WALI ALI: Talking to Debra to whom Murshid gave the name Devi; how old were you when you first met Murshid?
WALI ALI: You were on your own pretty much?
DEVI: Yeah totally, I was living with Brian at the time.
WALI ALI: Brian Carr?
WALI ALI: And you were still in high school?
DEVI: Yes, I was in my junior year of high school .
WALI ALI: You were going to Drew here?
DEVI: Yeah—no, actually then I was going to a public high school—
WALI ALI: But you were not living at home with your parents at all; you'd already been into a lot of psychedelics at that point?
DEVI: No, I wasn't really too interested actually; I'd taken it maybe three times, or four times—I thought it was great but I never felt blown-out the next day. I never felt like I'd had any great revelations or anything.
WALI ALI: What were you into around that time before you met Murshid when you were living with Brian and on your own?
DEVI: Finishing high school and then trying to figure out what was going to happen to me next, and I was still interested in dance, I was really dreaming of that, but I was only studying Indian dance with that lady Janicki at the time a few times a week , and I wasn't studying anything else in the other forms of dance.
WALI ALI: Do you recall the first time that you met Murshid?
DEVI: Oh yeah, I remember Brian was giving him a ride somewhere and—
WALI ALI: Brian had already known him for some time?
DEVI: Oh yeah, Brian wouldn't introduce me to him for some reason for a year—I lived with Brian for a year—
WALI ALI: He wouldn't introduce you to him?
DEVI: No, he wouldn't let me come to a meeting.
WALI ALI: You asked him?
DEVI: Yeah, and he said, "No." He said I had to be—I don 't know what.
WALI ALI: That's interesting. What year was this?
DEVI: Let's see. I met him in the spring, so I had just turned 15—it was '67 or '68.
WALI ALI: If you met him in the spring of '68—when is your birthday?
WALI ALI: Where was he living when you met him?
WALI ALI: He was living here, and how much longer after that do you recall when he started having meetings in Marin County? Was it shortly after that or was it a good while when he just had meetings here at this house?
DEVI: You're just thinking of the Garden of Allah and that sort of thing, right?
WALI ALI: And at Sheila's house.
DEVI: At Sheila's—
WALI ALI: I think the first meetings in Marin County were at Sheila McKendrick's house in Mill Valley.
DEVI: I don't even remember going to any of those actually at all. Brian was a disciple of his for a year before, he would let me go and I knew Brian from when I was 14, so it figures that it was '67—I felt pretty sure that, what it was.
WALI ALI: And what do you recall about that first meeting?
DEVI: I remember Murshid came—we came and picked him up here; Murshid sat in the front seat and I sat in the back seat, Brian drove the car and there was no one else there, and I was really in awe of him for some reason. I had just heard about him—I had never met him—
WALI ALI: He didn't have a beard?
DEVI: No he didn't, and he turned around and he said, "Hello." He just said, "Hello, what's your name?" And I don't think that he said anything else, but as soon as he got out of the car I started crying for no reason—I don't know why, I just couldn't stop crying, I just cried for about an hour for some reason. And then the next time that I met him I—
WALI ALI: Where were you going, to grocery shopping or something?
DEVI: I don't even remember that—my main impression was the tears, and the next time I met him was—Brian had brought me to a meeting—I had loved it. I can remember he sent everybody out front for the second part of the meeting—it was only for disciples, and I sat in the car and waited and watched out of the window.
WALI ALI: I know, my reactions were just pretty much the same as I recall—that kind of awe—
DEVI: Yeah, I loved him, I really loved him the first time I met him, but I was always afraid of him a little bit, I was always—the whole time that I knew him—
WALI ALI: I thought your article in Bismillah was real good—in a page you said a lot.
DEVI: Oh good; I'm glad.
WALI ALI: So then how did your relationship develop? What sort of memories stand out as you think about it? What we are looking for, aside from whatever you have that you remember and feel that is significant—actual stories, events, things that happened where there is some detail.
DEVI: I have lots of stories—they were really funny to me, some things, but I don't know whether they would actually be.
WALI ALI: I would like to get more rather than less, to have a more inclusive statement about things.
DEVI: Okay. The one thing that always really upset me, as I remember, I asked after I’d been to, I don’t know how many meetings and maybe I'd been with Murshid for a month or so and I asked him if I could become a disciple of his, and all he said was, "Sure, and he never initiated me. He just said, "Sure," and there it was and I never got initiated and and I never asked him about it afterwards.
