My Consulate years
Part I — My Consulate years
Applying for a position at the Indian ConsulateWhen 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 permanentMr. 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 SectionIn 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 arithmeticThe 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 concernAfter 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 HinduismOne 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 anecdoteThe 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 fatherBholanath’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 encounterWhen 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 nobilityOne 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 FranciscoIn 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 anthemIn 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 colleaguesEverybody 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!
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.
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 beginningsNowadays 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.
Ghose never cuts jokesOne of the secretaries in our section was Mrs. Carol Coutinhoe. Except me, is there anybody who did not get scoldings from her? She used to tell Dhanda: “Dhanda, do not forget that I am married! You should not speak to me so much!” My other colleagues also used to cut jokes with her and she would scold them and insult them mercilessly. But, in my case, she used to say, “Ghose is very nice. Ghose never cuts jokes with me.”
When I started going to the United Nations, Carol Coutinhoe’s husband was there. He used to work at the Permanent Mission. That was in 1971 or ’72.
Two brothersShivaram and I were serious-type friends at the Consulate. Once we walked and walked after office hours talking about Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and so many things. Whoever thought that someday Shivaram would become my disciple? Look at his divinity!
Shivaram has a younger brother, Ramachandran, who also worked at the Consulate. His brother was of a totally different type; he was always joking.
In 1987 I saw Ramachandran again at the Los Angeles airport. How much respect he showed me! I could not believe he was the same person. All credit goes to Shivaram; he has changed his brother’s attitude completely.
In 1990, Shivaram brought his mother and his brother to our tennis court and I lifted them. Another colleague from the Consulate, C. R. Seshu, also came at that time.
Among friendsWhen I hear about people quarrelling and fighting at the office, I think that I was so lucky at the Indian Consulate. I did not have even one enemy. Everybody was so kind and affectionate. Everyone had a good heart.
One of my friends was the librarian, Mr. Master. Anything important in the newspaper he used to underline and tell me. When he was leaving the position, he wanted me to apply for his job. But in the meantime I got my green card, so I no longer had to work at the Consulate.
Then there was a Bengali called Anil Kumar Mukherjee. He was Assistant to the Consul. He was so nice to me. Now nobody knows where he is. He used to tell me, “I do not believe in religion. I do not believe in spirituality. I do not believe in yoga — no. But, Ghose, when you stand in front of me, everything changes.”
At the Consulate, we never used first names. We always called each other by our surname. It was our practice. I was always known as Ghose, never Chinmoy. Mr. Ramamoorthy was called Mr. Ramamoorthy, my section head was Mukherjee and so on. We knew the first names, but we did not care to use them.
Giving my first spiritual name in the WestAnother colleague of mine was Acharya, a senior clerk. When his wife gave birth to a little girl, they had a name, but Acharya wanted me to choose a name. He asked me if I could give his child a name. I said, “I can give a name, but nobody will call her that.”
He said, “I am the father.”
So I gave the name Bela, meaning “Time: one who will go beyond time.”
Acharya said, “Ghose’s name is the best,” and they used the name I gave.
Many years later at a function in Manhattan, I lifted this former colleague. He asked me, “How is it that you are not asking me about my daughter? You gave her the name. It is your name and nobody else’s name, and you have totally forgotten?”
So he reminded me of his daughter, asking why I was not enquiring after her.
Then I asked our singers to sing my song “Bela chale jai,” and he was very happy.
[Note: On 21 April 1989, Sri Chinmoy and his disciples held a special function in Manhattan to observe the 25th anniversary of Sri Chinmoy’s arrival in the West. Sri Chinmoy lifted several special guests overhead with one arm to show his sincere gratitude to them. Mr. N. C. Acharya was one of those. Mr. Macwan, another colleague, also attended the function.]
Bringing refreshments for everyoneIn the beginning, I received a salary of $230 every month. Then it went a little higher — $10 more per year! Every Friday, at four o’clock, my boss used to allow me to bring refreshments for the nine or ten colleagues who worked in my section. I used to take mail to the post office in Bloomingdale’s. There was a bakery there and I used to buy one or two items for everyone.
My Christian friendThere was a very nice black man who worked at Bloomingdale’s post office. He was the postal clerk. He was so kind to me. Sometimes I was late in coming from the Consulate with the mail and he used to wait for me. He used to tell me, “You are such a nice guy. Our priest would love you. I have to take you to our church.” How many times he begged me to come! I promised and promised, but I did not go with him.
Wherever I went in those days, people tried to convert me.
A pronunciation problemOne day the black man at Bloomingdale’s post office was asking me to take a vitamin pill. I used to say vitamin with a short “i”. He was saying vitamin with a long “i” and I could not understand him at all. Then, all of a sudden, I realised what he was saying. “You mean vitamin!” I said, using my own pronunciation.
“Oh, you Indian!” he exclaimed.
Applying for extra work at Bloomingdale'sThose were the poverty-stricken days! On three or four occasions, at night, I went to Bloomingdale’s to try to get extra work carrying heavy boxes and unloading the delivery trucks. At first they would not give me a job because they thought I was not strong enough. Then they said to me, “You are strong, but you need a social security number before we can hire you.”
Poor me! If you work at the Indian Consulate, you do not get a social security number because the Indian Government takes responsibility for you. And I did not have a green card either. So I could not get work at Bloomingdale’s. I could not become a porter to carry boxes from one place to another just so that I could earn a little extra money. O God, O God!
Our pay day traditionThe day we received our salary, usually it was the first of each month, we used to go to eat at an Indian restaurant. It was our favourite. Three or four friends from my section would come. It seems that most of the time I was generous enough to pay for them all.
Mr. Ramamoorthy did not join us. But Mr. Ramamoorthy used to invite us to his place to eat. Poor Mr. Ramamoorthy! Now nobody knows that he is an excellent cook, but I have eaten at his apartment many times. How can I ever forget his dal? Now that Lakshmi has come into his life, he does not have to cook.
A quiet place to eat lunchRight in front of our section, five or six metres away from the door, there was a telephone booth. It was covered with glass. Many times I ate my lunch inside the telephone booth. Alo used to make food for me. I used to take only 10 or 15 minutes to eat.
The other workers used to go to the cafeteria in Central Park, which was across the street. But I did not have money to eat there, except on rare occasions.
Guru and I were at the Consulate together until August 1964, when I resigned. At that time, Guru used to come to work with two little candy bars in a paper bag. That was his lunch. Then, at lunchtime, he would sometimes come and ask me if I would like to “go out for lunch and talk about God.” What Guru actually meant was that we should go into the park, sit on a bench and share the candy bars while we talked.
One day, Guru and I were sitting in a very small park having our lunch and talking about God. We did not know that there was anything wrong with that park. Then some people came up to us and said, “We can see that you are good people. This is not a good place to sit. You should go somewhere else.” And so we left.
The ice cream manEvery afternoon, right across the street from the Consulate, one old man used to come and sell ice cream from a little cart. We used to hear his music and then we would go and buy ice cream. My favourite was the Good Humor bar — coconut flavour. It used to cost only ten cents. Almost every day I bought one. But in winter the old man did not come.
On the days when I had very little money, that ice cream bar became my lunch.
A letter to the Consul GeneralOne day I got a call to go and see the Consul General, S. K. Roy, immediately. “What have I done wrong?” I asked myself.
I went there and the Consul General said, “Ghose, sit down.” He was looking at me very compassionately. Then he said, “A letter has come from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram against you, saying how useless you are. It is asking why I have given you a job, saying you will bring disgrace to the Indian Consulate. All kinds of things they have written. They want me to dismiss you.”
Here I was, poverty-stricken, helpless — and I was on the verge of losing my job. I was earning only $230 a month and, out of that, sixty or seventy dollars used to go for rent. I had a tiny room in an apartment with two other workers. The length of the room was only one foot longer than my height. Sometimes I would get hurt if my feet came down the wrong way. When I remember my poverty, I shed tears.
Suddenly, out of the blue, the Consul General asked me a question. “By the way, Ghose,” he said, “do you know Dilip-da?”
I was surprised. I said, “Sir, do you mean Dilip Kumar Roy?” Dilip Roy was a very great singer who was extremely close to Sri Aurobindo.
The Consul General said, “Yes.”
I said, “I know Dilip-da so well. How much affection he has for me! At the Ashram, he was always very kind to me. I can tell you so many stories about him.”
The Consul General said, “Tell me.”
I started. When I was only thirteen years old, I wrote two hundred poems. In this connection, how much affection he showed me. He read the poems and made suggestions. A few years later, I wrote an article about him in Bengali. It was about forty pages and he was so moved. The name of this article was “Amader Dilip-da.” Recently, I sent him an article about his father, D. L. Roy, the immortal poet and playwright, that I had written in English, and he has corrected it. He sent me a letter highly appreciating the article. He has also sent me a message: “No matter how much you suffer, never, never go back to the Ashram. People will say that you have gone to the dogs, but never go back.”
Then the Consul General said, “I am a personal friend of Dilip-da and I know why Dilip-da left and opened up a centre in Poona. If Dilip-da likes you, the matter is finished.”
Then, in front of me, he tore the letter into pieces and threw it away. He did not even show it to me. Can you imagine! The magic touch of Dilip-da saved me. My best credential was his affection for me.
I come from ChittagongOur Indian Ambassador to the United Nations at that time was B. N. Chakravarty. His offices were also in India House. One of my colleagues said to me, “He is a Bengali. Go and chat with him.”
“Oh no, he is such a big shot,” I said.
Then one day I saw that he was reading a newspaper in the park, so I went there and stood in front of him.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I have just come to get your blessings,” I replied.
“Fine. Come, come. What is your name?”
I told him my name.
“Where do you come from?”
When I said, “Chittagong,” he burst out, “Chittagong! I hate Chittagong! My mother died in Chittagong, in your hospital. I will never forgive Chittagong.”
That was enough. My conversation with him ended there.
After six or seven months, it was time for his farewell. I forgave him or he forgave me, God knows. Anyway, I composed a poem on him in Bengali. I was asked to read it out at his farewell party. When he heard it, he melted. He placed his hand on my shoulder and we talked in Bengali. His wife also melted. At that time there was no Chittagong.
Then he told me one of his personal experiences. One day he was walking by Pandit Nehru’s side. He wanted to ask Nehru a question, but Nehru’s personality was so great that he did not dare to ask his question. He could not even bring himself to speak to Nehru. Then he looked at me and said, “People are all afraid of me but, you see, this is what happened to me when I was with Nehru.” And he was very well educated, a member of the Indian Civil Service.
My first harmoniumThe divine Sher Singh was our gatekeeper, or you can say security guard, at India House. He had a harmonium. One day he said to me, “Do you play the harmonium?” He wanted to sell it to me for six dollars.
I said, “Please take twenty-five dollars!”
He said, “No, no. You are poor.”
Then I said, “My lucky number is seven. Let me buy it for seven.”
So he took my seven dollars and gave me back one dollar. I do not know why. Then he gave me the harmonium and I was so delighted and inspired. I used it for many, many years. His harmonium is immortal. It was my first and foremost harmonium. His name was written in Hindi on the front of the instrument.
If my recollection is not failing me, I was the first person at the Consulate to meet Chinmoy Ghose on the day that he came to apply for a post. I was relieving the receptionist, Mehru, during the lunchtime. A young Indian man came in and, as a security guard, I asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Chinmoy Ghose.” Then I asked, “May I help you?” He sat down by the reception desk and told me his story. He said that he wanted to stay in New York but, in order to stay here, he needed a job to help himself. After learning that his intention was to stay in New York, I told him that the only person who could help him was Sunil Kumar Roy, our Consul General. Somehow, Ghose got in touch with the Passport and Visa Consul, Mr. Mehrotra, and within a week or so he started working in Mr. Ramamoorthy’s department. Since Mr. Mehrotra had to ask S. K. Roy for approval, I believe that S. K. Roy created the job for Ghose. In this world I do not have much, but I do have a little bit of memory — which has not failed me yet!
