The world-experience-tree-climber, part 2

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A gold heart

I didn't want anyone to meet me at the airport in North Carolina, so nobody was there. I got into a taxi and asked the driver to take me to my hotel. He said, "The hotel is so near. You should wait for the yellow bus. It will take you there for free."

I waited five minutes, but the bus didn't come. So again I asked the taxi driver to take me to my hotel. He said, "I will have to charge you five dollars, but the bus will take you free." He was so honest!

I said, "I will give you five dollars," and I got into the car.

Just then the yellow bus came. The taxi driver said, "Why don't you get out and take the bus?"

I said, "No, please take me to the hotel."

The hotel was not even five hundred metres away. The taxi made just two or three turns, and then we were there.

I gave him a ten dollar bill, and he gave me five dollars in return. I took the five dollars and got out of the cab.

As I was talking to a lady at the door of the hotel, the taxi driver started shouting at me: "You gave me two ten dollar bills by mistake." They were new bills, so they had stuck together. He was kind enough to return the extra ten dollar bill. Then I gave him the five dollar bill as a token of my appreciation.

This is how this taxi driver showed his gold heart.

— 21 July 1982

Let me see your ticket!

When I went to see Connors play Nastase in the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center, Databir and Ashrita had gotten me a very expensive ticket. The usher showed me to my seat, which was in the front row.

After some time the man sitting beside me said to me, "I am so and so. Would you please show me your ticket?"

I gave him my ticket. He began looking at it and scratching his head. It was definitely the correct ticket for that seat. He asked, "How could they put you here?" According to him, his party had the whole box.

Then, after five minutes, he again asked for my ticket. That time I said, "Please don't bother me anymore. You saw the usher put me here."

His friends also were annoyed with him. After that he didn't bother me anymore.

— 7 September 1982

Assistance from Databir's mother

At the U.S. Open there was a man standing almost on top of me, blocking my view. All of a sudden Databir came up, shouting, "Hey, Mom! Hey, Mom!"

I said to myself, "What is Databir's mother doing here? Does she like tennis so much that she would come all the way from Connecticut?"

But Databir's mother wasn't there at all. Databir was just trying to get the man to move. By drawing his attention, Databir was able to move the man aside. Then the man went away.

— 7 September 1982

An Indian without arrows

When I went to my first World's Fair in 1964, I overheard a mother telling her child that I was an Indian.

Then the child asked the mother why I did not have any arrows.

— 30 October 1982

A significant question

Long live Vijali! She is the founder of three Centres - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Altogether we have about fourteen or fifteen disciples there, and they all came to see me when I went to the Virgin Islands. About seventy or eighty seekers also came to see me.

Previously I had had a few very discouraging experiences in St. Thomas, but this time it was most encouraging. For seekers to meditate for thirty-five minutes in silence is a great achievement! I also played the esraj, and afterwards many, many soulful questions were asked.

After I had answered a few questions, a girl who was five or six years old said, "I have a question."

Everybody was amused. They wanted to hear what kind of question she had.

Then she said, "How do you know all that stuff?" Her question was shorter than the shortest, but it took me ten minutes to answer it. She was very moved.

Later, when I was about to leave in the car, she came up to me with folded hands to offer me some candy and asked, "Why do you have to go away today?" Afterwards I learned that her mother is a disciple.

— 22 November 1982

The governor's welcome

The Governor of the Virgin Islands wrote me a very nice and gracious letter, starting with "Honourable Sri Chinmoy." In the letter he appreciated me deeply. He also sent an album with his autograph. He is a Puerto Rican, and I am sure that he knew of me.

His assistant - a tall, strong-looking man - read out the Governor's letter at the end of our public concert. The whole time he was reading, his entire body was shaking. Afterwards, he asked to have not one, but two or three photographs taken with me.

— 22 November 1982

Free advertising

In November I went to Puerto Rico to participate in the Conference of the International Yoga Teachers' Association. There were quite a few swamis, spiritual Masters and seekers there.

While I was there, articles about me appeared in three Puerto Rican newspapers. The San Juan Star actually had two articles about me. They mentioned that I would be meditating and doing a few other things at the Conference on a particular day from eight o'clock to twelve. And they said anybody could come for free, since I never charge any fee. Unfortunately, the Conference officials were actually charging ten dollars.

— 22 November 1982

The greatest of all Masters

The day before I was scheduled to appear, the Conference authorities informed me that they could give me only two hours, instead of four. Instead of getting annoyed, I was delighted! I said to myself, "Why two hours? Why not one hour? The less time the better!"

I arrived at the Conference at ten o'clock. An Indian swami who was speaking before me went on and on about spirituality, while an interpreter translated into Spanish. So instead of starting at ten o'clock, I started at eleven o'clock.

