Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Joya Mitter never stopped dreaming

SAIC > Elders > Joya di - a life sketch.
Joya Mitter dedicated all she was and all she had - her life as her death - at the feet of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture holds every year, in Joyadi's loving memory, a concert on her birthday. Joya Mitter nee Ghosh was born on 2nd February 1936 in Shyampukur, in North Kolkata. Her father was Sri Baidynath Ghosh and her mother Smt. Niharkana Ghosh. She had an elder brother Aloke. She belonged to an orthodox family where religion was a way of life and not mere ritual. Thus, from her very childhood, she developed a deep affinity towards the Divine. Her favourite deity was Lord Krishna.She attended Duff School and took her graduation from Bethune College in Botany. In the latter part of her life, she also did her Post Graduation in English and took a degree in Education. She was married to Sri Rathindra Kumar Mitter, a civil engineer, on August 5, 1954, at the age of 18. Ranjan, their only child, was born a few years later. She firmly believed that bringing up a child was an art and she groomed her son accordingly. She was a dedicated daughter-in-law, wife and mother.

As a child, she learnt dancing, specially Rabindrik and also singing. After marriage, she pursued her interest in painting, and took courses in Indian Painting and Fine Arts at Govt. Art College. She also completed her training in music and won a Gold Medal from Gitabitan. Adept at the sitar and the piano, she was fond of flowers and took a diploma from Wafu-Kai School of Ikebana. Apart from her artistic bent she excelled in mundane activities like cooking and specialised in Indian, Chinese and Continental cookery.In Baruani, Bihar, her husband's workplace, she started a dancing school for local children and staged Rabindranath Tagore's "Dakghar" and other plays successfully. Later on, she duplicated this experiment at her thatched country house in Madhyamgram. She had an inborn feel for architecture and this manifested itself there. She was very fond of gardening and agriculture , and grew many types of roses in her garden in Barauni as also vegetables, paddy etc.
A chance trip to Pondicherry in 1953 where she was personally blessed by the Mother had far reaching consequences which were to be realized at a later part of her life. In the early sixties, she met a senior Sadhak of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry - Sri Pradyot Kumar Bhattacharya. Through him, she renewed her contacts with the Ashram and developed an inner resolve resolve to serve The Mother.In 1971-72, Joya di was in the middle of the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Celebrations in Calcutta and various districts of West Bengal. In 1976, Pradyot da asked her to look after the developments of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture in Regent Park, Calcutta.
Her Contribution: Joyadi's predecessor at the Institute, Sri Arun Tagore had just established a small nursery school called Arun Nursery in the Institute premises, in 1972, with four students. From this grew, in later years, The Future Foundation School, which has come to be regarded as a premier school in South Kolkata. In 1979, Joya di took over and the number of students then was twenty. Years of sincere, single-minded and hard work bore positive results. The school grew in size and stature. As the number of students increased, the need for a proper accommodation was felt. A true lover of nature, Joya di would do nothing that would spoil the idyllic, sylvan surroundings. She modelled the school in the style of the "Gurukul" of ancient times. Thatched huts amidst bamboo groves with uneven slabs of stepping stones to reach the classrooms was the outcome of her ethnic look. Every year a new cottage was added to accommodate the growing number of students.
From 1984, Joya di was running from pillar to post to secure a No-Objection Certificate from the West Bengal Government which was difficult to obtain. She was also trying to get the school affiliated to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, New Delhi. A provisional affiliation was obtained for ICSE (Class X) in 1986 and for ISC (Class XII) in 1990. First batch of ICSE and ISC students appeared in 1991 and 1993 respectively.Today, The Future Foundation School is a fine blend of the ancient and the modern. The place not only boasts of sylvan surroundings, it has cottages on one hand and a three-storied building which houses the middle and high school; it is replete with two computer labs, its own web-site and internet. From a mere 10 students the strength has risen to 1200(approx.) with 60(approx.) teachers, some of whom have been around since the school first started.