One of Mr. Mehrotra’s secretaries had to go back to India, so I bought a harmonium from him to occupy my leisure time and to learn some music. Somehow Ghose came to learn that I had a harmonium. In those days I used to live at the Consulate in the basement, which was the security quarters. I knew that he wanted a harmonium and so one day I brought it to him and said, “Ghose, here it is!” He paid me seven dollars for it. Once I went to a meeting that he was holding on 86th Street. That was the first time I saw him playing the harmonium.
Often I used to see Ghose eating his lunch inside the telephone booth. He kept the door closed. When I passed by, I would knock on the door from outside by way of joke.
My first musical performanceIn June 1965, the Asia Society wanted someone to set tune to and sing three songs. They were poems by ancient Bengali poets. The Consulate gave me the job, and they told me a week before the performance. Whether I was happy or unhappy, God knows.
That week I practised those three songs on Sher Singh’s harmonium at least forty times. Before the actual performance, during my lunch hour, I had to go to the Asia Society and sing before the Society’s leaders. They were very satisfied. They gave me $30 and a beautiful letter of appreciation.
When I went to perform the songs at the Guggenheim Museum, there were quite a few people and they appreciated my singing.
I was there an hour ahead of time. I was looking at the street light by the gate and whom did I see? Lord Krishna! It was not my mental hallucination. He was dancing before me because all the songs were dedicated to Krishna and Radha.
The accompliceOne day Sher Singh begged me to go with him to Mr. Mehrotra’s office. So I went with him. When we got to the room, he said, “Please stand at the door.” Then he entered into the room and sat on Mr. Mehrotra’s chair. He was so relaxed. He placed one of his legs on the desk and then he started giving orders to me. He became the Consul. At the same time, he was saying, “Please guard the door carefully. Otherwise, if Mr. Mehrotra comes…!”
When he begged me to go with him, I did not know that he was going to do that kind of thing. I thought it was for some purpose. O God! And he was just a guard at the Consulate!
I told the story to Mr. Mehrotra in 1989 when I went to eat at his residence in Sri Lanka. Mr. Mehrotra was then the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. I said, “This is what Sher Singh and I did.” Mr. Mehrotra was deeply amused.
The big shot from IndiaOne day we heard that a big shot was coming from India. His name was Surendra Mohan Ghosh. He was once President of the Calcutta Commission. In 1965 he held a very high post in the government. Gossip was going around: would the Consul General go to the airport to receive him, or was it Dhawan’s job? Neither the Consul General nor Dhawan felt confident about meeting him. One afternoon, Dhawan came to our section and I saw that he was a little bit depressed, so I asked Dhanda, “Why is Dhawan different today? He is not ferocious.”
Dhanda told me, “He is frightened. This evening he has to go and receive one of the seniormost Members of Parliament at the airport. His name is Surendra Mohan Ghosh.”
I laughed and told him, “I am the one to go and receive him. I know him so well!”
My colleagues knew that I never told lies. So my friend took me seriously and he went to Dhawan and said, “Ghose says he knows Surendra Mohan Ghosh well.”
Dhawan came to me. He was not shouting, but he was speaking very abruptly. He asked me, “Do you really know him? Are you sure? This is a very serious matter.”
I said, “Yes, Sir, I know him quite well. He helped me to get my passport and he has written nice things about me. I have had many conversations with him.”
It seemed that Dhawan went and told the Consul General, “Ghose says he knows Surendra Mohan Ghosh well.”
“Yes,” replied Dhawan and he repeated what I had said. The Consul General agreed that I should go to the airport.
At five o’clock I went home, so I did not know about the Consul General’s decision.
That evening, I was having dinner with my sponsor Samie and Eric. Around nine o’clock, the telephone rang and Eric answered. He came and said to me, “Mr. Dhawan is calling you.”
“What have I done? What have I done?” I thought.
I picked up the telephone and Dhawan said, “Ghose, can you do me a favour? Do you really know him?”
“Yes, I know him. He will be so happy to see me.”
He asked, “How do you know him?”
I told him, “He is extremely close to Nolini-da, the General Secretary of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and I was Nolini-da’s secretary.”
“Yes,” I said.
“I am so relieved,” Dhawan said. Then he asked me what suit I would wear.
“I know him so well. He is like my elder brother. Do I have to wear a suit?”
Dhawan said, “All right.”
So I had to go to the airport. They sent me in the Consul General’s limousine with a driver. Surendra Mohan Ghosh was so thrilled to see me there. First I took him to his hotel, and then I took him to my friends’ place. When I brought him back to his hotel again, it was quite late at night.
When I finally arrived home, the telephone rang. I picked it up and a voice said, “Ghose!” It was Dhawan. He asked, “Has he come?”
I said, “Yes. I brought him to his hotel and then to my friends’ place.”
“Then tomorrow morning please bring him to the Consulate,” said Dhawan.
So I took him to see the Consul General the next day. I did not have to take him to see Dhawan because Dhawan was running behind us the whole time!
Look at what divine Grace can do! After that day, the story changed — all because I knew a big shot.
Mr. Mehrotra was very proud of me. Some big shots make complaints if they are not treated well when they visit the Indian Consulates, and this can create serious problems.
This big shot was so nice to me. In one of his letters to me in America, he wrote, “Nobody will work for world peace as much as you will.” Another time he said, “Many Indian Ambassadors have gone to the United Nations, but India’s true cultural ambassador is Chinmoy.”
When he read one of my books in English, The Mother of the Golden All, he quoted a very well-known verse:
The dumb become eloquent
And the lame can scale mountains."
Then he said, “Through Mother’s Grace, everything is possible.”
He was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. He is the one who used to get interviews with Sri Aurobindo even after Sri Aurobindo stopped giving them. At that time, he was a Congress leader and Sri Aurobindo used to advise him. Even in those days, in 1945 or ’46, Sri Aurobindo was interested in knowing about Indian politics.
He was also our Nolini-da’s best friend. One day he was in Nolini-da’s room drinking tea with Nolini-da. I entered the room to get some papers. I was going out again very respectfully when Nolini-da asked me to stop. He introduced me and then said in English, “Chinmoy is my only authority on all my writings and everything about me.” By that time, I had translated hundreds of Nolini-da’s articles from Bengali into English.
Afterwards, Surendra Mohan Ghosh asked me to come to his place and he was so nice to me. He was one of those who helped me considerably to get my Indian passport when I was having so many difficulties.
India day picnicOnce a year the people of Darien, Connecticut, used to invite Indians to come and spend the day. They wanted to establish friendship with Indians. In 1965 I went there. Everyone had a host and my hosts were so nice. For me it was the happiest day. In the evening, everyone met together for a function and I was asked many, many questions on India and Indian religion.
Sudha (Miss Carmen Maria Suro, the first president of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico) had given me a tape recorder, and I recorded the evening’s conversation. It came out well and I listened to the tape four or five times. Then God alone knows what I did; everything was erased. Can you imagine? Nowadays we are still having problems with tape recorders, but on that occasion I was definitely the culprit.
I told Alo my sad story. She used to preserve everything, so she preserved that tape recorder. Otherwise, if Alo had not been there, I might have smashed it because I was so disgusted with it.
How could my husband die?One day, near the end of office work, the accountant started to have a little pain. Later, he and another friend from the Consulate were waiting for the bus to go home. By then he was in such pain. So the friend took him to the hospital. Then the friend informed the accountant’s wife. This happened around 6:30 in the evening. In eight or ten hours’ time, he died. He had had a severe stroke.
The following morning, when we came to work, we heard the news. I was so shocked. The accountant was a Bengali and I had been to his place to eat. He used to live on Fifth Avenue, near Dulal’s place. He had two beautiful sons. And the day that he had the stroke, at two o’clock in the afternoon, I had taken the accounts book from our section to him.
I was at his cremation. Everybody from the Consulate came, even the Consul General. They were all consoling his wife. Everybody was crying and his wife was insane with grief. The Consul General was a man of tremendous dignity but he, too, was heartbroken.
I came back home with his wife in the bus. She was crying so bitterly. She said, “Do you think I have to believe in God now? You are a spiritual man. You talk about God. Tell me, how could my husband die?”
I was shedding tears. All her anger and frustration she was pouring into me. She was so mad at God.
The following day, the Consulate workers collected money to help her go back to India. I used to get $230 per month. But that month I kept only $30 for myself. I was very generous in those days!
The frightened secretaryThe Consul General had three secretaries. The main one, an elderly man named Ganesh, joined our path and became my disciple. But one day when he came to the Centre to meditate, an elderly lady screamed like anything and fainted, creating a scene during the meditation. It was all pretense, to draw attention. Anyway, the Consul General’s secretary got frightened. Afterwards he saw me another two or three times on the street and offered me his most respectful pranams, although he stopped coming.
I cannot recognise youThe Consul General’s junior secretary was Mr. Ramanathan. He often gave talks on Hinduism and he used to invite me to go and listen.
In 1994, Dr. Jayaraman-ji, the Executive Director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (USA), invited me to a special Indian cultural performance at Queensborough Community College. He wanted to dedicate the performance to my mother for her centenary.
At the performance an Indian man came up to me and said, “Ghose, do you recognise me?”
“I do not recognise you,” I said.
“You cannot recognise me because you have become a big shot!” was his reply.
“Please tell me your name.”
“I am Ramanathan.”
O God, as soon as he said the name, I knew who he was. “From your name I can recognise you, but not from your face,” I told him. His face was completely changed. Old age has heavily descended upon him.
The Consul General's lossOne Sunday I went to the Consulate. The Consulate was closed, but I was standing outside. All of a sudden, I saw the Consul General, S. K. Roy, coming out of the building. He did not pay any attention to me, but I saw that his face was very serious. I asked him, “Sir, what has happened? Will you be coming back?”
He said, “I have no idea.” Then he told me that his mother had passed away.
I meditated with him for a few minutes. Afterwards I wrote a poem about his mother and left it with Sher Singh, the gatekeeper. As it turned out, the Consul General did come back to the office later that afternoon, and he did get the poem.
The following day, when I arrived at work, whom did I see? The Consul General. For him to come to our section was really something! He stood at the door with a sorrowful face. As soon as he came, everybody stood up. When I stood up, he said, “Ghose!” Then he looked at me, showing such love and gratitude, all through his eyes.
Farewell to the Consul GeneralWhen S. K. Roy went back to India, we had a farewell party. As usual, I wrote a poem. Those farewell parties I shall always remember. Everybody used to mix together, chat, sing — all the staff members as well as our bosses and their wives. Ambassador B. K. Nehru came from Washington for the Consul General’s farewell party. He was Pandit Nehru’s cousin.
S. K. Roy’s wife was a Muslim, although he was a Roman Catholic. She was thinner than the thinnest, and she was a very strict disciplinarian, but she liked me very much. God knows what her husband had said to her about me!
/Mr. B. Ramamoorthy:
I clearly remember that when Guru recited his poem for the Consul General, S. K. Roy, at the Consul General’s farewell party, tears were flowing from the Consul General’s eyes. Most of these government officials do not get tributes. They work silently behind the desk. That is why Guru’s poem meant so much to him./
My first cameraThis is the story of how I smashed my first camera into pieces. The caretaker at India House, B. R. Gupta, bought me a small camera. It was worth eight or ten dollars. I thought I would use it to take pictures at S. K. Roy’s farewell party. That evening, I took quite a few pictures and I was very happy.
The following day I got the film back, but nothing had come out. I was so disgusted. I said, “A camera is not meant for me. In India I knew it. These things are hostile forces!”
I came out of the building. I remember it was snowing. Then so powerfully I smashed the camera on the street. Afterwards I said, “I have to be a good person.” So I sat down and collected all the pieces. I broke the camera into pieces, so I had to pick them up.