WALI ALI: But then he always considered you a disciple and he had you come to disciples' meetings and stand up when he asked his disciples to stand up and all that—
DEVI: Right—I remember that I talked to Banefsha about that at one time and she said that she had had the same experience; he never initiated her either.
WALI ALI: But it was different in her case because he was having her wait consciously, because I was already his assistant at that time, and then she came, and when Pir Vilayat came back, I think the first time, she took initiation from Pir Vilayat, but there were a whole number of people, especially in that first period before things became somewhat more formal that he didn't formally initiate but he just took them on in his heart—
DEVI: Yeah, I always felt that in action but I always felt that because he had me present for initiations for other people after that—not too soon after that—I would be in the room and he would initiate people, and I would always say, "Shouldn't I be?"—and I thought, "oh well, I'm not going to say anything because he never said anything to me"—
WALI ALI: Basira's story is very similar because apparently she came to him and had a dream in which he had given her some blessing or something, I can’t recall exactly right now, and he confirmed it, and somehow or other he let her know that she was a disciple and then she came and she asked him a question later—Nancy Silver had the same experience—and then he yelled at Nancy once and made her stand up, because she didn't stand up because she hadn't been formally initiated, with Basira he yelled at her and said, "Don't you believe in your own visions," or something—then I think by the middle of 1968—I think everybody after that point that he did initiate, formally, but prior to then there were a number of people that he just took on without going through the ceremony and things. Brian Made and Akbar had some interesting things to say about the movement towards more actual formalism in what Murshid was doing from the time that they first met him towards wearing robes and having more definite kinds of structure and form and ritual and what have you—
DEVI: I had no preconceived notions about anything, and everything to me was fine—that, as opposed to Brian who used to argue about that sort of thing because it irritated Brian tremendously—the formalization and the things—and then when the dancing started—I loved the dancing, and I remember the first class that he had. He had a women's dance class and in it was Sheila and Shirin and let's see, I was in it and Basira, and Jemila I think too, I can't remember—
WALI ALI: I think the women from the Khankah weren't in it immediately—
DEVI: I remember the very first one, though, and there were 3 or 4 ladies and it was upstairs here at the Mentorgarten on Friday afternoons, and I always used to get out of high school early—they let me out so I could come to it. I don't know how I talked them into it but they let me out—so I used to come to that, and we would just work on the planetary walks, in the very beginning, and then it turned into men coming too to the class. That's how that Saturday night dance class began, I guess.
WALI ALI: Was that the Saturday night class?
WALI ALI: Didn't that go first into the afternoons?
DEVI: Yeah, it went into the afternoons, and then it went into the evening.
WALI ALI: Because when I first came over that class was on Saturday afternoons.
DEVI: Right, it went from Friday, and then Saturday it was men also—
WALI ALI: Yeah.
DEVI: No, they changed the day completely, it wasn't Friday's anymore, then it went into the evening; it used to be at the Garden of Allah in the afternoons sometimes. They used to park all over the place.
WALI ALI: What do you remember else about those women's classes that he did, were they very long?
DEVI: They were about an hour long, I think—
WALI ALI: You were in the later women's classes that he did at the Garden of Allah, right?
DEVI: The only women's class I was in after that was Banefsha's class.
WALI ALI: So you weren't in the one that was then over at the Garden of Allah?
WALI ALI: Where he gave a lot of these dances for women?
DEVI: I did do some of them—I can remember doing them, but I don't recall anything in any specific class—I might have to take that back but my—my memory is unclear about that—
WALI ALI: So he spent most of the time working on the astrological things?
DEVI: Yeah—because I have a notebook from it a little bit still. That's what I remember mainly, because the class, very soon after that, it went into the addition of the men and the women—
WALI ALI: And there was a lot of walking, I recall?
WALI ALI: That was a great part of it at that point. Were you around then when he was doing walks through the Haight-Ashbury?
DEVI: Yeah, I was just remembering that going to walks and then eating dinner on Haight St. at that place—what was it called? It was a vegetarian restaurant—
WALI ALI: Not the Brother Juniper Cafe, that was later?
WALI ALI: Oh no, that was then—
DEVI: I remember that too sometimes—
WALI ALI: I thought that was later.
DEVI: I used to come over on Monday nights, you remember that.
WALI ALI: yeah—
DEVI: All the time on Mondays and clean house or just be here, and when Daniel was there, he used to just take us out to eat all the time at a Chinese restaurant on the Mission Street.
WALI ALI: Star View.
DEVI: There are some stories I could tell you—
WALI ALI: That would be good; why don't you start doing that—one actual story with a little bit of detail helps more than just this general chronology which I pretty much have down
DEVI: When I used to live over on Dellaro Street with Marsha and David—we were the only disciples living in the house, and then, there was that guy—Bill Havu I think his name was, and he lived there and somebody else did—Andy, and they used to come to meetings sometimes, but they weren't disciples, and there was tremendous discrepancy after awhile because some other people and about how the house should be run—I remember one time Murshid decided to play matchmaker, and he just would show up at the oddest times because he would take walks and come over when no one was expecting him. And he came over with Frank Tedesco one time—it was so embarrassing—and I was the only one home, and he came up the stairs and I he said , "Hi Devi, you know Frank, don't you?" and I said, "Yes, I don’t really know him but I know him." And he said, "Good," and he left, and left Frank there!!
WALI ALI: You referred to that in he thing you wrote for Bismillah.
DEVI: I couldn’t believe it—it just blew me out.
WALI ALI: Why you think he did that? Did Frank ever say that he asked Murshid to put him up to it?
DEVI: No, I don't know, but Frank didn't say anything. I suppose that Murshid just thought that we'd be a great couple or something. It didn't work out that way, but—so that was one thing.
WALI ALI: Krishnadas live there that time?
WALI ALI: He did at one point stay at the house. Did Murshid get brought into any of the sort of house problems or other—
WALI ALI: He wasn’t asked to resolve any of those things?
DEVI: The one thing that did happen though, when—what was Kolsoum’s name?
WALI ALI: Marsha.
DEVI: Marsha—before she—Scott! Do you remember Scott, I think you know him.
WALI ALI: Scott's the man—
DEVI: He's from San Diego—right—
WALI ALI: No, no, Scott's the one she married, you're thinking of Bill—
DEVI: No, it's not, his name was Scott—
WALI ALI: Jack Schwartz.
DEVI: Jack Schwartz, yeah—when she was down there staying with him in—I guess it was San Diego—people at the house just went insane because one of the people moved in that wasn't a disciple, he had his friends from New York come in, and they were staying in Marsha's room. And that's when I left there, because they were staying there and they were really into drugs, the kind of drugs that nobody else was into, and they really had their New York atmosphere with them, and then I can remember that one night I went over to spend the night at Brian's house, and Jack Schwartz called me up from San Diego and said, "You'd better get home, you are not allowed to stay out at night," and I said, "What " And I, of course at that point, nobody was going to tell me what to do except Murshid, and so I moved out of the house promptly, in fact the next day—
WALI ALI: He was serious—
DEVI: Yeah, he was serious, yeah, it just really amazed me. I guess he had just gotten afraid of something, or didn't realize that I'd lived by myself before, I don't know what it was, and so I moved there and then I moved to—do you remember those disciples—do you remember Noe St.? I remember you came and got me there sometimes—I lived on Noe and Market in that really nice—with Bill—they were both disciples, a couple at that time, and they are not around anymore.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I remember them. She was initiated the same time as me.
DEVI: Yeah, and I remember getting a letter from Murshid—I still have the letter, a long letter. He was going to send me to India and that thing just all of a sudden fell through and he never said anything to me about it, and I never quite understood.
WALI ALI: What was that episode? It is too vague, I can't quite bring it into my memory somehow. Was it a dance?
DEVI: Yeah, see, the lady, Janicki Menin (sp?) who I studied with knew some people in India who had a dance school, and she got me accepted to the school, and then I told Murshid about it, and Murshid said that I should go to India and that he would send me, or that is the impression that I got anyway—but I was only 16 at the time, and so there was some doubt as to who would go with me, because I couldn't legally go out of the country at that age, but he wrote all these introductions; he wrote one to the President of India at that time—he is dead now.
WALI ALI: Hussain—
DEVI: Hussain, yeah and to a bunch of other places. He took me to Air India and to the Consulate and to a travel agent and—I didn't know exactly what was happening, because I obviously didn't have the money to do it—that was hard to talk my family into something like that, but he did want me to go there, and then he just didn't say anything, right? I spoke to Moineddin once about that but he just didn't know what the situation was—
WALI ALI: It sounds to me like he just put some energy into it and would have gone further if there had been money—did he say that he was going to find the money for you to go?
