Salutations, numbers 9-12

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Part I — Salutations to Florida

SLT 85-96. Sri Chinmoy made a short visit to Florida in November 1981.

Do you want a cigar?

The first day in Florida while I was running, I saw a young man smoking a cigar. He said to me, "Do you want to have a cigar?"

I waved my hand and said, "No, thank you."

The man ran after me and said, "You thank me and you are not taking one?"

This time I got mad at him, and he stopped bothering me.

Strengthening the chest

After fifteen minutes I saw a very nice old man running with his hands behind his head. He said to me, "Good morning."

I asked him, "Is there any reason why you are doing that?"

He answered, "To strengthen my chest."

In silence I said, "You don't need to, but I want to strengthen my chest."

A cold day

Another time I was running on a very cold day. Florida also can be quite cold in the winter. A newspaper boy saw me around five o'clock in the morning. He said to me, "Don't keep running. Go home. You will get frozen."

He advised me not to run, but on that day I ran thirteen miles.

On that cold day I ran by a girl waiting for the bus. Half an hour later, when I was returning, she was still waiting in that cold weather.

A cold day

One day I went to Sears because somebody told me that there was a section with a variety of birds. But there were no birds there; they had only bird food. It was quite cold, so I bought a long-sleeved T-shirt for nineteen dollars. Then, since it was cold, I put the shirt on in the store, and I was wearing it.

O God, one of the guards came up to me. He suspected that I had just taken the shirt, and he was about to ask me to show him the receipt. Usually, I never keep any receipts; that is not in my line. Luckily, this time I had put the receipt in my pocket, so I showed it to him. After I showed it to him, he said, "Oh no, I was not suspecting you." But he did take the receipt from me and look at it.

The toy elephants

The people at Sears told me about another shop very nearby which sold flowers, plants and so forth. When I went there, I saw two toy elephants for six dollars. Sometimes I tell you people what you were in your previous animal incarnations. In X's case, in her last animal incarnation she was an elephant, so I wanted to buy her these elephants. By this time she has a very large collection of elephants.

I said, "Let me buy these two toy elephants." I went to give the lady behind the counter six dollars. She said, "Why six dollars?"

I said, "It is mentioned there, six dollars."

She said. "The price is three dollars."

I said "Three dollars?"

She said, "Yes."

Here this lady was telling me that I was giving too much money, and just two minutes before that I was about to be arrested.

The combs and the beach towel

The same night Alo and I went to a store and saw a very nice comb. You pressed a button, and immediately the comb came out of the case. I said, "This is something cute. I will buy it for Pahar, our Centre barber."

I wanted to buy one dozen. The man said, "If you come back tomorrow, the price will be reduced."

Since I went to that store quite often, I said, "I will come back."

Then Alo saw a beach towel with a sea horse on it. She thought it was very nice and wanted to buy it. But the man didn't want to sell the one on display, and they said that they didn't have any more in stock.

The following day I went to the store to buy the combs. Two old ladies were working there. One was very fat; one was very thin. The fat one was very, very good, and the thin one was very, very bad.

I said, "Can you ask your boss if there is a reduction on these combs?"

The thin lady said, "How can we ask that?"

But the fat one said, "Why not? Let me ask."

Immediately the thin one became insecure and jealous and said, "I will go and ask him." She went away but she didn't ask him. When she came back she said, "The boss told me that I can give you ten per cent off."

If I hadn't begged her, she would never have told me about the ten per cent discount. Then I asked her about the towel again. She said, "They are $12.99. But you can't get it. We don't have any more in the store."

I asked, "Can I have this one?" I pointed to the towel hanging on display.

She said, "No, you can't have it. I don't have a young man working here today, and I can't climb up and get it myself." The towel was hanging near the ceiling, and one would have to climb up a ladder to get it. I said, "I can climb up and get it. I will be responsible."

She said, "No, you can't climb up. You are an old man."

Then the fat one said, "Let me go upstairs and see if we have any there."

The thin one insisted, "No, we don't have any." But the fat lady went upstairs anyway to look for the towel. I followed her. She looked in one place, but there was nothing there. Then she went to another place, where there were not supposed to be any towels, and she found them. She saw that the price was $8.99. She said, "That rogue! She told you thirteen dollars."

I gave the fat lady thirteen dollars and said, "Since you were kind enough to tell me the correct price, you keep the difference."

She said, "No, I can't. Why do I need money? My children are grown up. Now they have children. Why do I need money? I only want my family — my children and my grandchildren — to be kind to me."

When both of us reached the register the fat lady was still mad at the thin one for quoting a higher price. She pointed to the price of the towel and said to the thin lady, "Not $12.99!" The thin lady was a real rogue.

Buying a moustache bird

I went into a pet shop to buy a moustache bird. I was wearing shorts at the time. A young couple happened to be in the store, and the wife was a real joker. She came up to me and said, "What muscles you have! How I wish I had your thigh muscles!"

Her husband was so embarrassed. She asked, "Are you a good runner?"

I said, "No, I am a very bad runner."

She said, "But you have good, strong muscles."

The husband was embarrassed and he started laughing because she was laughing. Since he was there, I was polite to her.

There was also a taxi driver in the store who was from Stamford. He started telling me that his brother had a cockatiel. The young girl interrupted him to say, "My husband has given me three cages but no birds. Can you tell me what I am going to do with empty cages?

The owner said to the wife, "Why don't you buy a bird?"

She said to the owner, "I want a bird for twenty dollars. More than that I can't afford." The husband didn't say a thing.

Finally I bought my moustache bird. It was from India or Pakistan. The young girl said, "Don't forget to take care of the bird." Then she asked me how many birds I had.

I wasn't sure exactly how many birds I had. Recently Ranjana had told me about eighty-nine, so I bragged and said, "About a hundred."

She said, "You liar!"

I had to hear the word "liar" from her! I didn't argue with her. The taxi driver asked me, "Is it true?"

I said, "I have over eighty at least. I think I have eighty-nine."

I couldn't solve the mystery of why the young girl's husband didn't buy her any birds, just cages. Perhaps he wanted her to buy the birds herself, so afterwards she wouldn't say that she didn't like them.

The magic of the train

While I was running, I saw a train going by, and I stopped to watch it. After it passed by, even then I didn't have the inclination to start running again. I was only enjoying the magic sound of the train.

I really like train journeys. In my childhood my only desire was to work for a railroad. I never lost my fascination for trains. Even after realising God, I still have that fascination. So every time I see a train I get a very special thrill.

Airport rogues

I brought three birds to the airport with me to take back to New York. The last time I came back from Florida, some rogue airport workers charged me twenty-seven dollars for carrying a bird, but this time I didn't have to pay anything. Savyasachi put the birds in a box, and I kept the box with my hand luggage.

I was originally supposed to leave from Fort Lauderdale, but I was returning from Miami instead. The lady at the ticket counter asked her supervisor if there was any difference in the price of my ticket. The supervisor looked at my ticket and said, "Six dollars," very quickly. If I were supposed to pay extra, they would have told me. Since they did not ask me to stand in line and pay, that meant that they were supposed to give me back six dollars as a refund. But instead of giving me my refund, the lady said, "You don't have to stand here," and she told me to stand in another line at the boarding gate, beyond the place where they check your bags. I didn't have the heart to fight with them. They would have kept me for twenty minutes just for six dollars!

These two were not losing or gaining anything by not giving me the money. But who wanted to stand there and argue with them? The last time I flew back from Florida, the airline workers charged me twenty-seven dollars for the bird I was carrying, and then they put the money in their own pockets. The man from whom I bought the birds told me that he takes birds quite often on airplanes and never pays anything. He said that the men who charged me twenty-seven dollars last time at the airport had cheated me. But this time these people were not even gaining anything.

Part II — Salutations to Mexico

The blue birds

In Mexico City we went to a store where there were unbelievable birds. Had I been a millionaire, I would have bought them all, but instead I bought five. One bird I got was so beautiful. I couldn't have imagined that such a beautiful bird existed! It is called a golden pheasant. I have been to so many places and seen many, many beautiful birds. But all the birds we got that day were exceptionally beautiful, and I had never seen any of them before.

When I was about to pay for the birds, there were six persons standing near the cash register. One of the two blue birds flew out of the cage, but nobody noticed, including me. Then a young boy standing nearby grabbed the bird. It was only after he brought the bird back to us that we looked into the cage and saw that one bird was missing. After that we saw that the boy's thumb was bleeding. We thanked him, but the boy didn't speak English.

If he had not been kind enough to catch the bird, we would have had only one of the blue birds and not two.

Good and bad runners

One morning I saw Snigdha running. She was on one side of the street, and I was on the other side. She stops her watch when she stops running, even when she pauses for a minute at a side street.

Later that day we went to watch a three-mile race. There were many good runners and many bad runners. But the bad runners were many, many more in number.

A soul's message

The next morning while I was running seven and a half miles, Garima's soul sent me a message. Then two seconds later I saw Garima running. I was running on one side of the street, and she was running on the other side.

The show-off

Another morning Anupadi was showing off. For a while she was running near me, and then she went ahead. Her strides have become longer now. Previously her strides were so short!

The untouched wallet

One day in Mexico City I left my hotel room early in the morning, leaving one of my wallets on the dresser there. It had a large amount of money, both in American dollars and Mexican bills. I knew perfectly well that the wallet was in the hotel room. You can call it lethargy, or you can call it confidence and faith in the chambermaid, but I didn't take the trouble of going back during the day to get it.

I came back at night only to discover that my wallet was intact; not even a dollar was removed. I know how I keep my dollar bills, and the wallet had not even been opened. To have this kind of experience anywhere in the world is very, very, very rare.

So some people are very nice. I am Pranavananda's disciple. After he lost his wallet, he said, "Some people are space cadets." I still can't believe that I left my wallet on my dresser, and at night it was in perfect order.

Later I asked who the lady was who cleaned my room. Then I gave her some money because nothing had been stolen.

Lost pocket money

From my previous experiences I have learned always to carry money with me when I go running. While we were in Mexico, Alo sent one of my track suits to the laundry, and I am sure she didn't take out the money from my pocket. That money I never saw again. That time I had the opposite experience from the one with the chambermaid.

The hotel manager

The day before we left Mexico City, we went to pay the balance of our hotel bill. The people at the desk said it wasn't necessary for us to pay early. They asked us to come back in the evening.

It is very rare for hotel managers to be so nice. Usually they are very suspicious.

The shrunken shoes

Whenever I take off my shoes in the plane, afterwards I can't put them back on. This always happens to me! The same shoes, same legs, same feet — but I can't get them on. This has happened to me when I have gone to Mexico, Australia, Japan and many other places.

Indian-style shopping

At one place in Mexico City I spent forty-five minutes or more trying to buy some things for the San Francisco girls' singing group. But I had bad luck. Finally I got something in the Mazatlan market.

The Mazatlan market reminded me of India, where I was born and brought up. There they had little shops where you could bargain with the people as much as you wanted to.

The first time I went to the market, Hashi was the interpreter. The rule was never to accept what they said, because they knew you were not going to buy it at that price. No matter what they said first, you had to ask them to come down.