That was my first and last experience in those days with a camera. Some years later, Sudha, the President of our Puerto Rican Centre, gave me a camera and that camera fortunately worked.
Diplomatic privilegesMr. B. Ramamoorthy:
When S. K. Roy was Consul General, he allowed us certain diplomatic privileges, even though we were not diplomatic officials. We could send letters to India using Indian stamps. The letters would go in the diplomatic bag. We could also get champagne and cigarettes. But Guru never availed himself of any of these things. When S. K. Roy returned to India and Dr. S. Gupta became Consul General, he said, “No, you cannot have these privileges, especially since you are not government officials.” And so everything stopped and a lot of people were very upset.
But none of this bothered Guru because he had never used any of the privileges himself.
Mr. Ramamoorthy is correct. From this side I never sent mail to India in the diplomatic bag. But perhaps he does not know that I received hundreds of letters from my family at the Consulate. It was quite cheap for them, but it used to take time. The letters had Indian stamps. They used to go from Pondicherry to Delhi. From Delhi they came in the diplomatic bag. Any letter that you send to the Indian Consulate in New York from India has to go via Delhi.
Why else did I go back to the Consulate in the evenings and on weekends? Only because I was dying to get letters from my family. Sometimes the diplomatic bag used to come at night because that was when Air India came in. The following day, the letters would come to our section. But my expectation and greed could not wait. So in the evening I used to go there to check the mail. Even on Saturday, when the Consulate was closed, I used to go there with the hope of getting some mail. Sher Singh and I used to open up the bag only to see if there were any letters for us. And quite often I did get a letter. Then I would spend some time, read books from the library and chat with my friend.
I wanted the mail to come to the Consulate and not to my home address. It was cheaper for my family and also my home address was always changing, so I did not know if I would ever receive their letters.
But to my home address once on New Utrecht Avenue a telegram did come. That was when my dearest friend, Jyotish, died.
A performance at the Indian Cultural CentreOne of my colleagues, N. C. Acharya, knew of my love for music and he asked me to give a concert. That is how my concert at the Indian Cultural Centre came about. The person in charge of the Cultural Centre donated a hall for free and the date was fixed for 20 March 1966.
Quite a few hundred people came to the concert. For me to get over one hundred people in those days was really something. But they came and they appreciated my singing.
I sang ten devotional songs in Sanskrit and Bengali, and I gave a short commentary on each one.
Everything changesDr. Mishra also worked at India House. Then he started working at the United Nations.
In those days, on very rare occasions, Mr. Mehrotra would ask me to go to him for some reason. Dr. Mishra’s legs would be up on the table, and he would be enjoying a cigar. He would say, “Ghose, what do you want?”
His greeting was very nice! But everything changes. Three or four times he came to our meeting at the UN. Once I saw that somebody was waiting for me by the revolving door with his hands folded over his heart. I could not believe it was Dr. Mishra. And at India House he would only say, “What do you want?”
A Far-East reunionDr. S. Gupta succeeded S. K. Roy as Consul General. After I left the Indian Consulate, I did not hear any news of him for many years. Then, when I was in Thailand in 1988, this same Dr. Gupta came to my hotel to pay his respects to me. He was the Consul General of India in Bangkok. By that time I had become a big shot!
Our paths continue to crossWhen Mr. Mehrotra was transferred to Moscow as First Secretary in the Indian Embassy, he was succeeded by Alan Nazareth. Mr. Nazareth was very young, promising, dynamic and energetic.
He came when I was about to leave the Indian Consulate and so I only saw him for a short time. Strangely enough, our paths have crossed many times in the intervening years.
He and his wife came to our programme at the United Nations in 1987. Two years later, in December 1989, I happened to be in Cairo. Mr. Nazareth was then the Indian Ambassador to Egypt. He graciously attended our Peace Concert and gave a most moving introduction. Afterwards he invited me and some of my students to come to his residence. There we had a long conversation.
All excellent smokersHow the workers used to smoke! In our section, everybody used to smoke. Perhaps they could not get peace of mind without smoking. If everybody smokes, what can one person do?
One sectional boss was so nice. He did not smoke in front of the workers. He used to go outside and smoke. But others used to smoke, very graciously, like anything! Even the women secretaries smoked.
Smoking is such a horrible thing! If three persons are smoking, what can you do? You open up the window, turn on the fan — but nobody wants that. So you suffer and suffer and suffer. If at one point three workers are smoking — on your right they are smoking, on your left they are smoking — then what happens? You enjoy smoking! I suffered so much.
The first and last time!One day one of my friends at the Consulate invited me to go with him to watch horse racing. What an experience! First of all, we drove 60 or 70 miles an hour to get there. At one point the police stopped us. Then, on the way home, we had a flat tyre. I finally arrived home around two o’clock in the morning. This happened in July or August 1964. I never went again. Once was more than enough!
My religion is the bestThe Consul for Information was my esteemed friend Nirmaljit Singh. He was a Sikh. He used to brag to me that Sikhism is better than Hinduism, and I used to brag that Hinduism is better than Sikhism. It was all in a funny, joking mood. Very affectionately we used to talk. We used to get pleasure by saying, “My religion is better than yours.” He knew that I did not mean it, and I knew that he did not mean it. Ananda Mohan also used to join in. They used to send for me to go to their section. Otherwise, how could a junior clerk dare to go and talk with a Consul?
Inner blessingsThere was an Indian girl, Vijaya, who worked in the same section with me. She came from South India, from Kerala, our divine Shivaram’s place. She was very nice and kind to me, very fond of me. Some time after I left the Consulate, she left her position and got married. When she had a child, she wanted me to bless it because, according to her, I was a real swami, a real saint. A few years ago, she brought her child to my house for blessings. She said, “Look, we were in the same section and now you have become a saint, a swami.” She was very proud that I was an Indian. She was very nice, and I blessed the child.
In 1981, when I was giving some lectures and concerts in Canada, Vijaya happened to be in Toronto. She wanted to come and see me, but she could not come because of family problems. Her husband also likes me very much.
In India, whenever you see a swami, a spiritual man, you give him something. So she put fifty dollars in an envelope and wrote, “For the Swami.” She gave the money to Shivaram to give to me so that she could get inner blessings for her family and for herself.
Even in those days, when I was a junior clerk and she was a junior clerk, she saw something in me.
A little bit of adviceI had another friend at the Consulate whose name was Kapoor. He was a friend and also a great admirer of mine. He left the Consulate and worked at an airline. Then he went to Oakland, California. Every Saturday, in the evening, he used to call me from Oakland to chat with me and get a little bit of advice about how to have more peace with his wife and children.
Uncle, uncle!A few years ago, when I went to Marine Midland Bank, a little black boy, three or four years old, came up to me and grabbed me. He said, “Kaku, kaku!” Now ‘Kaku’ means ‘uncle’ in Indian language. So I said to myself, “What is this? How can I be his uncle?”
O my God, then he ran to his father who was standing ten metres away and I saw that this man was one of my colleagues at the Indian Consulate, Mr. Macwan. He is a Gujarati. I asked him, “When did you get married?” Then he told me all about his wife. “She is so good, who cares for colour?” he said.
He sent his little boy to call me, “Uncle, uncle!”
She saw India inside meAnother colleague was so kind to me. His name was Vincent Jovial. He wanted to become a priest. Once he took me to see his uncle who was a priest and his uncle tried to convert me. Unfortunately, this priest was a rogue. A few weeks later, he issued many, many false checks. Then jail invited him! He had wanted to publish my book on Tagore. Luckily, I got it back.
So that priest was no good. Then Jovial took me to another priest. Priests are not allowed to marry, but this priest was married. I told my friend that we should call him a minister, but my friend replied that Indian priests can get married.
One Sunday I was invited to give a talk in this priest’s apartment. Around thirty people were there. I spoke for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, one Indian lady came and fell flat at my feet. She had been planning to go back to India because nobody was nice to her. She told me that during my talk she had received so much joy, love and affection from Mother India. She saw India inside me. Then she said, “Now I do not need to go back to India anymore.” I saved her the trip.
That was my first private talk.
No money, no money!In Shivaram’s section, Accounts, there was a Gujarati named Ashok Choksi. He was the one who prepared our paychecks. His sister used to be Mr. Mehrotra’s first secretary, but she left before I joined. Then she opened up a restaurant in San Francisco. It is called “Malvi.”
I went there to see her once. The restaurant was supposed to open at five-thirty. But I was there one hour earlier. She was so nice. She opened the restaurant for me and she herself served me. Then, when I wanted to pay her, she said, “No money, no money!”
You do not belong hereMy Section Head, Mr. Anil Mukherjee, used to talk to me with such affection. He always used to tell me, “Ghose, you do not belong here. Why are you here? This kind of work is not meant for you. You start preaching. I shall join you.”
“But I have no followers,” I said.
Then he was so happy when I finally left the Indian Consulate.
I failed to see Jacqueline KennedyIn 1964, when I was working at the Indian Consulate, one of my friends came to our section and said that Jacqueline Kennedy was at a small gallery nearby. Hardly 30 or 40 people were there to see her. From the Consulate many workers went running to see her, but I did not go. Why? I had the highest admiration for her, but I disliked those drawings. I had seen them before and I thought they were silly, so I did not go. If she had been somewhere else, I would have gone.
Now I laugh. How easily I could have seen her at that gallery the way my colleagues did. I lost my opportunity.
A special friendIn 1977 I had to go to the Indian Consulate to take care of my passport. I went to the counter. All of a sudden, someone came out of the elevator and started screaming, “O God!” It was difficult for me to recognise him at first, but then I remembered that he was one of my former colleagues. He was so delighted to see me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and then he measured my waistline. “You have gone high in height, and here also you have grown!”
I said, “I have to go both ways. I have to be integral!”
Like this, we were cutting jokes with each other. He was so moved to see me and talk to me. He had read some of my books and he had heard so much about me. A few years earlier, he had gone to Hunter College to attend one of our functions. When he saw so many people and guards, he was frightened to death. He told me, “I wanted to go and embrace you. You were in front of the public, and then I saw that you had kept strong people there to be your guards. I was frightened. I am your friend who used to chat with you for hours, but now that you have become a big shot, how am I going to approach you?”
Then he asked me why I was there. I told him that I had come for a new passport. He immediately went and started questioning the clerk. The clerk said that it would take three days. Then my friend had to say to him, “Do you know who he is? He used to work in our section. You cannot do him a favour?”
Then my friend started shouting and screaming. He has now become Assistant Director in their Commercial Section. The clerk said, “I do not dare to go to the Consul for his signature. Tomorrow we can go.”
When he heard this, my friend just took the passport and the papers and went to the Consul’s office. He did not even knock. He opened the door to the office and immediately went inside. In a minute, he got the papers signed. This is what friendship can do. Then, as I was leaving, he said to me, “I am so happy, Ghose, that I saw you.”
This friend is very fond of me. He really values me. If he had not recognised me, God knows how many hours I would have had to wait there on that day!
You carry two worldsIn 1984 I gave a Peace Concert in Toronto. There I met with Krishan Chandra, who succeeded Mr. Mukherjee as our Section Officer at the Consulate. Before that he was the assistant boss in our section. As I came off the stage, somebody came from behind me and fell at my feet, saying, “I recognise you!”
I said, “I, too, recognise you! What are you doing? You are my boss!”
Then Chandra said, “Inwardly I am not your boss. Ghose, we knew it, we knew it while you were working with us. We knew you were not just a clerk. Your very name is a phenomenon. You carry two worlds inside you — Eastern and Western. It is such a rare thing. Your music has transported my wife and me almost into a trance. Please let us know when you are coming again so we can be with you and be blessed by you.”
I thanked him and said, “I am so grateful to you. Your very presence is a blessing to me and to us all.”
This particular man was much older than me and he used to be my boss. Even then, he had to touch my feet in front of hundreds of people.
When the British girls performed my play about Lord Krishna in Toronto in 1995, he came to see it.