DEVI: That is the impression I had. I never, of course, would approach him, I never would say anything—
WALI ALI: But see, it's interesting thing to bring up, because I know about money, that he had a funny attitude in the sense that he would never like to put a negative out in terms of something that was possibly going to happen. He always felt like if he kept doors open in a positive direction something might come, and he always had a great intention to want to help people materially, which occasionally would backfire on him and he would get uptight and complain to me or to some other person that was close to him about people that were taking advantage of him monetarily—like David Hoffmaster for example—it was an on-going thing, because after he moved in here, then shortly after that he started having these operations and he didn't have the money to pay his rent and so on, but Murshid would oscillate between being very generous materially and drawing out of his own income and then finding that he was short in terms of money. His attitude towards money, I think, is interesting because he scrimped and saved most of his life and had to live on virtually nothing and then he said that he'd gotten a sign to be generous and not to worry about money. The last years of his life, he got himself into some funny situations about it. I know he often indicated or hinted that there might be money coming to this or that, to underwrite a program or scholarship or this event, and he was kind of hoping that if he put it out and concentrated on it that it might manifest, not through him exactly—
DEVI: But that explains a lot, because I never said anything. I can remember that the last day that we went to [?] we ate lunch at the Khankah up in Novato and we went over to the travel agent in the—Terra Linda or wherever it was up there—and then riding back and he never said anything so I never said anything either. And that was the end of it. I do remember though when he sent me the first letter that he ever sent me when I was living over on Noe St. He said it was very odd; he talked about all the different sorts of things. And there was one thing, I always felt funny because he always talked about the family and I always used to wonder to myself, "What is the family and am I part of it?" I never quite knew, because he would say, "I hope you can be there." And I remember that he said that at the end of the letter, and he also stressed doing my practices which I had at that time, because I kept moving and I hadn't developed a rhythm, and it was very hard for me at that point to do all of my practices. It still is, but in a whole different sense, and he wrote me a letter telling me how I had to do my practices.
WALI ALI: Did he ever try to give you any advice about your life style or anything like that?
DEVI: I recall that was the crux of the letter. He was happy that I was living on Noe Street because I was with disciples—some of the reason that I moved was because I couldn't afford—like I was only given $30—$60 a month to live on and that's impossible when I couldn’t work because I had to go to school. And I never said anything about that either. And that's part of the reason why sometimes I had to move, I moved so many times in that year.
WALI ALI: Did you live with Selik and those people?
DEVI: They lived with me; I didn't live with them. They mooched off of me.
WALI ALI: They moved in on you and Greg.
DEVI: Yeah, but not for very long—a very short time, but—yeah, that was how he gave me advice in that letter saying that he didn't want me to move around, and he wanted me to stay in that one place—
WALI ALI: People build up an atmosphere,
DEVI: I understood of course but sometimes there was nothing I could do about it. And then Brian was always on my case about it—he wanted me to become a doctor, he didn't want me to go into the arts at all, and he was so much on that, and Murshid would fully endorse me studying dance in whatever way I wanted. He gave me that initiation one time, do you remember that?
WALI ALI: Do you mean the thing where he was talking about the Temple of Sarasvati?
DEVI: Yeah, that and other times too. But that was one whole other thing with Brian.
WALI ALI: He never said anything about your relationship with Brian pro or con.
DEVI: I used to come to him hysterical and in tears because Brian would come to him—I don't know if I should be saying this but I suppose it doesn't matter now—we would come to the meeting here on Sunday afternoon, do you remember the meetings—and they were so nice, and he would come on to girls, the whole reason that I always felt that he came to the meetings was to come on to some girl, and then he'd bring them home and dah—de—dah—de—dah—de—dab—and, some of the time I would be living with him and then I would just totally flip out, and I used to come to Murshid and I would say, "What should I do? What should I do?" And he would just give me more practices, and he would say, "I can solve your problems but you're not going to learn." So I finally learned them. And I know Fatima would always say, "Don't leave him"—my God, it was just hair-raising! I didn't know what to, I really didn't.
WALI ALI: But he was always took the subtle or the oblique approach to that—
DEVI: Oh yeah, he never yelled at me one time—ever. The only time that he ever got mad, and that wasn't directly at me—it was at Daniel—and that' was when Fawn was in labor and we were at a meeting—it was right before it was beginning and we were sitting in the front row and Daniel said—because I was very close to Fawn—at that time—and Daniel came in and he said, "Would you please go to the hospital to be with Fawn because she is in labor, and I said, "All right," and then Murshid came in and overheard and started screaming at Daniel because Daniel hadn't asked his permission to take me away from the meeting, so I wasn't allowed to go. And that was bad. But I don't know what else.
