Issue #57

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Issue 57—January 6, 1979 to February 4, 1979


Krishnaji’s tour of India finally comes to an end with some public talks in Madras and Bombay that Mary feels are exceptional, but the tolls of this tour on both Krishnaji and Mary are substantive. Mary and Dr. Parchure are both worried about the consequences for Krishnaji. And we can clearly see why Krishnaji, in previous years and in subsequent years, discouraged Mary from coming to India for her own sake.

While in Madras, Krishnaji has an interesting discussion on what he, Krishnaji, was like as a boy, with a man who had tutored Krishnaji when he was young. The substance of that discussion is not directly reported by Mary, but Mary’s reflections on that discussion are fascinating, and ring true.

For the first time we get to see, through Mary’s eyes, the frantic, frenetic, hysterical crowds in Bombay that we have only been told about in previous issues, and which really existed nowhere else.

The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist: Issue #57

Mary: We begin today on January sixth, 1979, and we’re in Madras. ‘As I seem to have embarked on wearing saris, I was glad to go to town with Prema to arrange the making of the blouses and extra petticoats that wearing saris requires. Also, I went in earlier with Nandini for essentials of life: a box of tissues, some medicine, and for the obvious Newsweek and Time. At 4 p.m., I put on a cotton sari by myself, which for now amuses Krishnaji,’ [S chuckles] ‘and which I feared, but of which he approves. And at 5 p.m., he gave his third talk, a very great one[1], which seemed to fill the mind and dissolve it. I feel silent, disembodied after such a talk.’

The next day: ‘In the morning, Evelyne, Michael, and Bonnie shot film of the TS beach and other places Krishnaji used to walk. Nelly and I went there at 10 a.m. to join them. Joy Mills and a Mr. Ballard were in Krishnaji’s old quarters and balcony, and Joy Mills recounted events of the early days. It was strange to be in those rooms and that place. Uma, Narayan’s sister, and her husband, Ramaswamy, were at lunch. She is shy, smiling slowly when you talk to her, but withdraws into a quiet melancholy. Krishnaji teases her, is wooing her to leave a good teaching job at Delhi University to come with her husband to start a college at Rishi Valley. He is sweeping in his enthusiasm and disregards all the practical problems involved.’ [Chuckling; S chuckles, too.] ‘At 5 p.m., Krishnaji gave his fourth talk. “Order is sequence in space.”’ That was a quote from the talk. ‘He had a cough, problem. Dr. Parchure brought him a glass of water and laid it on the dais, but he didn’t see it until Kathy Harris pushed it forward. The talk was tremendous[2]; he went into fear, thought, and the foundations of order.’

The eighth. ‘Mrs. Gandhi came to Madras to see Krishnaji. She arrived here with Pupul at 10:45 a.m. and spent an hour with Krishnaji, after which she rested in Pupul’s cottage. Then, before lunch, she met in the hall those who were lunching here, Evelyne, Nelly, Frances, Scott, etcetera. Pupul then brought her to Krishnaji’s upstairs dining room, and left her with me while she went to speak to Krishnaji.’ You have to make conversation for something like that.

S: Yes, of course.

M: ‘I asked her about the jail she was recently in for a week. What was it like? She answered quite readily, a cell for six but she had it to herself, beds are raised, stone shelves. Hers had no mattress but a quilt to lie on and one over her. “I am used to a hard bed so it was alright.”’ [S chuckles.] ‘Food was brought from her home, newspapers were allowed, and she brought books. The bars on the window bothered her, which was a little surprising to me as all houses in India seem to have barred windows.’

S: Yes. [Chuckles.]

M: ‘But she hung blankets over the ones in her cell. It was the cell in which she had put George Fernandez when she was Prime Minister.’ Fernandez was critical or something, so she jailed him.

S: Ah, yes, yes.

M: ‘On Christmas Day, she invited an Australian girl in an adjoining cell to have lunch with her, thinking she must be a Christian. The Australian turned out to have been converted to Islam.’ [Both laugh.] ‘She was in on a drug smuggling charge.’ [Laughs again.] ‘Krishnaji, Mrs. Gandhi, Pupul, and I were at the lunch table. Krishnaji went out of his way to be the host; to entertain her, he told her some of his best funny stories. She listened expressionless until the joke at the end, then smiled.’ [S chuckles.] ‘It was as if she were barely listening until the cue came to smile. Krishnaji tells these stories with such charm and enjoyment that it is always a pleasure listen to him, but there was no relaxation with her. Mrs. Gandhi is a smallish, very held-in woman. She wore a black and white sari, not the taste of Pupul’s, but she has nice neat feet and cared-for toenails.’ You can’t say I don’t give you descriptions in this thing. [S laughs heartily.]

S: Historically, all very important.

M: It doesn’t say whether…no, she wouldn’t paint her nails; they don’t in India, at least they didn’t then. ‘She was uncertain about removing her sandals outside the dining room and followed what Pupul did. After lunch, she went off in her car accompanied by an enormous, tough-looking bodyguard. She reappeared in the big hall shortly after 5 p.m. when M.S. Subbulakshmi had begun to sing. Pupul went to sit by her. She listened without expression. One felt a woman in whom there was little enjoyment or affection. After about forty minutes, she left quietly and Krishnaji got up to see her to her car. In the morning, she had spent an hour with him, and he said that they talked for only about ten minutes of that time; the rest was sitting silently. I had the impression that if she gave up politics, she would be left with nothing, without inner resources. The concert was very fine, but too long.’

S: In another year, there was another experience of her funny lack of feeling or sensitivity.

M: Well, you must’ve been present in all this.

S: Yes. And at that other year, when she came to Rishi Valley.

M: Mmm, to case it for the grandchildren?

S: Yes, I think so, and it was a child, I think, of…

M: Must’ve been Sanjay.

S: It might have been, or it might have been Rajiv, as I met him also at some point; but I can’t remember when. Anyway, we were at a school dance performance under that gorgeous banyan tree; I was sitting just behind Indra and this irksome child, who turns to his grandmother, Indira, and says, “How long do you think it would take to cut down this tree?” [M chuckles.] And instead of saying something like, “Oh, why would you want to cut this down?” or “It would be a pity to cut down such a venerable old tree,” or anything like that, she said, “Well, it would depend on the saw that you used.” I was astonished. There was no appreciation of that tree, of its beauty, that is a magnificent tree. It’s one of the biggest in India, isn’t it?

M: I don’t know if it’s the biggest or one of the biggest, but it’s a very ancient and beautiful tree, and was one of the reasons that Krishnaji wanted the school there.

S: Yes.

M: It’s enormous!

January ninth. ‘At 7:30 a.m., Krishnaji held a public discussion in the garden. Mostly blustery dull questions were asked.’ I’m very judgmental.

S: [chuckles] I would call it discerning.

M: The next day: ‘I went with Nelly to Madras Museum to see bronzes and wood carvings, which I enjoyed very much. Nelly never stops twitching with criticism of everything, but I think she had enjoyed things. We stopped at the Bank of America to cash travelers’ checks, which takes a long time in a long line. Between the heat and standing, my leg got very puffy. Pupul left for Bombay. Krishnaji rested. Scott Forbes left for Brockwood. Soon we will all start moving westward. I look forward to it.’

The next day there is only ‘at 7:30 a.m. another public discussion held by Krishnaji in the garden.’

January twelfth. ‘At 7:30 a.m., Sunanda, Prema, Nelly, and I went in Prema’s car to Mahabalipuram. We paused to look at a large hotel called Fisherman’s Cove on a beautiful beach. The temple by the sea was beautiful. We went to others and then had a picnic breakfast supplied by Prema, sitting in the shade of a huge rock. She does everything so nicely and with such enthusiasm. We saw the long rock carving of Krishna holding up the mountain against a storm, a lovely carving of a cow being milked and licking her little calf which nestles against her. Other carvings, too, of gods and a man doing difficult austerities with a Nandi copying him.’ [Chuckles.] ‘We came back with air conditioning in the car, stopped at Prema’s beach house for coconut juice, and were back at Vasanta Vihar for lunch. Evelyne left at 4 p.m. for Delhi and on to Los Angeles. At 5 p.m., there was a concert by Palghat Mani Iyer and Professor Ramanathan, who sang very well, and later told me he is at Wesleyan University.’

S: The university here in America?

M: Yes. They have a big Indian music program.

S: Mmm.

M: Philippa studied there.

January thirteenth. ‘I woke up with a sore throat. There was a discussion at breakfast with Krishnaji, Achyut, Sunanda, Radha, and I on what Krishnaji means by no recording. I asked if he meant no recall. He said, “In insight, there is no recording.” I asked him about The Notebook that he wrote, in which he describes what happened earlier. He said, it was not written using memory. The words happened at the moment of writing. Before the talk, Krishnaji’s fifth in Madras, Narayan spoke about the schools and I made an appeal for donations explaining a little about the American and English Foundations. Krishnaji gave a deeply moving talk[3] on a religious life.’

The fourteenth. ‘Krishnaji called me to talk to him with Achyut and Sunanda about the TS and Damodar Gardens, which the KFI wants to get for enlargement of the Madras school. Radha told Achyut that they might want two TS members on the board. Krishnaji asked me what I thought. I spoke for myself and perhaps those like Erna and Theo who feel that a TS member on the board is a blurring of Krishnaji’s break with the TS. Krishnaji got impatient with what I said; I stayed with it, and pointed out his statement that he would have not allowed Rajagopal to edit his books if he’d known he was still a member of the TS. Krishnaji wants this land, and said I was being stupid. I said, perhaps, but he asked me what I thought about the land, so I told him. Achyut tried to minimize the importance; he is trying to make the TS’s demands acceptable to us, instead of the other way around. I said Radha, because of her personal qualities, has been accepted in spite of being with the TS—she was already a trustee—and that has rankled with some. Finally, Krishnaji said, “Do you feel it?” meaning something else was at work. I said, I didn’t have his perception, and the decision was obviously his. But he wouldn’t accept that. “It is your responsibility.” I said he was trying to force me to say something I didn’t feel. Either I said it or kept silent. Finally, we were “interrupted” so it ended. But later he told me that he had felt “a presence” in the room as we talked. That one must remain open to “something” being at work. The TS was meant to help the work of the World Teacher; perhaps this is an opening. At lunch were Krishnaji, Mr. and Mrs. John Coats, Joy Mills, Radha, Achyut, Pama, and me. Mr. Coats was amiably chatty, and his wife was the same. Only at the end of lunch did Krishnaji bring up interest in getting the land. Coats and Joy Mills said they thought it a good idea. It was agreed that some of us should look at the land tomorrow. On leaving, Joy Mills asked Krishnaji, rather archly, if he would like to live in his old rooms at the TS.’ [S laughs.] The TS people were always trying to net him, as it were, or catch him again.

S: Yes, yes. Yes.

