Maria Oakhill, Meher Rd Woombye
Where were you living when you first heard of Baba?
Probably with my grandma in Brisbane. It would definitely have been Brisbane.
When I was 16, so í65.
How did you hear about Baba?
May Lundquist. Or my grandma, one or the other. It'd be May. My grandmother and my grandfather knew about Baba. It might have been them; they were in the theosophical society with Billís (Le Page) parents.
How did you meet May?
She worked at the university; she used to call in on my grandmother because of that connection on her way home. And cause of Bill and his parents, I donít know exactly how, I never asked exactly how.
Do you remember what they told you about Baba?
Well my grandmother gave me The Everything and the Nothing for my 16th birthday. Iíd already met May and heard of Baba, but reading that really filled me in about it. May asked me what I thought about it and I said I really liked everything he [Baba] had to say, but I didnít know whether he was God. And May said, I canít exactly remember what she said, but she said God in Human form is on earth and youíre missing the boat. So I thought Iíd better give it some thought and I looked at his photo and thought if he is God and he wants me to know heís God, Iím looking and listening, I want to know whether he is. I was very impressed with his followers; it was just a gradual process really from there.
You didnít know about Tony before 69?
Tony Oakhill? No.
Had you made your mind up about going to India when the darshan was announced?
I remember saying, discussing with someone, about meeting God and I remember saying I was frightened to meet God. I think May just encouraged us all to go. I didnít quite have enough money, she lent me money, she lent other people money. I got a really well paying job, night shift, but I didnít quite manage to save enough so she topped it off.
So someone asked about meeting God, and you thought you were afraid?
Hmmm...Shows how brave I was...and am.
When Baba dropped the body, was there any indication that you wouldnít go or everybody just thought theyíd go anyway?
I wasnít affected by it; I was a bit sad... I wasnít affected by it.
Well you thought youíd just go anyway?
Now we come to the actual process of going, you went in a plane?
Yea, I remember May and Donald, yea she lent money to Donald too, she lent money to George. I remember I didnít have any Indian money yet. I remember Felix. I remember in the hotel the men used to hiss at you, thatís in Bombay, you couldnít go anywhere by yourself, even in the hotel, because the men servants would hiss at you.
The first impact?
Itís not very memorable, my memory is being hissed at and being with Felix in a village and I was keen to buy, there were these earrings and I had no money and Felix would lend me money but the earrings werenít practical, you needed a big hole in your ear.
Do you remember when you first teamed up with the girls? Christine and Ruth?
I vaguely remember them in the hotel with me.
Did you get sick?
I was constipated utterly, four days that was all I could think about, and you couldnít go in the toilet, the smell was for miles around, but I think I was treated for it, there were always plenty of doctors around.
We were taken on a trip to see the Neem tree and Babajanís tomb....?
No....I seem to remember Babaís house where he banged his head.
What were your feelings?
I was very impressed by that, thatís about the only memory I have of that.
Didnít we go to a Parsi fire temple? We were treated as honoured guests and we were told how lucky we were for such high up people to be so nice to us, the high priest actually served us our food, it wasnít because we were worth anything, itís because he held Baba in such high esteem, unheard of for him to do it.
And Adi K Irani kept jumping up and down and talking all the time....?
Telling us how impressed we should be by it.
The next thing is Guruprasad?
I remember sitting in, I didnít have the feeling that Baba was there but I remember the bereftness of the women mandali, total wipe out Mehera, and I think Mani kept herself together for Meheraís sake; she was a total wipe out too.
And Francisí talk. Mani was the more dominant one, very giving, constantly giving, Mani.
And Francisí talk?
That was lovely-- enthusiastic man.
What about Eruch?
Ah, just a rock, Eruch. The one obviously holding it all together.
How old were you then?
Must have been 19. I felt totally junior; bottom of the pile was my feeling.
Who was at the top of the pile?
Oh, Bill and May.
Do you recall sitting in the hall, the entertainment?
Mani played the sitar, she said she wasnít good at it but she had to do something to entertain Baba and us, but she seemed fine at it to me. The women mandali showed us how to put saris on; Rano explained the painting that is in the water tower.
The trip to Meherabad and Meherazad?
We were told when we saw the coat [Babaís coat] how important it was.
We paid attention to the coat and the painting because we were told about them and how important they are. There was a beautiful cloth on the tomb. There were no trees going up to the tomb, it was quite barren.
The garden in Meherazad was mostly just brick and stone edges and pots, and clipped hedges; it was a difficult place to garden. The feeling that it was edges and clipped tough shrubs to give it a more aesthetic garden feel.
The women mandali didnít wear saris like the Indian women, they wore these little layers of clothing with layers of floral dresses, it was in the curtains as well at Meherazad and was a nice little hippie flavour in my taste. I liked it.
I think it was that trip; didnít we go to Bombay Centre? The ladies really made an effort to reach out to us and mix with us; I remember being amazed at this old lady who looked so young, so tiny and such good skin. I was astounded how youthful she looked; they were really making an effort.
I think we were told when we went to the Poona centre that normally they sang for hours but for our benefit they kept it short. I was quite relieved they didnít sing for hours.
Were you exhausted?
Yea, thatís why I was glad they didnít sing for hours, we were exhausted by the Indian stamina.
Do you think it was happy, beautiful, overwhelming? In a daze?
My feeling about it has always been that it was the centre of my life, I had always wanted to achieve something like Olympians did and I was quite happy then that I had done it, it was totally the achievement and highlight of my life. That is totally personal.
There was no question in your mind being upset that Baba was dead or not there? No sense of grief?
No, not at all, that didnít come till years later. I got back to work and it was like a fire was burning in me and I didnít want to eat, I felt like I was being given a taste of what it was like to really want God, I hadnít earned it or anything, I was just being given a taste of what one day I might come to, for me not wanting to eat is unheard of! Hahaha, a very rare event. And when I look back I think Baba, he gave anyone who went, he really worked on. Thatís my personal feeling, he sowed seeds and ploughed the ground, it was a really long term thing, for me anyway. He really hoed the ground with your sanskaras and planted seeds in you. Thatís another personal feeling about that trip.
To be honest, it was tied up with my sanskaras, but I still felt that Baba was using that to give me that experience, I didnít have any experience in India or feelings of Love from the mandali it wasnít until I got back and went to work that I felt it. I was astounded.
I donít remember any feelings of Baba, I was impressed by the Indianís love for Baba, but I was content to be there. I knew it was the most important part of my life; I wouldnít have to do anything magnificent after that, I knew it would affect the rest of my life.