WALI ALI: What do you recall about going out to dinner with Murshid? Did he embarrass you?
DEVI: Oh yes! Always! But I didn't mind so much. Always. And I remember specifically not going out to dinner one time but going to the Consulate of India down town, and he took me down on the bus, and I was even embarrassed on the bus—he was singing and there was little old me sitting next to him, and he took me into the Consulate and he just introduced me to all the people there and then we left, we just walked out of the door, and then we went home and had dinner I guess.
WALI ALI: I recall that when you would come over here on Mondays and help around and help with dinner and he was always a little bit concerned—because you seemed to lack energy or would be pale; he thought maybe it had something to do with your diet—
DEVI: It was—but then he didn't realize—and then he would fill me full of all this stuff and I was just totally unconscious after those meals every Monday night, I could hardly concentrate—because he had me eat so much—I was a vegetarian for about three years and I didn't have the interest or anything—I loved to eat but I was never interested enough to supplement my diet properly, and that was the reason that I got sick an awful lot from it too, and I didn't have any energy. And when I started eating meat I did.
WALI ALI: I know he always made it a point to make you eat peanut butter when you were here.
DEVI: Peanut butter and catsup, now I remember!
WALI ALI: Catsup?
DEVI: Tomato soup—oh I loved some of his meals. I always remembered him making some kind of curry with powdered pea soup—
WALI ALI: That's right.
DEVI: I can remember cleaning the stove, there were always spices all over caked into everything all over the stove.
WALI ALI: He wasn't a very tidy housekeeper—
DEVI: No, he wasn't, and there was always shaving cream in his ears, until he quit shaving, of course—and shaving cream on his nose line. I do remember that when I was tired he would always take me into the living room, and we would both lie down on the floor together, and he would just hold my hand and we would breathe in and out "Allah" until I was—
WALI ALI: He would just hold your little finger—
DEVI: Yeah, and I would just close my eyes and we'd stay there for ten or fifteen minutes. That was great. And then we'd get up and walk around—
WALI ALI: I remember once—what did Murshid say? I'd like to remember it exactly because it was the sort of thing that I'm sure you'll remember once I tell you. He was talking to me about you and he said, "She doesn't know what she is yet, and when she discovers, she is either going to go crazy or—
DEVI: I remember that. What did he mean by that—about going crazy?
WALI ALI: Or "she's just going to make it," I can't recall exactly, I think what he was saying—did he say that to you or did I mention it to you once before?—
DEVI: He mentioned something like it in that letter, first tell me what he meant about going crazy. That's the thing that I never understood.
WALI ALI: I think what I understood, was: lots of faculties, lots of, gifts and so on, and you just had to grow, and didn't necessarily know how the other side of things would develop in their own sort of natural human development.
DEVI: I remember I gave him my chart one time and he flipped out because I have a locomotive chart. He got really excited and was running round the whole house showing everybody my chart.
WALI ALI: What's a locomotive chart?
DEVI: Eight houses—it's evenly spaced—eight houses are filled and four houses are empty, because it's just perfectly around. And what it means is that it starts out really slow, and then it just starts going faster and faster and faster—
WALI ALI: That's probably also what he meant by this—when he said—
DEVI: Yeah, maybe that's what he meant—hindrance (?)—and said that I had no problems. I said, Oh yeah?" And he said,” You don’t have any problems."
WALI ALI: He liked charts that were well spaced out and balanced and covered the whole thing, and whenever he saw somebody's chart that was just in one or two quadrants, and he would always start talking about how they needed a partner in life to balance it off—to bring in the other houses.
DEVI: He never said anything like that to me—he just said, "Develop your self-expression," that's one thing I do remember that he said and I suppose that he meant that in the arts.
WALI ALI: How did your view of what Murshid was here evolve and change—how did you see him?
DEVI: I thought of him as the prophet in a certain sense. I thought of him as, like his being makes me cry when I think of it, and it always did—I respected no one more than I respected him, and I didn't not respect people, but I didn't listen to what people said when they were older than me just because—I was very rebellious in a certain way—and I would do anything that he wanted me to do, although he never told me anything to do. I do remember one thing—do you remember that day that you picked me up, and I think it was Saadia who was there—or some people were coming to visit—and you picked me up and I had on just a plain dress, and it wasn't short but it was just to about here (knees) and I remember that you said, "Oh oh, you're going to get it when you get over there!"
WALI ALI: Did you?
