Issue #81

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Issue 81—September 16, 1984 to November 18, 1984


The conflict at Brockwood continues in this issue, but that is as nothing when they get to India, and they are very nearby when Indira Gandhi is assassinated. There is so much about these two lives that just seems unbelievable.

The Memoirs of Mary Zimbalist: Issue #81

Mary: We begin today with my diary entry for September sixteen, 1984, and we’re at Brockwood. The Bohms came down for lunch, and I spoke to them and the Lilliefelts after lunch.’ They were visiting from Ojai. ‘There was a late afternoon walk with Krishnaji, Dorothy, Erna, Theo, and me across the fields and back along the lanes. I telephoned Vivian in Ojai—the Krishnamurti Library opened at Arya Vihara, and is going well. But, she said, Terry Doyle is resigning. He later telephoned and spoke to Erna. He doesn’t want to be the principal. Erna and Theo fly back to Ojai tomorrow and they will deal with it on arrival.’

Scott: It is quite extraordinary that someone just begins the job of being principal, and then decides that he doesn’t want to do it.

M: Well, I don’t remember anything about him.

S: He just began.

M: I know. He just appeared and fairly quickly disappeared.

S: But just the idea that someone would begin that job, and then decide they don’t want to do it, is…[both chuckle], Anyway…

M: The next day just says, ‘Erna and Theo left in a taxi for Gatwick and their flight to Los Angeles. Krishnaji stayed in bed all day. I did laundry, worked at my desk, and talked to Natasha.’

The eighteenth. ‘I slept till 7 a.m., worked at my desk, and did laundry. Harsh again came to talk to me about the school. Krishnaji had lunch in bed, but spoke in the afternoon to Brian Jenkins. I went to Petersfield for compact discs for Krishnaji and for other errands.’

September nineteenth. ‘I went to London to the General Trading Company and to Harrods’—they’re both stores—‘and came back on the 4:20 p.m. train. Krishnaji had talked to Dorothy, Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen. Erna had rung from Ojai, but the phones here are out of order so she couldn’t get through properly.’

September twentieth. ‘Rain. I attended the 9 a.m. staff meeting. Later, Krishnaji met with Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen. I met Betsy at Petersfield station and brought her here. We lunched in the West Wing kitchen. The telephone worked briefly, and Krishnaji and I were able to reach Erna in Ojai. Terry Doyle is resigning. Erna wants to accept it, and we agreed. I took Betsy back to the train.’

The next day. ‘I attended another staff meeting at 9 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., Krishnaji spoke to the staff about relationship. Erna telephoned. KFA has accepted Terry Doyle’s resignation from the Oak Grove School. David Moody becomes head of the upper school and perhaps Rupert Oysler will head the lower one. We will do without a principal for the moment. Krishnaji agreed to all this. Scott and I edited the announcement in the Bulletin of the Study Center. Krishnaji came on a short walk with Dorothy and me.’

The twenty-second of September: ‘Krishnaji didn’t sleep well, so he spent the day in bed. I worked most of the day at my desk, then walked alone. Erna telephoned and said that David Moody is in charge of both the upper and the lower school.’

The next day. ‘Krishnaji slept better. I went to another staff meeting at 9 a.m., and Krishnaji spoke to the staff at 11:30 a.m. On the walk was Krishnaji, Dorothy, and me. We telephoned David Moody at Arya Vihara.’ He and Vivian were living there.

September twenty-fourth: ‘At 9 a.m. there was again a staff meeting, and at 11:30 a.m., Krishnaji spoke again to the staff. I went with Scott to Alresford where I got the car road tax paid, and did other small errands. When we got back, Krishnaji had spoken to Dorothy, Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen after they had had a row.’ [Chuckle.] ‘I walked with Dorothy at 5 p.m.’

The twenty-fifth. ‘Krishnaji slept poorly. We canceled our trip to London, and he met Dorothy, Ingrid, Harsh, Stephen, and me about the row they had had yesterday. Krishnaji left, and we went on till one o’clock. I brought him lunch on a tray. At 5:30 p.m., the four came up to tell him they would work together. After supper, Krishnaji spoke to Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen, while Scott and I took on Gérard, whose refusal to change his room set off yesterday’s almighty row—he shouting, and Dorothy siding with him. All this is becoming unbearable. I’m sick of it.’ [Both laugh.] Oh, really! That was a dreadful time.

S: Oh, yes, it was.

M: September twenty-sixth. ‘Krishnaji slept well. He got up for lunch and spoke afterward to Alan Maroger. Scott and I talked again to Gérard, and Krishnaji spent an hour seeing Christopher Titmus. Scott, Ingrid, Harsh, Stephen, and I talked, and then went to see Dorothy about the person G. problem, and a miserable meeting ensued. Dorothy was tight, angry, violent, and bursting out. I couldn’t get through her rage. It is irrational. I finally left to get Krishnaji’s supper.  Person G. then went and apologized to Stephen and Ingrid, so we didn’t ask him to leave.’ We should have, but anyway.

Krishnaji riding in a car in India. Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

Krishnaji riding in a car in India.
Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

S: We did eventually.

M: Yes.

‘During all this fracas, a welcome to returning students was going on.’ [S laughs.] ‘Dorothy seems embedded in her anger.’ Good heavens.

S: Yes. I think this was one of the ridiculous tests of strength that she had. Here were the four—Dorothy, Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen, who were supposed to be in charge of things, and they had—

M: I thought you were in the four.

S: I wasn’t in the four since the previous spring. I’d come out. I was out doing the center…

M: Yes, you were doing the center.