The opportunist

This is a story about your Guru, about what kind of opportunist he is. In Mazatlan every day my mantra was that nobody should follow me when I went to the market. Everybody listened, but sometimes unconsciously people made mistakes.

One day, after I said that nobody should follow me, whom did I see in the market? Nayana! So I gave her an undivine look and she disappeared.

Then I bought something for Kanan's singing group. Just then I saw Hashi, and I gave her a very divine look. Do you know why? So that I could give her the things that I had bought. After I handed her the packages, I said, "Now, go away!" Then again I didn't let anybody come near me.

The extra member

Before I went to buy gifts for Kanan's group, again and again I had asked him how many were in his group. Each time he had told me that there were ten members.

O God, right after I had bought ten gifts, I saw Kanan in the market. He said, "O Guru, our group has eleven members. But I won't mind if I don't get a gift."

Then I told him that he was hopeless.

Dog attacks

The morning of our seven-mile race in Mazatlan, I ran seven miles by myself just before the race started. At least four times I was attacked by dogs. Perhaps the reason they attacked me was because I was wearing a red shirt. When they came at me, I stood there very bravely until they stopped barking at me. In one case a dog crossed the street to where I was running, but it didn't bite me.

Especially when you are running fast, you get alarmed when you suddenly see a dog. If you are running slowly, it is not such a shock. In my case I was going so slowly — at bullock-cart speed.

None of the disciples were attacked by dogs during the race. That was because they were running in a group.

Birthday driver

Later that day I went out to go shopping, but it was cold. I thought perhaps X would have a car, so I came back to the Social Security Building, which we were using for our meals and functions. By that time X, Y and Z had all disappeared. But who was there? Pragati. It was her birthday, so I asked her to take me in her car. So Pragati had good luck on her birthday. She drove me here, there everywhere. Then Tanima joined us. After that we saw Garima walking, so we also stopped for her. Then again we went to the market.

Buying a sari

Since it was Pragati's birthday and she was driving me, I said, "Let me buy her a gift." I entered into a fabric store, but they didn't have a proper sari. I asked, what is the price for a yard of this particular fabric?"

The lady said, "Fifty pesos."

I said to myself, "Let me not bargain, since I like the fabric. Today let me be a different person."

So I said to her, "All right. I would like six yards."

The lady started measuring it, and I began browsing in the store. By the time I came back, the fabric was all cut and properly folded. She had put it on the counter and had written down on a piece of paper, "Seventy-five pesos times six yards."

I said, "You told me it was fifty pesos."

She said, "No, while you were looking around the store, I saw that the actual price was ninety pesos. I told you fifty, but I was wrong."

I said, "Then you should have asked me if I wanted to pay more than fifty."

She said, "From ninety I have made it seventy-five."

She was showing me the price. It said ninety. But God knows if she had written it after she told me the price.

I said to myself, "Since she has told me one lie, how can I believe that this is six yards?"

I asked her to measure the fabric in front of me. She pretended it was beneath her dignity to do this, so I started measuring it myself. It was just a little over four yards — not even four and a half. Instead of fifty pesos, it had become seventy-five, and instead of six yards, it had become four.

Then she came up to me and said, "I told you fifty, so you can have it for fifty pesos a yard." She spoke good English. There was no problem with the language. Perhaps if it had been six yards, the length of a proper sari, I would have paid seventy-five pesos. But it was not even four and a half yards, so I just left the store.

That was my first bad experience with a Mexican shopkeeper. All frustration! If I had believed the lady that it was six yards, I would have given it to Pragati. Perhaps she would never have told me that it was only four yards. She would have kept it on her shrine instead of wearing it.

The pair of sandals

Then I saw a pair of white, plastic sandals in another store. I said, "These are very nice." But when I went to look, I saw that they were not actually a pair. They were two different sizes. One was size eight and one was size six.

I took the sandals to the shopkeeper and asked her to give me either a six or an eight, since she didn't have seven or seven and a half. She said that she only had this one pair of sandals. She said, "No, you take these."

Was I going to buy one size six and one size eight? Naturally, I didn't buy them. That was my second experience.

Success at last!

Then I went into another store. There I saw a very simple but very beautiful deer made of styrofoam. I said, "Here I will have no problems regarding the size." A deer stands for Pragati's speed, so I bought the deer.

I said, "If the deer wins the race, she will have victory. A peacock means victory." So I bought her a peacock as well.

Wasting time

Another day in Mazatlan I went to a sporting goods store. The two ladies there were so callous. They were just wasting my time. After I had stood there for ten minutes, I gave up and left.

Employees only

That same day I went to the store on the ground floor of the Social Security Building and bought Alo a track suit. There was a sign that said the store was for employees only, but I didn't understand the sign because it was in Spanish. Perhaps they thought that I was an employee.

The next day I went there again, but this time they said I couldn't go in. They must have realised that I was not working there.

Thanks a lot

The day before we left Mazatlan, I was running early in the morning. At one point a small car that was going quite fast came near me and stopped. A little boy five or six years old got out and asked me for directions in Spanish. He said three lines of Spanish, and I could not understand anything. I had been running fast, doing speed work, and I was exhausted. I don't know Spanish, and I was so tired that I couldn't talk. I was helpless.

When the boy saw that I didn't understand him and also that I was too tired to talk, he said very soulfully "Thanks a lot." There was no sarcasm involved. Then he ran back and entered into his father's car.

Another day while I was running in Mazatlan very early in the morning, I saw an American running. This man I had previously seen playing tennis. He was bearded and not very nice-looking. He asked me the time. So I said, "Five fifty-six."

