Experiences of Jimmy Khan with Meher Baba
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
“Let us start at the very beginning. Who was the person in your family who met Meher Baba and initiated your journey with Baba?”
“Initially, the introduction to Meher Baba took place through Hoshang Patel. Hoshang was working for the Central Bank of India and also as an insurance agent for LIC. He and his brother Eruchshaw, were inherently spiritually inclined. Their family was curious to learn about spirituality and divine love taught by all religions and Masters. I suppose, that they wanted to know more about the essence and quality of living life with dignity, rather than be confined to just the rituals of religion. Their father was a seeker and he would go from one Dargah to another, from one Master to Another. Thus, this family had heard of Meher Baba. I am not too sure if they had actually met Meher Baba when they spoke of Meher Baba to my family.
“Let us go back a few years, when my mother was widowed, at the age of forty and we, her children, were very young.”
“How old were you when your father passed away?”
“I was eleven years old when my dad passed away, my elder sister, Diana, was twelve and my younger sister, Bapsy, was ten years old. So, back to our story, it was Hoshang, who then told my mother, Khorshed, to come to Kamu Baba, for He would give her the solace, which she so needed. Kamu Baba lived in His ashram at Goregaon, which was then a distant suburb of Bombay and was a genuine Saint, that Meher Baba had acknowledged.”
“Yes. My family believe in Kamu Baba too.”
“Thus, you can understand better, the faith that people have in Kamu Baba. Both, Meher Baba and Kamu Baba were in constant contact with each other. Since the time of my father’s passing away, my mother was heart-broken. She needed some kind of spiritual support to help pick up the threads of her life once more. She had her siblings and family; but maybe, she was seeking answers which only a spiritual person could provide. One Sunday morning, Hoshang Patel, my mum Khorshed, my two sisters and I went to meet Kamu Baba. We reached His ashram and stood in the queue for His darshan.
“I remember, when our turn came to meet him, my mother was introduced by Hoshang to Kamu Baba who was seated on His gaddi. Kamu Baba spoke in Gujarati as He had a lot of Zoroastrian followers. Even today, He is revered by many Zoroastrians. Ruzbeh, who in your family was a Kamu Baba follower?”
“I think that the journey with Kamu Baba began with my paternal grandfather and then my dad and I became His follower too.”
“So, you understand the love and regard which people held for Kamu Baba. Kamu Baba then asked my mother, what was she seeking and what did she want? Instead of asking for wealth, happiness and the wellbeing of her children; my mum asked for inner light, inner knowledge, ‘antar nu gyaan’. I was too young then, to really remember Kamu Baba’s reaction to my mother’s request; but, He asked my mum to bend down before Him. Then, Kamu Baba who was seated on His gaddi put His thumb over her forehead, apparently over her inner eye and I am certain that it was He, who advertently opened my mum’s inner or third eye. This was the first and last darshan we had of Kamu Baba. For some reason, obviously Meher Baba knew best, we never met Kamu Baba again. Many people have asked me as to how come after Kamu Baba had awakened my mother’s inner eye, none of us went back to Him?
“This is because soon after that, Meher Baba entered our lives through Roda Mistry (wife of Jimmy Mistry), her maiden name was Roda Dadachanji, whose uncle was Baba’s first secretary named Chanji. The entire Dadachanji family was closely associated and devoted to Meher Baba. Roda’s parents, thanks to her uncle Chanji, were within Baba’s inner fold. I am sure that Baba must have seen Roda when she was one month old and had played in His lap. Roda was my aunt’s (masi) best friend and thus, knew my mother too. Surprisingly, all these years, we were not very close to each other, but, soon after the meeting with Kamu Baba, Roda re-entered my mother’s life and began to frequent our home at Tardeo. After taking care of her household chores she would come to our house, twice or thrice a week, from two to six o’clock in the afternoon and spend time with my mum. Roda constantly spoke to her about Meher Baba. She would have lunch at our house and then after a cup of tea, around six in the evening, she would return back to her house, in Dadar. For the four hours when she was with mum, she would constantly talk about Meher Baba, she would bring Baba’s photographs, sometimes some of His artefacts and also His books. Mum could only speak and read in Gujarati, as she had not studied English, Roda would bring her books written on Meher Baba in Gujarati but there weren’t too many books at that time written in Gujarati. Books in English were read to mum by either my sister or myself and translated to her in the language she spoke.
