dikshit.

Now that I shall be in charge of the Dispensary I feel afraid about my prestige. People expect great things from an England-returned doctor (who I may confide in you, hasn’t had enough time for experience). If you can’t save my prestige, save at least my face.

People are exceedingly silly — but I suppose they can’t help themselves. The more I observe humanity, the more that forces itself upon me — the abysses of silliness of which its mind is capable.

The prestige I can’t guarantee, but hope to save something of the face.

Above all, you are putting me in front of my very weakness — to be conquered, perhaps.

It had to be faced someday.

I have no desire to eat though I am hungry. I can’t even sleep at night. Can it be due to the hypersecretion of the endocrines from yogic pressure?

Confound your endocrines! You have got to eat. Yoga can’t be done on a hungry stomach. Sleep also is indispensable.

Everybody seems to be happy to find me shifted from the “timber throne” to the Dispensary, and says, “Now is the right man in the right place”!

Men are rational idiots. The timber-godown made you make a great progress and you made the timber-godown make a great progress. I only hope it will be maintained by your successor.

But I don’t know how long the right man will be right for them. They want me to entertain them with “pāyas”1 to celebrate the occasion.

No man ever is the right one for them — for a long time, but just the time of digesting the payas.

I feel a little “māyā”2 for that room where I stayed, with plenty of air and light.

That was the reason for our hesitation to change you. But there is no go. The man in the right place must be in the place.

I thought, however I am the neighbour of the Divine, under his breath,3 almost. So I am at least free from any number of hostile forces.

Provided you allow the breath to come into you and don’t blow it away.

Is it necessary to keep the Dispensary open for longer hours than at present?

There are two different things — (1) sadhaks who can be confined to limited hours and (2) workmen and servants who cannot, for the workmen may have accidents and that must be seen to immediately. So you must be available, especially at the times when the work closes. No. (2) is the main thing, for it throws a considerable responsibility upon us.

The Dispensary table is covered with paper and looks rather untidy. An oilcloth would be better.

Mother had given a fine coloured hospital cloth, very big (the size of the table) and much better than any oilcloth. Ask what has become of it.

There is no table for my personal use, and for your big photo what would you suggest, a small cane table or nails on the wall?

No nails on the wall — absolutely forbidden. Ask for a small table from Amrita.

By the way, I find that I am extremely hilarious and happy, though I am doing very little sadhana. One cause, I find, is the daily contact with you. But is hilarity permissible in the court of the Divine and can it go hand in hand with progress?

Cheerfulness is the salt of sadhana.

1 A sweet dish prepared from milk and rice.
2 Written in Bengali. The sense of the word here is regret and affection.
3 The Dispensary is situated across the street from Sri Aurobindo’s window.

Nirodbaran’s Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo, Volume 1. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1983, pp. 108-10.

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Sri Aurobindo


Dr. Nirodbaran


A neighbour of the Divine


The Mother