Atlantic crossing in luxury liners is a feature of modernism which has an interest of its own. I was already looking forward to that experience after arrival in Geneva by air from Bombay. I spent some days in a hotel near the railway station in Geneva, visiting my friends, the Naidus, at an upper flat overlooking Lake Geneva, and most often dining with them too while they stayed at the house of Madame Morin, the lady who had been my hostess in Paris when I had been there for my studies twenty years before. Then I took a train from Geneva to Paris late at night from the Gare Cornavin, having had, I remember, to carry my baggage myself up a flight of stairs, forming one of those long queues that became a general feature everywhere in civilised Europe after the Second World War.



I just managed to add my leather suitcase to a pile of others over the heads of passengers when, without those repeated whistles and bells which in India only ensure that the train is still not leaving, the streamlined night express engine began to gently ply its giant flywheels. It soon gathered momentum, tearing through the lakeside vistas and passing many a bridge, culvert or tunnel, all of which both my drowsy state and the spirit of night kept me almost oblivious of, although bangs, groaning, roaring, creaking and bleating noises came from over the rails as the heavy wagons were pulled powerfully along by the steam giant from where electric power ended. I was jolted up, down or sideways as I leaned in fond unconscious repose over a fellow passenger next to me. Sleep often tends to make one forget conventional standards and leaves one wonderingly ashamed of oneself.


Arriving at the Gare de Lyon more than an hour at least after daybreak, and depositing my luggage at the baggage room, I went with two pieces only to find a hotel near the University, a locality whose acquaintance I had not renewed for nearly twenty years.



My intimacy with Paris and its unforgettable personality as a great cosmopolitan city was thus revived, and I found myself as before sipping tea sitting in a pavement cafe facing the Panthéon. I also spent some days taking familiar walks and visiting my friend Swami Siddheswarananda of the Ramakrishna Order, who lived at the other end of Paris near the Bois de Boulogne, before he moved to a suburb called Gretz to a palatial house with a marble staircase in it, where I met him one year later on my return to Paris from the United States.


The ship I took at Cherbourg and the details of my first and second visits to Paris about the year 1948 have got mixed up in my mind, and the names of the big ships SS Washington or SS America, life on which was alike, going or coming across the Atlantic, have also got confused in my memory, as not to be separately recollected in clear detail. Food rationing still marred the fair face of Europe when I started, and as I passed from Paris to the port many were the beautiful bridges or buildings on the way that had become ruins that one pointed out to another from the railway window, marking the devastation of the war that had just preceded my visit. The gale of war had passed but had left destruction behind, and the gloom had not yet turned into the freshness of a recovery which may be said to have happened only five or six years later.



I entered what was called the stateroom of my ship, but whether at Le Havre or Cherbourg I do not remember. The efficient travel-service men already had my heavy luggage there, collected from the Gare de Lyon on my instructions. I was thus fully 'taken care of' in a sense not as fully understood by similar agencies functioning in India, where much sloppiness and consequent worry is still present. Habits of efficiency and savoir-faire take as much time to cultivate as pure wisdom, and often the harder way has to be followed for years before good sense prevails.


As on all luxury liners crossing the Atlantic - whether the Queen Elizabeth of Britain, the Liberté of France or the bigger ships of America like the one which I was on at that time - the tables were usually overloaded with varieties of edibles from olives to cream crackers, with nightly snacks of hot dogs as specials. Gormandisers were at large then, having, as they said, a good time, flirting or necking in cosy corners.



They often did more than justice to the various items on the table. I took care to walk up and down every part of the ship between decks, climbing steps or passing the bridge from fore to aft or vice versa many times before each meal, to keep me fit inside while I silently watched the interesting strangers whose acquaintance I made only little by little.


The Irish coast, where we called first, brought on some interesting missionaries with whom I talked about John Scotus Erigena who was supposed to have originated in Ireland, then included under Scotland, and called Scot by a sort of transference of epithets. Only on one of the six and a half days it took us to cross over to New York was the sea rough. A round of entertainments and activities planned by the officers on board kept everyone happy through cinema shows and improvised games on deck or in the big rooms. One passed many pretty strangers with a nodding acquaintance first which soon developed into various forms of intimacy, depending on age or sex. All seemed to be arranging itself wonderfully, and it was interesting to me to watch how Dame Nature was at work with perfect ease, finding a friend or mate for each as easily as with sparrows on telegraph wires, as seen anywhere.


We had, by way of education, a film that showed New York City life and, for a new visitor like me, the map of that city with its blocks on the Eastern and Western sides looked like mazes in which rats in experiments were expected to obey lights while walking in squares. Half of the life in New York consisted of such and other obedience tests where civilised man fitted intelligently into his artificial man-made context.


On the morning of the sixth day, land was sighted and people thronged to the deck to point out the place where the Statue of Liberty was to be seen; but soon even this sort of liberty was curtailed in the name of those inevitable queues in which you had to keep up with your labelled luggage while you only carried your smaller belongings. Coney Island came into evidence with its green look and innumerable cars that were already plying its broad streets. I had a natural distaste to elbow any fellow-passenger to keep my front place, and I rather backed out more often than pressing forward. As a result I arrived rather late before the group of intelligence officers seated at tables, who were to put me through a volley of questions covering the same points once covered in the various forms I had already filled.



When I referred this matter to one of the police or FBI people, he rudely retorted 'That does not mean a thing to us', as if treating one department of the government as totally unconnected with another. In them I heard the voice of two governments.




Ellis Island.


Ellis Island was a kind of purgatory where unwanted refugees or immigrants from the 'Old World' - often consisting of cranks, crooks or criminals who could not make good in their respective countries - were detained before entering the States, to be filtered or weeded out before they could manage to become, clandestinely or otherwise by more or less questionable methods, respected citizens of the United States. Every ship from Europe brought a load of living cargo of such a commodity and, although the days of adventure and colonialism were over, Ellis Island still remained the last remnant of a system that lingered on at the time I tried to enter the land of the almighty dollar, as it is sometimes called.


With my crumpled felt hat two seasons out of fashion by the broadness of its rim, and an overcoat whose big buttons were almost bursting in order to enclose my fat and short body - I must have looked, in the eyes of the clever intelligence department men, to be that very type of dark-skinned adventurer whom they seemed to know quite well. They first abruptly asked me in a good Yankee accent, by way of shocking me, whether I liked the States because of the money I could earn there or any better reasons. One of them went so far as to insinuate in a mocking tone that I wasn't going 'to get away with it' and another mentioned that I would be taken to the notorious Ellis Island to be kept undernourished and like a suspect for several days, sometimes weeks, before I could prove my bona fides and normality.


I was asked to sit down near the table of a special expert who knew the technique of eliciting answers to leading questions. There were half a dozen of them trying to study me all together, some of them senior officers, while others were just new initiates in the technique of finding out the types to be kept out. Why did I come to the United States? 'By invitation', I replied. This was not enough. I had to wait still. I sat watching. In the meantime another police officer, this time a lady psychiatrist, was questioning a migrant from Yugoslavia who seemed an innocent peasant who had come to make an easier living in the United States, like millions of others who had become absorbed since the days of the Mayflower which first carried Huguenots or Quakers.



These, when once settled down and not suspected, became known by such respectable titles as the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution. The Italians were not personae gratae, nor was the Jewish fortune-hunter in the beginning stage of this sifting and selecting process. When the Catholics dominated, other preferences displaced the former prejudices. The New Englanders were to be seen no more. Hoover and Roosevelt had their chances of tilting the scale in favour of one group or racial element or another. I could see that the lady officer adopted more gentle and intimate methods of questioning than the shock-treatment ways of elicitation adopted by the male officers. A certain intimate motherly interest substituted those crude shock methods of the men, and the private life of the poor peasant who was being x-rayed as it were, was bared as I sat watching still, soon to become, perhaps, the last man to be let out of the ship.



Meanwhile, there was another scene developing down on the quay where persons waiting to meet their relations had to stand behind a cordon. In my case, I was being met by a representative of the Carnegie Foundation who was the assistant secretary of the Church Peace Union, also acting for Dr. Henry A. Atkinson, the General Secretary, as his personal envoy.


As I was seen to be unduly delayed he began to ask questions of some of the younger police party who were acting as links between the questioners inside the ship and those who waited for the passengers to come out. It luckily dawned on one of these intelligent young policemen that this important New Yorker who was beginning to show signs of impatience at the delay in my being let out, was doing so with reference to myself. Soon I could see a signal he passed to the chief next to my table, while I tried to resign myself to my prospect of spending some days on Ellis Island without a murmur.


The complexion of the officers soon changed to one of lively interest and even respect for me, and I could take my hat and baggage and depart from the more than an hour ordeal of detention, almost in a hurry, as I was conducted out of the gangway onto American terra firma to breathe for the first time the air of its proclaimed liberty, which still had some snags and blemishes of the colonial period. I soon found myself seated in a car and driving through the midday shades of the skyscraper district of that city known as the hub of modern civilised life.





New York in !948.


The Hotel Roosevelt was situated in the heart of New York City, not far from the famous Times Square and Broadway. I was soon established in this well-ordered and select residence on about the sixteenth storey, in one of those self-sufficient units with private bath attached.