“Thanks to Kamu Baba, once again, for opening our mum’s inner eye, before even meeting Meher Baba in person, she had various visions about Him. She already was aware of how Meher Baba looked like as she had seen His photographs which Roda had brought for her. She would then go into meditation and experienced lot of spiritual stuff. I guess, she must have already been very ripe spiritually, to be able to experience all that which she did.
“I mean, if you and I went to Kamu Baba, He would not have granted us such a boon. In a split second, the Masters and Saints know who is ready and who is not. Kamu Baba knew that this woman, our mum, was ready to accept spirituality. Mum would tell me that, when she closed her eyes she could see Meher Baba in front of her, even before she met Him and had told me that she saw Meher Baba as small as a match box and as large as a sky scraper. I guess, what is called the ‘virat swaroop’ (true majestic form), akin to what Lord Krishna showed Arjun. Our mother had many experiences of Meher Baba and she began to meditate on Him and began to read more and more about Him and go to the Meher Baba meeting place. At first, the meetings were at a place in Kalba Devi. At that time, it was not called the Avatar Meher Baba Bombay Centre but it was a place for Baba lovers to meet. It was in 1962, when it was moved to the Lamington Road premises where it is to this day.
“Baba started to frequent Poona from 1957 onwards and would spend three months of the year from mid-April to mid-June, at this place called Guruprasad, at Bund Garden Road. Earlier, Baba resided at Dadi Kerawalla’s official bungalow at Ganesh khind Botanical Gardens as Dadi was the director there. Guruprasad was something like a mansion, neither a bungalow nor a huge palace. Let us call it as a diminutive palace or summer residence that belonged to the Maharani of Baroda. Roda would tell mum about Baba coming to Poona during each summer. She and her family would spend their summers with Baba. Once, she asked mum if she too would like to come to Poona.”
“Mum was yearning to see Baba and was very keen to join Roda and her family. Thus, we reached Poona and stayed at a place called the Mobo’s Hotel, a small, one storied structure which was very close to Guruprasad.”
“This took place after how many years of your dad passing away?”
“May be, more than five years later.”
“So, your mother waited for more than five years before she saw Meher Baba?”
“Let us say, three years after we heard of Meher Baba and my mum began to meditate on Him. Anyway, we reached Mobo’s Hotel, whose owner was Mohan Borade, would rent out a few rooms to the Parsi Baba lovers, for two months. We had to manage our own meals, which were also available at the hotel; but in the long run, it would turn out to be expensive. Most of the Baba lovers who came to this hotel were middle-class Parsi families. Mum and the three of us were booked in one of the rooms. Thus, mid-April, 1961 was the first time when we arrived in Poona to meet Meher Baba. Mum was told not to touch Meher Baba when she met Him as also, not to fall at His feet and touch His feet or hug Him. Mum was told to behave naturally when she met Him for the first time and then to let Him take over. That same day, after we arrived in Poona, Roda took mum and the three of us, to see the exterior of Guruprasad. Mobo’s Hotel was just a block away from Guruprasad, on the same pavement. So, we walked down the road that evening and were before the gate of Guruprasad. I remember seeing it for the first time and saw the long pathway, the gardens, the lawns and the beautiful fountain. Roda told us that, this was where Meher Baba lived in summer and you will meet Him here. Thus, we were aware where Baba was living. The next day, Roda and the others went to Guruprasad to meet Baba; we did not join the others as one only went when Baba called everyone to meet Him. When Roda was in Baba’s presence, He asked her through gestures, if anyone else had come with her.”
I must halt the narration to pen down that, Jimmy did a perfect impersonation of Baba. His gestures made you feel as though Baba was communicating with you. Through our talks, which went on for a number of hours, stretched through three days, I would love the way he would impersonate Baba’s gestures and expressions. You felt as though it was Meher Baba communicating.
“When Baba asked Roda about who else was with her, Roda got nervous. You see, she had got my mum and us without previously writing to Baba. She had not written nor sought His permission. This was contrary to His orders. One could not just bring anybody randomly to meet Him. Thus, Roda meekly replied, that nobody had come with her. She feigned ignorance and said, Jimmy, her husband and their boys were there. Baba again inquired, if there was anyone, anyone else whom she had brought along? Roda again denied that she had not. A third time, Baba gestured to ask Roda, if the lady at the gate was not with her?
“What happened in the meantime, was that, mum became anxious or rather curious, whatever you call it, anxious is more apt and my mum, with the three of us, had walked down the road and stood in front of the gates of Guruprasad. That is exactly the time when Baba gestured to inquire, if the lady at the gate was with Roda. Thereafter, Roda apologised to Baba, and said that she was sorry, not to have taken His permission to bring her widowed friend, who wanted to meet Him. Through gestures, Baba told her to bring her along the next time.”
“As per Baba’s instructions, Roda later took us to meet Him. When we reached Guruprasad and were waiting on the veranda to meet Meher Baba, my mother was disheartened. She had expected a personal and private meeting with Meher Baba but there were roughly thirty people waiting along with us on the veranda of Guruprasad. Mum was so distraught and disappointed at the prospect of meeting Baba, in front of everyone. Her dream of meeting Meher Baba for the first time did not involve so many people. She was in two minds, whether she should go away and come some other time. At that very moment, the door opened and Eruch Jessawala, Baba’s right hand man, came out and made an announcement to say that those who were there for the first time to meet Baba, to please come in.”
“I have met Baba more than a hundred times, most of the times in the same room and I can assure you, that, I have never seen Eruch uncle coming out and saying something like this, that those who were here for the first time should proceed before others. It happened for us and even Roda could not come in with us. Eruch uncle was in the room. Mum led the way with the three of us behind her. The moment we entered the room, the door was shut by Eruch uncle. Mum got what she had prayed for, a private darshan with Baba. Instinctively, mum walked towards Baba and Baba opened up His arms and mum fell into Baba’s arms and all this just happened naturally, in spite of the earlier injunction of not to touch Baba.”
“It was Baba who opened up His arms, mum just followed and was in Baba’s embrace in a few seconds. I can still close my eyes and visualize how it all happened. She fell into Baba’s arms and Baba held her and then, mum started to weep, rivers of tears gushed through her eyes and wet her face. Mum just let herself go. You can’t call it crying, I always use the word, ‘wailing’. When you let go and you don’t care and have no shame of what people will think; people outside were hearing her wailing and crying but she just let herself go. She did this, for may be a minute or two. I know a minute or two doesn’t sound much but when you actually time a minute or two, then, it seemed like a long while.”
“She cried and cried and we were standing there stunned; I was sixteen years old at that time and my mum was in someone’s arms, Meher Baba’s arms and she was weeping away. The three of us were dumbfounded and emotional. The crying and wailing then slowly became soft sobbing but she was still breathing heavily. After a while, she stopped the sobbing and all this time, Baba was holding her. Finally, He released His embrace and let her go. I then, actually hugged Baba. People so often want to hug me because I had hugged Baba and that makes me feel so humbled.”
“The three of us, Diana, Bapsy and I, in turn, hugged Baba. Baba then told mum through gestures, not to worry about us, as from today, they are Mine and I will look after them. These were Baba’s words through gestures. My sisters had always been skinny, so Baba told Eruch to call Goher Irani, Baba’s physician. Eruch then went over to the women’s side, across the hall from the Mandali Room to the women’s wing to call Goher. As no men were allowed in the women’s room, Eruch did not go inside, to call Goher. Except for Baba or children below the age of ten, no man had entered the women’s rooms. Eruch then called out to Goher from the outside, to say that Baba was calling her. Goher immediately came over and said, ‘haji, Baba.’ Baba looked at my sisters and gestured to say that they were so skinny, so thin and wanted her to examine them medically and then inform Him.”
As I have mentioned, it is a pleasure to watch Jimmy imitate Baba.
“My sisters followed Goher out of the room and Baba told my mum, to go along with them. Effectively, what happened was that, my mum and my two sisters met the women mandali on their first day itself. They met Mehera, Mani, Naja, Meheru, Rano, Katie, Goher, Nalli (younger) Khorshed, Motti (elder) Khorshed and everyone. Goher examined my sisters and in the mean while others who were patiently waiting on the veranda walked in the room where Baba was. Goher came back, followed by my mum.”
Jimmy now begins to choke and tears trickle down his cheeks. He composes himself.