When I finally went to the stage, they read out a very long introduction about me. The lights were quite dim, so they asked me whether I needed better light. I said, "I don't want to meditate in the dark. Definitely I need better light."

I meditated for a short time, played the esraj and sang two or three songs. Then the Puerto Rican women disciples sang four or five songs, and Uttama did Hatha yoga for ten minutes to bring down cosmic energy. While Uttama was drawing cosmic energy onto the stage, I was meditating very powerfully. Master and disciple were bringing down cosmic energy together.

Around ten minutes to twelve, we finished our roles. The Conference organiser, who had been sitting in the front row, came up to the stage and bowed down in front of me with folded hands for about two minutes. Then she got inspired to start praising me to the skies. She said I was absolutely the greatest of all the spiritual Masters, not only for this era, but also for future generations. Like this she went on for five minutes. The swami who had spoken before me and so many other swamis were there while she was saying this.

Luckily, the audience was polite. Otherwise, the disciples of some of the other Masters might have caused trouble when they heard me getting such appreciation.

— 22 November 1982

Airplane celebrity

In the plane on the way home, the stewardess who was serving the first-class section came to the economy section where I was sitting. I had finished my food and was writing poems. She noticed that I had not used the syrup that came with my French toast. It has millions of calories, so I didn't want to take it. She asked if she could give my syrup to somebody else. I said yes. I was very happy to give it away.

About 45 minutes later, while I was in deep meditation, the same stewardess came to me and asked, "Why do you keep writing 'God, God, God'?"

Do I write the word 'God' in all my poems? Perhaps only in one of the poems I had written the word 'God'. But she had seen it everywhere!

Then she asked me, "Did you come to Puerto Rico to attend the Conference?"

I said, "Yes, I did."

She said, "Which presentation did you like best?"

I said to her, "I didn't attend all the functions."

She said, "I was there on Thursday and Friday, but I couldn't come Saturday because of my work."

I said, "I was only there on Saturday."

Then she asked me who had participated on Saturday. I didn't know the names of any of the other participants, so finally I had to say that I was one of the performers, not one of the observers.

She asked, "Can you tell me your name?"

As soon as she heard 'Sri Chinmoy', she exclaimed, "Mira!" Then she sat down right in front of me, and for at least an hour and fifteen minutes she asked me questions. Sometimes she was on the seat and sometimes she was sitting on the floor.

She couldn't believe she was speaking to such a 'great man' and that I was answering question after question. At least two times her colleagues asked her to come and help them, but she wouldn't go.

— 22 November 1982

Airborne philosophy

The airline stewardess told me she was a staunch Catholic, but she asked me questions not only about Catholicism but also about Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions. She said, "You say the Buddha and the Christ are one. How is it that the Buddha was so strict and the Christ had so much more compassion?"

I said, "You were born into a Christian family. So why do you have to worry about the Buddha? The Buddha and the Christ are one. Let us say that you are both the Buddha and the Christ."

She couldn't believe my words. She said, "I am the Buddha and the Christ?" She looked to this side and that side as if to say, "How can I believe that?"

I said, "For me, let us say, you are the Buddha and the Christ. Now, suppose you have a younger sister who did something wrong, and you are displeased with her. If I happen to be there when you scold her, I will say that you are very strict.

"Then, let us say, a few moments later you see that same sister doing something good - something that gives you tremendous joy. At that time, you will show her such kindness and affection. Now, if somebody else happens to be there while you are showing her your affection, he will see only this side of you.

"So I saw your scolding face and somebody else saw your loving affection. But you are the same person. Perhaps you have read something about the Buddha when be was being strict with his disciples. But the same Buddha has shown such tolerance and compassion many, many times. Sometimes he shows his strictness and other times he shows love and affection to mankind."

This kind of philosophical discussion we enjoyed on the plane!

— 22 November 1982

A lesson in renunciation

At one point the stewardess asked me the significance of the colour of my track suit. It happened to be the colour of renunciation.

She said, "See, I can't renounce. Your Hindu philosophy is renunciation."

I said, "I could have been wearing any colour, but you have asked me the significance of this particular colour."

She said, "But I can't renounce."

I said, "You don't have to renounce anything except things that are unnecessary in your life. If you need only one car and you have two, then get rid of the extra one. If you have four or five houses and you only need one, then keep just one."

She said, "I have a beautiful ring. It is certainly not necessary in my life. Do you think I have to renounce it?"

I said, "If you are attached to it, then renounce it. But if you are not attached to it, then you do not have to renounce it. Just tell me, do you feel a kind of vanity about it?"

She said, "I do feel some vanity."

I said, "When you wear it, do you feel extra joy? Do you feel that you look more beautiful?"

She said, "That I can't say, but I feel happiness when I wear it."

I said, "All right, because of this ring God will not delay your God-realisation. But if you are deeply attached to your ring, then just discard it."

I was talking loudly, and the people beside me and behind me were all listening in awe. One man had been smiling at the beginning of our conversation. But after a while he started leaning forward so that he could hear everything. He was showing such respect for our marathon conversation.

Finally, this girl gave me her card and said, "You are a great man." She lives only five or six blocks from our Centre.

She was very simple, very soulful, very pure. Who knows, someday she may become my disciple. Then, the rest of her life she will be able to say that on the plane she had such a soulful and powerful talk with me.

— 22 November 1982

Visits from the soul of Japan

The soul of Japan has come to me several times since we arrived in Japan. The first time was at the airport. The second time was in a furniture store, where Kirit was buying me a chair.

The third time the soul of Japan came to me was early yesterday morning. Since then, almost every morning I have had a wonderful talk with the soul of Japan. Yesterday it was all about Japanese political matters. The soul was advising me about Japanese politics. I said, "I am the right person to understand politics!"

— 19 December 1982

Nakamura's oneness-feeling

Nakamura, the great Japanese running coach, has a big heart. He is like a grandfather. Anything that a grandfather says is philosophy. Whatever he says seems good. He says that Buddha's philosophy is the same as Krishna's philosophy.

His students have such faith in him and such admiration for him! They take him as a real friend, even a real father. Other university teachers often don't have any kind of oneness-feeling for their students. They teach what they want to teach, and the students learn what they want to learn. But Nakamura exercises his power of love, and his teaching success comes from his concern. It is not just strict military discipline. So his students really believe in him and believe that what he says is absolutely right.

— 21 December 1982

Trick photography

After Nakamura came to our hotel in Tokyo to leave the gifts he had brought for us, I was talking with him on the way to the subway.

He wanted someone to take pictures of us. The one photographer who was with us had no more film left in his camera, but I said, "Just take it anyway!" So he just clicked the button and pretended to take our picture.

Before that, that photographer had taken seven or eight pictures of us. In one picture I was autographing something. In another, Nakamura was putting his hand on my chest after I had put my hand on his heart chakra.

My interview with Nakamura came out in a Japanese newspaper. It was a very significant interview.

— 21 December 1982

Rogue taxi drivers

Twice yesterday a taxi driver took advantage of me. In the first incident, the ride was supposed to cost 400 yen, but the man kept driving around until the meter said 1,600.

In the evening another taxi driver took me to the wrong street. I was showing the driver the map, but even then he brought me to the wrong place. He told me in Japanese, "I don't know." What a rogue! I was so furious! In Japanese he apologised.

In Queens some taxi drivers charge $100 for a $10 ride. Such corruption!

— 22 December 1982

Hiroshima

I was so moved by our visit to Hiroshima. There I felt spiritual grandeur, peace and tranquility. Some of the bomb victims' spirits are still hovering around and trying to take revenge, but most of the souls that were there when the bomb dropped have gone back to the souls' world, so for them the story is over.

— 24 December 1982

Visit with the train driver

On the way from Hiroshima to Nagasaki, I had a wonderful conversation with the driver of the train. I was appreciating him, and he was smiling like anything.

How I wish I had his job! He works for three days and then has one day rest. Then again for three days he works. Each day he works for only a few hours. But his job takes great patience. Even after fifteen minutes, most people would be tired of doing it.

— 24 December 1982

The polite workers

The people in Okinawa are very polite. I was taking exercise this morning in the hall. The Okinawa chambermaids were politely waiting for me to finish before passing by. In America the hotel people would have pushed by. Even the lowest bellboy in Japan thinks and acts as if it were his hotel, and you are his honoured guest.

— 4 January 1983

Extraordinary souls

Some of the Okinawans who participated in our concert were absolutely extraordinary souls - extremely developed. When they were singing, I was not seeing their faces or bodies - only the souls. The souls were dancing right on top of their heads. They were enjoying the songs.

— 5 January 1983

A show of emotion

Tagore wrote that the Japanese don't show emotion, and before I came to Japan I believed him. But now I see that perhaps Tagore touched the Japanese mind, whereas I am touching the Japanese heart.

When we were leaving, three Japanese women disciples were crying and crying at the airport. Psychically it was their souls that were crying. So Tagore was wrong. If you touch the heart, even if it is a stone heart, it will show emotion.

— 7 January 1983

City and village consciousness

Comparing the Okinawa consciousness to the ordinary Japanese consciousness is like comparing the village consciousness to the city consciousness. The city consciousness feels it is superior because it has the mind, whereas the village consciousness feels it is superior because it has the heart.

The village consciousness says, "You say we are uncivilised. But what has your civilisation taught you? To be indifferent!"

If one village person needs money or assistance, others will give it to him. In the city, a rich man will not come to your aid even if you are the poorest man!

— 12 January 1983

The children's performance is best

After the concert this weekend, a lady who came up for prasad said, "Everything was good, but the children's performance was the best." She said that my esraj was second.

— 31 January 1983

Begging for a painting

The manager of the Marine Midland Bank in Jamaica is begging me for a painting. He wants to hang it in his home. For him to ask for a painting is really something!

He told Ashrita that even if I don't give him one, he still sends me all his love.

His daughter is taking a course from one of the disciples.

— 19 February 1983

Ready to die

On the way to the Taj Mahal I was reading a cute Taj Mahal story. I have read that kind of story before. Many wives are more than eager to die if their husbands are ready to build another Taj Mahal for them. The wives are ready to be immortalised, but the husbands are not ready with the money-power or heart-power.

— 4 April 1983

The visa broker

While I was in Calcutta, I was getting such joy that Chittagong was only an hour and a half away by plane. I was so eager to go there, so I went to try to get a visa.

Many, many stories I have heard about how difficult it is to get a visa to Bangladesh if you are not a big shot. But my taxi driver, who was from Bangladesh, said, "Those days are gone. You can easily go there now."

At the visa office there was a big line. Somebody came up to me and asked, "Do you need my help?"

I said, "Who are you?"

He said, "I am a broker. Here it will take you three days to get a visa. But if you give me 200 rupees, I will be able to get it for you by three o'clock this afternoon."

While I was talking to him, a young man standing nearby heard me mention Chittagong. He came up to me and said he also comes from Chittagong, so we started talking in our Chittagong dialect.

He said, "You can trust this broker. He is trustworthy."

So I gave the man my passport. Then he brought me to a place that was darker than the darkest to have my picture taken. It was so dirty that I wanted to take the picture with my eyes closed.

The broker was a Muslim. He said that he had never told a lie. He said that he had a big family and that the only way he could support them was by doing this kind of work. So we invoked Allah and all the Hindu gods and goddesses. At that moment, Hindus and Muslims were all one family.

At three o'clock I went to the place where I was supposed to meet him. He said, "I am sorry. You mentioned in your passport that you are a teacher. When you say that, everything becomes very complicated. So I could not get your visa. Tomorrow I will get it."

I said, "Please give me my passport."

He said, "I can't give it to you now. It is in the office, which is closed."

I scrutinised him inwardly and outwardly. Then I said, "Now bring my passport! Otherwise, I am going to the police station. I will keep my word and give you 200 rupees, but I want my passport."

He said, "Please go two blocks to a Punjabi coffee shop. I will come there with the passport."

I waited inside the coffee shop until I saw the Muslim standing outside a block away. He signalled for me to come to where he was standing. It seemed that we were in secret collusion. Either he was in trouble or I was in trouble.

He said, "Please write down that you have received the passport from me."

I said, "I have not received it yet, so why should I write down that I have?"

He said, "How can I be sure that you will give me the money? If I give you your passport and you don't give me the money, what can I do?"

This time I said, "I am ready to give you the money, but if you don't give me the passport immediately, I am going to the police!" Then from his pocket he took out the passport. Before I took the passport, I threw 200 rupees at him.

— 31 March 1983

Registering for the Asiatic Games

While I was in Delhi, they were having the Asiatic Veterans Athletics Competition for athletes over 40. I read in the newspaper that athletes who wanted to participate had to be invited. Otherwise, they had to register for two rupees, the equivalent of ten or twenty cents.

I was not feeling well, but I thought that by the time the competitions started in two days I would be all right. So I went to register. Unfortunately, registration was closed. I said, "Fine! It is a hopeless case."

India has no money; that is absolutely true. But when it is a matter of a stadium, the new stadium in Delhi can compete with any stadium in the West.

Always I carry with me my five-cents-worth Galaxy of Luminaries, the tinier-than-the-tiniest book that shows pictures of me with many big shots. I showed Galaxy to someone at the Asiatic Veterans Competition office. He said, "Oh, you are a great man!" Then he told one of the officials how great I am.

Immediately everything changed. Five minutes earlier registration was out of the question. Now they were telling me only that I needed three pictures.

I said, "Where am I going to get three pictures?"

Then the official said, "He does not need pictures."

I entered my name for the 100, 200 and 400-metre dashes, as well as for the shot-put, discus and javelin.

The registration fee was twenty rupees if you joined one item and thirty rupees if you joined more than one. By mistake it came out in the newspaper that the registration was two rupees. So I paid thirty rupees, a little more than three dollars.

