I love shopping, part 2

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Buying a chair1

We all know that the Japanese are very honest by nature. But I had a very un-Japanese kind of experience in Kyoto while we were buying a chair. In one shop the man said, “It is on sale, so I won’t be able to reduce the price. This is the cheapest price in Japan, and you won’t get this chair at a better price anywhere else.” Kirit was the translator.

I looked at the man and then said to Kirit, “Let us go to some other store.”

Right across the street we found another chair that was just like the one in the first store, but it also had a footrest. In spite of that, it was six or seven thousand yen less than the first one. It was a better price and, in addition, it had a footrest! Kirit was so excited.

Later I told Kirit’s mother, “Your son is a very, very good boy. I am very proud of him.” But unfortunately, not all Japanese are like him.

LS 44. 19 December 1982

Lowering the price2

In Kyoto I bargained with the shopkeepers. In one place I wanted to buy a particular game. As soon as I went there, they lowered the price. Even when you agree to pay the quoted price, they lower it.

It is the same in Okinawa. Today I bought a watch. As I was buying it, the man brought the price down five thousand yen. I am shameless. I said, “You have lowered it, but can you not lower it another two thousand?”

So altogether he lowered it seven thousand yen. He was such a nice man.

LS 45. 29 December 1982

The old lady3

Then I bought something for Alo. The old lady in the store was very greedy! She quoted a price and wrote it down. Then I wrote down what I wanted to pay, and she agreed to it. I opened my wallet in front of her, and she started pointing to a large bill that she wanted me to give her. Something within me said not to give her so much, so I gave her some smaller bills. She was grumbling. When she wanted me to give her more, I said, “No, no, no!” Finally she agreed to take what I offered.

Chidananda was watching, and he was quite amused. He saw his Guru’s bargaining capacity with the old lady.

LS 46. 29 December 1982

The hair tonic4

While I was out shopping with Nirvik, we saw hair tonic that was supposed to make your hair grow. He said, “That is for Sevika. Whenever I clean out her drain, I see that she is losing all her hair.”

I said, “No, I need it, since I have already lost mine. Sevika still has excellent hair.”

LS 47. 29 December 1982

Incorrect English5

Can you imagine! The Japanese have printed something totally incorrect on a T-shirt which is being sold in the stores. It says, “If you have freedom, then practical what you say.”

Chidananda was reading it out, and he was automatically saying “practice.” He did not realise that they had written “practical.”

LS 48. 29 December 1982

Buying "sunglasses"6

Today I went to a store where they have very beautiful glasses. I asked if they were sunglasses, and the man in the store said, “Yes.”

As soon as I put the first pair on, the man said, “Very nice, now you can read.”

I said, “I don’t need glasses to read.”

Then immediately my eyes started burning. I said, “They are very powerful. I don’t need these.”

The second pair also started giving me pain, so the man said, “You should go to an eye specialist.”

If they had been sunglasses, they would not have burned my eyes!

LS 49. 4 January 1983

Who's who7

I went to a bookstore and saw a book called Who’s Who in America. My name is in a book called Who’s Who Among Indians in America, so I was looking for my name in this one.

A very fat lady was looking for books to help her fight fatness. She said to me in a sarcastic way, “I'm sure your name is there!”

I didn’t have the heart to enter into conversation with her, so I just gave her a smile.

Thomas Chinmoy or somebody was mentioned in the book, but my name was not there. They didn’t have anything under Ghose or Chinmoy. So I gave up.

LS 50. 29 January 1983

The Christian bookstore8

I always have problems when I go shopping. The last time I went to a Christian bookstore to buy an inspirational book, the book that I wanted cost 50 cents. I don’t like to carry much change with me because it makes my pockets very heavy. So I had a quarter and three dimes. I gave the man 55 cents for the book, and he said, “Thank you very much.” He was thanking me for the extra nickel I gave him. This time, in the same store, I wanted to buy a book called “Flying with the Birds.” It is about people who follow birds in a boat. You can’t imagine how hard they work, according to the book. Some people don’t care for God-realisation; they are only crying for the birds.

The price of the book was 50 cents. This time I had three quarters in my pocket, so I gave the exact amount. The lady took my 50 cents, but this time I didn’t even get a “thank you.”

LS 51. 12 February 1983

The false sign9

Once I was running in Florida in the early morning when I saw a store that advertised “All T-shirts $2.99.” They even mentioned some very good brands. But the store was not yet open.

In the afternoon I went there again to run. This time the store was open. I said to myself, “Let me buy quite a few T-shirts for $2.99.” Then I thought, “I have to run. Why take so many T-shirts? I will buy one now and send Savyasachi back for more later.”

I gave the saleslady $5.00 and stood waiting for my change. She was looking at me like I was an idiot.

I said, “It is $2.99.”

She said, “No, that is a very old sign.”

As I was going out, I saw some old men looking at the sign — $2.99. I did not have the heart to tell them that the sign was false.

I was so disgusted that I ran home very fast!

LS 51. 12 February 1983

Kailash of India10

On my previous visit to Florida, I had seen a store called Kailash of India on the same street as my hotel. The following morning I ran past it, but the store was closed. Then at noon I went there again. O God! I entered only to come out immediately! All unbearable women’s things! All these things they put in a store called Kailash of India. Kailash is the most sacred Mount Everest!

LS 53. 12 February 1983

Cash only11

In Florida, Savyasachi and I went to a famous bird store, but I have more of a variety in my house. They had only six or eight kinds of birds, but of each kind they had hundreds. What shall I do with number? I was looking for variety.

The lady asked, “Do you have cash? We take only cash.”

Savyasachi said, “Yes, we have cash.”

Then the lady said, “If you don’t buy at least $300 worth, you have to pay a penalty of $25.” Now, am I stupid enough to buy $300 worth of birds just to save $25?

We saw some beautiful lovebirds. I wanted to buy one or two. The lady said again, “Mind you, it is cash!”

Then I got disgusted and said, “I am not going to buy it.”

The lady looked at me as though to say, “I was right. You don’t have cash!” She didn’t know it was because I was disgusted with her.

LS 54. 12 February 1983

The koala bear12

In one area of a variety store I saw a chandelier for $10, and nearby was a very tiny koala bear. There was no price anywhere on the koala bear, but since it was in the same place as the chandelier, I thought perhaps everything in that area was $10. So I decided to buy the koala bear, and I gave the lady $10.

She said, “It is $13. Can’t you see the price?”

I said, “It doesn’t have a price.” I really got disgusted. She was so rude.

She looked at me and said, “All right, you can have it for $11.”

I said to myself, “I am not going to get it,” and I walked away. But then I thought; “These are very old people. Perhaps they are senile.” So I went back again.

When I went back in, the lady said to her husband, “There! I told you he was going to come back.”

Again I got disgusted. I said, “I am only going to buy the chandelier, not the koala bear.”

LS 55. 12 February 1983

The handkerchiefs13

In one store in Florida I was looking at handkerchiefs. I liked them so much. I started buying dozen after dozen. The lady was looking at me. It came to over a hundred dollars.

She said, “Oh, gentleman, please come back again.”

The last time I was in Florida, in the same shop, a young salesman asked me if I could afford the thing I was looking at, which cost nineteen dollars. This time I spent a hundred thirty dollars or even more. I will sign the handkerchiefs and give them to the disciples.

LS 56. 19 February 1983

Two jokers14

Once I was browsing in front of a bookstore. A Muslim saw me and recognised that I was a Hindu. Because my back was hurting, I placed my hand on my back. By way of joke he said, “Krishna, Krishna, Krishna!”

Then I started chanting, “Allah, Allah!”

He was invoking Krishna to save me and I was invoking Allah. We Indians are all jokers. Even when we suffer, we have to joke!

LS 57. 6 March 1983

The shopkeeper's kick15

Let me tell you a juicy story that happened in Hong Kong. It is not wise to waste precious time in a shop — not your precious time, but the precious time of the shopkeepers.

In Hong Kong it was drizzling outside, so I went into a shop. I started looking at a translating machine that had a few cards with different words. If you put the cards into the machine, it will translate the words from English into Spanish, Italian and French. I was curious, so I tried using it. But when I saw that there were only 40 words in each language, and that those words perhaps I already knew, I did not want it. Curiosity always brings punishment.

The worker who was helping me happened to be Chinese. When he realised that I was not going to buy the machine, right in the shin bone he kicked me very nicely. He could have said that it was unintentional, but it was definitely intentional. He did not even apologise. Instead of crying, I laughed. I didn’t feel like leaving just then, so I walked away a few steps and continued browsing.

There were also other customers in the store. One of them was a tall, stout man who seemed to be Scandinavian. His English was not very good. He was also browsing. Suddenly, I saw the Chinese worker do the same trick to that man also. But this time he picked the wrong person! The shopkeeper himself got a smart slap from the tall man.

Then the Chinese man started screaming, “I am calling the police!”

The Scandinavian man followed him to the telephone, saying, “Yes, call the police.”

The worker was not dialing; he was only screaming that he would call the police, and I was enjoying it like anything!

I could have left after I was kicked, but God wanted me to stay there and see this.

LS 58. 31 March 1983

Looking at flutes16

Whenever I see an Indian flute, I always like to play it. In a store in Delhi I was playing a wooden flute. The price was ten rupees. In India I always offer them half the price, so I said, “Five rupees.”

He said, “It is not even cost price. Cost price is seven rupees.”

I said, “I am not going to take it.”

Then he followed me two or three blocks, flattering me. He said that five minutes ago I had played so well.

Who can resist flattery? Because he flattered me so shamelessly, I gave him seven rupees and got the flute.

A few hours later I saw some reed flutes in another store. These flutes were not good at all, and the price was also very high. But I have a bad habit. Whenever I go into a store, I try to play the flutes. The salesman was annoyed that I was trying all the flutes and I could not make any sound. So he said, “The flute talks only to nice people.”

I said, “It is true — it talks only to nice people.” Since the flute didn’t talk to me, I didn’t have to buy it. So if you are not a nice man, you save money!

LS 59. 2 April 1983

The first customer17

In India, no matter which hour of the day you go into a store, you are always the first customer. If you go at 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock or even in the afternoon, the owner will say you are the first customer, and that is why he is lowering the price for you.

When I passed by one store, from a distance I could see that there were customers inside. The store was selling T-shirts. I thought that perhaps people were buying because they were quite cheap, so fifteen minutes later I went into the store. The salesman immediately told me that he would give me a very good price, since I was his first customer.

LS 60. 2 April 1983

The tabla book18

In a store in a Delhi hotel I saw a tabla book and I thought of Sahishnu. A few months ago I had said nice things about his tabla playing. So I said, “Now let me get him a book.”

I was browsing through the book. I did not know the cost, but I made up my mind to buy it. I asked the owner, “How late do you stay open?”

He said, “9:30.”

I said, “I will come back again.” I was really hungry, so I went to eat.

Around 3 o’clock I came back. Their afternoon siesta is wonderful. Their lunch break is three hours, and the store was closed. So I came back again at 8 o’clock. Can you imagine? That book was sold. The shopkeeper said, “Do you expect opportunity to come again and again?”

I said, “Tell me the truth. How many months have you had that book here?”

He said, “Months? It has been here for two years.”

So look at Sahishnu’s luck. Nobody had bought the book for two years, but that day somebody had to come and buy the book. It was my stupidity. I should have bought it the first time.

LS 61. 2 April 1983

The overpayment19

The owner of an Army and Navy store in Jamaica likes me very much. The other day when I was in the store I asked him, “Do you have a medium jacket?”