“Goher told Baba that the girls were fine, ‘majana chey,’ there are no issues, they are skinny but they are ok. Baba gestured to say that, He was relieved. He was the finest actor ever. He was all knowing but He would pretend that He was unaware. Our Baba was the best actor of all times. He was the best poker player on Earth. His face would sometimes tell you nothing. He would sometimes even ask a mother whether the infant in her arms was a boy or a girl. He would show that kind of innocence. The child would be naked in His arms or on His lap and still He would ask the mother if it was a boy or a girl? I couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Thus, with such a poker face He gestured to say that, He was happy and relieved that my sisters were fine.”
“Baba would be seated on His chair and usually Eruch would sit on His left side; before Him on the carpet, the women were seated on the right side and the men to His left as this was the seating pattern. This was our tryst with destiny and our first meeting with Meher Baba.”
“How was your devotion to Baba on that day? I know that your mother was completely devoted even before she had physically met Him but what did you feel for Baba before you had met Him and when you met Him for the first time?”
“I have always been candid with everyone earlier and the same goes even today. You must understand that I was barely a teenager and that God in human form or an Avatar, is not something a teenager spends too much time or energy over. My mum was absolutely in love with the Avatar and entrenched in spiritual pursuits. I was a young growing teenager, playing around, fooling around, studying or not studying. Suddenly, this God-Man comes into our family and I don’t think that I gave much thought to whether Meher Baba was God in human form or the Avatar. I think it all happened slowly and naturally. For me, the transformation took place gently. You must also appreciate that all four of us were ready spiritually; otherwise we would not have met Meher Baba over a hundred times. All this is a carry forward from our past lives. We were all ready, very ripe for Baba’s entry and presence in our lives. It didn’t take a very long time for me to accept Him as God and the Avatar of this age. I came in constant contact with Him for nearly two to three months of a year which went on for over a few years. Being with Him, watching Him and being just six to twelve feet away, on each occasion, brought about that transformation in me. I remember, every meeting only brought Him closer, as I was at the right age, during summer holidays from school and college and would be seated very close to Him. I would sit right in front of Him, four to six feet away in the Mandali Room and would watch him like a hawk, observe Him and everything that was going on and trying to understand Him. You do understand Him a little more each time you spend with Him. That is how the transformation took place.”
“Meher Baba is the Avatar, God in human form but did you take him as a father figure?”
“The answer is yes. I must also tell you that before I met Baba there were people, even relatives, who would say nasty things about Meher Baba.”
“When you say they spoke nasty things about Meher Baba, what does that mean?”
“They would say that He is a fraud. He is all the time with women. There were the women mandali with Baba, along with the men mandali. He spent time with women in desolate places and He extracted money from vulnerable people like my mother. Though in our case, my mother was never wealthy, so there was no question of extracting money. Also, they said that Baba preyed on those who were emotionally weak and vulnerable.”
“So, how did you process all this crap?”
“It was at the back of my mind that this is what people said about Him. The instant I saw Him, met Him, I knew that all those nasty things spoken about Him were utter rubbish. I was with Him for a long period of time and only saw Him give. Never saw Him take. I have seen Baba rejecting people who had placed fat envelopes of cash at His feet and He would say through gestures, that He did not touch money. When someone insisted He accept it, Baba would tell them to keep it, and if and when He needed it, He would call for it. As a young man, I saw all this. God has given us some common sense, a functional brain, so ultimately, it is you who will evaluate and come to a decision. Stupid people, don’t use their brains. Thus, they fall prey to gossip, slander and have the power to malign. At the age of sixteen, I understood that this Man, this Avatar was compassion personified. He did not sit on ceremony. In His compassion, He hugged my mother as He knew the sadness, angst and turmoil eating into my mother from within. He took my mother in His arms, made her comfortable and He drained her out of all the pain, making her forget her past. He then told her that hence forth her children were His children and His responsibility. He showed His concern for our health and got my sisters medically examined.”
“For a youngster to be taken during his holidays from Bombay, every summer, for two months to meet and spend time with a God-Man, must have been hard for you initially or did you not mind leaving your friends behind and spending time with Meher Baba? You mentioned that you were just sixteen when your journey began with Him.”
