During the years when I knew him — from 1975 until his death in 1986 — Krishnamurti spent about three months each year in Ojai. He would usually arrive sometime in February and leave around mid-May. During this period, he took his lunch daily in the long dining room of Arya Vihara, the old ranch house situated some two hundred yards away from Pine Cottage. A regular cadre of staff and trustees often attended these lunches, sometimes joined by visitors and special guests. Lunch normally lasted an hour, and not infrequently quite a bit longer. It was the social highlight of the day.
In the first year or two, lunch was scheduled to begin at 12:30, but the food was not served until Krishnamurti walked down to the ranch house from his cottage, and he was late so often that the time to begin was adjusted to 1:00. Even then, he did not usually arrive until 1:10 or 1:15 or 1:20. In the meantime, everyone else began to assemble in the spacious living room, where conversation tended to be quiet and subdued.
When he had walked down from his cottage, Krishnamurti avoided entering the living room directly but rather veered off to enter the house by the back door of the kitchen. There he was greeted by the chef, my friend Michael Krohnen, who told him what was on the menu that day and perhaps invited him to inspect something on the stove. The two of them then proceeded to carry the large dishes of food into the serving area at the far end of the dining room.
Lunch was served buffet style. When all the food had been set out, Krishnamurti made his way down along the dining table to the living room, where he paused, and then announced quietly, “Madame est servie.” There was a kind of subtle humor in this pronouncement, which never varied from day today.
A line then formed down the length of the dining room into the serving area. People were hesitant to be first in line, but once someone got it going, the line formed without further delay. Krishnamurti felt he should be last in line, but Michael was even more emphatic that he, as the one responsible for how much food had been served, must be last in case there was not enough of one dish or another. Krishnamurti sometimes jockeyed with Michael for the privilege of being last, but Michael’s conviction about his role always won this contest.
[This is part one of a three-part blog series]