Baba found me at twenty three. As you can imagine, I regarded my first trip to the Avatar as a possible opportunity, among other things, to learn more about my relationship with Einstein. It may come as no surprise that throughout these and subsequent trips, leelas have been the order of the day.
Baba, the consummate "tour guide", treated my wife Marsha and me to a host of travel experiences over the course of my first visit to India. We had no desire to be anywhere but where He was, and since He went to Delhi, Madras and Hyderabad we were overjoyed to be allowed to follow Him.
In Hyderabad a most interesting incident occurred during a discourse Swami was giving in a large auditorium. It was very hot and I had just eaten lunch. As time went on, I realized to my horror that I was being overtaken by a powerful drowsiness. As I was sinking into tamas I projected a thought to the Lord: "Baba, the only thing that could keep me from falling asleep right now is if You were to mention Einstein...” I knew He could do it but didn't really expect it at all and continued my descent. Within sixty seconds, my head thrust backward as Swami's lilting pronunciation of the name "Einstein” entered my consciousness from His ongoing flow of Telugu.
I was awake then, and became riveted to the story He recounted of how a young Indian physicist during an appointment with Einstein eagerly probed for the ultimate in Western scientific wisdom. What he received from Einstein however, was, to roughly quote Swami, "Every major conclusion I’ve arrived at is contained in your Bhagavad Gita. Look there!"
My curiosity about the connection was inflamed anew! I was dying to get some insight into "why me?" As Swami's translator for the discourse was himself a nuclear physicist I approached him afterwards hoping for some kernel of insight. He had nothing personally to share, and as far as learning more from Sai he said, "I counsel patience..." I was disappointed but left knowing I had received sound advice.
Approximately one month later we found ourselves in the interview room at Prasanthi Nilayam. I was sitting on the floor just to Swami's right as He was talking to various people in the group. Seeing His footstool off to the side and recalling how frequently He is seen using one, I took the opportunity to perform the logical but minor seva of placing it in position. He accepted and I felt happy. After some time there was a lull in the give and take of conversation. No one was asking questions and Swami was silent, save for the quiet phrase "And you sir?" drawing the words out slowly. The thought came that He seemed to be addressing me though He kept saying it. I was at a complete loss for words. I was embarrassed to be addressed personally in front of the group. I definitely had something I wanted to ask and whether I was being addressed or not, it was an absolutely clear, appropriate chance to approach Baba about it. Perhaps as many as two or even three solid minutes passed. An ego based lack of confidence prevented me from simply asking, "What is my connection to Einstein, Baba?" I feel Baba gave me many chances there, but finally new dialogue began with someone also. The moment was lost and I clearly could not cut in. I was to wonder many times after that if the opportunity might not have been lost forever.
That was in 1978. More blessed interviews occurred in ensuing years and questions about more important matters were raised than about my Godfather. It was okay; I had become patient and accepted that He would reveal whatever I needed to know in its own best time.
After Professor Einstein's death in 1955, Ms. Einstein and Ms. Dukes remained patients of my father and friends of the family, remembering birthdays and attending my Bar Mitzvah at 13. My mother sometimes gave them rides around town as they did not drive.
For sometime I had had a yearning to visit Einstein's home to see his study. In 1983 my sister planned to get married in Princeton and this looked like a good opportunity. My father called Ms. Einstein to arrange a visit and on a cold December day he, my stepmother and I spent about two hours chatting with this completely unassuming artist in the parlour of the house where she had lived for close to fifty years. She told us of her time spent studying art at a convent in Italy and showed us a beautiful little wax sculpture of Saint Francis, for whom she had a special affection.
Somewhat paralleling that 1978 interview with Swami, I had been feeling some reserve during this conversation about requesting to see the Professor's study. This woman was elderly and appeared frail and I didn't want to trouble her by an extra trip upstairs. Clearly it was getting time to go. I had to act quickly or the chance would be lost. Thinking of Swami I made my request and she responded with an enthusiastic "Sure!!" and charged up the stairs to the room in question. On the way we passed her father's bedroom which was very plainly furnished, like a monastic cell. Then we were in the study. Bookshelves lined the walls, and a wide window faced a deep garden in the back of the house. To the left of this picture-window were two portraits, one of a bearded Jewish sage, the other of Mahatma Gandhi. One shelf contained all of the original issues of "Der Annalen der Physik" (Annual of Physics), the journal in which both Theories of Relativity were first published. Then, just as I noticed a large easy chair and foot-stool, Ms. Einstein "commanded" me to sit in it. How could I refuse? I smiled broadly to myself, remembering Swami's footstool and feeling His subtle presence in what for me was a meaningful coincidence. We took pictures, looked around a bit more and left. Later, I remembered Swami had said Einstein had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and wished I'd looked for it.
As we left, my father recalled the time, years before, when he'd brought his brother-in-law Elliott Montroll over for what Einstein's formidable secretary had said would only be a three minute appointment. My uncle, who was to be later named to the Einstein Chair of Physics at the university of Rochester, would have been overjoyed just to have shaken hands, but Einstein offered them lunch. They declined. My uncle ended up spending half an hour at Einstein's dining room table, talking and laughing with him about physics, while my father beamed with joy, understanding not one word.
My father, only on being asked recently, recounted to me how every three or four months for some years he would receive a call from Einstein's secretary asking him if he might be able to spare a few minutes, as the Professor wished to talk. "Somehow", especially in the early years of his practice, he always found time to go over, for discussions involving the non scientific topics his host was interested in, such as philosophy, and world and national events.
Always straightforward and humble in human dealings, Einstein came to accept and use the bewildering fame that was thrust upon him in the only way that made sense to him—service to humanity. He worked tirelessly throughout his life promoting peace, freedom, and respect for all people.
Dad recalled how Einstein's efforts during the 1930's and World War Two enabled a certain number of Jews to escape Nazi persecution. The Professor also spent many years working for the United Jewish Appeal in establishing the state of Israel and accepted my father's invitation to co chair the local fundraising campaign with him in Princeton for several years.
My father considers himself a rational scientific and appropriately skeptical man, who, while loving his religion and believing in God, puts great stock in what can be touched, seen, and measured.
(to be continued...)