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23

 

Letters from India

 

1938-39

 

by Walter Mertens

 

translated from the German by Mathew Breindell

 

 

 

Letter I — Meherabad, Dec. 6, 1938

 

I have been now ten days in India and do not find words to express rightly all of the inner and outer happenings, which exceed my expectations a hundred times. I must try, with the help of my diary, partly in telegraphic style, to describe the essential.

 

Nov. 26, Meherabad!!!  Everything too overwhelming to be able to describe it just now!

 

Nov. 27, And today also so deep and crucial. I am still not able to write. Now I am happy and peaceful in the deepest knowledge. Everything will turn out well, ordered and blissful. And Baba is the most real Reality: God-Man like Christ.

 

Nov. 28, Now I really must get notes on paper, otherwise I'll never catch up, since gigantic, inner, new mountains of experience are looming on the horizon. So looking back:

 

Nov. 25, Arrival in Bombay 5 o'clock in the morning. The luggage is carried off, don't even have to open it. Kaka, Baba's faithful companion, garlands me on the ship, then Chanji arrives, Baba’s secretary. Post office, city tour by auto, native-quarter with the most primitive huts under palm and banana and giant bamboo trees, colors, colors! Beach, Malabar Hill with the towers silence of the Parsis! The vultures fly after a meal on the dead to the slaughter house for further eating. A visit at the family of Chanji's brother, white flowers patterns* are strewn on the floor in welcome, with flour. Shopping, drink a pick-me-up. I feel bad, up and down, as usual, whenever I come together with Baba. Departure, a cocoa in the train station at Poona puts me on my feet again, arrival 8:30 a.m. in the morning in Ahmednagar.

 

Nov. 26, Baba's hut in Meherabad, "princely" furnished for me: dressing table with mirror, wardrobe, large and small table, large bed, supplies wardrobe with fruit cakes, jams. Walls painted sky-blue, wall boards and window sills in silver, little silver vase and little tablecloth. How these dear ones have taken the trouble to house me in "European" fashion. Hedi comes! Neat and thin, with beautiful expression, looking fragile but healthy - Baba comes: how do I like it? like a princely palace. The other men are housed in very simple barracks at the foot of the hill. They sleep on the floor on thin mattresses, which one rolls up for travelling.

 

In the afternoon Hedi pays a visit to the women's house on the hill. Here all the women live in a building, which had served as a prisoners' camp in the first World War. In a long hall there are about 6-8 beds spaced at 1-2 meters apart for luggage and all belongings. But even spoiled European women are happy to be allowed to live here. A little higher in the garden is the "hospital", where sick people are treated for free. To the side stands the dome, a sort of chapel, about 5 meters high and wide, which was erected over a trench-like hole in the ground, in which Baba in earlier days used to stay in order to fast. Baba shows us around, shows also the house. In a touching way a new garden is being made, the women dig little trenches around every little plant: it is like in a little garden of a cloister in Umbria. Helen Dahm has painted the "dome," in Biblical groups with Baba. The clouds on the horizon, the peaceful expanse of the sparse landscape, the colors of the women's clothes - everything gives a powerful impression.

 

Today is an unscheduled feast day. Disputes of many years' standing among the natives been settled by Baba.** Now there come the parades of Hindus approaching the mountains, an event like in the Bible; they group themselves in the garden, play music, dance in rhythm up the mountain, form loose groups of color of unbelievable finely nuanced tones, added to the dark faces, the flashing eyes, the white teeth, the expression of pious submission to Baba. Baba is sitting upon a sort of chaise lounge next to the dome; everyone, including us, groups around Him. The constant melody is taken up by countless arrivees - here red colors, there blue, violet, white turbans, knitted caps, small and smallest children carried by the women - everyone and

 

*Rangooli

**see Not We But One, p. 107, Dispute in Arangaon

 

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