Violette Indra Sen = Leelavati (Lilawati)
(3.06.1908 Rohri village in Haryana — 9.10.2000, Pondicherry), devotee of the Mother. Her parents moved to Delhi, where Leelavati’s schooling began. Her father was an educationist and a leading supporter of the Arya Samaj movement. Girls’ education was more of a rarity at the time and this group of girls went to school in a closed carriage. On finishing school, she became the first girl to go on for university education. And thus the now well-known Indraprastha College for Women in Delhi got started. She was the first woman graduate in Education and Child Psychology, winning a prestigious gold medal.
On 5 December 1928 she was married to Indra Sen who was professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Delhi. They had two children – a daughter, Meera, and a son.
Leelavati continued her studies for some time, doing a year of Master’s in Child Psychology and qualifying in a Bachelor of Teaching course. She became the headmistress of a large girls’ school in Delhi and participated in the literary circles of the city.
In 1939, Indra Sen first travelled to Pondicherry with a friend, Surendranath Jauhar. Then he visited Pondicherry with Leelavati. They kept coming — with the children and sometimes, she came all by herself. The visits became frequent. After a number of visits, Leelavati became a devotee of the Mother.
In February Darshan in 1943, the Mother said to Leelavati: “Wind up your affairs in Delhi and come here, with the children, by April Darshan. Let Indra Sen continue in Delhi for some time more”. Indra Sens sold the house they had just built, and Leelavati boarded the train with two small children for the long journey across the country. Mother settled them in a nice, small house very close to the Ashram. Leelavati recorded: “Then on 2nd December 1943, Mother started the School. She asked me to leave the work in the Dispensary and to come over to the School. I was very happy. On that day, we were three teachers — Sisir-da and myself, and Sailen. There were about 15 children. The School started in the ‘asana’ room in the Playground.”
The Mother named her Violette, so aftewards Lilawati was known as ‘Violette-di’ in the Ashram. In French, it is the name of a flower meaning ‘modesty’. Also the Mother named Meera (Leelavati’s daughter) Aster. Aster Patel was one of the earliest students at the Ashram school.
In 1945 Dr Sen resigned from the University and moved to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where his family had already been staying for two years.