Today there is a wedding in Sonepat, Haryana—that of the son of Mr. Dabas, a seed specialist testing varieties of vegetables and fruits in Shiv Sadan. Maharaj has been invited. From our worldly point of view, everything seems to have gone wrong, but by his example, Maharaj gives us a great teaching.
We are even more disorganized than usual in our leaving. Some people are told by the staff at the last moment that they are to come. Major Sahib and I are to be the advance party because I have Maharaj’s new microphone to set up, and Major Sahib is to talk first. We are to go with Prince the photographer, who was not told to come early, and who doesn’t know where to go. After much waiting and bumbling about, we finally leave but then get ensnarled in Delhi traffic by taking the wrong route. Two hours later we finally reach Sonepat, but then it takes us half an hour to find the place. By this time I have no hope of arriving before Maharaj, but I pray that at least he will not have to wait for us. May God forgive me for this prayer, but it is answered: Just as we drive into the driveway, there is a great honking of horns and there is Maharaj, right behind us.
Prince, Major Sahib, and I are sent over to the place some kilometers away where the function is to be held. Reaching the venue, we are quite shocked. To begin with, Sonepat is not a prosperous town. Haryana has little water, so it is hot and dusty this time of year. Sonepat seems to specialize in muddy pigs. Pigs are everywhere—trotting along the roadside, lying under trucks, sleeping on piles of garbage, rummaging through garbage, wallowing in stagnant, stinking pools of sewage water.
The pandal (colorful temporary tent) is small and very hot, and there is no sound system. Someone has told them we are bringing a microphone, and somehow that has been interpreted as “whole PA system.” We point out that Maharaj will need a PA system (to be heard over the noisy fans), so someone is dispatched to get something. “We hope the arrangements are okay,” the family men say to us earnestly. “If there is anything lacking, please let us know.” What can we say? We suggest that there needs to be a better cooler directed toward Maharaj’s place on the stage—the one in use has no water pump and is just blowing hot air toward his chair. They arrange to move another one which works better when he will come. Now the few people already sitting in the audience are enjoying it.
The three of us sit glumly in the rear wondering what to do to spare Maharaj from coming to this place. We are paralyzed by our despair; we don’t even set up our equipment.
Much later, loudspeakers, amplifier, mike stands, and wiring arrive with one man to assemble them into a sound system. As soon as he comes and all the gear is spread on the dusty carpet, Maharaj and company also arrive. No one has checked to see if things are ready. They aren’t.
Maharaj shows no signs of annoyance at all. He ascends the stage and sits quietly and happily in the sheet-covered wicker moora that has been placed there for him, with heat-wilted strands of marigolds draped on the fringes of the platform. The PA man works very quickly, and has the whole system in place in about fifteen minutes, as Maharaj sits waiting.
In contrast to our despair over the arrangements, Maharaj begins his talk by complimenting Mr. Dabas and his family on their love. “This is the first time in my life I have gone to anyone’s marriage ceremony,” he observes. Then he proceeds to give a very nice lecture about puja to this not-very-well-off, mostly Hindu community. Children and fans make a continual racket but Maharaj is not distracted. He totally takes the situation in hand and captures the people’s hearts and their attention.
Later, in the house of Mr. Dabas’s mother-in-law, people crowd into the room where Maharaj is sitting. He speaks again, informally but very spiritually, and they listen with great appreciation and concentration. A feeling of being all one family grows among us, because of his love. The same simply dressed people whom I had callously dismissed earlier as being unworthy of his attention look more and more lovely to me and we become increasingly friendly.
Then there is the Ganesh puja for the groom—a lengthy bit of ritualistic sleight-of-hand by a pujari. As he quickly intones the ancient mantras, the person who is paying closest attention is Maharaj. By his interest and his presence, his love for the deities being invoked, something truly spiritual does enter the otherwise hollow ceremony. When the pujari leaves, he is clutching a copy of Loving God (a collection of Maharaj’s teachings) with great reverence and joy.
Our sangat women from Delhi who are crowded into one small room with one bed—defeating their desire to rest after lunch—grumble and wonder out loud, “Why has Maharaj brought us here?” I think he has brought us to teach us something about love, for he stays and stays in that house and is so loving and comfortable with the family. At one point, an old woman comes forward and starts pressing his legs and feet and saying over and over, in some confusion, “You make so many mistakes. I am the great Forgiver.” As she repeats the familiar phrases in reverse, Maharaj just grins and says, “Mehar, Biba (Blessings on you, woman).”
Many of the people take Jaap Sahib gutkas from me in Hindi, even though I can’t speak well enough to tell them anything about it in my pidgin Punjabi, other than “It is very powerful. It is Maharaj’s gift for all religions. Read it daily.”
We sit happily chatting at Maharaj’s feet, just comfortable, as family. Ostensibly we are waiting for the arrival of the Agriculture Secretary of Haryana, who is a family member, but he doesn’t come. Eventually, Maharaj abruptly stands up and we are off. He walks down the narrow alleys over which carpets have been spread on the uneven bricks for his passage. Stinking open sewers flow to either side; one could smell them even inside the house. The whole family and neighbors press around Maharaj’s car, perilously close to the sewage, but having eyes only for him. The groom and his brother lead Maharaj out of town in their car and then when we reach the outskirts, they jump out to bow profoundly before him. Surely he blesses them again. After the ceremony, he had placed his hand very lovingly on the groom’s bowed head and ruffled his hair fondly.
At the farm, Mr. Dabas has carried out his seed production work without much cooperation from the sevadars, who are accustomed to doing things differently. He has lived there under very simple circumstances, forsaking his family life for long stretches of time. I myself have never known whether he is a useful person in the mission. But by making his love so clear, Maharaj has not only shown us that we too should respect Mr. Dabas, but has also taught us to look beneath surface appearances to see what is really in people’s hearts. He seems to have found purity of intent in this family’s hearts, and is making that lovely quality apparent to us all, if only we have eyes to see. May God forgive us for our petty, self-centered minds, and may we learn Maharaj’s lesson of love and tolerance. If we become more tolerant, then perhaps we can begin to understand God, who sees all our mistakes and is still ever forgiving.