He said, “Medium? For whom?”

I said, “For me!”

He said, “Extra large, extra large!”

I said, “Extra large for whom?”

He said, “Extra large for me.”

I said, “You are the owner. Why do I have to get one for you?”

He said, “Can you not buy one for your old age?”

I said, “I am already old.”

Then he looked around and found a medium. The jacket cost forty-six dollars, but he reduced the price to forty, and said he wouldn’t charge me tax. I gave him the money and smiled, and then went out of the door. Suddenly he started shouting and shouting.

I thought, “What, have I not given him enough money?” So I turned around.

He said, “Man, you have given me fifty dollars!”

I had counted it, but I hadn’t noticed that two ten dollar bills were stuck together. If he himself had trusted me and not counted it again, then he would not have known that I had given him too much. But for him to call me back was really something!

LS 62. 12 May 1983

Sincere people do exist20

After overpaying for the jacket, I went to a bakery. I told the lady to give me a dozen cookies. She said, “I am sorry. We only have eleven.”I said, “Fine, then give me eleven!”

She could have easily pretended that she had given me twelve. Who is counting? But some sincere people do exist. That’s why we are still alive.

Eight or nine months ago I drank some tea in that bakery. The lady still remembers. She always says, “You don’t want tea?”

This is that famous shop that always burns down. Previously there was another owner. He used to shake hands with me and give me everything half price. Whatever the item was, he used to give me half for free.

LS 63. 12 May 1983

The great man21

Yesterday on my way back from the United Nations I went to an Indian restaurant in Manhattan called Curry in a Hurry. A young man came up to me and said, “Are you Sri Chinmoy? I am so happy to see you. I interview great men like you.” Then he gave me a brochure about a book he had written on an Indian mental giant.

The man who was serving the food was looking at me with such admiration when he saw the other man talking to me, so I asked him, “Where do you come from?” First he said, “Bangladesh.” Then he said, “Chittagong.” Previously, whenever someone said he came from Bangladesh, it was always from some other district.

Here, for the first time, I heard “Chittagong,” which is my own district. And then he said the name of a village which is only four and a half miles away from my village. For seven or eight years he had been in Cairo.

Thousands of miles from Chittagong we met. So is this not destiny? If the other man hadn’t come up to me and said that I was a great man, I would probably not have spoken to the man who was serving. But if somebody says you are a great man, immediately ten persons look at you.

LS 64. 6 July 1983

A spiritual guy22

The other day, as I was coming back from shopping, I saw a teenage black girl.

She said to me, “Are you the same guy who teaches meditation?”

I smiled at her. Then she continued across the street. All of a sudden she came back to me and said “I am sorry I called you ‘guy’. You are a spiritual teacher.”

LS 65. 6 July 1983

The egg salad sandwich23

In Victoria, while the running portion of our triathlon was going on, we went into a restaurant and I asked for an egg salad sandwich.

In the sandwich there were small pieces of cabbage and a lot of mayonnaise, but very little egg. I showed it to Alo and said, “Look! I told them to give me egg salad, and there is hardly any egg here.”

Alo said, “This is better than what they give you at Annam Brahma.”

I said, “What is wrong with Annam Brahma?”

She said, “Once, after John became the manager of Annam Brahma about twelve years ago, he gave Robert an egg salad sandwich. Robert said, ‘I asked for egg salad. There is no egg in this!’

“John said, ‘Don’t you know? Inside the mayonnaise is the egg.’”

Alo was justifying her Canada by saying that at least there was a little bit of egg in my sandwich.

LS 66. 3 August 1983

The good side of Canada24

In Victoria we went to another restaurant and I asked for a grilled cheese sandwich. I paid for it with an American ten dollar bill, and the lady at the cash register gave me the change. As soon as I got it, I put it in my pocket and left.

After I had gone half a block, the cashier came running up to me and said, “I'm sorry, I didn’t give you the correct amount of change. You gave me ten American dollars, but I gave you change for ten Canadian dollars.”

