Michael Le Page, Sydney
Michael Le Page discusses with Leigh Rowan his experiences of the Great Darshan of 1969.
Where were you living at the time you went to India in 1969?
I was living at Meher House, in Beacon Hill, a suburb of Sydney.
And had you met Baba before?
I had met Baba, in 1956 and 1958 in Australia. And in 1962 in India. So I had been to India once before in 1962.
Where you born into a Baba family?
I was. My parents are Bill and Joan le Page. My sisters are Jenny, now named Jenny Keating, and Marie le Page and Marie le Page, at that time, was Ruth le Page.
And Michael how old were you?
I was 17.
So what was your relationship with Baba up until being called to India in 1969?
Can I answer that in this way? It was late January or perhaps the 1st February. I was at home in Meher House in Sydney [built by Francis Brabazon intended for Meher Baba to live in when visiting Australia] and the phone rang – the black Bakelite telephone with the rotary dial. I had placed Babas image in the centre of it, which I was never sure was a good idea because Baba would spin around every time you dialed a number. I’m not sure but it was probably late morning and I happened to be home from school. I picked up the phone – it was Bill the postmaster at the Beacon Hill post office, announcing he has a telegram from India. Bill read out the contents of the telegram that announced that Meher Baba had dropped his body. The one that goes
‘Beloved Avatar Meher Baba dropped His physical body at 12 Noon on the 31st of January, etc. ‘
We are familiar with that telegram. And I listened to Bill dictating this to me, and I was writing it down as he said it and, and I knew him quite well because I would go there to buy lollies on the way to school or drinks on the way to and from school. So I knew him well, I'd know him for years. And I suppose he knew about Baba but it was interesting, I could hear in his voice that he recognised to some small degree the seriousness of this telegram and what it was conveying. To this day I don't know what he knew about Baba, I imagine very little, but there was something about the telegram that caught his attention, because ordinarily I guess he must have dealt with a lot of them each day, because that was the way telegrams would come, sent via his post office, for which, he would phone the people and dictate them. So I took this down, and as I was taking it down my first thought was "I wonder how my Father is going to react to this". Thinking, you know, that he would be quite distressed. And then my second thought was "I wonder how my Mother is going to react to this", would she be distressed? And, and only after I'd had those thoughts did I think "well how am I reacting to this, how is it impacting me". And I didn't have a very strong reaction. The planning was already in place to go to The Great Darshan, in April or was it May?
April to June –
But the Australians were to go in May.
Okay. So May of 1969. So, I didn't have a strong emotional reaction, I was more concerned for how my parents would feel, knowing that Baba had dropped His body. And my relationship with Baba at that stage, at age 17 - which gets to your question finally. I felt connected with Baba my entire life, but He certainly wasn't really the centre of my life, He was part of the fabric of my life but I had other interests. I was very keen on surfing, I was very keen on sports. I wasn't particularly attentive at school. I found passing exams quite easy but I was definitely not a scholarly sort of person, an academically oriented sort of person. And so Baba was there in my life from the beginning. But I didn't feel particularly strongly emotionally connected with Him, I felt some connection but the feeling was more of Him being a family member than a strong sense of devotion and reverence. Of course I accepted Him as the Avatar. Always had since I was a very young child, the concept of the Avatar always made logical sense to me so I had no problem with that, the concept of God taking human form from time to time. It always seemed like a really sensible idea to a 5 year old! So my relationship with Baba was something very present, there was a sense of connection.
So it was a relationship building up over time. You were a child, you had a relationship with Baba as a child, so you must have seen Baba in some way then and now you're going into your teenage years. Is there some kind of change occurring? And also a connection with all of us in the Baba community, which I'll ask you about later. Firstly, just that period from being a child growing into a teenager.
Yes. As a teenager my relationship with Baba didn't really change in one sense, in the sense that I never felt a need to rebel against Baba. And the Baba community and Babas world. I think at times as a teenager I was quite indifferent to Baba and quite indifferent to spirituality at least one the surface. But I believe now, in retrospect, that I never really let go of the spiritual orientation or perspective on life. But it wasn't an active interest, there were many times as a child and as a teenager I felt great embarrassment about Baba. But around about the age of 17 when an interest in mysticism became more widely known, my relationship with Baba changed from being a source of great embarrassment at times – not all the time, but at times – to being a source of – it was never a source of pride but people, my school friends started to take an active interest and started to ask me about Baba and so it became somewhat easier. Still I concealed from my school friends the fact that I was going to India for the 1969 Darshan. So no one, my school friends didn't know, I just disappeared for two and a half weeks. However long it was.
