The Twilight Songs is about all those who have personally met Meher Baba. Those who have spent time with the Avatar and their experiences with Baba. These blogs shall be compiled in the form of a book to be launched in 2021.
“For how many years did you all stay there in Meherabad?”
“From 1957 to 1962. The buildings of the original family quarters and other staff quarters in this compound in Arangaon were torn down in the 1970s, except for one, the room which Walu built. An engineer did not know the history of the place and demolished the whole thing for construction of the Trust’s Meher Health Clinic. Nowadays, people refer to the whole compound historically as ‘Family Quarters’ but at that time just our house was known as the actual ‘family quarters’, where Savak Kotwal and family had stayed before they shifted to Bombay. In those days, the compound had barbed wire fencing, the stone wall was not there. Our bungalow had a foundation and a roof with mangalore tiles and one bedroom, a drawing room, another big room and a veranda at the front and at the back.
Behind, there was a courtyard surrounded by a wall and the big mud-room kitchen was in the back of the courtyard.
“Also, in that compound there were about five or six small rooms with tin sheet roofs, which were staff quarters. Walu bai of Arangaon, who was one of Baba’s early ladies mandali, lived there alone. She made her own mud bricks with a frame and built a room. Her brother’s son stayed with her to help her, like to bring her bazaar, fill the water matka. Jangale Master and family lived there also. Sevbai was a cook who lived at Meherazad and Padri permitted her son Vitthal Pund and his wife Radhabai to live in those quarters. Thaka Shinde, who later became the labour supervisor for the Trust, also stayed in these quarters with his wife and children when we were there. Afterwards, there was an expansion of those staff quarters. In 1960, one of the small rooms was renovated and Arangaon people started a Baba Centre and Baba came to inaugurate that Centre.”
“What was your first memory of Baba apart from Him coming home?”
“My first memory of Baba was in 1958, during Baba’s sahavas programme. At that time, I was around five years old. Baba didn’t allow children to attend the sahavas programme but when Baba would come in the car from Meherazad, all the children, myself, my sister, Lokhande family’s children from Nagpur, all of us would gather near the Dhuni side and Baba gave us darshan there, from the car and then He would go to lower Meherabad at the place where sahavas would take place.”
“So, He would know that you all would be standing and waiting for Him?”
“Yes. This was my second experience of meeting Baba. We would get ready and come there and stand near the Dhuni at the roadside. Baba had not given us permission but we stood on the roadside, Baba’s car would come near the neem tree and stop and He gave darshan. He would reach out with His hand and shake our hands or touch our faces. We loved taking His darshan. Baba had not permitted children to come to the sahavas but Lokhande family from Nagpur had brought their children. Baba told my mother, the children should stay with us at the family quarters. Also, the Sherlikar family had brought one mast named Kutaywala to the sahavas and Baba did not permit him to stay in the sahavas accommodation. He was a trouble-maker! So, they rented a house. Baba did call the mast to the sahavas programme.
“Mohammed mast also was brought to our compound during the 1958 sahavas and they put him in one room. He usually lived near or in the mandali hall building at lower Meherabad. When the sahavas was held there, the people would start bowing down to Mohammed mast. So, Mohammed mast was taken to stay in the quarters near us. Sidhu was with him as usual as his caretaker. Mohammed would use our toilet which was outside and sit inside for four to five hours. My mother, Rama, would ask him to come out but he would never come out. Then she would say, ‘I will tell Padri and he will beat you!’ Mohammed would say, ‘don’t call Padri, he will shout at me!’ He stayed in the toilet for longer periods as for some reason it was difficult for him to come out!
“I used Walu’s mud brick frame and made my own mud bricks to construct a small Baba centre. It was under the tree outside our house and I kept Baba’s photo there and we sang songs. That was my hobby. My second hobby was to collect Baba’s articles, things which He used or touched, from the mandali members. I would ask them and they gave it to me. I collected many things belonging to or touched by Baba.”
“This love to make a Center in His Name and collect Baba’s memorabilia came naturally to you from childhood?”
“Yes and later I made another Center when we moved to Khushru Quarters and invited Baba to inaugurate it and He came. When we were staying at Meherabad, Baba had told Padri to inform all the women that ladies should not go to lower Meherabad. Padri would come and give homeopathic medicine and he brought the medicine box near the Dhuni side. Sheela and I would go there and he gave it to us but my mother Rama would not come. Sheela and I, as children, were permitted to go to lower Meherabad. We sat with Mohammed mast, do time-pass with William Donkin and Mohammed. Sidhu told old-time stories and sang bhajans and ghazals. This became our routine. Pendu was staying at Meherabad recovering from the accident, Vishnu would come and give us biscuit and chocolate. We saw Ramdas Naga who lived there, observing silence under Baba’s order.