M: ‘He looked startled and a little suspicious. At 5 p.m., Krishnaji gave his sixth and final talk of the series, a long, deep one[4] on many things. His voice was deep and from far off. He put tremendous energy into it, and at the end sat in silence while the large crowd seemed not to breathe. As he moved toward the house, people flowed in a tide around him, touching him in worship. He went upstairs alone, and some impulse made me follow. He stood in the dark, and held onto me for a moment when I came to him, and felt he would faint. He sat on the floor, and said, “Don’t touch me now.”’ He had fainted sometimes; I was always afraid he’d hurt himself.

S: Yes.

M: ‘I sat near him and in a few seconds he fainted slowly toward me. He lay there several minutes, then came to and said he was alright. He went into the bathroom, washed, changed from a dhoti to pajamas[5] and said he wanted to walk. The crowd had streamed away, so he went out and walked with Jayalakshmi. At supper, he ate with everyone as usual, and afterwards stayed far too long talking to the Bangalore school people: Kabir, and Anataswami, and a third one.’ I don’t remember who the third one was.

S: Let me just mention something about Coats here, John Coats.

M: Mm.

S: And I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier or not, but on my first visit to India, I was given an introduction to him, because I wanted to see the TS, and the library, where Krishnaji had lived, etcetera. Anyway, he was absolutely charming to me, but the remarkable thing is that he told me that his Uncle Coats had owned Brockwood.

M: Yes, he built the tower.

S: …yes, had built the tower, and that John Coats had played at Brockwood, visiting him when he was a boy. [M chuckles.] So, there’s this funny…I don’t know what it is.

M: He also, I think it was this meal, although I don’t mention it in here, when I was put next to him, I told him about when we bought Brockwood that we heard there was a buried treasure.

S: Yes.

M: We hadn’t found it, but I asked, if we ever do find it, does it belong to us or to him? And he said, “My dear, it belongs to you.” [Both laugh heartily.]

S: He was a very nice man.

M: Yes, a nice man.

The fifteenth. ‘At breakfast were Krishnaji, Nelly, Radha, Achyut, Pama, and me. There was a discussion of Sanskrit meanings, Buddhist doctrine, etcetera. At 10 a.m., Achyut, Pama, Sunanda, and I met Radha and John Coats and went to look at Damodar Gardens

then Besant Gardens as possible school sites. I think the TS needs money and wants to sell. Present market prices are two lakhs[6] an acre, which would make buying prohibitive. Damodar Gardens’ houses and thirteen acres are suitable but there is presently an inactive plan by the city to enlarge the road, which would ruin it. Besant Gardens is larger, about forty to fifty acres we could use. I have a feeling that their price and demands will be stiff. Krishnaji during all this was meeting some students and having a quiet lunch. He needs rest and is not taking it. Nelly and Eleanor Hawksley left in the afternoon and so did the Mendizzas. I rested in the afternoon with my sniffles. Vatsala came and went. Sunanda says she went to a cricket match on Saturday in preference to Krishnaji’s talk.’ I remember that. It was very much noted that she did that in preference to the talk.

S: Yes.

M: The sixteenth. ‘At breakfast, Krishnaji, Radha, Sunanda, Pama, and I had a discussion on reincarnation of which this is a rough summary: There is a stream, which is thought, attachments, etcetera. Thought is a material process. If when the body dies, attachment, etcetera, has not been understood and ended, that attachment, that thought continues as part of the stream. It can manifest in another but it is not reincarnation of a total person. Ego is an illusion.’ [Chuckles.] ‘The desire for reincarnation—the wanting another chance is part of attachment, thought, the stream. Karma—cause and effect, is meaningless if one sees this. After breakfast, Sunanda and I went to buy suitcases. I sent flowers to Jayalakshmi, Prema, and Radha. There was an Indian Express man at lunch. Mrs. Gandhi, when she came to Madras, said she would come to see Krishnaji, which was printed, so people are asking what Krishnaji said to her. The Indian Express man asked Krishnaji, but he smiled and shook his head. At 6 p.m., Sunanda and I went to a Kalakshetra dance performance put on by Rukmini Devi.’ Rukmini Devi, if she hasn’t already appeared in this account, she was the aunt of Radha; she was also the wife of, um…

S: George Arundale.

M: Yes, from the old Theosophical days.

S: So, she was really Rukmini Arundale.

M: Yes, but they call her Rukmini Devi at her dance school.

S: And also, she is the aunt of Professor Krishna.

M: That’s right. ‘Rukmini Arundale, hard-faced and swollen-looking, lumbered about in an orange sari looking something like Marlon Brando in The Godfather. She didn’t return Sunanda’s Namaste gesture…’

S: Yes.

M: ‘I didn’t expect any recognition from her having come to tea at the thatched cottage in Huizen.’ Huizen was where we stayed in 1967…

S: In Holland?

M: In Holland.

S: Yes. Oh, she was there at that time, I remember your telling about it.

M: ‘…but she eyed us as we sat in the theater waiting for the performance to start. So, perhaps is keeping tabs.’ I remember she came to Huizen to see what this was, who are these new people around Krishnaji. It was quite something. She sat appraising and looking at everything. Krishnaji was extremely polite with her at the time. ‘We left after one act as Prema had to…’ do something about dinner. ‘Krishnaji, Pama, Parchure, Vatsala, and Prema’s children.’ Oh, we were dining with her, that’s it.

January seventeenth. ‘Mr. and Mrs. Rex Henry were at breakfast. Afterward, Amru’—she is another of Pupul’s sisters, also then in Bombay—‘and then Sivakamu and her brother Yadnya came to greet Krishnaji. Sunanda and I went with Padma Santhanam to visit The School KFI. It’s a nice building, plaster half the way up, then lattice sides and palm leaf thatch on the roof. Children are two-and-a-half to ten years of age. It seems an excellent school. The children sang, danced, and did a little play—most endearing children. One little boy with enormous black eyes was as beautiful a child as I’ve ever seen. A little French girl was looking at pictures by herself, not understanding English, and it was touching as she was so pleased when I talked to her in French. She came and sat with me when the other children danced. Padma is responsible for this school, and it is a fine job. She and her husband lunched with us at Vasanta Vihar. At 4 p.m., I went to tea with Mr. and Mrs. Rex Henry at the Olcott Bungalow in the TS. We sat on the porch outside and were joined by Dick Clarke. He was more than willing to discuss Esoteric Section meetings when I said I knew nothing about it. It seems they meet weekly, members only, and they must be punctual at 8 a.m. and give a password to get in, sign an attendance book, then facing the pictures.’ Now the pictures, were you ever in that room?

S: Yes.

M: They have pictures of the Masters.

S: Yes, painted by…

M: By some woman.

S: Yes.

M: ‘They sign an attendance book and then facing the pictures of the Masters, they recite together some sort of salute, sit, and then the one conducting the meeting (usually Radha) addresses them, speaking on something for forty-five minutes, after which there is some sort of pledge, and it is promptly over.’

S: The ES, just to say, is the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society, an elite inner circle, and Radha is the head of it.

M: Yes. ‘He went on to say that Radha would speak on something like probation and the Masters, and he once asked her how she reconciles such things with her interest in Krishnaji, but got an inconclusive reply.’ [Both chuckle.]

The eighteenth of January. Let me speak to you off the recorder.

[The tape recorder cuts off, and then on again.]

‘Radha came to breakfast.’

S: Yes, and just to explain here why the recorder was switched off and on again, you were telling me that you want me to be careful about whether or not, and when, if ever, what you are about to tell me should ever go out. Okay.

M: Alright. And then, before my reading it, I’ll just say that I’m asking Scott please to not reveal this in any way that would cause difficulties for Radha.

S: Yes.[7]

M: ‘So, she came to breakfast. The conversation turned to Arundale and Rukmini, etcetera. Radha described Rukmini’s neglect of him when he was ill and dying; though diabetic, he was fed sugar by some quack doctor. Also, Rukmini used to hang around with musicians in the days when she still danced.[8] Arundale would sometimes accompany her on tours, and young Radha Burnier was brought along to fill in and dance the dance program when Rukmini began to be heavy. It was Radha at these times who tried to help Arundale when he was ill. In his last days, he said to Rukmini, “You’re a hard woman.” So went the reporting on all this ancient history.’

‘Krishnaji said he would like to ask the only surviving person who “knew the boy” [meaning himseslf] when he was found, Dick Clarke, about what happened. So, it was arranged that Jayalakshmi would invite him for lunch. It was a very hot day but a bit cooler at Jayalakshmi’s when we all went there at 12:30 p.m. Krishnaji had on a dhoti and looked resplendent. Present were the Henrys, Mr. and Mrs. John Coats, Dick Clarke, the Santhanams, Sunanda, Pama, and me. It began with singing by a man from Kalakshetra accompanied by flute, mridangam, and tamboure. During this, Subbulakshmi, husband Sudarshan, niece Radha, and the latter’s little girl came to listen. The child crawled over and sat half in my lap. After singing, nine Brahmin priests chanted; they wore their costume of dhoti, shaven heads, Vishnu marks on forehead, arms, earrings, and hand rings, etcetera. They looked a little like Iroquois.’

S: [chuckles] Yes.

M: ‘The chanting went on rather relentlessly. At one point, I thought they had gone beyond stopping and would continue all day. But some sort of high sign was given for it slowed down to an om, and ended. Krishnaji handed out the rewards like diplomas:  a dhoti, a banana, certain traditional leaves, and a piece of paper money. They all plucked at the money. Somehow it all seemed a business affair, in spite of their extraordinary appearance, they could have come to sell insurance. They looked around, scratched themselves while chanting, and it was very perfunctory. Subbulakshmi and family departed, and the rest sat down to Mrs. Jayalakshmi’s sumptuous meal. I counted over nineteen separate things, vegetables, etcetera, without counting sweets or drinks.’

S: Yes.

M: [chuckles] ‘Toward the end of lunch, Krishnaji began to ask Dick Clarke about what Krishnaji was like when they found him. Clarke seemed to remember it all clearly. Krishnaji kept at him with questions, holding Clarke’s left hand and ticking off the questions on his fingers.’ [Chuckles.] ‘Sunanda took down in shorthand the whole conversation, which went on until 5 o’clock. I recorded bits of it on my Dictaphone. The Coats family listened raptly to it, but he and Radha had to leave midway for a TS meeting. Krishnaji seemed to feel that what “the boy” was like and whatever went on in his mind—as he kept asking—eluded him.’ In other words, he seemed to feel that it eluded him.

S: And it eluded Krishnaji?

