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The Perfect Master

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C. B. Purdom's 1937 book

The Perfect Master - Shri Meher Baba

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Account of visit to China, June/July, 1932

[The notes are from the diary of an unnamed member of the party.]


Baba was dressed in a European suit and a panama hat. I had booked rooms in a hotel overlooking the Bund, the busy street and waterfront of the Whangpoo River.

Immediately we had had tea Baba said that he wished to go round the city and mix with the Chinese crowds. I had had very little experience of Baba's ways and was still rather awkward in his presence. I took them along the Bund, and from the French settlement by tram through the British, to the war-stricken districts near the North station, thinking it would interest them. Not at all. There were not enough people. We took a tram back and saw Nanking Road, the now brightly lit Chinese Stores, Chungking Road, Racecourse, along Tibet Road. The streets were densely packed with long-gowned clerks and short-coated coolies, endless rickshaw-pullers with cheerful faces and poverty-stricken appearances beseeching us to ride not walk; the narrow streets were hung with paper lanterns and waving banners of Chinese characters. Baba was delighted as we threaded the narrow, perfumed alleys and the Chinese turned to stare at us in a not too friendly manner. Baba was delighted and liked them. I did not care to waste money, but I realized that I should have booked cars for them. After dinner we drove round the three cities - French, British, and the fringe of the Chinese city with its gay lights, restaurants, hotels, and haunts.

On Thursday, the 23rd Baba saw some visitors. I had long been interested in Oriental philosophies, and I had become acquainted with some cultured Chinese with whom I discussed Buddhist problems and particularly meditation. Though language was a difficult obstacle we met and discussed fairly regularly, and I visited the nearest monastery in which their school of meditation was practised. Several came to see Baba and invited all of us to a Chinese banquet that evening. The rest of the day was for me very hectic. I had private work to do, and appointments to keep in connection with my official work. Then began a frantic tour of all the steamship agents in Shanghai, to book passages for eight or nine people to India and Europe. Until closing-time Chanji and I were harried off our feet trying to do the impossible. At 5 p.m. we two were in rickshaws returning along the Bund towards the hotel; I was exhausted and I said in vexation to Chanji that it was a pity that Baba did not know his own mind, and that I was tired of all this fussing. Baba did not seem to realize that I had to earn my living, and that my other appointments were both important and impossible to postpone. Much of the present shipping business seemed unnecessary.

I was called into Baba's room and ticked off by him. If I worried like this it was no use my working for him. That evening after dinner we walked behind the racecourse, then took rickshaws - seven in a row - and went to the Cathay cinema in French town about 9.30 p.m. We were due at the station at 11 p.m., and I was on tenter-hooks because I knew Baba would run it too close. We motored to the station and arrived as the train was due out. The hotel porter was struggling with loads of unnecessary luggage as usual. Baba asked me if we could rush the train or not. I said "Yes." We tried, the boys struggled into the crowded second-class carriages, full of Chinese, sitting up all the night, three of us got into sleeping berths, and the capable porter squeezed in all our luggage as the train was moving. For me it was a horrid job.

Next morning (June 24th) we were met at Nanking by my servants. In my minute house we were nine persons. After breakfast I took Baba up the battlemented city wall, and there we walked along to the left. On the left at the foot of the sixty-foot wall was the great lake, to the right was the city, and ahead the Purple mountain.

In the afternoon a Frenchman whom we hoped would be interested came out with us and in his car and another hired car we motored up the mountain, then right across the hill-sides, finally jumping down the stony, slippery descent to the water temple, thence to the Sun Yat Sen memorial, and home by car. Baba loved the rough walking and led the way across country like a scout leader.

That evening we sat in Baba’s room and listened to music.

Innumerable cables were received from Shanghai, America, Malay States, India, England and sent round the world. Several students and older Chinese came to see Baba. I had expected to travel with Baba to India; for till now I had seen little of him and I jumped at the opportunity of being with him for a month continuously. When we were discussing plans, however, I offered if he preferred it to go via Dairen, Manchuria, Siberia, Moscow, Warsaw, London. He wished this, and I was to be sent across Manchuria and Russia to meet Baba's boat when it arrived at Marseilles on July 20th.

On Sunday we went to the national cinema in the Chinese city, we also drove through the swarming Chinese lanes, so narrow that the car almost touched the walls on either side, the open shops that display a hundred handicrafts and trades, to the temple of Confucius. The Chinese coming Buddha is called Milo Fu - I had in the house a statue in lacquer of this, which I gave to Baba.

We left by train for Shanghai. My servants all came to the station and asked to say good-bye to Baba. Baba left Shanghai on the Kaiser-i-Hind, and I sailed for Dairen six days later.