So this is the good side of Canada; the bad side is that when you ask for egg salad you get mayonnaise.

LS 67. 3 August 1983

Honouring McEnroe25

I went into a shoe store the other day. They had a big poster of John McEnroe right at the cash register. But the owner had put a piece of tape over the mouth. On the one hand, they were honouring him with a very big poster. On the other hand, they had taped his mouth shut.

LS 68. 3 August 1983

Buying rasgulla26

I went to buy rasgulla today to give for prasad. It used to be my favourite Indian sweet. I also wanted eight or ten samosas. The people at the store were shylocks. They charged me $75.83 for the sweets. When I gave the lady $75, she said, “Eighty-three cents more.”

I said, “Eighty-three cents?”

She said, “My boss will not allow me to give any discount.”

I said to myself, “They do not deserve it!” So I took back the $75 and turned to go out of the store.

Then the lady said, “Oh, have a nice day. Please come!” Then she gave it to me for $75.

Can you imagine what her name was? Amita! I couldn’t believe it. Amita is a Bengali name. How did she get it, since she was Gujarati?

The Korean store is far better. In the morning I got some hair and food items from the Koreans. I bought quite a few things from them. There the bill came to $65. I didn’t bargain with them because they had already given me a discount.

When I gave them $65, they said, “We will only charge you $64, and no tax.”

I said, “You keep the dollar.”

The Koreans were far better.

LS 69. 19 September 1983

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

The Christian preacher28

A few days ago I went to a bookstore. I didn’t buy any books, but I bought a few tapes because I wanted to hear what is required to be a “first-class Christian.” I was eager to hear the sermon of the great preacher, so I played the tape while I was taking exercise.

I couldn’t believe how he was criticising Indian spiritual Masters. He said that those who practised Indian-type meditation are possessed by Satan. In fifteen minutes you heard Satan’s name more than God’s Name. ‘Satan’ came in every sentence — not God.

Transcendental Meditation in particular he attacked like anything. He said, “If meditation is something worthwhile, why are they not practising it in India? Why do they have to come to the West?”

So, while listening, I was answering his rhetorical questions. I was saying, “You fool! The Christian missionaries came to us in India to teach us. We were their favourite students. Why did they not stay in the West with their religion? You felt you had something worthwhile to teach us, and we learned devotedly. Now, whatever we have that is worthwhile, we have come here to teach you. So what is wrong?”

Like that I talked to him. The Christian evangelists forget that they also go to distant lands to spread their light! The Transcendental Meditation people should hear this tape!

I never learn! One tape was not enough. I started listening to another tape. There also the preacher had nothing else to do but attack the Indian meditation teachers. Perhaps we are the culprits. We have probably taken some of his people into our fold. So what else can he do? Now he has to use his preaching power to take away some of the passengers from our boats.

Two or three years ago when I went to that bookstore, the owner, an old man, was very unkind to me. I used to go with a shopping bag, but he wouldn’t allow me to carry the shopping bag inside the room. I had to leave it at the door. Always he believed I was going to steal something.

Now I have got a promotion. The new owner is very nice to me, although he doesn’t know who I am. When I left my shopping bag at the door, he said, “No, you can take it in.”

So I bought sixteen dollars worth of tapes.

LS 71. 5 November 1983

Bargaining in Maracaibo29

As you know, I like bargaining. Here in Maracaibo it is quite possible to bargain. Today I wanted to buy something, but I don’t speak Spanish, so I wrote down the price I wanted to pay. The storekeeper wrote down something else. Then what a battle we had! He wrote down 460 bolivars. I wrote down 350.

He said something very emphatic which, fortunately, I couldn’t understand.

Then I wrote down 360. He wrote down 400. I said to myself, “No, I am not giving four!” and I started to leave. So I got it for 370.

LS 72. 20 December 1983

Exchanging dollars30

I was in another store. I had only four bolivars left, so I wanted to change some American dollars. The shopkeeper said he would give me 11.30 per dollar. I knew the rate was higher, so I said, “12.30, or I am not going to buy!”

