Jeevan didn't come to New York that April (1986), but he was planning on August and I was looking forward to showing him around.
By then I was fully settled in as a local. After months of couch surfing at Databir's and then at Ketan's, I finally sublet my own room from a very nice disciple named Mangal, who worked as a professional artist. (He has long since left the Center and you can see his magnificent work here.)
I not only had my own place, but also had a number of new duties that further secured my presence in Jamaica. Aside from working as a ball boy when Guru played tennis, singing in the New York boys' singing group, washing dishes at Annam Brahma on Wednesday nights, and late night postering with Databir, I had also become a Center guard. Being a guard meant spending one day a month guarding the tennis court from vandalism (during the day), and one night a month guarding the disciple stores (from about 7 p.m. to about 6 a.m. or so -- brutal).
By the time August Celebrations 1986 rolled around, however, the most significant duty I had picked up was helping an older disciple named Vinaya manage Guru's many musical instruments before and after each concert he gave on the East Coast.
The job not only gave me another opportunity to serve Guru directly and to spend more time at his house, but from time to time it also allowed me to snatch moments alone with him. Before concerts, for example, Guru would usually set up shop in a room backstage and practice many of the instruments he planned to play that night.
Vinaya and I would take turns bringing the instruments to Guru one by one as he asked for them and then would wait patiently in the room while he practiced. Once done, Guru would hand the instrument back and ask that the next one be brought.
I loved sitting there alone, meditating, while Guru practiced.
Those were my circumstanes early that August when I got an unexpected phone call from my younger sister, Liz. She had just graduated from high school. I was oblivious as to what Liz had been up to since I had left home three years earlier, and I wasn't prepared for the question she asked me.
"Could you see if I could get permission to come to Celebrations?"
Say what? August Celebrations was to kick off in just a week or two. Liz wasn't even a disciple. Apparently, someone back in California had an extra roundtrip ticket to New York and offered it to her. Now, out of the blue it seemed, Liz wanted to accompany Jeevan on his first trip to New York.
My initial reaction was to tell Liz to forget it. The request seemed procedurally improper. I'd have felt embarrassed relaying such a question to Guru. Nevertheless, I had the good sense not to intrude myself between Liz and Guru. I told her I'd ask and called Ashrita straight away.
I couldn't believe what happened next.