ARTIST & PHOTOGRAPHER
In Australia, a young artist named William Reading, 19, first heard of Meher Baba in 1966. After reading all the literature he could find about Baba, he eventually went to Bill Le Page's meetings and saw some films of Baba. Soon afterwards he became friends with a young Englishman, who had ridden a bicycle from England across Europe and Asia to Australia. Through his new friend, Reading was inspired to get his first job after leaving art school and to travel to India in the hopes of seeing Baba, even though he was advised that Baba was in strict seclusion.
Reading left Australia in April 1968 and traveled overland through Asia to India.
After spending a few weeks in Bombay trying to learn the basics of the tabla, and then traveling to Poona, where he met Jalbhai, he arrived in Ahmednagar on 5 August 1968 and went to Adi's office. Adi urged him to write a note to Baba, and Reading went back to his hotel and wrote the following:
My name is William Reading and I have traveled from Sydney, Australia, where I met Bill Le Page and saw some films of you. I do not know if you are God but the works that I have read of yours appear to me to be the unquestionable truth, and I would very much like to see you.
Bill's note was read to Baba on 7 August, and Baba sent a reply that he was pleased to read his letter. Eruch wrote:
... Baba wants you to take him with you in your heart for he is already with you. He sends his love to you and wants you to keep happy. He wants you to remember him always so that you will be able to love him and serve him all the more.
Baba's love will be with William.
Reading wrote another note asking to see Baba, and Baba replied in a similar manner as above. This went on for a few days. While delivering another note to Adi to pass on to Baba, he spent some time talking to Donkin, who looked at him and declared, "You are the new humanity!"
Lord Meher : p.5342-3
On 7 August, Donkin, perhaps feeling sympathetic toward the young man, suggested they drive out to Seclusion Hill on the sly, where Reading might catch a glimpse of Baba through a pair of Donkin's binoculars. Although he failed to catch a glimpse of Baba from either of the two hills behind Meherazad, as he peered through the binoculars straining to see Baba, inwardly he beseeched Baba that he yearned for something to assure himself that "Baba was truly God in human form."
As they walked over to Seclusion Hill the sky became overcast and a light shower of rain began to fall, producing a rainbow. By the time they were halfway up the side of Seclusion Hill the rainbow had slowly moved until one end was on the roofs of Meherazad. Reading was elated at what he took to be Baba's reply to his inner longings. As he later recounted: "It was a very subtle and beautiful way of confirming his divinity to me. In fact, everything there, the people at the Trust offices in Ahmednagar and out at Meherabad, including the weather, seemed to exist only to respond to Baba's wish."
Lord Meher : p.5342-3
Don had lent him a copy of The Wayfarers, and on the 8th Reading sketched Baba's portrait from the photograph on the frontispiece and sent it to Baba the next day to see. Baba looked through the sketch pad and returned it to him after he had signed the drawing on the side ( see the drawing below ). Baba sent a message to Reading to fill the sketch pad with drawings of him and remarked to the mandali: "It is not necessary for William to see me, as my having signed his drawing is tantamount to his having had my darshan."
On 10 August, Bill Reading rode a bicycle to Meherabad, where he was given a tour by Padri and was introduced to Mohammed Mast. Padri coaxed the mast into shaking hands with Reading and, in his words, "The instant we touched hands a sensation not unlike a mild electric shock — minus the jolt and corresponding discomfort — swept through my body."
Lord Meher : p.5344
Reading further recalled, "After I took some photographs of Mohammed, Padri suggested a cup of tea, which he served in his room. While talking to Padri the sensation of Baba's 'presence' came over me. Tears welled up in my eyes and I started to weep. Baba's presence seemed to emanate from Padri and his sincere and simple life."
After listening to Padri talk about Baba over tea, Reading's emotional state calmed and they took a walk up the hill, because Padri wanted to show him Upper Meherabad and Baba's Tomb. In Reading's words, "There is one other event that to this day I am very glad I did, although I don't fully understand why ... The place seemed deserted as Padri left me alone in Baba's Tomb to attend to some chore. I walked around looking at the mural on the ceiling when I suddenly felt a strong urge to get into the crypt. I clambered down the end near the entrance to the Tomb and crouched down up the other end. And I thought of Baba and what it would be like when his body would be placed here. After five minutes or so, I climbed out and went outside to see where Padri had gone."
Padri later said to Don he was touched by the young man's sincerity.
Lord Meher : p.5344
On the 10th, Baba sent William Reading instructions not to travel to Nepal but to return home to Australia, which he did, although the bus ride back to Poona was a tearful departure for him. In Reading's words, "I felt like I was leaving my true home." He left Ahmednagar around 12 August 1968 and had his 21st birthday a few days later. Reading continued to write more notes to Baba through Adi until he arrived back at his parents' home in Sydney.
Bill Reading also sent another drawing of Baba holding the world in his arms, to which Baba sent this reply through Adi, "Baba liked it, but not as much as the first drawing ..."
Lord Meher : p.5345