As soon as we boarded the boat, the Conte Verde, in Venice, we thought we could still buy certain things which we needed, like topis*, but it was the 15th of June, a Catholic feast day, and all the banks and stores were closed. We could not buy anything, so we walked around a bit, then went on board. The Captain immediately whisked Nadine Tolstoy off to first class because a Countess couldn't stay down below in the tourist quarters. It was lucky, because Nadine was a fidgeter, and Helen couldn't stand it because she had lived so long alone. When I say this, it's nothing, because I love both them very much, I'm only explaining. It was Baba who saved us by having this Captain take her to first class, because for Helen it would have been hell. She had lived a very hard life, she wasn't a successful artist then, I don't want to go into details but she had lived in an old peasant home, all alone, and had been very "spiritual", with ghosts, and occultism, and so on. Before one meets Baba everyone has their own way. She had these funny clothes on, you know, sort of home-made, so on the boat people thought she was a communist!
In our cabin the three of us shared, Hedi was very ill. I was to look after her, and I did. But imagine this: Helen had some pure silk shirts, cut square like a kimono, which she damped every day in eucalyptus oil and hung up in the cabin! l was so happy and gay, I had travelled before to all European countries but not on a boat, not overseas, going to Baba. I was up for it, as you say. I must have looked attractive, because those Italian waiters always gave me double portions of everything. Imagine how Helen felt, who had suffered so much — and here is this stupid spoiled girl . . . What right has she to come to the Master, there's not this much of spirituality in this girl, she eats double portions, the waiters do everything to please her! Of course I enjoyed it. I liked it, it was just given to me, I didn't ask for it. She could have asked for a second helping if she wanted it, but they didn't bring it to her free!
So imagine how they loved me! I also started to make connections with the many Indian students and their families on board who were going back to India. It's my home country. When Nadine heard about it, she wanted to invite me upstairs because there were not enough European women. There were officers in the first class who wanted me to come up and dance. And of course there was the cinema. Nadine came down and said I didn't behave like a European, I shouldn't associate with the Indians, it’s not done! . . . .Anyhow, whatever I did was wrong, you know; they just put me down wherever they could, then Hedi and I both got sick; and Nadine and Helen said, one should overcome this by one's spirituality. We were so sick, but these students were looking after us, they were very kind.
Suddenly, I felt, after this, with everyone finding such fault with me, 'I'm not spiritual, I’m nothing.' I thought, how could I come before Baba, I must be an absolutely unworthy person, and so I sent a cable to Baba saying I had doubts, — not about Baba but about myself. I had great doubts that I could live up to what Baba expected me to be. I should have known that if Baba called you, however low you are, He wants you, so it wasn't for me to be concerned. But I sent the cable.
When we arrived in Bombay we were so happy to get there. It had been so hot and sticky in our cabin, in monsoon weather. Also, when you sat in your sea-water bath, the waves went up and down like this and you either had it in your face or on your feet! It was lovely to see the gate of Bombay! And we were going to see Baba soon! Elizabeth came to greet us, all sweet and loving and Princess Norina with her cape, and Dadachanji, Baba's secretary. Norina immediately headed towards me and said, "Irene, sorry to say Baba will pay for a first-class return ticket for you, He doesn't want to see you, you can return on the first boat!"
I was stunned — luckily I controlled my mind, I kept my head. I said "Norina, I didn't mean it that way. Because of these old ladies, excuse me, they harassed me so much I felt I wasn't worthy to come to Baba. But I didn't mean I doubted in Baba, but Baba turned the cable around to mean I had doubts in Him. So He doesn't want to see me, He doesn’t even mind spending for a first class ticket home, if I leave with the next boat."