“Baba had told my mother also never to go the village and never keep contact with the people. It was difficult. The servant would come in the morning but if we wanted some groceries, then my sister and myself would go to the village and purchase things. Baba had given an order to my mother never to go to any Hindu Temple. Some people during Dipawali time said, ‘come to the Devi Temple’. My mother went there and the same night a robbery took place. My mother learnt a good lesson and then she stopped going anywhere and focused her entire being only on Baba. Baba was clear that we were not to worship any God or Goddess; only Meher Baba. Those were Baba’s orders. Baba did not permit us to entertain any of our relatives. They were not supposed to come and visit us or stay with us. Only one of my uncles was allowed, who was a Baba lover. Baba only permitted us to interact with him from our entire large family.”
“How did the other members of your family treat you all because you had begun to follow and obey Baba?”
“When we came here, we disconnected. We never attended family marriages or celebrations or functions or anything. My mother’s mother died, her father died and she never went to meet them once nor attended their funeral services. Her brother and her sister died and still she never went. Bhauji’s brother, sister and mother died and he too never went for their final ceremonies.”
“Those were Baba’s orders?”
“Yes. Baba did not permit us. Baba treated us like the mandali and all orders for our family were given by Him. Particular members and families at Meherabad were under Baba’s order, like Padri, Mansari, Jalu, Gulu, Kaikobad’s family, Sidhu, William, and our family. Every evening we went to the Hill with my mother. We walked along the Dhond road to Baba’s path up the Hill or sometimes we took a shortcut from the railway track side. Kaikobad’s family, his wife Jerbai and the sisters Mehru, Jalu and Gulu all lived there and an old man, Jamadar, the night watchman, who always talked about Baba. Jangale Master was there in daytime for day watch. We would go for an evening walk around the Hillside. Mansari, whom my mother liked, would come outside from her room to the watchman’s cabin (in the place where is now a parking lot.) There was a small stone platform around it and we all sat and spoke to her, all the old-time stories and memories of life with Baba. We didn’t have interest in what was going on in the world. We just spoke about Baba.
“My mother spoke for long, Mansari also taught my mother stitching work and Sheela and I would go off to play. Sometimes, we went inside Mansari’s room or to the Samadhi but not always. I also remember that on Baba’s Silence Day, my sister and I would observe Baba’s Silence. I would tell her, ‘Baba’s photo is here, in this room but if we sit outside near the well, we can chit-chat and then come home and Baba will not know that. If we go to the well-side, Baba will not be there.’ Then, Sheela and I would go outside and chit-chat. Baba when He met us, asked Sheela, ‘you are observing silence or not?’ She said, ‘yes, we are but Mehernath said Baba is here because His photo is here but if we go outside near the well, we are not breaking silence because You are not there. So we did that.’ Baba just smiled.
“Then, at the end of 1962 or 1963, we came here to Khushru Quarters in Ahmednagar. We shifted here because one night at Meherabad, five robbers came to rob our place. It was during Dipawali time. They took gold ornaments and valuable things from my mother. We were very small. We were all frightened, including my mother. The robbers broke the wall, made a hole and put their hand inside and opened the inner door’s latch. The fingerprints were visible. The next day, Baba told Padri to clean the fingerprints. He told Padri, ‘don’t call the police, don’t complain and don’t do anything. What they have robbed is Rama’s sanskaras (inherent tendencies). That is why just tell her to forget everything’. After that we got scared to live there. Baba kept a lady to guard our house at night, who slept inside the house and a day and night watchman. Baba told Sidhu Kamble, a mandali member, to keep watch also. He walked with a stick, all night. We came outside and he would say, ‘don’t worry, I am here.’ Sidhu was a real watchman of Meher Baba, God’s slave, he did the work perfectly. Sidhu Kamble did that for six months. The hired watchman Namdev would sleep outside on the veranda.
“My mother told Baba, ‘My children are scared to live here’. Eventually, Baba said, ‘go to upper Meherabad and stay there. You can take those rooms (which are the study hall and museum, now). Make the downstairs room the kitchen, and stay in the upstairs room.’ Mansari, Jalu, Gulu, Mehru and their mother Jerbai lived there on the Hill. Kaikobad stayed with Baba in Meherazad.
“Mansari told my mother, ‘a ghost is the night watchman here. He doesn’t have a head. He comes at night and when he knocks at your room, just say, ‘go to Mansari!’ When the ghost comes to me every night, I tell the ghost, ‘go to Meher Baba!’ Thus, I don’t get scared’. When she told that to my mother, my mother got petrified. We were very scared.”