So had you met all the newer Baba lovers. What was your impression of all these young Baba lovers coming to Meher House and coming to the 1969 Darshan?
I really enjoyed everyone, I really found people to be very interesting. I really appreciated the creativity and the energy and enthusiasm and the idealism that I saw and shared with them. I felt a real familiarity with people like yourself Leigh and your dear friend Adele who I stayed in touch with for many years. And those people that I met for example George, and Meagan. I felt that I fitted in very, very easily and comfortably with them. Even though I was someone whom grew up in the outer suburbs of Sydney and whose main passion was surfing, on one hand I didn’t have a lot in common in terms of lifestyle but in terms of values absolutely I did. And so I felt completely comfortable and enjoyed everyone's company immensely. And then of course there were the people that had status amongst my peers like the bands Tully and The Who and different people in the rock music world, and of course they had also a special sort of appeal.
So let’s get back to the time when you got the telegram of Baba dropping the body..
The phone call, because the telegram then gets delivered the next day I think. The physical yellow piece of paper.
So there must have been some sense of shock and some thoughts of "Do we still go to the Darshan?”. What happened in your mind then?
I must have been just thinking about it for the first time. I must have been very much under the guidance of my parents. And I don't think I made an independent decision, I didn't really think about it as an individual. I think I simply did what they were going to do, what they were recommending. Yes, so it wasn't an individual decision that I felt that I had to make, I never even considered it. To this very day!
So the next thing you started preparing to go obviously?
And you'd be been before so you were familiar with India.
Yes. I was. I had been to India in 1962 and so I was somewhat familiar with India. But to this day I find aspects of India very confronting. Particularly the poverty and the squalor I found difficult, India itself, and I felt it in 1962 and again in 1969.
Do you remember any highlights about actually going over on the plane, and for instance, meeting the different Australians?
I felt like I'd met most of them already at meetings at Meher House. I remember a couple of things, I apparently had flown once before as a very young child at the age of 3 coming from Melbourne to Sydney when we moved in 1954. But this flight in 1969 was the very first flight I had taken since then, so I suppose was my second flight. And I remember being very surprised at the speed of the plane and the sharp angle at which it took off and a little bit unnerved by that. And at some point during the flight I went to the toilet and I was sitting on the toilet and we hit a particularly bad patch of turbulence and I had no idea what turbulence was, and I just hang off the toilet seat because of the plane dropping and in the large mirror I saw my face just go white as a ghost and I thought 'this is the end' I thought I was going to die because I had no idea what this was. I had never heard of turbulence, I didn't know planes did this I just thought well this is interesting, this is it, this is where I die. And I was fairly calm about it. But I was quite sure but gradually -
It's funny you mentioning this because someone else was telling this exact story, I think it was Roy Hayes. I can't remember who it happened to, but he was telling us, one of the people on the plane went to the toilet during the turbulence and nearly had a heart attack.
It was quite a shocking experience and ever since then I think in the last 10 years I've had a slight to moderate fear of flying probably caused by that.
So that was one of the experiences on the plane. I guess you were glad to get back on earth.
I guess so. It was quite nerve wracking and apparently it was a particularly severe turbulence, according to people that had flown regularly, I think Bill le Page said that. It was unusually severe. The other thing that I remember on the plane was that I had a reputation as someone that liked desserts. And people were passing their desserts forward to me, which was both enjoyable and a little embarrassing. Because all these desserts would come, being passed down the cabin.
So when we arrived do you recall being met by Francis and the group?
No I don't, sorry.
We [The Australian group] were late, the plane was late too and we were supposed to go a hotel and stay the night but we actually only managed to be in the hotel for a couple of hours.
In Mumbai – In Bombay.
Then we had breakfast I think with Francis. After that I think we caught a plane to Pune, or perhaps Aurangabad. And we did some travelling in Aurangabad. We went to Shivaji’s Fort. Do you recall any of that?
Did that come before or after The Great Darshan? I do remember that vaguely. I remember it being tremendously hot and dry. I think in Fahrenheit it was something like 104 degrees.
Roy Hayes who was also attending the Darshan thinks it was 108.
The figure of 104 popped into my mind.
Yes me too.
I remember the old Aurangabad hotel which was quite gracious and quite shabby and I think I remember buying fabrics, perhaps Hindu (?) fabrics that are known in that area. That area specialises in these fabrics - and around Aurangabad in particular.
And I think I still have the pink sort of rose and gold coloured bed sheet that I bought that has a pattern based on the mango seed.
And one of the highlights the Group had was going to the Ellora Caves and singing in that Buddhist Cave
Were the any other highlights that you remember?
We went to the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara - what they call the mini Taj, the building that was made as a replica of the Taj Mahal but with inferior products.
And wasn't there a water wheel…?
There was a water wheel which was kind of like a big pond and it was just so refreshing after being in all that heat, and we all sat around that.
When we left, we flew I think to Pune
I don't remember that.
When we got to Guruprasad, had you been to Guruprasad before?
Yes. I had been there before in 1962.
So do you recall arriving at Guruprasad this time?
Yes, I don't know if this is the very first moment but I remember going, I guess we went up the front steps and turned to the right which was where the men Mandali would stay. Did Francis have his office on the verandah there or did he write there on the verandah?
I think there were some desks there, I don't remember.
So first we walked then we turned to the right and I'm just trying to think what direction it was. Maybe the South East? I'm not sure, I'm disoriented, anyway I think my sister Jenny started crying, I assume because she was missing Baba or the impact of Baba dropping His body. It struck her. And this is very embarrassing to say but I thought well maybe I should cry too. So I started crying a little. And I have to say it’s quite embarrassing to say that. And Pendu and Eruch were there and they admonished me quite sharply, basically they said don't cry. And too this day I don't know whether they sensed a certain insincerity in my tears and you know were just cutting them off, or whether they didn't want people to be emotional, or they didn't want them they themselves to become emotional, I don't know. But I do remember this sort of admonishing from Eruch and Pendu, not to cry.
So that was your first day?
I assume that was the first day but I could very well be wrong on the sequence. I just remember that scene on the verandah with Eruch and Pendu.
So you felt comfortable then with your emotions.
No I didn't, I didn't feel comfortable with my emotions and I think I felt very unemotional and if I had felt emotional I imagine I would have been quite inhibited about that. Which will come out later.
So after that we were introduced by Bill to the Mandali, he called out everybody’s name. What was your first impression of seeing the chair and the hall, Baba obviously wasn't in that chair physically.
I've never thought about it until this moment. But as you ask I have this slight memory of it registering that Baba wasn't in His physical body when I saw the chair and the photograph.
Did you have any idea about what was going to happen, any expectation?
I had no idea what the program would be, I had no expectations at all, but I did have a general sort of curiosity about - well what are we going to do? So I was wondering what the program would be, not wondering intensely but how were we going to pass the time? How were we going to conduct ourselves, what was going to happen? Not an intense curiosity but definitely a wondering about that.
And so also there, was there a strangeness there, or a familiarity, because you'd actually been there before?
I had been there seven years before; no it didn't feel strange for some reason. I do remember when we arrived in Mumbai and going to the hotel, seeing people sleeping in cots on the street. I remember that was strange. Thinking, “Oh my goodness that is where people sleep, this is where they spend the night.” That felt strange. But Guruprasad didn't, seeing the Mandali didn't, even though I – actually yes I had met the women mandali before, but I really didn't spend a lot of time with them. I felt like they were really familiar to me. I knew them from Mani’s 'The Family Letters'. They felt like family to me. I felt like I knew them and they knew me. Because I used to get letters from them and I used to write to them.
That’s what I was trying to get at.
The Mandali felt quite familiar to me, definitely as sense of meeting them again, not meeting them for the first time. And in fact I was meeting them again.
And they treated you like you part of the family.
I guess so. I don't remember that but I think that's what it would have been.
Do you remember that?
Well because we hadn't met them so we did feel this shyness and this strangeness.
No I didn't feel that.