How people can be so nice to me! At the Indian Consulate, the people who worked with me were so kind to me.
Is that the same Chinmoy?In August 1996 a lady happened to see a poster about me in Manhattan. She came to the function and asked one of the disciples, “Is that the same Chinmoy who used to work at the Indian Consulate?” Then she said that she had been a secretary at the Consulate at the same time. At first I could not recognise her, but as soon as she said her name I remembered her. I always used to see her carrying tea and coffee for her bosses. Her name is Marjorie Johnson and she is from Jamaica, West Indies. She was the secretary of Nirmaljit Singh in the Information Section. She told my disciple, “Chinmoy was always inwardly what he is today.”
Marjorie Johnson: Chinmoy was always so peaceful. You felt such peace emanating from him and he often used to sing while he worked. To me, he personified goodness. I saw that he was beyond the ordinary and I knew then that he was going to make an impact on people’s lives. Gurus are born, not made. He is a real Guru in India’s highest tradition.
My letter of resignationJune 13th, 1967
My Dear Mr. Mukherjee,
I beg to offer my resignation with all my heart’s deepest gratitude to each member of the Passport and Visa section and my Consul, Mr. Nazareth, and the Adm. Consul, Mr. Bhalla, and finally to the Consul General, Dr. Gupta, who have all been most kind and affectionate to me during my humble service at the Indian Consulate.
My deepest sense of gratitude also flies to Moscow to my ex-Consul, Mr. Mehrotra, who had so kindly appointed me. He was of abundant help and inspiration to me. His constant and genuine concern for me makes me shed tears of gratitude.
Truth to tell, I shall never forget our Consul General Dr. Gupta’s indulgent ear. I shall always treasure his sweet, encouraging and inspiring words.
Consul Bhalla has been most sympathetic and most actively interested in my future plans, and for that I am deeply indebted to him.
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to serve my Consul Mr. Nazareth for a long period of time. Nevertheless, during this short span of time, his dynamic inspiration and profound understanding have touched my heart deeply.
Mr. Chandra’s penetrating mind and true concern have greatly helped me, and to him I sincerely owe a great deal.
Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Coutinhoe, Mr. Jovial, Mr. Takore, Miss Ramaswamy, Mr. Jesia, Mrs. Chipper and Mrs. Chopra — to each of them please tender my deep affection, joy and gratitude.
Finally, Mr. Mukherjee, in all sincerity, I would like to tell you how I wished and still wish to be worthy of your unfathomable affection.
Most sincerely yours,
Chinmoy Kumar Ghose
“Mr. Chinmoy Kumar Ghose has performed his responsibilities with an unflinching sense of duty, an unquestionable integrity and thorough sincerity. We wish him every success in his endeavours to spread India’s message of Truth and Love and spiritual disciplines such as Yoga.”
-– L. L. Mehrotra, Consul, Indian Consulate
New York, 31 October 1966
“How is Ghose? He was a little unwell during the days preceding my departure. I am very much concerned and would expect him to take greater care of his physical well-being; for I know he has already taken care of his spiritual well-being better than any one of us.”
-– L. L. Mehrotra, First Secretary, Indian Embassy in Moscow
(formerly Consul, Indian Consulate, New York)
taken from one of his letters,
28 January 1967
“I have rarely seen such an industrious and honest person. Moreover, he is a gentleman in its true sense. He is an unassuming and humble person with great strength of character. I shall greatly miss him, both officially and personally.”
–- A. K. Mukherjee, Assistant to Consul, Indian Consulate
New York, 9 June 1967
Part II — From apartment to apartment
Dire povertyAfter getting a job at the Indian Consulate, I took a small room on 108th Street, near Columbia University. I think I paid $45 a month for my room. Two other workers from the Consulate shared the apartment. The others had big rooms, but mine was so small that if I had been one foot taller, or even less than one foot, then I would have touched from wall to wall when I was lying down! There was a long corridor and my room was at the end. There were cockroaches everywhere. It was so bad, so bad!
At night my meal was two cupcakes and water. Then, in the morning, I used to take cereal without milk. Sometimes at night, around eleven o’clock, I used to go out and sit in a small park nearby. It is called Morningside Park. My friends used to say, “Do not go there. It is so dangerous. At night all kinds of drug addicts and bad characters come out.” I went there only to meditate. I was in my own world.
One night an old lady was making such a noise. I did not know if she was laughing or crying. I did not dare to go near her.
It was in this park that I wrote my famous poems “I am a Thief,” “I am a Fool” and “I am an Idiot.”
Harshad Acharya: During the four months that I shared an apartment with Sri Chinmoy, I do not remember ever seeing him in the kitchen. I do not know what he lived on. I think it was mostly fruit. I used to see his light on very late at night. He used to stay up writing poems.
A short walk to the consulateAfter the apartment on 108th Street I went to another place and, a few months later, I moved to an apartment on West 76th Street. It was near the American Museum of Natural History. From there it was only a short walk across Central Park to the Consulate. While going to work in the morning, I used to walk fast, jog or run. It used to take me only five minutes. It was in this apartment that I wrote many poems.
My landlady was German. She used to tell me, “You will not like America. I can see that your lifestyle is very simple. You are not modern. Here, everybody is modern.”
One day I was about to go to the Museum of Natural History to look at the exhibits. Five minutes before I arrived, a man was shot and killed. I heard the sound even!
Bholanath: One morning I got a telephone call from Guru to come and help him move. At that time I had a job delivering carpets, so I drove my truck to his place. He did not have many things — just a mattress, a few boxes of books and some bricks and pieces of wood that he used to make a bookcase. I had some rope in the truck, so I tied it around each box and lowered them out the window. Guru waited on the street below to untie the boxes and put them in the truck. He thought this was very ingenious.
An apartment next to the train lineIn 1965 I moved to New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn. This apartment was quite good. I made progress; this time I think I paid $70 a month rent. Downstairs there was a flower shop and across the street was the printing shop where I used to go and scream at the printer, who was my very dear friend.
The train used to pass only two or three metres away from this apartment. Not across the street! It went right by the side of the building. Such a noise it made!
Saved by my Mother KaliOne evening at our Brooklyn apartment, somebody left the candles burning on the shrine by mistake after the Centre meditation was over. I was in my own room and suddenly I saw smoke entering. I ran into the meditation room. By that time the fire was very serious. The whole place was ablaze. The curtains were completely burnt and the flames had reached the top of the shrine.
I went outside the room and stood on the roof. The distance between the place where I stood and Mother Kali’s picture was only thirty feet or so. From there I uttered the name of the Supreme three times very loudly from my inmost consciousness.
Then a miraculous thing happened. When I chanted “Supreme” three times, the fire calmed down like an obedient child. Although the fire had reached my Mother Kali’s picture, the picture itself was not burnt. But the glass was shattered and the picture frame and the cardboard behind the picture were reduced to ashes. X was searching for water, but she could not find the kitchen because there was so much smoke.
Then the fire brigade arrived and covered everything with water. They also began throwing things out of the window. So many things were destroyed. They caused so much damage.
At four o’clock in the morning, when it was all over, I saw my Mother Kali vividly with my naked eyes. She was dancing. She said, “Let the house be burnt to ashes, but I have saved my children!”
My Mother Kali is my dearest, she is my everything. She is the protector. Thousands and millions of times she has saved me. It is her Feet that can give us our liberation and our salvation sooner than at once. Immediately she can give us everything that God possesses.
Many years later, Mahavishnu made the throne in my meditation room and he put that picture of Mother Kali on top of the throne. If you look closely, you can see that it is singed around the edges.
The fat sentryThe funniest thing was that a young girl, fatter than the fattest, used to sit on the threshold of this apartment building and she would not allow people to cross. I had to take three trains to come home from Manhattan at night and then absolutely plead with this girl to let me in. I was not the only one she did not allow to enter. And she did not even live in our building! How fat she was. Perhaps she had a disease. I never saw her eat anything but at home, God knows what she ate!
Upstairs, soul repair!Our first Centre in New York started in Brooklyn on Hamilton Parkway. Our second Centre was in Manhattan. Outside the apartment building in Brooklyn, there was a big sign: CAR BODY REPAIR. So seekers that came to meditate, specially our Karuna who passed away recently, used to say, “Downstairs, body repair. Upstairs, soul repair!”
Part III — My subway experiencesMost of these subway stories were related by Sri Chinmoy in 1972 and subsequently published in a small booklet. Two short films dramatising the stories have also been made.
Absent-minded heroI bought a token and slipped it into the slot at one turnstile. However, in my unmindfulness, I was attempting to pass through an adjacent turnstile. Needless to say, my turnstile refused to move, but I failed to grasp the situation.
Suddenly a young man slapped me on the back in a comradely way saying, “Thank you!” and crossed through the turnstile in which my token had been deposited. Thus he escaped without paying for himself, and I was forced to buy another token. Unmindfulness exacted its retribution.
On another occasion almost the very same thing happened. Again I put my token into the slot of one turnstile and tried to pass through an adjacent turnstile. But this time an elderly man saw my difficulty. He put his own token in my turnstile, enabling me to cross, while he used my token to pass through his turnstile. This time unmindfulness called forth sympathy and genuine help.
Mad train versus God's WillIt was a local uptown train of the IRT line at 12:30 in the morning. Our train was meant to halt in normal fashion at every stop, but at 42nd Street, Times Square, we began what was to be our mad journey. The train flew on like a monster released from its controls and refused to stop. I was supposed to get off at 79th Street, but the train had its own plan. Each station was passed by at top speed, unheeded. Our train defeated even the express, which stops only at the main junctions. Ours refused to slow down, let alone stop, but continued on like a mad elephant.
The young boys and girls in the coach were in the seventh Heaven of delight, but the older people were frantic. They were being taken miles out of their way and there was no certainty that they would get trains in the reverse direction without great difficulty. Moreover, because of the wild speed, they felt an accident to be imminent. What if our train should meet its predecessor parked at a station?
Strangely enough, an old Bengali woman happened to be in our coach. I later found out that she came from Potia, Chittagong, East Bengal, only four miles from my birthplace. We were both in a runaway train in New York, only 13,000 miles from our native place. Imagine my surprise when I heard her cry out in our distinctive Chittagong dialect, “O Lord, O Lord, we are finished!”
I went to her and by way of a joke, I answered in the same vernacular, “God will not be satisfied with your life alone, but He wants ours as well.” When she heard her own dialect, tears of astonished delight came into her eyes and she could not help embracing me with motherly affection. I tried to soothe and reassure her, but her cries and tears did not cease. Nor did the panic-stricken cries of several other women in the coach.
At 130th Street the mad driver stopped his wild journey, only to be arrested by two policemen. Word had been sent by intersubway telephone from one station to another about the errant train. The police had been informed and had tried unsuccessfully to stop the driver at various places along the line. Curiously enough, the driver was not drunk. It seemed that an unseen force made him the instrument of that fateful journey in which he wanted to be free from all bondage and fly unhampered and dauntless into the bosom of the night.
On this trip, our invitation to death was compelled by a single individual, but God’s Grace willed otherwise and cancelled the rendezvous.
Indians cannot tell a lieI was going to the apartment of my sister-disciple Kailash-ben, whose affection can only be felt and never described. I went to the 14th Street subway station and bought a token. I dropped it into the slot, but the turnstile did not move. Completely confused, I was about to go to the station master to buy another token, but he had already seen my difficulty. He came over to me.
“Did you put a token in?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Where do you come from?”
“India,” was my answer.
“India!” he exclaimed. “Indians cannot tell a lie. Had you been a youth from another country, I would not let you through. Those boys do not have a pennyworth of sincerity. But you Indians have yet to learn how to tell a lie.” Thereupon he allowed me to go through the turnstile.
On entering the train, I shed tears and thanked the Divine in him, for he had seen the India of the hoary past and had yet to learn about the India of today.