DEVI: That was the only time that he was really mad, I remember because he came in and I was standing in the kitchen, and he turned red he got so mad; because I didn't have on a beautiful dress. He got so angry, and he said, "I don't want people wearing short dresses," and he stomped out of the room, because some people had been there to visit; He wanted to show me off—oh boy, did that used to embarrass me no end.
WALI ALI: How would he show you off? Can you give me an example?
DEVI: He would introduce me, he used to drag me into the room, and there would be a whole room full of people sitting there, and he would pull me in and he'd say, "This is my youngest and my oldest disciple.” And then he'd take me around and I'd blush of course, and he would say always, "Oh doesn't she have a beautiful dress on?" And after awhile I felt like it was necessary for me to always wear something pretty because he would get mad.
WALI ALI: But it was the short dress too, I'm sure, because, especially with people from other cultures, so he was very sensitive to dress.
DEVI: But it wasn't even—it was below my knees.
WALI ALI: I know—when Murshid Hassan was here he certainly had a very strong reaction to people with short dresses. Some girl with a mini-skirt came and sat down in front of him at one of the meetings , all open, and he would takes shawls and cover people up, that sort of thing. I think that the idea of exposure of people in other cultures—especially by the hippie generation—they would not understand how to look at an other's viewpoint when they went to other cultures and things of that nature.
DEVI: I remember that we'd be driving down the street sometimes and he would see someone in a miniskirt he would make a comment about it, that is wasn't right, and that it was—I don't know if he ever used the word obscene, but almost.
WALI ALI: How did you respond to that?
DEVI: I was very respectful of it, and I don’t wear anything above my knees, and I haven't for years. I would wear something between here and here, but I would never wear anything that was shorter than that (pints to knees). I always felt that it was right. I can remember though, that before I knew that, one time I came to the Saturday meeting and Brian had just got back from London and he brought me a short skirt, and Murshid went "yeech!!!" because everyone said, "What a beautiful dress!" I was one of those mirror dresses but very short and Brian just thought it was the greatest thing in the world, and I felt very embarrassed because it was a little bit too short and Murshid got very upset. I can't remember if that was before or after I didn't wear anything short.
Something else I remember: I think it was the day when I wore that short dress, and he made Saadia dress me up, and I have never been so embarrassed with what she put on—I remember all the men were watching baseball and all the ladies were downstairs in the basement—I was putting on a saris and she put on this sari and this evening overcoat on me—in the middle of the afternoon—and she made me come upstairs and just sit there, and I just sat there, I was so embarrassed. Murshid thought it was wonderful.
WALI ALI: Were you in the fashion show then that she did?
DEVI: I didn't want to be in it, no, I was too shy—I was very shy.
WALI ALI: Did he ever talk to you about himself, just about the sort of person that he was?
DEVI: He would always talk about himself—he was always saying, "Murshid likes this."
WALI ALI: Did you ever go to any parties where he was at, like Ralph's or any other places?
DEVI: I just remember being at one thing that sticks out in my. It was in Corte Madera when Amin and Amina lived in the first house—maybe it wasn't Corte Madera.
WALI ALI: It was further up the hill—
DEVI: And Christmas—Christmas Eve there, and I just remember him doing the Krishna dance with him—really I always will remember that; it was such a beautiful Christmas Eve. I remember when he set out the rule on Sunday afternoon that people couldn't come and eat dinner there if they didn't come to the meeting. People would just come to eat the dinner, do you remember that? He used to have the dinners here?
WALI ALI: They would eat the dinner and stay for the evening?
DEVI: Right, but they would have to come to the afternoon one. I thought that was really funny. I always thought that it would solve a lot of my problems at that time if I was with someone permanently, but I could never find someone, other than Brian at the time, that I wanted to be with. Although there were lots of people but I always used to feel so embarrassed, or I felt so bad because I felt Murshid wouldn't—and I think that this was totally silly, for I’m sure—wouldn't accept who I was with; I wanted Murshid to accept me totally.
WALI ALI: You saw in him a certain fatherly roll?
DEVI: I did, and that's one thing, because I never brought Wolf to meet him and I always felt that I had to be with someone that was a Sufi, yet I never found someone who I wanted to be with who was a Sufi; I never felt that there was anybody who was together enough in ways that I wanted them to be.
WALI ALI: I didn't know you were already with Wolf before Murshid died.