I couldn’t help but laugh aloud. Mehernath gave a wry smile.
“My mother said, ‘this is no good, lower Meherabad robbers came, now, upper Meherabad a ghost plans to come every night’.”
Mehernath began to chuckle too.
“My mother lied to Baba because of her fear, giving an excuse that the railway track was too close by and it was dangerous for the children and her to cross the tracks each day. Baba thought and then said, ‘come to Nagar and stay at Khushru Quarters’. He told Adi K. Irani to make the arrangements. Adi’s mother Gul mai was living here but since 1962 till today we live here. When we came here, Gul mai had passed away on 10th August 1962 but we had met her previously, when we came here from Meherabad at different times for Baba’s darshan. Only Adi’s office was here, there was no Trust office at that time. The rest was a godown (store room) filled with teakwood that Kaikhushru had purchased in auction, a record’s room and residential area. As I told you, I loved creating my own Baba Center and I had invited Baba to inaugurate my Center at our place in Khushru Quarters. Baba had come to inaugurate it.”
“Which year did Baba come to inaugurate your Baba Center?”
“In 1963 or 1964. Baba accepted my invitation and came along with the mandali. He inaugurated my Center and cut the ribbon and He went inside and sat on the couch. My mother sang two bhajans. We prayed and sang Baba’s arti. Baba asked me, ‘how many members are there in your Center?’ I told Baba, ‘I am the only one member’. Baba asked, ‘what about your mother and sister?’ I said, ‘they don’t help me in the Center activities.’ Baba said, ‘how will it become My Center if you do not allow them to participate? Whether they work or not, allow them, only then will it become My Center’. I promised Baba that I would allow everybody, even if they worked or not, to be a part of the Baba Center. Baba smiled and said that, ‘now, it will become My Center’.”
“What was your age then?”
“I was around ten or eleven years old. Many times, Baba called us to Guruprasad in Poona also and I played cards with Baba. First time when I played cards with Baba, all the men mandali members were present; Nariman, Jimmy Mistry, C.D. Deshmukh, Sadashiv Patil, Baba’s brothers, Jal Irani, Francis Brabazon, Nana Kher, Bhauji, Eruch, Pendu, Aloba, sometimes there were eight, sometimes fifteen, sometimes twenty to twenty-five players. Baba asked me, ‘you also play cards?’ I told Baba, ‘I don’t know how to play the ABCD of cards’. Baba said, ‘when your turn comes you can show Me your cards, I will tell you which card to play’. When my turn would come, I showed my cards to Baba. Of course, everyone playing could see my cards, too. Baba would say, ‘play this card or play that card’.”
“Baba taught you how to play cards?”
“Yes, He taught me but frankly at first, I did not understand. Slowly, I picked up the game. I would get a chance to eat with Baba along with the ladies mandali. Sheela, my mother and myself but when I turned ten years old, Mehera told my mother, ‘Rama and Sheela can eat with Baba inside with the ladies, but Mehernath has grown up, and now he can eat with the men mandali’. Then, I started eating with the men mandali. My mother and sister ate with Baba and the women mandali. Baba was very fond of Duke’s Soda. He called for Duke’s Soda, whenever He was at Guruprasad and He drank half and gave me the other half of the soda. Dr. Goher brought the bottle, opened the lid and would pour the soda into a glass. Once, when He gave me half of the Duke’s Soda, Sheela was there too and as for me, this was Meher Baba’s Prasad. So, I told Sheela, ‘we will both go out and drink that half soda as this is Baba’s prasad’. Baba said, ‘no, sit here and drink it in front of Me’. I drank the soda in front of Baba and then He said, ‘Mehernath, do you know why am I giving you this prasad? It is because you are not getting the opportunity to eat along with Me. You lost that opportunity, that is why I am giving this prasad to you. Don’t share it with anybody, don’t even share it with Sheela’.”
“Was it plain soda or some flavoured soda like Raspberry, etc?”
“No, it was just the transparent, plain soda. Baba drank only that. He would drink half and He would give me the other half to drink. I got this chance to share this blessed soda about two times. When we stayed in Poona at Guruprasad, He called us in the evening time at seven and would give us bitter chocolate in His bedroom. He told us, ‘why am I giving you this chocolate? So that you must study hard’.”
“Whenever we went to Meherazad, He embraced us, hugged us in the Mandali Hall and He gave us chocolate. I was very fond of that chocolate because most of the times Baba kept the foreign-made sweet chocolates for prasad, very good quality. There is a small window behind Baba’s chair and they kept the box there. Baba gave me chocolates all the time and I felt very happy. Once, we went to meet Baba and Baba hugged us but He was not in a good mood. Some correspondence had come or He was dictating some correspondence and Baba was very upset and He was shouting through gestures. We sat there for twenty-odd minutes seeing Baba all upset. I whispered in Sheela’s ear, ‘each time Baba gives us a chocolate and this time He did not give us any chocolate’. After some time, Baba asked Sheela, ‘what did Mehernath whisper in your ear?’ Sheela told Baba, ‘he said, Baba is upset as each time He hugs us and immediately He gives us a chocolate and this time He has not given us chocolate’. Baba said, ‘Mehernath wants chocolate, I will give him a chocolate. I guess you don’t want a chocolate?’ Sheela replied hastily, ‘no, no, Baba, of course I want chocolate’. Baba told her, ‘why are you only taking Mehernath’s name as I heard you telling him that you too wanted the chocolate?’
“He was involved in the correspondence but His eyes and ears were everywhere. He paid the minutest attention to everything. Then, He hugged us and gave us chocolate. He paid attention to the smallest of details. Once, Sheela and Pendu started arguing about something. Pendu said, ‘Bhauji belongs to me, Bhauji is mine’. Sheela said ‘no, no, Bhauji is mine’. After sometime, Baba asked Pendu, ‘what argument is going on?’ Pendu replied to Baba, ‘I have told Sheela that Bhauji belongs to me and she keeps insisting that Bhauji belongs to her’.
“Baba thought and said, ‘today is a very good time to decide, who belongs to whom.’ Baba said, ‘Mehernath belongs to Me and Sheela belongs to Bhauji ’. Sheela said, ‘no, no, no, no, Baba, I also belong to You! I don’t belong to Bhauji ’. Baba said, ‘no, you said that you belong to Bhauji and Bhauji is yours’. Then Sheela said, ‘no Baba, I am also Yours!’ Baba replied, ‘no, once, now, I have decided, I shall not change My mind’. He then began to laugh silently. He played with us and teased us lovingly. He was family.
“Once, on our father’s birthday, my mother purchased a shawl for Bhauji. I was holding that shawl and we went to meet Baba in the Mandali Hall. Baba hugged us and then asked us, ‘what is this?’ I said, ‘it is a shawl, Baba’. Baba asked, ‘for whom did you bring it?’ I replied, ‘for Bhauji.’ Baba said, ‘most of the times you claim that, ‘I love You most,’ and today I observe that you only love Bhauji and you don’t love Me’. I said, ‘no, Baba, I love You also’. Baba asked me, ‘why have you not bought a shawl for Me? Only for Bhauji.’ I said, ‘Baba, my mother purchased a shawl for Bhauji, I did not go to the bazaar. She purchased the shawl. If I had gone to the bazaar, I would have got a shawl for you too’.”
We both began to chuckle.
“Baba said, ‘you are very clever’. Once, He said, ‘just stand up’. So, I stood up and He said to me, ‘Mehernath, whom do you love the most?’ I said, ‘I love my mother the most. I love my father the most after that.’ Baba made a face and said, ‘sit down, sit down’. In gestures, telling me, ‘hopeless boy!’ He asked Sheela. She said, ‘I love You the most, Baba and then I love Bhauji and then I love my mother’. Baba told me, ‘now, you stand and what Sheela said, those same words, you repeat.’ The words He made me repeat were, ‘I love You the most, Baba, and after You everybody comes’.”
“Baba was very possessive, wasn’t He?”
“Yes, very possessive. He taught us to focus completely on Him. It was training, for our future life. Ups and downs would come but if our focus was on Baba and if we loved Baba the most, we would be able to face life and its challenges calmly. Once, we were in Guruprasad and Indira Gandhi’s car was supposed to pass by on the road in front of the Guruprasad gate. Aloba was the outside watchman. He would tell Baba of whatever activities would take place on the road. If somebody was coming or going Baba would be informed. He told Baba, ‘Indira Gandhi will come within five minutes. Police are on the road and she will pass through any minute’. Baba said okay. I became restless. I was near Baba and I was sure that Baba would not allow me to see Indira Gandhi. Baba told somebody to shut the door. The Mandali Hall door was shut. After five minutes, Indira Gandhi passed by. Aloba came in and told Baba, ‘she has passed by’. Baba said, ‘open the door’. Baba then looked at me and said, ‘Mehernath, remember this, in this world if you want to see anybody, only see Me, don’t see anybody else’.