And somebody else said that they were made so comfortable because Mani just went straight up to them and said “Are you so and so?” and seemed to know all about them, so I was thinking that you knowing them, might have also felt this familiarity -
- and feeling part of the family and the other thing, that I think someone commented on, was that the mandali weren't kind of removed from us like they were later, because they were just part of us, like they weren't 'The Mandali.'
And they were giving us glasses of water and just being very familiar with us and I wondered if you noticed that too.
I didn't. But when you say that, it is true that later the roles changed a bit. Then they were just playing the host, which they always did but we didn't perhaps have the reverence for them which we perhaps developed later, if that's what you're saying.
It just seemed like one of us.
I think that is true.
I think in the Baba community there was a big emphasis on respect for our elders, and I was still calling them Uncle Eruch and Uncle Francis and Aunty Mani and I didn't drop that, I didn't stop doing that for many years later. So they were very much respected elders. And even in Australia all the older people in the Baba were Aunties and Uncles, Aunty Mai, Uncle Reg, Aunty Marg. So it was very much part of our family, and for the small Baba group in Australia, it was simply just respect for our elders.
So do you recall meeting Mehera? Mehera came out and said Jai Baba to us.
No I don't. From 1962 and the rest of my time in contact with Mehera I always felt not completely at ease with her, I always kept a certain physical and perhaps even emotional distance. I always felt a bit reserved with her a little bit shy, a bit hesitant. And I'm sure I would have felt that in 1969 as well.
So we were in there, we were all sitting on the ground, the Mandali are there, do you have any highlights from that program, things that might have surprised you or impressed you?
No. I've heard the tapes of the event and, I don't know that I remember it, and if I hadn't heard the tapes I may not even know what had happened. And I don't know clearly what happened, but I heard Francis reading his speech to us and I've read it in its transcription.
You don't recall being part of the horse and the rabbit comedy skit?
I do recall being part of the horse and the rabbit. Yes I was sure, until someone said last night that they weren't sure, I was sure that I was the rabbit, and I was sure that I had to leap on the back of a horse, and the back of the horse was Bill. And the horse broke apart at that point, and I was sort of piggy backed by Bill. That's what I remember.
Roy really thinks he was the front part of the horse.
That's very possible. And I was the back part?
And George thinks he was the back part.
I didn't leap on Georges back, I leapt on Bills back
Bill thought he was the narrator.
Unless - we did it in 1962. That's what I thought, Bill was the back end of the horse, it was on his back that I jumped, and then when I jumped the horse parted and the blanket or whatever was coming off, that fell to the ground and there I was with Bill piggybacking me. But I was sure I was the rabbit.
Well everyone seems sure that you were the rabbit.
No one knows really who was the horse and who was the narrator. So you do recall that pretty much.
I recall being the rabbit and I recall Bill piggy backing me but maybe as narrator he stepped in to rescue me from the creek or whatever it was I was crossing the river. Or the puddle.
And do you have any memory of Mani playing the Sitar? That was something that really surprised me; I just couldn't believe Mani could play a Sitar.
I don't actually, I heard her play the Sitar later in Mandali Hall at Meherazad and but I don't recall her playing it in 1969.
So there was another thing you said you were going to refer to later.
The other thing was seeing my sister cry and thinking I should cry to and starting to cry.
I can recall you being taken under the wing by the men Mandali quite a bit and sort of sitting with them and them calling out to you and bringing you in.
I don't remember that at all.
Like you were one of the family, kind of thing.
Francis had lived with out family for four years from 1954 – we had lived with him from 1954 to 1958 - and I had travelled with him so he was very, very familiar to me.
I'm sure he was like a proud uncle.
I don't remember that but I could imagine that, I think he was very fond of me, and I was very fond of him.
So did Francis's presence and work have any influence in shaping you in some way, how you should behave when you where there, and Bill too?
Absolutely. Francis? Absolutely.
Well I can just recall Francis, and Bill particularly, giving us advice as to how to behave and everything, when we went to India. So I guess you grew up with a certain attitude or shaping.
No question about that.
I wonder what that was.
Certainly from Bill, and from my mother, and from the Baba community, and from Francis, there was a shaping of - obviously the significance of Baba and place of Baba in our lives - the place of entertaining Baba, the notion of remembering Baba, the idea of devotion taking Baba's name..
I was just wondering if that came into the fore when you came to India in 1969.
No I can't say that it did really no. I can't say that I did, felt a change.