S: …but, for some reason, I still got dragged into problems. Anyway, the four had decided that in the whole allocation of rooms for staff that  person G. had to move his room, which was pretty normal. But he didn’t want to. He wanted to stay where he was. And Dorothy sided with him. So, the test then became, who was the authority in the place? Was it Dorothy, or was it the group or those three? So it was…[laughs] an absolute mess and fracas over nothing, and, yes, Dorothy was pulling out all the stops of anger, yelling, etcetera.

M: ‘The three and Scott sat and talked with Krishnaji.’

The next day. ‘Krishnaji went to London for a haircut with Scott. I saw them off and came back into the house through Dorothy’s office. We began to talk and she was nervous, upset, but quieter. Somehow, something was different, as if her violence yesterday had gone too far, and she was shocked by it. She was also afraid it had damaged our friendship. She admitted, and I agreed, that it had been very bad yesterday. “What about them?” she asked, and I realized what she meant—herself and me. I said I loved her dearly and couldn’t bear to go against her, but had to because of what is best for the school, that I hadn’t been able to get through to her yesterday, couldn’t she see that? She was quiet, and we were able to talk. I felt some sort of crisis had been broken through. I left at 1:30 p.m. and drove to Stratford, going via Broadway to have tea with Amanda Pallandt in her new cottage. She is an herbalist and sees and treats patients there. It was a very nice visit. I went on to Stratford and found Ginny Travers’s flat and the key under the flowerpot. I left my bag and the car there, and walked to the theater in time for the evening performance of Hamlet. Ginny is playing the mother, Gertrude, with Roger Rees as Hamlet. After the performance, Ginny and I had supper in the theater restaurant, and I stayed the night in her flat.’

The twenty-eighth. ‘After breakfast, I went with Ginny to visit the Shakespeare houses in Stratford. She had to leave at 1 p.m., so I stopped to see the Anne Hathaway’s Cottage by myself. Then I drove back to Brockwood, arriving about 4:30 p.m. Krishnaji was feeling rested, and we went with Ingrid and John Porter to see where the grove needs more azaleas. We had only a short walk before supper.’

September twenty-ninth: ‘Pupul telephoned from Delhi. Krishnaji and the Dalai Lama are both to speak on the same platform, under no auspices, in Delhi on November fourth. She has invited the Dalai Lama to lunch with him the day before. She has booked a room for me at the Taj Hotel during Krishnaji’s Delhi stay. I went to Petersfield on errands in the afternoon, then walked with Krishnaji and Dorothy. It was a beautiful, clear afternoon with golden light and sharp autumn air. Krishnaji is feeling well. This is a season dear to me.’

S: Yes, English autumns are really lovely.

M: Any autumn I love.

The next day just says, ‘Krishnaji spoke to the school at 11:30 a.m., and we walked with Dorothy at 4:30.’

There’s even less for the first of October: ‘Krishnaji is tired, so he stayed in bed. I did desk work most of the day, but went to the staff meeting.’

October second. ‘At 10:30 a.m., I left in Mrs. Thompkin’s taxi to Heathrow and took the Alitalia flight at 1:30 p.m. to Rome. Mario met me, and then I saw Filomena, frail and bent over almost at a right angle. How dear she is. We drove to her apartment where I am staying. After greeting all the family, I sat and talked to her at length. I telephoned Krishnaji to let him know I was safely there. He had talked to the students earlier. Filomena and I had supper in her little kitchen; Mistica’—that’s her niece—‘and Vincenza’—the mother of Mistica, and Filomena’s sister—‘are bringing the food. Early to bed.’

The next day. ‘I went with Filomena’s son, Mario, to the bank to cash travel checks in the morning. In the afternoon, he drove me and Mistica into central Rome and we went on foot looking for Castel, the place where years ago I bought shirting for Sam and where I took Krishnaji for the same in the late 1960s. Krishnaji wanted material similar to some from there we got before, and the possibility of my getting it may—repeat, may—have softened his opposition to my going to Rome at all.’ [Both laugh.] The “may” is underlined. ‘I wasn’t sure the place existed after all these years, but it does, unchanged. They recognized the fabric in the old shirt I had brought with me, but it was no longer made. So, I looked and found four others that I hope he will like. All this was very satisfying, and it was nice to have a glimpse of Vecchia Roma again, past the Fontana delle Tartarughe.’ That’s the fountain of the turtles. It’s a charming little tiny piazza with the fountain with, I think it’s four, maybe more, statues of turtles around it.

S: Right. And the shirt shop is near there?

M: Yes, must have been. I forget. Yes, it is because that’s what brought me to the Tartarughe Fountain. ‘…past the Fontana delle Tartarughe. The trattoria where Jarmila and I used to lunch was gone.’ Jarmila is an old, old friend in California; she’s American, but her family was Czech. I think. ‘…the trattoria where we used to lunch was gone but little else seemed changed. I telephoned Vanda in Fiesole and also Fosca. Krishnaji at Brockwood had spent the day in bed.’

October fourth. ‘With Mario and Filomena, I returned to the Fiumicino airport. As always, these small visits with Filomena make the years fall away and we could just as well have been at Malibu. Her mind is a little vaguer. She misunderstood my letter about Amanda’s operation in May and thought it was one of her daughters, but seemed to take it in when I explained it carefully. I have an unease in Mario’s suggestion that Filomena’s U.S. bonds, which are her entire capital, be cashed in and sent to Rome. He would then control it. And my unease is that she seems worried about money. As her income with pension from me and Social Security checks and bond interest comes to a good sum every month, the dollar is high, and she pays no taxes, so that doesn’t sound worrisome. But it turned out she had spent quite a bit on repairing the other house.’ She owned—well I don’t know whether you don’t want to know, but there were two houses and her relatives all lived in the big one, and she lived in the other, little one. ‘I can’t describe them as greedy or grasping, exactly, but they live with little space between basic needs and what Mario earns, and Filomena has always been the fountain of funds in their lives. I do not like her worrying about money. She should have security of mind as well as her needs taken care of. We talked about all this and left it that when I saw my brother, I would discuss this, and then they and I would discuss the matter later. So it was shelved for the present. We said goodbye at the airport. Will I ever see her again?’ I flew back on Alitalia. Mrs. Thompkins met me and I was back at Brockwood by 2:45 p.m. Krishnaji was waiting for me. He seems to know when one will arrive.’ It’s true, he did that with other people, too. I am boundlessly glad to be back and he liked the Castel shirting. He said, “When you are away, it is much more work for me.”’ [Both laugh.] I don’t know what he meant.

S: All kinds of things, I’m sure. You did everything. [Both chuckle.]

M: The fifth of October: ‘At noon we started a project of videotaping Krishnaji’s answers to questions on a single subject, asked by me, and the answer was to last just twenty-eight minutes.’ There was an idea to get them on television. They have to be that length.

S: Yes, I remember those.

M: ‘Twenty-eight minutes was the right length for TV broadcasts and also for use in the information centers where newcomers are sometimes overwhelmed by a whole talk. Today I posed the questions, and then the cameras stay on Krishnaji. The first one was on “conditioning.” Afterward, he said we should keep going, so we did a second one on “fear.” My brother telephoned from New York. He and Lisa may have to go to India about the Cooper-Hewitt share of the 1985 Festival of India exhibitions, and they might be in Delhi while I’m there. We’ll know more later.’

October sixth. ‘I worked at my desk most of the day. Krishnaji rested in the morning, then spoke with Harsh and Claire after lunch. I spoke to Erna in Ojai about my giving the Senior Canyon Water shares to KFA.’ If you want water in Ojai, you have to buy shares in the Senior Canyon Water, and as I had bought all of what became the KFA property in the east end of the valley, before giving it back to the KFA, I had the shares in the Senior Canyon Water company for Arya Vihara, and the office, and guest house. I gave those to the KFA, but kept two shares so that I had a right to water for this house.

The next day. ‘Krishnaji spoke to the school in the morning, to a Greek boy, to Natasha, and then to the four. He had no nap. I went to the staff meeting where I could hear nothing as I’m getting so deaf. Krishnaji said, “You must hurry up to understand everything. I may live another ten years, but you must understand.”’

October eighth. ‘I got up early and began sample editing of some pieces Krishnaji dictated into his Sony in Ojai last spring. I will send them to Mary L. for her vetting. Krishnaji asked, “Haven’t you got enough to do?” but this is something I would like to do. Editing is needed and I offered to do it at the International Trustee Meetings in September. The old Hoover washing machine broke down, and I’m negotiating for a new Miele washing machine. I went to Petersfield on errands in the afternoon but got back to attend the school meeting at 5 p.m. Krishnaji says the disturbance in the house is what has tired him.’

S: Did he mean the psychological dissonance that was in the school?

M: Yes, yes.

The ninth. ‘Krishnaji slept poorly. Nevertheless he spoke to the students. Pandit Jasraj, a singer, came to lunch and sang beautifully at 5 p.m. for Krishnaji and the school.’ He was a very good singer. I’d heard him in India. ‘I did editing of the transcript of the Border TV interview with Krishnaji for the Revelation series for publication by them. A new Miele washing machine was installed.’

The next day, ‘Krishnaji remained in bed resting. Dr. Reilly came to see him and give us both a flu vaccine. I worked at the desk and used the new washing machine most of day.’ [Chuckles.]

The eleventh. ‘Krishnaji spoke to staff at 11:30 a.m. He gave Doris an interview in the afternoon. He had previously told the students about his compact disc player and had said they should hear it, so they took him at his word. His room was stuffy with them when I came back from Alresford errands.’ [Chuckles.]

October twelfth. ‘Krishnaji slept well. He said that in the last two nights he had vague dreams of “the brother.” He “couldn’t see his face, but we were going somewhere, a doctor’s. He went to the doctor, then he went somewhere and I didn’t know where, and then there were a bunch of people saying, ‘We’re for Theosophy.’”’ [Both chuckle.] Oh, dear. ‘“It was a dream, you know. A dream.” Krishnaji felt it was funny. We went by train to London. Mary and Joe met us. Krishnaji had a Huntsman fitting, and then we lunched with Mary at Fortnum’s, bought books at Hatchards, and came home.’

S: The ritual successfully performed.

M: Absolutely. A completely correct day in London. [Both chuckle.] ‘I ate on a tray with Krishnaji and watched the TV news, which was mostly the aftermath of the IRA bombing of the Brighton Hotel aimed at Mrs. Thatcher and the conservative cabinet during the Conservative Conference meetings there.’ Goodness.

The next day. ‘I have a slight cold. Krishnaji spent the day in bed except for giving an interview to Esther Shakun. I worked at my desk all day.’ I don’t know who that was.

October fourteenth. ‘Krishnaji recorded on video answers to questions posed by me and Ray McCoy on “What is religion?” and “What is a religious mind?” Each answer was twenty-eight minutes long. It went well. At 4:15 p.m., he joined a staff meeting discussion on conflict, and then he and I went for a walk in the fields.’

