THE EAST-WEST GATHERING
Before 9 AM, the Westerners happily gathered in the main room with Baba as usual, and to begin with there were various exchanges between Him and different ones. Then Baba gave us an explanation about God, using coloured metal drinking glasses which fitted into one another, the largest one with the word GOD printed on it in big letters. (They are now kept in the Blue Bus at Meherazad.)
Unfortunately I cannot remember the discourse, but just remember Baba seated there on the big couch, moving the glasses rhythmically with His beautiful hands, and looking round at us all, smiling.
Meanwhile, the great singer Patwardhan and the group of Indian musicians were 'warming up' in another room before their wonderful performance for Baba. There is a brief glimpse of this in one of the movies taken at the time, but not very much of the remarkable quality and personality of the singer and Baba's enjoyment of it can be conveyed on film.
Because of the time factor, the performance was relatively short, perhaps an hour, and after that we all went outside into the grounds where group photographs were taken with Baba seated in a chair and someone holding an umbrella over Him. This is also shown in the movie, and it particularly focussed on Baba being helped to walk slowly out there.
Inside the main room, Baba had walked past me; outside I was lucky to be among those fairly close to Him. (Some years ago at Meherabad an American pilgrim, Walter Overcarsh, one day produced a photograph of this same group round Baba. I told him about the occasion, pointing out different ones in the picture as well as myself. He offered to get a copy for me, but later most generously sent me the original print a special treasure. It is reproduced inside the front cover.)
In the afternoon the Westerners joined the Easterners under the pandal. As it was the Public Day thousands had already been standing for hours outside the gates of Guruprasad, in a long, long line stretching far down the road.
Baba was now seated in a big chair right at the front of the platform, so that the people could file by Him on the ground level immediately below Him.
But before they came in, Baba allowed His men mandali to file by Him there and bow down to Him. It was the first time in many, many years He had allowed this, and it was an extremely moving scene to witness.
The love and reverence each one had for Baba was paramount in every line of their bodies as they approached Him, bowed down at His feet, and moved on. It seemed to me as I watched that such a moment was His gift to each of them to give again to Him their all.
Then the Public Day darshan began in earnest, and hour after hour until evening the lines of men and women were called alternately to file by Baba; hour after hour they offered their love and respect and He responded, continuously lifting His hands to His heart.
There are many sequences of this in the movies which recorded the crowds of people, including an entire village of gypsies, magnificent in the vivid colours of their dress and ornaments.
During the afternoon the Australian women and girls were called to see Mehera and the women mandali for a short time to say goodbye, and it was a happy time for us all with them in their rooms.
Mehera gave each a little gift, a small photo or a Baba button or some other keepsake. Mine is a tiny picture in late 1950 of Baba sitting on a couch at Mahabaleshwar smiling broadly and feeding the pony Begum with carrots.
And now the East-West Gathering was over for the Easterners, and almost so for the Westerners. On Monday morning, 5th November, we all had to say goodbye to Beloved Baba in the big room there at Guruprasad, the room which had seen so many lovers gathered in the presence of Love.
To say goodbye, each one was to go to Baba for His embrace and then leave the room. I was sitting about half-way back, so could watch others go to Him for a while.
One I specially remember was Ruth White who was then over 90. She was usually carried in a special chair, but to say goodbye she managed slowly though stiffly to walk to Him 'Baba's soldier': it was a wonderful sight.
Baba seemed to have a few words for different ones, and to May Lundquist who was near me He said 'This is the last time you will see Me.'
May thought it must mean that she was going to die soon, but Baba of course knew otherwise, and that very, very few of the Westerners would see Him again.
Soon my turn came, and I stood there hesitating but Baba beckoned to me 'Don't hold back,' and so I went to Him....
I thought I would not see Him again, but was to do so twice more. The following Wednesday afternoon some of the Australian group at the Wellesley Hotel who had been practising singing together in Sydney and on the ship coming over, were very quietly called again to Guruprasad at 3 PM.
By this time nearly everyone was sick in one way or another and Dr Donkin had been attending various ones. On this day Michael Le Page had a fever and Joan had stayed with him at the hotel.
Most of us had colds and coughs. So our singing to Baba in the small side room at Guruprasad was really not the best. Rather nervously we sang a group song because we had often hoped there would be an opportunity to sing together to Baba from Francis Brabazon's newly-published Let Us The People Sing.
Then Robert and Lorna Rouse sang 'Cradle Song for God' which in that intimate setting had a special quality. We were told later that the women mandali were listening to us from behind the curtains over the doorway, and that they had wept at the beauty of this song.
Baba asked were Joan was, and hearing she had stayed with Michael, He then sent Bill back so that Joan could come for the rest of the time.
Baba had a word for this one and that one, and, to my surprise, even for me. I was sitting right at the back of the small room, and suddenly Baba gestured, 'Are you happy?'
I immediately knew He was talking to me, and answered 'Yes, Baba, very happy!' It was a very sweet moment, entirely natural.
When we were to leave, Baba indicated that each was to come to Him for an embrace, but that we were to cover our noses with handkerchiefs so that He would not catch a cold from us.
Baba's health at that time was far from good. Even so, throughout the Gathering to all outward appearances He had looked happy and bright: only at rare moments did His suffering show through, only occasionally did he seem withdrawn; and only when the mandali were carefully helping Him to or from His chair was it apparent to all present how slowly He was still compelled to move although it was six years since the car accident at Satara.
MEHER BABA'S LOVE MY STORY, pp. 50-54, Judith Garbett
1999 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust