When Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan returned to India in 1926, and subsequently passed away there in early 1927, he left behind not only his wife and four children and his brothers, but also a number of mureeds who had settled in Suresnes, either permanently or on a seasonal basis. Among these was Murshida Fazil Mai Egeling, the Dutch mureed who had offered her Murshid the house at 23 rue de la Tuilerie, and who was then invited to live there with the family. Understandably, the years after the Master’s passing were difficult in many ways, but the account below shows that life did continue, and with time, there were gleams of light. This anecdote is taken from We Rubies Four – The Memoirs of Claire Ray Harper (Khairunisa Inayat Khan) written by Claire Ray Harper and her son, David Ray Harper. Khairunisa was the youngest of the four children, and at the time of this Easter celebration, a little over three years had passed since the passing of the Master, she would have been approaching her 11th birthday.
We children awoke early with spring in the air. Outside, the chill of an April morning still lingered. For us, Easter signified a sacred day. As we looked out of the window, we discovered a powder blue sky, and the sun shone with all its might, announcing a beautiful day.
Our young lives were able to see this beauty better than a camera – we took it all in. We children were all budding like the spring flowers in the garden. The white carnations’ fragrance wafted into the open windows. The dew on the grass resembled diamond chips. No cars disturbed the stillness; only the clop-clop of horse-drawn carts hauling the food to market could be heard. A warm breeze softly caressed our cheeks, crocuses and pansies strewed the ground. Orange blossom could be scented; the quince tree and Abba’s* pear tree were in bloom as well. The acacia’s drooping yellow blooms were fairy-like. The hilltop fort of Mont Valérien clearly came to view. Mother was very pleased to know that Noor and Vilayat had planned out an Easter goody hunt in the garden.
In the afternoon, Hidayat and I helped Murshida Fazil Mai with the service arrangements in the reception rooms. We balked at the idea of closing all the shutters, making the room as dark as night. The dining room table had to be moved from the center of the room to one end, against the window. Electric lights were switched on in the room, and we draped a yellow altar cloth over the table. The candlestick holders had to be cleaned and the books of each great religion placed on the altar – one on Sufism was in the center. We moved all the chairs to face the altar, and the piano was moved from one room to another. While we were taking care of all this, our black pet salamander fell out of its fishbowl and couldn’t be found. We brought out vases in expectation of the flowers that some of the Sufis would bring. Now there was little time to change before the mureeds’ arrival.
When Murshida Fazal Mai came down from her quarters and solemnly began the service, I wished her to hurry through the sermon; to me it seemed an eternity to have to sit quietly in the darkened room, heavy with gravity. As soon as the service was over and the mureeds departed, we began to reopen the shutters and tidy up.
It was only after the service was over that we were allowed to go out into the garden to see what the Easter Bunny had brought us. We were all so eager and happy that we could hardly wait for Mother to join us outside. While waiting for her, I was startled to spot a little robin redbreast perched on the same branch where I had discovered it the year before. He enjoyed being spoken to and remained transfixed as I whispered to him.
When everyone was present, we set off on our Easter egg hunt. I was indeed delighted to find home-coloured eggs on windowsills and behind bushes, as well as foil-wrapped goodies hidden among the flower bushes, as well as foil-wrapped goodies hidden among the flowers. Though the tragedy of Murshid’s absence still weighed heavily upon our family this particular day was brightened by the joy of spring and by the promise of rebirth that Easter conveys.
*Abba = Father, Papa