Another thing that I wrote about in my book, Astral Travelling, The Avatar and Me, was my disgust at well-heeled Westerners in Puttaparthi lavishly dressed in Indian robes whilst tinkering with their expensive gadgets in the “Hanuman Hill Rock Cafe” (no hills and no rocks in this establishment by the way). But Baba had many ways of gently chiding me, as a loving Mother would a child, and showing me that he really did treat ALL in exactly the same way. There was a number of occasions during my first visit in October 2009 when Swami brought this particular personal prejudice to my attention. My thinking was, that considering the unbelievable poverty in India, if rich Westerners wanted to go to Puttaparthi and pretend to be Indian for a few weeks, then they should have lived in mud huts during their stay and deprived themselves of food. In my book I told of one such man, Tony, whom I wrongly presumed to be Italian. Tony turned out to be from Hertfordshire in the UK, not far from where I was born. But the purpose of this post is to illustrate how Baba gives us constant reminders of the faults that we ourselves need to work on and overcome, and how he does this with the most impeccable timing.
I had seen another man on the ashram (who also looked Italian), he was quite a large man, dressed in expensive looking robes. One day he was wearing a blue Indian style robe and trousers, and even had cuff links on the sleeves. I noticed this and the demon in me rose up as I pondered why someone would feel the need to dress in such a way in the house of God. When my stay came to an end I brought some amazing memories back home to the UK with me, and for some reason the image of this man in his expensive looking robes stayed with me too. It wasn’t long before I found out why.
In February 2010 I was blessed to receive the call again and made my second visit to Prashanthi Nilayam. To my amazement I noticed that many of the faces I had seen around the ashram during my first visit were still there. Although you are only actually allowed to stay on the ashram for a limited period of time, these people were obviously staying in the village in private accommodation. I even bumped into Goran, a Croatian man who I shared a room with during my first visit. Lo and behold I also caught glimpses of the large Italian looking man (still wearing expensive looking robes) on a number of occasions.
Now at this time Baba’s health was not what it used to be and he no longer glided along amongst the masses during darshan. It had got to the point where interviews were becoming more and more rare and Swami would not come out as often as he used to. During morning darshan for instance, Swami would very seldom make an appearance. So I was utterly amazed when I was sitting in darshan one day towards the end of my stay……. who did I see making his way towards the interview room in the mandir? Correct! It was the large Italian looking man, looking resplendent in his finest robes. Swami had choreographed proceedings so that I was sitting in exactly the right place at the right time to be able to observe this. Showing me once and for all that God has no prejudice, no judgement and embraces all of his children with the same limitless unconditional love.
In spite of Swami’s noble efforts I still haven’t quite mastered the lesson of not judging a book by its cover. If I was still at school my report would say “must do better”!