The fifteenth. ‘My cold is fairly heavy. I finished editing Krishnaji’s Sony dictations, and then did general desk work. I ate my lunch upstairs. In the afternoon, Krishnaji gave an interview for an article to Edwin Oostmejer, a Dutch journalist.’

Then for the next two days, there’s nothing significant.

October eighteenth. ‘Iris Murdoch came from Oxford to do a video dialogue with Krishnaji. Mary and Joe, and their friend, Harold Carlton, came too, and watched the dialogue with the school on a monitor in the dining room. Murdoch and Krishnaji continued the discussion after lunch.’ That’s true, there were two. ‘Murdoch was interesting but never seemed to make the jump to seeing instantly what Krishnaji means. She would say. “Ah yes, I see that. It is like Plato, etcetera,” lining it up or verifying it through intellectual knowledge already stored. Later I went to Alresford for a typhoid shot.’

The nineteenth. ‘I met a David Bradshaw, a young Oxford don, at the Winchester bus station. He’s doing a life of Aldous Huxley and Krishnaji said he would talk to him. Krishnaji saw him before and after lunch, then I took him back to Winchester and bought a small Sony shortwave radio in Alresford on the way home to take to India. Talked on the telephone to Phyl Fry. I will not be able to see them this trip, which is a sadness.’

On the twentieth. ‘Mary and Joe came at noon, lunched, and stayed till about 4 p.m. They brought me original photographs of Krishnaji at Ommen in 1926. I walked with Grohe around the block. Rita Zampese brought our Air India tickets, which she has been kind enough to get, as well as my Indian visa, and stayed the night in the West Wing double guest room. Krishnaji says he feels slight bronchitis.’

The next day. ‘Krishnaji says he is alright. “A pink pill did it.”’ Do you remember the pink pills?

S: Oh, yes. I remember the magic pink pills.

M: Mm. ‘So, he spoke to the staff at 11:30 a.m., and to a staff member after lunch. Saral and Dave lunched here. Dave is looking well. Krishnaji, Grohe, Rita Z., and I walked around the block. I spoke to Erna in Ojai.’

October twenty-second. ‘Krishnaji spoke to Claire about her son Anand at 9 a.m., after which he had breakfast. At noon, he gave an interview to the Swedish journalist for Svenska Dagbladet.’ It probably means the Swedish daily or something, but I don’t know. ‘I think his name is Lundstrom. After lunch, at 4:15 p.m., Scott, Kathy, Friedrich, and I met the architect, Mr. Jack, and his colleague in Winchester to look at flint and brick buildings. We came back to Brockwood and, with Krishnaji, looked at the model of the proposed study. It looks like a motel or golf club to me. Krishnaji didn’t like it. ’

The next day. ‘Krishnaji and I went to London where Mary and Joe met us. Krishnaji had a Huntsman fitting. Krishnaji, Mary, and I lunched at Fortnum’s, and Krishnaji had his hair cut at Truefitt while I bought film to take to India. Then we went to W. Bill to get him a navy pullover, and we caught the 4:50 p.m. train back. Back at Brockwood, Scott’s parents have arrived from Houston. They are here for Scott’s appendectomy.’ Whew. ‘A very nice couple. His father looks like Scott. Today Krishnaji had me write down, “Austerity of the mind is wholly different from the austerity of will.” In the evening, on television, he watched the whole of the old movie To Sir, with Love. He likes Sidney Poitier as an actor.’

October the twenty-fourth. ‘There was rain and wind. We both stayed in. Krishnaji remaining in bed while I packed. The Forbes family left for London. Tomorrow Scott will have an appendix operation.’ You had it in London? Why?

S: Yes. Because it was still a little tricky, for some reason which I can’t remember.

M: Where did you have it in London?

S: At the Royal Free Hospital. I think the complication was because I had had hepatitis, but whatever reason it was, it allowed me to see a very famous lady who had been knighted for her work on livers, so because of whatever complication I had, I was given an appointment to see her.

M: Oh. [Chuckles.] That’s a nice way to put it.

S: Yes. [Both laugh.] And when she saw me, she said, “Well, why don’t you have your appendectomy here?” She had a surgeon at that hospital that she thought was very good and who she thought should do it—a very nice Indian man, actually.

M: And he did it well, probably. A satisfied customer?

S: I guess he did it well. I’m still here. [Chuckles.]

M: What about the liver?

Krishnaji riding in a car in India. Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

Krishnaji riding in a car in India.
Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

S: It turned out to be a harmless syndrome I have, which wasn’t well known at the time and was part of what confused the doctors in Winchester when I originally had the burst appendix that they misdiagnosed. It was this lady who identified this little known syndrome, which seems to have no consequences other than throwing off test results. Anyway, the end result wass that I had my operation in a very good teaching hospital with a very good surgeon.

M: [laughs] Good. Good.

S: And, of course, the wonderful English thing in those days was that you just walked into a hospital, you didn’t sign anything—no release or anything, and not a penny is charged. You just go in, they welcome you, you had your operation, and then…

M: …off you go. [M chuckles.] A better world. We know the world has gotten worse.

S: Yes. [Chuckles.]

M: October twenty-fifth. ‘Scott had his operation in the London hospital today. Mary Cadogan and the Hammonds were at lunch. At Krishnaji’s direction, Ray McCoy became an associate member of the KF Trust and a member with Dorothy, Ingrid, Harsh, and Stephen of the group running the school. Mary Cadogan had a long talk with Dorothy. Krishnaji invited Dorothy to come to India in December, and she will come with Rita Zampese to Rishi Valley.’

October twenty-sixth. ‘I went to London, giving Friedrich a lift to Petersfield station. I fitted my new tweed copy of my brown coat at Hilliard’s, did small errands, and lunched very pleasantly with Mary and Joe at their apartment on Hyde Park Street. I got back to Brockwood at 6 p.m. Krishnaji had talked to students, to Dorothy, and to Brian Jenkins and his new wife. After supper we telephoned Vanda in Florence, and then I spoke to my brother in New York. He and Lisa are not coming to Delhi next week. Maybe later. Then I had the familiar happiness of talking to Amanda and Phil in Malibu.’

The next day I am packing, and then the next two days rather run together. On the twenty-eighth, ‘Krishnaji and I got up at 4 a.m., and had only nettle tea, our vitamins, and protein powder drink before leaving at 6:30 a.m. with Dorothy and Ingrid to Heathrow.  Friedrich came too, but flew off to Switzerland. Much of the school was up standing in the dark rain to see Krishnaji off. Rita Zampese met us at Heathrow at 7:50 a.m., as did a Mr. Ramesh Sahini, chief protocol officer at the Indian High Commission, sent by Pupul to see that “His Eminence”’ [both chuckle] ‘etcetera.’ Really

S: Oh, god.

M: I don’t bother to say what he had to see to, so it was obviously just show. ‘We sat in Air India after buying a paperback book and the New Yorker at the bookstore. It is settled that Dorothy will fly with Rita, Friedrich, and Magda Sichitiu on December fifteenth and come to Rishi Valley. I have suggested Dorothy return with me after the Madras part of Krishnaji’s tour, which should be on January twenty-sixth, as she shouldn’t travel alone. Rita and the protocol man saw us into our front row seats on the 747, and in the comfort, such as it is, we flew from Heathrow at 8:45 a.m. across Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We read, slept, and were plied with food. Pupul had specified what Air India should provide as food for us. Krishnaji and I both woke up to watch, without sound, the end of the film Blue Thunder with helicopters chasing each other over Los Angeles.’ [Both chuckle.] ‘We landed at 11:20 a.m. at Delhi. Pama and Mr. Murli Rao were at the foot of the plane steps with a car to drive us to the VIP lounge, where Pupul, in a white heavy cotton sari, was smiling. Mr. Jose, her secretary, and Murli Rao took our passports and tickets and went off to see to everything. After a short while, we could go, and so Krishnaji and I went with Pupul to her house on Safdarjung Road. Nandini and her daughter, Devi, were there, as was Dr. Parchure. Pupul’s house is very nice, done with her good taste.’ She did have good taste. We have to say that.

S: Yes. That’s right. [Laughs]. We like to say nice things about people.

M: Yes, we do. We try to be fair.

S: We try, yes.

M: ‘When the others and the baggage came, Devi and Mr. Jose took me to the Taj Hotel, where I have a comfortable room. Driving in the soft warm air, I felt again in India when I saw the calm cows in the road.’ [Chuckles.] ‘On these trips with Krishnaji, I am borne by the kindness of his friends, sheltered, protected, and instructed by Krishnaji to let it be that way. He is uneasy at my being in a hotel there for a few days, and imagines dangerous food, etcetera.’ [Both chuckle.] ‘They put fruit in the room and he said you mustn’t eat it. I am to eat nothing, he says, but tea, toast ,and maybe a boiled egg for breakfast.’ [Both chuckle.] ‘It is, in fact, a hotel more luxurious than the Dorset in New York, which he likes. The next day, Pupul’s car came for me in the morning. Asit had arrived in the night from Singapore. Krishnaji was beautiful as ever in his Indian clothes, an apricot kurta and buff bandi’—that’s the sleeveless sort of a waistcoat. ‘Devi and I went shopping unsuccessfully and came back to Pupul’s to a late lunch. It was family only with Krishnaji and me. Asit asked him why there has always been turmoil around Krishnaji, TS people, Rajagopal, etcetera. Krishnaji said it was not surprising, “In good soil the tree grows and so do the weeds.”’ [Chuckles.] ‘There was talk too about the “quiet room” in The Study at Brockwood. There was rather a challenge from both Pupul and Asit. Krishnaji said it was “entirely different” from a meditation room or a temple. “It is a place to be quiet, not to bring problems, thoughts,” said Krishnaji. He said he had found it very difficult to live at Brockwood, in a house full of  “a hundred” people where there is turmoil. I went back to the hotel, afraid if I give in to sleep I wouldn’t wake up in time for a walk. So, I read, the archive correspondence I had brought from KFA to KFI, copies of correspondence between Krishnaji and Annie Besant, also with letters to her from Nitya. It was interesting to read in his letters of February seven, 1924 that Krishnaji, during the process, had said, “In one of the messages Krishnaji repeated from the Master, it was said that this house’—Arya Vihara—‘would become a center and that they will watch over it.”’ Make whatever you can of that.

S: Yes. [Chuckles.]

M: ‘I came back to Pupul’s and went for a walk in Lodi Gardens with Krishnaji, Nandini, and Devi. Supper was en famille. On the walk, Krishnaji told me that the night before we left Brockwood, i.e., early Sunday morning, around 3 a.m., he was awakened with an intense sense of something, a power that was with him, and that it had been going on as we flew. “Something happening.”’

The thirtieth of October: ‘I went with Devi to Cottage Industries shopping. Later I went with Krishnaji, Pupul, Sunanda, and Pama to lunch with the vice president and Mrs. Ventkataraman. They live in a Lutyens house—stately, classical, and large. We sat on very long red sofas, far from each other in an otherwise empty room.’

S: Yes. [Chuckles.]

M: ‘So, conversation is not enhanced. The hostess, with a diamond nose ring, didn’t know about Lutyens, so my compliment went for naught.’ [Both chuckle]. ‘Krishnaji sat on her right at lunch, and on her left was a minister, I think, for fertilizer (question mark)’ [Both laugh] ‘named Sathi.’ I’m not kidding. [Both chuckle.] ‘All went along until a luckless serving man somehow upset a bowl of very hot soup down the minister’s back. He gave a strangled look and tore off his shirt and vest; and instead of leaving the room of this very formal lunch, or being lent another shirt, he just sat out the meal, naked from the waist up. Krishnaji was very disapproving.’

S: [laughs] I know. I remember Krishnaji telling me about it [laughs]. It was…

M: I’ve underlined the “very.”

S: Yes, yes. This man just sat there with no top on.

M: Yes. [Both laugh.] ‘I walked later with Krishnaji in Lodi Park. Nandini, Devi, and Mr. Kantilal Dalal were along. We had dinner at Pupul’s. Krishnaji, Pupul, Nandini, Devi, Asit, and Rajiv Sethi, the designer with whom Lisa is working for the World of India Exhibition. Afterward, Pupul brought out the manuscript of her biography of Krishnaji, and she asked me to read aloud from the opening chapter, which begins with his birth and circumstances of his early life. Krishnaji listened attentively and asked if we felt something in the room. And at the end, he was so moved by the presence in the room that he seemed close to tears. “I could prostrate myself to that,” he said. Back at the hotel I could hardly sleep.’

October thirty-first. ‘Devi came to the hotel early and we went to two shops. We arrived back at Pupul’s at 11:30 a.m. I saw Nandini standing in the hall, very still, as though arrested in something shocking. Behind her, in the living room I saw Krishnaji standing, and knew instantly that he was not whatever had happened. Sunanda was standing motionless too, and one of them, I think Nandini, said in a low voice, “Indira Gandhi has been shot.” Pupul had been telephoned earlier, and had had Asit drive her the short distance up Safdarjung Road to the Prime Minister’s residence. It was already blocked, but Pupul said she was a minister, and got through. She told Asit to wait in the car, went in through the garden to the Prime Minister’s house, came back walking deliberately, Asit said, and told him, “The Prime Minister has been shot by two of her guards. It is all over. Go and tell Krishnaji but no one else.” She said it in Gujarati. She turned back to the house, and Asit returned to tell Krishnaji. We stayed in Pupul’s house waiting for news. The television played interminable chants. Around 3 p.m., Krishnaji, Asit, Nandi, and I were in Pupul’s sitting room, and Krishnaji said quietly, “I don’t know if you believe in ghosts, but I’ve been seeing Mrs. Gandhi standing there.” He indicated a spot about two feet from where I was sitting at the right end of the sofa. He said that she stood there, looking at him, for more than a minute, and then disappeared. As the afternoon continued with no word from Pupul, Asit, Nandini, and Rajiv Sethi went to the PM’s house to look for her. Pupul had gone to the hospital and they waited at the house. Around 6 p.m., the news of the Prime Minister’s death was announced. It had been withheld until her son and senior ministers could be notified and get back. They all happened to be out of Delhi. Also, they waited so that police and military could prepare for whatever came once the news was out. By the time Rajiv Gandhi got back in a military plane from Bengal, he was appointed Prime Minister and sworn into office. Pupul finally got home about 11 o’clock. She had been with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi all day in the hospital. There were enormous crowds at the hospital. She had helped dress Mrs. Gandhi’s body, and accompanied its return, on a gun carriage, to her house before it will be taken to lie in state. Pupul looked drained and exhausted. I left her with Krishnaji, and Asit accompanied me back to the hotel. The streets in this part of the city are empty. A curfew in other sections has been declared. I have been looking out over the city, and violence against Sikhs has begun. There are fires in the outskirts.’ The guards who shot her were Sikhs.

The first of November: ‘Pupul went out before 5 a.m. to accompany Mrs. Gandhi’s body to where it will lie in state until the funeral on Saturday. A car came and took me to Pupul’s house at 10 a.m. All the taxis have disappeared at the hotel as most have Sikh drivers. There has been burning of houses and attacks on Sikhs throughout the night in Delhi and elsewhere in the country. Krishnaji’s talks with the Dalai Lama have been canceled. There are curfews, but not in Delhi. The streets are almost empty here. We stayed in Pupul’s house all morning. The TV showed, endlessly, the lying in state and the thousands filing past, many throwing fists in the air and chanting in Hindi “Blood for blood.” It is felt safer for Krishnaji to get out of Delhi, and so our departure for Benares has been moved from Monday to Saturday.’ This was written on Thursday. ‘There were rumors all day of trouble and curfews all over India. Pupul’s house remains a seeming spot of safety. It was a quiet morning, like any other in the garden. Birds wing about. The sunlight is pale and gentle. After lunch, I took a nap on a mat in the living room, and later Krishnaji wanted his walk, so he, Asit, Nandini, Devi, and I drove to an almost empty Lodi Park. We passed only one burned-out and toppled car. Pupul returned from the Prime Minister’s house with news that it appears safe for Krishnaji to go to Benares. A television crew came and interviewed her about Mrs. Gandhi. After supper, Rajiv Sethi dropped me at my hotel. When I spoke to Krishnaji before dinner, he said that yesterday, before Mrs. Gandhi was killed, he thought of her in the morning while he was brushing his teeth and said to himself, “I’ll probably never see her again.” He was to have seen her at lunch this Saturday at Pupul’s house, a lunch that both Mrs. Gandhi and the Dalai Lama were to attend.’