He said he would raise it to 12, but I insisted on 12.30, and finally he agreed.

You may ask, “Is it good to do that kind of thing?” But with these people it is good, because they are such rogues! I never take those shopkeepers seriously! They say “fixed price,” but you have to bargain with them if you want a grain of satisfaction.

LS 73. 20 December 1983

The twenty dolls31

It took two hours for me to buy twenty dolls for Tanima’s and Susan’s groups. I lost in bargaining to a lady in one store, so I had to go back to the first store and pay the higher price. But all together there were only twenty dolls, and I needed twenty-two. What could I do? I said, “For the leaders, let me buy something else.”

So Tanima and Susan got stuffed animals instead of dolls.

LS 74. 31 December 1983

A restaurant musician32

The day we had our first concert in Caracas we went to a restaurant to eat afterwards. The music was so loud! After an hour and forty minutes, it still went on. When we were about to get dessert, I got the inspiration to play on the flute. For just a minute or so I played. The noise in the restaurant was unbearable, so no one heard me, but they saw me playing my flute and they showed me such respect! All the musicians stopped playing and they were asking me to play. So I started again. All the musicians remained silent while I played. God knows for how many hours they had been playing. So probably they needed rest!

LS 75. 31 December 1983

A discount for big shots33

In Puerto la Cruz we went to buy a chair. We saw a chair like the one I have in New York, but I didn’t like the price. I wanted to bargain the price down, but the lady in the store wouldn’t bargain, so we went to another store. There I liked a chair which was from Italy.

Shubhra said to the saleslady, “Can you lower the price?” Then Shubhra said, “This morning we were with President Lusinchi in Caracas.”

The lady immediately lowered the price. She told us that when Saraswati and Savyasachi had been in another store they showed a pamphlet of me with some big shots. She happened to have been in that other store at that time. So she lowered the price even lower than Shubhra asked because I was a big shot.

LS 76. 2 January 1984

A helpful lady34

I am fond of bargaining. Whether I am an expert or not is a different matter. I have all kinds of belts to liberate me from my back pain — white, blue, black, green — it is endless. Two days ago I saw a belt in a store window. I was about to enter into the store when a middle-aged lady came rushing up to me and said in English, “I see you will have trouble. Let me help you.”

How did she know that I didn’t speak Spanish? All right, very good! Then both of us entered into the store and she started talking to the lady there in English. She was so excited about trying to help me that instead of speaking Spanish, she started speaking English.

I said, “What are you doing? You are speaking in English!”

Then she started speaking Spanish, and she really helped me.

LS 77. 7 January 1984

Buying a notebook35

I went to the store in our hotel in Puerto La Cruz to buy a small notebook. The owner said, “The price is forty bolivars, but that is too much. You give me twenty. It is not even worth twenty, but I have to charge you twenty.”

I said, “Fine,” since I liked the cute notebook.

Then he said, “Are you the same gentleman that I see on the ring the ladies wear?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Oh, I saw you in the newspaper with the President.”

I said, “I have seen all three presidents — the present one, the future one and the previous one.”

The man said, “I am so happy and so honoured to meet you. Please tell me how your people support themselves if they always go around with you.”

I said, “No, only for one month they have come here.”

Then he asked me the significance of the sari. He said, “It is very beautiful. Where does it come from?”

I said, “India. I am Indian, and I like this Indian form of dress.”

He said, “You have Indian skin, but your face is not Indian. You don’t look like an Indian.”

He was so happy, and he was shaking my hand. I wanted to buy two T-shirts for some disciples who had stayed home, so he said, “My hands are dirty. You please take them yourself.”

LS 78. 8 January 1984

The Italian restaurant36

Yesterday I went to an Italian restaurant with Pahar and Tejiyan. The owner recognised me from the newspapers and showed me such respect. He didn’t speak English, and Pahar’s Spanish was really something! So we could not understand each other.

