Symbols of the world's religions



Nancy Wall

An elephant is neither the most common nor the most practical choice when one is looking for a means of transportation. The slow, deliberate steps will, however, eventually take the passenger to a destination — given enough time. Such was my journey to the feet of the Master. Although I first heard of Meher Baba during the summer of 1971 and, despite many subsequent years of exposure — including several years of living in the same house with two Baba-lovers and a trip to Meherabad during the summer of 1979 — I remained unaffected. Or so I thought.

Then, in 1980, prompted by a close friend who is a Baba-lover, I wrote to Meherabad asking if it would be possible for me to direct the play for Mehera's birthday the following year, never realizing the significance of that request. When I received a favorable response, I then applied for and received a professional development leave from the college where I teach.

In October, 1981, my friend and I set out, first for Kashmir and Nepal, then down through India to Meherabad. About a week before we reached our final destination, my friend commented that everything about the trip seemed to be going exactly according to my whim — if I wanted something to happen, it happened. I agreed that the trip had been extraordinary but gave little thought to his words until we reached Jaipur.

On our first afternoon there we took a rickshaw up to the Amber Fort, telling the driver not to wait for us, certain that we would be able to find another rickshaw when we were ready to leave. We spent a pleasant couple of hours exploring the fort, and on our way out I stopped to admire one of the elephants that are brought there daily to give rides to tourists.

My friend asked me if I wanted to ride. Although I did, I told him that I wasn't about to climb on an elephant and ride around like a child in a pony ring. "I'd love to ride an elephant," I said, "but the only way that will ever happen is if I have to ride one in order to get from one place to another, and that's rather unlikely." We walked back to the rickshaw stand in search of transportation, only to find that all the rickshaws were already taken. Our only apparent alternative was to walk to the town of Amber, a short distance, and catch a bus from there.

As we started back up the hill that leads to Amber, the elephant I had admired came lumbering slowly towards us, and again the malik (the owner), offered us a ride. I laughed and again said no, but when my friend, who had heard the offer more clearly than I had, convinced me that the man was willing to take us all the way back to Jaipur, we chased after him

He led the elephant to a wall, which we used as a ladder, and we climbed onto the broad back. As we settled ourselves for the sixteen kilometer trip my friend nudged me and said, "Look, Baba wants you so much that He's even provided you with an elephant." I laughed, but the words kept coming back to me. As we rode slowly down the twisting canyon, arriving at the monumental gate to the fort just as a pink sunset was spreading over the distant pink city, I remembered other moments of the trip that had seemed particularly magical.

A few days later we arrived in Meherabad. What happened over the next two months is another story, but I left India knowing that Baba had stolen my heart. And although my response was to forms of wooing far more subtle than an elephant, the process was slow — and perhaps, given my recalcitrance, a beginning as obvious as an elephant was appropriate.


OUR CONSTANT COMPANION, pp. 66-67, ed Bal Natu
1983 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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