“I sat near the mandali and Baba would call out to me and say, ‘sit near Me’. I would sit near Baba’s Feet. Once, a family, husband, wife, and their children came to meet Baba and they sat near Baba. Baba was involved with this family and I thought it was best if I got up and gave Baba and the family some privacy. I stood up and went and sat near Eruch bhai. After those people left, Baba called me and said, ‘come and sit here’. Baba asked me, ‘why did you break My order?’
“I was confused. I inquired, ‘what order, Baba?’ I did not know what His order was. Baba said, ‘I told you to sit here, so then never move from here or there. Why did you do that?’ I told Baba that, ‘the family was there, I thought that they should get a chance to sit near Baba.’ Baba said, ‘you care about them, you don’t care about My order? Remember that, always care about Me, don’t care about others’. I said, ‘okay, Baba’.
“He taught in such a way. He wanted our minds, hearts, words, actions, thoughts, everything focused only on Him. He wanted us to make Him the top-most and only priority in life. That is the work of God-Man. Good or bad, belongs to Baba. Whatever He says, that is correct. He knows the past, He knows the present, He knows the future. That is why we must trust Him and that is our work. Keep our faith in Him. I know hundred percent faith is not possible all the time but we have to keep trying. Keep the faith in Meher Baba.
“Sometimes we get upset, sometimes we feel bad, that is a part of life. But He is the head of our family. Sometimes, we also get upset with Him, which is also good because He is our close one, He is our family member. He is the truth. We have got this truth, this reality, then why to worry about the world and worldly people? Worldly people’s mind keeps changing. Everything is possible in worldly life. In God’s life only the truth prevails. God’s life is steady and fixed. The world is never steady or clear. We have to turn from the changeable world to the unchangeable spiritual world. If you are on the spiritual path, nobody will support you. You shall find yourself alone. Whatever people say, good or bad, we should not care. If you care about them, whether the person is harming you or indulging in slander or gossip, then, we will get involved in the world. This is what Baba has been trying to teach us. Thus, He wanted our attention only on Him.
“In spirituality, people gave poison to Upasni Maharaj, they crucified Jesus Christ, stepmother banished Rama to the forest for fourteen years. God is always there but people get carried away by the world. Baba has taught us that without suffering we will not change for the better. If we get sucked into life, Baba says, then God disappears and the shadows appear.
We had got a chance to stay at Guruprasad. Baba came and stayed there in the summers. There was a big hall upstairs and Bhauji stayed there. When we went to Guruprasad, then we stayed upstairs and Bhauji stayed with Pendu in the hall downstairs. Sometimes Baba allowed us to stay there for twenty-two days, sometimes six days, sometimes for a week. We saw Baba thrice in the day. We got the opportunity to spend time with Him in the morning session, then in the afternoon session.
“In the evening, He called Sheela, my mother and I, sometimes, Nana Kher to His bedroom. He would give us the bitter chocolate and say, ‘the purpose, why I am giving this chocolate is so that you study harder’. In summer when we stayed there, Baba would appoint Nana Kher for our studies or Bal Natu and Jimmy Mistry. They were our private tutors. Baba would say, ‘you can purchase the next year’s book and start studying from now’. Bal Natu taught us mathematics. Nana Kher taught us history and other subjects. Jimmy Mistry taught us English. We used to get fed up. Sheela used to study well and do her homework too. I wasn’t studying hard and Nana Kher and Bal Natu would complain to Baba about me. Baba would say, ‘no, no, you must study’. I would reply, ‘yes, Baba’ but the next day the same thing.
“Anyway, Baba taught us how to love and obey Him and soon, both these things came naturally to me. Baba wanted one to be busy, occupied, do some work all the time. So, in summer, He would tell the mandali to keep us busy. The mandali had orders from Baba for every aspect of their lives, their routine and for everything. So did my family. Even when we came to Nagar, my mother saw movies as she was very fond of movies and she would often go to watch movies. Adi was our caretaker in Ahmednagar and Padri was our caretaker in Meherabad. When we came to Ahmednagar, my mother would often go to see movies. Adi complained to Baba. Baba told my mother, ‘you shouldn’t watch more than two movies in one month’. I recall that Baba’s nephew, Sheroo, was very fond of movies, and often went to watch movies. Then, Baba gave an order to Sheroo to see only four or five movies in one month.
“So, my mother became very particular which movies to watch. If the movies weren’t good in a particular month, she would watch four movies in the next month. She would shift the quota of one month to the next month. Once, Baba called us to Meherazad. He said to my mother, ‘why did you break My order?’ She did not understand. Baba told her, ‘if the movies are not good in one month, doesn’t mean you see four in the next month! Only two movies in one month.’ ”
“Baba was very strict with you all because Bhauji was a part of the mandali, right?”