I asked for coffee with milk. He could not understand, and gave me coffee without milk. So Pahar and Tejiyan went outside and bought milk from a store. They said, “Leche,” but their pronunciation! When the owner saw our milk he grabbed it and said, “No good!” Then he brought warm milk for the coffee.

The music was so loud! We said, “Can you not turn it down?” Then his worker went and turned it down. The owner came to our table two or three times to ask if the food was good. Then he kept staring at me; he was so curious! He couldn’t speak to us and we couldn’t speak to him, but he was so happy to have us in his restaurant.

LS 79. 8 January 1984

Ketan's gift37

At one place Bipin bought a T-shirt to give Ketan. It had a picture of a toucan on it. I said, “It is so beautiful! I want to give it to Ketan.” So Bipin bought it and I gave it!

LS 80. 14 January 1984

Buying gold dumbbells38

Savyasachi and I went to a sports store in Florida. Right at the counter were some 15-pound dumbbells. The man said they cost $36.

I asked, “Don’t you have 25 pounds?”

The man said, “I don’t now, but tomorrow I will be able to get them.” He said they would cost $56.

The next day we did not go, but the day after that we went to see if they had gotten the 25-pound dumbbells. The man who had previously waited on me was not there. Another man came and said, “I will see if we have 25 pounds in stock.” When he brought them, we asked the price. The man said, “It is $36 for 25 pounds.” We thought it was a mistake.

Then the other man came and said, “No, $56!” Then they had a serious argument. The nice man said, “I will take the responsibility.” Luckily he was in charge, so we paid only $36 for the 25-pound dumbbells.

LS 81. 26 January 1984

Over-priced bookmarks39

While I was shopping in Ft. Lauderdale, I saw a bookmark. It was a most ordinary-looking card that only said, “Dear God, I like you,” but it cost $1.25. Then I saw another card that cost $2.25. It said, “Dear God, do You really care for me?”

I don’t think even sincere God-seekers who believe in God will spend so much money for a bookmark, unless they live in the depression-world.

LS 82. 27 January 1984

God's exercise book40

While I was in a bookstore in Florida, I saw an exercise book by “God,” telling how you can live for 100 years. It was written by George Burns, who played God in several movies.

In the bookstore I read and read quite a few pages. Unfortunately, I was not able to agree with God’s recommendations, so I could not buy the book. Otherwise, I really wanted to buy the book by God telling how to live for 100 years.

LS 83. 29 January 1984

Shopping for a cello41

Kodanda took me to a music store to buy a cello. The owner of the store was an old man. He was very nice, but he was so old that I was afraid his soul had actually left the body. He looked as if his soul was in Heaven but his body was still here on earth.

I played on ten or twelve different cellos — cellos for $3,000, $4,000, $8,000, $10,000 and $16,000. First the man said one particular cello was $6,000; then he said it was $8,000. So he was saying anything he wanted to say. I played on the $16,000 cello secretly. Otherwise, I thought that perhaps it might not be allowed.

There were four or five that were not as good as the one that I have. Three or four were good. There was a little difference between the ones for $8,000 and $16,000. You could hear that the higher-priced ones were sweeter.

Kodanda said later that to be in a room with me without any disciples made it the happiest day in his life. He was giving me the different instruments to try. He was the only boss.

LS 84. 31 January 1984

The fabric store42

I went to a fabric store this afternoon. As soon as I entered into the store, the owner showed me that he had “Silence Speaks,” my daily meditations, in his store. He said he was so happy to have “Silence Speaks” in his store, and I also was so happy.

He told Pahar that in one “Silence Speaks” picture — where I am feeding the lamb — I am more visible, while in the other pictures I am not at all visible. He showed me two pictures and said, “Here I recognise you, but there you are barely visible.” For me it was all the same, but fortunately the right person was hearing it, since Pahar is the printer.

