From the diary of American ashram resident and devotte Thelma Benn (later Rappold), who spent three years with Ramana Maharshi from February 1948 until Summer 1950.
The Mahakumbhabishekam celebration from the 14th to the 17th of March was a big affair. Thousands of people came from all parts of India. Special trains were dispatched from various parts of the country. The crowd is gradually dwindling and we should be able to get our breath once again. During that time, we couldn’t sit in the hall without being sat on. About two months ago one of the top editors of Life Magazine, a Mr. Sargant, was here one afternoon. That particular afternoon Mrs. Groeger and I had gone to Major Chadwick’s to have Ramon, his servant, read our palms. While there Harindranath, the poet, called me out to meet Mr. Sargant. We talked for a long time about various topics of interest and then he went away. During the big celebration who should appear on the scene but Mr. Elisofon, Life Magazine’s no. 1 photographer to “shoot” the place, and so unless something unforeseen happens, Sri Ramanasramam should make Life Magazine sometime during the latter part of May.
Mr. Elisofon stayed in the same room Wally had when she first arrived which meant we were close neighbours. Madan Gopal, his host had me over on occasions to help entertain the American. He was here for four days and when he left, he gave me a few tins of miscellaneous articles from the good old USA. What a treat.
Eliot Elisofon was the photographer who took the pictures for Life Magazine’s long article about Ramana Maharshi. He was was one of the most famous and accomplished Western photographers of his day, with notable achievements in other fields as well.
Life a general-interest magazine for the broad public, in its heyday was a very big deal, it existed in a world without television. Magazines were the main way that people saw things far from home; magazines shared with radio is really where television and the Internet stand today.