“Oh, frankly we had a great time in Poona. Great means truly, a great time in Poona. If you take me to Pune today, if you take me to Bund Garden today, I begin to cry. I see the change, I remember the great times which we had and I begin to cry. I remember the quiet beautiful East Street and Main Street and the one beyond East Street and the Turf Club area. Bund Garden was a boulevard, with banyan trees and bungalows with gardens. The only storied building which was constructed on it was the J. N. Petit Boys Institute; otherwise there were only beautiful mansions and bungalows. Our Mobo’s Hotel, where we stayed was filled with youngsters, boys and girls nearly my age, older or younger and we had a fabulous time together, full of fun and mischief too! We had the best time of our life at Guruprasad. Some of the sweetest memories of my life are there and not in Bombay. When we returned to Bombay by train, after two months of being in the blessed company of Baba, my heart would by heavy. Leaving Baba, leaving Poona and leaving those friends was heart breaking. We had a great time, an absolutely frolicking time in Poona.
“I wanted to touch upon one point. If I may say so, it might sound unfeeling to you but Baba took my father away for a reason. If He had not taken my father away, you would not have been sitting here in front of me, talking about Baba because we would not have known about Meher Baba. He took my father as that was the only option for Him to bring us to Him. We were destined to be His. My dad was my biological father but Baba became our true father when He took us unto His fold. You might wonder whether it was a cruel thing to do, to take my father away, so that He could bring us to Him. I look at it this way, that, I too have children. My son is named Phiroz, after our father. Very honestly, I feel that my father has come again to me as my son. Why would my father miss out on Meher Baba? What did he do so bad that his soul would miss out from Baba’s love? My father has come again, to be within Baba’s fold. My son goes four to five times a year to Meherabad. He is married, has a wife named Kokila, she is a born Baba lover. She is British by nationality and they have named their daughter Arnavaz after Arnavaz Dadachanji, who Kokila had great respect and love for. Baba gave him a wife, who is a born Baba lover. Her parents and brothers are Baba lovers too and thus, from birth she has been a Baba lover.”
“Did you feel a change in your mother after she met Baba?”
“I would certainly say so, that, after she met Him she moved deeper into spirituality. She was also calmer, happier and settled down to her routine of looking after us and her business better than before. We were not well off and my mother was working for her brother (maama) in a boutique that made bridal attire, hand embroidered and beaded sarees and clothes for women and children. My mum was thus entitled to a fifty percent share of the embroidered goods sold. My maama would get very upset because every summer for two months my mother would be away from the shop and according to my uncle, she was following some Baba, whose Name amongst certain circles was spoken of unkindly. We met Baba in Poona every year and one day, two years down the line, my uncle told his friend, Hoshang Patel (the same friend who had taken us to Kamu Baba) that He was going to have it out with his sister, to decide between her Baba or the shop business. When Hoshang Patel, over the weekend came to meet Baba in Poona, he alerted mum to what uncle had said, as spending time with Baba would be held against her. Mumma had given herself to Baba completely and though she had no other means to fall back on financially, she told Hoshang that whatever had to take place will take place, for she would leave it all to Baba, even if the shop had to go, she would let it go.
“Your house would run on that money?”
“Yes. We didn’t have savings, we didn’t have money, month to month the house ran on the money which she received from the shop. Strangely, after that my uncle never confronted my mum, even though she anticipated his wrath after returning that year from Poona. He did not even once broach the subject with her. That was strange, as he was not the kind of man to keep anything within him for long and would have certainly confronted her. Eventually, my uncle accepted this yearly visit to Poona and even came to see Baba at Guruprasad during the East-West Gathering. Mumma would talk to the staff at the shop about Meher Baba and they were all curious to meet Him. During the Gathering, the sales girls of the shop wanted to take darshan of Baba, but had no transport to go to Poona. They requested uncle to take them in his car on a Sunday, which was the shop holiday, to Guruprasad for the East-West Gathering. Surprisingly, he consented and drove them to Poona, but did not bow down to Baba and stood away. Nevertheless, he saw all the proceedings, saw Meher Baba for a few hours, albeit from afar and indirectly took His darshan! That was a step forward for my uncle even though he did not venture further.”
“When in Pune, at Mobo’s, how often did you all meet Meher Baba?”