DEVI: That was just what I was going to tell you, right in September, maybe it was August before Murshid died, and I finally left Brian and I said, "That's it," and I remained friends with him but I wasn't with him anymore, and then I was with Melanie—remember Melanie? and I had gotten a job and I was going to school at nights, going to ACT, and I was working in a clothing store, and I felt very bad because I didn't come to any meetings, and I don' know why I didn't come, I just didn't come for about two or three months and then I met Wolf and I moved in with him and began living with him but I kept my own house because I was afraid that it wouldn't work out, I didn't know why I was afraid. For about 3 months I did—but I didn't come to Sufi meetings—the only time I came after that was—I didn't come to the hospital to see Murshid because I was afraid to, and I don't know why I was afraid to.
WALI ALI: Just because of the aura of death or something?
DEVI: No, no, not because I was afraid of—I was just afraid of Murshid's being upset because I was with someone who wasn’t a Sufi. And I had lots of bad dreams about that and Murshid screaming and—
WALI ALI: Do you think he would have been?
DEVI: I really don't know you see because I was always afraid to bring Wolf cause Wolf would have come anytime to meet Murshid. He always wanted to, but I wouldn't bring him. I don't know—because I was so into his trip—you have to be, and here I felt like I'm disobeying and I wasn't—and I don't know why but I was really afraid, and it took me like 3 or 4—like 3 or 4 years until we got married to get over that just about and it still has little tinges of it because people say things. People used to say, "Oh you—it will never last," "Oh yeah, well what’s up in your mirror, look at mine"—and, so when Murshid died I came back to the meetings—right after he died—I didn't came to anything for nine months or so and then I came to see you, and that was in the fall—so I stayed away for about 9 or 10 months—just out of fear for some reason, or trying to be socially acceptable, and because I wasn’t with someone who was a disciple I couldn’t be.
WALI ALI: That doesn’t seem to be—
WALI ALI: I’ve had lots of dreams about him, and I’ve written some down. I remember dreaming once that Murshid came to me as a Murshida and I remember once having a dream that all the people in the Saturday night dance class were sitting around and Murshid was going around the room pointing to every person and telling everyone the nitty-gritty of each person, and coming to me and looking at me really hard and saying something that crushed me at the time—I can’t remember exactly what it was, and then taking us all out of the room—and the ocean was right there—and leading us all into the ocean, and then we all kind of just went into the ocean and that was the end.
WALI ALI: I think that it’s interesting and valid and it is a whole other part of the biography—there are so may experiences that people have had. I think in a sense the dream experiences have a very great validity—people often have imaginative kinds of visions about themselves often in conjunction with their receiving some special thing—but I remember Murshid saying on a number of occasions, “I refuse to be in bad dreams.“ Do you remember him saying that?
DEVI: Yes, I do remember him saying that.
WALI ALI: I wonder what we haven’t covered that we ought to?
DEVI: I’ll probably go home and remember a whole bunch of things, but I can’t see I feel in a certain sense that in those years I was totally unconscious in a certain way and that is something too—I felt like he really molded me in a certain way and I didn’t even know it.
WALI ALI: Yeah, I think that was the essence of what he was saying to me was, "She's unconscious now in a certain way and when she wakes up to who she really is then she is going to discover something—it will either drive her crazy or make her a great woman," That ties in with what you are saying.
DEVI: I wasn't ever looking for a teacher at that point—I didn't know much of anything about mysticism and never didn't not believe in God—I always had that belief—I had just begun to get interested in it and then I guess Brian felt, “She's going to be rolling in it before I am to let her go" and then when I met Murshid—I just felt like it was absolutely the thing, I just had to be there with him, just had to be his disciple, and that wasn't what I had consciously been looking for at all—because I know Wolf would have wanted to be his teacher but because you are his age he couldn't accept it.
WALI ALI: I am always just as happy being someone's friend and I am real comfortable with that kind of relationship.
DEVI: I'm not, though, and I—because you see I want to lay my trip on him I guess; I don't anymore, but I used to.
WALI ALI: Murshid was very good that way, too—which in the sense that he had lots of people who were his friends and that he never tried to bring into his trip, or have them become mureed or be interested in what he was really interested in—in the way of mysticism. He could just accept them and I think that was a real wonderful quality.
DEVI: And I wonder why I was so frightened of that—it's funny just because he was the only real father image I had ever had and I was a afraid of rejection, probably felt I had been rejected by my real father when I we was little.
WALI ALI: Did he ever meet your mother?
DEVI: No, my mother has never even seen me dance, and I've danced a thousand/million times, “Oh I'm too tired to come." And you can take it from there.
WALI ALI: Did he take you to any Indian dances or did you take him?
