Sri Chinmoy meets an old friend
Our Divine Enterprise, Victory’s Banner Restaurant opened in Chicago on Father’s Day of 1999. When we opened, our Chicago Centre made a collective commitment to give our Guru good news every week, and gratefully, we had lots of good news to report! In general, each week our business grew and grew, and I was happy to share that with Guru.
After the tragic events of 9-11, Guru cancelled all our activities for the public. No classes, no concerts, no manifestation at all. It was perhaps in May of 2002 when Guru said to me that he thought the time had come that he could again do a concert and requested me to plan a concert for 7000 in Chicago.
We quickly reserved the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Apparently that window of opportunity closed because a little while later, Guru reduced the number to 4000. As Guru has said many times, “Man proposes, God disposes”. Then again later to 1500, and his last message was “Make it small. Just invite friends and family.” By then we had a healthy amount of reservations which yielded a concert at the Palmer House for about 1500-1700.
At that time, we also moved into our new Centre where we reside today. So out Guru came to visit our new Centre and restaurant, with a concert in between. He visited the restaurant in the afternoon of Aug 3 2002. As Guru walked into the restaurant, the disciples sang the Morning Prayer song to welcome him. Sitting in direct line of Guru’s vision was Ida Patterson.
Thirty-four years ago, in 1962, Ida Patterson was absolutely the first human being or truth-seeker or God-lover to see something in my eyes. She told my boss Nolini-da. One afternoon I entered into Nolini-da’s room where I used to work and Nolini-da said to me, “Look what this American lady, Ida Patterson, saw in you. This morning when she came here to speak to me, you told her that I was not available, and she saw such things in your eyes. Your eyes mesmerised her.”
I said to Nolini-da, “Ida Patterson? I do not know who she is.”
Then I became friends with her. So thirty-four years ago she saw something inside your Guru’s eyes. Thirty-four years ago she told Nolini-da her experience, and still I cherish it.
Guru gave his first talk in Minneapolis, where Ida lived. Famously (I believe), nobody came.
Ida Patterson had such tremendous affection for me. She knew me in the Ashram, and in December 1965 she invited me to Minneapolis to give talks. I went there to spend a week. She lived on Dupont Avenue.
My first talk in Minneapolis was a fiasco! I was supposed to give a talk on reincarnation. Ida had promised me that many, many people would come. But nobody came. She was the only listener. I gave my talk to the walls.
I remembered that one of Sri Ramakrishna’s dearest disciples, Swami Brahmananda, once gave a talk and nobody came. He said that he was so happy because he got such receptivity. He said, “The walls did not argue with me. At other times when I give talks, people ask such rubbish questions.”
In my case also, I gave my talk. Ida sat by the door the entire time with the hope that somebody would come. But nobody came.
Back to Guru’s visit to the restaurant. As Guru entered, hearing the Morning Prayer song being sung, Guru paused with folded hands, but immediately after it was finished, He rushed over to Ida sitting on one of our bright yellow benches.
Privately, on a piece of paper Guru drew Ida’s spiritual name, “Sukhukee—The very darling of the Divine Mother.” He called Sukantika over and told her she had 10 minutes to get it framed. Sukantika ran over to the Centre a block away, unframed another picture and inserted what Guru had given her. She succeeded in her task.
Ida was then and always very motherly towards Guru, comfortably touching his hand or shoulder. Guru was equally comfortable with Ida.
That night, Guru had a beautiful, and intimate concert at the Palmer House auditorium. This was the same location where he opened the Parliament of Religions in 1993, and the same Palmer House which served as home to Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech to the Parliament 100 years earlier.
It was a glorious weekend for all of us here in Chicago!