As Founder Principal of the School, Mrs. Mitter had a unique style of functioning. She firmly believed that example is better than precept. Her tastefully decorated office was open to all.Teachers were free to discuss the minutest details with her. Her charisma and magnetic personality have been the basis of an informal principal-teacher, teacher-student relationship. According to the teachers, Joya di did not interfere in the classroom activities of the teachers but through this attitude she imparted a greater sense of responsibility among all teachers. Students and teachers realized, thanks to their beloved Principal, that work is joy and a job can be turned into a mission if head and heart work in unision. She has shown that the job of a teacher is to to make the student of today a noble citizen of tomorrow.She had never learnt to say "no" to a challenge. Joya di had a keen aesthetic sense and never left any work half-done. She not only took personal interest in all the activities of the school but was capable of motivating everyone around her and was instrumental in bringing out the best in them.
In Joya di's life, there was a pervading sense of beauty and she tried to instill in every student the appreciation thereof. Her energy level was boundless and she was never short of innovative ideas. In a decade and a half of her association with the school she infected students and teachers alike with an enthusiasm that was hard to resist. Joya di took the classroom beyond the desks and black-boards to nature, tradition and culture.All through her life, Joya di made an immense sacrifice in her personal life to realise and fulfill the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Rathin Mitter, her husband, was her constant support and has always been there to lend both financial and mental support.Joya di was the Honorary Principal of the School and Honorary Secretary of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture, which is a non-profit organization.
Simply and tastefully dressed in a bordered white saree, Joya di used to cut a motherly figure that belied her magnetic personality and professional prowess. She was a mother, friend and guide and a visionary who looked forward to change, a creative genius and above all, a principal par excellence.Besides the school, Joyadi carefully nurtured Shakti Center, a cultural school for women. From the likes of Uday Shankar down to Sanjukta Panigrahi, Madhuri Mukherjee to Roma Mondal, Maya Mitra to Kalyani Roy etc., the Institute boasts of a wide array of cultural talents among its teachers. There were once-in-a-lifetime cultural concerts at regular intervals and the best of India like Pt. Birju Maharaj, Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia and many more cultural luminaries of the current generation considered Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture their second home. A few years ago Joyadi founded Galerie La Mere, a tastefully done up art gallery where art transcends the commercial and becomes a way of life. Here too the best of artists like K.G. Subramanyam, Paritosh Sen, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay, Jogen Chowdhury, Uma Siddhanta, Niranjan Pradhan, Wasim Kapur and many many more have exposed their work. The list of notables is endless. Joyadi set up a medical consultation unit "Health & Healing", with the support and participation of many eminent doctors of Kolkata, within the ambit of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Culture. Concerned with the upliftment of women, she also set up production-cum-training units in incense, spices, handloom etc at a separate centre in Boral.
Joyadi's other major contribution was the identification and commemoration of all the sites in Kolkata where Sri Aurobindo had lived and worked, with the co-operation of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the encouragement of Prof. Nisith Ranjan Roy. She commemorated all these sites through marble plaques. Joyadi's last great contribution was the unearthing of many sensitive materials and documents pertaining to the famous Alipore Bomb Trial of 1908-09 and their preservation in Alipore Court for all posterity. She also set up a unique gallery on Sri Aurobindo's life, "Sri Aurobindo Parichay". Joya di was effusive, caring, vigorous and possessed of an untiring zeal and dedication. She was a perfectionist to the core. Her life's mission is best summed up in the following lines of The Mother:
Let beauty be your constant ideal.
The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughts
The beauty of the action
The beauty in the work
So that nothing comes out of your hands, which is not an expression of pure and harmonious beauty.
Joyadi passed away on 24th July 1999. It was her first and last illness that lasted for a brief ten months. She never stopped working, she never altered her routine and she never stopped dreaming. Her spirit will always continue to inspire.

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