“On 30th January, 1969, one day before He left His body, Baba shed tears for Bhauji. Baba told Bhauji, ‘you have to suffer a lot’. Tears came from Baba’s eyes when He said this to my father. Bhauji’s work meant twenty-four hours being involved with Baba. Nighttime too he was on night duty and he would come to his own room around six in the morning. Baba came to the Mandali Hall anytime in the morning. Baba would say, ‘Bhauji must come and sit here, immediately’. Bhauji would run and come near Baba.”
“That means you all must have hardly spent time with your father?”
“His complete concentration was focused on Baba and nothing else.”
“How did you feel about that? You were a child, so, how did you react about the fact that your dad was completely absorbed in somebody else?”
“My sister was very close to Bhauji. From childhood, I did not see much of Bhauji that is why I felt him more like a mandali member than my father. I never felt that closeness to him, like how a son should feel for his father but I felt the bond with him like I felt for all the mandali members.”
“Is that why you refer to him as Bhauji and not dad?”
Mehernath shrugged his shoulders and slowly nodded.
“We called him Babuji when we were children. Baba sent Babuji once a year, for one hour, to our place.”
“Once a year. That’s it.”
“Yes, only once a year, for one hour. Baba told him, ‘inquire about their education, their meals, if they have a servant or not, the usual questions which one would want to ask a loved one about their wellbeing.”
“Your mother sacrificed a lot.”
“She sacrificed tremendously. Bhauji would come and sit on the veranda of Adi K. Irani’s office for one hour. All the members of the Center would come and sit with Bhauji. He discussed and chit-chatted with them.”
“You mean he would come every day or once in a while and sit on the veranda and discuss stuff with others?”
“No. He would do this during that one hour, once a year, which Baba had given him permission to visit us. When Bhauji came, they would talk with him and my mother cooked food for Bhauji. He would tell her to bring it at Adi’s veranda and then Bhauji shared the food with everybody.”
I kept quiet. I did not know how to process such information.
“He spent that one hour like that and then he would return to Meherazad. Baba would ask, ‘did you inquire about the family and the children’s education and all I told you to inquire?’ He would say, ‘no, Baba’. Baba would ask, ‘why?’ He would say, ‘I did not get the time’. Baba would say, ‘what on Earth did you do for one hour?’ ”
I couldn’t help but laugh, imagining Baba’s reaction to this news every year.
“Bhauji would say, ‘all the Center people came and I was speaking to them’. Baba would say, ‘I had told you to go for family purpose, not for Center members. Why did you behave like this?’ Every year the same thing took place. When we went to Meherazad, Baba wished for us to sit in the Mandali Hall. Afterwards, Baba would tell us, ‘you can go to Bhauji’s room for five minutes and discuss with him’. We would go there and Bhauji kept writing poetry or something would be going on in his mind. Bhauji would tell us, ‘don’t disturb, just sit quietly, keep quiet, don’t say anything’. By then the five minutes would be over. This is how we spent those precious five minutes with Bhauji. Then, we would leave. This would happen all the time.
“Baba would ask us, ‘did Bhauji speak to you?’ We would tell Baba, ‘no, he was busy in writing’. Baba would sigh with resignation. Baba loved my mother. Baba would say, ‘her sacrifice in worldly life is difficult for any other lady to rival.’ Baba loved my mother very much. The Khilnani family, Vinod, whom you will interview, were our neighbours at Khushru Quarters and they had everything. They had a radio, a refrigerator and other comforts. Baba would ask my mother, ‘do you want a refrigerator?’ and my mother would say, ‘no’. Baba would ask, ‘do you want a radio?’, my mother would say ‘no’. Then Baba would inquire, ‘do you feel that they have everything and you too want everything?’ My mother used to say ‘no’. Baba would embrace her and say, ‘that is why I love you’. Baba would speak of her sacrifice to my father also. Both my parents were steeped in Baba’s love. They were different.
“Baba gave opportunities to my mother to cook food for Baba and for the mandali too. My mother loved cooking for Baba.”
“You didn’t feel upset with your dad for not giving you all time or for not having worldly stuff?”
“No. You see, what happened is that, from my childhood, our friends circle was the mandali. When I was small, Pendu came to lower Meherabad, he stayed there and then he came to meet us every evening. Vishnu master was there. Sidhu was there. All of them were there. I would make Vishnu a horse and sit on his back. We spent our life like that because we disconnected from our relatives too. We were small and did not know Marathi, so it was difficult to talk with others, too. That’s why there was no connect with relatives too. Most of our life was with Baba or about loving and serving Baba. It’s not that we couldn’t have lived a rich life. My grandfather, my mother’s father was a very rich man. He was a landlord, like a jagirdar. Fifty-four villages and four forests were under him. He had fourteen hundred acres of land in Baitul District.”