Because we certainly did, we tiptoed in with these things in mind.
Yes. I certainly felt very respectful towards the Mandali in that that sense I sort of tiptoed in, but they were also familiar to me.
So now to the question - did you feel Baba's presence at any time at the Tomb or Guruprasad or…?
Two things come to mind that probably don't directly relate to it, but I remember when we went into Baba's bedroom and we were told about the yellow upholstered armchair that He used for His Work, and it had a cord across it. And we were told the story I think of how Dr Goher had accidentally brushed against it. Her skirt or dress had touched it, and she got a great shock. And I remember being quite struck by that and somehow knowing that, and seeing that yellow chair and hearing that story and seeing the reverence and the care and the caution that the Mandali took with that chair. It gave me a sense of Baba's Power and the residual Power that was in that chair. There was no way in the world I was going to touch it to see if there was still Power in it! That had an impact, but I don't think I'd ever consciously thought about a physical charge in an object associated with Baba.
And the other thing?
I don't remember exactly when this was, when we lined up and got to bow down to the chair in the main Hall at Guruprasad, I think we walked diagonally across the room from the left hand corner across to the corner and I remember waiting in line and it seemed like that we were going to walk a distance of about…
It felt like more than three metres to me I was going to say, more than 20 feet is what it felt like. That’s about 7 metres.
It seemed big.
Yes. And I remember waiting in line, and the 4 or 5 people ahead of me, and I felt very, very self conscious. Quite tense about doing it, quite strange – what do I mean by strange – like I was going to do something very, very unfamiliar, very self conscious, and when I walked that lets say 20 feet to the chair, felt very aware that there must be other people watching me. I felt very, very stiff about bowing down and I didn't feel anything in particular. I found it almost a bit agonising to go through this whole process of walking in front of other people and then bowing down. And I don't know, that it wasn't that I thought "I'm bowing down to an empty chair " it was more the thought "I'm bowing down in front of other people" and I guess I hadn't ever bowed down before.. I hadn't ever bowed down to Baba, I had embraced Baba and Baba had embraced me. I had wrestled with Baba and I'd fought with Baba and played games with Baba but I'd never bowed down to Him and I'd never bowed down to any of His objects. But we had His objects in our home growing up, His eiderdown and the rug that His feet rested on, the chairs that we sat in and the bed that He slept in, and we used all of those things but I had never bowed down to them and I don't think anyone in my family ever bowed down to them. So the act of bowing down - to use an Italian word here - was very strano. And over the years that has been an interesting theme for me, because I remember in the seventies that Eruch saying, words to the effect of "One day you will find bowing down the most natural thing in the world." And that has turned out to be true, and I love bowing down and I love the feeling of bowing and I love the physical posture of bowing. But then it was just – I would say - not exactly agony but close to it. Tremendous self conscious, a physical awkwardness, it’s almost like something in me rebelled against it. Not a comfortable thing. And I don't remember feeling anything spiritual, I didn't feel moved by it, I was glad it was over. I was glad that I was actually able to complete it. Because I felt I didn't know if I could actually do this, I don't know if my body can actually do this. Of course I was a seventeen year old; there was no question that physically I must have been able to do it. It was just quite a wrenching thing for me to do, in some ways. And maybe just because I'd never bowed in my life. It was completely unfamiliar.
I think that Bill got asked to bow down to Baba's chair, or Babas bed in Avatars Abode, so we sort of knew that possibly we'd be bowing down to the chair.
Okay. So maybe I had bowed down to Babas bed
So that's the only thing I can think of, that we knew that, before we went to India, about that process.
Interesting, perhaps I did, perhaps I did bow down many times to Baba's bed at Avatars Abode, I just don't remember doing it. I just remember this sense of strangeness as I walked to the chair, and self-consciousness.
When you went into the Samadhi for the very first time, do you remember that experience and did you bow at that time as well?
I would have bowed and I don't remember feeling a strangeness about that, that felt somehow more easy. It must not have been the marble slab in place at that time, it must have been cloth. I remember I used to like the feeling of the marble on my forehead.
So after we left Guruprasad we went to the tour of Meherabad. We saw Padri and Mohommad and we went up to the Tomb. Was there anything in that period that you recall?
