A Song for Our Mother

A friend and colleague of Sister Nivedita, Saralabala Sarkar, taught at the school that Nivedita started in Calcutta in 1902, where Saralabala’s daughter was a student. Saralabala was a well-known writer and nationalist. In 1953 she was appointed as the Girish Chandra Ghosh Lecturer at Calcutta University. She was the first woman to hold this lectureship, which is still being given every two years. Her poems, short stories, and essays were widely read. Among her writings is a booklet in Bengali, entitled Niveditake Jemon Dekiyachi, that she published shortly after Nivedita’s passing in 1911. Translated into English by Probhat iMukherjee, Nivedita As i Saw Her was later published by the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Sister Nivedita’s Girls’ School, Calcutta. Having observed Nivedita’s teaching style first-hand, her account of Holy Mother’s visit to the school reads:

Nivedita was overjoyed and couldn’t do enough by way of preparation. She had all the rooms of the school dusted and cleaned. She decorated the doorways with flower garlands to welcome Mother, and made detailed arrangements of where Mother would be seated and would converse with the students. She prepared the gifts that the students were to offer, the welcome speeches were rehearsed and every minute detail thought of, without any delay. Finally, when the day arrived for Mother’s visit, Nivedita seemed to be carried away with ecstatic joy. She was flitting about excitedly, seeing that everything was in place, laughing delightedly like a child, and even hugging the teachers, students, and helpers by turn, in a surge of irrepressible joy.

Saralabala composed a song for the students to sing on this auspicious occasion of Sri Sarada Devi’s visit. We can imagine Mother’s delight when the children’s voices rang out:

You are my mother, you are my mother!
I searched the whole wide world,
But could not find more heartfelt words than:
“You are my mother, you are my mother!”

When I see within the hundred-petalled lotus
of my heart the seat of your holy feet,
I go mad trying to think of
what to offer you in worship
and what treasure to give you.

I want to call the whole world to come and see
the image I have installed in my dilapidated room.
However much I try,
I cannot explain you to them better than:
“You are my mother, you are my mother!”

Oh my mother, my mother dear!
I offer my life at your holy feet
which I will never let go!

Revered Pravrajika Shraddhaprana, President of Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission from 1999 to 2009, included this poem in her article “You are My Mother,” published in the EterNal Mother, November 2004. In her introduction to the poem she described the written words as “painting an incomparable picture of the compassionate mother” and noted that the poem itself expressed Saralabala’s “heartfelt devotion.”

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