In February of 1973, I met Neem Karoli Baba at the Hanuman mandir on Parikrama Road in Vrindaban, one day before he left for Kainchi Dham. At that time, I had only $300 in American Express checks, and $100 I would exchange for rupees in New Delhi before leaving for Kumoan. I decided to play a game with myself and not count the money again – cashing checks when I needed, but avoiding fingering the bills or looking too carefully into the envelope where I’d secreted them. Purchasing necessities, and allowing myself to be as generous to anyone in need as such generosity had been offered to me in the previous months, I would go in to Nainital to change money and buy a few things every few weeks. Each time, I continued with my little game, cashing two checks, then three, then a few more. After several bus trips, I tired of the game and of cashing money and decided to cash them all and be done with it.
Today I still remember standing at the State Bank of India, where a tall handsome gentleman with a mustache stood behind the polished counter as I withdrew the checks from the envelope and counted them for the first time in months. I had no idea how much remained: perhaps as much as $100 or as little as $40. But when I removed them, there were fifteen American Express checks laid out on the counter before me, the exact amount I’d left New Delhi with months before. My shock must have been apparent, for the Pahari gentleman looked concerned and asked, “Is there a problem? Are you missing some checks?” I asked him to count them again for me. “$300. How much would you like cashed?” he asked. I was speechless. “All of them,” I whispered, feeling suddenly rooted to the ground.
I returned to Kainchi on the bus in a deep state of wonderment. I’d cashed numerous checks in Nainital since arriving at Baba’s ashram. I had not miscounted; I’d cashed the checks and spent the money. That afternoon back at Kainchi Dham, Baba-ji was very funny, continually motioning to me, laughing and winking. He called out across the courtyard, “Kay, paisa mil gaya?” (What? Did you get the money?) I nodded that I had, and he laughed. I kept the checks that had materialized in my envelope a secret, fearing legal repercussions, as if Maharaji had somehow manipulated the American Express Company. Now it seems silly, but then only twenty, I cherished the idea that I had to protect Baba-ji’s confidentiality, even long after his Maha Samadhi. I was in India for several more months after Maharaji left his body and the bag of rupees I’d cashed that day never ran out.
- Ram Rani Rosser