M: Yes. ‘But for me, the picture was a true line throughout; the dreamy child who when punished by the school master would stand on the veranda until told to leave, who often had to be fetched home by his little brother[9], was a gentle, compliant boy who replied to his TS elders, “Whatever you say” when asked about doing something. He was polite and accepting, but not really touched by their world; it went in one ear and out the other. He learned outward things: manners, speech, witnessed the TS goings-on, but it left little mark; he was elsewhere. He remembers vaguely standing by the Adyar River for hours, staring at it, vacant. This vacancy was some otherness that protected him, let whatever he is grow, mature very slowly. It protected him from most of the pulls of life later on, from the brutalities of Rajagopal and Rosalind. It is there today when he is “off,” when he sits in Hamish Thompson’s dental chair for four hours without a thought; his reality, his native place is elsewhere, as it were. I said all this to him later and at supper when we all talked a bit about it. In the Rajagopal and Rosalind times, he said he was sometimes physically beaten, but he didn’t resist their violence as he hadn’t fought against the wretched schoolmaster as a child. It all left no scars, just as the Theosophical beliefs did not condition his mind. Later on, returning from Jayalakshmi’s, we walked near the beach, Sunanda, Pama, and Vatsala, who goes to Rishi Valley to teach, and me.’

Click here to hear Mary speak.

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S: Just a minute—it’s just that these notes and your Dictaphone recording do not appear in the archive list, but I’ve seen that transcript that you made, or maybe Sunanda’s notes; I have seen those with Dick Clarke talking with Krishnaji about the childhood.

M: Yes, I remember the conversation, mostly, but I don’t know where the notes are.

S: I’ve seen the notes.

M: Oh, good.

January nineteenth. ‘Very hot. This climate is becoming a bit too much. Packed. Frances McCann and Anantanarayenen to lunch. Thinking of yesterday, I told Krishnaji that though he doesn’t talk definitively about what happened to him as a boy, what the concept of Masters really is, etcetera, unless he makes some statement, his own words written as a boy recounting the initiations, going to visit Masters, etcetera, will stand as his testimony. I asked to read that statement to him and let him consider if he wishes to comment. He thought for an instant only and then said, “Alright. Remind me about all this when we get to Ojai, and I’ll make a statement.” Radha and Vatsala at supper with Krishnaji, Sunanda, Pama, and me. We leave early tomorrow.’

The twentieth. ‘Up at 4:15 a.m. Bathed and ready to leave by 5:15 a.m. Sunanda is coming next week, but Krishnaji, Pama, and I said goodbye to Parameshwaram and all the staff and left for the airport at 6 a.m. Yesterday, I gave Parameshwaram a dhoti and 700 rupees, and he seemed pleased and talked of what he would buy for his son Mani. Ganesh, the servant who cleans my room, etcetera touched my feet in farewell, which I tried to stop. Nataraj had gone ahead with the luggage and tickets, so when we arrived at the airport, there was only the farewells. Jayalakshmi had more beads for Krishnaji and for me. I felt a renewed sense of friendship with her. The Henrys were there and various others. We boarded, had a bit of a wait until some fog burned away, and then flew off. The captain invited Krishnaji and me (because I was with him) to come into the cockpit.’ [Chuckles.] ‘The view from there was marvelous, and a complexity of instruments at the center of the controls of the Boeing 707 that was beyond me. We landed in Bombay and coolness; a marvelous life-giving cool. There to meet us were Nandini, Pupul, and Asit, at whose apartment we are staying. We drove in his fifteen-year-old 190-D Mercedes, air-conditioned, etcetera, into the city. It seems already in the West, with twenty-story buildings everywhere, traffic that could be in Los Angeles—the feel of a Western city. Asit and his wife Minakshi, the daughters Clea, who’s at Rishi Valley School, and Sonali, live in a very modern apartment on the sixth floor. Krishnaji has one bedroom; I have the other; Pupul and Nandini’s mother’s servants, who have cooked for Krishnaji for years, are here—Vimabhai, a thin, ancient, smiling woman in a sari that swaddles her and is often around the head, too, and a toothless man. Also the Chandmals’ maid. All is very comfortable here, and one feels halfway to the West, too. The extravagance of being cool again plus an excellent simple tasting lunch began the climb up to normality again for me. Nandini’s sons, Gansham and Vikram, came to see Krishnaji. I had letters from Amanda.’

January twenty-first. ‘There was a conversation at breakfast between Krishnaji, Pupul, Nandini, Achyut, Pama, Asit, and me on whether the “flame” of the teachings can be handed on. Is insight total, or can it be confined to a particular area or subject? I had a nap in the afternoon, and then at 6 p.m. we all walked around the race course—a good place to walk, and the only open space for miles around.’

The twenty-second. ‘A handful of local psychoanalysts led by a Mr. Nathain came to talk to Krishnaji at 9:30 a.m. They hadn’t a clue.’ [Chuckles.] ‘Afterwards, Pupul and Nandini took me to the cottage industries.’ That was a place where they sold all the handcrafted things; they had all sorts of things there. ‘I bought a silk sari. I had another nap in the afternoon, and again we all walked around the race course.’

The next day. ‘I shopped with Nandini and Minakshi Chandmal at the Taj Hotel. Another nap in the afternoon. Sunanda arrived with the balance of shirts from Kannan.’ Kannan was the tailor and shirt-maker and all that in Madras. I know you got some of his things, too.

S: Yes. I came to know him well over the years. He had been a student at Rishi Valley, and he had a son there who eventually came to Brockwood.

M: ‘Asit took many photos of Krishnaji, and again we walked around the race course.’

