I saw her first in a gathering of sadhus where Dada was singing devotional songs. She was an exotic-looking woman in her early thirties. Even her simple ochre-coloured robe and her chandan tika on the forehead could not hide the fact that she somehow did not belong there. I wanted to know something about her and what I gathered roused my curiosity. They said she came from a well-to-do family. Just a few years back she had been living the life of the typical modern woman who revelled in ball-rooms, parties, clubs, riding, swimming, social work and so on, when suddenly, something happened to her and she let down her poor husband, children and a host of admirers by throwing up everything and going away. There were broad hints of sly motives behind this seemingly whimsical behavior on her part. Some critics, a trifle more generous than others, spoke commiseratingly of hidden frustrations. Those who had known her well in her palmy days found her conduct even more reprehensible : she had behaved in a hard-hearted and selfish way, it was irresponsible, inexcusable-almost an outrage on Hindu society-and so on. I set myself the task of finding out her true story. Her face haunted me.
She was living in a small hut on the bank of the Ganga. I went there one morning and told her very humbly that it was not a justification nor even an explanation that I wanted, but that I had sincerely felt that to win an inkling into the inner state of an aspirant might help me and a few others, like myself, who were trying to follow an identical path.
She sat still a while, a far-off look in her lovely, brooding eyes. Her face betrayed marks of a great strain and world-weariness. When she spoke there was an undertone of subdued pain in her voice.
"You must have noticed" she said, "how real dreams seem while one is dreaming. One lives vividly every moment of the dream and simply cannot doubt it : but the moment one wakes up one knows that all that was not real-not true. I, too, woke up one day-as though from a dream : only the awakening this time was gradual and, to my astonishment, I found that the reality of life was becoming a dream and some dreamlike intangibility was slowly becoming the only reality."
She paused for a little ; then, almost wistfully, resumed.
"Mine had been an ordinary life," she said, "with its little joys and sorrows, ups and downs. Born with a hypersensitive temperament ever since I was a child, a kind smile, a small frown, even a stray harsh word would leave a lasting impression on my mind. At the same time, I was gifted with a deep vitality and a native capacity to wrest a great deal out of life, so that I never found the world dull. Everything I touched yielded me wonder and joy. Only two things troubled me deep down and I often pondered over them : the hollowness of social relationships and the precariousness of human love. I began to find that life consisted mostly of reactions : we were all the time reacting to situations in general and people in particular. We were not masters of ourselves, others had so much power to give us joy or to make us suffer, though the power to create joy was given to very few indeed. I discovered also, to my cost, that those who were nearest to us could cause us the deepest misery and hamper us at every step. Why things should be as they obviously were I did not understand and found it hard to believe that they were meant to be so. But, then, I asked myself, were we born to stay mere puppets whose only function was to react helplessly and unconsciously to the different pulls of strings held in different hands? This poignant question I could not answer and it became like a gnawing pain in my heart, bringing in its wake a feeling of unaccountable loneliness. When the ordinary modes of pleasure lost their savour, I tried to drown my ennui in social work of all kinds. This gave me partial relief for a while, but then, presently, it dawned on me that very little good was being done by all these conferences, resolutions and the fashionable hobby of "bettering the world". The gloom only grew deeper and there was a void within which nothing from without could fill. I was at the cross-roads of destiny, and the inner struggle, the implications of which I could not grasp, reversed my reactions to things-when, for good or for ill, I saw clearly that my world had toppled overnight. There was hardly any desire on any one's part to understand my genuine difficulties. Those who could have held me at that time with kindness only thrust me further away from them with their hard intolerance. It was almost as if a barterer were suddenly to find all friendly doors closing on his face just because he had no goods to offer in the market of this world. Nevertheless a strange pull from some hidden recesses deep down was gradually weaning me from my anchorage.
"Gently, like a tender rose-bud opening its shy petals to the sun, a sweet love blossomed in my heart : love for the Dream-reality, a yearning for the Beloved I knew so little about! A faint but persistent voice of silence whispered of His glorious attributes. A new vista unfolded itself before my eyes. A strange love that gives all without counting the cost, that offers without bargaining and yet is dependable-such a love became a possibility.