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22

 

the bus packed inside and see E. is called in good time and has a hot cup of coffee before starting or we will never get off." E. could get up at any hour if she were not told beforehand what hour it was.

 

Baba as usual supervised everything and would stand by as the bus top was being loaded, or walk up and down the while, appearing deeply engrossed and stopping occasionally to enquire about the position of a certain piece of luggage. Was it well placed, secure, out of the rain? It was usually the mandali who did this sort of packing, but it was Baba who watched over everything, to the last detail of the tarpaulin stretched tightly over all the luggage. Inside, we were even more crowded for space. We were each allowed one small night-case, which had to fit under our seat; but the jolting of the bus battered even these few belongings unmercifully. Arguments ensued which only Baba could settle. At first he would say nothing, letting our voices get hotter and hotter. "Why can't you be seated?" "There is no room!" "Who has taken my stool?" "This will fall on my head!" etc. Baba appears annoyed and puts his hands to his ears. Silence ensues. Poor Baba! And this was the spiritual life we had come to live, with no wants, no desires, and no attachments!

 

At last, all is ready. We are off—the bus grunts. Elizabeth is driving. It is still dark; Baba will not let us put on the inside lights of the car because they use so much of the battery. Baba is sitting in the front—he loves early starts. On the way we sing "John Brown's Body " and "0l' Man River. " A few minutes later Baba distributes chana (a form of lentil) and puffed rice, nuts or sweets and we all share alike. On we drive, stopping only for lunch, which we eat wherever we find a tree as a shelter from the broiling sun; or perhaps, to save time, eat a banana, raw onion and a slice of bread while sitting in the bus or standing around it. Towards dusk we make our first halt. Moods may be of various kinds when one is hot, tired and hungry!

 

Baba gets down first, goes inside, inspects the bungalow and, on a given signal, we all scamper down and follow inside, leaving Rano in charge of getting our bags from under the seats—a tough job as the seats are so close. Baba allots rooms for Eastern and Western groups, then enquires about drinking water to make certain whether it is necessary to have it boiled, a most important precaution in India; and then goes off for an hour or so on mast work.

 

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