More letters from India 7
by Premananda

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January 28, 1974

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks for your letter which I got some days ago. It was good to hear news of home. The weather is getting warmer here day by day as the winter is finished now. So it seems strange to hear of ice and snow since I have not seen them for over a month. The nights were cold here for a while. But now each day is warmer—the midday quite hot in fact. Mosquitoes on the increase as well—we sleep inside nets.

Today is Saraswati Puja Day—the day of worshipping the daughter of Kali, Saraswati, goddess of learning. Every home conducts some puja—they have these special "Thakurs" or statues which they keep in their homes three days. Then, all march to the Ganges and throw in the whole thing—hundreds of them. Yesterday, for the occasion, my Didis (sisters) made me a pair of real India pajamas which I am wearing today. They are accustomed to making nearly all the clothes for the family, and are very good with their hand-operated machine. My little brothers also had new white clothes, and we took a picture of the four of us all white and clean!

I went to the ashram the other day to see preparations for the big festival. The food was being collected door-to-door, and Baba was very happy. They were cutting up a big tamarind tree to cook the food for the eight or ten thousand people who will come. Tents were being put up. I will go tomorrow and the next day and take lots of pictures and participate in the chanting and singing which will be going non-stop for the whole three days. The big day is the 30th which is the anniversary of the day Baba attained enlightenment. On that occasion some 40 years ago, he remained in the temple seven days and nights absorbed in pure consciousness without taking food or water. I hope to take lots of pictures of the "function," as Baba calls it.

My health is good now, although this climate requires some adjustments. If I exert myself in a normal way, exhaustion follows more easily than in a cold place. I don’t know why. The climate is somewhat eunervating. I can’t image what the summers must be like—it gets up to 110 and higher for days on end.

The food is generally rice and vegetables, spicy, with fish and eggs sometimes, Indian bread (roti) and fruit. All prepared on a single, small coal fire. Sometimes special treats are prepared like loochi (bread deep fat fried) or pitay (rice cakes filled with coconut or date-molasses). Just now I am having moori (puffed rice) with my favorite, sandesh, a candy made from sugar and milk curd cooked together. Very good!

I am studying my Bengali everyday a little bit. I finally am getting the alphabet absorbed, 44 letters with at least as many conjunct letters. Everyone seems impressed by my progress except me. It is so difficult to get used to a new alphabet.

Everyone has many questions about America, where, as they say, "Everyone is a rich man."

It is still a strange new experience for me to be appreciated on every hand for the things I value. In America the path toward God—realization or transcendental awareness is still looked upon as a somewhat "weird" career to take up, but here it has for centuries been considered the highest type of human endeavor. So I am getting fresh encouragement from all sides by way of appreciation. This is especially heartening when it comes from someone like Baba who has the power to see "inside" a person’s heart, to "read him" and it were, at a glance, and to see a man’s future on his forehead. To be recipient of his love has given me much happiness and renewed strength to continue in my quest. I am hoping that when the festival is over I shall have more opportunity to be with him.

I hope you are all well and happy and do not think I am too crazy. I am only following my heart and my intelligence to the end—being "true to myself." And it is working.