I can't take money from you!27

As you know, I always like shopping in Indian stores. One evening Baoul took me to Elmhurst to look for ladies’ Punjabi outfits. I went browsing in two or three stores. Outside, it was drizzling.

When I was near a store called Sari Palace, an Indian lady saw me and became very excited. She came outside and pointed me out to an Indian man who was passing by. She did not say anything to him; she only pointed at me.

Then I wanted to go into Popular Fabrics. Baoul said I wouldn’t be able to get Punjabi outfits there, but I said I was in the mood to go in.

When I entered into the store, a young Gujarati lady was talking to a Gujarati customer. They were bargaining and having an argument. The man was saying that she was charging too much. Finally, he got very mad and went away without buying anything.

When I went towards the counter, I noticed that my transcendental picture was hanging up along with other pictures of Indian cosmic gods and goddesses and spiritual Masters. There were Lakshmi, Krishna, Kali and others, as well as some spiritual Masters. The lady did not recognise me, and I said to myself, “Who wants to tell her?”

I asked the lady for Punjabi outfits. She said, “We don’t have them ready-made.”

I said, “You don’t? Are you sure?”

She said, “No, but you can buy the material to make them. It is $4.99 a yard. We don’t have special dupatta material, but you can buy six-and-a-half-yard lengths of material and make the whole outfit, including the dupatta.”

I asked, “Can you not speak Hindi?”

“No, I do not speak it,” she answered.

I told her, “Well, your English is perfect.” So perfect English we used.

I like bargaining, so I asked, “Can you not reduce the price? I will buy at least five different kinds of material.”

She said, “$4 a yard.”

I said, “Very good! I won’t ask you to come down any more.”

While I was looking at the material, she was telling me, “This is very beautiful, that is very beautiful.”

Then, to my wide surprise, a middle-aged man suddenly appeared and fell flat at my feet. He was not bowing his head a little in the usual civilised way. No, he was lying flat on the ground, showing his respect according to the traditional Indian custom.

The lady was startled. She said, “He is my boss! Sushil! Sushil!” She couldn’t believe that her boss was lying down flat on the floor. He had not been there when I entered into the store, but when he saw me, he was so happy and excited that I was in his shop.

When he stood up, he said to me, “You don’t have to think of the price, Just take whatever you want. I will take care of it.”

I said, “This material was $4.99. Now she has reduced it to $4.00. I am satisfied. I don’t want her to reduce it any more.”

I continued browsing, and Sushil remained near me. He said to me, “Miss Ghose came here today.” He meant that Ranjana had been in the store earlier that day. Then he said, “I come from the Punjab, and my assistant comes from Gujarat.”

When I had made my selection, the assistant cut six and a half yards from each roll of material, and put it all in a bag for me. When she was finished, I saw that the owner was not going towards the cash register. I said to myself, “What is the matter with him?” I calculated in my head that the material would cost $156.00. I opened my wallet, took out the exact amount and was about to give the owner the money.

Suddenly he was lying down flat on the ground at my feet! It was the same scene as before.

I said, “What are you doing?”

He said, “You have blessed me. This store is here all by your grace. I first saw you when you came to my store on Canal Street. Then I got another store in Manhattan, and you came there twice. Now, for the first time, you have come here to bless me. I can’t take money from you. Everything here is yours.”

I said, “You are really embarrassing me! At least take $100.”

He said, “How can I take money from you? Especially now, in Diwali festival time, how can I take your money? Absolutely, I can’t take anything! Everything I have is all due to your grace.” He was trembling with joy and delight. He couldn’t believe that I was there in his store.

I said, “Next time I come, you have to charge me. Otherwise, I will not come to your store again to bless you.”

He said, “Yes, next time.”

Eight or nine years ago, in Manhattan, the same kind of thing happened: a shopkeeper wouldn’t take money from me. When I was picking out things, the man pretended he didn’t recognise me. Then, afterwards, he wouldn’t take money from me. I had selected $86 worth of things from his store, but he said, “Just give me a ten dollar bill and sign your name on it, so I can treasure it and preserve it always.”

His friend had been a disciple in Connecticut for a short time, but the shopkeeper felt that he could not become a disciple because he was not pure enough.

LS 70. 3 November 1983