The twenty-fourth. ‘I went with Nandini to the Kolhapuri chappal store in the morning. Then lunched alone with Krishnaji. Krishnaji’s first talk was at 6:15 p.m. I went ahead at 5 p.m. with Pupul. There was a huge crowd. The usual familiar faces were in the foreground, Rajneesh’s U.S. followers smoking pot, all kinds and ages of people. I sat with Nandini and family members behind and to the side of Krishnaji on a small platform in order to get quickly to the car parked just behind.’ It was a few feet, and we could rush to the car. ‘Krishnaji came with Asit. In the talks, he answered his own question, which he has been putting to us: “What is the cause of the degeneration in this country, in the world?” It is the intellect, its overuse. Everything is reduced to a theory or a concept. We do not see things as they are, holistically, but as theories. When Krishnaji stopped speaking, he sat silently for a few moments, and Nandini and I went straight to the car, only yards away. But as Krishnaji rose, so did a wave of people pressing forward to touch him for darshan’—you know, people think they get a blessing if they can touch a holy man. ‘He was caught against the wall by people kissing his hands, his feet, touching him, and in a hysteria of reverence. Asit fought to keep the door of the car open and let him get in. It took minutes. And when he managed it, hands came through the window to touch him. Krishnaji was a figure of compassion, touching as many hands as he could, saying, “Be careful. Be careful.” Nandini called out, “You will be hurt.” And the answer came back in Marathi, “It doesn’t matter.” The chauffeur edged the car forward, but the crowd ahead obliterated the road. It took about ten minutes to drive the 100 or so feet to the street. In the morning, Krishnaji had said, “What will I talk about? Well, I suppose it will come. The day it doesn’t, I’ll shut up shop.”’ [S chuckles.]

January twenty-fifth. ‘At 9:30 a.m., Krishnaji talked to Pupul, Nandini, Asit, Dr. Parchure, Radha, Achyut, Pama, Sunanda, and me about the events in Madras, and Ootacamund in 1948, in Gstaad and Malibu, etcetera’—usually referred to as “the process”—‘in response to the question about what these events meant. He said he remembers none of it. Pupul described her and Nandini’s witness to the 1948 events, and I described similar things that had happened to Krishnaji in my presence. Krishnaji asked if we could have imagined it, and this was ruled out. There was too much similarity in our reporting, and some of the events reported in Pergine[10], and later with Vanda that she had reported. The conversation lasted till 12:45 p.m., and was taped on cassette by Asit. It will probably be kept as a confidential record for a while in the three archives. It was too long to report here, but no clear answer emerged. The subject needs further talk, and Krishnaji seemed disposed to continue it while here. Mr. and Mrs. Patel came to lunch and brought firey food.’ [S chuckles.] ‘At 5 p.m., I went with Sunanda and Pama for a drive and had tea at an enormous new hotel, the Oberroi Sheraton. It could’ve been in Los Angeles, New York, or Las Vegas. I was dazed to find Wednesday’s Herald Tribune on sale, the first glimpse since October thirty-first. England is deep in snow; Heathrow and Gatwick are closed. I dined with Sunanda and Pama and Radha across the street from where Krishnaji and I are staying, on the twenty-fifth-floor VIP penthouse of the Indian Express guest apartment, which has been lent to them and Achyut by Mr. Goenkar, who owns the Indian Express newspaper—it is a pro-Janata and anti-Indira political party.’

January twenty-sixth. ‘Krishnaji held a discussion at 9:30 a.m. with about sixty invited guests. It was not a good group for discussion. At lunch were Radha, Frances McCann, Sunanda, Pama, Krishnaji, and me. Radha has given me the list of the manuscripts and letters, etcetera, sent to Krishnaji in 1950 that was part of the archives from the TS and that Rajagopal is withholding from KFA. Nandini brought me a lovely brown and black cotton sari. We walked on the race course in the late afternoon. People have discovered his walking there, and one determined family of three marched ten feet behind him all the way around.’ [Both chuckle.]

S: Yes. I saw that happen in later years when I was there.

M: The next day, ‘In the morning, Pupul, Nandini, Devi, Mina, and Gansham Mehta’—oh, Gansham is Nandini’s son and I think Mina is his wife—‘and I went shopping, first to an art place where I bought some little enamel birds, a box, and a necklace as gifts. Then, we walked across the street to the cottage industries where I bought a cotton kaftan. I had a quiet lunch with Krishnaji. At 5 p.m., I went with Pupul and Minakshi to the place where Krishnaji was to speak. Rajesh and Upasini were there from Rajghat. At 6:15 p.m., Krishnaji gave his second Bombay talk to a huge crowd. It was on: “Fear is based on thought and time.” Again, he was engulfed by a crowd afterward. A man rubbed Krishnaji’s hand over his face; another put Krishnaji’s fingers in his mouth, so that Krishnaji sat in the car when he finally reached it with his hands palm up, unclean. Nandini, sitting between us, had to get his handkerchief and rub something off his nose. Hands, hundreds of hands, were thrust through the partly opened window, and Krishnaji touched them all as the car crept forward. People marched behind, their hands on the car, as though in that way they kept a contact with him. One man before the talk demanded to be allowed to come and live on the landing outside the door of the flat. When Nandini said it was not possible, he said, “You are keeping me from my god.”’ [S chuckles.] ‘It was very hot during the talk, oppressive to me. Krishnaji had a slight cold when we got back.’ There’s something hysterical about the Indian crowds.

S: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely hysterical.

M: If it’s politics, somebody gets shot because of…

S: Yes. Look at all the people who were killed in riots because Indira Gandhi was being put in jail for four days.

M: Yes.

S: I know, I know.

M: I suppose it’s not unique, but it’s certainly prevalent in India, or was then, and this was 1979.

S: Yes. I imagine it still is.

