Prior to receiving those traveler's checks, I had been in India with very little money. God's grace or good luck had taken care of me and I never wanted for food and shelter during the months that I lived in India. I took meditation classes in Bodh Gaya, lived in little houses you could rent for 30 rupees per month. I was always safe and people were kind and hospitable. I could travel almost anywhere and always found a warm reception, a spiritual connection, and usually accommodations at Dharamsalas. I never feared or wanted, even if I was short of funds. I was only eighteen years old when I arrived in India, more pushed than drawn, by my deepest samskaras.
When I cashed the traveler's checks in Delhi, I made a game with myself. I didn't want to worry about the money running out. I also felt the need to be generous and share it with others since I had always been taken care of when I had come up short--I felt a debt. So I played a game. I decided that I wouldn't count the checks again. I would let the last one surprise me when the money ran out. Every time that I cashed some of the traveler's checks, I very intentionally looked the other way, carefully extracting one or two from the plastic envelope. I was especially careful not to feel around in the envelope--just lift out the one or two that I wanted to cash.
I didn't want to worry, "only $200 left, only $100 left." I thought it was better to avoid anxiously anticipating the last of the money. After all, I was young. I had been all right in India before, with hardly any money and I would be OK again. In the interim, I did not want to be miserly or to worry about the out flow of the funds that I was fortunate enough to have. Besides, I was going to the Guru's feet. What to worry? I carefully stashed the $300, and left Delhi for Kainchi Dham.
I helped a few friends and satsang in Kainchi who had less money than I. As months passed, every few weeks I would go into Nainital to change money and buy a few things. Each time I continued to play the little avoidance game. Without looking or counting I cashed two checks, then three checks, then a few more. After several trips bus tips to Nainital, I tired of the chore of changing money, and also of the little game. I decided to cash all the checks. It seemed more convenient to just change the dollars into rupees and be done with it.
When I think of it today, it is as if I am standing there at the State Bank of India in Nainital--an old wooden building, colonial architecture, the front gate chained together so you have to stoop under to get in. There were wooden walls, wooden floors, and a tall Pahari gentleman with a mustache behind the dark shiney counter. I had no idea exactly how much remained, perhaps as much as $150. I had made at least three trips to the bank since arriving in Kumoan. Perhaps there might be $100 or maybe $75. I removed the checks from the envelope and counted them. There were fifteen American Express twenty-dollar traveler's checks. The exact amount that I had placed in my bag in New Delhi months before.
My feet were suddenly rooted to the ground, my heart wavered. I counted them again. There was $300 in traveler's checks laid out on the counter before me. The gentleman behind the counter looked concerned and asked "Is there a problem, are you missing some checks?" I asked him to count them. "$300," he said "How much would you like to cash?" I was speechless. "All of it," I whispered.
I returned to Kainchi on the the U.P Roadways bus with a deep sense of wonderment. There was no way that I had miscounted in Delhi. I had had $400 when I arrived in Delhi. I had not miscounted. I had cashed $100, and then cashed numerous checks in Nainital after arriving at Baba's ashram. There was no possible way that I could still have $300 remaining. I had not miscounted. I had not not spent the money. It was impossible.
When I returned to Kainchi Dham that afternoon, Baba-ji was very funny with me. He kept motioning and laughing and winking. Then he called out across the court yard, "Kya, paisa mil gaya?" I didn't tell a soul about the travellers checks that had materialized in that plastic envelope. I was a little unsure as to how Baba had manipulated the American Express Co. I worried about legal repercussions. That may seem silly now, but I was only twenty years old. I guarded the secret for years. I cherished the idea that I had to protect Baba's confidentiality, long after His Maha Samadhi.
I kept the bundle of rupees in a string bag, spending as needed. I didn't play the little game and didn't worry about having money or not having money. I was in India for many months after Baba left His body, and I never ran out. I never thought about it. But, I always had rupees. I never counted them. I just spent them carefully and tried to give some to others who were more needy than I. The only reason that I'm now writing this is because I have complete confidence that American Express Co. didn't have anything to do with it!
Since then from time to time I have teetered on the brink financially, but Deus exmachina, somehow, I always have enough. Once, a few years ago, when I was having some very difficult financial problems, without enough money to feed my children, a thousand dollars appeared in my checking account. I asked the bank to trace it. I thought that it had been deposited by mistake. They assured me that it was my money. Yet, I had not deposited it. The kids and I paid our bills and no one ever questioned the funds, except me! It's not as if this sort of thing happens regularly. I have to work and worry about paying bills just like the rest of us, but there have been moments when Baba has lent me a few.
Peace & Love,