Two revolversOn the evening of 15 August 1964, a brother-disciple, Joseph Heil, invited me to meditate at his house on the occasion of Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. Another disciple, Dr. Masha Karry, a skin specialist, was also present. She was all affection to us. We had a deep meditation and a long, serious talk, which lasted until 2:30 in the morning. As I was still unfamiliar with New York, Dr. Karry accompanied me to the 59th Street subway station and, leaving me at street level, she departed.
As soon as I descended the staircase, I saw two men ferociously aiming revolvers at the station master, who was forced to give them all the cash, bills and tokens. These he had to dump into a large, cloth bag at their terrifying command. Then the holdup men left the scene. The whole thing had taken only a few seconds. I was utterly stunned and shaken. The name of God seemed to come out of my mouth of its own accord at least a thousand times, starting from the moment I saw the revolvers.
An old lady of about seventy, an African-American man of the same age, and I were the only eye-witnesses. The woman burst into tears and sobbed frantically, but the man had nerves of steel. The station master, outraged and furious, immediately phoned the police and requested us to give evidence as witnesses. I told him I was fully prepared.
The African-American man said to the station master, “Why are you putting us into difficulty? We are not going to face such problems at this hour!”
“Go your way, then,” retorted the station master.
Then the African-American man asked me if I was an Indian and, when I replied in the affirmative, he simply pulled me through the door which led to the lower part of the station where the trains ran, for the tokens had all been grabbed in the holdup and we could not go through the turnstiles. The old woman, in spite of her sympathy for the station master, followed us. The old man forced me into a train and began rebuking me: “You Indians are so innocent. To help the station master at this hour is to invite trouble. The police will harass you and take you to the police station. These things happen because they do not keep police at the subway stations. Be wise and do not be innocent. Wisdom is more important than mere sincerity.”
While I did not entirely agree with his philosophy, I was deeply moved by his sincere concern for my protection.
Surrender not acceptedWe were upwards of seventy in a subway coach. Young girls were reading blood-and-thunder novels; lovers were sitting cheek to cheek; the train was running at top speed.
All of a sudden a young worker outside the train approached the tracks from an open construction area and threw himself down in front of the fast-approaching train, ready to surrender his life in suicide. But the driver refused to accept his offering. He violently applied the brakes. The resulting jerk was indescribable.
All of us in the coach were suddenly thrown on each other. The physical shock was almost as cruel as death itself. Some people were severely injured, especially those who were sitting. I fell on top of about thirty passengers who had already been thrown down. We were mercilessly and swiftly precipitated towards the end of the coach like stones in a gunny-sack. Perhaps an unseen force breathed for us while so many bodies became one.
The name ‘Kali’ left my mouth and entered my heart. I escaped entirely without injury, but I was ashamed of my poor left thumb which was bleeding a little. When the train resumed its journey and reached the next station, it was found that, besides those with serious injuries, many other passengers had fainted. They were all taken to the hospital. Some young boys, at this point, began turning somersaults and embracing each other out of a wild, nervous excitement.
Many painful injuries had to pay the price for saving one life. My Kali refused an unsolicited surrender.
A nightmare journeyWhen I lived in Brooklyn, it took me forty-five minutes to reach the Indian Consulate in Manhattan. On 8 August 1965, I went as usual to the Fort Hamilton Parkway subway station and took my train.
We had only covered two stops when we heard a voice commanding us: “All out, all out!” We were all taken aback, but we emptied the train in no time. A sea of human bodies, utterly perplexed and not knowing which way to move, was milling heavily on the platform. There were thousands upon thousands of individuals pushing and struggling on the narrow platform, for each successive train was unloading hundreds more as it came to this spot.
The reason? It was very simple. A water main running through the subway tunnel had burst, flooding our particular line, the BMT. The trains could run no further than the place where we were now halted and discharged. Now the problem was to continue our journey in some way or other, to reach our destinations without further delay.
To get out of the subway station to the surface was itself an herculean task. It took us no less than forty-five minutes just to inch our way forward in the jam-packed crowd, painfully ascend the slow-moving staircase and finally reach the street level. Once we had completed this exhausting task and were able to breathe fresh air once more, we had to consider how to proceed.
Fortunately, buses had been provided to take us to another subway line, the IRT, from which we could reach Manhattan. This we managed without mishap, though the buses which transported us had probably never in their existence carried at one time so many crushed bodies! Our arrival at the IRT line was by no means the end of our troubles, for here too, the crowd was as thick as before. By the time I reached the Consulate, it had taken me three full hours instead of my usual forty-five minutes. My co-workers living in other parts of Brooklyn took one further precious hour to accomplish the ordeal.
My Scottish father, my Indian sonDuring that same day at the Consulate, I was haunted by the apprehension about my return journey, and sure enough, my misgivings were justified. The return journey was a painful repetition of the morning’s nightmare. In the evening, at the Lexington Avenue and 59th Street station, my attention was drawn to a frail octogenarian. He drew forth all my sympathy with the spell of his pitiful look. He had completely lost his way and in this crowd he was quite helpless. I was not much more fortunate, by way of knowledge, than he, but my sympathy boldly surpassed my discretion. On learning where he was going, I caught him by the hand and led him into what I believed to be the correct train. We managed this only with great difficulty. By pushing and elbowing with my former athletic heart, I managed to procure a seat for this old man.
As he sat down, another aged man, looking at me, inquired of him, “Who is he?” The immediate reply was, “My son, my Indian son.” I was surprised at his affectionate words and delighted that he had guessed my nationality. Lo, his gratitude could not remain inactive. He started pushing along the seat, gradually and quietly, a fraction of an inch at a time. The young girl sitting beside him could make neither head nor tail of his odd manoeuvring. He continued his efforts for about twenty minutes, until he had acquired enough room for me to sit down beside him. Great indeed was his triumph as he bade me, in his Scottish brogue, to sit. “A true father,” my grateful heart voiced forth. “My Scottish father!”
Getting lostSometimes, on the weekend, I used to take the subway to my sister-disciple Kailash-ben’s place. Often she would invite several Indian friends to visit. I was able to go to her place without any difficulty. How was it, then, that every time I came back I used to get lost?
Kailash-ben lived in Manhattan. At that time, I also lived in Manhattan. The problem was that after a certain hour, some trains do not work. I would wait for the train thinking, “Since this train brought me here, it will definitely take me back to the station from where I started my journey.” I was absolutely sure that I was taking the correct train.
But I was so stupid! Instead of bringing me home, the train would take me somewhere else. When I told the other passengers my address and asked for help, they would ask me, “What are you doing here?”
Every time I would take the wrong train.
Commuting from BrooklynWhen I lived in Brooklyn on New Utrecht Avenue, I had to take three trains to get to work each day. Can you imagine? One train I took for only five blocks; then I had to change. The second train used to stop in Manhattan, but it did not go to Fifth Avenue, so I had to change again to go to the Consulate. But I was happy because I had so much time to meditate. I always used to sit at the side of the conductor. The last train left me on the other side of Central Park. Then in five minutes I used to come walking across the park to the Consulate.
In January 1966 there was a general transit strike for two weeks and I had to walk to work each day and home again in the evening. It was a very severe winter and there was snow everywhere.
Part IV — Early friends and admirers
My talk to the wallsIda Patterson had such tremendous affection for me. She knew me in the Ashram, and in December 1965 she invited me to Minneapolis to give talks. I went there to spend a week. She lived on Dupont Avenue.
My first talk in Minneapolis was a fiasco! I was supposed to give a talk on reincarnation. Ida had promised me that many, many people would come. But nobody came. She was the only listener. I gave my talk to the walls.
I remembered that one of Sri Ramakrishna’s dearest disciples, Swami Brahmananda, once gave a talk and nobody came. He said that he was so happy because he got such receptivity. He said, “The walls did not argue with me. At other times when I give talks, people ask such rubbish questions.”
In my case also, I gave my talk. Ida sat by the door the entire time with the hope that somebody would come. But nobody came.
Attacked by hostile forcesWhile I was in Minneapolis, I stayed with Ida Patterson. She prepared a room downstairs for me to sleep in. She stayed upstairs. O God! She did not tell me that just ten or twelve days before, her husband had committed suicide in that room. Why did she not cancel my invitation?
As soon as I tried to go to sleep, the dissatisfied spirit of her husband came and then so many hostile forces came to attack me. They were attacking me because when somebody commits suicide, it is the greatest victory of the hostile forces. I said, “What is going on? Here the room is clean. What has happened?” Then I had to challenge those hostile forces.
In the morning, I said to my hostess, “What happened to your husband, Ida?” The spirit had told me that it was her husband. Then I told Ida what had taken place during the night and she started crying. Finally she confessed that her husband had committed suicide in that room. Perhaps she had been too embarrassed to tell me before. She did not imagine that I would be attacked by those hostile forces. Perhaps if it had been somebody else, nothing would have happened. But sometimes these undivine spirits come and attack spiritual people with the hope that they will get blessings from them. Their very nature is to attack, like mischievous monkeys.
He believed in Light, not GodIda had been married several times. On my second day in Minneapolis, her third husband came to see me. He was a great scientist. We argued and argued and, as usual, I was condemning his science. Meanwhile, he was also saying very nasty things about spirituality. We had become good friends and we were enjoying our debate. At one point, I was looking at him and then he said to me, “I do not believe in God, but I believe in Light, and when you meditate I see Light inside you.”
That is how our argument ended. His philosophy was like that of the Buddhists. They do not believe in God, but they do believe in Light.
The lawyer's promiseLuckily my fate changed and quite a few people came to my second talk in Minneapolis. On the third evening I gave another talk which was attended by many college students. A lawyer who was in the audience was so moved. He said he had a church and he wanted to give it to me in my name so that we could inaugurate it as a centre. He even told me the name of the church.
The following day, Ida contacted the authorities of that particular church and they informed her that this lawyer was not even a member of the congregation. He had no connection with their church.
So that is the story of the lawyer who became so devoted that he wanted to give me a church!
My way of chanting AumAnother incident happened during this third lecture. At one point I chanted Aum. As usual, I was chanting in my own way. At the end of the meeting, instead of asking me a question, a lady stood up and said that my way of chanting Aum was absolutely wrong. She had learned the correct way from Sanskrit scholars.
I said, “Here is the proof that I am not a scholar! Definitely mine is wrong.” Then, twenty minutes later, she asked me to chant it again and again so that she could learn it my way.
Such funny, funny incidents happened in Minneapolis, right from the very first night. But I liked the place. It became our second or third centre. I am offering Ida Patterson my heart’s most soulful affection and love.
Sight-seeing in MinneapolisOne day I went out sight-seeing with my hostess, Ida Patterson. On the trolley, a husband was asking his wife to sit in front of me. They were talking in Bengali. I asked the husband where they came from. He said, “My wife comes from Chittagong. I come from Dhaka, but I was brought up in Chittagong.” And he started talking with me in proper Bengali.
They lived in Saudi Arabia. On the same day, at the same hour, we had to catch a trolley in Minneapolis! This world is so small. There were many, many passengers on that trolley, but he had to sit near us.
Something in my eyesThirty-four years ago, in 1962, Ida Patterson was absolutely the first human being or truth-seeker or God-lover to see something in my eyes. She told my boss Nolini-da. One afternoon I entered into Nolini-da’s room where I used to work and Nolini-da said to me, “Look what this American lady, Ida Patterson, saw in you. This morning when she came here to speak to me, you told her that I was not available, and she saw such things in your eyes. Your eyes mesmerised her.”
I said to Nolini-da, “Ida Patterson? I do not know who she is.”
Then I became friends with her. So thirty-four years ago she saw something inside your Guru’s eyes. Thirty-four years ago she told Nolini-da her experience, and still I cherish it.
A reunion with Ida PattersonOn 2 October 1987 I went to Minneapolis to give a concert and I saw Ida Patterson again. I said to her, “You are still very, very strong, energetic, dynamic. I am so happy to see you again. Twenty years ago I came to your place and you gave me shelter.”
She replied, “You were just a young man. You said you came into the lion’s mouth when you came to America.”
“Luckily, I was not devoured!” was my reply.
My beloved WoodstockSince 1964 I have had the greatest fondness for Woodstock. I started going there in May 1964 and every time I go there, I strengthen my desire to have a very soulful and peaceful place there where many, many seekers can come and meditate. But, alas, my desire has still not been fulfilled.
On Friday evenings, after finishing work at the Consulate, I used to catch the Greyhound bus to Woodstock from Grand Central Station. A few times I got lost. In front of the bus, it said Woodstock, but for some reason I would enter into another bus by mistake.
One Friday it was snowing. Even in that weather I went to catch the bus to Woodstock after work. When I got off the bus, I had to walk half a mile. There was no light, nothing, and it was snowing so heavily.
I had many, many spiritual experiences in Woodstock. I used to meditate on the top of a particular hill. I had a special spot — a dry, arid piece of woods. I was very fond of that place and I used to go there early in the morning to meditate. I felt such joy meditating there on the top of the hill.
Then one of my sponsors, Mrs. Ann Harrison, would come and ask me a volley of questions about spirituality. I answered endless questions of hers. If all the questions and answers had been recorded, I would have had at least twenty extra books. Luckily or unluckily she was not a stenographer.
My first driving experienceWhen I went to Woodstock for the first time, Ann Harrison wanted to have a cake to honour me. She took me to a bakery and asked me to kindly stay inside the car so that the police would not tow her car away or give her a ticket. The car was parked right outside the bakery in the middle of the road.
Poor me! As soon as she went inside the bakery, a policeman came up to the car and demanded that I move it. I said, “I do not know how to move the car.”
“You have to!” ordered the policeman. “Do it right now!”
What could I do? I looked at the letters on the gear shift — D, R, N and so forth. The policeman was still insisting. I thought to myself: R means right, so I will put it in R and go right.
When I shifted the gears to R, the car all of a sudden went backwards and dashed against the car belonging to the police officer. He was parked right behind us. What a noise!
He began to shout at me. But I told him, “You forced me. I explained to you that I did not know how to move the car, but you forced me. I thought R meant right.”
The policeman admired my stupid innocence and he did not fine me.
Writing on a napkinIn 1964 I visited a small gallery in Woodstock with my friends, Sam and Eric. Very near to it was a restaurant where we went to eat. A man came up to our table. He was very fat and he was heavily drunk. His name was Rudy and he had been Dulal’s sister’s guru. My sponsor introduced me to Rudy and we shook hands. As soon as he shook my hand, it began burning because everything entered into me. Then I had to go and wash my hand. Anyway, life is but an experience!
My friends and I sat down to eat and a sudden wave of inspiration flashed across my mind. I asked the waiter if I could borrow a pencil or ballpoint pen. None of us had a piece of paper, so I started writing on the paper napkin. I wrote two poems: “Father, I Am” and “Father, You Are the Child of Your Dream.” Those two immortal poems appear in My Flute.
Rudy had an antique shop in New York that contained many beautiful statues of the Lord Buddha. He was a great admirer of Lord Buddha. Samie had a statue of the Lord Buddha in his apartment that was absolutely living. He had bought it at Rudy’s place. I wanted to go and see the shop, but I hoped that the owner would not be there. One day I did go and luckily the owner was not available. I appreciated some of his statues very much.
The time differenceOne time, Ann Harrison went to California to visit a friend. Before she left, she gave me her friend’s telephone number. So early one morning I placed a call to that number. I did not know it was only three o’clock in the morning in California. I thought the time was the same all over America.
Her friend answered the phone, and I said, “Is Ann Harrison there?”
Her friend answered, “What! Do you know what time it is?” She was so mad. She happened to be the spiritual leader of that community.
Afterwards I told Ann that her friend had blessed me and Ann felt miserable.
Many years later, this friend came to our meditation. She was from the Self-Realization Fellowship. She bowed down to me and said, “Swami, I am so happy that you hold meditations.” Immediately I remembered that she was the one who insulted me on the telephone, but I did not have the heart to tell her.
Learning to drive in WoodstockIn 1965 Ann Harrison showed me the ABC’s of driving. I would drive 200 metres and brake. Then she would drive us back to the starting point because I did not know how to go in reverse.
In the car she had a very cute kind of doll hanging. When the doll moved a little to the right, my sponsor thought this meant that she could go against the red light. O God! How many times God saved us from a serious accident! Her inner voice, this little doll, was telling her to go and I was shouting, “Stop! Stop!”
Then we would come to a green light and the little doll would tell her to stop. The drivers in the cars behind her would all be cursing us, but her inner voice would not permit her to go.
The Golden Purusha1Here in America I saw the Supreme once as a Golden Purusha. Do you know where? In Woodstock. Near the end of 1964 I was meditating at Yerry Hill. There, with my naked human eyes, I saw my Supreme as the Golden Purusha. In the Vedas it is described. How beautiful and tall my Supreme was. He was running with me and holding a golden wand — like a magic wand. I was overwhelmed with light and delight. This kind of experience can never, never be forgotten.
MCY 86. Note: The hill's name was misprinted as "Cherry Hill" in the first edition.↩
The heart and soul of WoodstockA talk given at the Inauguration of the Woodstock Peace Mile
3 June 1988
A long twenty-four years ago, I came to Woodstock for the first time. Since then I have come to Woodstock many, many times. I loved the soul of Woodstock, I still love the soul of Woodstock and I shall forever and forever love the soul of Woodstock. Now I am extremely grateful to the heart and soul of Woodstock for having given me the golden opportunity to be of dedicated service to the soul, heart, mind, vital and body of Woodstock.
Peace is the only thing that we need, that the world needs desperately. Here, our devoted, dedicated and soulful service to this great community will be our act of self-offering. Fruitful is Woodstock. And we are trying to add our soulful qualities with our devoted service to this great and good community.
I have had here teeming experiences, soulful experiences, spiritual experiences, illumining experiences, fulfilling experiences. I still have very, very good friends here in Woodstock. They have been extremely kind over the years and my heart of gratitude I am offering to them.
I cannot express adequately my inner feelings. I can only say this much: O heart of Woodstock, I was extremely fond of you, I am still fond of you, and I shall always and always remain fond of you. It is here that I had the dream, the golden dream, to do something in our way of manifestation here on earth. It has taken us twenty-four years to sow the seeds of my dream-beauty. Now we shall be offering our oneness-dream, oneness-home, oneness-family, not only in Woodstock but all over the world.
Riding the escalator at the United NationsSamie’s mother was very, very nice to me. Her name was Rose. When I was only two weeks old in my American life, she took me to the United Nations for the first time. She took me to the visitors’ area and very lovingly showed me how to step on the escalator. In India I never had the experience of riding an escalator. When we came near the end, I did not know what to do, so I jumped. In spite of her wise and compassionate instructions, I did a semi-somersault and fell down very nicely. Luckily I did not get hurt. At that time my athletic heart was strong enough to brave the experience. Samie’s mother was so shocked to see me fall down, and she was cursing herself for not telling me what to do at the end.
Then she took me to a young lady who was talking about the UN. At one point, Samie’s mother said to the guide, “Hey, young lady, why do you have to speak so fast? My Indian son cannot understand a thing. For God’s sake, speak slowly so that he can understand you. What is the use of bringing foreign visitors here if they cannot understand you?” Everywhere we went, she corrected people and told them how to behave towards me.
Even now it happens that I get confused and take the wrong escalator. Quite often I go to Kennedy Airport to walk. Sometimes I am in another world and I do not see which escalator is going down and which one is going up. I enter into the wrong one and fall down.
The never-ending graceOnce I went with Eric Hughes, my sponsor’s friend, to visit his parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was on the occasion of Thanksgiving. Just before we began our Thanksgiving meal, Eric’s mother asked me to say Grace. I did not know what the term ‘Grace’ meant. Then she said, “Just say a prayer.” So my prayer came. Unfortunately, my prayer never ended! They were all waiting to eat and my prayer was going on and on. But Eric’s mother was so kind to me. I used to call her my mother. She said, “Only say Grace for a minute. Do not say it for so long!”
The second time I visited Eric’s parents, I was there for three or four days. Again she begged me to say Grace. “No, I do not want to say it,” I said.
“Only for a minute, please say it,” she asked. So I said Grace for even less than a minute. That was how I learned to say Grace.
I cannot eat meatWhen I went with Eric for the first time to visit his parents, it was Thanksgiving and so they were all eating turkey. His mother was begging me to eat it, but I politely refused.
Then she said, “Had I been your mother, would you not have listened to my request?”
I replied, “Even if you had been my mother, I would not have listened to you. Your other requests I shall definitely fulfil, but I cannot eat meat.”
The second time I went with Eric to see her, she did not beg me to eat meat. Eric’s mother was like a real mother to me. I used to call her my mother. She was so kind to me. Her name was Caroline Hughes. She took me to quite a few stores. Some of her friends asked her, “Who is this?” Very bravely she said, “This is my Indian son.”
Eric’s father was practically lame. He had a television set and from his chair he pressed something and the television worked. I said, “How can it be?”
Now I have the same kind of remote control.
My bus experienceOnce I went alone to visit Eric’s parents in Pittsburgh. While coming back at night in the bus, I was only watching the moon for the entire journey. It took three and a half hours or even more. There were no other passengers. The bus driver was driving and I did not want to talk to him. I was only meditating and meditating on the moon.
I do not need any earthly degreeAs you know, I came to America in April 1964. Around September or October of that year, a very good friend of mine, an excellent well-wisher, was extremely anxious to help me. His name was John Kelly. His way of helping me was to get me a degree from the New School. He said to me, “Nobody will appreciate you, nobody will acknowledge you unless you get a degree from the New School. In the New School you can specialise in any subject, even giving lectures. I shall meet with the expenses for your course, so that you can get a degree.”
For a few days I could not comply with his request, then finally I agreed. He took me to the New School on the day of registration. A middle-aged woman was sitting at the desk and there was a long queue. There were 40 people ahead of me. I stood there in the queue for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then I lost all my patience. I said, “God has given me His degree. I do not need any earthly degree. It is too much, too much!”
My friend John Kelly felt sincerely sorry for me. I said, “I am not going to get a degree. I do not need it.” This friend of mine used to work in the fire department. His heart was very big, vaster than the vastest. Afterwards he went to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and spent five or six years. Now he has passed away.
The ten-cent storeIn 1964 I went into a store in Greenwich Village. It was a ten-cent store — they said everything was ten cents. I was so happy because I only had two dollars with me. I selected a few things and then I went to pay. They said I owed three dollars.
I said, “What is this? Everything is supposed to be ten cents!”
Then they showed me that on the sign there was an arrow pointing up, just after it said ten cents.
Last month, I went to Greenwich Village to see a doctor for my leg and I looked for that famous ten-cent store. But it is no longer there.
Second-hand clothesMany times at the Indian Consulate I wore suits and jackets that did not fit me at all because somebody used to give me his old clothes. His name was Arthur Gregor. He was a senior editor at Macmillan Publishing Company and a friend of Samie and Eric. He was much taller than I was and almost twice as large, so his clothes were much too big for me. But necessity knows no law. I did not have money to buy winter jackets or proper suits and it was so cold. He was so nice to me. He had another Guru, but he had such admiration and respect for me.
Arthur's spiritual motherThis is a funny story. Arthur Gregor had a South Indian Guru whose name was unfamiliar to me. This Guru had been a police officer. Then he gave up police life, prayed, meditated and became a spiritual Master. Arthur used to tell me about his Guru’s compassion, this and that. Sometimes I used to tell him things about his Guru. Once I told him that his Guru had a sailing boat. He said, “How do you know?”
“Your Guru is showing me,” I replied, “and I can see him inside the boat with one of your spiritual sisters.”
“Yes, it is Sushila,” said Arthur. Then he became my great admirer because his Guru did have a sailing boat and a few times he and his spiritual brothers and sisters went out in the boat.
Arthur used to come quite often to my friends’ place. His apartment was very close by, only two apartments away from ours. We lived at 43 Greenwich Avenue and he was at 45 Greenwich Avenue. From time to time, he also invited Samie, Eric and me to come to his place and meditate. Samie and Eric were his good friends.
One evening, we were all meditating at his place. It was on the occasion of his Guru’s birthday. He said his Guru liked to meditate in darkness and so there was no proper light. His apartment was all dark. All of a sudden, with my third eye, I saw a middle-aged lady standing behind Arthur and blessing him while he was meditating. She was blessing him with so much affection. She was very short and thin. The lady told me that she was Arthur’s spiritual mother.
When the meditation was over, I said to Arthur, “I saw something! Somebody was standing behind you and blessing you. She said she is your spiritual mother. I can even tell you her name! Her name is Nirupama. You never, never told me that your Guru was married!”
I told Arthur the name of the lady and it was absolutely correct. It was his Guru’s wife. He was so astonished. He asked me, “How do you know this?” My friends were also asking me the same question. Their admiration for me went very high because I showed this kind of magic.
After that Arthur started giving me very nice jackets. He was also a poet. He had printed two or three books and once he read out his poems at the Guggenheim Museum. He was so nice to me.
Arthur Gregor was very closely connected with the Indian Ambassador to the UN, Rikhi Jaipal. When I drew the painting dedicated to UNICEF in 1979, Ambassador Jaipal presented it with utmost respect on behalf of the Government of India. It was his wife, Sushila, whom I saw in the sailing boat.
Reading out my poems in a fancy restaurantOne day an old Russian gentleman came to the Consulate and asked if we knew of any Indian poets. He happened to be a poet and he wanted to discuss literary subjects. My colleagues knew that I wrote poems and so they introduced him to me. We became friends.
The gentleman’s name was Mr. Gruber. Once he invited me to read out my poems at a restaurant in Manhattan. The name of the restaurant was Cavanti. The restaurant was very fancy but the patrons were behaving in a very undivine way. They were drinking and drinking. While they were drinking, we were supposed to read out our poems.
Mr. Gruber read out several of his poems and then he told me to stand up and read something. I read out two or three of my poems and then I said, “I am leaving this place! I am not going to stay.”
That was my first and last experience reading out in a restaurant. It was so noisy! Sometimes two or three poets stood up at once. They were ready to read out their poems at the same time.
A second invitationThe following day, a lady invited the two of us to come to her place in the evening to hear her poems. She was a very nice lady, very compassionate, but I did not want to go. I did not want to go where people would be drinking and smoking.
So Mr. Gruber telephoned the lady and asked her, “Will there be drinking or smoking during the reading?”
The lady said that drinking and smoking would not be allowed and so we decided to go. The lady read out eight or ten of her own poems She was very aristocratic and I enjoyed listening to her poems.
Then she requested me to read out some of my poems. But on this occasion, I deliberately did not bring any of my writings. I did not want to risk another unfortunate experience.
At the ice rinkOne day my friend Mr. Gruber took me to show me his ice skating skills. We went to a large, round outdoor place in Manhattan. I believe it was Rockefeller Center. He was 80 years old and I was only 33, but I did not know how to skate on the ice. He was so full of energy and he was going round and round so fast.
Poor me! I was only watching and watching from the side.
Hitler took care of his fatherOne day Mr. Gruber and I were walking together through Central Park. He was asking me about my parents. I said, “I lost my parents when I was quite young, ten or eleven years old.” Then I said to him, “What about your parents? What about your father?”
“My father?” he said, “Hitler was so compassionate to my father. He took care of my father.”
In this way I came to learn that his father had been killed in the war.
The tooth-maker-discipleBholanath: One time Guru lost a tooth. It was a lateral tooth in his upper jaw. I was training to be a dental technician, so I said that I would try to make him a new tooth if we could get an impression. I took Guru to a dentist to get an impression, but this dentist did not want to do it. According to him our procedure was not strictly correct. Anyway, I took Guru to the apartment of another friend of mine who made the impression, and then I set about making the tooth. I had never made a tooth before and quite a few people helped me and gave advice. Eventually Guru was fitted with this tooth.
My first printerThe first printer that I used in America was named Mr. Custer. He was Jewish and his shop was on New Utrecht Avenue, just opposite the apartment building where I lived. He was the one who printed the very first issue of AUM Magazine in 1965. After that he printed many, many issues.
Both of us were under the impression that the other one was deaf. How we used to shout and scream at each other at the top of our voice! We were not arguing, but we felt that if we did not scream at each other while standing face to face, then we could not hear each other. We always used to discuss politics. I used to speak in favour of America. He used to speak in favour of China. He was Jewish, but he was so fond of China. What wonderful arguments we had! But, we liked each other so much. We were such good friends. He was always very, very nice to me.
After practically sixteen years, he came to one of my concerts in Manhattan. After the concert, he came up to me. I looked at him, and he looked at me. Finally, I said, “Are you Mr. Custer?”
He said, “Are you Mr. Ghose? Are you Chinmoy? What shall I call you now? Shall I call you Ghose or Chinmoy?”
I said, “No, now my name is Sri Chinmoy. Have you forgotten?”
Then he started saying that he knew one day I would be great.
I still remember Mr. CusterFour or five years ago, Sanatan was in that part of Brooklyn looking for something and he happened to go into that printing shop. A young man was working there. He was Mr. Custer’s son. When Sanatan told him my name, he said, “I remember him.”
Sanatan came back and told me that he had found my first printer. I could not believe it. After so many years! Sanatan took me there to see the place. It was exactly the same, and across the street the flower shop was still there.
I went inside the printing shop and immediately the son recognised me. His father had by that time passed away. I said to the son, “Now that I have seen you, I want to print one of my books here.”
He said, “Yes, of course. I know how much my father loved you. I will do the job at a very cheap price.”
I said, “Ask any price. I remember your father so well. He had such affection for me.”
So he printed one book.
My adopted grandmotherIn those days, elderly women were so kind to me. One old lady from the Bronx became my grandmother. She wanted to go to India. She came to apply for her visa and saw me there. Then she came to the Consulate many times. She used to bring yoghurt for me to eat. Once or twice she scolded me for not eating her food. She was short, but she used to grab me by the shoulder when she came to see me. She took me to the Bronx two or three times to eat her food. At that time she was around seventy years of age. She used to eat meat, fish and all that. I said, “I cannot eat these things.” So she always kept some yoghurt for me.
Afterwards, what happened to her? Where did she go? She went out of my life.
Going to Viet NamWhen I came out of the subway on my way to the Consulate, a half a block away there was a huge tree. Every day I used to stop at that tree and pray for two minutes. In my prayer, I used to go all the way to Viet Nam to protect a young boy who was the son of one of my disciples. I had given her the name Durga. Her original name was Irene Silver.
One day Durga had come to me crying. She said, “My son Neil has gone to Viet Nam and I am not getting any letter from him. I am so worried. Every day soldiers are being killed.”
I consoled her and said, “Do not worry. I am sure he is safe.” She thought that I was offering her ordinary human consolation. But every day I used to meditate and pray to the Supreme to send His Protection to Viet Nam.
Unfortunately, the mother did not believe me because she did not receive any letter from her son. I told her that the government would have informed her if her son had died. Finally I said, “All right, you will get a letter.”
One evening in Viet Nam, her son was sitting in a chair, quite relaxed. All of a sudden, somebody appeared before him. I said to him, “Your mother is worrying. Please write a letter to her. I am your mother’s spiritual Master.”
Not long afterwards, his mother received a letter from him. He wrote, “Mother, an Indian gentleman came up to me and said he is your spiritual Master. He looked at me and asked me to write you a letter and tell you not to worry.”
She showed me the letter when she came to the Centre. Can you believe it? Where is New York and where is Viet Nam? For eight or nine months I used to lean against that particular tree and pray before I went to work. And God did listen to my prayers. Her son came back from Viet Nam perfectly all right.
One day Durga invited me to her apartment to meet her son. I went with Alo. This boy did not care for spirituality, so he stayed upstairs. She was begging him to come down, but he did not want to. Finally, he condescended to come down.
As soon as he saw me, he was so startled because he recognised that I was the Indian man he had seen in Viet Nam. I also looked at him for two or three minutes. Then I said, “Ah, you are German. I can see you are German.” Suddenly he grabbed my hand and took me upstairs to his room. His room was flooded with German souvenirs and pictures of great German leaders. In his last incarnation he had been German.
Unfortunately, these experiences never change anybody’s nature. Nature changes only through prayer and meditation. Some years later I heard that this same young man was in jail in California for beating up his girlfriend.
My fleeting smileWhen I lived on 84th Street in Manhattan, the landlady became my disciple. One day she begged me to give a short interview to a friend of hers. The interview had not been arranged beforehand. She phoned me up and said, “On your way to the Consulate, come and speak to my friend for a few minutes.”
I was already running late, so I said that in the evening I could give this man an interview. But he told my landlady that he just wanted to shake hands with me.
I lived on the fourth floor. In those days I used to go upstairs running and come downstairs running. As usual, I came running down from the fourth floor and I passed by my landlady’s apartment. Her friend was there and I smiled at him. It was a matter of two seconds. Then I continued running out of the building because I was already so late for work.
In the evening, when I came back, I asked my landlady if her friend was waiting for me. She said, “No, your smile was enough. His problem was solved. He left ten dollars for you.”
My smile took away all his suffering.
A meeting with Paul RichardOne day a colleague of mine asked me if I would like to meet the great French savant Paul Richard, the husband of the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. I could not believe that he was still alive. I was under the impression that he had passed away many years ago.
On 29 April 1967 I went with my friend to an apartment on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and there I had a three-hour interview with Paul Richard. He was so nice to me, so affectionate, so compassionate.
In his room, he kept a small picture of Sri Aurobindo. He told me that Sri Aurobindo always used to call him “Brother,” and he also used to call Sri Aurobindo “Brother.” He had such love and respect for Sri Aurobindo.
He served the French Government. I believe that he was the French Consul in Algeria at one time. In 1910 he came to see Sri Aurobindo for the first time. In 1914 both he and his wife visited Sri Aurobindo. Then after four or five years, she came back alone.
In his later years, Paul Richard came to America to be with his sons, who were teaching here at a university.
He showed me a window in his room and said, “I vividly saw my Brother standing here.” One day before Sri Aurobindo passed on in 1950, he appeared to Paul Richard to bless him.
After the interview, I wrote everything down in Bengali. It filled thirty pages. Later I sent a photograph of our meeting to my family in the Ashram. When Paul Richard died not long afterwards, I wrote directly to the Mother to inform her.
He was an excellent writer. He wrote many books on India, and quite a few articles appeared in India appreciating his writings.
A divine warriorDuring our marathon interview, Paul Richard said to me:
“I see Nolini more as a divine warrior than as a great thinker. He is my Brother’s (Sri Aurobindo’s) earthly shield and Heavenly sword. His mind is illumined, his life is liberated. I admire Nolini.”
Nolini-da was my immediate boss at the Ashram.
Getting a green cardIt took me three years to get a green card. Dulal, Madhuri and Sudha were helping me. Then one disciple in the Puerto Rico Centre came forward unexpectedly. Her name was Rose. I gave her the name Mukti. One evening we had a meeting at the Centre and she was very, very moved by the meditation. Afterwards, she came up to me and said, “My brother, Sol, is an assistant in the Immigration Office in New York. If I can be of any help to you, please let me know.”