“Yes. He was very popular in Baitul but when we left and came here, we left everything and we left everybody. My maternal grandfather gave fifty or fifty-four acres of land to my mother.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“That land still remains barren, I assume because we never went there to claim it nor did we look at it. We had disconnected from the world for good. My father’s property is still there at Balaghat District. Now, his brothers’ children are there. They are looking after that property. We never went there. I have never ever seen Bhauji’s place, even once. Never gone to his native place, though his property is there. One of Bhauji’s sisters from Saoner, Niradevi, would come here and visit us. She was a Baba lover. From 1960 to 1965 she came for Baba’s darshan in Poona. The others did not believe in Baba, that is why we also never paid attention to them. Our relatives were the mandali members.”
“You saw Meher Baba very often?”
“Baba called us often to Meherazad. Then, every year Baba called us for my birthday at Meherazad, on 22nd October, sometimes He would call me on 21st October, sometimes on 23rd October. On that day, whichever day I was called, He would say, ‘today is your birthday’. He sent Sheela greeting cards. Sheela’s birthday is on 12th of May and He sent her a card but not call her. One day, she complained to Baba, ‘You call only Mehernath as You don’t love me, thus You don’t call me’. Thus, once, Baba called her on 16th of May to Poona. Baba first hugged Sheela and said, ‘today is your birthday’. Sheela said, ‘no, Baba, today is not my birthday and You have called me because I told You to do so and You are saying this to please me’.
“Baba said, ‘no, I am God, I know, today is your birthday and you must accept that’. Then Sheela said, ‘okay, Baba, I accept that’. Baba would say, ‘Happy Birthday’ and then He would give us chocolate. He hugged us and I still miss those hugs. On 22nd of October, 1967, He told Mani to take a picture in Meherazad. That picture of Meher Baba and me, you see there, was taken that year. From childhood, we did not ask Baba anything. That’s why we got more opportunities to meet Baba. In 1968, Waman Padole would take us on his scooter to Meherazad, according to Baba’s order and then Baba would tell me to massage His legs and I massaged His legs.
“Then, Baba would say, ‘tell Me some stories,’ and I would tell a story to Baba. He liked hearing stories, even meaningless stories told by a child. I didn’t have the practice to speak in front of people. Baba would say, ‘stand in the middle of the room…’ and then I would stand in the middle of the room for ten to twenty minutes and tell a story, and He would gesture and tell the mandali members, ‘how well he speaks and tells the story, see him, so well he speaks!’
“He was building my confidence. I stood and then repeat one line at a time, the story would take very long for me to speak in front of so many, with all eyes on me, especially Baba’s. He gave me the courage and say, ‘yes, yes, go on, speak like that’. He did that to build my confidence.”
I could make out Mehernath was reliving those happy days.
“Baba called us to Meherazad on alternate Sundays. He called me on three Sundays and two Sundays He would call Sheela. This was in the year 1968. He said, ‘this is the last chance. You will never get such an opportunity in the future’.
“In 1968, you met Him thrice?”
“Thrice and then after our meetings He called my mother, Sheela and myself to meet Him together.
“When was that?”
“Maybe in September? After the alternate Sundays got over, Baba asked Sheela, ‘when I call you both, what does your mother feel?’ Sheela said, ‘my mother is very sad because You are calling us, but not calling her’. Then Baba said, ‘the difficulty is, Waman Padole brings you on the scooter double seat but it is impossible for your mother to sit double seat. That is the difficulty’. Baba told Adi and then all the three of us came to meet Baba with Adi in his Chevrolet car.
“Then, Baba came here to Khushru Quarters once on 22nd October, 1968, on my birthday. In the morning at 7 am, we were getting ready to go to school. I was upset and disappointed because Baba did not call me for my birthday as was His practice in the past years. We were outside, near the Centre and suddenly Baba’s car came! The cardiogram machine at Meherazad was not working, so the doctor wanted Him to come to town to have the heart test.
“When we saw that Baba had come here, Raj Khilnani, who was my neighbor and playmate, said to me that Baba didn’t come because it was my birthday. When Baba arrived, He had the cardiogram test in Adi’s bedroom. Then He met us all and He said, ‘why was the cardiogram machine broken? So, I could come here to meet Mehernath because it is his birthday.’ Then Raj had to say, ‘yes, He came because it was your birthday.’
“Then, on 22nd-23rd December, 1968, about five weeks before Baba left His body, once again we were called to meet Baba at Amrit-Dara’s wedding, which was also Mehera’s birthday. That was the last time when we saw Him in the body. Baba dropped His body on January 31st, 1969. For seven days we were there at Meherabad after Baba’s body was brought from Meherazad to His Samadhi.”
“Did you get the privilege to take care of Baba’s body?”
“Yes, I would fan Baba’s body. Every day, we got that chance. Mehera, along with the ladies mandali, would first take Baba’s darshan, touch Baba’s Feet and then afterwards, the men mandali took Baba’s darshan. Eruch would call my mother, Sheela and myself and he allowed us to go down and be next to Baba’s body. They closed the door and then we went down, touch Baba’s feet and then we came up. They had kept ice blocks around Baba’s body, and we took some of the wood powder (sawdust) from around the ice blocks, and also the flower petals that fell down.”
“How did you feel when Baba dropped His body as your whole life revolved around Baba?”
“It seemed difficult to believe that Baba had left His body. I just couldn’t accept the fact that our God had left His body. Sheela and I were following Baba’s orders, obeying Him, in discipline and even though Baba dropped His body, that discipline was with us, that’s why there was no reaction from us. For a long period, when you are under somebody, it is difficult to say anything, to take the decision, good or bad, what is going on, our life became like that. No reaction. Baba’s body was taken to Meherabad, we took darshan morning to night. We went there with William in the morning and stayed until night, for seven days. That’s why no reaction, good or bad. Life was like that.”
“How old were you when Baba dropped the body?”
“I was around fourteen or fifteen years old.”
“How did your father and mother take Baba dropping His body?”
“Bhauji was shocked. Baba dropping His body was a huge shock to all the mandali members. Mostly Mehera would cry and it would break your heart. Mani, she was shocked, though I haven’t seen her cry. We actually heard the news from Adi. He was there at Meherazad in the morning when Baba dropped His body. Adi came back to Nagar and we saw him and then Adi began to cry very loudly. Then he said that Baba had dropped His body. That was the first time we heard. We all knew that Baba wasn’t well, we had heard that His condition was bad. My father would write letters to us in which he would say, ‘Baba’s health is really very bad, the spasm comes this badly, and this doctor came now and that doctor came then…’ Bhauji wrote to my mother every day, informing her and us about Baba’s health.
“Was this a regular practice to write letters to your mother every day or was it only during the time when Baba was not keeping well?”
“No, it was only when Baba was sick and became critical. We got scared about the spasms and all, so Bhauji would write informing us about Baba’s health: it is better, it is very serious, like that; but previously, Baba would tell Bhauji to write to us from time to time, giving us instructions about our day to day life, education etc. Baba inquired about everything. Small minute things, He would inquire about.
“When we went to Meherazad, Baba would ask my mother, ‘what do you make for breakfast in the mornings?’ Then my mother would say what she had cooked for breakfast. Baba would say, ‘no, give them boiled eggs, bread and butter, banana, milk’, like that, Baba would give the entire menu to my mother. My mother listened to whatever Baba would tell her. Baba would ask everything, ‘are they weak in a subject?’ My mother would say, ‘yes, Baba, in so and so subject.’ Baba would say, ‘Appoint a private tutor’. Baba paid attention to every aspect of our lives. He took care of everything. He was like the head of the family. Even for a school trip, we asked Baba, without His permission we would not go for even a school trip. If He wouldn’t allow us, we would refuse the school. If our relative came, we had to ask our caretaker Adi. Then Adi would tell them, ‘no, nobody can come’. If we wanted to meet them, then we had to go outside the bungalow and meet for five minutes and return.
“Thus, our relatives would say that, ‘these people are egoistic, they are not good people, they are bad people, we will never come to them’. Thus, they disconnected and this is real detachment. Today, we don’t feel that they are our relatives. Our real family is Baba and the mandali.”
To be continued….
Be blessed always.
I would like to believe that every word that has poured forth, has come through the unbound grace, love, mercy and compassion of Avatar Meher Baba. I would also like to thank my sister Jennifer Bharucha, Jimmy Khan, Mehernath B. Kalchuri, Roshani Shenazz and Jennifer Keating, who have been instruments chosen by Baba, with whose help these interviews have been made possible. I would also like to thank Jimmy Khan and Cyrus Khambata for their invaluable editorial inputs.
Ruzbeh N Bharucha is the author of Devi’s Emerald, The Last Marathon, The Aum of All Things, The Fakir Trilogy and The Ramblings of The 110th, RABDA My Sai…My Sigh, ANANDA - Musings of the Fakir, The Perfect Ones, Conversations with DADA VASWANI, The Musk Syndrome, ICE with very unusual SPIRITS , Dancing with Swans and SAI BABA;The Messiah Of Oneness.