Part Seven (Final)
THE EAST-WEST GATHERING
There was something going on all the time, yet one could sit there either in the intimate morning gatherings inside, or among the thousands under the huge pandal in the afternoons, just looking at Baba. One didn't have to do anything just be there with Him, be in His presence.
I should say that often I wished He would look at me, give me some sign, but of course this did not happen. Yet I felt He did know when I thought a lot about Him, as on the afternoon of the 31st while waiting and longing to meet Him, and also on the morning when the Hafiz Ode was read, appeasing my desolation.
And quite simply, I knew I was His. There was no need to ponder over it or question it. It was so. And it matched up with the unusual and quite strong feeling of inevitability about going to India which had often come into my mind during the days on the ship.
The Gathering itself was now ended, but arrangements had previously been made for the Westerners to take two full-day trips, the first to Meherabad and Meherazad on Tuesday 6th November, and to Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar on Thursday the 8th.
Both these days were Baba-filled occasions for me, and ones which I will always remember vividly. I immediately loved all these places, and felt a connection with them which has broadened and deepened with the passage of years. On every one of my many visits to Meherabad and Meherazad since then, I always arrived feeling so strongly that I had come Home, and indeed that I had never really been away.
It must have been on Wednesday morning the 7th, that Francis, having been to Guruprasad, brought back a parcel of gifts from Mehera for the Australian women. I do not now remember what each one received but there was quite a variety of items, and being sent specially and with such thought for us, we found this very touching and heart-warming. A silk scarf, a crocheted cloth and a handkerchief were my share, and I still have them.
But even more precious were two quite large garlands made from fresh flowers and leaves which Baba had worn or touched on one of the Gathering days, sent specially to be shared among all of us at the Wellesley Hotel. Francis asked me to cut them into small sections and give everyone a piece of each garland.
I remember sitting there with them in front of me, the scissors in my hand, hesitating at first to cut the string and touch the flowers which had perhaps been round Baba's neck but eventually did so. The pieces which became mine are among my special Baba treasures, and the flowers though long-since faded or brown still retain their shape, two having a faint pink tinge.
There was another pleasant occasion in Poona that week the whole large Dadachanji family had rented the Mobo Hotel near Guruprasad for their accommodation over the Gathering period, and they invited the Westerners to afternoon tea with them on Friday the 9th.
It was quite a sumptuous affair and they all, from the very oldest to the youngest members of this great family, made us so welcome. Indian hospitality is indeed heart-warming.
Then finally Saturday morning 10th November arrived. Baba and all the mandali were to leave Poona by car around 8 AM for Meherazad. But Beloved Baba gave us one more chance to see Him and say goodbye.
By 7:30 all were assembled at the big neem tree at Bund Gardens where Babajan often used to sit. A big chair was placed for Baba and a large rug spread on the earth in front of it. We gathered quickly round Him, and He called for the children to come to the front and sit on the rug. Everyone else crowded close together, straining to get a good glimpse of Him.
Eruch was absorbed in attending Baba. Arti was sung, then all too soon Baba was helped into His car. Again everyone surged forward to be near Him, and then very slowly the car began to move, inching its way towards the road between the lines of lovers trying to keep near Him till the very last. Everyone was waving to Baba, He was waving and smiling to everyone.
The moment of leaving came, the car gradually gathered a little more speed and moved away from all the outstretched arms, the words of farewell, the smiles, the tears. The car accelerated, and was soon gone, merged with distance, while eyes strained to catch the last glimpse of it, heart scarcely able to bear the final wrench of parting from the Beloved.
I felt as though something of me had gone with Him. Even now I can still feel that aching; still see the car diminishing to a speck and disappearing; remember turning to walk slowly back to the hotel with the others.
Over the next four days there was time to relax a little. We took walks in the area near the hotel, went to the shopping centre, enjoyed a rickshaw ride, watched the people going about their daily lives; and spent time together over afternoon teas on the balconies of our rooms, talking of the wonderful days with Baba, one or another at times suddenly silent, far away with personal recollections.
The weather was still quite hot, and at night the heady perfume from the starry white flowers on the trees close to the hotel building would drift across to us on the warm air. We were seemingly in a little world of our own there, separated by these tall trees from the movement and traffic and noise of the city which went on ceaselessly, day and night.
One morning we were all taken to see the Baba places in Poona: Sassoon Hospital where He was born, Pumpkin House, Baba House with the well and Baba's Room, St Vincent's School and Deccan College, Babajan's Shrine, Bund Gardens and the Racecourse where Baba often walked with the mandali in later years.
We also went to a talk given by Adi K Irani at one of the hotels where a few Americans still stayed, and were taken into the almost-finished Avatar Meher Baba Poona Centre.
Bill, Reg and Craig left to fly back to Australia on the 12th because of their jobs, so it was arranged for Francis to escort the rest of our group by the morning train to Bombay on 15th November, and thence aboard the Arcadia in the late afternoon.
Kishore Mistry, one of the helpers specially assigned to our group in Poona, was also there to farewell us. On the ship after dinner he sang the Arti to Baba's photograph in the lounge room with all of us there, and then went ashore.
Francis also said goodbye on the ship and left to catch the late train back to Ahmednagar. We sailed at 1 AM on 16th November and reached Sydney on 3rd December.
And so the great event I had travelled halfway across the world to attend was over. But a new life had begun for me, with an entirely new significance and purpose.
God-Man had so quietly and gently drawn me to Him, had embraced me, had awakened my heart to His love, and had begun to make me aware of the sweet gift of His Companionship, a gift which He continues to add to as the years go by, helping me to be with Him and to leave everything to Him.
MEHER BABA'S LOVE My Story, pp. 54-57, Judith Garbett
1999 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust