TRIP TO THE BRONX ZOO
After parking the two cars and helping Baba get into the wheelchair, Charmian was supposed to push the wheelchair as Baba and the women went on a tour through the zoo. But a curious incident brought about a change. Keith and I were originally supposed to remain with the cars, but at the last minute Charmian realized that her shoelaces were loose and decided they should be tightened. In her haste she broke first one shoelace and then the other. Baba, observing the situation, quickly motioned for Keith and me to come along to push the wheelchair, while Charmian was left to repair her shoelaces. Ensuing events revealed that Baba had a good reason for leaving Charmian behind.
Since it was in July, the weather was pleasantly warm and we were relaxed with Baba as we enjoyed moving along in the park-like surroundings and looking over the many animals in the zoo. When we wheeled Baba into the room where the penguins were kept, Baba had us stop in front of the big closed-in case where the arctic birds were provided with an environment simulating their native habitat. There was ice and flowing water where the birds could dive in and swim. Some of them were just standing on a ledge, but one large one was strutting along as through he were quite important. Baba smiled and looking up at me, pointed at this big penguin. I smiled too and said, "He's the chairman of the board." Baba smiled in agreement.
Baba then had me wheel him as close as possible to a wall over which we could look down on the gorillas, who were in a big open area with a moat. There seemed to be one gorilla in particular that attracted Baba's attention, and Baba watched him for a couple of minutes before gesturing for us to move on.
Whenever Baba's men were around the women of our group, they were supposed to avoid looking at Mehera, Mani, and Meheru. This order from Baba of course included Keith and myself. An outing like this made compliance extremely difficult, because we were moving about more or less as a group. Sometimes, for example, the women would walk on ahead only to find that there was a closed area in front of them. Almost before we knew it, they would turn around, and we would almost have in unintentional confrontation. I think Keith and I managed to keep our eyes lowered, though, so that we saw only the hem of their saris and their feet.
When it came time for us to go back to the cars, we discovered that we had not noted which parking area the cars were in. Baba seemed undisturbed and pointed toward one of the paths. After going along this path for a short distance, it did not look as though we were going in the right direction. Baba, still undisturbed, stroked his chin and point to another path. We tried that path for a while, but then it started to sprinkle, so we quickly went to a nearby comfort station with a wide overhanging roof, where we decided to wait. It was not long before Charmian came along, and Baba's little game of letting us think we were lost was over, but it was fun while it lasted. Charmian, of course, knew the way back to the cars.
In thinking over the way our visit to the zoo unfolded, I came to the conclusion that Baba purposely left Charmian behind with the cars, knowing that she would come to our rescue at the right time. Baba mentioned the parking lot incident at the Bronx Zoo to me in India in 1954, and we had a chuckle over it.
AS ONLY GOD CAN LOVE, pp. 133-135
2003 © Darwin C. Shaw