— 31 March 1983

Attack by the hostile forces

I was all ready for the competition. I was feeling better by the next day, which was practise for the opening march-past. I took my place in line and practised with the others. Everything was excellent.

But the hostile forces are always ready to show me their capacities. After the march-past was over, the officials had to give instructions. Suddenly it started raining cats and dogs. I wasn't wearing a hat, but people would have thought it was bad manners if I had left. So I had to stand in the rain with my bald head.

If I get even two or three drops of rain on my head, I start to sneeze, and there I had to stand in a downpour. By the following day I had such a high fever that I was practically blind, so I didn't go for the competition.

— 31 March 1983

Trying to get my t-shirt

Instead of competing at the stadium, I just stayed at the hotel all day, suffering from fever. The day after that I decided to go to the Veterans Games office to get my T-shirt.

I said, "I could not join in the competition, but can I get my T-shirt?"

The man in the office said, "Yes, but not now. Come back after an hour."

An hour later again I went there to get this precious thing —- a T-shirt! This time they said, "You don't get the T-shirt here. You get it somewhere else. Go there in two or three hours."

A third time I went for my T-shirt. This time the place was closed.

The following day I went there at 9:30. Outside the stadium the race-walking competition was going on. Four different groups started together, but each was covering a different distance.

When I went inside the office, I noticed that quite a few Sikhs were there. If you call them Sardar-ji —- which means leader —- immediately their hearts melt. But this time they all started telling lies.

One of them said, "Yes, you will get your T-shirt, but first let me introduce you to the manager. His name is Ghuli."

So Ghuli and I chatted. Then Ghuli told me, "Yes, we will give you the T-shirt, but come at twelve o'clock. Now I am very busy."

I asked Ghuli if I could speak to Milka Singh. Once upon a time I was his great admirer. He used to be called India's 'flying Sikh'. In one Olympics he stood among the top finishers in a photo-finish race. He did not stand first, but for an Indian to even be in a photo-finish with three Americans was really something.

When I asked for Milka Singh, Ghuli said, "Who is Milka Singh?" He meant it was beneath his dignity to introduce me to him. Then he said, "You come at twelve o'clock. You don't have to see Milka Singh."

— 31 March 1983

Massaging the walker

After they crossed the finish line, at least seven or eight of the race-walkers immediately vomited. One South Indian fellow was very short and thin. He walked 30 metres past the finish line, and then he lay down on the ground, panting and vomiting. People were calling for the ambulance, which was only a hundred metres away. But the driver was missing. Meanwhile, nobody was coming to his rescue.

So, with my back pain and fever, I went to help the man. With greatest difficulty I knelt down on the ground and started massaging his right foot. God knows if he had pain there! For four or five minutes I massaged him here, there and everywhere.

Two or three times he kicked me. I know what I go through when the boys massage me sometimes. I don't kick them physically, but inwardly perhaps I do.

Finally the ambulance came, and three men picked him up and took him away to the hospital. While they were putting him in the ambulance, he was mercilessly kicking them.

— 31 March 1983

The judges' mix-up

After that, I continued watching the walking races. In one race, two Bengalis stood first and second. One finished at least three minutes behind the other. But the judges mixed it up, and declared the second-place winner first.

When they made the announcement, everybody started laughing. The judges got mad because they felt they could not make such a mistake. The one who stood second went to the judge and said, "I was far behind him."

The judge said, "I don't want to hear that."

So the one who was second went and embraced the one who really had stood first. He said, "What can we do?"

The other one said, "Let us go out for a cup of coffee."

The wives of the first and second finishers were roaring with laughter. Fortunately the couples were good friends. So all four of them went out for a cup of coffee.

— 31 March 1983

Watching the other events

I couldn't believe the fellow who stood first in the long jump! I used to do it in four steps, but now I would die if I tried. All the competitors were old men like me, but I wouldn't dare to try it.

When I saw the javelin competition, I felt sorry that I didn't join. Perhaps I would have won. But they used a 16-pound shot for the shot-put. The man from Thailand who stood first was three times my size. He threw it so far!

— 31 March 1983

Meeting Milka Singh

At twelve o'clock I went back for my famous T-shirt, but the manager, Ghuli, was not to be found in the office. He was in the playground, not paying any attention to the time. For an hour I wasted time, then I went to another office to get the immortal T-shirt. They said, "Ghuli is very busy right now."

I watched a few more races and went back again. Finally I got mad. My fever was escalating like anything. I said, "I am going to say nasty things in America about how corrupt Indians are."

Then I saw the first Sardar-ji, Jogendra, the man who had been kind to me and who had introduced me to Ghuli. He happened to be the Secretary of All-India Athletics for the Veterans. He saw me going away, so he asked me, "Where are you going?"