DEVI: I remember he took me to movies, Indian movies sometimes, and I remember at Berkeley one—and I remember one time going and not being able to get in and he said, "Oh great, we'll go eat ice cream." And so we went and ate ice cream.
WALI ALI: Did he sign you up for any courses?
WALI ALI: But he took you to the dance and music presentations.
DEVI: Yeah, and it was—because I was already studying with Janicki and I remember I met—what was the lady’s name? Ishwani?
WALI ALI: Oh yeah, right.
DEVI: I remember when she came.
WALI ALI: She came to a number of meetings, you were here at that time.
DEVI: Yeah, I remember that I was.
WALI ALI: Did did you feel anything about that at the time?
WALI ALI: There was something funny about it.
DEVI: Yeah, I didn’t like it because I didn’t like her somehow; I didn’t trust her or something—
WALI ALI: There was certain strain I felt at that time which was because he was bringing her in to do something—but she was just used to having the whole floor, and she sort of did it because she respected him and she liked what she saw—
WALI ALI: But there was always tension there—
DEVI: I remember that, but I don't remember overhearing anybody saying anything about it. I remember that feeling that I had, and I think that he wanted me to study with her, and I didn't want to study with her.
WALI ALI: She like felt there were a couple of the Sufi women—Beate was one and then Marsha—that she felt had tremendous talent, and could really be developed into dancers but they didn't want to make that kind of commitment—they didn't really want to have a teacher in that sense, and work on a long disciplined trip. They just wanted to come in and take something and go off with it.
DEVI: Yeah. I know didn't—he liked it that I was studying with Janicki, although he never met her, but he knew Siva-Ram, her husband, because he has a Hatha yoga school.
WALI ALI: Was he connected with Integral Yoga Institute?
DEVI: No, I don't know if he was at the time but he has a yoga school in Canada now.
WALI ALI: Is she there?
DEVI: No, she lives in Palo Alto. He is gone most of the year. He comes home—how Indian men are—a couple of times in the year, and they are gone most of the time, but as I said, I was unconscious in a certain way.
WALI ALI: I always felt that you were his youngest, and you were really sort of like very much one for whom he could feel his fatherly side—
DEVI: I know! I really felt that.
WALI ALI: Very tender and he didn't feel like pushing you, but whatever ideal you articulated, he would support.
DEVI: Right. He was so gentle with me—and I always remember, I would love it when he would always ask me if he could—or he would always say that he wanted to talk to me after the class—oh that feel so wonderful—I remember loving that, even if it wasn't about anything at all—
SABIRA: Devi, for the tape, would you tell the story about putting you to beD that you told for "Bismillah" or anything else like that?
DEVI: It was one of those Monday nights and I didn't feel well at all, and I remember Murshid put me to bed in his bed during the meeting and I just remember how it was really wonderful. I remember how great it smelled—Murshid's bed—and those big pillows, and they were real soggy but they were great—I felt very peaceful, it was just really great—to go to sleep in his bed for about three hours, two hours—he just put me in his bed; when I got up I just felt wonderful, I didn't feel tired or anything after. I don't know if I actually really felt that bad but he just told me to go sleep in his bed—
WALI ALI: I think we have probably come to the end for today; I think you probably have more stories and things that you will remember.
DEVI: I can remember—this was another time when I had moved—I was living over at—oh—someplace else, and I didn't come to the Saturday night dance class which I usually did—and remember that friend of mine name Christie?—a blond girl and she wasn't even initiated, but he let her come to the class. She had never really met him—one time she met him but—
WALI ALI: He let her come once?
DEVI: No, as many times as she wanted to the Saturday night dance class, and I remember on a Saturday night I had a house warming party—not exactly a party, but some people came over and after the class, Murshid showed with Mansur and with Marsha and they came over and there were all these people there and Murshid started Sufi dancing. It was wonderful! And Brian got uptight, that was something else that was funny.
WALI ALI: That was over at Brian's place?
DEVI: No, no it was over at my place but Brian was there.
WALI ALI: He got uptight because it was like he was imposing his trip on people that didn't know of him or didn't have any—
DEVI: Some of the people did know him—Akbar was there and Brian and my friend Christie, and I can't remember who else was there.
WALI ALI: He couldn't stand parties in which people just stood around and talked and ate—
DEVI: I know, I know, I know—I always recall that every party that I was at that he was there was dancing and singing. I understand his point perfectly.
WALI ALI: I know that when he went to these other parties he would stand around for awhile and then get into maybe awhile—and the he would want to do something.
DEVI: Right. But I loved it that he showed up that night—just showed up.