She telephoned her brother, and I went to see him when I returned to New York. She had told me that her brother would do anything for her. I was only a junior clerk, but the way he treated me was so nice. His name was Sol Mark. And Dulal’s name was Sol Montlack. He helped me to fill out all the forms and with so many other things that I had to do. Previously, the authorities had written to me that I had to get a letter from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram saying that I was qualified to teach people. I said to Sol, “I will not be able to ask them because I came here against their will.” So he smiled and cancelled that part. He himself answered many of the questions on my behalf. His last question was, “So, when are you planning to go to Russia or China?” I said, “I am not planning to go.” Then he gave me a broad smile. Later I found out that the American immigration authorities do not allow people with green cards to go to Russia or China.
Usually people have to go to the Immigration Office at least three times, but I went there only once. At the end of the interview, Sol Mark told me to continue working at the Consulate for two or three more months, not to take any risk. I worked up until the middle of June 1967 and then I gave up my job and went to Puerto Rico.
From Puerto Rico I wanted to go to Jamaica, West Indies, but I could not go without the green card. So I telephoned Sol Mark from Puerto Rico. He said, “When do you want to go to Jamaica?” I told him the date. He replied, “I will get it.” Then the conversation was over.
I thought that I might hear from him again in ten or eleven days, but in just two days the green card came in the mail. On the outside of the envelope was his name. He looked like Ashrita’s father. Usually he was very strict, but because of his sister he was so nice to me. This is how sisters and brothers make demands.
On the day that he promised me the card, I did something for his soul. And when I came back from Jamaica, how much I did for his soul! As soon as I received the card, I sent him a tie. Then at Christmas I gave him a beautiful present. He wrote me a thank-you note saying that he was so happy he could help me. He later became head of his department. Now he is retired and living in the Virgin Islands.
His sister, Rose, was our disciple for three years and then she went to live in Florida. Her husband was also very nice to me, although he did not become a disciple. We went to eat at their place in Puerto Rico several times. Once the husband was telling us that Sol was very bad. Meanwhile, Rose was defending her brother. For one hour, X, Sudha and I enjoyed their fight. The food was ready, but we could not eat until their fight was over!
I am so grateful to Rose. She was the one who saved me, the main instrument in getting the green card. Without it, I could not have lived in America for the past thirty-three years.
Part V — The first messages
New Year's Message for the year 1966May humanity climb up one rung in the ladder of divine growth, and realise in its soul the Sweetness, Joy, Light and Peace of the Supreme.
Out of the pure fulness of the heart, may the lips of Truth speak and the hands of Truth act in the year 1966.
The New Year — what can it teach us? It can teach us the secret of spiritual self-reliance. It can teach us how we ourselves can be our Masters and Saviours.
From the New Year we can learn that God is God only when God is OUR God and not MY God. From the New Year we can learn that Truth is Truth only when Truth is OUR Truth and not MY Truth.
At every moment it is we who can make ourselves a blessing to ourselves and to the world at large.
May the universal embrace of the New Year flower into a permanent smile of Victory on the Face of the Supreme.
1 January 1966
Motto of the Aum Centres[The Motto of the Aum Centres first appeared in the issue of AUM Magazine dated 27 April 1966.]
Man is Infinity’s Heart.
Man is Eternity’s Breath.
Man is Immortality’s Life.
New Year's Message for the year 1967Arise! Your Lord Supreme is crying for you.
Awake! Your Lord Supreme is waiting for you
In the Sea of Transcendental Consciousness.
Walk! Your Lord Supreme is expecting your sure and safe arrival.
March! It is you who will realise your Lord Supreme in this very life.
Run! It is you who will fulfil your Lord Supreme
In this life of yours here on earth.
Fly! Yours is the Goal of the ever-transcending Beyond.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Anniversary message of 13 April 1967My spiritual children,
If I have Love, if I have Compassion, if I have Light,
If I have Power, if I have Peace, if I have Delight,
Then it is all for you, all for you, all for you.
O my sweet children,
It is with you, for you and in you that I exist here on earth.
Part VII — AppendixCompiled with the most invaluable and compassionate assistance of Mr. B. Ramamoorthy.
Some members of the Indian Consulate 1964-1967Mr. S. K. Roy: Consul General of India. He was a former Major in the Indian army. When he was transferred back to India, Chinmoy wrote a poem for him and recited it at the Consul General’s farewell party. He was known as a warm and compassionate official. His wife’s name was Moina. He passed away in Delhi in 1993.
Dr. S. Gupta: Consul General of India. Dr. Gupta succeeded S. K. Roy. He was very well educated, with a Ph.D. from Oxford University. Before he joined the Indian Foreign Service, he was Professor of History at Allahabad University.
Mr. Lakhan L. Mehrotra: Consul (Passport and Visa). A scholar of ancient history, a linguist and a poet, Mr. Mehrotra was appointed lecturer at Allahabad University in the Department of Indian History. He became a member of the Indian Foreign Service in 1958. As Director of the Northern Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, he was the main advisor to the Dalai Lama when the latter sought refuge in India. He was later appointed Chargé d’Affaires of the Indian Embassy in Beijing, during which time he successfully negotiated for normalisation of India’s relations with China. From 1962-66 he served as Consul of India in New York with interim assignments as Chargé d’Affaires of India in Mexico and Cuba. In 1966 he was transferred from New York to Moscow as First Secretary. His distinguished career later included posts as Ambassador of India to Argentina and High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka. He then became Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. He is now retired and lives with his wife, Sheela, in India. Since meeting him again in 1977, when Mr. Mehrotra was Consul General of India in San Francisco, Sri Chinmoy has maintained a very close friendship with him. Sri Chinmoy visited him at his official residence in Sri Lanka in 1989 and they have met frequently in New York. The two correspond and exchange their literary works regularly.
Mr. P. A. Nazareth: Consul (Passport and Visa). In 1966, Mr. Nazareth succeeded Mr. Mehrotra. Mr. Nazareth has since served the Indian Government in many countries. In March 1987, he and his wife were special guests at a programme dedicated to India held at the United Nations in New York. This was sponsored by Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations. Sri Chinmoy met him again in Cairo in 1989 when Mr. Nazareth was serving as Ambassador of India to Egypt. He then became the Indian Ambassador to Mexico. His wife’s name is Isabel and he has a son, Anand, and a daughter, Pramila. Mr. Nazareth is now retired and living in India.
Mr. Bhalla: Consul (Administration).
Mr. Nirmaljit Singh: Consul (Information). He later died in a car accident.
Mr. Dhawan: Attaché (Administration). A strict disciplinarian and a somewhat feared figure at the Consulate, Mr. Dhawan was later transferred back to India.
The following twelve staff members all worked in the same office of the Passport and Visa Section as Sri Chinmoy during the years 1964-1967:
Mr. C. G. K. Menon: Section Officer. He now works for American Express in Fort Lauderdale.
Mr. Anil K. Mukherjee: Section Officer under Mr. Mehrotra. He was later transferred back to Delhi.
Mr. Krishan Chandra: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section. He later succeeded Mr. Mukherjee as Section Officer. Sri Chinmoy saw him again in Toronto in 1984.
Mr. N. C. Acharya: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section. Sri Chinmoy gave the name Bela to his daughter. In 1989 Sri Chinmoy lifted him at the Penta Hotel in Manhattan. He now lives part of the time in India and part of the time in the USA. He trained most of the members of the Passport and Visa Section.
Mr. B. Ramamoorthy: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section. He resigned in June 1966 to take up a lectureship in Economics at Corning Community College. He was subsequently Assistant Professor of Economics at Johnson State College in Vermont and Commonwealth University in Virginia. He has maintained an extremely close connection with Sri Chinmoy over the years. He is presently a business consultant and lives in Elmhurst with his wife, Lakshmi, and two sons, Madhu and Raghu.
Mr. Krishan Dhanda: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section. He now lives in New Jersey.
Rev. Vincent Jovial: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section. A Gujarati and a Christian priest.
Mr. Takore: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section.
Mr. Kapoor: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section.
Miss Kailash Narang: Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section.
Mrs. Carol Coutinhoe: Secretary.
Miss Vijaya Ramaswamy: Junior clerk. After many years, she visited Sri Chinmoy at his home to seek blessings for her child.
Other staff members:
Mr. Shivaram Trichur: Clerk (Accounts). Shivaram worked on the 4th floor of India House. He resigned in August 1964. He saw Sri Chinmoy again in 1970 at York University when he attended one of Sri Chinmoy’s lectures. He presently runs an Indian restaurant, Annapurna, in Toronto with his wife, Devavira, and is the leader of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Toronto. He visits Sri Chinmoy every few weeks and is extremely close to him.
Mr. Ramachandran Sastri: Shivaram’s brother. He worked as a clerk in the Consulate. He and his mother came to see Sri Chinmoy in New York in 1990 and Sri Chinmoy lifted them.
Mr. B. R. Gupta: Caretaker, India House. He gave Sri Chinmoy his first camera. He passed away in 1993.
Mr. Sher Singh: Security guard, India House. He sold Sri Chinmoy his first harmonium for $7. He was formerly a security officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs in India, but after his three years of service in New York were completed, he resigned from the government. He now works as a supervisor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and lives in Queens.
Ms. Mehru Jesia: Receptionist. She later married B. R. Gupta. She now lives in Queens. She came to see Sri Chinmoy at his tennis court when Mr. Mehrotra visited in 1991.
Mr. Ben Macwan: Assistant (Administration). He came to Sri Chinmoy’s 25th Anniversary function in Manhattan in 1989. He passed away in 1992.
Mr. Master: Librarian. He resigned in 1967 to work at a university library.
Mr. Ananda Mohan: Assistant to Consul (Information Section). He was also a journalist. He wrote a biography of Indira Gandhi. He and Sri Chinmoy have met many times over the intervening years.
Mr. Iqbal Singh: Security guard.
Mr. Ashok Choksi: Accounts Section. He prepared Sri Chinmoy’s paychecks.
Mr. C. R. Seshu: Assistant Director (Commercial Section). Now he is Professor of Economics at SUNY, New Paltz, NY. His wife’s name is Rani. He has two sons, Ramana and Murali. He came to see Sri Chinmoy at his tennis court in 1990 with Ramachandran Sastri, and Sri Chinmoy lifted him.
Mr. Balbir Singh Sahni: Assistant Director (Commercial Section). He later married Jean, who was secretary to Consul General S. K. Roy. Now he is Professor of Economics and Director of Graduate Programmes at Sir George Williams University in Montreal.
Mr. P. Ramanathan: Secretary to the Consul General. Sri Chinmoy met him again in 1994. He lives in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Mr. B. K. Sampath: Assistant (Administration). He now lives in Queens.
Mr. Hanu Agarwal: Accounts Section.
Mrs. Smith: Secretary
Mrs. Chipper: Secretary
Mrs. Chopra: Secretary
Miss Marjorie Johnson: Secretary
Some staff members in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations during the period 1966-67Mr. B. N. Chakravarty: Indian Ambassador to the United Nations. A Bengali. His office was on the second floor of India House, along with the Consul General’s office and the ballroom. He was a member of the Indian Civil Service. Sri Chinmoy wrote a poem for him and recited it at his farewell function. He was later appointed the first Governor of the State of Haryana in India.
Mr. Harshad Acharya: Assistant. The younger brother of N. C. Acharya. Sri Chinmoy shared an apartment near Columbia University with him and one other for six months. He now lives in Queens and came to see Sri Chinmoy in 1993 and 1994.
Mr. Rao K. Munjuluri: Assistant. He came to see Sri Chinmoy a few times in 1992 and 1993.
Editor's preface to the first editionSri Chinmoy came to New York on 13 April 1964. From June that year until June 1967, he worked as a Junior Consular Assistant in the Passport and Visa Section of the Indian Consulate General in New York City.
Although almost three decades have now passed by, Sri Chinmoy has often enchanted his disciples with his extremely sweet and vivid memories of those years. He recently said, “In those days I was poverty-stricken, but my heart was full of joy. In those days I used to play in the hope-garden; my heart of hope was blossoming.”
This volume presents some of Sri Chinmoy’s recollections about his colleagues, friends, early apartments and subway experiences.