Early Education

… I remember, I clearly remember my attitude when I was studying, and I clearly remember all my classmates and which one was to me an intelligent girl, which one a word mill…I have some very amusing memories about that, because I couldn't understand what meaning there was in learning in order to seem to know (I had a tremendous memory at the time, but didn't make use of it). And I liked only what I had understood.

Once in my life I took an exam (I forgot which one), but I was just at the age limit, which means that I was too young to sit at the time of the regular exam (I sat at that time because it was autumn, and then I was old enough). And I remember, we were a small group, the teachers were greatly annoyed because their holidays had been cut short, and the students were for the most part rather mediocre, or else rebellious. There I was, observing all that (I was very young, you understand, I don't remember, thirteen or fourteen), watching the whole thing: a poor little girl had been called to the blackboard to do a mathematical problem, and she didn't know how to do it, she kept spluttering. Me (I wasn't being questioned just then), I looked and smiled—oh, dear! The teacher saw me and was quite displeased. As soon as the girl was sent back, he called me and said, "You do it." Well, naturally (I loved mathematics very much, really very much, and also I understood, it made sense), I did the problem—the chap's face! … You see, I wasn't in that [in the small outward person]: I was constantly a witness. And I had the most extraordinary fun. So I know the way children are, the way teachers are, I know all that, I had great fun, really fun.

At home, my brother was studying advanced mathematics (it was to enter Polytechnic), and he found it difficult, so my mother had engaged a tutor to coach him. I was two years younger than my brother. I used to look on, and everything would became clear: the why, the how, it was all clear. So the teacher was working hard, my brother was working hard, when I exclaimed, "But it is like this!" Then, I saw the teacher's face… It seems he went and told my mother, "It's your daughter who should be studying!" (Mother laughs) And it all was like a picture, you understand, so funny, so funny! So I know, I remember, I know the reactions, the habits….

For a time I attended a private school: I didn't go to a state school because my mother considered it unfitting for a girl to be in a state school! But I was in a private school, a school of high repute at the time: their teachers were really capable people. The geography teacher, a man of renown, had written books, his books on geography were well known. He was a fine man. So then, we were doing geography; I enjoyed maps more completely because it all had to be drawn. One day, the teacher liked at me (he was an intelligent man), he looked at me and asked, "Why are towns, the big cities, found on rivers?" I saw the students' bewildered look; they were saying to themselves, "Lucky the question wasn't put to me!" I replied, "But it's very simple! It's because rivers are a natural means of communication." (Mother laughs) He too was taken aback… That's how it was, all my studies were like that, I enjoyed myself all the time - enjoyed myself thoroughly, it was great fun!

The teacher of literature… He was an old fellow full of all the most conventional ideas imaginable. What a bore he was, oh! … So all the students sat there, their noses to the grindstone. He would give subjects for essays - do you know The Path of Later On and the Road of Tomorrow? I wrote it when I was twelve; it was my paper on his question! He had given a proverb (now I forget the words) and expected to be told…. all the sensible things! I told my story, that little story, it was written at the age of twelve. After wards he would eye me with misgivings! (Laughing) He expected me to make scene…Oh, but I was a good girl!

But it was always like that: with that something looking on and seeing the sheer ridiculousness of this life which takes itself so seriously!


And the ease: what ever I wanted to do I could do. But there was one thing (now I understand, at the time I didn't know why it was so): whatever I wanted to do I could do, but after a time, I had experienced the thing and it didn't seem to me important enough to devote a whole life to it. So I would move on to something else: painting, music, science, literature…everything, and also practical things. And always with extraordinary ease. Then, after a while, very well, I would leave it. So my mother (she was a very stern person) would say, "My daughter is incapable of seeing anything through to the end." And it remained like that: incapable of seeing anything through to the end—always taking to something, then leaving it, then after a time taking to something else… "Unstable. Unstable - she will never achieve anything in life!" (Mother laughs)

And it was really childlike transcription of the need forever more, ever better, ever more, ever better…endlessly—the sense of advance, advance towards perfection. A perfection that I felt to be quite beyond anything people thought of—something … a "something" … which was indefinable, but which I sought through everything.

29 July 1967
- The Mother

Annul thyself that only God may be.        - Sri Aurobindo