Then he said, "Damn you! Why can't you say 'four minutes of six'!"

I never use the expression "thanks a lot," but I told him, "Thanks a lot," and continued running.

An Acapulco welcome

Sometimes when I first arrive in a country or city, the soul of that place will greet me at the airport. Sometimes after a few hours or a day or two it comes to greet me. Other times I am greeted even before I arrive — either on the plane or at the previous place I am visiting. Sometimes the soul of one country or city comes to the previous place to escort me to its own place.

In Acapulco the soul of the city greeted me one morning when I was coming by taxi from my hotel to the hotel where the disciples were staying. At first the taxi driver did not understand my pronunciation when I said, "Hotel Versailles," so I showed him my key where the name of the disciples' hotel was written. I didn't see any meter inside the taxi, so I asked him how much it would cost. He said, "Forty pesos." Then he said to me, "Hindu?"

I said, "Yes, Hindu."

Then he put his hand on my shoulder very hard and said, "Amigo!"

As soon as he touched me on the shoulder, right on the windshield of his taxi I saw the soul of Acapulco welcoming me. The taxi driver was the instrument. This time the soul greeted me through an outer gesture.

Unfortunately, the taxi driver was a rogue. He saw the key, but he wanted to leave me off seven or eight minutes' drive from the hotel. When I showed him the key again, from forty pesos the fare rose to eighty pesos.

Three countries in one

Acapulco is a combination of India, America and Switzerland. At one place it looks like Switzerland, at another place it looks like India and at another place it looks like America. It has everything.

The moustache combs

In Acapulco I went to the market with Garima and Niriha. I got a few things and also some nice brooches for people who had not come to Mexico. The man selling the brooches wanted to fool us. They were butterflies and he was saying they could fly.

At one point I saw some tiny combs. I thought they were real combs to comb your hair. Niriha gave me proper wisdom. She said they were not hair combs; they were moustache combs.

I asked, "Who has a moustache?"

Niriha said, "Rabindra."

The man was asking four dollars for the combs. I definitely wanted to buy them, but, as usual, I wanted to bargain. Sometimes the shopkeepers pay no attention to the customers. I was standing there arguing to see if he would lower the price, but the man wasn't paying any attention to me. Finally I went away without buying the combs.

The bottle thief

Another time in Acapulco, Pulak bought a soda for me and Rabindra was holding it. O God, the store owner started screaming at us to give the bottle back. Rabindra was pretending he didn't understand.

Shopping with the disciples

I was out shopping in Acapulco when I saw Shephali buying a very expensive gift. I said to her, "You are the richest person!" I didn't know she was buying the gift for me. Lavanya was standing nearby, but she didn't see me.

Then Subala and Chandika were fighting at the counter over who was going to pay for something. I wanted to go and pay, but I was engrossed in buying something else at the time. Later I was told that Chandika was having difficulty finding her money.

The circus

In Acapulco we went to see a circus which I liked very much. If we had not had anything else to do that night, I would have stayed to see it again. That kind of circus gives me innocent joy. Some of the acts were daring; others were absolutely easy.

The run in the dark

One morning I ran seven miles while it was still very dark. When it is dark, you forget about speed. You feel that as long as you continue running, it is enough. The first mile I did in nine minutes and the last was at an eight-thirty pace. Altogether I averaged only a nine-minute pace, so God knows how slowly I ran the other five miles. A nine-minute pace is very bad. Of course, I was not racing. But if it had not been dark, I would have taken off at least fifteen seconds per mile.

Counting the change

Later that day I wanted to buy a dress for Shubhra for her birthday. The price was a hundred and seventy pesos, so I gave the lady two hundred. As she was giving me my change, I was listening to her count. After twenty-four, she said, "Thirty." I hadn't watched her, but it sounded wrong to my ear, so in front of her I started counting the change. She had only given me twenty-five pesos.

Part III — Salutations to Puerto Rico

Send a prayer

I was standing on line to get my seat assignment on the plane to Puerto Rico. The ticket agent was taking care of the man in front of me. All of a sudden the ticket agent said to me in a very contemptuous way, "Are you going first class?"

I answered, "Yes. I am."

Then she said to me, "Smoking or non-smoking?" in the same nasty tone of voice.

I said, "Non-smoking." Then I said, "What is the matter with you so early in the morning?"

She said, "Man, my husband is in the hospital. I am worried!" She was white, not black, but she spoke like a black lady.

I said, "Just because you are worried, do you have to be so nasty?"

She said, "Send a prayer to him."

I said, "I have already sent one."

Then she put a sticker with my seat number on my ticket and gave it back to me.

The box of ERG

Ashrita had put a big box of ERG with my luggage for Bansidhar to use in our marathon. When my luggage passed through the machine, the inspector said something to me half in English and half in Spanish.

I said, "Please tell me in English."

She said, "What is in this box?"

I said, "ERG."

She said, "ERG? What's that?"

I said, "You don't know what ERG is?"

She said, "No!"

I said, "Runners use ERG."

Then she said, "Wait." Four or five minutes I waited. Then I asked the inspector, "Have you sent for someone?"

She said, "No, I am waiting for someone to come."

A very fat old lady was passing through the line. She had overheard our conversation, and she got the point. She turned around and said to the inspector either "Honey!" or "Dummy!" Then she said, "My grandson lives on ERG. In the New York Marathon he did so well."

Then the inspector allowed me to go through the line. She told me to go in Spanish.

The grandmother and mother

There were two ladies sitting near me on the plane. One was an old lady, a grandmother, and the other was her daughter, whose son had just died. The mother had her arm around the grandmother, and she was consoling her. They were both crying.

