Question: Guru, on April 13th, 1964, what was the weather like? When you came out into the air, were you surprised by the cooler air on your face? Did it shock you at all?6

Sri Chinmoy: Curiosity reigns supreme! On April 13th, 1964, at the airport I became curiosity — plus, perhaps, helplessness. An Indian gentleman was so kind to me. He knew that I was lost, completely lost, so he helped me out. He asked me if anybody outside was waiting for me. I said, “Definitely my sponsors are waiting for me."

The weather was very good, very good, not like today’s weather. I enjoyed everything on the 13th. It was like a dreamland.

When I came to New York, I used to meditate for hours, and I enjoyed window-shopping! Every night I used to meditate and meditate, and then talk to the Lord Buddha. My sponsor, Sam Spanier, had a huge statue of the Lord Buddha that was absolutely alive, alive, alive. I used to meditate and talk, talk, talk to the Lord Buddha.

Greenwich Village! Nowadays I do not know how it is, but in those days it did not have night; it was all day. There were thousands of people in the street. At around three o’clock or three-thirty in the morning I used to go out. My sponsor was shocked. How could I go out at that hour? I said, “There are so many people.” He said, “It is not safe.” Then I believed him, so I stopped going out at three o’clock.

I had another sponsor. Her name was Ann Harrison. She was extremely, extremely devoted and fond of me. Her husband was one of the owners of The New York Times. In her car a doll was hanging. The doll would “tell” her when to turn and when to go forward. Sometimes she would drive through a red light. Why? Because the doll was telling her by moving forward. Then, when there was a green light, if the doll did not move, she did not move. I had to say, “Anne, Anne, I beg of you, when I am in your car, please follow the red lights and the green lights!”

I used to go to Woodstock quite often. Ann Harrison was very kind. Once, on my birthday, she took me to a bakery. She went into the bakery, and I remained inside the car. A policeman came and asked me to move the car. I said, “I do not know how to drive.” He said, “No, you have to go!" The car was on. I saw “R” and I said to myself, “ ‘R’ means ‘right.’ ” I did not know anything about driving. The police car was behind me, and very nicely I dashed against it. The policeman started barking at me. Then Anne came out and started barking at the policeman. She said, “Why did you ask him to drive?” That was a very funny experience, a significant experience. I thought that “R” means right, but “R” means reverse.

Many, many, many happy experiences I had, and many, many, many sad experiences also. The sad experiences I bury forcefully into oblivion. The good experiences, healthy experiences, I try to remember.

The other day, when I was at our Jharna-Kala exhibit at the United Nations, a few significant curators or assistant curators from the Guggenheim Museum came. The head of the Asia Society also came. In 1965, when I was working at the Indian Consulate, the Asia Society wanted the Consulate to send a singer for a function at the Guggenheim. They wanted somebody who could sing Bengali songs, and I was perhaps the only Bengali available. The Asia Society wanted me to set music to two poems. These poems were composed three hundred years ago, and the Bengali was ancient Bengali.

I went to the function at least forty-five minutes early, and I was inside the museum, looking outside at a lamppost. Whom did I see? Lord Krishna! We were talking and talking and talking. A most significant talk we had!

I sang, and I got thirty dollars for two songs — not bad! Somebody very important from the Asia Society came.

My friends took me to see Bengali paintings at the Guggenheim. Never, never in my wildest imagination did I think that I would become an artist. And who ever thought there would come a time when my paintings would be exhibited at the United Nations, where all the nations meet together? Long live Ranjana, my curator. All my artwork is her contribution. Many, many years ago in a tiny hotel room in Ottawa, Canada, I started my artwork, with her encouragement. Many times she used to come to my place in the morning when I would draw. Some boys made me a machine. I would put my paintings on the belt, and the machine would take them to the other side. Then Ranjana would come and collect all the paintings.

What encouragement can do! In my art-life, Ranjana is the proof. In many important places we have shown my artwork, and I am extremely, extremely grateful to all those who have helped me.

I had two or three art teachers in the Ashram. They taught me how to paint. A great artist named Sanjiban came from Chittagong. He and my brother Hriday were dearest friends, and he was very close to our family. When I started painting in America, he said to my brother Chitta, “Tell Madal not to waste his time. He will never become an artist. He is just throwing ink here and there. He can never be an artist.” That was his comment.

Two or three years later, my paintings were exhibited. In those days our galleries used to cover almost a block in Manhattan, and a few important people came. They were kind enough to offer their good opinions. I sent my brother Chitta their comments, plus some of my new paintings. What the opinions of others can do! Immediately that artist, Sanjiban, changed his mind. He said, “O my God, Madal has become a real artist!” Three years earlier he had said that I should not waste my time. This is the nature of artwork. This moment you get discouragement, and the next moment it is all appreciation.

This man is a real artist. In the meditation hall at the Ashram are his portraits of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. You cannot imagine how beautiful they are! They are absolutely living beings, his portraits in the meditation hall. There is also a bust of Sri Aurobindo. It was done by a South Indian sculptor, and it is excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent.

I have gone off the track in my answer!

GMG 20-21. Sri Chinmoy answered these questions on 13 April, 2007 at Aspiration-Ground in Jamaica, New York.