5 Sept 2012

Fighting the Five Sisters – A Pondicherian

This is with regard to the news item published in the Sunday Times of India, Chennai on September 2, 2012. The title of the story “HC asks five sisters to vacate Aurobindo  Ashram” immediately catches your attention and you wonder as to whether it is the same Sri Aurobindo Ashram whose members always speak of spiritual families, spiritual relations and world unity! Then you find out from the news item that the disagreement between both parties began in the year 2002, which means that the five sisters have been legally hounded for ten long years by the Ashram administration. Giving the full benefit of doubt to the Trustees of the Ashram, assuming  for the moment  that the five sisters lodged false complaints of sexual harassment (which is anyway so difficult to establish in the Court), assuming  that they were quarrelsome and mischievous sisters who gave sleepless nights to the Trustees and made them so wild that they spent a  fortune to evict them from the Ashram, is it really worth all the trouble? Does it not actually speak volumes on the maladministration of the Trustees? 

Have the Trustees forgotten that Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual institute? that they are supposed to solve the problems of the Ashram with spiritual wisdom and tolerance? that they are at least supposed to be humane and considerate towards their fellow inmates instead of wreaking vengeance on them (in this case, five ladies!) because their egos have been ruffled or badly bruised? Moreover, how can five ladies be so dangerous to deserve so much attention and time and money! 

What have the Trustees  gained by obtaining this order against the five sisters after such a hard-fought legal battle? They will have to pay them much more (Rs 5800/ per person amounting to Rs 29000/ for all the five) than what they would have to spend on them if they continue to stay in the Ashram. This order will certainly give bright ideas to other bold and clever inmates who want some easy cash: Henceforth file a sexual harassment case and get pension for the rest of your life! 

But the Ashram Trustees have certainly lost one thing – respectability in the public domain. They have as yet not realised, and perhaps will take a lot more time to realise that they are being watched by all those who are devoted to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. For the moment, the Trustees have won a resounding victory and have pompously announced it in the generally biased English media. (The Tamil papers say a different story, which the Trustees would not like to hear.) But the present victory of the Trustees is merely a personal victory of their egos over other egos, and it will be viewed publicly as a defeat (or rather a self-defeating victory) in the eyes of those who cherish the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  Soon you will hear them say, “The Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram are ordinary people , they are no better than us; in fact, they are worse. At least, we don’t go after five ladies in the way they have done! Shame on them!”

Finally, whose money the Ashram Trustees are spending to wreak their personal vengeance? Is it not the hard-earned money of devotees all over India and the world, who offer it to the Ashram in good faith so that it can become a spiritual example to society? When these devotees will know that their money is lavishly spent on fighting thankless court battles, will they not have second thoughts on contributing to the Ashram? The flow of money will then decrease and deflate the arrogance of the Trustees, paving the way for a new era of collective living on the basis of mutual trust and understanding. We are all waiting for that day!

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