One has to pass ominous-looking red signals in wall-to-wall carpeted passages from the lift; and one could not escape a sense of insecurity not unlike that of animals caught in artificial mazes. Often, from the road below came the sound of fire engines or the frightening shriek of some car that had to put on a sudden brake to save itself from some accident that just barely did not happen. The room too had other warning notices about not leaving razor blades about, lest the women who were to make the beds or clean the tubs should inadvertently cut their fingers. On the terrace in front of my room, as the skyscraper reached above sight, I noticed too a poor pigeon which was bereaved of its mate, round whose dead body the living bird kept circling all day.


Liberty seemed to be furthest away from any plain countryside of India here, where one had to behave oneself, both in the name of one's own safety as for respectability, almost every minute of the day. One dressed up or undressed, whether to dine or catch a bus; and if for any reason one had forgotten anything, one had to repeat the process of smiling to the bowing elevator boys and many similar formalities in trying to be free to do what one liked in New York City. I could order my breakfast through the telephone, and more often because of the actual difference between edibles or drinks and their names, I made the characteristic mistake of either ordering too few items or too many. A fully-liveried butler brought the breakfast in a rolling trolley wagon up the back-door elevator meant for the staff only, with iced water, napkin and all.



As there were still several days before the World Conference of Religions for which I had come as a delegate, I spent the time between such meal items in taking a look at the city and visiting some of my disciples or friends who had been known to me before when I was a teacher in the International School at the lakeside of Geneva and who had to be traced where they lived in and around the city.


I was also engaged in preparing my speech for the coming conference in which I elaborated about the Guru Narayana Movement of South India which worked for the integration of all religions for peace under the slogan given by the Guru of 'One Caste or Race, One Religion and One God or Goal for all humanity treated as one'. This slogan itself was to be understood directly as a corollary of the non-dual Advaita teaching of the Guru. Such was the fully open message that I represented, as chance brought me to the World Conference for Peace to be held in the Town Hall of this important city late in the summer of 1948, if I remember rightly. The speech, which came at the end of the second day, was well received and the official purpose of the visit was thus got over quite easily.



Brooklyn is tauntingly referred to as a state of mind by matter-of-fact Manhattaners, and there is a rivalry between the two adjoining boroughs of New York. The Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge and the subways that go under the river are the main communications between these parts; and with Long Island and Newark, New Jersey, on the other side of the river, life in this part of the world has many interesting features of its own. It is round Macy's department store on 34th Street, that most of the shopping pulsates; and for night life Times Square is the most favoured. The Empire State Building and Rockfeller Center were other landmarks and, if all these are put together with Harlem where the coloured people live, one gets a rough idea of the place. Parkways and avenues with bus routes and subways criss-cross the thickly populated area where every crossing of the road is fraught with danger.


Sitting around in cafeterias was another normal feature both in downtown and uptown districts. From the International House for students from all over the world at the north end of the city, lying beyond Central Park and its classy surroundings, to the Coney Island Amusement Park, beyond downtown and in the borough of Brooklyn, the city offered a newcomer like me many attractions from window-gazing to watching television, which that year was just coming into evidence here and there.



Munching selected roasted nuts from special shops that sold assorted packets of them for a dime, and learning to suck ice-cream cones without spilling them on one's coat front were other diversions that even respectable-looking New Yorkers seemed not to be ashamed of. Lake Success was then a favourite place for visitors, now superseded by the modern cubical buildings of the United Nations bordering the East River. The wonders of New York are too many to enumerate here.


On the day of the World Conference I walked past Fifth Avenue in my Indian dress with turban and sherwani at the special request of the Secretary, to be press photographed in the interests of the publicity for the Conference. I was greeted on the way by some ex-sailor who knew Hindustani and shouted from the pavement 'Jai Hind!', seemingly in all earnestness, to which I responded with all the seriousness I could retain in a situation that also had its humorous aspect. That was the only time I appeared in Indian dress in New York City, except for the Gandhi birthday held at the Community Church two years later, where all the Indian population had gathered, and where, except for Dr. Asirvatham, I happened to be the only man to be dressed in national costume. Many Indians glibly talk of national costume, but prefer to bring back to India superior Western-style dresses, even when returning to their own country. There is some irony here that requires to be explained. Lip service to one pattern of life and actual loyalty to another sits ugly on many an Indian student I have known. I have always tried to avoid such persons who served two standards, whether on board steamers or on land in Europe. I could even say that I was scared of having to converse with many of them.


After my speech at the World Conference of Religions, which went off well, and after the Conference, still staying on at the hotel in Manhattan, I started out in a different direction in New York, trying to contact old friends. I remember one of those outings into the Brooklyn area, which is worth recounting in detail.




Many surprises were awaiting me in and round New York, where friends seemed to remember and speak about me almost every day in some cases, as I have been told. Some friendships strike deep roots in this way for no evident reason.


I had a touching episode of this kind when I visited a family I had known in Switzerland in 1928 whom I met again after twenty years. The father of the family had spoken to his wife and children about me, and they told me that not a day passed in which my name had not come up in conversation during those long years. Another farmer living far-off at the foot of the Dôle in the Jura, whom I visited after a similar interval, put me up in his farmhouse and when I was about to retire at night, and he had said good night, remembered to bring me a cup of hot water, saying that it was my habit to sip hot water before retiring to bed twenty years ago when we lived together at the International School at Gland. These are reminiscences that touch one deep down somewhere in the Self.


The genuineness of such continued regard often needed no fresh evidence other than that coming from children who were born in my absence, taking to me as affectionately as if they had known me all their lives. Such incidents have touched some deep seat of human kindness within me, and must belong to the context of the Absolute, where alone sparks of affection live independently of all physical considerations. Children respond to such sparks of the pure light of the heart best of all.


One of my outings from the hotel in Manhattan was towards the Brooklyn area. I had the address of two old pupils called the Rubensteins. It was in one of those favourite avenues called either Oak, Maple, Grand or Washington - so common in most cities in the States. This particular address had a door number which ran into four digits. I first located the street and, thinking that tracing the number would be a simple matter, began to walk from the lesser to the greater number; but the stupid houses would not count more than a few hundreds by the lapse of hours. Treating the matter as part of my evening walk, I still foolishly persisted, in an indifferent mood, to try to find the friends to whom I had fondly intended my visit to be a pleasant surprise.


As a last ray of hope however, when fully fatigued and forlorn, from where I walked on the avenue sidewalk I thought I discerned the name Rubenstein on the front of a nice garden and villa. On a closer look I saw that it was true that some Rubenstein lived there but not with the same initials.



I mustered courage enough to try and speak to them, whoever they were, and rang the bell. The family was at supper and the door opened with an astonished interjection from a thin young lady who pronounced my name, 'Pitar Natty', in a subdued voice. Nedra and Elaine Rubenstein were cousins to these Rubensteins. They had married and had children who had seen me in a film taken in Switzerland twenty years before when the mother was a schoolgirl and the father an adolescent lover. Maya's waters had flown under the bridges of Time's years or decades.


When all had finished their dinner, they came to greet me as old Pitar Natty, and they insisted that I should see the film where I could see myself standing or talking as I did while the lakeside breezes could be watched by myself as they ruffled my long hair of those days of 1928. I could not believe my own eyes, as memory could not confirm all the details the silver film had taken care to record and preserve all through the years, while memory itself was subject to a different kind of decay or disintegration.


Meanwhile a telephone call had been put through to the actual Rubensteins whom I had meant to surprise before the comedy of errors, due to Maya, had intervened to complicate or simplify matters. Nedra came with her car, taking Elaine and me. She drove us to the nearest delicatessen where I was treated to a snack dinner of double-decker vegetable sandwiches which I thought it was ugly in company to bite into with a fully open mouth like a walrus eating a big fish. I managed well, and Nedra drove me to the nearest subway where there were many different lines with names too hard to remember. On the way, she used a slang word when another car went past saying, when I asked, that it was her ex-boy friend who had let her down in favour of a blonde. I was then let out at the station to return to my hotel.








My life in the posh hotel at the very centre of New York City for several weeks was to come to an end, the Conference of Religions for Peace having finished its sittings. The best intellectuals and men of good will, as well as of any fame or position, were called upon to participate in it. Most of them were personally present on the platform of one session or the other. Albert Einstein, who lived at the University of Princeton, sent a paper instead of being present. Sir S. Radhakrishnan of India was to have presided at the sessions in which I was to speak but was substituted by another eminent Indian professor who was then domiciled in New York. Each of the known universities of the United States had sent a representative, sometimes in a scientist, sometimes in a theologian.


Most of the Church denominations and other religions too and their dignitaries participated, as also well-known names in the world of internationalism. I cannot now recall all their names, but the published reports on all such details must be available. One of them, 'The World's Religions for Peace' included the speech that I had submitted in typescript before it was delivered. It was around the subject of the movement of the Guru Narayana, which had declared itself as open and dynamic, recognizing one race, one religion and one Goal or God for man, about which I had spoken.




Vivekananda in America.


More than fifty years before me, Swami Vivekananda had delivered a similar message before the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He spoke then of the attitude of tolerance and lack of exclusiveness in the religion that he represented. The world had become more used to such ideas by the time I could deliver my message. Religious, racial and ideological rivalries have still continued to tear men from men.



It was good, however, to think that there should always be a group of good people who think in terms of peace on earth, human solidarity and goodwill. Lukewarm enthusiasm, however, has always been there and it must be clear that more positive determination through more radical understanding is needed if man is to live in peace with fellow man. A stronger and sterner dose of the absolutist attitude, scientifically understood with a more apodictic certitude, can alone make men free. The future education of the race has to be geared seriously to such an aim.


Checking out of the Hotel Roosevelt with all my bills duly taken care of through the telephone by the nice lady in the office of the Church Peace Union near Central Park, I next took lodging at another hotel uptown past Central Park not far from the Ramakrishna Centre in that area. My pocket had also been replenished by the Church Peace Union Office with a couple of hundred dollars which was almost all I possessed at that time. The summer days were not yet over and a riot of foliage was in the parks still, light green before autumnal days could turn it to more warm or mellowed shades from lighter tints. The change from the chromatic tints to achromatic shades induces into one's subconscious the essence of the seasons, which poets and artists have tried to depict in many ways. The feeling is the original for all such attempts which have to be pieced together to produce the total feeling they are meant to represent.


I used to sit on the seats of Central Park and then eat my supper before sunset while the days were long, in one of those diners where one paid more and got less. Teacups with string bags of tea dangling their labels on their sides did not look homely or inviting to me, used as I was to the proper pot with a cosy round it. The cup of tea is always an excuse for some relaxation, but when it is hastily handed to you across the diner counter or buffet opening while you sit on raised stools with others waiting to do so after you, you have to hurry up and drink it. Tea does not taste the same when thus hustled or muddled through, and teatime is not the consolation to the tired man that it generally is meant to be, where there is more sense of leisure. It is the Chinese, or better still the Japanese, who know how to give honour to a tea-pot - more than even the Englishman who is always talking about his 'cup of tea'.


While sitting in Central Park I heard different jargons spoken by new arrivals from Europe which did not differ much to my raw ears from the Donald Duck language that was meant to be a caricature but was too real to be so.



Good American English had still a long way to go to become acceptable in respectable circles through an educative process that often takes place somehow or other through Reader's Digest articles that tell you 'how to increase your word power', or other haphazard ways. This however does not correct the duck-like twang in the accent by which one can tell an American unmistakably anywhere.



I could not afford to live indefinitely at the new hotel where I had checked in after I had checked out of the Hotel Roosevelt in the heart of New York City. The kind lady who had arranged the second hotel for me had taken care that it was not as costly as the first one so that, while the dollars lasted in my pocket, I could endure longer in the States, having whatever adventures I was resourceful enough to carry out. I was thus at large again, as once previously when in Geneva in 1928. I felt as I did then, like a criminal or a fortune-hunter with the unsteady conscience of a Launcelot Gobbo hanging at the neck of my heart, dictating to me to budge or budge not in one direction or another.


I was still going to try my confusions or conclusions with my luck as I have ever been prepared to do throughout my life. What was I going to do when the bucks were all spent? This was as much a matter of indifference then as now, when I am penniless except for ten rupees in my purse which no one wants to take; travelling to Europe as I type these lines at Port Said on the 21st of May 1965 at fifteen minutes to noon in my cabin on the freighter MV Annenkerk, destined to reach Rotterdam. Money in other people's pockets must be as good for an absolutist as in one's own. The absolutist is always an errant adventurer, whether known as a knight in a romance, a wandering minstrel or a sannyasi of the Vedantic pattern. The beatniks and hobos belong by temperament at least to the same world-wide fraternity, whose members are kinds of stray birds or orphans of God.


How to make a living when broke again or at the end of my tether? Frontally faced with such a contingency, that is the proper attitude to cultivate always. I thought of Macy's department store and, with just the dollars enough to buy a new Hermes typewriter, signed the forms for a hire-purchase arrangement for payment.



I wanted also to see how clever the girl who had to interview me about my solvency could be. She showed no signs of suspicion, as there was a regular network of spies employed by the firm who delivered the article in three days time only after they had made sure secretly about the soundness of the deal.


I thought that as my status was that of a writer I could at least write articles and make money to live that way, but ill-luck as much as good luck has its whims in playing with you, and before three days were over the full payment for the new typewriter was taken care of by a simple phone call on the part of a friend whose acquaintance I had just made within the next two days, as it happened, and the machine was duly delivered to me at Bloomfield, New Jersey, where I went from the hotel uptown. How it all transpired so easily is an episode interesting to tell by itself.



There are two Ramakrishna Centres, one of them distinguished as the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, not so directly affiliated to the Indian headquarters at Belur Mutt as the former. I had called at the latter and found to my surprise that the old Swami in charge there recognised me, having known me as a boy in my teens at Bangalore, where he came to visit my father who was a direct follower of Swami Vivekananda in those early days. He received me very kindly and told me about the functioning of the Centre where good New York ladies studied Sanskrit besides attending Vedanta lessons.


The other centre, which was at the other side of the park, east or west, I do not remember, was not far off either. Swami Nikhilananda was a younger Swami who was in charge, and I attended one of the Sunday services there. The altar and pulpit resembled any other Protestant low church that rang the bells later than the high ones, usually before noon, so that New Yorkers could have their dinners soon after services each Sunday. The sonorous sentences from the pulpit came the same way as in other churches, as also the sermon and the benediction worded from Hindu scriptural sources instead of from the Bible. On the walls near the pulpit were hanging the pictures of the Holy Mother and of Ramakrishna, tallying again with the form of Christian worship prevailing in that part of the world.



The dimes and quarters were collected after the services as in other Churches too, and the Swami in broad sleeves pronounced benediction with raised hands. The sepulchral touch of Christianity was copied unconsciously in every detail - to please the congregation perhaps. Invited to dine, I found meat served as freely as elsewhere and the mixed gatherings resembled those of a university rather than that of a monastery. Except for some Vivekananda literature there was nothing distinctly Hindu about the institution. The Swami was himself held in high esteem on a par with the clergy of other churches in the city and was also invited to the occasional interdenominational gatherings.


In effect thus the poignant irony of the situation was that, instead of bringing all religions together, here was a new church added to the already existing ones in New York City, with corresponding counterparts for each of the items. Even Christmas was observed as others did. This attitude revealed adaptability, it is true - but what was there specially Hindu or even Vedantic about it? That was the question that came to my mind.


I remember speaking the following week at an evening gathering at the special invitation of Swami Nikhilananda. The subject I had chosen was 'How to Read the Gita', and I remember how, as I went on developing the subject, which was all original ground which I was myself bringing under the plough for the first time. I began to fumble, becoming more and more conscious of the New York audience used to formal sermons all ready-made and well-ordered. I began to suspect that I was cutting a very poor figure as a speaker before them. Soon the thought took away whatever little confidence I could muster up in nicely finishing my speech. Instead, the loss of confidence progressed in negatively geometric progression, and as a result all could see me fumbling and casting about in an effort to find correctly sequential sentences. The abruptness with which I apologised for my speech made the situation worsen to its last limits and, after admitting to the audience that I could not go any further, I came to the undignified close of a subject that was otherwise so dear to me and one on which I later wrote a whole work. In short I fumbled and flopped and was a failure, especially on a pulpit where speeches with a classical finish usually came from Swami Nikhilananda and others.



Strangely enough, this failure, for which I have never ceased to be fully ashamed, had its compensatory side, as I learnt later. The failure worked out to be the only stroke of a strange chance that brought me good luck when I was broke in my situation and wanted a miracle to happen, not only to pay for the typewriter that I had ordered but even to eke out a living in the States as I had planned to do. Returning was equally as difficult as staying on and there was nothing to choose between the alternatives.



The miracle did happen again. There was in the congregation or audience a simple Norwegian sailor who had jumped ship and settled down in the States. He was a full-blooded man to whom mystical interests came normally and who was beginning, vaguely at first, to take some interest in spirituality or mysticism of some unconventional type. He was the owner of a machine shop and an expert inventor of tool grinders, known for his genius in several states in and round New York and just making good as a self-made engineer. Tall and well-built with all human instincts in normal function, he was also a natural mystic who had confidence in penetrating any problem that any other human being could. He had contempt for eggheads who pretended to know more than they actually did.


This rather shy and sensitive man was listening to my speech that day and watching me too, as he told me when we became the best of friends forever a month or two later. He admitted then that he felt a strange attraction for me creeping over his whole being, just when I began to cast about for words in vain and finally failed floundering. He had established a sympathetic kinship with me which became further signed, sealed and delivered, as it were, to him just at the time he watched me admit my failure to make a good speech and abruptly break off.


This was just the thing that worked in my favour with him so finally and fully, as he admitted that he decided straightaway that he had found the man he was looking for to teach him. That I was introduced by Swami Nikhilananda as a direct disciple of a Guru in India and that I could still be found failing in that characteristic way was for him too good to be true. After the lecture when all were dispersing, one Mr. Home of Lyndhurst, who was a friend of the sailor turned machine-shop owner, whispered to me that he had found someone in East Orange who would give me a cheaper room on the other side of the Hudson in East Orange, New Jersey.



It turned out soon that it was none other than Harry Jakobsen, the same mystically-disposed machine-shop man. He was there himself to confirm the availability of the room. It was to be free and I could be his guest as long as I liked.


All was fixed and understood in a trice and the next day he came in his car to take me from my hotel round the corner uptown with luggage and all for a drive of about forty miles to his home. Luck has a way of turning the most difficult corner quickly, and what should have been the reverse soon happens by the pressure of the hand of luck, to be primed like a water pump in just that favourable way which, once started, gives water forever. This is what I have called the 'figure-of-eight principle' hiding behind chance events when it works anywhere. Rains come down after many such figure-of-eight efforts, as one can see if one is trained to watch rain clouds as they darken or clear many times before the downpour.


At dinner the next day I was seated with the Jakobsen family in a country villa in East Orange, a suburb of New York City, after driving through the Lincoln Tunnel and then past the skyways and the smoky dumping belt round the city to the green avenues dotted with well-planned and painted cottages with some garden or grass and shrubs bordering the shady avenues. The two daughters, Edvarda and Joyce, were then about thirteen and eleven respectively, and Johnny, the son, was about six. Mrs. Jakobsen was a slim dark-haired woman of Russian extraction, but the children were all blondes, although Joyce tended to be a little on the side of the brunet.


Next morning I was taken to the workshop of Jakobsen whom I began now to call Harry with intimacy. There the telephone call went through to Macy's Department Store hire-purchase section, telling them that Harry would send a cheque in payment for the typewriter for the amount due, all in a lump. I sat in Watsessing Park nearby while Harry was at work and translated some of the Malayalam verses of the Guru into English. Once or twice as I sat there on a bench I thought a cop came and watched me suspiciously, as I hardly knew at that time that parks were places where undesirable characters sometimes took refuge from the glaring watchful eyes of cops. I sat innocent of pickpockets, delinquents, sex-abnormals and other hobos that the police had to chase away from time to time. How many misfits of that category there must be in the States I know not even now, but I am sure there are plenty of such 'misèrables' now, as in the days of Victor Hugo in France.



Taking a walk at night, soon after Harry came home, to buy some soft drinks round the corner under the maple trees in dim street-lights, I remember to this day this strange Harry asking me quietly and in so many words, 'Do you know that Narayana Guru has put me here to receive you when you came?' Harry has behaved ever since exactly as if these words were literally to be treated as true. I tend to treat it metaphorically by its laksnartha (indirect meaning), as Sankara would prefer; but there are more mystically-attuned temperaments to whom the difference between the literal and the indirect meanings are negligible. It was thus that I found a friend in need, who turned out to be one indeed.





East Orange, New Jersey.


Driving each evening forty, fifty or sixty miles into the countryside around the East Orange area became a habit with me and Harry. While he sat at the steering wheel and the children were in the back seat, I sat next to him talking philosophy which, instead of tending to make for more accidents, seemed to be favourable in avoiding them. Traffic jams and icecream parlours and fried-snack places went past, as also deer parks and swimming pools on those hot summer days; often detaining us when New Yorkers, like all others, drove round to 'cool off' as they say.


To be at the steering wheel was for most Americans to be at home and at rest, as others say of India. To go swimming or take morning drives to Eagle Rock, except on ominous thunder-shower days when lightning bolts sounded worst in that area, were other diversions less regular. The excuse for these long outings which worked subconsciously with me and Harry too - to whom I had mooted the idea of starting a Gurukula in the countryside quite early in my conversations with him - was to find a sufficiently interesting spot for that purpose. Prospecting for the proper place for the location of a Gurukula which was to conform to the requirements of a fraternity seeking dialectical wisdom for unitive understanding and universal brotherhood, went on side by side with the cooling-off programme of each day, while Harry drove through the countryside and I sat beside him. All aspects of Gurukula life were talked out threadbare, and all nooks of the countryside were explored. Real estate men and lawyers were soon consulted and the final steps were soon to be taken.



Meanwhile I had moved into a room by myself in Washington Street, Bloomfield, near Harry's machine shop. Instead of eating Chop Suey or Chow Mein in the Chinese restaurant in the growing township of Bloomfield, which had its highways and trams leading from Newark to Montclair, the classy township situated in a hilly ground where well-to-do blacks and whites just managed to live as neighbours, I could now cook my own rice and lentil curry each day and have a bathroom to myself in the mornings, which was important for an Indian wishing to be holy in the Brahmanical sense of bathing in the Ganges.


The greatest of the advantages for me, however, consisted in the fact that I could from this location easily reach four libraries, two of them perhaps the biggest of their kind, one in New York City and the other in Newark; both of which were better stocked with books than most of the biggest libraries in cities in India. I frequented them not only daily, but both mornings and evenings, borrowing or poring over books and taking notes for hours. Harry came frequently to my little room upstairs; took care of the landlady's bills each week; and left me enough greenbacks to meet my expenses, leaving still a generous margin of pocket-money.


I asked him, by way of testing his will power, to come with his car to the room on the dot of seven in the morning to drive together to the Eagle Rock where we had some of the most interesting of the first lessons in the Gita, walking more often than sitting down. One or two others who were working with Harry joined these classes sometimes. The books borrowed from each of the libraries gave me plenty of work, which I did with full seriousness as when I was preparing for the doctorate in Paris. I read not only subjects of my immediate interest but wandered widely over subjects like Egyptology, Biblical research and Ancient History, and looked over the general literature books besides books on philosophy and psychology. The Upanishads too received my attention, as well as original source books like those of Aristotle and Plotinus and theologians or mystics whose lives I studied with their works in order to obtain the broadest of bases from which to do my own writing.



The autumnal months were approaching, and forest colours changed slowly as the eye of day began to wink more and more by length. The routine of reading, cooking and eating, with the Gita lessons thrown into the bargain, went on. Occasionally Harry drove me to more far-off states like Virginia, where he had to go on his work, and I did a bit of sight-seeing, mostly covering the Eastern half of the States, leaving the wild West out of my province for the time being.


How a Gurukula was founded in the Schooley's Mountains near Hackettstown and how I tried a bit of teaching again in the Manumit School in Pennsylvania are stories yet to be told. I have to relate too how, before the next spring could assert itself properly, I found myself prematurely in the new Gurukula premises and how it was just short of a miracle that I survived in the cold there in the prefabricated cottage which was still to be insulated against the below-freezing blizzards and temperatures that still prevailed for weeks before warmer days came - thrilling episodes to be told in detail later.









Watsessing Park, New Jersey.


The park where I spent my early days next to the toolshop of Harry was called Watsessing, and its aspect began to change from summer to winter conditions, which contrasted in the northern latitudes of America much more strikingly than in Europe whose winters I had already tested. America was a harsher place, especially in and around New York. The sticky summer months when children cooled off under city hosepipes turned on themselves, while the bare-bodied men drove all round to the bathing places in the countryside, seeking to escape the vapour of the season, changed, and instead of poison ivy and poison oak by which allergic persons were exposed to skin scars that sometimes lasted weeks, resisting all recommended cures, we were exposed to freezing winters when the blizzards left us frostbitten. Often they swept off the asphalt plate roof coverings nailed onto wood as usual all over the state. Often cars came to a standstill on snowbound highways, leaving passengers marooned for hours in out-of-the-way places.


In between these extremes of summer and winter, the mellow days of autumn had their intimately rich whispers from the inner sources of joy in all men. The seasons thus played different movements in a sonata, which perhaps some symphonies unconsciously reflect or subtly imitate in soft or sharp sounds.


Within the range of the four libraries which I frequented I made amends for my neglected education. I loved to get lost in a forest of strange aspects of knowledge as I rambled freely in adventure. The Lackawanna railroad could take me sometimes to New York City where I went into the big library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue to pore over favourite out-of-the-way books, dreaming of distant parts of the world of bygone days. Watsessing and Lackawanna unmistakably had associations with the Red Indians who were the original masters of the land before the white man conveniently 'discovered' it. The discovery had its dark side in the lengthening shadow of the racial problem still troubling America.



Left to myself for days on end in my little room in Washington Street, Bloomfield, New Jersey, where the landlady was Mrs. Adler, a widow with a pet dog living by herself downstairs and having lodgers upstairs, of whom I was one in the smallest of rooms behind, where, closeted close, I spent all my waking hours with open books.


All these details come back to my memory as I type these words in a ship's cabin at summer's end 1965, seventeen years later. This itself is bound to become like a legend a minute from now and help to fill the history perhaps of ten thousand years to come. It is thus too with all other items in life making for the totality that is the flux of Maya as universal becoming traced on the background of Time within each man's heart. When all these elements are well mixed and made into a sort of confection where joy and pain blend into one, we have a strange wine which could be called life in general. The Red Indian names of the railroad and park with mellow autumnal feelings gave to the total situation a flavour or savour of mystic life-content eluding ineffably all powers of language to describe. Inwardness of living and loneliness have their rewards thus - in spite of such charms being sometimes questioned by marooned men in far-off islands who had too much of solitude, like Alexander Selkirk, the original Robinson Crusoe, depicted in a poem of my schooldays.



One reaches Hoboken and takes the train through the Hudson tubes to New York, and thousands go the whole distance of thirty or forty miles each day by car or train, both by sky-ways and underground, like routine clockwork, and treat it as normal. The single-class compartments of clean trains were luxuriously upholstered and tickets were put on the backs of the seats themselves for verification without the old-fashioned way of asking for them each time. No words were wasted and outward efficiency, at least, had its last word and public manners and polite service were automatically guaranteed here.


If one purposely looked for racial discrimination one could find it in the most unexpected places. The conductors or the cops and even hairdressers or the dentist's nurse, not to speak of some select restaurants, made such discrimination so unobtrusive that it could hardly be detected. They had a technique of giving a 'brush off' to unwanted people.



As it is as bad to show discrimination as to find it when it is sufficiently hidden from public view, I do not wish here to take space and spoil the strange game of hide-and-seek that goes on even in and around Washington D.C. or New York in the name of the shade or tint of your skin. It is a case where something only skin deep could seemingly penetrate as deep as to affect the heart, effectively dividing man - at least in superficial social life. More intelligence is needed on the part of men who so discriminate, and that is the shortest answer I can think of. A silly ailment must find a silly remedy like being obliged to do something foolish in public.


My visits to New York were quite frequent. Surprise meetings with friends almost gone out of my life forever had an element like the pleasure that children have when they play hide-and-seek and in innocence can never get over the sheer joy involved. The alternation of the perceptual and the conceptual always reveals the implicit wonder of the underlying principle of the Absolute. As a serious philosopher past seventy now, I still have my full sympathy for the repeated bursts of laughter children are capable of at the age where mere taking notice gives place to more intelligent observation of events around them. I surprised some of my old friends or pupils of Switzerland in exactly such a spirit at the age of fifty-two.




Rockfeller Center in the 40's.


Schaffers' near Rockefeller Center, which was the hub of some of the fashionable élite of the city of New York, was the common rendez-vous for diners in the evenings. I happened to be invited there by Miss Truda Well who had been a colleague with me while I was on the staff of the Fellowship School in Switzerland nearly twenty years before. She had in the meantime risen in her office to be then in charge of Child Education under the New York City authorities. Greedy New York gormandisers had already occupied all the available tables before we arrived at the place.


One had to wait in a queue for one's turn, somewhat like forming a breadline, which often enters indigently, as it were, by the back door into the heart of the world of opulence. To me any place where obscene language is heard in the mornings is a slum; and having to wait one's turn for food when hungry, or for the bathroom to give the green signal to impatiently waiting people - whether in ship, train or posh hotel, always implies a form of poverty. One elbows through a crowd of fellow humans to be first served.



What human condition could be more damaging to dignified human behaviour than this pushing out another brother to be first to get something? Yet opulent civilization dares to mock poor people in so-called 'backward' countries like India who never eat a morsel of food without offering or sharing it with others. As India gets civilised, even the breadlines come into vogue.


Opulence hides a subtle form of poverty which enters and sits in the middle of the civilised or rich situation - otherwise full of glamour - and stares mockingly like the god Dionysius of Greek legend. Rich-looking places often hide slum life, proving the truth of the saying, 'Painted tombs do worms enfold', as also 'All that glitters is not gold.'


We had our turn at last, and after dinner my friend who stood me the treat suggested that we go to a short film show nearby to enjoy Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons with newsreels and some select cultural items thrown in. We sat enjoying together in the uniform quarter-dollar seats in a permanent theatre. I must mention also that my friend, who wore high-heel shoes in my honour that day, had a small mishap as she tripped and fell on the Fifth Avenue pavement. I had to play the gallant man to help her to stand up again - which had its touch of humour, as always with a bitter taste of sea brine. According to Bergson all humour has a horizontal value and spells bitterness against someone. I could not laugh outright therefore on this occasion without being cruel. There was also the absurdity of contrasts, as the lady happened to be well-built and too heavy besides for me to prove my gallantry with.


The second interesting hide-and-seek episode took place as I walked one evening down Broad Street in Newark on the other side of the Hudson River from New York. In size and appearance this neighbouring city, although it was the business capital of a lesser adjoining state, was no less opulent nor less elegantly streamlined than New York itself. There was a delicatessen on the other side of Broad Street, which corresponded to the number of the address of an old pupil of mine, Misha Chimacoff, and I made bold to enter to ask if Chimacoff had anything to do with this restaurant serving delicacies like fruit ice creams, as its name indicated.



As I stood within the room of the restaurant and asked a waiter, the proprietor overheard me from inside a partition and came out to greet me, calling me Pitar Natty. I had never before seen the man and was rather surprised at his familiarity. He was Mr. Chimacoff, the owner of the delicatessen and father of Chimmie, as we called the son.


The surprise heightened when he said that he had had heard all about me from Mrs. Chimacoff, the mother, who had been in Switzerland when I too had been there twenty years before. He assured me that they had all often talked about me through the two decades.


I thus lived continuously in the minds of friends dispersed and distributed in time and space. The same kind of evidence has come to me more than once, and I am inclined to believe that what they said, even when every concession has been made in the name of conventional praise or exaggeration, had a considerable residue of truth. Some children born in my absence and passing their teens when I met them in Switzerland itself after a similar interval gave me unmistakable confirmation in this matter. The affection of an absolutist might have nothing to give by way of actual reciprocation but all the same is very real both for the giver and the receiver of such affection or regard.


Soon a telephone call went to the home of Mr. Chimacoff while I was treated to a wine glass full of the best icecream of the house as a special favour of the proprietor, and the return call came by which I was invited to dine with the family on the top floor of a building bordering and overlooking a park where President Truman happened to be haranguing his constituency for his election to the presidency. Harry Jakobsen and Mrs. Jakobsen, who was of Russian extraction like the Chimacoffs, were contacted by phone and came after the dinner to join the coffee party that followed, with the son Chimacoff himself who had returned from a long trip in a car from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic. He was a grown-up man now, earning a living. There was a radiant fellowship prevailing all through the evening which could not be laid at any door other than that of the absolutist element implicit in the situation as a whole. The Absolute is a cementing factor as also a leaven that leavens the whole lump.




My matchbox-like room at the back of the Washington Street house in Bloomfield where I sat pouring over books, wedded to the same chair and table, continued to be home through the winter months when storm windows had to be put on by me to help my landlady to keep the rooms protected from penetrating currents of cruel air, often several degrees below zero centigrade, as was usual in winter in the Eastern states. The neon-lit streets with their coloured reflections on the snow had a different glamour in winter.


I went my rounds as usual between the libraries in the four towns or cities. I bought myself a pair of galoshes and warmer underwear to withstand the cold but did not omit my early-morning baths, about which my landlady talked grudgingly to her friends, as I could hear from my room. A daily bath was considered too much where once a week a whole tub-full was wasted instead of the one inch in the tub when I took mine each day. What is respectable in one country becomes an item of disrepute in another.


Winter months thus went past with the eye of day becoming more and more closed. Harry would come with split-second correctness, even on dark winter mornings, at the dot of six to take me for a ride to the same Eagle Rock promontory which was now seen with frozen or sleety roads leading up to it and icicles forming on the eaves of the top pavilion. Harry had responded with full willpower to my suggestion for early morning lessons on the Gita. The eye of day slowly opened again as the spring equinox started the procession of the seasons in the reverse sense. The newspapers were expecting that day on which groundhogs would bore through their holes and come out to see if there was to be good weather. If they turned tail and returned to the hole, bad weather was supposed to continue for a month or at least a fortnight more.





Long Valley, Schooley's Mountains.


While the snowbound roads and fields were still around in a delayed sunny spring that the groundhog refused to usher into being by turning tail in the reverse direction from what presaged good weather, Harry ordered a company which specialized in prefabricated houses to put up a house with five rooms and a cellar on the ground which he had meanwhile purchased in Long Valley, New Jersey, on the top of Schooley's Mountains. This was the name of a promontory lying between the nice little township of Long Valley and the more important Hackettstown in New Jersey, about three hours by the Greyhound bus service that connected it with their own bus stands located near Macy's at 34th Street and at Madison Square Garden at 50th Street in New York City.



As one climbed the steep hill by the winding road and turned right on a dirt road from State Highway 24, one arrived at a rectangular plot of ground eleven and a half acres in extent. Nearly half the plot of land was covered with a thick forest of hickory, ash, beach and other lovely trees, shrubs and wild flowers; and through the thickets two small streams flowed along their sandy bottoms like the laughing waters of the country of Hiawatha. Legend holds that it was one of the favourite places of the Red Indians who used the water for healing purposes. Deer were supposed to roam about the area, although I never saw one except domesticated ones within a fence near to the place. A half-frozen stream in a forest where wild animals of America roamed and Red Indians once lived has an attraction all its own.


The thaw that had set in in the early spring of 1949 tempted me to move from my Bloomfield room to the new prefabricated house. While the snow still lay thick on the ground the house had actually been built through an order given by telephone to the fabricators who did it in two or three days with bulldozers and ready-made units of building materials transported to the spot by that kind of co-ordinated effort in which America excels. The first coat of paint was already put on and, except for the insulation of the floor and inner walls against cold, all was finished, as if by Aladdin's magic genie, in a trice. Even the key of the finished Gurukula house was to be found at the door, hidden away from view.


Before I decided to move into the new place I was warned by several well-wishing weather experts that winter in New Jersey had its whims and that winter conditions might continue for another month. My own instinct for pioneering and starting a new Gurukula was too strong to heed these warnings and I gathered together my belongings into Harry's car and set out to settle there in the mountains.


East and West have two different histories of thought, and to bridge the chasm that separated the Guru from modern Western thought, which was so deep and wide, one had to begin at the very beginning with fundamental notions, and find the language too that could transmit the flow of human understanding from one side of the situation to the other. Such was the nature of my life-work.



At the new place I wanted to go to my task with all my force and thus found myself driving along the sleety road leading from Netcong to Long Valley and on the lakeside drive to Schooley's Mountains, with Harry at the steering wheel and the car loaded with paints and brushes to put the rooms in at least temporarily fit - though not in insulated - condition to make life safe enough for the bold adventure that I had wilfully initiated.


We arrived at the place about nightfall and with a benzine stove I began to cook my supper in one of the half-finished corner rooms where I tried to make myself comfortable. Harry, still having his workshop at Bloomfield and his home at East Orange, had to leave me to settle down by myself as best as I could.



There was a farm opposite this Gurukula, as it was soon after named by Harry himself who meant it to be a wisdom centre along the lines I had spoken about to him four months previously. This name was also found in Funk and Wagnall's Dictionary. It was not a new word in the language of the country and even if one day the Gurukula might not be exactly what it was meant to be, the name could continue for a house or a home. 'Whatever act one does for one's own sake must spell at once the benefit for another'. This was the old formula of Guru Narayana with which I reasoned here.


Harry was a man with wife and children but this should not be an impediment to the wisdom of the Absolute thriving in any chosen locality. He himself could be the representative of the Guru by belonging to the Guru parampara (hierarchy); and his children need not have to go out of the Gurukula just because they happened to be his children. One had not to prove the public character of the Gurukula by going out of the way wilfully to bring strangers' children only into the place dedicated to the Absolute. Both these extremes were not absolute in its strict neutrality. Harry had to live in the Gurukula with his children without contradicting the principles of the Gurukula in any way. Such was the new formula that I was seeking.



As I was beginning to say, on the other side of the road, on a farm of twenty-odd acres, a gentleman farmer of America lived. Besides the Toyes, for such was the name by which the family was known, living on the Toye Acres, as the homestead was called, with the two children born to them, there were four other girls who were called 'State Children' because they were children under the charge of the State who had had to be separated from their parents for legal complications in the conjugal life of one or the other. These came to visit the Gurukula now and then and were the only inmates in the beginning who could even indirectly be considered so.


After Harry had returned to his work the same evening, and as night fell, a slow breeze developed. As the ventilators in the cellar below were not closed and the floor not without crevices between the planks, there was no way of keeping warm the very first night of my arrival, but I managed to protect myself with paper spread on the floor and round me to make an enclosure against the cold currents of air from below and from the sides. Some sunny days, however, soon intervened and I continued to manage to live there somehow. On certain days when there were grey skies and snowfall, I shut myself up in the room and cooked and ate all alone while the winter birds sang repeated homesick phrases around. In the continued loneliness that I enjoyed there in those post-winter days, with red sunrises and sunsets seen through the beautiful forest and the trees that had shed their leaves and over the white snow, a rare joy was felt within me. The voices of birds in the mornings while I was sitting with my coffee percolator on the stove seemed to repeat some phrase again and again to me which sounded as if they asked, 'Peet, peet, where is your coffee?' The eidetic tendency in the mind can put on to any sound any meaning to which it is emotionally predisposed. The emptiness of a lonely mind favours such superimposition of meanings.



I tried to live in the corner room of the half-finished Gurukula with full innocence of how New Jersey weather could be deceptive. The semblance of summer that came was only a sort of Indian summer, as they called it, which passed into winter conditions again. The coal-fire stove in the room had a chimney whose height was less than that of the top of the gable of the building, and whenever a gust of wind came from a certain direction the obstruction of the A gable made some smoke come down the chimney into the room. Because of lack of draught the fire, once lit, could not be sustained by my best efforts.



It even happened that on a snow-bound morning I had to climb to the roof by a sort of questionable ladder in the cold to try to fix it by turning the outlet of the chimney away from the gusts of wind that entered therein, but I could not stop the smoke from coming into the room so as to put the fire out again and again.


It was one specially cold morning that I woke from my sleep quite early to make sure that the fire did not go out completely, and found that the temperature was well below freezing, touching twenty below zero Fahrenheit. The lemon and the onions in the room had frozen and I had to cut ice instead of vegetables with sap in them. The lobes of my ears were frozen to brittleness and my hands were beginning to be benumbed. Repeated attempts to start the fire had failed and I had climbed to the top of the roof, facing the danger of falling from its steep sides. The fire was going out and the winds came through the crevices in faster repeated gusts. One could freeze to death in really cold climates, I had heard. I therefore made my last efforts to survive.


The neighbours even thought, as they told me later, that the 'strange Indian' who was seen carrying buckets of water each day to his room from their well and who was seen outside the house only when he went to buy his weekly provisions at Skinner's General Store, about one and a half miles off, would be found dead one morning within the freezing room. The reader can guess even now that this did not happen, as I say that I am past seventy now and am typing these reminiscences in the south of France at the end of July 1965, not far from the antique little town of Vaison-les-Remains where I am engaged in starting another Gurukula at present. This kind of pioneering has proved a fixed idea with me and I have always been trying to do something nearly impossible as a practical corollary of my absolutism.


On the morning in question, finding my life in danger, at least as I believed then, I was trying to keep alive, as close as possible to the last spark of fire left in the room at the bottom of the coals in the oven. That too was about to go out to freeze me finally. I was not going to leave the post where I thought my duty lay and finally thought I would climb on the stove to stand there to keep at least my feet warm. It was at this point that I heard Harry's car outside. He had just brought the cement sheets to insulate just one room and thus proved my saviour. By noon all was right and I cooked my lunch again in a room that could retain its heat.








How I was miraculously saved by Harry while expecting the fire to go out and with it my own life as I stood on a stove that was being put out by gusts of cruel wind many degrees below freezing was the tragic scene at which the last chapter of my life-story ended. Better days followed soon and full summer set in, making the new Gurukula a kind of paradise except for the Poison Ivy and Oak that one inadvertently touched, giving blisters to the allergically-predisposed, of whom mine was not an extreme call.


Waving flowers on the wayside of New Jersey woods at the beginning of summer were a sight to see. Ever since I had landed in New York in the summer of 1948 I had had the intention of touring the States, giving lectures at academic centres and peace foundations. I had contacted several lecture bureaus and agencies, but learnt that such agencies filled up their programmes almost a year in advance and that most lecture programmes from coast to coast were already made up. In spite of my belated efforts a few interesting lecture appointments came my way, of which the one at Columbia University in New York City is what I vividly remember. I spoke also at night at the big training college in Poughkeepsie where I had a very interested audience of educated men and women. Miscellaneous similar engagements came to me from the High School near Long Valley in New Jersey as also from the Lion's Club in Dover about thirty miles away from where I lived. I carried water, cooked and ate all by myself through the weeks that matured spring into more summer-like days, and one year was thus about to be completed of my first visit to the USA.


The Church Peace Union, of which I was the guest, promptly paid a cheque for nearly a thousand dollars for the one speech I had delivered and for my collaboration with their efforts by sitting on some committees for Peace and Understanding which the rich endowments made by Carnegie had made possible.



I cashed this cheque at the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City in one of the biggest buildings of the banking area there, but not before the man at the counter had scanned me, as a coloured man with a cheque for an amount large enough to raise his suspicions. He hid it, however, under the politest of manners, but took care to contact the Church Peace Union office. Finally, with my pockets full of dollars, I went to Cook's office and soon booked my passage to Paris by an interesting American boat called the SS Marine Flasher. It was one of those popular Atlantic one-class ships that easily cut across the billows and groundswells without any pitching or rolling like other more drunken types of bigger ships. I soon found myself in a miscellaneously jocund company of farmers, artists and students who were all put together on berths arranged tier on tier near the hold of the ship. I remember an old farmer, settled in the States for many years, returning to his old country after a long lapse of Americanisation. He often broke out into a rather disreputable ditty about a cock-eyed wife while others tried to compose themselves to sleep. A young painter would shout him down from a top berth, only to find that he started his ditty again.


There were several Indian students too, returning to India after their studies, who proved themselves gay, if not gayer, than their paleface fellow-passengers in chumming up in pairs with their counterparts of the opposite sex. As I walked on the decks above, I found pairs of such couples everywhere and, before I had a chance to make any selection, all possible matchings had been already accomplished. As usual, I found myself left out of the game and kept consoling myself wandering from deck to deck in daily rounds before and after each meal.


I did, however, make enough interesting contacts even thus, including that of a young lady in distress, as we landed in Antwerp from New York after about seven days. She was travelling alone and had to be helped to go to a suburban station in Antwerp from where the next train to Paris had to be boarded. After making only one mistake, arriving there in the evening we found many of our fellow passengers  already waiting there to take the same train late at night. I chivalrously stood them all a tea, oblivious to the fact that in Belgian railway stations they made the additions of the bill mount up in squares of what I mentally expected. I paid the fabulous amount, half in protest, but glad to afford it, seeing that my pockets were full with the amount I had recently received from the USA.



The rich dim-lit city of Brussels rumbled past as we sat in the compartment with two well-dressed businessmen who did not omit to take some interest in the stray, rich-looking young American lady to whom I was only pretending to lend my paternal protection.



The refrain of a favourite hit song among Parisians just before that time which spoke of 'L'amour de Paris pour toujours' (a love of Paris forever) was a chronically mental automatism with me then as I found myself in a small hotel in the Latin Quarter of that city whose charms many men have felt and recorded before me. The rich young lady who had travelled with me took chic rooms on the other side of the river where dinners cost ten times what they did in hotels run by Greeks and Italians round about the Place St. Michel, mostly meant for the student population to patronise. I dined at one hotel after another to study the specialities of each, which usually mounted up to 150 francs, more than ten times the price when I myself was a student there twenty years before.


Now when I write these lines in September of 1965 from Harrogate, England, the prices have moved one more decimal point to the right, making for a logarithmic or geometric spiral progression in prices. Post-war conditions in Paris had eased a little in other respects, however, during the year that I spent in the States.


Again, by the hospitality and uniform kindness of Madame Morin, I had the whole of her flat of four rooms in the 14th arrondissement all to myself. The lady herself was employed in Geneva and visited Paris only once a week or fortnight. As of old, once again I began to frequent the corridors of the University, attending the lectures of Professor Lacombe who had by then succeeded to the seat occupied by the famous orientalist Sylvain Lévy. I renewed several friendships that were beginning to be forgotten over long intervening years of neglect and even organised weekly after-dinner gatherings of friends who came to discuss with me subjects of common interest, mostly related to Indian thought.


Aspects of Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita came under scrutiny, and I visited the Ramakrishna Centre at Gretz, one hundred kilometres from Paris, where my old friend and college-mate of Madras days lived and taught in a new ashram.



Some subtle clash of rival loyalties as between one spiritual teacher and another had intervened to spoil our long friendship and I had to learn the lesson alluded to in the Bible about the sheep that belonged to one fold being kept from others of a different fold - although there could be, as Jesus said, sheep belonging to him in other flocks. This lesson implied the same riddle, which is dialectical in essence, of Jesus saying, 'Those who are not with me are against me and those who are not against me are with me'. One had to use a special tact not to set one group against another. Even Vedic Gods have been accused in some of the Upanishads of being greedy and of stealing the cows (meaning beneficial believers) of other Gods. Rivalry of this kind however is limited and confined to relativistic outlooks in spirituality and does not go with absolutism.



There is an interesting little episode which I must not omit to relate because of the valuable lesson it taught me in economics as it applied to me personally. Lest I should be repeating myself here let me make this aspect of the story as short as possible. When I took my doctorate in Paris in 1933, I had entrusted the extra copies of my reprinted thesis to a bookseller opposite the University buildings to be sold on account with me. I held a receipt for the balance still owing me after the first advance instalment paid in 1933. Now, after a lapse of over a decade and a half, within which a Second World War had interfered with men as well as their affairs very drastically, there was a ten-fold devaluation of the token currency coin that signified actual value. I produced my receipt at the counter and found that all the copies had been sold out. The proprietor quickly put down some currency notes in full settlement, which was ten times less than what I expected according to the prevailing coin values, and which could only buy me a dinner.


The notable lesson that this transaction flagrantly taught me was just this: the five years of work, the correct production or the successful sale of a product, need not necessarily mean any significant economic value if larger factors in the world situation do not co-operate to create value. The usual mechanistic theories in economics thus stood defeated in my experience, signally in this personal case, at no stage of which was there any flaw in the transaction as such.




Solitude may not hold any charm to a man marooned in an out-of-the-way place, but from personal experience during this period, I can vouch for its joy within oneself when one is lonely in a busy city. The months I spent in late summer and early autumn in 1949 in my flat in Paris proved to me its possibilities beyond all doubt.


I spent most of the hours of the day without speaking to anybody. I cooked, ate, studied or slept and often went for walks in the nearby Parc de Montsouris. Silent solitude lasted for weeks at a time. Silence induced an inner richness and loneliness within me which seemed to have a mellow glow of emotional plenitude and was fully self-sufficient and enjoyable for oneself and in itself. One can enjoy life in and through itself, and horizontal relations and activities are often vain dissipations that dry up all sources of joy within.


Most people, especially in the West, seem to have lost this power and depend on stimulants and palliatives with sleeping drugs in a life of overcrowded dissipation, trying desperately to be, without just being happy and at peace with oneself in this rich inner loneliness. I often sardonically smile within myself at this paradoxical situation in which I was lonely within the busy life that I saw around me. One should not try to be happy but be happy. Children and animals respond characteristically to a man who wanders among them carrying this kind of loneliness. It is a rich endowment in itself.



I was then engaged in writing the book called 'The Word of the Guru' but had indulged in composing some poems in English, adopting a form of free verse so that the tension of writing a regular work could be alternately relieved. I sent one such poem to the Evening Standard, London, on how the illegitimate child born to a famous film star, then a hit in the news-world, was quite legitimate in the pure innocent eyes of Nature. This was to show that there were two possible moral standards - one of which Nature approved and the other that society banned. The latter was horizontal, though perhaps fully necessary in societies that were closed, static and tribalistically minded. At the present day such a duality or paradox in life is seen every day to become more and more aggravated in the West.



I decided to cross the Atlantic again before full winter winds began and booked my passage by one of the bigger luxury liners sailing from Le Havre or Cherbourg. The send-off dinner I gave to all the friends I had contacted in my stay in Paris included many contacts which have been of life-long interest to me and, although some have dropped off, I retain contact still with many of them. My grateful remembrances to each of them would be impossible to do justice to in this running narrative, which should not swell beyond proportion. Let them each know from their sides my thankfulness unstinted and forever.




Garry Davis declares World Government in Paris.


The name of Garry Davis had at that time become a household word. He leapt into fame by the single dramatic act of renouncing his American citizenship and pitching his small tent on international ground near the United Nations Headquarters in Paris, calling himself a World Citizen. The story of his later adventures for over a decade has been interestingly related by him in a book called 'The World is My Country', which reveals also how my meeting with this strange and intrepid spirit took place characteristically in the Atlantic when we were both on the open sea, free from national frontiers, sailing in the same ship, the SS America, going to New York. Just before the forty-thousand-tonner raised anchor, strange cries were heard from the docks from a group of Garry Davis fans which had followed him to the French coastal town. From my cabin I could hear clearly that they cried 'Davis, Davis!' and were agitated about finding him, trying to enter the ship at the last moment.


At the remote aft of the ship I shared the upper berth in a cabin with a fellow-traveller who happened to be a French anthropologist returning to Mexico. When the slogan-shouting had subsided somewhat, I was still looking at the strange book left on the lower berth of my cabin by my fellow passenger who had gone out to see about bringing in his other belongings. I had greedily picked up the book he had left, without his permission, because it seemed to beckon to me, saying, 'Here I am, just what you want.' It was a history of religions lately published by Professor M. Eliade of the University of Bucharest. I excused myself to the owner later and found chapters in it of absorbing interest which influenced my way of thinking about the growth and maturity of religions by what Eliade called 'dialectical revaluation'.



Bergson's 'Two Sources of Morality and Religion' had already meant a lot to me, and now this book was a further elaboration of the basic principles of comparative religion and allied problems. I refer to this to show how, even in a ship, you can be guided and educated in your thoughts by a strange chance that can be explained only as belonging to the Tao.


On hearing the shouts subside and the anchor ready to be raised, I strolled out of my cabin to look around and breathe some fresh air. There was a red-haired man of under thirty at whom many were pointing their fingers, sitting and typing in the smoking room. All seemed to keep aloof from him as if from a strange animal. They only whispered sotto voce 'Garry Davis.' The man himself looked confused, lonely and tired to his wit's end. He looked furtively around now and then like a frightened rabbit. With my knowledge of his chapter in Paris for World Citizenship, which I knew of in detail through friends who worked for the movement and who were also known to me, I got a transparent view of his mental state.


World unity was a subject dear to me and I had my full sympathies for this daring man who stood facing all the relativistic internationalists of the world and finding it too much, just as I thought at the time on watching him from a distance. I decided to accost him, which I did. I had my own answer for the problem before which he seemed to recoil just then. The dialectical or bilateral approach, rather than a mechanistically-conceived unilateral one, would cut the knot, I thought. I felt a maximum sympathy for Garry Davis and, although it was not usual with me to go out of my way to preach to anyone who did not seek my advice directly, I decided to make an exception in this case.


I went near him and spoke to him. At first he seemed surprised and seemed to disadopt me, but soon our relations became one of mutual willingness to listen. Soon interest was evinced in what I said. He seemed eager to know more of the new approach to the problem. A friendship was soon established which has now lasted more than fifteen years. It has grown since to be of an absolutist bipolar understanding likely to last a lifetime.


At the harbour in New York I left Garry in the hands of the police who took time to decide to let him go home with his father, mother and sister who had boarded the ship with news cameramen who wanted to include me in their story soon to be splashed all over.



I escaped publicity as premature at this stage for me and got lost among the thousands of others who were going down the gangway. Sure enough, Harry, the big man, was there to relieve me of my heavy baggage and he soon carried even my big trunk to his car without letting any porter touch it. We were shortly driving to East Orange, New Jersey, where I stayed at his house again for a couple of days before he could take me to Schooley's Mountain Gurukula at Long Valley. His first wife had died while I was in Paris, and he was also preparing to move into the Gurukula where I was to go in advance. The car was loaded with my belongings and a new set of the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as well. This set of books had been a Christmas present from his wife who had died, and he was still paying the instalments for the gift. It was thus in effect a gift made to himself for immediate use by me - most needed at just that very moment. Another Tao coincidence.




Schooley's Mountain.


After the pleasant six-day crossing to the States, again passing through the volley of questions from the FBI before being let out, I soon reached my favourite Gurukula in the Schooley's Mountains. A turkey farm had been started next to the Gurukula, where the 'cackle, cackle' of the birds started with any strange noise they heard and only subsided minutes later. Harry was planning to sell out in East Orange and settle at the Gurukula. He had big plans to remodel, alter and add to the building already put up. He also planned to have a flower and fruit garden, and to build a shop for his toolmaking business.


Before he could arrive, I was installed in a small room with the volumes of the Encyclopaedia within easy reach of my writing table where I went on clarifying my ideas day after day for hours at a time. My typescript had grown to more than six hundred pages, but half of this I was deciding to write all over again so that by adding a new volume anterior to what I had written I could avoid the nuisance of too many footnotes in the later volume. Only now as I type these lines from Harrogate, England, on September 13th 1965, holidaying in Yorkshire with Christopher Leslie, do I feel satisfied with what I have been revising and publishing in the pages of 'Values' regarding the Guru's philosophy, appearing from my pen in monthly instalments  of about twenty pages each time. Patient plodding through thousands of pages of writing has been my lot or hobby almost all my life.



As late summer changed into autumnal months, there were some sunny days left in which I did some gardening and tried to deepen a pool of spring water in the forest behind. It was a surprise to find one day among the thickets a pear tree loaded with semi-wild tasty ripe fruit which had gone unnoticed by all till then.


Garry Davis visited me for a day and stayed the night in the unfinished bedroom with his first wife Audrey. They were planning to leave by air for Haiti in a few days. We had absorbing tête-à-têtes far into the night where we first discovered the possibilities of a new political science called 'Geo-Dialectics' which was to be based on a dialectical approach to world problems. Outlines of this we then elaborated while together in India about five years later after long joint consultations on a full Memorandum on World Government, containing 'talking points' on the main principles for a World  Government.


Harry and his family soon moved into their fully-furnished and insulated bedrooms at the Gurukula, and sanitary fittings came soon after their arrival. All was going well towards a Gurukula nucleus in New Jersey, as it was beginning to function. A private family could get itself sublimated into an impersonal public and absolutist Gurukula if those concerned understood the theoretical and practical implications of such a bold experiment in institutional life. That Harry had his own children staying with him and going to school each day by bus was not to be considered a disqualification in itself for the Gurukula to be considered a full-fledged one in the fully open and dynamic absolutism that it was, in principle, to represent always. There were some sparkings and short circuits in the process of this kind of sublimation from relativistic levels and patterns of behaviour to absolutist ones.


Harry has been bravely submitting himself to the agonies and tribulations of the painful transition of ascent known in India as tapas. His latest letters to me now prove that our experiment has not failed in the long process. Even his having married a second time has not materially harmed the Gurukula ideals that he has always correctly represented in himself. Even noble failures to live up to absolutist ideals should often be counted as success, as implied in the dictum 'Nothing succeeds like success'. The Bhagavad Gita makes concessions for such in Chapter IX, verses 30 and 31.




My manuscript for 'The Word of the Guru' was almost ready, and I began to think of returning to India. We even had an early snowfall in December. Harry whispered to me one day that he had reserved a thousand dollars for me to enable me to get back to Europe first and then on to India, and assured me that, although I did not need all that amount for the passage, he wished willingly and deliberately that I should take the amount that he had decided to give me. As I had received money on starting from India from Mrs. Asan, without knowing whether it was 'lends' or 'keeps' as children say, I thought that the extra amount would do for paying her back on reaching India; but this kind lady was also equally generous and waived her claims. I was thus bounded by generosity on both sides.


I cannot go on telling my story at length in all its details. After driving with Harry near Niagara Falls and visiting the state of Virginia, I went with all my things to the pier where the superliner SS Liberty lay berthed in New York harbour about the end of the year 1950. When this big ship and its huge funnels was seen from the Southampton wharves as I disembarked, it seemed to tower like a superhuman giant, vomiting its smoke overhead into the cold air of the English coast. I reached London, Victoria, about noon and, as I had hardly any time to find a cheaper room, I entered a costly hotel near the station where I had bed and breakfast for one day for more than one pound sterling. It also had luxury marble bathroom fittings. I quickly found lodgings next day with Mrs. Titterton of Tavistock Square. With both my hands in my thick overcoat pockets I remember walking under Big Ben at the stroke of five on Christmas Eve, 1950.








I omitted to say that before walking on Christmas Eve 1950, a chilly winter day, under Big Ben in London, I had made some contacts by chance with some passengers on the luxury liner SS. Liberty.


They were going to attend a conference in Geneva at the beginning of the new year, 1951, which was called the 'Constituent Assembly of the Peoples' (of the World). The luxury liner was said to have originally been a German ship which changed hands after the Second World War and was renamed from 'Bremen' to 'Liberty'. It was over 50,000 tons if I remember rightly and, strolling from one end of the ship to the other, I felt like I was walking the streets of a city. With so many stairs, passages and bridges, rows of cabins, saloons, and staterooms, one felt like a rat in a maze in a behaviour test.


Molotov, at the peak of his fame as a UN orator for the USSR, was one of the distinguished passengers on board. I remember how two innocent American students, who had the curiosity to visit him in his cabin on the top deck, were chided strongly by other American compatriots on board with such harshness that they were made to feel very small indeed. Serious nationalism made no room even for innocent curiosity but cruelly labelled them traitors straightaway. There seemed to be here something of the same spirit as that of the Inquisition, although it was patriotism and not religion that was involved this time.


Peter Cadby of New York was a public relations officer of a business group who was to attend the 'People's Assembly', and so was a Quaker lady whom I had met years before. A young lady who was secretary to a white missionary who stood against colour discrimination in South Africa also became a member of our coterie as we sat in the salon of the big ship, talking about politics and world unity.




By consultation with them I changed my programme of staying in Paris and instead was attracted to Geneva and the World Conference to be held there. We soon became very intimate and friendly, especially as I told them that I knew World Citizen Garry Davis. Peter Cadby invited me to be present at the Assembly and sponsored my visit in the name of some committee of which he said he was a member. I soon felt the hand of the Tao in this coincidence, because I could be there merely by changing my immediate destination from Paris to Geneva. In both of these cities I had my kind friend and hostess, Madame Morin, to give me a place to live. A warm bed and a sure breakfast were waiting for me at Paris but, starting from London by one of the boats that crossed over to Calais from Dover or Folkestone (I do not remember), tagging my luggage along to the train that was ready with engine warmed to take us to Paris, I arrived there at nightfall, after one day. In Paris, instead of going to where my bed and breakfast were guaranteed, I changed my mind.


This is perhaps one of the most interesting things one can do in life. I have seen sparrows in summer in a bird bath that I had provided, enjoy doing just this again and again, as it were for its own sake. They splashed in the water for a while, then sitting on a twig, they took great trouble to dry their feathers, putting them in order. Then, after all care and time had been bestowed on such a scrupulous toilet, they decided to take another dip and begin all over again. Children sometimes throw their toys away for the changeful joy of having to name or find them again. Elders soon become incapable of such a sheer spirit of sport. They cannot truly belong, in principle, to the absolutist way. To the absolutist, the play and the thing become interchangeable or reversible as equations.


At last, after waiting in the Gare de Lyon for a porter to put my baggage onto the train for Geneva at some thirtieth platform or other at the far end, I was beginning to be anxious and desperate. The first time limit was over and I stood wondering whether I would have to rush with my things myself, when suddenly the fellow made an appearance in complete nonchalant unconcern, to rush with the things and push me into the train with my belongings at the very last moment.



I groped for the correct change to put into his hand but could fish out only a big silver coin that was valued at five times what I would have had to pay normally. He seemed disinterested and took the whole, and the train moved off. Whether his last-minute comeback was a ruse or not remains a mystery to me. Haste and bustle must be favourable hunting grounds for crooks.