Part I — My Consulate years

Applying for a position at the Indian Consulate

When I first came to America on 13 April 1964, I was quite bewildered and to some extent helpless. I was staying with my main sponsor, Sam Spanier, and his friend, Eric Hughes, at 43 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich Village.

I had another sponsor named Mrs. Ann Harrison. Ann’s sister, Jean, had a house in Baltimore. She said that I would be able to meditate there and Ann would bring seekers and disciples. I was delighted and fully prepared to go and live in Baltimore.

But Kailash-ben, my sister-disciple from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, said to me, “No, no, you have to work at the Indian Consulate.”

I said, “I do not have any degree.” She herself was a graduate.

“I am sure you will get a job,” she assured me.

“It is impossible,” I said. “The Indian Government will require at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Otherwise, they will not allow me to work there.”

“At least you can try,” she said.

Then she went to the Indian Consulate. She filled in the form, she did everything for me — only she took my signature. Look at her concern for me! I am so grateful to her.

In a few days I was summoned to the Consulate. Very nicely I failed the typing examination! At the Ashram I used to type 65 to 70 words per minute, but here the result was 33. I had been out of touch with the typewriter for eight or nine months and I was going through all kinds of problems, so I very nicely failed.

They told me that after ten or twelve days they would examine me again. My friend, John Kelly, bought me a small manual typewriter, a Hermes portable, and I started practising. I was absolutely confident that in ten days I could pass the test.

Twelve days after I had failed the first test, I got a telephone call from Mr. Mehrotra’s secretary, Yvonne, who was from Jamaica, West Indies. She asked me to come to the Consulate. I was so happy, thinking that they would ask me to sit for the typing test again. O God, they did not ask me to take the test. Kailash-ben had submitted some of my Indian articles and poems, although she had written on my application that I did not have any qualification. Mr. Mehrotra is a great literary man and a supreme authority on Indian philosophy, culture and religion. He liked my writings very much.

There were five other candidates applying for that junior post and two of them had Master’s Degrees. Many Indians did not have any job and they were dying to stay in America. Only by working at the Indian Consulate or Indian Mission could they stay here. I was the sixth person to apply for the post. I did not have even a high school diploma, but Mr. Mehrotra chose me because he liked my writings. By his unimaginable grace, I got the job.

They told me when I started at the Consulate that in a few months they would ask me to sit again for the typing test. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was not given the test.

Becoming permanent

Mr. Mehrotra had an attaché named Dhawan. Dhawan was a hard task­master and he made everybody’s life miserable by insulting and scolding. You were supposed to work at the Consulate for three months and then they would review your work. After that, they would extend your job for another three months. Then, at the end of that period, they would decide whether to make you permanent or not. If they do not want to make you permanent, they can continue extending you only for three more months.

My loving and unfailing friend, Mr. Ramamoorthy, and a few others had been working there for a long time and Mr. Mehrotra’s attaché would not agree to make them permanent. But in my case, it was not more than 13 days.

One day Dhawan came to our section. Whenever he came, everybody would tremble. What was he going to say, and to whom? This time, from the doorway Dhawan shouted, “Ghose!”

Everybody was wondering what was going to happen. Then Dhawan marched up to my desk and very abruptly said, “Mr. Mehrotra has decided to make you permanent.” Then he marched away.

O God, instead of applauding, everyone was silent. Perhaps they were puzzled or jealous or upset. I, too, was stunned. Then some of my colleagues said to me, “I have been working here six months” or “I am nine months and I am not yet permanent.” I had not even been there for two weeks!

Why did Dhawan have to give me the news in front of so many people? Perhaps he wanted to make their lives miserable. This was how my job started.

The Passport and Visa Section

In our section, I used to sit side by side with Mr. Ramamoorthy and there were seven others in the room. It was no larger than my present meditation room. Two or three people had to share the same table. Mr. Mehrotra had his own office because he was the Passport/Visa Consul. In his office there was one big table and two chairs.

My colleagues and I did 40 or 50 passports every day. My job was to check each one of them and put stamps on the envelopes. At two o’clock I had to go to Shivaram’s section, Accounts, to show how much money I had spent during the day. Then around 4:30 I used to go from the Indian Consulate to Bloomingdale’s post office and mail the passports. Once I went to Bloomingdale’s, I did not return to the Consulate.

From the very first day, I had to check the passports to see whether my colleagues had done their job correctly. For $230 a month I started, working ten hours a day. Some days I did not even get ten minutes for lunch because there was so much work. We had to finish certain jobs by certain hours.

My mental arithmetic

The very name Dhawan used to send fear through everyone. One day I was in Shivaram’s section showing the amount that we had spent for the day. Dhawan saw me adding up the figures in my head and he said, “I see! Here is the proof that you did not go to college! Had you been to college, you would have used this adding machine instead of calculating everything mentally.”

Dhawan was joking because all the other workers were using adding machines and I was doing it mentally. I used to say the figures aloud in Bengali and they would laugh at me.

Mr. Mehrotra's concern

After I had been working at the Consulate for three months, Mr. Mehrotra was sent to Cuba for two or three months. The Indian Government did not have an Ambassador to Cuba, so they wanted Mr. Mehrotra to go there for some time.