At one point the mother said, "I am his mother. Do you think I didn't love him?"The grandmother said, "Yes, you loved him, but I loved him much, much more than you did. Now keep quiet!"

So the mother kept quiet. In this way the mother was insulted by the grandmother.

The Indian

The man who was sitting next to me on the plane had three newspapers: the New York Times, the Daily News and the Post. He was reading the Daily News and the other two papers were lying next to him. After an hour a lady came up to him and said, "Sir, hello. Can I borrow your New York Times? I see you are not reading it."

The man answered, "No, you can't!"

The lady said, "But you have three newspapers."

Again he said, "No, no!"

From his accent I could tell that he was an Indian. Previously I had noticed that he had dark skin, but I had been in my own world.

I turned to him and said, "Where do you come from?"

He said, "India." Then he asked me, "Where are you from?" I answered, "India."

I said I was from Bengal, and he told me he was from Bombay. I said, "You have three newspapers. You can't give her one?"

He said, "A few days ago I took an oath that I will never do anything for an American. I will not do any favours for any Americans. I hate them, I hate them!"

"Where are you living?" I asked.

"America," he said, "but that is between the government and me."

We were speaking in English since I didn't know Gujarati and he didn't know Bengali. Strangely enough, we also came back on the same flight. We saw each other before we entered into the plane. He was carrying a box that contained a wine bottle. This time he was in first class and I was in economy class.

Govinda's restaurant

While I was in Puerto Rico I took Shubhra to do a little shopping. After that we went to an Indian restaurant called Govinda's. A few years ago when I went there, I told the workers there that I had known their Guru, that he used to come to the Indian Consulate and talk to us. One disciple said, "You are so fortunate that such a great soul blessed you."

This time, as soon as I entered the restaurant, a young black man came up to me and said, "Namaste, Guruji, Namaste! I went to New York in 1974 for your initiation. I used to go to your St. Louis Centre. I came five or six times, and then I had a dream that you would initiate me. So I went to Jamaica. You gave a concert there and your meditation was so powerful. Even now it is still so vivid in my consciousness. I went to be initiated by you and I saw Alo Devi. She greeted me with kindness and said that you would take me to the destined Goal.

"Once I even came to meditate at a meeting held in your backyard. As soon as you came out, everybody stood up and meditated so powerfully, with such love and devotion. Again I asked for initiation, but Alo Devi said that you rarely initiate people outwardly. So right from New York I went to India and got initiated by Swami Bhaktivedanta."

Again and again this young man came to me with folded hands to tell me how powerful my meditation was.

I bought food for Shubhra and myself. Then I gave the lady at the counter a ten-dollar bill. It was the same old lady who had been there the last time I had come. She gave me five dollars and five cents change. Right in front of the counter was a box marked "Donations." So I put the five dollars in the box. The restaurant was self-service. I thought that Shubhra had got dal for me, and she thought that I had got it. She hadn't taken any and I hadn't taken any either. So we went back and got some dal. They charged us one dollar for that, even though I had just put in a five-dollar donation. Business is business!

As we were leaving, the young man came up to me with his Master's biography. He said, "I will be so grateful if you take this book." As a sign of respect he gave the book to Shubhra to give to me instead of handing it to me directly. He said, "Please give this book to Guruji."

Then I said, "I can tell you an amusing incident about your Guru. One time when he came to the Indian Consulate, he was very mad at four or five of his disciples. They had taken his typewriter and thrown it out of the window. It had fallen on the street and broken into pieces. They had also stolen his Bengali manuscripts, because they thought that they contained occult knowledge. That is why he called them beasts."

The boy said, "That very incident is described in this book."

This disciple was given a long Indian name by his Master. It started with Mani, which means ruby. He was very sweet.

Running the marathon

I ran ten miles in our Sri Chinmoy Marathon in San Juan. Many of the runners recognised me. About a hundred people joined, but only two were women. There were national guardsmen in uniform helping out in the race, since we had only nine disciples there. We got a lot of help from the guards and other organisations. Everywhere people gave out water, ERG and time splits. The time splits were in Spanish. I would say, "Please tell me in English." Then they would tell me after I had already gone ten metres past them.

We had to do five and a half laps on the track before leaving the stadium. For the good runners they kept track of the laps. But for the runners like me, who cared? If we deceived anyone, it did not matter since we were not going to get any place. So they did not count our laps.

Even after one mile it was so hot! You just died! I ran five miles at an 8:43 pace. Then I started walking and running. I would run three hundred metres and walk thirty or forty because I had a lot of pain in my foot. In this way I completed ten miles with an average pace of 9:24. Then it started raining heavily.

The winner got cramps at twenty-four miles. Only with greatest difficulty he kept going and stood first. The second runner was only a hundred metres behind him. Both of them entered into the stadium at practically the same time. Last year's best time was 2:27, but this year the winner finished in 2:37 because of his cramps.

At the awards ceremony afterwards there was a large banquet. I would say one line thanking everyone, and Uttama would translate it into ten lines. Usually he translates exactly what I say, but on that day he was elaborating and elaborating.

The Director of the Montreal Marathon happened to be in Puerto Rico on that day, and he had signed up to run in the race. The Montreal Marathon is a very big race, with eight to ten thousand people. He had registered, but then on the day of the marathon, he got sick. He did come to the awards ceremony after the race, but I was in a terrible hurry to catch my plane. Otherwise, I would have spoken to him.

The sympathetic inspector

I got two birds in Puerto Rico and I wanted to bring them back to New York. The pet shop told me they were Quaker parrots.

Usually you need a certificate to bring birds into the United States. When I went to get the certificate, they told me it would take four or five days. So I couldn't get it.