LS 85. 3 February 1984

The Bengali film43

I went to an Indian store and asked, “Do you have Bengali films?”

The man said, “Yes, we have one.” I could tell that he came from South India.

I asked, ‘What is the name?”

He said, “Pohari.”

I said, “There is no such word in Bengali.”

He said, “Yes!”

I said, “I am Bengali.”

He insisted, “There is that word.”

So Baoul and I looked for Pohari. Finally Baoul found one called Prahari. ‘Prahari’ means ‘guard.’

I said to the man, “This is not your mother tongue, so it is easy to make a mistake.”

He said, “I asked a Bengali about it.”

I said, “I am sure he said ‘Prahari,’ but perhaps he did not pronounce it carefully.”

Then he was counting things in Tamil. I was amused, and I also started counting in that language. He looked at me, surprised. Then I told him that I had stayed in South India for 20 years.

LS 86. 3 February 1984

The Lotus Inn44

Yesterday I went to the Lotus Inn to eat. On the counter they have my “Silence Speaks.” The people recognised me immediately, and they came up to talk to me. They were extremely nice and respectful. Plus, they served us very quickly.

LS 87. 26 February 1984

I care a lot45

Yesterday I went to a stationery store. I saw a cute duck and I thought I would buy it for Chandika. I asked the man, “Is it a pin?”

The man said, “No, it is a magnet.” Then he said, “This one is $2.45 and the other one is $4.47.”

I looked at him. He was a joker. I said, “Which one do you want me to buy?”

He said, “It depends on how much you care for the person. Do you care a lot?”

I said, “I care a lot.”

He said, “Then buy the one for $4.47!” and he put it in my bag. Both were cute. The bigger one was just a little bigger, but it was $2 more. To me it looked like a pin, but it was a magnet.

LS 88. 17 March 1984

The French flute46

The other day I was in Sam Ash Music Store here on Queens Boulevard. For the first time I saw a flute with holes in the keys. Of course, immediately I wanted to try it. The salesman asked me how many years I had been playing. I said, “Five years.”

He laughed and said, “Five years is not enough. The French flute is much more difficult to play than an ordinary flute.”

For a few minutes I struggled and struggled, and he laughed and laughed. Then he went to the other side of his store. In two or three minutes he came back again to the counter, and he saw that I was playing the flute. He couldn’t believe his eyes and ears!

I played for five or ten minutes. He was so moved and he asked many questions about me. Then he asked for my autograph. He also had back trouble. Once when he bent down to get something, he could not get up. He was holding the counter and pressing with his arms to get up.

Leonard Bernstein once signed an autograph for him. He was so proud of Leonard Bernstein’s autograph. I told him I had met with Leonard Bernstein. When I told him I had also had an interview with Pablo Casals, he couldn’t believe it!

LS 89. 3 May 1984

Alap's tape47

I entered into a music store with Kalika in Washington to buy the music from the Gandhi film. The shopkeeper immediately came up to me to show me Alap’s tape. That means not only did he recognise me, but also he knew that Alap is my student.

LS 90. 27 May 1984

The five-dollar bill48

In Los Angeles I went into a shop owned by some oriental people to buy a shaver. A little girl happened to be there. While I was giving the money to the shopkeeper, she was looking at me; she was so curious. Then I dropped a dime. The little girl picked up the dime and put it into a tiny wallet she had. She was so happy to take the dime.

Her mother asked her to return the money to me. I smiled and said, “Let her take it.”

The mother said, “Yes. You are saying that just because it is only a dime! If it had been a dollar bill, would you have let her keep it?”

I said, “Whether it was a dollar bill or a five-dollar bill, I would let her keep it.” Then I dropped a five-dollar bill, and the little girl took it.

I was looking at her mother, but she didn’t ask the child to return it. When it was a dime, the mother asked her to return it. But when it was five dollars, the mother didn’t say anything.

Still I have not been able to decide who was greater: the fool in me or the rogue in the little girl’s mother!

LS 91. 5 August 1984

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