Once upon a 4th of April . . . Good Friday, 1969, thirty of us lined up for a group photo and boarded an airplane in San Francisco. Many of us had the feeling that we were about to begin our cosmic trip home through Maya . . . the forces of illusion. 156 more were to follow us within two days. Destination: India. It has been said: "Home is where the heart is." For all of us, and hundreds of thousands more around the world, a man named Meher Baba is home and heart. Meher Baba lived and dropped his body in India. This is our pilgrimage.
Besides Patty Mahler almost missing the plane, boarding was fairly uneventful. No one was overweight on baggage and everyone was in good health and cheer. The excitement was contagious. A delicious brand of insanity prevailed. We were headed by Baba's beloved Murshida Duce. Allan Cohen was our group captain. He counted heads, collected money and spread his inimitable brand of good cheer. In New York we grew by one. Frank McNut joined us from Michigan. We were lined up by Swissair for another group picture, like celebrities.
Some of us were on our first trip out of the country. First stop Frankfurt and then Zurich. In Zurich we were to stay for 24 hours. Although we all had a relatively sleepless night, the brisk weather of 38° revived us. Patty Mahler, Jeannie Kerr and I went shopping and sightseeing. We discovered Zurich to be a spotless, beautifully quaint city with marvelous things to buy and delicious food. As we roamed around the town some of the German-speaking males tried to talk with us. Jeannie came up with a perfect retort to anything they said. "Meher Baba!" More baffled looking men I have never seen.
April 6, Easter Sunday. We left Zurich around 11:00 a.m. for Athens, Tel Aviv and BOMBAY! At 6:00 a.m. E.S.T., we stepped out into the hottest and most odorous environment many of us had ever experienced. We walked into the airport terminal and still there was no relief from the heat. Huge fans spun ineffectually.
It is impossible for me to try to imagine what was on each person's mind. Excitement, perhaps mingled with anxiety. When we were still on board the airplane, many conversations had been in progress: what would Baba's Darshan be like? Some of us thought that Baba would manifest in front of us. Some, that we'd go to Guruprasad, Baba's house in Poona and just stare at an empty chair for two hours every day. And here we were in a dank, hot airport with men dressed in khaki shorts herding us about and making us wait, making sure we didn't have unreported cameras, cash, radios and tape recorders. I can't imagine what others were thinking, but I was hot, tired and when I could remember to, laughing. Good old Baba! Always fooling us. All the romanticism of what India would be like, mysterious India, certainly was not with me that first half hour in Bombay. But as we moved out into the parking lot we suddenly heard shouts of "Jai Baba! Jai Baba!" Some of the Bombay lovers were there to meet us so early in the morning! A chill went up my spine and tears came to my eyes. I had never been so surprised and touched before. Later, I found everyone had had a similar experience. The Indian lovers had arranged for a bus and they rode along with us to the hotel where we were to stay for only 14 hours.
The ride to the hotel was a real "mind blower" to those of us who hadn't been to India before. It was dark when we first began the ride. Everyone was chattering. A few who were sitting with the Indian lovers heard many beautiful Baba stories. One of them was about how magnificent roses appeared in a lover's garden a few miles away. Such roses had never before grown there. He quickly brought them to Meherazad and they turned out to be just enough to cover the body of Beloved Baba.
As the sun began to rise in the East, the chattering of happy voices stopped abruptly. With the light, came visions of poverty unimaginable and unfathomable to a group of well-fed Westerners. People lying half-naked in the streets, hundreds . . . thousands. Hovels by the road with animals and children eating off the ground. People urinating in water others drank from . . . water of a greenish color. None of us talked for quite awhile.