“Yes, a good point. There were Baba lovers and there were other Baba lovers. Those who stayed at Mobo’s were very close to Baba. What would happen was that, we would keep ourselves ready, showered and dressed in the mornings. A phone call would come from Guruprasad to Mobo’s to say that Baba was calling us to meet Him. So, those twenty or thirty of us who were living at Mobo’s Hotel would get this information to see Him that day. Baba was calling, and that was enough to keep everyone in a flurry. We would start walking from the hotel, no waiting for anyone, each to themselves. When we reached Guruprasad, Baba would already be there on His gaddi to receive us and you took your seat before him on the floor. This happened twice or thrice a week but always in the mornings, where a small close gathering of around twenty-five people were assembled.
“On Sunday afternoons, the darshan would be in the Central Hall, where about two to three hundred people would gather to take Baba’s darshan. There would be either a gazal, qawali or a bhajan program but mostly qawali or gazals. It was kind of an open house for all Baba lovers.”
“Normally, around what time in the morning would you all go to see Baba?”
“Say from ten o’clock till noon.”
“All of you would spend two hours with Baba?”
“Yes, I would be sitting six feet away from the God-Man.”
“People would ask questions and stuff?”
“Yes. It would start with small talk, like Baba asking through gestures, if you had slept well, had you eaten? Through gestures he would ask how each one of us was or He might take the pulse of somebody who was not well. He would then through gestures put His hand on the heart and ask what did the doctor say? The funny part was that, He would gesture in a jocular way, which in reality did not suggest a doctor, instead meant a hajam (barber), in other words what did the hajam say? There would be much laughter and somebody would say, the doctor wanted an x-ray, or someone else was asked for a cardiogram. Then, Baba would ask through gestures if that was done? Usually, the answer would be in the negative with the promise to do it the next day. Then, the next time, Baba would remember the entire conversation of the previous time and ask that person again through gestures, what had happened and what did the report say. Then, things like, did you sleep at night? Someone might raise their finger and answer negatively, that he did not sleep well and Baba would inquire through gestures why that was so and did he have any worries? He was the best at extracting information which you would not want to discuss in public. Baba had His own way of getting things out from every individual. Even if it was the most private of matters, somehow, He got you to cough it up. Then, another would say to Baba that he was in love and Baba’s expressions were so mercurial that they would change from one moment to another. Sometimes, children would be present with a single parent and would be harassing the mother, so, Baba would amuse the mother by saying through gestures, that it was okay, all children are trouble and His nazar will be on them, thus, telling the mother not to worry. Somebody else might come up with the fact that his or her child does not study, ‘bau heraan karech’ (troubles me a lot) and Baba would reply through gestures, that He would take care of it.
“If you were to ask me that, what did I say or do, you must understand that we were growing children, I was a teenager and there were people who had been with Baba for a number of years. Some of them who were from the mandali, had been with Him since decades, some in their fifties, some even older. In their presence, we usually kept quiet, out of respect. Nobody spoke out of turn. You had to lift your hand to be heard. If the seniors said something, it was acceptable and those who were close to Baba would speak out and voice their thoughts. Even our mumma never spoke up, nor did Roda aunty. They only spoke when Baba pointedly asked them a question. As Mumma and I were relatively new comers, we only replied if Baba asked us something.
“Then, the talk would progress to spirituality or whatever Baba wanted to speak on. Eruch would sit to Baba’s left, on the floor. He would come up with a pile of correspondence; telegrams, letters, envelopes and post cards were the only way to communicate in those times, apart from the telephone. Mostly, people would write post cards or send letters in envelopes. Eruch, during his spare time, which he barely got much of, would have already pre-read and screened the mails and was well prepared to read them out to Baba. He would do this in the afternoons, when Baba was resting. Eruch and Mani, Baba’s sister, would take care of the English correspondence and Bhauji and Bal Nathu would take care of the writings in Hindi and Marathi. What I saw was, Eruch uncle with a pile of letters which he had already read, was ready for Baba’s response to them. He would briefly give the gist of the letter and sometimes Baba would ask for the entire letter to be read aloud. Like the letter which I had written to Baba, He asked Eruch to read it out aloud, much to my embarrassment.
