More letters from India 1
by Premananda

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December 29, 1973

Dear Mom, Dad and family,

I wanted to write and let you know I arrived all right and am on my way, although not without the usual Indian hassle. We came to Bombay instead of Delhi due to weather conditions so the airline put us up overnight, and I am now in Bombay airport waiting for the Delhi flight. It was an added hassle, but it gave me a chance to get washed and rested and to recover from the jet lag which was considerable.

The flight was tedious—24 hours—the longest I’ve ever been on. And the culture shock is greater than when traveling overland. It wasn’t till I walked down the streets yesterday and could take in the sights, and particularly the smells, that it hit me where I was. There are distinct smells that brought back all my old memories of India—not what you would think, but some peculiar, subtle fragrance that is India.

It is hot in Bombay and the profusion of people was the next thing that hit me—the sheer weight of the population. People everywhere doing a billion little things. Children combing the garbage piles, the shoemakers sitting on the sidewalk, the rows and rows of hovels lining the highway. It will take me some time to get adjusted. I will put up in Delhi only long enough to get a train to Calcutta, perhaps three days.

Athena gave me a briefing and the addresses of some of her guru’s devotees whom I can stay with for a while. I am taking some gifts to Baba for her, so I will go there without delay, though I had wanted to stop in Benares first to get oriented. I am excited about meeting her man. From her descriptions of him, he sounds like the kind of being Ramakrishna was. I will also be able to go where Ramakrishna lived and sit in his room. The spirit of pilgrimage is upon me.

While going through customs, I became very upset and tense when they discovered the tape recorder and held me up—I was afraid I would have to pay duty on it, etc. Suddenly, this jolly, eyed-twinkling swami in his orange robes struck up a conversation with me, and we talked for awhile, thus alleviating my anxiety and putting my mind on better things. It turned out he was acquainted with Vimala. It was a very auspicious sign to be greeted by a holy man right at the airport, and he embraced and kissed me when we parted, wishing me well on my quest and hoping we would meet again. Everything is a little easier this time around, and I can feel, by my responses, that I have been growing since the last time.

More later, my love to you all, your sadhu son,