When I arrived at the airport, the inspector opened my bag and saw the box with the birds in it. He told me, "I have to see the birds. If they are very small, I will allow you to take them. Otherwise, I will have to charge you. And if they are very rare, you will need special permission to take them."

I said, "Just yesterday I came here and today I am leaving. How could I get a certificate, since it takes four or five days?"

He asked, "Why did you come here?"

I said, "I came here to run the marathon."

He said, "What marathon?"

I said, "The Sri Chinmoy Marathon."

He said, "The marathon of Master Sri Chinmoy?" He did not know who I was. He just knew about the Sri Chinmoy Marathon from the radio and newspapers.

I said, "Yes."

He said, "How did you do?"

I said, "I ran only ten miles."

He said, "Poor man," and he didn't even open the box with the birds. He just let me go through.

The stewardess

On the plane I was sitting in the front row of seats near the wall where they show the movie. I had a bag with me which I put at my feet. The stewardess, a black lady, said, "You can't put it there. You have to put it in the cabinet."

Inside my bag was the box with the birds in it. If I didn't keep my bag open, I was afraid the birds might die. So as the stewardess was putting the bag into the closet I said, "I would like to open up the zipper on the bag. There is something in there."

She laughed and laughed at me. After fifteen minutes, when the plane was about to take off, she closed the cabinet and locked it. I was worried that perhaps there was not enough oxygen for the birds, but the seatbelt sign was on, so I stayed in my seat. Finally, after fifteen or twenty minutes the sign went off.

I went to the stewardess and said, "Please, I have some birds in the cabinet. Can I get them out?"

There was a sign on the cabinet that said while the plane is leaving the ground and while it is landing, the cabinet cannot be opened. But even though the plane was in the air, the stewardess said, "We are not authorised to open it."

Then I went to a steward, a black man, and I said, "Really, I don't want my birds to die."

He said, "We are not authorised to open the cabinet, but I will do it for you."

When he opened it, I immediately took out the box and put it in front of me. Then the stewardess came near me and called out to the steward, "Robert, how are your birds doing?"

She was bothering that fellow because he had helped me. So I looked at the stewardess and showed her a very disturbed face. Then she smiled at me and said, "What would you like to drink, sir?"

I said very abruptly, "Seven-up."

Then she brought it for me.

Beside me was a couple from Syracuse. The lady was so nice. She had heard my conversation with the stewardess and was cursing her. She said, "Some of these stewardesses have no feeling."

The husband asked me, "Do you think the birds are alive?"

I shook the box and said, "I think they are alive." The husband was so happy to hear that. The wife continued to curse the stewardess.

The tooth problem

Before I left for Puerto Rico, my dentist said that my teeth were in "top shape." But while I was in Puerto Rico, I had such tooth pain! My gums were badly swollen and I had an abscess. So I had to take penicillin, this drug and that drug. What an experience!

I went to one dentist, a young man, who said to me, "I have seen you many times, not in this capacity, but in another capacity." He had seen me many times on television in Puerto Rico.

The following day when I went back, he said, "It is a great pleasure to serve you. You are a man of insight." Then he said, "But I am sorry, I can't help you."

He refused to take money for the x-rays he had taken.

The excellent magician

In Puerto Rico we went to see the performance of a man from Cuba who had been a magician for many years. It was excellent, but from the beginning to the end, Alo didn't like it because the magician was telling all lies.

In the beginning of the performance he did a mind-reading act. He looked into a crystal ball and said he clearly saw that somebody in the audience had a particular problem. He said that this person had sat for an examination and was worrying like anything whether he would pass or fail. Then he said, "Now, if the person I am speaking about is here, please raise your hand." Someone raised her hand and everyone was so moved. Then two other ladies stood up and said, "Shame, shame! She works for you. She was at the gate collecting tickets. She only changed her dress." So the trick was ruined.

Then the magician said that somebody else in the audience was working very hard to discover something, and he asked whoever it was to stand up. This person was also one of the magician's workers. Stupid fellow, he started to get up but then he hesitated because he was afraid of being challenged like the other lady. Then another fellow who was sitting in the audience pulled him up. Alo said, "Look at this!"

Then the magician hypnotised a young girl. She was his daughter. He told her to stand up and then he took out a stick and put it right under her and raised her sideways off the ground so that she was floating in the air. Bansidhar had gone to the stage to be a helper. Later he told us that he had clearly seen that the girl had a very thin but very strong iron plate inside her trousers. So when the magician was doing all this, one of his assistants was holding the girl up with wires attached to the iron plate. At one point during the performance, the magician entered into a big cauldron filled with boiling water, and then they put on the lid. Bansidhar and three other observers were watching. Bansidhar said that he had seen another compartment underneath the cauldron where the magician could move.

At another time the magician asked a little boy from the audience, "Will you allow me to chop your head off?" The little boy ran away. Then another one came up on the stage. He was about ten years old, and he was laughing while the magician was chopping off his head.

At another point, a lady was lying on a bed, and the magician said that with his occult power he would make her levitate. Then he passed his stick near her, and the lady went up.

Then the magician asked a young girl, "Tell me correctly, who discovered America?"

The girl said, "Hernandez Colon," their former Governor, my friend. She was a little girl, so everybody laughed.