“I was still a teenager, in my first year of college in the field of commerce. Like most young men, the most exciting thing you wanted to do was, to be a pilot? Nearly every young lad wants to fly planes and wherever there is a roar of the aircraft, what does a young boy do, run to the balcony, to look up at the aircraft. So, these are the fancies of a young man. I was at the Mobo’s Hotel, as usual, in summer and there was a lady called Meheru Billimoria, whose son was undergoing training to fly planes. He had just finished his BSC (Bachelor of Science) exam and had told me all about it, as well as the approximate cost to enrol. So, I wrote a letter to Baba, without telling my mum about it. She would have torn the letter or worse, given me a tight slap on the cheek. So, the letter was sent to Guruprasad and that day Eruch, who was seated as usual with the correspondence, mumma along with me and twenty or thirty others. I was one of the few youngsters who were present and Baba asked Eruch to begin with the letters. So, Eruch uncle picked up the first letter, then the second, the third letter happened to be mine. He looked at the letter and told Baba that, Jimmy has written a letter to You. Baba looked at me, to ask, what had I written? I made sure that I didn’t meet my mum’s inquiring gaze. I can only imagine, she must have gone red in her face, wondering what that idiot had written. I told Baba, that I wanted to become a pilot. So, Baba gestured to ask if I wanted to fly?”
I wish that I could have somehow succeeded in showing you how well Jimmy impersonated Baba. I began to laugh.
“To my embarrassment, not only was Baba amused but everybody present was amused for some reason or the other. Only mum was not amused. She was the last person to be amused by such whims and fancies of her son. Baba told Eruch to read the letter. The letter was read. Mum sat silently listening, Baba heard Eruch read out my letter and before Baba could react, the top guns of Baba’s group, Baba’s brother Jal, Meherji, Nariman Dadachanji and others who were present piped in and told Baba, not to encourage him, and not to say yes to him. Another person mentioned how a flight had crashed for a certain Baba lover who was a pilot. So, they told Baba, not to allow him as he being young, doesn’t know what he is writing, his bechari (poor) widowed mother sitting here would be distressed. Someone else told Baba that, if he wants to be a pilot, then let him, as flying was not so risky now. So, there were conflicting responses from those who were present.
“You must understand that most of the communication which Baba did was through His eyes and the remaining through His gestures. Baba was not just animate, but extremely animate. When needed, He rounded His eyes and made various facial expressions, like this.” (Jimmy shows various kinds of expressions and eye movements).
I began to chuckle again.
“Imagine, they were advising Him what the God-Man should do to be guiding this young lad. Baba’s expressions often said, ‘is that so,’ ‘really,’ and such. After all finished speaking, Baba looked at my mother and through gestures conveyed why had she not said a word, when all the others were putting in their own views and now what should be His reply? Mum told Baba that her son was now His and she was happy with whatever He said. My mum, smartly turned the tables around and put the ball in His court. You must understand that my mum was not a rich woman and she had no true sense about worldly affairs. I had written in my epic letter that the cost involved would be to the tune of twenty-five thousand rupees and you must understand that in those days that was a huge amount when mum didn’t have even a thousand rupees to her name. Baba looked at me, and gestured to say that, I was thin and skinny. He never actually said no to anybody, that is an extraordinary part of it. He did not say no; but made His point very clear. He said again through gestures that, to be a pilot you needed to be strong and have good energy levels. He then inquired what else I could do, in other words, what else could I do with my life? In those days, there were no courses for MBA or Company Secretary, the choices were limited. I was studying commerce and the next best thing that came to my mind was to become a Chartered Accountant and I told Baba, that I could do C.A. (Chartered Accountancy). The moment I said that, Baba immediately joined His index finger to His thumb in the sign of perfection and raised His hand, which meant He approved of my answer wholeheartedly. This sign meant, a ‘very, very, good’ choice. Baba was seated on a big chair and He put His arms on the arm rest and gestured as if to say that, I too would sit on a big chair and gain a lot of respect. Eruch translated Baba’s gestures in words. Lastly, Baba rubbed His fingers as if counting money, indicating, that I would also earn good money. Years later and all through my life, whenever I have been introduced to somebody and they say, this is Jimmy Khan, Chartered Accountant, I always remember Baba. These were Baba’s words and His prophesy.”
“How many times did you go to Poona to meet Baba?”
“We went to Poona to meet Baba for roughly five to seven summers, starting from 1960 or 1961.”
“All of you would stay there for two to three months?”
“A minimum of two months, from mid-April to mid-June.”
“Tell me a little more about the Sunday meetings with Baba?”
