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
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."