A couple of things come to mind. One was I remember it being very green and very overgrown at Upper Meherabad. And when I went back in 1973 I was very surprised to find it looking very barren and very dry, and I reconcile the two images. To me in 1969 Upper Meherabad almost had a jungle like quality to it, Bougainvilleas and trees and just very recently in the last year or two someone told me there was a very bad drought perhaps 1972 or 1974. At that time Meherabad was particularly barren because the plants were either losing their leaves or they had died. But my memory was of this almost luxuriant foliage on things. Meeting Mohammad and for the rest of my contact with Mohammad, I always felt very very cautious around him, I felt very uncomfortable when we all stood around and looked at him, it didn't feel good to me, and I was nervous around him. I didn't know much about masts, as a child I was fascinated by the book The Wayfarers, but more by the photographs. I don't think I actually read it as a child. So I knew of the concept the masts, but I don't know whether I knew or sensed the idea that Mohammad if he so choosed could read every thought in our minds. I don't know if I knew that consciously I knew that until the very end of Mohammad's life I always kept a distance from him. I never could interact freely with him and I felt uncomfortable when we gathered around him.
Okay what about Padri, he was fairly overpowering for a lot of people.
Padri was always very respectful toward me, perhaps because of my relationship with Francis and growing up in a Baba family. He was never that way with me. I heard him doing that and I heard stories of him being sharp and brusque with people but he was never that way with me, he was actually really nice. I remember one time many years later I invited him to come and see a slide show that I was putting on along with Sherry Longo, in the Pilgrim Centre dining hall. Padri was coming over and someone said to him "Padri this is surprising to see you coming over to the Pilgrims Centre" And he said "Michael invited me". Which I was so very touched by. I didn't experience that brusqueness, and I remember in later time just sitting in his company, sitting in silence, that was grand. That's where I first met Victor Secolar. Sitting there with Victor and my Mother and the twilight of Padri. But that’s in later times, that is in the early 1980's.
So, what else would be in that trip to Meherabad. We went to The Samadhi
I don't remember. When I see photographs I know that I was there, but I don't actually remember. At that stage I think the murals had not been retouched.
Yes and I think there was just the cloth.
And I think I remember noticing how badly deteriorated the murals were.
We went to Meherazad and Francis took us on a tour of Meherazad.
It's great you remember all this.
Well we've heard it on CD too. And you don't recall that Francis showed us the Blue Bus, The New Life caravan, and Kaka’s room and Babas bedroom. And someone told about the wedding, with all the rain.
Yes I know the story. She told us that in Mandali Hall or perhaps elsewhere.
Okay, so after the tour we went back to Guruprasad.
The men had an individual night with the men Mandali where Eruch told stories about – most of them were train stories. Travelling with Baba.
Yes they had the women and the men separated for one time, all the women with the women Mandali and all the men with the men Mandali for stories, Mani and Eruch stories.
When you say it rings a very vague bell.
And the tour of Baba sites, the [something] hospital, Babajans Samadhi, and we went to Pune Centre.
It sounds right that we went to Babajan’s Samadhi, or Tomb, and Baba's House. We didn't go to Pumpkin House because it had tenants in it at the time as I know, but we would have gone past the outside of it. Did we go to Sassoon Hospital? And saw the room where Baba was born.
I think we went inside. I know there are photos of us standing outside of it.
I went there in the '90s, to the room where Baba was born, and I felt I was going there for the first time.
And then after that we went to the Pune Centre, and Madhusudan sang. And I noticed that, I've never heard anyone sing like that before.
Ah yes, and the coloured steps leading up to the stage, which I know I've seen since. And I think Roshan Kerawalla was there with us.
I have a vague memory of that. Do you remember the Parsi Fire Temple you went there, and I think you were given a royal treatment, I think a feast. And every time I'd go to eat Adi would jump up and give a speech and so we couldn't eat. And then we'd just about to eat again and Adi would one say 'one moment, one moment' and he'd give another poem or ghazal and we'd have to put our spoons down, and we thought when will we get to eat?
How many people remember that because I could have sworn that was in Ahmednagar in the 70's. I remember, I mean maybe the same general thing happened. I remember a scene like that in Ahmednagar, at the Ahmednagar Fire Temple.
I think it is true, I thought, it was in my diary. But I can check that.
But I do remember that same thing.
And I think Adi went there. But I will check the diary I wrote at the time because now talking to you I realise I am confused as to whether the fire temple visit was in 196,9 or in the 1970’s.
You are probably right, I didn't keep a diary I never did.
Now just getting to the going home time, your saying goodbye and the trip back. Do you remember leaving?
What were the circumstances?
We used to come by bus and leave by bus at nine o'clock and Eruch would announce at 11 o'clock "time to go" and then we got an extra day. Some of the Indian children, an Indian family came and danced for us. I just remember us all saying "Jai Baba!"
to the Mandali and all the Mandali sort of being fairly emotional, and then the bus came and we left. And they all sort of stood out and said "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" and that was the leaving. In the bus we drove to the airport I think. I can't remember anything about how we got from Pune back to Bombay. Other people don’t seem to remember either for some reason.
Here's a photograph of everyone leaving, it's really poor resolution for some reason. Judith Garbeth took it. Of everyone waving goodbye.
That's in Bombay?
I think so.
That's not Guruprasad of course.
But every time we left Guruprasad of course the Mandali would come out and go "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!"
Didn't the Bombay group come to the airport to welcome us and to see us off?
And that's the Bombay group saying goodbye to us. That's why we asked if there were any remembrances of coming back. Bob says he can't even remember ever coming back. And I remember the impact of coming back, to India, was very life changing, I suffered this culture shock coming back to Australia. But you'd already been so there was no culture shock. Was there any memory of what happened when you came back, how it impacted you or did life just go on as normal?
It must have just gone on as normal. I think I went back to high school, it was my last year of high school, I think yes life just resumed. I don't remember culture shock; I don't remember any significant change in my inner or outer life as a result of the 1969 Darshan.
So life was now without Baba's presence, without Baba sending messages to you and your family. How did you adjust to that?
It didn't strike me at all as being a major adjustment. Unlike say Sheila, Baba didn't guide me in every days life decisions. I mean Pendu and Francis took an active interest in my cricket. I felt that I had a general sense of what Baba would want me to do, in terms of general living, but I didn't get direct guidance about anything from Baba that I can remember. And shortly after that period Francis came back and Francis filled that space, and my relationship with Francis really blossomed and I spent a lot of time at Avatars Abode, and spending time with him, and spending time with the Avatars Abode family. I did Baba projects with Steven Hein and Richard Lockwood. And what really comes to my mind, I never really thought about it but there's a certain camaraderie that was formed with people like Bob Welsh and George McCahey and the people that went to the 69 Darshan. And also the people that didn't go, like Steve and Sym Simons. It was a really wonderful time, it was really creative.
After spending my entire life internally connected with Baba and the Baba world and privately connected with Baba, I was now able to go out into the wider world and be more open about my relationship with Baba. That was a really nice feeling, it was a really freeing feeling. And I felt, even though I was never part of the drug culture and that world, I felt very comfortable with the values of the counter culture, the idealism, I was very involved and very much part of that. With some reservations, yes.
Any more questions?
I can say again that just for emphasis, that because I didn't feel Baba directly guiding me in everyday matters I didn't feel a loss. I never asked Baba for decisions about what to do, what to study, what school to go to, anything like that,
Do you know if your parents ever did?
On my behalf? No I don't think that ever happened, as far as I know.
Yes you were just saying before at the beginning of the interview, how were my parents going to take this, what were they going to feel. Did they feel really upset and did that affect you at all, them dealing with their grief?
I don't remember either of them being grief stricken. Whatever feelings my mother had she kept inside, and if she did feel a sense of loss or grief I didn't see it. If I had to guess I'd say no she didn't. But she's a very private person and keeps her feelings very much inside and even if she was even if she did feel a deep sense of loss, I'd guess that I'd never know. And as for Bill my guess is that whatever he did feel he channelled into activity and organising the 69 Darshan. So I didn't see either of them looking grief stricken. I think there was an initial shock. I was a bit hesitant to tell them about the telegram. I had to push myself a bit to actually tell them.
Because you were hesitant to tell them I guess you were expecting that they may just collapse in response.
No they didn't.
So were you surprised that they didn't.
No I wasn't surprised, but I think I thought it would shock them. But I guess, I didn't think about this but in different ways it’s their nature not to collapse, you know.