November second. ‘Our going to Benares is canceled as unsafe. Instead we go south tomorrow to Madras where it is quieter. A car came from Pupul’s and took me to her house at 11 a.m. The disturbed atmosphere is affecting Krishnaji. We lunched and I stayed there until Krishnaji, Asit, and I walked in Lodi Park. I got Krishnaji packed. Scott got through by telephone from Brockwood. I asked him to spread the news that we are alright and going to Madras, including to tell Erna, and via her, the Dunnes and my brother. I came back to the hotel and packed. I had the TV on and heard that the flights to Madras are canceled. I telephoned Pupul’s, and after flurries of inquiry, heard we will fly tomorrow, but at 11 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. This hotel continues to function normally except there are worried-looking turbaned guests.’ The Sikhs are turbaned. ‘The disorders have continued, and there are horrifying accounts of Sikhs being set afire. Nothing has been learned since Wednesday’—this is Friday already—‘of the Sikh bodyguard who was captured after shooting Mrs. Gandhi. The one who shot first was killed by other guards, and he is said to have been on her guard duty for over ten years, and to have traveled abroad with her. How is it possible for a man, after all that, to shoot an elderly woman? Twenty-two bullets are said to have hit her, all in the body and lower torso. Only her face shows in the lying in state, untouched. And people continue to drag people out of houses and trains and kill them. What is the savagery that lies so near the surface? Her son spoke to the nation on television this evening. He was very dignified and well spoken.’

The third of November: ‘Mr. Jose, Pupul’s nice and so efficient secretary, and Mr. Murli Rao came for me at the hotel at 9 a.m. I went to Pupul’s house. Aditi, Nandini’s granddaughter, had arrived from Mexico where she was with her dance troupe. Krishnaji, Sunanda, Pama, Prema, Ahalya, Dr. Parchure, and I flew at 11 a.m. to Madras. Krishnaji and I were in first class, which was almost empty. He and I had a picnic lunch. A steam bath hit us as we stepped out of the plane at Madras. Radha Burnier, Jayalakshmi Amma…’ Amma is not her name. It’s like a title, I think, something to do with the Tamil word for mother. Anyway, ‘Jayalakshmi Amma and others were waiting to greet Krishnaji at Vasanta Vihar. Sunanda has kindly given me her front room on the ground floor, which has a new tiled bath. Krishnaji wanted a walk, and so, with Pama, we went to Radha’s house at the Theosophical Society and walked on the beach. It is quiet here, and there have been few disturbances. Mrs. Gandhi’s funeral and cremation took place in Delhi.’

The fourth of November. ‘It was a quiet day with discussions at the meals. We walked on Radha’s beach again. Krishnaji wants to go to Benares on Friday. In spite of the difficulties and dangers of train travel, over a hundred people have already gone to Benares for the planned gathering, and Krishnaji feels he must go for that as well as Rajghat itself needing his presence. He hasn’t been there in a few years. Achyut and Balasundaram arrived from Bangalore during the evening.’

The next day. ‘After much consultation, it is decided to go to Benares Friday. I worked on letters, had a nap after lunch, and we all walked on the beach in the late afternoon. Dr. Sudarshan came to dinner.’ That was a Tuesday.

The sixth. ‘With Prema Srinivasan, I went to see her daughter’s, Sheela Balaji’s, workshop where she makes designs of cloth done in vegetable dyes. Then we went to a boutique where Malini’—that’s her other daughter—‘sells it. I bought printed cotton for tunics. We came back and I had coffee with Prema at her house. In the afternoon, I dictated letters to a typist, then went on another beach walk with Krishnaji, Radha, and Pama. In the U.S., Reagan is reelected too overwhelmingly.’

There’s really nothing for the next two days, then on November ninth. ‘I was up at 3 a.m., and at 4 a.m. we left Vasanta Vihar. Krishnaji, Sunanda, Pama, Parchure, Ahalya, and I flew to Delhi. Pupul met us and took us to her house for breakfast. Mr. Murli Rao took me to the Taj Hotel, where again I had a room for the night. We lunched at Pupul’s, rested there in the afternoon, and then walked in Lodi Gardens. Mr. and Mrs. L. K. Jha came in while we were dining and afterward dropped me at the hotel.’ He was, I think, the Indian ambassador to Washington.

The tenth. ‘I was up at 4 a.m. and Mr. Jose came for me an hour later. From Pupul’s, Krishnaji, Nandini, Aditi, Sunanda, Pama, Parchure, Ahalya, and I went to the airport, and at 7 a.m. flew nonstop to Benares. The drive to Rajghat from the airport was even bumpier and dustier than in the past.’ [S chuckles.] ‘All the school was out to greet Krishnaji. I have the same room as before, below Krishnaji’s. The Sathayes have made it as comfortable as they could. He is now principal, and she is quiet and nice. We had breakfast and unpacked. I slept in the afternoon, and we walked around the playing fields.’

The next day. ‘At 9:30 a.m., Krishnaji gave a talk to the campers who have been waiting for him, and later all of us lunched with them in the school dining room. The walk was again around the playing fields in late afternoon.’

November twelfth. ‘At 8:30 a.m., Krishnaji gave his second talk to the campers and other visitors. The twelve days of mourning for Mrs. Gandhi have ended. I went with Nandini and Aditi to Benares, where they bought saris at the Kissam Sari Emporium. Benares is its unchanging self: dusty, filthy, crowded, mad, and totally India. I came back to lunch, nap, and walk.’

S: Yes. [Both chuckle.]

November thirteenth. ‘Krishnaji came to the breakfast table and had sharp words for those present about the Anvekars, who are leaving. He then talked to them separately, and afterward held a KFI trustee meeting about it. It was difficult and rough going.’ I don’t know why I don’t explain what all that was about. ‘We walked again around the playing field in the afternoon.’

The next day. ‘I went shopping in the morning with Nandini, Sunanda, and Ahalya where I got tussar and raw silk for Krishnaji.’ For shirts, I guess, or some Indian something. ‘Back to lunch. The late afternoon walk with Krishnaji included a group and we walked across the Varuna’—that’s the little river that runs between the Rajghat buildings and the farmland. It’s the road to Sarnath, actually—‘as far as the pump on the east edge of the Rajghat land. Krishnaji has the beginnings of cold symptoms. The villagers are being difficult.’ They wanted…

S: They wanted the Rajghat land, essentially.

M: Yes. Yes. ‘The walk was one he shouldn’t have been taking as his cold symptoms increased in the evening.’

November fifteenth. ‘Krishnaji stayed in bed with a slight cold and slight fever. I did desk things in the morning. And in the afternoon I went with Nandini, Sunanda, and Ahalya into Benares to buy saris. The sari shop owner came for us in a car and then led us through winding narrow alleys in what had been a fortress where cell-like shops, selling anything and everything, line the narrow, rough cobblestone walk.’ Going through the kasbah-like alleys in this former fortress is really weird…well, you’ve been there.

S: I’ve been there, yes. It’s a throwback to…

M: It is. It is. ‘Bicycles, children, goats, noise, smells. We came to the sari shop, a cell, like the others, but lined with canvas. You drop sandals at the entrance, sit against bolsters on the floor, and then saris are flung out for inspection. These were mostly cotton ones, a specialty. Much talk. Much choosing. I bought nothing, as I do not intend to wear saris, and at the end, one has to politely evade proffered coffee. It was dark when we left, and the man guided us out. I concentrated on Sunanda’s feet right in front of me and kept walking. “My god,” she said “What a place. If any trouble starts here, we’d all be knifed.”’ [Both chuckle.] ‘When we reached the street, there was, of course, no car, so we had to pick our way through people on the pavement selling fruit, vegetables, parrots in small cages. We waited in a jeweler’s shop, in the purple fluorescent light, and eventually someone came who knew where the car was. We found it, then drove back through the noise and dust to Rajghat and buckets of hot water. Head, nose, body, feet, and sandals have to be washed after an expedition to Kashi.’ Kashi is the name of Benares in ancient days. [Chuckles.] Benares has to be seen to be believed.

S: Yes, yes. And even after you’ve seen it, you can’t believe it. [Laughs.]

M: I hope it isn’t changing. It’s been that way for…centuries.

S: Yes. It’s been that way for so long now.

Krishnaji riding in a car in India. Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

Krishnaji riding in a car in India.
Copyright Mary Zimbalist.

M: The sixteenth. ‘Krishnaji’s temperature was normal but he stayed in bed all day sleeping and reading. I dictated letters slowly, so my non-Indian English was understandable to the very willing man who took it in shorthand. I slept and read in the afternoon.’ [Both chuckle.] Well, it was nice of him. I’m not very good at dictating, although you wouldn’t know it from this. [Both laugh.]

S: Well, here you’re reading your diaries.

M: People would say to me, “Why don’t you have somebody type your letters?” And I’d say, “Because I can’t dictate, I have to see the letter if I’m writing it. I can’t just listen to myself.”

The  seventeenth. ‘Krishnaji is better, but he stayed in bed. I spent most of the day doing letters. There was a cyclone in Madras with heavy rains and many trees downed.’

November eighteenth. ‘Krishnaji spoke in the assembly hall to the teachers, and one, a man named Dennis, was rather aggressive. Then he rested for the remainder of the day. I walked around the campus and ended up at Vatsala’s and Dr. Parchure’s cottage, and talked with him about his working in the North. He gets on with the Upasani, Sathaye, and the two new ones, Dr. Hira Lal and Maheshji.’ Mahesh was his name, but you put ji on the end of some names in India. This, according to Sunanda, is a term of both familiarity and respect. So, with Krishnaji, you wouldn’t call him Krishna, that would be too intimate.

S: And also it doesn’t show respect.

M: But putting the ji on the end of it makes it both friendly, affectionate, and respectful. And that applies to all the names with ji that you use in India. So, ‘it is in the North that Parchure has collected a fair number of people interested in Krishnaji’s teachings.’ This is what Parchure has done. ‘He does not seem to mind at all, all that repels me about this place. Vatsala seems happier in Rishi Valley than here, as she has her sons Vikram and Vishwas near enough there in Bangalore.’ She likes it better to be in Rishi Valley for that reason.

S: Also, just to say, while we’re on the ji subject, I can remember, now that you mentioned it, sometimes Indians would refer to you as Mariaji.

M: Yes, Sunanda always called me Mariaji. She never called me Maria or Mary.

S: Yes, and Krishnaji was the only person I ever heard call you Maria.

M: Oh yes, that’s right. He was the only one who called me Maria.

S: It was nice, Mariaji, it was also nice.

M: Yes. [Chuckles.]

S: Alright, on that topic, I think we have to end this. We’re running out of tape.

M: We have to end. Alright. We’ll begin next time on November nineteenth, 1984.

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