The "San Juan Star" had said that his performance was excellent — the best in San Juan. That's why we went to see him. But Ashrita is a far better magician. When Ashrita performs, quite a few things fool me. But here, four or five things I could see how he did, and some of them I could even do myself. But we knew it was all in fun. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

The Canadian magician

The day after we saw his performance, some other magicians who didn't claim to have occult power spoke against this man in an article in the newspaper. One of those who spoke against this Cuban magician was a magician from Toronto who happened to be in Puerto Rico at the same time. He could not bear the way the man we had seen was getting name and fame. So he invited the reporter from the "San Juan Star" to see his own performance. He told the reporter that he was a great magician and that he had even defeated Houdini by forty-five minutes in escaping from jail. He said that on one occasion Houdini had not even been able to escape from jail. Houdini had had all kinds of keys hidden away, but he could not open the lock. So he told the jail guard that something was wrong. The guard laughed and said, "The gate was not locked!"

This Canadian magician wanted to show his capacity. So first he took a spoon and broke it. Then another spoon appeared out of the blue. Next he took the spoon and started banging it on the table. Suddenly it became twelve spoons. Then the magician asked the reporter to give him a dollar bill and said he could turn it into a ten-dollar bill. So the reporter gave him a dollar bill, and immediately he turned it into a ten-dollar bill. Afterwards, a friend of the reporter came running to the Canadian magician with three dollar bills, hoping to get thirty dollars. He knocked and knocked on the magician's door, but the magician would not let him in.

More magic

In India we have a magician like Houdini. People hide a certain kind of mineral. Then they blindfold the magician, and he finds it — even if he has to walk three miles to the place where it is hidden. This is our occultism. He is considered to be as great as Houdini. His son has written a book about him.

Once a magician came to the ashram. He gave a ring to the Mother, and she was holding it. Then, in two seconds that same ring disappeared from her hand and appeared in his hand inside a handkerchief.

Next he showed us some ink. Then he threw the ink at the Mother and it turned into flowers. He said, "I don't want to ruin your clothes."

Then the magician threw a rope up into the air. It stayed in the air and he started climbing it. But that was not enough. In front of everybody he suddenly disappeared. Many people have written books about the Indian rope trick.

Another Indian trick is when they cover the magician's eyes and then place a coloured handkerchief in front of his face. They ask, "What colour is it?" and immediately the magician identifies the colour. These magicians are so tricky. When they do this trick, they stand on a small platform which has a hole in it. There is a tiny string which goes through the platform and is attached to one of the magicians feet. If the colour is red, the person with the string pulls two times; if it is green, three times. The magician says that he has occult power, but actually someone is telling him what to say.

When I was six or seven years old, I tried some magic tricks. Even now I can still do a few tricks. One of the tricks that the Cuban magician did in Puerto Rico I showed to Bansidhar at the Centre the following day. He said, "How did you do it?" He couldn't believe the trick!

Part IV — Salutations to Bermuda

The lost ticket

The day I left for Bermuda, Savyasachi drove me to Kennedy Airport. X, Y and Z also came in the car. At the airport everything was fine. I passed through the check-in area and then, at the last point where they give the boarding passes, I showed my ticket. They said, "This is the return ticket. Where is the front part?" O God, I didn't have any idea where it was. By this time the girls had left the area, so I was absolutely panicking. Luckily, they had not yet left the airport, and I ran and caught up with them. They told me that the first part of the ticket was inside my pocket. Ranjana had put it there, but I had forgotten.

On the plane I was inspired to write fifty-eight poems. That saved me! Before the flight I had said that I would not eat anything; I would take only tea. So I just wrote and wrote, and I didn't eat at all.

When I arrived in Bermuda, a man from immigration asked me how many times I had come to Bermuda.

I said, "Four times."

He said, "That means you like it."

I said, "Definitely I like it!"

The man said, "That means you have friends here."

I said, "I don't have any friends, but I have seen some good people here and I like the place."

He checked all my things very nicely but didn't find anything for my friends.

The hundred-dollar room

I stayed at the Princess Hotel. It was supposed to be quite elegant, but inside I saw only dirt and filth. Everything was broken and everything smelled. My room number was 226, but I had to press "3" in the elevator to go to the second floor.

In that place everything went wrong. When I went to take a shower, in a few minutes the hot water became unbearably hot and there was no cold water. This was a one-hundred-dollar room. Forty dollars would have been more than enough!

Going to Russia

At around ten o'clock at night I ordered food: coffee, french fries, chilled soup and plain salad. A black girl said, "Please tell me what kind of dressing you want."

I said, "I don't know. Any dressing."

Then she asked me, "How old are you?"

I said, "Fifty."

Then she said to me, "Grandpa, I am sending you Russian dressing. I will send you to Russia."

I said, "How I wish I could go to Russia!" This was our joke.

When I ordered, they told me that in half an hour they would send the food to my room. After an hour had passed I phoned and said, "Please cancel my order; it is getting late." But they said they had just sent it. Finally the food came, but unfortunately it was not good.

When they gave me the bill I just signed it without looking at it. In the morning I saw that it had come to $17.50! Why? There was a service charge.

Long legs

The next morning I went out to run at five o'clock. I was running right in front of the hotel. Seventy or eighty metres I ran. Then I stopped, and then again I ran. I did this seven times. The weather in Bermuda was like Chicago: very windy! At times you couldn't even walk, so how was I going to run?

There were about seven or eight taxis in front of the hotel. One taxi driver, an old man, was joking with me. He came very near me and was watching me. Then he said to me, "Champ, you have two long legs. Champ, you have long legs, long legs!" I was wearing shorts, although it was quite chilly. He was a gentleman, so he was wearing trousers.

It was so dangerous there. There was no proper sidewalk. I saw so many scooters. How fast they went! It reminded me of our vacation in Bermuda a few years ago.

The Waterloo hotel

Later that morning I walked across the street to the Rosenden Hotel, because I didn't like the Princess. The Rosenden was a very, very nice place, and the man there was also very, very nice. I said, "All right, I shall take a room here." I told him that I would be back in an hour. I sincerely meant it!

Then while walking I passed the Waterloo Hotel, and I remembered that the previous time I had stayed at the Waterloo. I went inside and the old lady at the desk jumped up. Immediately she recognised me. She said, "I remember you! Your room near the water is unfortunately occupied." In that room I wrote fifty songs. "I shall show you another room. The regular price is $135, but now it is off-season so the price has come down to $90. Last time you didn't eat breakfast. If you don't eat breakfast, the price becomes $70, so the total with tax will be $80.50. Are you ready to take it?"

I said to myself, "How does she still remember that four years ago I didn't have breakfast?" I was very, very happy about the idea of going back to the Waterloo. It was only two blocks from the Princess. I said to myself, "Definitely I will take the Waterloo. Waterloo is so famous because of Napoleon!"

But, O God! The wind was so strong! While I was walking back to the Princess, it pushed me so hard — as if I were a cotton ball! It felt like I was running at a six-minute pace instead of just walking. When I reached the Princess Hotel, I couldn't move because the wind seemed to be all inside my back — it was so stiff! What could I do? The Princess Hotel was bad, and the other two places were so good. Still, instead of changing hotels, my decision was to come back home to Queens.

The phone call

Around nine o'clock that morning I tried to phone Alo in Mexico. The phone rang and rang but nobody answered at her hotel. The operator asked if she should keep ringing and I said, "I will be very grateful."

After twenty times I told her, "Let us stop."

She said, "Fine," and it was all over.

O God! At twelve o'clock, when I went to check out, the girl had put a telephone charge of $27 on my bill, and I hadn't even gotten the party on the phone! I said to myself, "How can it be?"

At the desk I asked a man, "If I didn't get the party, why did I get a bill? It is impossible! Is this a service charge?" He said, "No, no, for this we don't have a service charge." But God knows for how many other things they did have a service charge! Just to take food upstairs they charged seven or eight dollars.

I was arguing with him, saying that my call was never completed. I said, "I am going to miss my plane. For God's sake give me the phone and let me speak to the operator."

The man said, "The girl went upstairs and she has not come back."

I said, "Either ask the girl to come down or let me go up to ask her."

I was getting annoyed. I was not going to pay $27 when I didn't get the party on the phone. I went to speak to the manager, a black man. He said, 'Hello! Do you recognise me? Do you recognise me?"

I said, "No."

He said, "I recognise you. Several years ago you were at the Sherwood Hotel with so many students. Charlie still remembers you. Now what has happened?" I said, "I did not get my party on the telephone, but they say I have to pay $27 for the call."

So he phoned the man at the desk and said, "What are you doing? Tell the truth! This is such an important person." What he heard from the man at the desk God alone knows, but to me he said, "Finished! You don't have to pay."

So the manager recognised me and said I was an important person. He used to come to the Sherwood Hotel. Now the name has changed. First it was the Eagle's Nest and now it is the Hamiltonian. Charlie still remembers me. He is the owner of the tennis store at that hotel — a tall, thin man. I do not remember seeing this manager, but he remembered me and he saved me $27.

Dancing in the park

I went to the airport, but I had a two-hour wait, so I went to Georgetown. There I was watching the water and wondering how I was going to kill time. Right in front of me there were twenty elderly women in a park. All of a sudden, some kind of music came from a house and they all started dancing!

Then I went to a restaurant and waited, waited, waited. Instead of being at the airport, at least I was near some hotels.

The flat tyre

To go back to the airport I took a taxi. The taxi fare in Bermuda starts with eighty cents. I never look at the meter, but this time, after we had covered fifty metres, I happened to look at it. O God! It said $3.10. I said to the driver, "I just entered into the cab. How can it be $3.10 already?"

He said, "Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry." Then he changed the meter back to eighty cents. We covered another two hundred metros and boom! We had a flat tire.

The driver, an old man, said, "You are a bad man; that is why we got a flat tire."

I said, "Either I am bad or you are bad or both of us are bad. What am I going to do?"

He asked me to give him a hand. What could I do? I could only get out of the taxi. I got out, but it took him such a long time. He was an old man, and he could barely get out of the car, but I could not give him any help. I just looked at him sympathetically.

I saw two or three taxis going from Georgetown towards the airport, but they would not stop. Nobody was sympathetic. After some time I raised my hand and one particular man stopped. As soon as he saw us he started singing, "Flat tire!" He was amused.

I said, "Just take me to the airport for whatever you want to charge."

He said, "Three dollars."

I gave him three dollars, and he said, "It will take only five minutes. I also am going there."

I don't blame you

When I arrived back at the airport, the lady at the counter looked at my ticket. She saw that I was supposed to stay there for three days but I was leaving after one day. She said to me, "Why are you not staying here?"

I said, "I don't like this place at all." There was no sun, and it was dark and cloudy.

She said, "I don't blame you."

Paying the penalty

I didn't have to pay the telephone bill, but I did have to pay a penalty to the airline. The price of my ticket had been fifty dollars less because I was on a three-day excursion. When I changed my ticket, I had to pay fifty dollars extra. So twenty-seven dollars I saved, but fifty dollars I lost. Still, I was happy to come home because here at any time I can get heat — at least from the radiator.

In Bermuda it rains only twenty days a year, but one of those days was when I was there!

Rain in Bermuda

Another time I went to Bermuda for three days alone. The hotel was beautiful. It was near the water. But that time also it was raining heavily the whole time and I could not even go out. I only went across the street once to a Chinese restaurant. During those three days I wrote two hundred poems; that was my only consolation.