Huta’s journey on the path of self-realisation is told here through a narrative that includes numerous letters and notes to her from the Mother, reports of her conversations with the Mother, extracts from her spiritual diaries, and quotations from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother that have a special relevance to her circumstances, experiences, and inner difficulties. When the first version of the book was read out to the Mother in October 1972, she commented, “This is the interesting story of how a being discovers the Divine Life.” The Story of a Soul runs from 1954 to 1973 – this volume covers the first half of 1956.
The Glorious Fifties
After Sri Aurobindo’s passing there was a momentary feeling that the pace of life in the Ashram may slow down. But instead the 1950s saw a stupendous growth in activities initiated or encouraged by the Mother. The announcement of the start of the Sri Aurobindo University brought in numerous entrants, many of them teenaged girls wanting to join the Ashram. In addition to their formal studies, the Mother encouraged these girls to learn music, dance, handicrafts, flower culture, and painting. Huta was one such arrival, in 1955. I call these years the glorious fifties because the Mother opened new departments in every field; she was so much amongst us, the whole day long; and while giving us work or classes, she poured her love in abundance. That is the reason Huta and many like her stayed here and did not miss their homes. And Huta was special. She asked to be near the Mother and was privileged to get from her so much time, love, guidance, and trust.
The Mother used many sadhaks as instruments for various works; some gave up after a time, but this young woman Huta stuck on through all trials and persisted in her efforts to learn how to live the divine life. The Mother had promised her that, “I will teach you not only what is Divine Life but also how to live it so that you will realise in yourself that true divine life.”
Huta has done quite a lot of work single-handedly, bringing out many books based on her learning experiences in various fields. In this volume she tells the story of her life with the Mother in early 1956 – which is indeed the story of a soul. The book has a powerful presence, starting from the aesthetic cover, the quality of paper, the innumerable facsimiles of the Mother’s handwriting, the minute details, and so many blessings.
I have heard people saying that Huta was very lucky to receive so much from the Mother. This volume tells us about her struggles, doubts, pain, problems, and revolts! She had enough of them but still she stuck on. The book reveals how she cried, she implored, she turned her face away from the Love, and she went into deep despondency. Let’s see how the Mother handled her:
An awful anxiety was pressing down on me. I said to her without any hesitation: “Mother, I do not feel like doing this Yoga. It is too tough, and you know very well how ignorant I am about the Divine Life and there seems no end to the difficulties, obscurities and obstructions. In this condition how can I find the Divine and unite with Him? Everything is disheartening, dubious and…” The rest of my sentence died on my lips as I looked up into those piercing blue-grey eyes – so deep were they, and unfathomable.
She raised her eyebrows and said with wide-open eyes:
Child, what are you saying? Are you feeling all right? Now look here, when you have chosen to do Yoga you have to go through with it. You have also to collaborate with the Divine and open fully to the divine Light and Force.
The Mother remained silent for a moment or two with her eyes half-closed, and then continued:
If people have no need of the Divine, then of course I have no connection with them – they do whatever they like. But those who seek the Divine must not have any self-will against the Divine’s Will. Also there must not be any lower elements-ill-will and a bad nature-in them. They should give themselves fully to the Divine alone.
I stared at her for a second in shocked silence, because I knew too well that I could not live without the Divine. The Mother patted my hand which was resting in hers and said affectionately:
My child, leave everything to me and I will do the sadhana for you, and take you to your goal.
My spirit revived momentarily, only to sink again because I felt that to surmount the lower elements which were strangely influenced by evil forces was too much for me. But now the die was cast, I had to go through with this life.
Yes, no doubt she was lucky, but she deserved it because she persisted and won many battles. Many were given similar opportunities by the Mother, but failed or gave up the effort because they did not have the doggedness Huta had.
This volume tells us how Huta grew up in her spiritual journey with the Mother. It shows how insistently she sought the Mother’s attention and received her love. It also relates how the Mother appreciated Huta’s artistic taste regarding the embroidery of her clothes and how Huta was given work in the Mother’s stores, which led her to arrange a very important doll exhibition that brought to light information on how the Mother had received certain articles. One finds the detailed instructions which the Mother gave Huta regarding the decoration of the idols for the exhibition, such as the colours of the sarees and the jewellery for the four main goddesses: Mahakali, Maheshwari, Mahalaxmi, and Mahasaraswati.
The Mother’s tender care of Huta healed her heart and soul, but even extended to curing her headaches, as the following incident from the book describes:
In the evening I saw the Mother in her room at the Playground and told her about my persistent headache which made me sick and miserable.
At once she put her hand on my forehead and said:
Oh! It is too hot – it is burning.
Then she held my head in her hands and concentrated for quite a long time. After that, she massaged my forehead gently and said:
It will go.
In the book there are many such wonderful scenes between Huta and the Mother. I’ll close with some gems from the Mother we find only in this book as they are from the privileged correspondence:
I want the Victory to come soon.
You are born for the Divine and you will find the Divine.
Do not let the mud of ugly thoughts and low feelings stain your consciousness and take you out of my protection.
Child, if you do not listen to the devil, you will surely become happy and healthy. You see, I do not want the devil to become fat!
Remain open to the Divine’s energy that will give you the strength to keep up your resolution to always remain in the Divine’s protection.
My love is with you surrounding you with its strength and protection and my blessings never leave you.
– Sunanda Poddar
Postscript to the review:
Before the newsletter was ready to go to press, the next volume of The Story of a Soul was published. Sunanda offered this insight on the most recent volume:
In this book (The Story of a Soul: Volume Two, Part Two) I was struck by the number of cards sent to Huta on almost a daily basis, which had a picture of a flower and its spiritual significance written out by the Mother. It reminded me of my own experience of communicating with the Mother through flowers: those which I offered to her expressing my aspirations and prayers and then the flowers she chose to give me in return. In this silent but powerful way the Mother gave us the help we needed to progress in our sadhana. We had only to be open to the vibrations of the flowers she so lovingly placed in our hands.
Sunanda came to stay in the Ashram in 1951, when she was sixteen. She began working at SABDA while still a student at SAICE and continued until 1994. In 1952 she also began her work of telling and writing children’s stories. She has been looking after Sri Smriti since its inception in 1989.