I was inspired to write a poem on Mr. Mehrotra. He was going away and God knows when he would come back. I felt so sad that he had to go. At his farewell party in our office, I stood behind his chair and read out the poem about him. He was so moved.

I was not feeling well on the day of farewell. A few weeks later, from Cuba, he wrote a letter to his secretary, Yvonne, who really liked me. In the letter, Mr. Mehrotra asked, “How is Ghose now? How is his physical health? I know about his spiritual health. He is taking good care of it, so I do not have to worry about his spiritual life, but I am worrying about his physical health.”

All kinds of things Mr. Mehrotra asked. He was extremely kind to me from the very beginning. He was my saviour.

My first talk on Hinduism

One of my friends at the Indian Consulate was Ananda Mohan. He used to work downstairs in the Information Section. I used to talk with him about religion.

A Jewish synagogue selected five religions and invited a speaker from each one to come and give a talk. Hinduism happened to be one of the religions they selected, and Ananda Mohan’s immediate boss, Nirmaljit Singh, accepted the invitation for Ananda Mohan to go and give the talk on Hinduism. It was all settled.

Then the rabbis or authorities wrote a letter to our Consul General, S. K. Roy, inviting him to attend the lecture. O God, when the Consul General heard about it, he asked his junior secretary, Ramanathan, to tell me to go and give the talk on Hinduism. I was working at my desk when the order came. I could not believe it. Ananda Mohan had been giving talks on Hinduism and Indian culture at various places for so many years. I had never given a talk on Hinduism and I had not written about it. Where did the Consul General get the idea that I knew that subject well?

I had only five days or one week to prepare. The talk that I gave was called “Hinduism: The Journey of India’s Soul.” Afterwards, the authorities wrote a very nice letter to the Consul General and they also sent me a letter of appreciation with a check for $100. In those days for me to get $100 was something!

Ananda Mohan was my very good friend. Perhaps he was happy that I went and gave the talk so he could have his freedom. He is a very good speaker and an excellent writer. He has written a book about Indira Gandhi and a few years ago he wrote a very nice article appreciating one of my large acrylic paintings.

[Note: “Hinduism: The Journey of India’s Soul” is printed in “Yoga and the Spiritual Life”.]

An amusing anecdote

The funniest thing happened at the synagogue when I went to give my first talk on Hinduism. My Bholanath took me there. Bholanath was extremely dear to me and he used to drive me everywhere.

Bholanath happens to be Jewish. His Western name is Clyde Weinmann. As soon as the Rabbi saw him, he asked Bholanath, “So, you are his disciple?”

Bholanath replied, “Oh no, I am not his disciple. I am only the driver. I just drove him here.”

Inwardly I laughed and laughed. In fact, Bholanath was the one who was my most devoted disciple! By that time, he had openly told me that he was my disciple. One evening we were at the 14th Street subway station together. I was seeing Bholanath off. All of a sudden, he came out of the train and embraced me in front of thousands of people. He said that while he was standing inside the car, he saw my soul. I was so deeply moved. After that experience, he used to tell me, “I am your first authentic disciple.” I first met Bholanath on the fourth or fifth day after my arrival in New York at my sponsor’s place. Then he became my real disciple, so devoted. But on this occasion at the synagogue, when he saw the Rabbi, he changed. He said, “I am only the driver.”

After the talk, when we were leaving, I said to him, “So, you have become my driver!”

Bholanath said, “I am always your disciple, but I am afraid of my father. He knows this Rabbi and the Rabbi may tell him about you. Then my father will scold me, saying that I have given up my religion.”

I said, “You do not have to give up your religion. Your heart is your religion.”

Bholanath was so good to me in millions of ways. He used to take me everywhere. And I used to spend hours and hours with him on the telephone. I gave him the name Bholanath, which means “The Lord Shiva, who is all the time self-enraptured in his highest Divinity, Peace, Bliss and Power.”

Bholanath's father

Bholanath’s father was a lawyer. A few years later, he became the instrument to help us buy our present house. He had told his son that he would not accept any money from me. Then afterwards, he said to me, “I did this, I did that. Two thousand dollars I have been able to save you from the cost of the house, so you can give me two thousand dollars.” So I signed a check for two thousand dollars.

When Bholanath heard about it, he got furious because his father had fooled him. He said to his father, “How could you do this? You promised me that you would not charge him anything. He is my friend, my best friend.”

After that Bholanath refused to speak to his father for a long time. Even when his father was in the hospital, Bholanath did not want to see him. I had to beg him to take me there so that I could give his father a rose. His father could not believe that I had come to give him a rose.

Then Bholanath and his father became reconciled.

The elevator encounter

When Mr. Mehrotra came back from Cuba, our Consul General, S. K. Roy, was returning to India. Like Dhawan, he was another one who made all the workers tremble. In Dhawan’s case, it was out of fear. In the Consul General’s case, it was out of respect. We all had such reverential awe for S. K. Roy. He was very smart in his appearance. He did not know how to walk slowly. He always marched.

One day, I was about to enter the elevator. I was going to the accountant with the book from our section. I pressed the button, but when the elevator door opened, I saw the Consul General inside the elevator. As soon as I saw him, I got frightened and ran away. He stopped the elevator and screamed, “Ghose, Ghose, come in!” He was waiting for me.

I came back and entered the elevator. Then he said, “Tell me, am I a tiger, am I a snake? I am not a tiger! I am not a snake!”

Mr. Mehrotra's nobility

One day Mr. Mehrotra’s secretary, Yvonne, was typing and typing. I happened to pass by her desk and she said, “Ghose, do you want to read something?” Mr. Mehrotra had given a talk on Hinduism and Buddhism. I read it and I really enjoyed it. I liked it very, very much. But in two places I thought it would be better to change the words because there were two very minor grammatical mistakes. I told the secretary and then I said, “Do not tell Mr. Mehrotra, for God’s sake, or I will lose my job.”

Mr. Mehrotra used to dictate his speeches, so perhaps she herself had made the errors. Anyway, I begged her not to tell Mr. Mehrotra. But she knew Mr. Mehrotra’s nature. She went and told him and immediately he corrected the mistakes. Then I got a good job. Whenever he was supposed to give a talk, he used to ask Yvonne to show it to me in advance so that I could offer my suggestions. Mr. Mehrotra saw something in me — perhaps a budding literary figure.

So noble people will always be noble.

Our reunion in San Francisco

In 1977 our San Francisco Centre had an art gallery with my paintings. The disciples went to the Indian Consulate there to inform them about the gallery. Mr. Mehrotra was then Consul General in San Francisco. He came to visit the gallery. To my disciples’ wide surprise, when they began to speak to him about me, he said, “I know Ghose. He used to work with me. I would very much like to see him.”

Then I went to San Francisco only to meet with him. Mr. Mehrotra invited me and about 25 of my disciples to come to his place and eat one evening. Then we invited him and his wife to come to our restaurant, Dipti Nivas. They came and were seated opposite me. Before we ate, right in front of them, I did a painting for them.

They have a daughter, Aparna. Now she has a beautiful little son, but when I worked at the Indian Consulate she was only three years old. Her father and their servant used to bring her to the Consulate from time to time, but she only cried and cried.

Singing the French national anthem

In 1966 Mr. Mehrotra invited the workers in our section to eat at his apartment in Manhattan. In the office everybody respected him, but in his home it was all joking. He was so nice. At one point everybody was singing. I sang the French national anthem there in Mr. Mehrotra’s apartment. In India I knew it very well.

Consulate colleagues

Everybody at the Consulate was so kind to me. I must say that Mr. Ramamoorthy was very, very nice to me. He is an excellent cook and he invited me to eat at his place quite a few times. His dal is simply excellent. Once I told him that I wanted to take a loan from the bank and he immediately co-signed.

Mr. Ramamoorthy had a friend, Krishan Dhanda, who used to live in the same apartment. They used to quarrel and fight like anything; they were like the North Pole and the South Pole. They both worked at India House. Again, they stayed together. They were always arguing.

Krishan Dhanda was the one who made the arrangements for me to give my maiden speech here in America. It was at Hicksville High School on 4 October 1965. That was the day Pope Paul VI came to New York to speak at the United Nations. When we came out, we heard it in the car.

Krishan Dhanda has been paralysed for the last four or five years and I have been promising Mr. Ramamoorthy that both of us should go and visit him. I must keep my promise. He was so kind to me.

Mr. B. Ramamoorthy:

Krishan Dhanda used to tease Guru like anything. It was his nature to tease and make jokes. Guru would come to me and say, “Mr. Ramamoorthy, Dhanda has said such and such.”

I would reply, “Don’t worry, Ghose. I will take care of it.”

Even when Dhanda was sick, he used to crack jokes. He had kidney stones and was admitted to the hospital several times. The nurses were all nice to him because he was such a joker. One time, I drove him there and he was in severe pain. The nurses said, “Krishan, are you back again?”

“No, I just came to say hello,” he replied. Needless to say, he was admitted that day!

Mr. B. Ramamoorthy:

At the Consulate, Guru was extremely, extremely shy and aloof. You can say he was in the other world. Normally he would not initiate any conversation, but if others spoke to him, then he would reply. He used to remain all by himself.

Once in a while I would talk to him and then later we became close friends.

Mr. B. Ramamoorthy:

In April or May 1966, Guru made a prediction for me on a personal matter. He said that on a particular date I would get a letter. At that time, the letter had not even been written.

His prediction came true. On the exact date which he had said, I got the letter.

Manifestation beginnings

Nowadays we talk about manifestation at every second, but my dearest friend Mr. Ramamoorthy started it in September 1965. He sent a copy of the first AUM Magazine to Dr. Radhakrishnan, the President of India, and he received a very nice reply from Dr. Radhakrishnan praising the magazine.

This experience is so precious to me. At that time, Mr. Ramamoorthy recognised something in me. Usually colleagues do not see anything in each other. My heart of gratitude I shall always keep pure and fresh for my dearest brother-friend Mr. Ramamoorthy.