“Yes. On Sunday afternoons, the meeting was in the Central Hall. We called it the Central Hall because it was in the center, with other rooms around it on all sides, where around two hundred people would be seated. We would spend two to three hours with Baba, hearing bhajans, gazals or qawalis, but mostly gazals and qawalis.”
“Meher Baba really liked to hear them?”
“He was very well versed with them and He would stop the singer midway to explain the ethos of the lyrics to the audience, the meaning behind each line. You must understand that eighty percent of those who were gathered there were Zoroastrians and then there were others from various religions. Parsis aren’t very well versed with Urdu or Hindi, the language of gazals and qawalis. I mean, we may like the tune and the rhythm of the songs, but we could not understand the meaning of the lyrics, may be some of it, but largely it went over our heads. It was then that Baba through gestures would stop the singer to explain their meaning.”
“How would Baba listen to the singers? With His eyes shut or…?”
“No! No! He was extremely expressive and alert. On one hand, He was the most expressive human being ever, His eyes, gestures and hands did all the talking and on the other hand, He was the most poker-faced person in the world! During these sessions, He was alive, very alive, listening to every word, every phrase, every connotation. Music was very dear to Him, even songs in English, He would listen to Radio Ceylon and He liked Jim Reeves and songs by Cole Porter and other singers of His time. In fact, He liked all kinds of music. I would say that He got relaxed by hearing music. In the mornings, when they had tea, someone would switch on the radio or they had a phonograph or whatever you call it, so they would play records. Yes, He was a connoisseur of music.
“Anyway, back to our Sunday gatherings, they started around two in the afternoon and lasted till around five in the evening. The last song would be gaatey chalo (singing we leave). The Parsis would be shuffling their feet, not wanting to leave, nobody would want to leave Baba. Baba would then gesture, to say, did you not hear the song to now go? People would say, ‘yes, yes, going Baba, going’, but would still be rooted on the same spot. Baba would then impatiently gesture, ‘go go go!’ Even after the song was over, Baba would still be sitting there. The ladies for all these programs would hog the first rows, where they would always be the closest to Baba. Those were truly memorable times. I remember a funny story. Once, my sister was sitting very close to Baba, close in the sense that she could touch His knee and feet. On Sunday afternoons, the gates of Guruprasad were closed and people had to gather outside the gate. When the gates were opened, everybody would run like mad to scramble for the best seats in the hall. Bapsy, my sister, was seated with Roda aunty next to her. A bumble bee or a flying insect was around Baba’s feet. Bapsy tried to swat the bee and Roda aunty got very upset that Bapsy had not managed to catch the bee. My sister, who was around thirteen or fourteen years old, tried to justify with Roda aunty, how on earth could she have managed to catch a bee that was so quick. During these exchanges, my mum kept nudging them to stop arguing and instead focus on Baba. Her order to us at all times was, to keep our eyes on Baba. In the Mandali Hall, we would be sitting closest to Him.”
“He also liked horses?”
“No, I won’t say that. I have not read or heard that He went to any race course. May be, once He may have gone but not as a regular. Frankly, not even once, even in Poona, during the Guruprasad days, I don’t think that He ever visited the race course.”
“I have read somewhere that He had a white horse?”
“It is in the scriptures, that Gautam Buddha had said that, He would return on a white horse. The Kalki Avatar and Baba had a white horse and a white mule. The horse was kept behind the Samadhi where Mehera would ride it. During Her father’s time, Mehera and Her sister Frenny, rode horses in Quetta So, Baba had a white horse that Mehera rode and He would enjoy seeing Mehera on it. So, in that aspect, yes, He liked watching Mehera ride the horse.”
“During that period, Baba had already experienced both His accidents?”
“Yes, we are talking about 1960s.”
“How was He physically?”
“He was badly injured and in constant pain, if you ask me. I have seen Him, coming into the Mandali Hall, from the Central Hall, from His bedroom, when two mandali members would bring Him into the room, holding Him from both sides. I didn’t see Him walking much on His own. If you ask me, He was physically in much discomfort. I did not see Him much during the last days but when you compared Him with His age, you may say that He was physically destroyed. Meher Baba died one month before His seventy-fifth birthday. Meher Baba at that time of His life was in a bad physical shape, He was kind of shattered and He was suffering. He had become haggard and weak and did not look pink and healthy as He was earlier.”
To be continued…
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
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. Be blessed always. Jai Baba.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha