Symbols of the world's religions



Christopher Wilson and Charles Haynes

After her arrival in New York, Norina attracted much media attention. The following is excerpted from the New York World Telegram of September 10, 1941. The article contains two pictures, one of Norina as the Madonna in The Miracle, the other a photo of her taken in 1941, in which she wears a simple black dress and a pearl necklace. The headline reads: "Princess Back to Teach World 'to Give': Disciple of Meher Baba in India Learns to Put Aside Worldly Things — She's a Different Person Now":

Princess Norina Matchabelli, after spending five years in India as a disciple of Meher Baba, Parsee spiritual leader, has returned to America to spread the word of her teacher. New York will remember her as Maria Carmi, the exotic Italian actress who once played the role of the Madonna in The Miracle.

Park Avenue knew her as the beautiful and socially minded wife of the late Georges Matchabelli, Russian perfume manufacturer....


It was after her husband's death that the Princess Matchabelli went to India to live at Ahmednagar, where Meher Baba has his main ashram.

She smiled. "I was still very worldly. I took along my 50 dresses, 60 pairs of shoes, 20 hats, my perfumes, and jewels. Everything I had here. Baba didn't say don't use these things. He put me in a luxurious ashram with other new followers. Finally, the day came when we were ashamed to have all these luxuries when all the others were living so simply. Baba's hut had only a mattress on which he slept and a little carpet on which he received visitors. He's truly poor, never accumulating, always sharing. Suddenly I became aware I was living like a crazy bourgeois. I gave away everything but this dress," pointing to the one she had on, "and a simple change of clothes."

The dress she had on was one bought eight years ago at Vionet's. The pearls she found in a bag when she began to get ready to come back to New York.


"But I had no hat. I traveled bareheaded all the way from India. When I got here I bought a hat for $2.50." She smiled. "I met a friend on the street a few days ago whom I hadn't seen since 1936. She was elegant in the latest hat, the newest style dress. She asked me where I'd bought my hat. She said it looked so chic."

Walking through the streets, the Princess wonders if it can be she. "I am an entirely different person," she declared. "I am liberated. I am no more dependent on riches, social advancement, extraordinary foods. Once I couldn't sleep on a bed unless it cost a certain price. Now, I turn as a flower toward the sun. I make my own breakfast of toast and tea and usually burn the toast because I am distracted. I buy my own food in the market. I carry it home in brown paper sacks. I do my own room, my own laundry. When I look back on my former life with all of its complications and worries I can see I was a crazy old fool. Through Meher Baba I have become an entirely different world citizen. I'm a young and happy woman."


NORINA'S GIFT, pp. 21-24
1997 © EliNor Publications


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