Roda MacIver (nee Kamdin) hailed from a well-to-do Parsee family of Bombay.
I first heard about Bhagavan in 1940 from Mrs.Taleyarkhan, a well-known devotee. She gave me some books and photos and told me that the Maharshi was a very great man. I could not understand the books but I was strongly moved by the photos. I felt an urge to go and see the Maharshi and as time passed the urge became stronger and stronger. There was no specific reason for this urge; my position in Bombay was good, both financially and socially, but somehow I was not satisfied. I felt restless, eager to break off, and anxious to move on. And I did so in 1942.
The time I arrived at the Ashram, the Maharshi had gone up the hill. I was told to wait on the footpath for his return. I was expecting to see a man walking down the hill, but when the Maharshi finally appeared, I couldn’t believe that I was watching a glorious sunrise unfold: a distant glimmering of light that, as it approached, became more and more radiant until the blazing sun itself was standing next to me. I was overawed and humbled by this display of utter magnificence. Standing in the glow of that radiant presence, something shifted inside me, some new awareness manifested that I had never had before. I was caught by him and his love, and in that moment my soul became his.
During the next two years I was visiting the Ashram regularly. One day in 1944 when I went into the hall, Bhagavan was reading some papers. I sat down and looked at him. Suddenly he put away the papers and turned his luminous eyes on me. I could not stand the gaze, so I closed my eyes, tears streaming down my face. When I opened my eyes he was still looking at me. My heart got flooded with joy and inner calmness!
Next morning, when I was in the hall somebody asked Bhagavan what was the use of sitting before him, if he does not give initiation? Bhagavan replied that initiation can be given in three ways: ‘by silence’, ‘by look’, and ‘by touch.’ When saying, ‘by look’, he looked at me. Then I had no doubt that I had received initiation from Bhagavan, my most revered Master!
After a month’s stay when I returned to Bombay, there was a complete change in my life. Worldly pleasures ceased to attract me and I wanted to be alone as much as possible. I decided to leave Bombay and settle down at Tiruvannamalai, but did not know where to stay. But I knew Bhagavan was guiding me and so I did not worry much. And it so happened that two days before leaving Bombay I met my husband to be.1 He told me to go and stay in his house in Tiruvannamalai and so I left happily. Soon after, with Bhagavan’s blessings, we got married at Sri Ramanasramam. Bhagavan showed visible interest in the proceedings.
From the beginning, I had a strong desire to touch Bhagavan’s feet, but I knew this was not allowed by his attendants. I confided this desire to Mrs.Taleyarkhan, thinking she would keep it a secret. But in the hall, in front of everyone, she told Bhagavan, “Roda has a strong desire to touch your feet.” I was so embarrassed. Bhagavan said nothing at the time; but after lunch that day, he stopped near me, said something in Tamil to a nearby devotee and asked him to translate it for me. The devotee said, “Bhagavan says, why should she want to touch my feet? My feet are always on her head.” I was overwhelmed with joy. Everyone around congratulated me on my good fortune on getting a blessing like this. People who had been with Bhagavan for years and years said they had never heard him make a remark like this to anyone else.
One day I was feeling some mental agony while sitting in front of Sri Bhagavan. He took out an unburnt charcoal from the urn and said, “Do not burn your mind. Keep the mind as fresh and clean as this coal.” From that time onwards I gave up worrying over any problem.
Once two visitors came to Bhagavan. One of them addressing Bhagavan said, “My friend has taken as his guru a man who is not even a sadhu. To show him what a sadguru should be, I have brought him here.” Bhagavan replied sternly, “Who are you to say who is the right guru for him? By what power can you make out what a man really is? In fact, the guru is not as important as the disciple himself. If one worships with utmost devotion, even a stone would become the Supreme Lord.”
Once I thought what Bhagavan needed was a pretty silver box for the nuts he kept for his birds and squirrel friends. The little tin box he had was old and ugly. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than someone brought a silver box as I had in mind and offered it to Bhagavan. Bhagavan exclaimed, “A silver box! No. Please take it back. What have I to do with silver boxes?” While saying this, he looked at me as if to say, ‘The same would have happened to you and to your silver box!’
Maurice Frydman [No.36] once brought a glass of orange juice to Bhagavan, who remarked, “Is that all? It will not be enough”, adding after a pause, “for everyone!” Frydman said that he had brought it only for him as his health was declining. However, Bhagavan would not even touch it. Anything, not shared by all was like poison to him.
Attendant Krishnaswami would beat monkeys who played mischief in the hall or tried to stealthily take away the fruits. Once Bhagavan told him, “It is not the monkeys that are receiving your beatings. It is I. The suffering is mine.” When some devotees complained to Bhagavan about their trouble with the monkeys, he said, “All this land was once a jungle in which the monkeys could roam about freely. It has been their natural habitat for centuries. We are trespassers. Is it fair to complain? Why not put up with a little inconvenience.“
1. David MacIver, the person with whom Arthur Osborne’s family had stayed in the early forties. See first para of no.40, p. 95.