THE EAST-WEST GATHERING
On the earlier days they had not been sitting near enough to be called into the lines coming to Baba, and as they had to return home early Saturday, they had sadly gone to the bus station without His embrace.
But Baba heard of this and had them called back to Him. Now on the verandah it was most moving for us to see and feel their love for their Beloved as they quickly but happily filed by for His embrace. Some carried framed photographs for Baba to touch, but it was His touching each of them that sent them home fulfilled.
The original conditions for those coming to the Gathering stipulated that no-one was to ask for personal interviews with Baba, nor expect any. But on Saturday morning Baba called the Western lovers, in the area-groups they belonged to, for brief interviews with Him.
I'm not sure how many American and European groups there were, but of course only one from Australia. In a small room leading off the front verandah Baba was seated in a big armchair, and we sat in two or three rows on the floor facing Him. Francis was on Baba's right facing us, Bill sat with his family in the front row and I was just behind them.
Most of the group had already met Baba in Australia, but those of us who were 'new ones' were again introduced by Francis. I still remember how surprised I was to hear Francis saying: 'And this is Judith, a new one. She is a first-class secretary who has been helping with the Baba work,' and Baba said He was pleased I was helping Bill.
He spoke to the Le Page children, then to Joan, asking her was she happy. After a moment or two she broke into tears and Baba gestured a question, then called her to Him and said 'She loves Me very much,' and comforted her.
Baba also spoke with Hazel and Norman Shipway whose young daughter Julie had died not long before they came to India, and told them not to worry. There must have been some exchanges with others there too, but I was so bemused with all the momentous happenings since my arrival in Poona that nothing more of the interview remains in my memory, except that towards the end I seemed to feel I was almost the only one there, sitting at His feet.
But perhaps the same thing happens to each one in His presence. And this of course was the only personal interview, as it were, that I ever had with Baba, so it stays with me as a special time within the whole very special time of those four and a half days at the East-West Gathering.
Then we all had to go in the bus to the bank to change money a most tedious business taking nearly two hours! After a hasty lunch we returned to Guruprasad. I was not at all well that day and was told to see the Indian lady doctor on duty there (not Dr Goher), after which Mani came and told me to lie down for a while in the main room everyone else of course was out under the pandal for the afternoon programme.
I don't know how Mani had heard I was sick, but after a few minutes she brought a large chiffon scarf and with such a loving gesture spread it over me. When she came back a little later I was feeling better and said I would like to go and join the others.
While she led me through their rooms, that being the quickest way, she told me that I loved Baba, that she knew this from the photograph which Bill had sent over earlier. She said, 'It is easy to love Baba when you meet Him, but you loved Him before you met Him, and that is why Mehera took your picture and kept it.'
I remember standing there with her, just shaking my head, unable to speak for the tears in my throat. She put her arms round me, and a few minutes later took me out to the pandal.
I became aware that Harry Kenmore was on the platform, reciting The Master's Prayer in his booming voice. Then someone must have shown me where the Australian women were sitting and I went across to them.
It was on this afternoon, because it was so hot, all women present had been told to sit on the opposite side of the pandal from the first two afternoons; the men changed over with us. It happened that I was now sitting on the aisle and could see straight up to Baba on the dais, a much better view than I had previously.
Some of the helpers came along the aisles with Baba's prasad the huge baskets of wrapped sweets had first been taken to Him, He touched them, and then they were carried round and given to everyone. I still have the wrappers from mine.
A little later a message was brought to some Americans sitting next to us to go and see Mehera and the women mandali, and although we were not entirely sure, it seemed as though we were included, so after a whispered consultation, Lorna Rouse, Joan Le Page and I quietly walked to the front.
But Baba saw us, and immediately looked at us in a questioning way as though asking where we were going. It transpired from helpers near the door that it wasn't the time for us to see Mehera and so a little sheepishly we went back to our seats. Obviously, Baba knew!
MEHER BABA'S LOVE My Story, pp. 47-50, Judith Garbett
1999 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust