Editor’s note: Ever since the children started to arrive in the Ashram in the 1940s, the Mother took great interest in their development. During the years 1951 to 1956, during her Friday classes she used to tell the children stories from various parts of the world. She also encouraged a small group of them to write stories.
Tara Jauhar, known to everyone in the Sri Aurobindonian family as simply ‘Tara di’ was one of these children. We present here one of the four stories that she had written during her early teens. The Mother corrected these stories written in French but she kept intact the childlike spirit of the story. We present here an English translation of a story titled ‘True Courage’ sourced from Tara Di’s book titled ‘Learning with the Mother’. The book recounts how the Mother helped her from an early age to develop the qualities of leadership and strength of character. We also present a few relevant excerpts from the book, followed by the story.
In early life, until he is twelve or fourteen, the child’s mind is hardly open to abstract notions and general ideas. And yet you can train it to understand these things by using concrete images, symbols or parables. Up to quite an advanced age and for some who mentally always remain children, a narrative, a story, a tale well told teach much more than any number of theoretical explanations.~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 11
The Mother’s Storytelling Days
In the early months of 1951, during these classes, the Mother also started telling stories from her own books Tales of all Times and Words of Long Ago. From November 1951, She started taking up all kinds of different stories on Fridays — her story-telling days. She also took up legends from different countries, such as India, Persia, Japan, China etc. and about her own experiences in Japan while taking up the legends of Japan; this continued for several weeks. She was very fond of that country. She also spent many Friday classes telling stories and legends from China.
When the Mother told stories about Africa, she narrated many of Her personal experiences in Algeria. Besides these, she also took up stories that were well known in France like those of Joan of Arc , Masakokarie, Pic et Pic et Cologram and even some children’s stories like Alice in Wonderland, Heidi, Babar—the elephant etc.
Most often the Mother read the stories herself but sometimes she made the children read by turns and once in a while she even asked a child to narrate a story. She marked out the difficult words and explained them, and would also encourage the children to find these words in a dictionary and write out their meanings. At the end of the story-telling, she would always explain the moral of the story and deeper meaning behind them. [. . .]
Stories by the Children
One day in Oct 1951, when the six of us (Chum, Jhumur, Bubu, Gauri, Parul and myself) went to Mother’s room upstairs, the Mother asked us to write stories to improve our French. All the six girls were between the ages of thirteen and fifteen at that time. She said that she would bring out a book of stories entitled For the Children, By the Children (Pour les Enfants, Par les Enfants).
The Mother during this period also sanctioned from the library a set of books which were folk tales and legends of different countries. These collected volumes were in the reference section of the Ashram library and were not issued to anyone but Mother asked me to take one book at a time and directed the librarian to issue them to me as a special case. These books were in English.
When we started writing the stories, I took some ideas from these books. I wrote four stories in French, while the other friends wrote one each. These were extensively corrected by The Mother. The Mother then read out these stories in the Friday classes.
When I gave my fifth story to The Mother, She corrected a part of it only and it remained in Her room for a long time as She did not get any time for correction.
Story – True Courage
A poor man lived with his wife and children in a small hut. He worked with a business man in his shop for a very meagre salary. It was difficult to live a decent life with his small earnings but he somehow managed. As time passed it was becoming more and more difficult to survive on such a meagre earning as the cost of living was increasing day by day.
The season of festivals, starting with Durga Puja was around the corner. It was in the air, the cool autumn breeze, the falling leaves and the white fluffy clouds sailing across the clear blue sky, everyone was waiting for the mother goddess to come for these four days and be a part of their lives. From young children to their grandparents, all were discussing how to welcome “Maa Durga”. Everyone waits for a whole year for this festival. The mothers and grand-mothers get busy in preparing for the rituals while children are happy because they get lots of new clothes and new shoes to wear, good food to eat, and new toys to play with.
Our protagonist as well as the poor man’s children were also happy that ‘Durga puja’ was coming. His son wanted a soldier’s attire while his daughter wanted a light blue coloured frock. They also wished and expected that their father would buy some new toys for them. But the father was very sad. He loved his children very much but he did not have the extra money required to buy these things. He did not want to hurt his children so he tried to borrow some money but no one gave him. What was he to do? Pujas were only ten days away!
That day was his pay day. He went to work as usual in the shop but he could not concentrate in his work.
Often his mind drifted towards his eagerly waiting children’s faces and he felt miserable because he would not be able to get anything for them. At the end of the day, the cashier handed over his salary in an envelope. The man took the envelope and walked home. At home, as he was counting his money, he realised that he had a one hundred rupee note extra.
“This note must have come by mistake in my envelope,” he thought.
“Good, because of this mistake I’ll be able to bring a smile on my children’s faces. Its ages since I bought a new saree for my wife. My shoes are torn and I’ll be able to buy another pair of shoes.”
“But this is not your money. It does not belong to you”, said someone from within, his conscience was telling him.
“You cannot spend this money. Tomorrow when you go to the shop to work, return it to the cashier.”
“No one knows that I have this money, so even if I spend it no one will think that it is not my money which I’m spending”. He started arguing with his inner voice.
“Yes, that is true, and all the more necessary that you return the money. People think that you are a good man and you cannot do anything wrong. So when you get an opportunity to do something wrong, then you will do it just like you want to do now, taking advantage of the trust that others have in you. In this way you can trick others but you cannot trick me. So do not hesitate, the first thing you do tomorrow is return the money”.
“My wife and children will be very happy when they get this money.”
“Do you think that you can make your family happy with clothes, food and other things? You practise honesty in your life first and then you teach your family to be always honest and truthful. Only then will they really be rich and wealthy from within and there will be true happiness in your family. But, if you do what you said just now, do you know how much trouble you will land yourself in? Your family depends completely on you, then how will you make them happy when you yourself have landed in trouble?”
“I need money very badly right now.”
“Why are you feeling upset? If you really need money it will surely come to you. If you think you need something which you do not have then it means that you actually do not require it.”
The whole night our poor man spent fighting with his conscience and his devil’s spirit. In the end his conscience won, he decided to return the money to the shop. The next morning when he reached the shop he went to the cashier and returned the hundred rupee note telling him that he found this extra note in his envelope.
“I am very pleased to see your honesty. The money was not a mistake. This year business has been good and we have made a lot of profit, so we decided to share the extra money amongst all our employees. We know that all of us need more money before the Pujas so this amount of hundred rupees is your share of the profit”, replied the cashier.
When a country is attacked then her soldiers fight with all their strength and valour to save the motherland from the enemies. We praise our soldiers. We show our respect. But what about those men who believe in truth and fight against all the injustices and wrong doings that happen in today’s life? They are as courageous as our soldiers.
True fighters will always take truth’s side. They will always fight against all that is not true. To do this they have to face a lot of danger and troubles but they still do it.
In the end victory is guaranteed for these people just like our man who was very happy in the end as he finally did get to spend the money on his family. His wife and children too were very happy and proud of him.
Stories of Courage as Told by the Mother
~ Design: Raamkumar and Biswajita Mohapatra