I said, "I am sick of Indians. They are all liars!"

He grabbed me and said, "We are not so bad."

I said, "Yes, you are all like that."

Then he took me into a room and said, "Now sit down and say anything you like against us."

I told him, "Do I need this T-shirt? I paid for it, and three or four times I have tried to get it." I went on like this and insulted everybody, while he listened to me. "Also, I wanted to meet Milka Singh, and the manager didn't want to be bothered with that."

In the same room there was a very old man, an Indian reporter and a very tall Sikh, who was sitting on a chair. All of a sudden the Sikh came over to me. He said, "You have come to the right person."

I said, "Everybody says that he is the right person, but nobody has been able to help me. They just send me here and there like a football. Now tell me who you are."

The tall man said, "I am Milka Singh."

I said, "You are Milka Singh? I was your great admirer." Then I started telling him about his athletic achievements.

He said, "You say Indians are bad. But others are even worse." Then we had a long chat. We talked for about an hour, and he told me many stories about his career.

— 31 March 1983

Blamed for everything

Then Milka Singh said, "Next year the Veterans Games will take place in Puerto Rico. I will be going there with a delegation. I hope they do a better job and make better arrangements.

"They have elected me president, so I am blamed for everything here. I don't get any salary, but every day I get a heart attack. Is there anybody who does not curse me? The higher you go, the worse your punishment is. What can I do? People are turning me insane."

At this point the reporter wanted to interview me. I said, "Please forgive me. I am not interested now. I am speaking to this man."

Then I told Milka Singh, "You won't believe it, but I am going to inaugurate the games in Puerto Rico with a silent meditation and a brief message."

I still had my Galaxy of Luminaries. I showed him Governor Colon's picture and Governor Ferre's picture. He said, "You are a great man. Can I have this book?"

I said, "I am autographing it for you." So I dedicated the booklet to him. I gave him my phone number in Puerto Rico and my private phone number in New York. I said, "When you are in Puerto Rico, you will be my guest, along with the members of your delegation."

— 31 March 1983

Meeting the big shots

From where to where! Milka Singh started introducing me to everybody.

One of the people he introduced me to was the President of the Singapore Athletics Association. His name was Chandra. When Milka Singh told him, "He will meditate to inaugurate the games in Puerto Rico," Chandra grabbed me and said, "You have to sit with my delegation today in our box." He wouldn't allow me to sit with the Indians. Then he also started telling people what a great man I was.

Then the President of the Athletics Association in Thailand started speaking to me in broken English. He said, "May I speak to you for a while?"

Suddenly I had become a big shot. I said to Milka Singh, "I have come here for a T-shirt - don't forget!"

Milka Singh said, "Definitely you will get a T-shirt, but I really want to honour you. Please don't curse us."

— 31 March 1983

Cursed by everybody

Because of Milka Singh's position, not a single person had any gratitude for him. Even the 91-year-old man who had been sitting in the office with him when I first came in was cursing him.

The old man said he had come in first in his event but that the judges had made a mistake and given the first prize to somebody else.

The old man was short, quite fat and odd-looking. His eyes were frightening.

— 31 March 1983

The blind photographer

I went with my friend Chandra to watch the races with the Singapore delegation for about two hours. Chandra told me, "My daughter Gloria is running the 200 metres. She has a six-year-old son." He said she was the best.

Gloria came and sat down and talked to me. While she was talking, she was putting Vaseline over her whole body. I was laughing to myself, saying, "Why should someone need Vaseline? Is it a marathon?" And in India it is so warm!

Chandra was right. In the 200 metres she finished 40 metres ahead of the second finisher, who was from Nepal. The Indian runners were far behind her. The Singapore athletes badly defeated the Indians.

Chandra was supposed to run 200 metres and the 400-metre hurdles, and I was supposed to take his picture. While I was looking for him through the camera lens, he finished the race. Then he came back and everybody was congratulating him because he stood first.

I asked him, "Did you run?"

He said, "Yes, I ran. What were you doing?"

I said, "I was holding the camera, but I could not see you."

Afterwards, they took our picture standing together.

— 31 March 1983

False start to finish

In one 100-metre race, there was a false start, but all the runners continued running anyway. The starter fired the gun twice, the judges and even the audience were screaming for them to stop, but they completed the whole hundred metres! Then after five minutes they had to run it again.

— 31 March 1983

Getting the famous t-shirt — at last

Finally I became tired. I said to myself, "They are supposed to be honouring me, but this is just another joke. All right, Milka Singh was kind to me, but still I have not got my T-shirt. If I go to him again, he will just ask me to sit."

I was not angry; in fact, I was pleased. And I knew that if I went to Milka Singh, he would still honour me. But my fever was very high. So I left my friends from Singapore and secretly started going away.

I was almost at the last exit when whom did I see? Jogendra! He was the one who had been so kind to me and introduced me to the manager, Ghuli. He asked me, "Are you going away?"

I said, "Yes, I am tired."

He said, "Let me take you to Ghuli. This time he will give you the T-shirt."

I said, "No, I do not wish to speak to Ghuli. I would like to see Milka Singh again, but he is busy."

He said, "Milka Singh? I don't deal with him. You have to see Ghuli."

I said, "I don't want to see Ghuli."

This Sardar-ji had been there in the room when Milka Singh said he would honour me. So he reminded me, "Milka Singh has not yet honoured you."

I said, "I have a high fever. I would like to go home."

But Jogendra just took my arm and brought me back to Milka Singh. Milka Singh sat me down. This time I did not say anything about the T-shirt. I only said, "I am sick."

Milka Singh told me, "You have to stay. In five minutes we shall honour you."

Just then Milka Singh's secretary came to me with a T-shirt and placed it on my lap, very gently, and smiled at me.

I thanked him profusely.

So the famous T-shirt story finally ended.

If I hadn't been so persistent in my T-shirt quest, I wouldn't have met Milka Singh.

— 31 March 1983

A public honour

In about five minutes' time I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker, "Sri Chinmoy, a man of peace and a world-renowned athlete, is now going to present the prizes for the 20-kilometre walk. He will be escorted by the President of the All-India Veterans Association."

At the centre of the stadium were three girls wearing beautiful saris - not cotton, but silk. They held golden dishes, and the medals were lying on the dishes. The first, second and third place finishers stood behind the girls.

There were also three musicians with bugles. They marched in from one side, and I was escorted to the centre of the stadium from the other side by the big shot.

The person who came in first stood on the top platform in the middle. The second and third place finishers were on either side. We faced the winners.

The man who escorted me would go to each girl to get the appropriate medal, and then give it to me. Then I would go and present the medal to the athlete.

The first one bowed halfway down. I put the medal on him like a garland and shook hands with him. Then I did this for the second and third place finishers. Then we all stood facing the audience.

I was on one end, and the President of the All-India Veterans Association was on the other end. The girls were standing near the President. Then the first place winner raised the hands of the second and third place winners, while the buglers played for two minutes.

When that was over I wanted to go, but Milka Singh said, "No, you have to wait. I want you to see the Prime Minister. She will come here in a few minutes. I will try my best to introduce you, but I can't promise. Anyway, you can't leave yet." So I remained there with the other big shots waiting to meet the Prime Minister.

In five minutes again they announced my name. This time they said, "Sri Chinmoy of the United States will present the prizes for 400-metre hurdles. We are so happy to have him here. He will be escorted by the Commander of the Air Force." So the Air Force Commander escorted me into the stadium.

Again there were three girls, the buglers and the winners. This time the Commander gave me the medals, and I gave them to the winners. In the 400-metre hurdles, the first place finisher in his age-group was my friend from Singapore, Chandra.

— 31 March 1983

Meeting the Prime Minister

In ten minutes Indira Gandhi did come. I was sitting in the last row, and she came and sat not even a metre away from me. I turned and looked at her. She was wearing a cotton sari that was simpler than the simplest. She looked very tired and exhausted. She said, "Oh, I am so tired."

In three or four minutes they announced over the loudspeaker: "Our beloved Prime Minister Indira Gandhi will now give the prizes for the discus." During the announcement I was looking at her with folded hands. When she got up and started walking, everybody folded his hands.

She went down to the same place I had just been and gave the prizes for the discus. She also presented the prizes to the gold medalists of the previous meet in Singapore. Then the 91-year-old man came up to her to say something.

Milka Singh, who is so tall, was all the time bowing with folded hands - trying to come down to her height. At that time Ghuli, the manager, was nowhere to be seen; it was only Milka Singh who was with the Prime Minister.

Then the Prime Minister disappeared and the story ended. Like me, there were four other persons sitting together who were supposed to meet her. But none of us got to see her.

There is one thing I would like to say about her: she definitely has a soulful smile - more so than any other big shot I have seen.

— 31 March 1983

Speaking my mother tongue

When I was leaving the stadium, the editor of a Bengali sports magazine said to me, "Sri Chinmoy, are you Bengali?" My surname is Ghose, so he knew I was Bengali.

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Can you speak Bengali?"

So I started speaking to him in Bengali. He said, "But can you read Bengali?" Since the announcer said I was from the United States, he thought that I didn't really know Bengali.

"Yes," I said. "Certainly I can read Bengali."

To have me prove I could read Bengali, he gave me his magazine. So I started reading out a little. Then he said, "I wish to give this magazine to you. Please write a few words to me from America."

It was such a thick magazine, with many pictures. I only kept the cover and his address. It was too heavy to carry back to New York.

— 31 March 1983

Priceless photographs

I had with me a silly Indian camera. The first person who escorted me to give the prizes took my camera and gave it to one of his friends.

Later, my friend from Thailand came up to me and said, "Let us have our picture taken together." A photographer who was there took our picture.

My friend said, "Can we have our pictures developed?"

I said, "I am ready to pay, but I don't want to go to the photographer."

So he went to get the photographer and brought him over to me. I asked, "How much do you want to print the pictures for us?"

The photographer said, "Ten rupees."

I said, "I will be leaving tomorrow morning. If I give you 200 rupees, will you bring my copies to the hotel by 9:30? Then I will leave some for my friend."

The photographer agreed. But the next morning, 9:30 came and went, and finally it was twelve o'clock and I had to leave. So I had to write a note for my friend, who was staying at another hotel, telling him that the photographer never came.

I said, "What am I going to do? He didn't care for 200 rupees."

— 31 March 1983

The massage artist

In Bangkok I was looking for someone to massage my back. But in the Grace Hotel, where I was staying, they only had ladies who gave massage. I said, "Thank you very much, but no thank you."

I started calling other hotels. Finally, the Ambassador Hotel told me they had a man who gave massage, so I went there for a massage.

The man who gave massage had been to Australia to learn Russian massage, Chinese massage and general massage. In Indian currency, he charged 120 rupees.

When he first saw me, he said, "You are a Hindu! I can tell from your name. But I am a Muslim."

I said, "Who cares whether you are a Muslim or a Hindu? There is only one God."

He said, "I also feel that."

At first he did Chinese massage, using his elbow. How painful! Then he tried Russian massage. I was lying down, and suddenly he jumped on my back and began jogging on it. I let him go from the base of my spine to my shoulder blades. But when he got to my shoulders, my chest was hurting so much that I asked him to stop. I said, "Russian massage is the worst!"

Then he gave me a general massage. After that I asked him, "Can you come to my hotel at eight o'clock tonight? I will give you more money."

He agreed, and took down my room number.

— 31 March 1983

The real big shot

Just before eight o'clock that night, the man who had given me the massage phoned me and said, "A very important big shot is coming at eight o'clock to get a massage, so I cannot come to you."

I said, "I didn't tell you what a big shot I am."

He said, "Since you are a big shot, I will come at nine o'clock."

I asked him, "How much is the other big shot going to give you?"

He said, "The normal price —- 120 rupees."

I said, "Then I will give you 200 rupees."

He said, "Oh, you are the real big shot!"

So he came at eight o'clock and again gave me the Chinese, Russian and general massage. What a massage! Several times he pressed my knee until I screamed. Then, like Pradhan and others, if he heard something crack, he would say that everything was cured.

He weighed about 130 or 140 pounds. When he was on my back, I said, "You are killing me! I don't need this."

At one point during the massage, I said to him, "I want to lose 20 pounds from my stomach."

So he started pinching me and tapping my stomach. Then he said, "Twenty pounds? Impossible! You can lose a maximum of four pounds."

Even after he came to my hotel, I did not show him my Galaxy of Luminaries. You don't have to show these people anything so long as you give them enough money. In India I was ready to give the photographer 200 rupees to bring the pictures to my hotel, but he didn't come. At least this one kept his promise.

Before the man left, just to prove I was a real big shot, I gave him not 200 but 240 rupees.

— 31 March 1983

San Francisco Customs

When I came back from Bangkok through Immigration in San Francisco, they put on their red lamp, which means that special government officials will investigate. They took me into another room. Other people also were in the room. Then three more officers came.

I showed them my little Galaxy pamphlet, but they just said, "We have to search you thoroughly."

I said, "First search me thoroughly. Then let me write down your badge number."

Immediately they covered their badges with their hands. I said, "If you have the right to search me, I have the right to know who you are. First you do your duty. Then you have to give me your names."

When I got angry, one fellow said, "Sometimes we find drugs inside innocent people's suitcases because others put them there."

Then I opened everything, but they didn't really search my bags. I said, "Now give me your names."

They said, "All right, if you don't mind, take off this belt."

I took off the cloth belt I wear to support my back.

Then the officer said, "Sorry, this is only a formality." He did not suspect me; he was only harassing me.

Finally I got really furious. Then another officer started carrying my bags to the place where the baggage for New York should go.

When they start to harass you right and left, you have to challenge them. But in the end I didn't get their names or badge numbers. So even if I send a letter of complaint to the San Francisco Customs, nobody will know who the officers were.

— 31 March 1983