M: January twenty-eighth. ‘Krishnaji has no cold symptoms. Newspapers said that Nelson Rockefeller died in New York. Various people dropped in here during the morning. At lunch were Krishnaji, Narayan, Asit, Minakshi, and me. At 5 p.m., I went with Pupul and Devi to the JJ Arts’—that’s where he gave the talks in Bombay; it was a big open space…did you ever go to the Bombay talks?

S: Oh, yes, yes.

M: …in the middle of Bombay—‘where at 6:15 p.m. Krishnaji gave his third Bombay talk, an overwhelming one, deeply moving. It was sacred. The crowd poured through toward him afterward, and what seemed a thousand hands stretching to touch him. He looked dazed, as he so often does after such a talk, but seemed to want to give something to each in the milling crowd. His palms together, he turned to face them all, and finally in the car, through the partly opened window, he let the thrusting hands touch his, as the car moved slowly forward. I felt unable to speak after such a talk, but later had to go with Minakshi, Sonali, and Dr. Parchure to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Parekh, Rishi Valley parents and host to Narayan, Prasad, etcetera. Radha, Achyut, Pama, Sunanda, and Frances were there. I came back directly afterward. Krishnaji was in bed reading and feeling alright. No cold. The vast energy that is within him is beyond explaining.’

The next day. ‘All morning there was a meeting of KFI trustees in which I was included. Krishnaji had a letter from Jean-Michel Maroger that Marie-Bertrande and Diane fell down stone stairs at Diane’s school in Blois. Marie-Bertrande was unhurt, but Diane broke a left thighbone, a clean fracture. Marie-Bertrand was carrying Diane when she fell. It is extraordinary that no other bones were broken in such a fall. One wonders if Krishnaji’s healing has made the child stronger. We walked again around the race course.’

January thirtieth. ‘There was another KFI trustee meeting which Krishnaji attended for a while. Devi took me for some last-minute shopping. I got a bag for Sunanda, eighty-three dollars worth of cheese—gruyere, camembert, etcetera’ [both chuckle]—‘as presents for Pupul, Nandini, and the Chandmals. I found a book too on Dürer for the Chandmals. I lunched with them in the Taj at the Rendez-Vous Restaurant, a French restaurant on the top floor. I came back for a nap and later walked on the race course. Krishnaji’s voice is getting hoarse. The race course is windy, but he said it wasn’t, and walked anyway. I came back and discovered, while I was absent this morning, that he told the KFI board, at their urging, that he would give six talks in Bombay next year instead of four, and stay in India until February. I asked why he planned as many talks in Bombay as in the whole of the U.S. I tallied the talks and discussions with schools and groups here this year: thirty-seven. I said I was not asking for an equal number in the U.S., but two less in Bombay next year.’ They would talk him into these things.

S: I know.

M: ‘Krishnaji said, “We’ll see,”’ [S chuckles] ‘which isn’t good enough. I appealed to Pupul to cut the program down.’

The thirty-first. ‘I went with Nandini, Sunanda, and Frances to Bal Ananda, Nandini’s school for small and very poor children. Rajesh met us there, and took me to the nearby house of two of these children, a room about twelve feet by twelve feet where the family of twelve people live. It was so dark, I could scarcely see inside. The mother was washing clothes on the pavement of the courtyard under a water spigot. The mother and father smiled and made signs of welcome. They offered Rajesh food.’… Some of these people … [with quiet sadness in her voice].

S: I know, it’s extraordinary.

M: Heartbreaking.

S: I know. It is.

M: ‘At 6:15 p.m., Krishnaji gave his fourth Bombay talk. Very fine. Again the crowd was immense and surrounded the car afterward. With some, it was a delicacy of reverence and touching, not grabbing his hands but touching quickly and lightly. After the talks, I would’ve sooner been quiet, but after several postponements, there was a dinner for Nandini, Devi, and me at the Tantias’ house. It was late. The younger daughter Sudha came for us with a car. It was nearby, a large flat with inlaid wood and paneling. We dined at a long table. The seating was all men on one side, i.e., Mr. Tantia, Gansham, and Vikram; and then Devi, Nandini, and Mina, and me on the other side. Sudha and her mother were at each end. Mr. Tantia was pleasant and chatty. They want to come to Brockwood Park and Saanen. I gave information but fear they envisage being with Krishnaji more than is possible, which is going to be disappointing. I got back to the flat far too late.’

February first. ‘I packed, and had a long talk with Dr. Parchure, who reported his conversation of this morning with Krishnaji. As his doctor, who has been given responsibility of Krishnaji’s health, he needed Krishnaji to tell him whether he wished to do everything as fully as he wants and then “disappear,” or did he wish to live a long time and conserve the body in strength. Krishnaji said he wanted to live a long time. In that case, said Dr. Parchure, the intelligence of the body was either not functioning or not being listened to. “Your body is giving you signs,” but Krishnaji pays no attention. The falling sick here in India with minor infections is a sign of the bodily resistance lowering. Krishnaji doesn’t give it the necessary rest to build his strength. His feet have been constantly swollen in India, another sign of lessened function. Krishnaji was somewhat impatient with all this, but listened. Dr. Parchure said he must have two days of total rest after each talk, with no two-hour discussions at the breakfast table; he must have at least one meal a day in bed, feet up and not hanging down. And he must rest before traveling to a new place and also on arrival. Krishnaji’s voice was hoarse, a sign he is overusing it. Today, he should’ve rested but tides of people came to pay respects and say goodbye, bringing useless presents of huge boxes of dried fruit that we can’t take. In the afternoon, I found the mad German girl who tried to force her way into Tannegg, and I put her out. And Mrs. Billimoria sent a mother with a son who wants to be a woman, and Krishnaji talked to them both. Finally, they all left. Pupul and Nandini were at supper. Krishnaji went to bed afterward, and so did I. We managed to sleep intermittently until midnight. Then, we had to go to the airport.’

February second. ‘Pama had taken the luggage, tickets, and our passports last night, so there was little for us to do but dress, and be ready to leave the flat at 1 a.m. Asit drove Krishnaji, me, Pupul, Nandini, and Vikram to the airport. A mass were waiting to see Krishnaji off. Achyut, Ahalya, Upasini, Frances McCann, etcetera, were in the VIP lounge provided. Krishnaji was dressed in his Huntsman jacket and trousers, and I was back in slacks, sweater, shoes, and stockings, my native costume again. The flight was called, and when the British Airways plane was loaded and ready to go, a signal came and Krishnaji, Pama, and I drove in a chauffeured car out onto the runway to the foot of the steps of the aircraft. Very VIP. We didn’t have the first row in the first class, but the second. Not as a VIP should be treated.’ [Both laugh.] ‘The flight took off at 3:20 a.m., and was to have been nonstop to London, but after three hours we came down for fuel in Bahrain. Krishnaji and I for exercise paced the length of the well-kept modern air terminal. We had left Bombay at 3:20 a.m. and were due at Heathrow at 7 a.m., but it wasn’t until 9:30 a.m. when we reached Heathrow. We had to wrestle our own bags; not a porter in sight. I went looking for one or a trolley, and of course, Krishnaji in my absence lifted six of the bags off the turntable. He then found a trolley, and was irritable when I wouldn’t let him load it and push it alone. Doris was waiting inside, and Dorothy and Ingrid were at the cars. They had brought overcoats for us. The cold air and wintry beauty of the countryside made my spirits soar. Snow and ice had kept cars from using the lanes, but it had warmed and rained yesterday, and there is sun today. So we saw only patches of snow and Brockwood welcomed Krishnaji. The house is warm and comfortable. We both felt dazed from travel. Everything looks so clean. It is a luxury to take a drink of water from the tap, to read news of the world, to eat simple food. It is a delight to be here. I slept in the afternoon after Krishnaji had lunch downstairs and then gone to bed. It was happiness to put his tray together for supper. Everyone is smiling. Alas, Scott is ill in his cottage; he has hepatitis.’

S: Ah, so that was the year I got hepatitis. Yes. I think I picked it up in Syria.

M: Yes. ‘Scott must have caught it in Damascus where he spent a week on his way back.’ I remember that.

S: Yes. I do too, regretfully.

M: The next day. ‘It was lovely to wake up here, to light a fire in the grate, exercise a little, and then make a delicious breakfast of buttered toast, porridge, etcetera, and eat it slowly at the table in our own little kitchen. The tall trees are bare and beautiful, and the sun came to spend the day, wiping away the silver frost that covered the fields at daylight. My whole organism feels different here, somehow back to normal. The swelling and pain going out of my lower leg and foot, the constant heat was a constant attack on the body in India. This is the climate where I feel best. How narrow is the margin of health in these matters. Obviously different for each body. Krishnaji’s swelling is leaving his feet. He thinks it is the carrot juice he now drinks.’ [Both chuckle.] ‘I think it is the absence of heat. He got up for lunch, took a long nap, and at 4:30 p.m., with Dorothy and the two dogs, we walked up and down the drive. The cold air felt as if it was cleaning my blood. I telephoned Filomena in Rome. They’ve all had flu, but she sounded alright, and it made me glad to hear her voice. Then I telephoned Vanda in Florence, and Krishnaji spoke to her briefly. Earlier, I spoke to Phyl Fry’—that’s Christopher’s wife. ‘Sounds of friends’ voices make me smile inside. Krishnaji rested most of the day. We watched TV, The Two Ronnies’—do you remember that program?

S: [laughing] Yes, I do. [M laughs too.]

M: February fourth. ‘Yesterday’s sunshine went off behind clouds, but the day stayed dry. Mary and Joe drove down in mid-morning and we talked at length. Krishnaji joined us at 12:30 p.m. Mary is pleased with the six shirts he had made for her, and Joe liked the two Indian scarves. After lunch we all sat in our little kitchen over coffee and biscuits and talked. They left at 4 p.m., and Krishnaji took a nap. He wasn’t feeling like going out, nor was I. Jean-Michel and Marie-Bertrande Maroger are coming on Tuesday.’

S: Okay. We should end it there.

M: Alright.

S: So, we’ll begin again on February fifth next time.

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[1] Hyperlink to text of January 6, 1979. Back to text.

[2] Hyperlink to text of January 7, 1979. Back to text.

[3] Hyperlink to text of January 13, 1979. Back to text.

[4] Hyperlink to text of January 14, 1979. Back to text.

[5] Pajamas are the white cotton trousers that are daily wear for men in India. Back to text.

[6] A lakh is 100,000. Back to text.

[7] Radha Burnier and Rukmini Arundale have both died. Back to text.

[8] On the surface this indicates nothing, but that she “hung around with musicians” was comment-worthy by Radha, says a great deal. Back to text.

[9] Because the school master would sometimes neglect to tell him to leave, and just left himself. Back to text.

[10] A place in Italy where “the process” was witnessed by several people in 1924. See Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening by Mary Lutyens. Back to text.