Subarata and I rarely argued but when we did it was dramatic – and then we refused to speak for days. Eventually one of us would relent or our hearts would come forward and then things would revert to normal.
I learnt early on that the quickest way to make friends again was to follow Guru's wise advice and to buy her something – preferably a teddy bear – and I recruited help from others in the Centre to track down the most endearing stuffed animal that money could buy.
Once, into day three of a protracted silence following some dispute, I spotted the most heart-melting stuffed bear I had ever seen and placed it in the passenger seat of the car, with the seat belt fastened, while she was shopping. Then I waited in concealment. Sure enough, when she came back and saw it, she glanced around to make sure I wasn’t present and then picked it up to hug it and laugh. Then I knew things were okay again.
Subarata's collection of teddy bears and stuffed animals is unrivalled and each has a story of reconciliation or friendship to tell.
Years ago I used to compete with Subarata over which of us had visited the most countries. Like children, with furrowed brows and triumphant cries of discovery we pored over current and former passports, deciphering entry stamps and visas in strange languages to determine who was the most travelled. One day my rival departed alone for a final journey and to a faraway place from which she would never return.
But truth to tell, before that lonely time I trailed by a mere two countries, inventing obscure South Pacific island nations to draw level. She would pounce on my passport, demanding verification and entry/exit stamps, but I would wave my hand dis- missively and insist that none were required. The nations of Tobulu and Fujilau, I explained, didn’t bother with such trite formalities, and who would want to stay on those tiny sun-scorched atolls for more than a week anyway?
But among our authentic visited nations – the number was a staggering fifty-six versus fifty-four – forty-one were in the company of our teacher, and among the transcendent accomplishments of this hugely travelled global Master must surely be a mention of ‘most journeyed sage’ or ‘spiritual explorer par excellence’. Not to mention ‘most widely travelled entourage of disciples’.