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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter II
Three years later I had gone to Rhanikhet in the Himalayas to open up a new Soldiers Home there. A runner came in from an outlying district, bringing a note from a friend of this man, begging me to go to him as he had only a short time to live and needed some spiritual help. He had asked for me. My fellow-worker refused to let me go; she was chaperoning me and was utterly shocked. I did not go and he died alone. I have never forgiven myself - but what could I do? Tradition, custom and the woman responsible for me worked against me, but I felt miserable and [68] helpless. On the way to Meerut from Bombay he had told me bluntly, one night at dinner, that I was not a bit as smug and holy as I looked and that he had an idea that I would some day discover that I was a human being. He was at that time in deep waters and in trouble and wouldn't I try to help him? He was returning from England where he had had to put his wife in a lunatic asylum; his only son had just been killed and his only daughter had run away with a married man. He had no one left. He wanted nothing from me but a kind word. That I gave him, for I grew to like him. When he came to die he sent for me. I did not go and I am sorry.

From this time on my life became very hectic. I was (in the absence of Miss Schofield) supposed to be responsible for quite a number of Soldiers Homes - Quetta - Meerut - Lucknow - Chakrata, and two Homes which I helped open - Umballa and Rhanikhet - in the Himalayas, no great distance from Almora. Chakrata and Rhanikhet were in the foothills, about five or six thousand feet up and were, of course, summer stations. From May till September we became "hill parrots." There was another home in Rawal Pindi, but I had nothing to do with that, except that I went there for a month once to release Miss Ashe, who was in charge. In each of these homes there were two ladies and two managers, who were responsible for the running of the coffee shop and the general maintenance of the place. They were usually ex-soldiers and I have the happiest remembrance of their kindness and helpfulness.

I was so young and inexperienced; I knew not a single person in the whole continent of Asia; I needed more protection than I realized at the time; I was prone to do the stupidest things, simply because I knew no real evil and had not the faintest idea what kind of things could happen to girls. Once, for instance, I was suffering from excruciating [69] toothache and it reached the point where I could endure it no longer. There was no regular dentist then in the cantonment where I was working but occasionally an itinerant dentist (usually an American) would come through, set up shop in the "dak" bungalow (or rest house) and do what work had to be done. I heard one was then in town, so down I went, all alone, without any word to my fellow-worker. I found a young American and his assistant, another man. The tooth was in a bad way and had to come out so I begged him to give me gas and pull it out. He looked at me in rather a peculiar manner but proceeded to do as I asked. When I came out of the gas and was feeling myself again, he read me the riot act, telling me that I had no means of knowing that he was a decent man, that whilst under gas I was completely in his power and that it was his experience that stray men, wandering around India, were no better than they should be. Before going he extracted a promise from me to be more careful in the future. I have been - as a general rule - but I remember him with gratitude, even though I have forgotten his name. In those days I was utterly fearless; I did not know what it was to be afraid. Part of this was a natural thoughtlessness, part of it ignorance, and part of it a surety that God would take care of me. Apparently He did, on the principle, I suppose, that drunken men, infants and fools are not responsible, and must be guarded.

The first place, therefore, to which I went was Meerut, where I made the acquaintance of Miss Schofield and was taught some of the things I would have to know in temporarily taking over from her. My major trouble really was that I was too young for the responsibility. Things that happened took too much out of me. I had no experience and, therefore, no sense of relative values. Things that did not matter much seemed to be quite appalling, and really [70] serious things did not strike me that way. Looking back over the years and taking it by and large, I do not think I really did so badly.

I was at first almost stunned by the wonder of the Orient. It was all so new, so strange, so utterly different to anything I had imagined. Color, beautiful buildings, dirt and degradation, palm trees and bamboos, lovely little children and women (in those days) carrying water-pots on their heads; water buffaloes and queer carriages, such as gharries and ekkas (I wonder if they have them now) crowded bazaars and streets of native shops, silverware and beautiful carpets, silent-footed natives, Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs, Rajputs, Gurkhas, native soldiers and policemen, an occasional elephant with his mahout, strange smells, unfamiliar language, and always the sun, except during the monsoon - always and ever the heat. Such are some of the memories I have of that time. I loved India. I have always hoped to go back but fear I shall not manage it this life. I have many friends in India, and among Indians who live in other countries. I know something of the problem of India, of its longing for independence of its internal strife and conflicts, of its multiple languages and races, its teeming population and its many creeds. I do not know it intimately for I was only there a few years, but I loved the people.

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