When I was at the Indian Consulate, Consul General S.K. Roy was smarter than the smartest. He and others did come to know me over the years. Otherwise, how could he have sent me to give a talk? Ananda Mohan was an M.A. He was the biographer of Indira Gandhi. By that time he had gone so many times to speak on Hinduism and culture. When the Consul General received one particular invitation, it was expected that Ananda Mohan would speak. But the Consul General said, “No, Ananda Mohan cannot go. Ghose has to go.” How much confidence he had in me.
Mr. Mehrotra himself would give talks on Buddhism. Yvonne, his secretary from Jamaica, West Indies, gave me his talks to read. He said that I had to see them to make some suggestions. If I only flattered him and said they were very nice, he would not be satisfied. Such kindness Mr. Mehrotra had.
Mr. Mehrotra gave me the job. And when I applied for a green card, how he wrote about me. In absolutely flowing English he said how much I would be able to contribute to America and India.
That was one aspect of the treatment I received at the Consulate: kindness and compassion. Another aspect was that they felt something in me; they knew what I had in my eyes.
My friends at the Consulate used to cut jokes, but they also said such nice things about me. One lady, Mrs. Coutinhoe, was very short. Her husband was a friend of someone who has become my disciple. She used to stand up to fight for me when others were cutting jokes. They all had tremendous, tremendous love for me, including Mr. Ramamoorthy and others.
My sectional boss was named Krishan. Years later I gave a concert in Toronto. I came off the stage, and somebody followed me. It was this gentleman. He is much taller than me. He stood right in front of me and fell down at my feet. I recognised him and said, “What are you doing? What are you doing? You were my boss!”
He said, “Yes, Ghose, we knew you, we knew who you were, but at that time we were not in a position to fall at your feet.” Then his wife also fell at my feet. He knew who I was when I was at the Consulate, but at that time I was a worker and he was the sectional boss.
Another boss was a Bengali named A.K. Mukherjee. Such affection he lavished on me. Once he said in front of everybody, “Ghose does not know how far he will go. God knows, only God knows how far he will go. Ghose does not know anything about it.” At his farewell party, there were about fifteen or sixteen people. He and his wife had invited their very close friends. I had never seen his wife before. We all went there, all the workers. To others his wife did not fold her hands, but with folded hands she started talking to me. Then she gave me something to eat first, before the others. She had heard from her husband who I was. For the sectional boss’s wife to approach me with folded hands!
Mr. Mehrotra was kinder than the kindest. His wife was reserved. Their daughter Aparna used to come to the Consulate only to cry. She was three or four years old. At Mr. Mehrotra’s farewell time, we went to a party at their place. A maid served everybody. A few years later Mr. Mehrotra became the Consul General in California, and they invited me to their place. At that time we went to Dipti Nivas, our disciples’ restaurant. Both of them were facing me, and I did a very beautiful painting which I gave to them. When we met with them in Sri Lanka a few years after that, Mr. Mehrotra’s wife was acting like my sister. They definitely saw something in my eyes, in my face, in my movements, both of them.
Only one book at a time you could take from the Consulate library. They had many, many books. But the librarian used to give me three or four books, or even more, every week. He said, “Every rule has an exception.” He was a Gujarati. He wanted me to become his assistant, but it did not work out.
I had no complaints against my colleagues at the Consulate. All of them were very kind and very affectionate. The two bodyguards were so affectionate, and they were such jokers!
Mr. Ramamoorthy had a friend who passed away recently. That friend brought me to Hicksville High School to give a talk on Hinduism. I could not believe how nicely those high school students behaved. In India, high school students can be notorious. Perhaps here also it is true.
I had very good friends, very good. But once some of the workers begged and begged me to go with them to enjoy horse racing, and it was the worst possible experience.
Four of us friends went there by car. Two of us were from Brooklyn and two from Manhattan. At that time I was living in Brooklyn, on New Utrecht Avenue. It used to take me an hour to go to the Consulate — three trains I had to take. The horse race was in Queens. All night they were trying to make money in horse races. I spent only three dollars. My friends were going on and going on. I was only waiting for them. There was no joy for me.
On the way back, it was early in the morning. The owner of the car decided he would go to Manhattan first. One hundred or two hundred metres before the Midtown Tunnel, believe it or not, one, two, three, four — all the tires burst at the same time! It was difficult to control the car. I said to myself, “O God! It is karma, karma, karma. Why did I join them?” It was the worst possible experience!
Our Shivaram had tremendous interest in horse races. He was a mathematician. He would buy a special newspaper that would say which horses had possibility. He checked this newspaper with his great mathematician-brain. How many times he wagered, God alone knows. And how many times he won, that is a top secret! Again, shamelessly, with no wisdom, three or four friends of mine, when they got their salary on the first of every month, used to go to wager. They wanted to become very, very rich. Most of the time they lost. But when they won, they bragged and bragged and bragged!
Every month when we used to get our salary, five of us from our department would go to eat at an Indian restaurant. We felt that we were very rich on that day.
After six months or eight months of working at the Consulate, I developed a peculiar idea. I think I was getting the lowest salary. We were seven or eight in the same section, the Passport-Visa section. I used to buy ice cream or something else for everyone to eat. Mr. Ramamoorthy can confirm that it is true. I used to give it to them personally. I did it during the first year, or the second year. I used to give them personally something to eat, once a week. That was my self-imposed job. Every Friday I did it. I remember.
And where did I eat? Lunch was across the street, where an old man sold ice cream. I liked the coconut flavour. Sometimes when I felt that I was rich, I had popcorn. Right near our office room there was a telephone booth. I used to enter into the telephone booth and eat. Then I would go downstairs to chat a little bit with Ananda Mohan and his boss, Nirmal Singh. That boss was so kind. He had something to say about my Hinduism and I had something to say about his Sikhism. He was so fond of me. When I went there, he would stop working only to tease me. Then I used to joke with him. Ananda Mohan saw this. His boss was so serious with others! But when I was there, his seriousness used to disappear and he chatted with me, all about Hinduism and Sikhism. This is how we talked.
I have so many juicy stories. From time to time if I remember my Indian Consulate stories, I shall tell you.
One sectional boss was named Menon. He was a South Indian. He was very, very kind to me. He was the first one to whom I gave my refreshments once a week. I used to go to the post office at Bloomingdale’s. At 4:00 I would stand in front of him and say, “Sir, I am leaving for the post office.” He would give me a smile. He was so kind, so affectionate. Now he lives in New York. He says he has such tremendous love and admiration for me, but spirituality is not meant for him. If he does not come to see me, I can go one day to his place with Mr. Ramamoorthy. How kind, how affectionate he was.
Indira Gandhi came twice to the Indian Consulate. Once I was there, and the second time I was not. When I was in India, my dearest brother-friend’s father died. His wife was so fond of me. She gave me a brand-new “Nehru jacket.” When I came to America I used that Nehru jacket. Menon once saw me wearing it. He said to me, “Ghose, Ghose, tomorrow bring that jacket. I will need it! I will go to see Indira Gandhi. She will be so pleased with me if you give me your Nehru jacket to wear.”2 Luckily we were of the same size, so I gave him the jacket.
I did not have even one enemy at the Indian Consulate. They liked me; they loved me. Of course they thought I was unusual. That thought came to their mind first. But they had such love for me.