Experiences of Merwan Dubash with Meher Baba

Ruzbeh N. Bharucha

18

 

“I don’t normally speak too much about Baba’s teachings, as my relationship with Him is based only on my devotion for Him rather than based on the intellectual aspects of Baba’s teachings. Yes, I have had the great fortune and privilege of being with Baba since birth. I shall just talk about my experiences of being with Him.”

   “Great. That is what this book is all about.”

   “I was born into a Baba lover family. My mum and dad were Baba lovers and followers. I was born in 1947.”

   “Tell me about how your parents knew Baba and began to follow Him?”

   “My dad knew about Him sometime in 1931 or so, I think. Minoo Kharas and my dad were first cousins but they were brought up like brothers.”

   “How old was your dad when he got to know of Baba?”

   “Dad was born in 1919 so he was in his early teens. I am not very clear about dates, so let us say dad heard about Baba in the early 1930s, so he could not have been more than fourteen years old.” 

   “Did he take to Meher Baba from the start?”

   “Oh no! In fact though my dad had heard of Meher Baba in the early 1930s, in reality he met Him only in 1947. You see, for some reason, though he would keep hearing about Meher Baba from his cousin, it would appear that it didn’t seem to make much of an impression on him. Slowly he began to sort of believe in Baba but the full force of love for Baba had not enveloped my father. He met Him for the first time in April 1947 in Madras, now what we call as Chennai.”

   “What made him want to meet Meher Baba after so many years?”

   “One day my dad’s cousin convinced him to go and meet Baba. This was just a couple of months before I was born. Minoo told my dad that, ‘you know of Meher Baba since so many years and I know you do believe in Him but you have never met Him, this is a good chance’. Baba was in Madras and He had allowed people to come and see Him if they wanted to but it was made clear that He would meet each person for not more than five minutes. After much goading by Minoo, my dad agreed and they met Meher Baba on the first day itself. Baba was in Madras for five days and after they met Baba, He told them, ‘come and be with Me every day till I am in Madras’.

   “Thus, they were with Him every day and on the last day before Baba left Madras, Baba asked them to come and stay with the mandali for that one last night. Both of them came and stayed with the mandali that night. The next day they left in the morning, by train with Baba. I think Baba was going to Mahabaleshwar and thus He was going to get off the train at Poona with the mandali. My dad and his cousin continued their journey to Bombay.”

   “What did your father feel after meeting Meher Baba?”

   “My father would say that initially there was a very slow crawl towards Baba which quickly turned into a gallop after he met Him.”

   “When was your first meeting with Baba?”

   “My first meeting was when I was nineteen months old. It was on 31st December, 1948. An easy date to remember. I met Baba, here in Meherabad, in the Trust Office at Ahmednagar, the same place where you went to meet Mehernath. Not where Mehernath sits currently, because that has been built recently but further back in the compound is where the accounts office was situated. They used two rooms, and one of those two rooms, nobody can now remember exactly which one, Baba met people and He sat there. He was present that day and a small group of us from Karachi, had come to meet Baba.

   “We were waiting outside and Baba asked my father’s cousin, Minoo, to bring me in. He did not ask my parents to bring me in, but asked Minoo, because this was Baba’s way. Baba’s habit was that whoever brought the person to Baba, Baba would always ask that person to introduce the new comer to Him. So, since Minoo had brought my family to Baba, Baba asked Minoo to bring me in to see Him. As I have told you, I was nineteen months old. Baba took me in His lap, played with me for a few minutes and then put me on the floor. I guess I crawled away somewhere at the back of the hall. Then Baba asked my mum and dad to come in, they entered and were talking to Baba. Meanwhile, I was sitting at the back and all of a sudden, I said ‘Baba’. The moment I said ‘Baba’, He looked at me and pointed to me and gestured, ‘out of many on the waiting list I have selected him’.” It was wonderful to see Merwan imitating Baba’s way of gesturing. It reminded me of the videos I have seen of Meher Baba and the manner in which He would gesture with His hands, fingers, face and eyes. “That was the first meeting and it was a very short meeting. I guess we must have been there for half an hour or an hour. Then He met all the other people from Karachi, there were about five or six of them and then we left. That was my first meeting with Baba.”

   “What about your mother? Did she too believe in Baba?”

   “Oh, that is another story. My mum, Rhoda, never took to Baba initially. She came from an orthodox Zoroastrian family, from Karachi, and in those days the atmosphere in Karachi was quite anti Baba.”

   “Why is that?”

   “In those days the people belonging to the Parsi community were generally anti Baba. Not just in Karachi but even in India; you will find lots of stories of Parsis not liking Baba. They would gossip about Baba, spread false stories and resort to slander. They just did not like Him. Basically for a lot of people from the Zoroastrian community Meher Baba was considered to be a fraud. Now she and my dad had been going out with each other for nearly six years, which itself was quite unusual in those days. Arranged marriages would take place at a very fast pace during that time. You did not have the luxury of going about with each other for years. But they were seeing each other for quite a few years. Initially my dad hadn’t told her about Baba and she hadn’t asked. My paternal grandmother, not my paternal grandfather, just my grandmother, was a follower of Meher Baba. My dad had two brothers who were also not followers of Meher Baba. In the family only my dad and his mother were Baba followers. My grandmother was quite sickly and from time to time she would go to the hospital. Now that my mother was engaged to my father, she would accompany my grandmother who would come to Bombay for treatment. In those days Bombay was the place to come for medical treatment, especially for Parsis from Karachi. While they were in hospital, Minoo Kharas was present too. Minoo was brought up by my grandmother, like a son. Thus, Minoo and my dad were more like brothers than cousins. On that day Minoo and my mother were present in the hospital. My grandmother was quite upset. She was crying, to cheer her up Minoo said, ‘why are you crying, you should be quite happy, that you are now in the age of the living Prophet, so why are you sad?’ My mum who was seated there listening, perked up when he said, ‘in the age of the living Prophet’. She turned to Minoo and said, ‘who is this living Prophet?’ Minoo replied, ‘Meher Baba’. My mother nearly jumped out of her skin. Quite surprised she inquired, ‘you believe in Meher Baba?’ She wasn’t aware that her mother-in-law, herself was a Baba lover. Minoo said, ‘yes, we believe in Meher Baba. He is the Prophet of this age.’ My mother inquired, ‘does Adi believe in Meher Baba too?’ Minoo said, ‘yes’ and then realized that he had let the cat out of the bag. My mum was most upset. She waited impatiently till my father came to the hospital to visit his mother. Mum was waiting on top of the stairway. Dad would arrive usually by five in the evening as those were the visiting hours. As soon as my mum saw my dad, she started shouting, ‘Adi, Adi, do you believe in Meher Baba?’

   “My dad came up the stairs, cool and calm. My mum shouted the same thing thrice and my father reached her and said, ‘yes I believe in Meher Baba’. She shouted, ‘Adi we have been going around for so many years and you didn’t tell me’. My dad told her, ‘but you didn’t ask’. She was most upset. You must understand, those days, a lot of people were against Meher Baba and were convinced that He was a fraud and a lot of other things.” Then Merwan began coughing. Through the interview his cough got worse. I asked him twice if he would like to reschedule the meeting but he wanted to continue to speak on Baba. The cough made him breathless but he continued speaking. I truly appreciated this gesture of Merwan.

   “Many people did not believe that Baba kept His silence. They were certain that He observed silence in public and then once when alone with His mandali He would break His silence and talk and communicate. Lot of nonsense was spoken about and against Meher Baba. My mother cried the whole night. She once told me that, ‘I cried and cried and I couldn’t sleep but I finally decided that I love Adi so much that I’ll marry him and I will take him away from that fraud Meher Baba’.

          “Wow.”

   “Yes. She really used the word ‘fraud’. At that time she thought that, ‘I will slowly take him away from this fraud Meher Baba’. The best part during that time is, my father had just begun to accept Meher Baba. He had not met Him. As I have told you he met Meher Baba a few months before I was born. Anyway, my mum told me that before my parents got married, my mother challenged Baba and said, ‘If You really are who they say You are, then You will send me Your blessings on my wedding day.” He began to cough again. “Sorry. She soon forgot all about the challenge.” He again coughed.

   “Should I get some water?”

   “No. I don’t need water. This happens to me once in a while and it’s happened today, so I carry these tablets which soothe my throat. The wedding day was fixed for the 1st of July 1945 and you must understand that Karachi is virtually like a semi-desert, like Ahmednagar. It barely rains there. Those days if it rained for ten inches a year it was considered to be too much. On the day of the marriage, it was a normal sunny bright hot day. My dad would say that the morning felt as though it was like mid noon, hot and sunny. But by afternoon time it felt as though somebody was pushing black clouds above the city and in no time dark clouds hovered all over. Then it began to rain and in a short while it began to pour heavily. It poured so much that some parts of the city got flooded and people had to wade through waist high water. The wedding was planned outside at the Parsi Gymkhana grounds. All the preparations, decorations and flowers got washed away. Somehow they rescued the wedding chairs and took them inside. My dad was informed that the main Parsi priest or Dastoorji refused to come to perform the wedding ceremony as he did not want to wade through waist high water in his ceremonial priestly clothes. My dad’s brother literally had to lift him up and put him in the car.”

I couldn’t help but laugh just imagining the scene. Merwan began to chuckle too.

   “There was water everywhere. The wedding preparations were washed out and they had invited nearly seven to eight hundred people, out of which around hundred to hundred and fifty people managed to show up.” He halted due to the cough. “My mum says that while she, her mother and her mother’s close friend were going to the wedding in a car her mother was weeping like a child. On one hand it was pouring and all the decoration had got washed away and on the other hand the festive colour which the car was decorated with had managed to seep into their fancy sarees, shoes and everything. She was most upset thus she was crying her heart out. The friend in the car looked at my mum’s mother and told her, ‘why are you crying, this is God’s blessings. When it rains on auspicious occasions it means you are being blessed by God’. At that moment, my mum remembered her challenge to Baba but again soon forgot all about it. The wedding took place and my mum never ever spoke of this incident for years to come. Then later, in 1963, we were all with Baba at Guruprasad in Poona. Baba had a very close mandali member called Sarosh. Sarosh’s son’s name is Merwan too. I think he was in the States and he had come to Nagar to get married to his fiancé, who was a Swedish girl if I recollect correctly. On their way to Ahmednagar they stopped en route in Poona to take Baba’s darshan. Merwan told Baba, ‘please give us Your blessings for our wedding day’ and they left. The wedding was to be held in two to three days. On the day of the wedding, Baba told Eruch, ‘call Sarosh and ask how are the wedding preparations and celebrations going on?’ So Eruch telephoned. He came back and Baba inquired, ‘how is everything going on?’ Eruch told Baba that, ‘Sarosh is yelling on the phone that what is Baba doing, here it is pouring like crazy, with thunder and lightning. Our wedding was planned outside in the compound and we have had to make separate arrangements as everything has been washed out’.

   “Baba just listened and said nothing. He listened to everything but remained non responsive. The next day Sarosh, his son and the bride came to take Baba’s darshan after the wedding. After they took Baba’s darshan, Villoo, Sarosh’s wife said, ‘Baba what did You do, the entire wedding preparations were ruined, it rained so much so much’. (‘Tamay su karyu, lagan nu badhu satyanas thai gayu, varsad etlo paryo etlo paryo’.) So, Baba said that, ‘your son asked for My blessings and I gave him My blessings’. All this while my mum was sitting, listening to a very familiar experience. Then Baba pointed at my mum and said, ‘ask Rhoda, even she had asked for My blessings on her wedding day’.”

   “Wow.”

   “Yes. Truly wow. Mum said that she was absolutely stunned because till that day she had told absolutely nobody about her challenge to Baba. She hadn’t even told my dad or me. So, my mum just sat virtually gaping open mouthed. After a few seconds, Eruch told my mum, ‘chalni, chalni Rhoda, Baba is waiting for you to tell the story’. It was then that she narrated the story.”

    “When did your mother accept Baba?”

   “It took her about five to six years. She accepted Baba as God in human form in 1952. She married my dad in 1945. She told me that, ‘one day I got up in the morning and I felt Baba’s Name surging through my body and I knew it then that He was God in human form’. That was the time when she was actually convinced about Baba. But it took her a good five to six years.”

          “But when you were born, you were named after Baba. How did she accept that, as back in those days, she was not a follower of Baba?”

   “Yes true. She initially didn’t like the name because she felt that it was an old-fashioned name. My dad told her that, ‘I love it, I wouldn’t want any other name for my son’. Surprisingly there was no dispute. In reality it was Baba who named me. When I was born a cable was sent to Baba about my birth and Baba responded back saying
‘My blessings to Rhoda and her son’. Then a day or two later another cable came which stated that, ‘Rhoda’s boy to be named Merwan’. Yes, now when you tell me, it is strange that she didn’t put her foot down regarding this name. Years later, after she became convinced in Baba, she said that, ‘I wouldn’t want any other name for my son other than Merwan’.”

   “What is your first memory of Meher Baba?”

   “My first clear memory was when I saw Him and met Him in 1952 at the Karachi airport, when He was on His way back from America, after He had His first accident. I remember meeting Him then. But I have a far clearer memory of Him, when I had His darshan two years later, in 1954 at Wadia Park, in Ahmednagar. On that day around a hundred thousand people had come for His darshan. There are two or three memories which I have of that day. The first is that because of the crowd Baba was sitting on a dais. The dais was not raised too high and there was a chair on that dais. Because there were so many people Baba sat at the edge of the dais and with both hands was giving prasad to people as they took His darshan. They had to take His darshan super-fast. People just bowed and off they went. They hardly got a second in front of Baba. I remember that scene very clearly. And the other thing I remember was at the end of the darshan, because there were many people, not everybody was able to take His darshan. His secretary, Adi Sr. (Adi K. Irani) had a blue Chevrolet car. I think it was a 1940’s model. It was a huge car, built like a tank. Baba sat on the roof of that car and gave darshan as He was leaving.”

   “There is a photograph of Baba seated on top of the car?”

   “Yes. There are snaps. I think there is a movie of that too. I remember that scene very well. Another thing I remember was that the prasad which Baba gave to everybody was either sugar-coated grams or peanuts. I am not sure but one thing I know is I sure loved that prasad. As a kid I loved that stuff. I was around seven years old. I remember somehow I found my way on the dais where Baba was seated. Baba was busy giving prasad seated in the front and there were all these baskets filled with this delicious sugar-coated stuff and as Baba finished one basket, another was placed near Him. I looked around to make sure that nobody was looking at me and then took a few handfuls of that prasad. Baba in His Grace let me go without any scolding. I guess I was yet too small to be scolded at. Those are the true first memories that I have and they seem to have happened like yesterday. There is another very interesting story that was told to me about that day. We were from the Karachi group. A lot of us had come to India from Karachi.”

          “When did you all come to India to settle down?”

   “I didn’t settle in India. I am now actually settled in Canada. I come to Ahmednagar for six months in a year. I have been doing this since 2005. Anyway, during that darshan programme, we had all got very thirsty. And we did not have water bottles or anything during those times. The concept of bottled water had not arrived for a long time. We were wandering around, hoping if we would get some water to drink. Somebody directed us to go around a particular corner, where there may be some water in a bucket or something. We went and sure enough, there was a bucket of water. We looked at the water. It looked murky. It was not clear water. Somebody commented that, ‘this cannot be drinking water’. But Minoo Kharas who had known Baba the longest from the group said that, ‘the water of Nagar is like this only it is never very pure and clean. This is fine, this is regular water’. I guess we were so thirsty, we all drank it and finished it off. Please note that I don’t remember this incident. It was narrated to me. Anyway, hardly had we drunk the water, when one of Baba’s men mandali came and looked at the bucket and said, ‘there was water in a bucket here’.”  Everybody smiled and somebody said, ‘yes, there sure was water’. So he looked at us and inquired, ‘so where did the water go?’ We said that we drank it. He got all riled up and said, ‘aray re re Baba will be most upset, most annoyed about this’. Somebody from our group inquired as to why would Baba be upset over us drinking water. It turned out that in that programme, Baba had invited two hundred very poor people, who were going to be fed a meal. The rest of the people were to just take darshan and prasad and be off. These poor people who were invited by Baba were not only to be fed food but Baba had washed the feet of some and after washing the feet of the poor Baba instructed that the water should be kept aside. Then it struck us. That water which we all had slurped up was the water used to clean the feet of the poor. Can you imagine in those days, a lot of people didn’t even wear shoes and we all had drunk that water? But thanks to His grace nothing happened to any of us. Nobody even got an upset stomach. So this was one of the stories that were narrated to me.”

   “When did you see Baba next?”

   “After 1954 I saw Baba for a very short period of time in 1958, in Bombay. I think it was the shortest meeting I must have had with Him. You have heard of Arnavaz, right?”

   “Yes.”

   “It was their house in Bombay where Baba used to come and stay often when He was in Bombay. In1958 Baba was going to have a sahvas programme and when the circular for the sahvas programme was released, Baba had made it clear that only those above seventeen or eighteen years were allowed to attend this programme. I was only ten years old. I was most disappointed that I wouldn’t get to meet or see Baba. Somehow may be with the instigation of my mum and dad, I wrote a letter to Baba, that ‘I would like to come for Your darshan’ and this and that and I got a response from Baba, written by Eruch, of course. The letter said that Baba loves all children and this and that but ‘you can’t come with your mum and dad to the programme’. I didn’t say anything. When we went to Bombay, I was going to be dropped off at Panchgani, where mum had some cousins at a boarding school, Billimoria High School.”

   “I studied in Billimoria School.”

   “Oh you were in Billimoria’s?”

   “Yes. Are you talking about Naju and Homai aunty?”

   “Yes, Naju and Homai aunty and Rustom and Burjorji. Rustom and Burjorji were my mum’s first cousins.”

   “They were my principals. I truly miss them.”

   “Oh yes! Really fine people. I was going to be left with them. When we were in Bombay, we had given Baba information that we are coming on so and so date and that we were going to stay at so and so place and that sort of information. One morning at 8 o clock, the phone rang and our host told my dad that ‘Adi, the call is for you’. Dad answered the phone and one of the mandali members was on the other end and he said that, ‘Adi, Baba would like to see Merwan, is that possible?’. So dad said, ‘yes of course it is possible’, thinking that Baba would call me the next day or the day after. But the mandali member told dad, ‘come over by ten today’, which was two hours later. We got ready very quickly and went to Arnavaz’s place. I remember that Arnavaz was on the first floor and they had a staircase from outside that reached the first floor. When we got there, Bhauji was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, saying, ‘come on come on, Baba is waiting for you’, so we started following him up the stairs and he turned to my parents and said, ‘no no not you, Baba just wants to see Merwan’. I went up with him and Baba was seated in the sitting room on a chair, just in His shorts and His hair was left open. I remember that scene so vividly. I do not remember the conversation or anything but I remember seeing Baba seated, wearing a pair of shorts and His hair left open. I am sure Baba must have asked the usual things He would ask a child. ‘How are you? How is school? Are you studying well?’. He normally did that. Then literally after five minutes, Baba said, ‘now go’. So I left. Bhauji took me down the stairs. That was the shortest meeting I have had with Baba. Then ofcourse I got shunted off to Panchgani, while dad and mum went off to the sahvas. Actually my mum and I both went to Panchgani but in a short while she was called to come to Meherabad because Baba said that, ‘a little help is needed here, so call Rhoda’. Mum left to volunteer.

          “We had some great meetings with Baba in the 1960s. The next meeting was in 1960 when Baba was in Guruprasad. He would spend the summers in Guruprasad, Poona as you would probably know, right?”

   “Yes. April to end of June.” 

   “Yes. My mum and dad were absolutely and thoroughly in love with Baba. They hadn’t seen Him for two years, so in 1960, when a circular reached them that Baba is available to meet His lovers every Sunday, during a particular period of weeks, they decided that this was a great opportunity, to meet Baba. It was written that Baba would meet all those who wanted to meet Him every Sunday from ten or ten thirty in the morning for two or two and a half hours. My parents decided to come to India for three weeks, with the intention of meeting Baba atleast thrice. Baba was aware of our travel to Poona by Deccan Queen via Bombay. When we reached Poona and we were unloading our baggage from the train, all of a sudden, we hear someone shout out my father’s name. We look around and see Eruch approaching us. Eruch greeted us and we were all so delighted to see him.” All through our talk, Merwan kept sucking on the sweet to soothe the throat and cleared the throat constantly. “We had never been to Poona. We were booked into a hotel, named Mobos. The building is still there but now unfortunately it is all in shambles. We had no idea of where the hotel was; all that we knew was that the hotel was very close to Guruprasad. Baba had instructed Eruch, when in Poona, he would spend the day with Baba and at night go to Bindra House, and spend the night with his family. Baba had likely told Eruch that day to come and receive us at the station. That was the love and care that Baba had for our family. Eruch took us to Mobos and settled us in. Then he told us that tomorrow being a Sunday, we should come on time for Baba’s darshan. ‘Be on time, don’t be late, infact be early’. Next day we went to Guruprasad, which was a short walking distance from our hotel. There was a small line of devotees waiting for the main hall door to open. At the appointed time, Baba came out, wearing His pink coat and white Sadra. We could see Him coming in the main hall and He sat on His chair and the darshan programme commenced. When our time came for darshan, we bowed down to Him and then Baba asked us the usual questions, ‘did you sleep well?, have you had breakfast properly?, and so on’.

   “He was very particular about every detail?”

   “Yes. He would always inquire about health, work, education. If you met Him for the first time, He would always ask details about the family and life in general.  Then Baba looked at my dad and said, ‘from tomorrow you, Adi, come here to Guruprasad at eight in the morning and then at twelve noon when I go inside to the women’s side for lunch, you go have your lunch and come back by two. Then stay with Me for the rest of the afternoon and at four thirty or so when I go to the women’s side to retire, then you go home’. Baba then looked at my mum and me and said, ‘Rhoda and Merwan should come with you at eight in the morning and they can leave at twelve when I go for lunch’. My parents were overjoyed. We had assumed that we would meet Baba thrice in our entire trip, two and a half hours each time, but now we were going to spend every day with Baba for hours. You must understand that Baba was very strict about everybody following His orders. He was very clear about His seclusion and when to meet people and for how much time. If He were to tell somebody that the meeting would be for five minutes, you should be prepared to leave after five minutes, although at times He would let you stay longer. I was thirteen years old in 1960 and I was a very active little guy. I never liked reading books or sitting at home. I would always be out playing cricket or flying kites with my friends and indulging in all outdoor activities. In the first week itself, sitting in front of Baba every morning, doing nothing, doing really nothing, did not seem to be an ideal way to spend my vacation. I guess I was thoroughly bored.” We both began to laugh. “I told my parents to send me to Panchgani to Billimoria High School and I would spend time with the boarding school boys and play on Table Land plateau….you must know what I am talking about, with you having spent your childhood in that beautiful place.”

   “Yes.”

   “I must have pestered my parents a lot, because eventually they did write a letter to the Billimoria family. Having written that letter, they had no option but to inform Baba. Baba had to be informed of everything. He was very particular that whatever took place in our lives we had to keep Him informed. The next day they informed Baba that I wanted to go to Panchgani and thus they had written a letter to the Billimoria brothers. Baba made a questioning face, expressing, ‘why, he doesn’t like it here?’ ” I began to laugh. The way Merwan imitated Baba was so beautiful that I felt as though it was Baba expressing Himself through sign language. Jimmy Khan too did a perfect replication of Meher Baba. The movement of the hands, fingers, eyes, expressions, so genuinely like Baba. “My parents said ,‘nai Baba, he says that he is bored here’. Baba looked surprised ‘bored?’ I mean He must have been shocked that how can somebody say that he is bored when in front of God Himself. My dad said, ‘Baba he says that there is nothing to do sitting here’. Baba then thought for a few seconds and then in gestures said, ‘do one thing, from tomorrow let him come with Adi in the afternoon also’.” We both began to chuckle.

   “I was stunned. I told myself, ‘aray baap ray, gosh, as though sitting in the morning wasn’t enough, that now I have to sit here all afternoon too’. Little did I realise that being with Baba in the afternoons was completely different.”

   “How so?”

   “In the morning around twenty to thirty people would come to meet Baba. Sometimes the whole mandali hall would get full. Sometimes we had forty people gathered at a time. Baba would talk to them individually or once in a while He would give a discourse, so it would be constant talking with someone or the other. In the afternoons there were only a handful of people, usually not more than ten to twelve people. When Baba came back at two in the afternoon, Eruch would bring the correspondence and sit in his corner and read it to Baba. Baba would give him the response. Eruch knew Baba so well that ninety percent of the times Eruch himself would tell Baba, ‘I will write this to this person and write this to that and Baba would gesture to say ‘haon, yes’. Eruch had been with Baba, interpreting every word of Baba through sign language and attending to His correspondence for so many years, that he knew what Baba’s response would be for most of the mundane issues. Once in a while Baba through gestures would say, ‘no don’t write that, but write this and write this’. After that Eruch would go away to reply to each correspondence.”

   “Then Baba through gestures would ask, ‘anything else, is there any other work?’ If there was, He would deal with that, if not, He would sit and talk through gestures and say, ‘let us play cards, it is time for cards’. You may have heard that He played cards in the afternoon.”

   “Yes Jimmy Khan informed me about Baba’s love for playing cards.”

   “His card game was a unique game. On the first afternoon He told me, ‘do you know how to play this game called la risque, I had never heard of that game before, so I said, ‘nai Baba I don’t know how to play this game’. I used to love playing other card games as a kid. I was good at them too, but I had never heard of this game. Baba said, ‘okay you sit and see how it is played. Then we will see after two or three days, if you have picked up the game, then you can join us’. I said, ‘okay Baba’ and sat by the side. Then Baba told me, ‘don’t only simply sit down, when the game is over and the players throw the cards on the carpet, you pick them up, you shuffle the cards and you deal the cards’. This is how He involved me and slowly diverted my mind from boredom. I began to do as Baba had instructed. The rule was simple. When you dealt the cards, you gave the first set of cards to Baba of course, and then everybody else. For two to three days I observed the game and then Baba through gestures asked me, ‘are you now okay with how the game is played?’ I said, ‘yes Baba, it is a pretty simple game’. He said, ‘good now you join in’. I joined in. What great fun we had during those afternoons.”

   “How was Baba as a card player?”

   “It was a very simple, fun game. There would be a lot of cheating going on. Everybody just wanted to have fun and the whole idea was that Baba enjoyed the game a lot and the object of the game was to let Him relax a bit from the constant pressures which He had, doing His spiritual work. It was a pretty simple game. We would form teams and the losing team would rub their nose on the carpet in front of Baba every time they lost. Baba would quite often say through gestures, ‘you do not know what good fortune you have that you all have the opportunity of rubbing your nose in front of Me’.

   “The other interesting thing that would take place in the afternoons was house visits. Baba had told His close lovers, living in Poona that, ‘I am willing to come to your house for a visit. For afternoon tea, if you want Me to come of course’. As expected, all wanted Baba to come to their homes. I do not remember whether these house visits were once a week or twice a week, but the house visits would be in the afternoon. Whoever was with Baba in the afternoon would accompany Baba. He would normally take two cars filled to its capacity but sometimes if there was a third car that too would be completely packed. If there were just two cars and they got packed then we had to leave behind a few people but on the next visit those who had been left behind would get an opportunity to go along with Baba. Baba made sure that everybody went with Him at some time. Yes, there were always a few from the men mandali who went with Him every time. Eruch, Meherjee and few others would go everywhere with Baba.” He cleared his throat.

   “Do you remember those times well?”

   “I remember those days very clearly. We would go to different people’s homes for tea. The fact that Baba was coming to your house, meant you were going to have the best spread of food available. There would be sweet dishes, sour dishes, savory dishes, all kinds of dishes and spreads available. Everything. We would really have a feast. There were kids present in Baba’s group too. Baba’s nephews Rustom and Sohrab, I too was present,. Baba would tell us all, ‘barabar dabavi nay khajo’, eat till you burst and yes, we sure did eat till we felt we would burst. We would do justice to the food. Of course, understanding that we are a part of Baba’s group, even at that young age, we would behave ourselves. We wouldn’t be rude or obnoxious. We knew that we represented Baba. We would be polite and well behaved, if I can say so myself.” He began to laugh. “Thus afternoons were very different and lots of fun.”

   “You could see that Baba was more relaxed?”

   “Very much, more relaxed. In the morning in Poona He would be in His Sadra, very rarely would He wear His coat when He sat in the side mandali hall. Then when He went to the main mandali hall He might wear a coat. In the afternoons when it was really very hot, He would very often come out just in His shorts. Very relaxed, ekdam relaxed.”

    “But have you seen Him strict or seen Him scolding others?”

   “I have seen Him scolding people. He scolded His mandali. He was very strict with His mandali.  In fact, He has scolded me too.”

   “For what?”

   “Let me narrate to you why he scolded me. As I have told you in 1960, we had planned to stay in Poona for three weeks. But now that we were going every day to meet Baba, we did not want to lose this golden opportunity of spending such quality time with Baba. We were not sure if we would get such a chance ever again. Thus, my mum and dad decided to stay longer in Poona. Dad wasn’t too well off in those days. Our money was running out with all the hotel expenses. There was no chance that we could stay in this same hotel for longer than three weeks. He began to look for a place to stay for all of us. Minoo Kharas’s brother Adel lived in Poona in those days. We explored the possibility of staying with him. Adel was a bit of an eccentric chap but his wife was very nice. His wife was very keen for us to come and stay with them but Adel would sometimes say yes and sometimes no. Baba one day asked my dad, ‘su thayu, what has happened about your stay? Where are you all going to stay after three weeks get over? Has something worked out with Adel?’ He asked dad a few times. As our three weeks were coming to an end, dad decided that if we did not get an alternate accommodation we would have to leave in the next few days. One day, Baba told my father, ‘okay, you do one thing, if Adel refuses, then Adi you come here to Guruprasad and stay with the mandali. Rhoda and Merwan can go to Bindra House and live with Eruch’s family’. As it turned out, Adel agreed and so we stayed with him and his loving family. Now do you know Poona at all?”

   “Yes.”

   “So you know Babajaan’s Dargah?”

   “Yes.”

   “Adel used to live behind Babajaan’s Dargah. The house was located in a very congested area. Every afternoon we would go home for lunch and then I would return back to Baba. The money situation had become very tight. We couldn’t afford taking a rickshaw. Those days they would only let two people sit in one rickshaw. We were three of us, dad, mum and me, so it would have meant hiring two rickshaws, which we could not afford. We decided that we would ride bicycles. Those days we used to get a cycle on hire for a rupee or two for the entire day. We would ride to Guruprasad and back to Adel’s home. One afternoon after lunch, we were going back to Guruprasad and one of those lanes just behind Babajaan’s Dargah, a car came speeding through. It was a small lane, filled with people and the car came at high speed, horn blasting. Dad went on the left of the narrow road and I went to the right side. The car missed me by inches. A crowd gathered. I distinctly remember an old man saying, ‘jao jao abhi jao, Bhagwan ne bachaya’. (Go now, God has saved you.) My dad was a little hot tempered, so he got upset with me, ‘are you mad?, you don’t know how to ride a cycle, you went on the wrong side of the road, you would have almost been killed’, this and that. Anyway, we reached Guruprasad. We went to the side, parked our cycles and went from the side staircase which is closest to the small mandali hall. We took off our shoes, barely put our feet inside and Baba looked at us and pointed to my dad and said, ‘how does Merwan ride his cycle?’

          “Wow.”

   “Yes. My dad was already truly upset with me. He told Baba, ‘this boy rides so rash, he rides so fast, just now while coming here he just missed getting into a big accident and he just got saved’. Baba in gestures asked ‘what happened’? Then Baba looked at me very sternly. He wasn’t really angry but He was annoyed, you could tell. He said, ‘don’t you think I have anything better to do than to keep My nazar on you’. I didn’t say anything. I just stood with my head down. Baba said, ‘from now on your cycling days are over’. But I have seen Him more annoyed with His mandali.”

   “How many weeks did you spend with Meher Baba?”

   “Six to seven beautiful weeks we spent with the Avatar.”

   “After 1960 when did you meet Baba?”

   “I next saw Baba for four days in the East-West Gathering that He had in Poona in November 1962. It was a very brief visit. In 1963, we again came to Poona and met Baba in Guruprasad. This time, from the first day, Baba told us to come in the morning and afternoon. Again, we spent six to seven weeks with Baba. Both the times we stayed until Baba left for Meherazad. I normally would have my exams in early May, so we would come to Poona immediately after that and we stayed right till the end of June. Six to seven weeks both the times we spent with Baba. Then two years later, in 1965, we once again spent six to seven weeks with Baba. By then I was 18 years old.”

   “At that age what did you feel about Meher Baba?”

   “I was always brought up to believe from a young age that He is God in human form and I believed it. You remember I wanted to go to Panchgani as I was getting bored?”

      “Yes, the first time you spent six weeks with Baba?”

      “My parents told me that in 1960 when Baba asked me to come in the afternoon and I began to spend the afternoons with Baba, I truly began to get engrossed in what was going on with Baba, I forgot about Panchgani. They say that was the time when He really caught me in His net. From then on if anyone were to ask me to leave Baba to go to anyplace else, I would point blank refuse, as I wanted to be with Baba.”

   “When you were with Baba in 1965, was it the last time you really spent time with Meher Baba?”

   “Yes.”

   “So how was His interaction with you then?”

   “Yes 1965 was quite different from 1960 and 1963. It struck me more when I read Lord Meher, much later on. At that time, I did not really realise the difference but when I was reading Lord Meher, it drove the point home. Unlike earlier years, there were very few people who came to meet Baba. I couldn’t figure out the reason and I guess I was not too mature to inquire as to the reason. Earlier we would have even forty and more people with Baba. In 1965, there were not more than five to six people in the morning.”

   “Why?”

   “Because Baba was in seclusion. I did not realise that He was in seclusion and we were the fortunate few who got to spend time with Him, even though He was in seclusion. From the first to the sixth of May He had a darshan programme in Poona. On the first He officially opened the Poona Center in 1964. The next five days the programme was held at Guruprasad. I couldn’t make it for this programme, because I had my exams. My mum and dad were present with Baba in India. Baba had informed them that I could join them afterwards and then ‘the three of you can stay till I go to Meherazad’. This last stay with Baba was a very, very different sort of experience with Him. Hardly anybody present and the worst part was that Baba was not in good health. His hip was really giving a lot of problems to the extent that even in the mornings when in previous years He would come to the side mandali hall daily; due to the pain and discomfort He would often give mandali hall a miss. On the odd occasion that He came, there was a special chair made for Him. He would sit on a more upright chair. Thus, often in the mornings He would not come to the mandali hall and we would meet Him and be with Him in His bedroom.

   “At times in the afternoons, there were only four of us. Eruch, Meherjee, my dad and me with Baba in His bedroom. Some people ask me, ‘what did you do during those afternoons?’ and all I can reply is that ‘it was amazing, we never really noticed time going by’. It wasn’t that we just sat silently. There was always something or the other happening. At that time Baba was planning a tour of India. Thus, there were discussions about the trip and He would gesture, ‘who should I take along with Me…where will we go…’ and stuff like that. Even the correspondence was very limited as He was in seclusion. One could contact Baba only if there was an emergency. Despite the fact that He was in seclusion, there was always something or the other that would make time fly by. Thus, every day for six to seven weeks, we spent mornings and afternoons with Baba. My dad would read the paper to Him in the afternoon in His bedroom. It so happened that on that trip, my dad had to leave a couple of weeks before I flew back. So then Baba told me through gestures, ‘chal now since your father isn’t here, you read the paper’. I began to read the paper to Him.”

   “Was there something specific which He liked to be read about?”

   “We would start with the front page. I would read the top column, the main heading, if He wanted to hear more, then He would indicate with His hands for me to go on, otherwise He would gesture, ‘java de’, like that.” I could not help but marvel at the way Merwan imitated Baba. “He wasn’t interested in the local news. Also so and so has passed over or some accident has taken place, or politics, unless it was truly big time international politics. Stuff like the war between India and China held His attention but not the local stuff. Then I would read the international page to Him. In that too if He liked some topic or article then He would indicate, ‘go on, go on’ or else He would gesture to leave it. He enjoyed hearing news about sports. He wanted news about cricket to be read out first. He had great interest in cricket, here too, we wouldn’t read the whole thing to Him, just stuff like score, who won, sometimes we would read half of the column, and Baba would gesture to say, ‘enough now, let it be, java de’.”

   “You would be with Him till what time in the evening?”

   “It depends, usually around four thirty or five. Thus from eight in the morning we would be in Guruprasad till about five in the evening. In the middle from twelve to two, Baba would go to the women’s side to be with them for a little time and to have His lunch with them. After that He would come back. Then we used to get tea at three which Aloba used to make. Even though Baba was with us in the mandali hall, He would gesture to say, ‘go go, have tea, while it is nice and hot’. You couldn’t say ‘nai Baba, You are here’. If you were a tea drinker, you had to go. You just had to obey. If you didn’t drink tea that would be a different matter but everybody drank tea so because He was sitting alone in the hall, we all wanted to come back as fast as possible to be with Him. The tea was piping hot and in the Indian summer, it takes ages for it to cool down. We would pour the tea in the saucer, blow on it to cool it down, and drink the tea as fast as we could and then rush back to be with Baba, who sat alone inside the hall.”

       “How come you weren’t present when Baba dropped His body?”

   “I was in London at that time. I had gone to London to do my C.A. Baba had said I should go to London to do C.A. so I was there. Also, what really had transpired was that before Baba dropped His body, He had sent out an invitation for His darshan programme in 1969. They now call it as The Last Darshan (also known as The Great Darshan). All of us, Baba lovers in Pakistan had agreed to come for the darshan programme. We held Pakistani passports. We had given our word to Baba that we would attend that programme, thus we were certain that we would keep our word. But if we flew down to pay our last respects, we were not sure if we would once again get visas to come down for the darshan programme, that was planned for a few months later. Nobody wanted to break their word to Baba, thus nobody from Pakistan came when He dropped His body. We all came as promised to Baba a few months later. You see, Baba lovers had approached the Indian Consulate in Pakistan. The Consulate chap told us that, ‘yes, I will grant you a visa to travel to India, for you all to pay your last respects to Meher Baba, because we know Meher Baba has passed away, but I cannot guarantee that you will get a visa in April or May or whenever you want it later on’. Nobody wanted to break their word to Baba. Months later, we all came, as had been planned. Thousands of people came from all over the world and from India.”

   “To keep your word.”

   “Yes. We all had given our word. We didn’t want to break our word given to Baba”

   “What went on within you when you got the news that Baba had dropped His body?”

   “Felt most upset for a while. I was quite upset for a while but Baba would time and again tell one and all that never to be upset when somebody passed over. For a day or two I was very upset.”

   “How did your parents take this news? They must have been devastated.”

   “Yes, to a certain extent. But like I have told you Baba had spoken to us a lot about death. Yes, all of us most definitely were going to miss His physical presence but for all other purposes, Baba is always there with us. What I miss the most is His physical presence.”

   “And you feel Him with you even now?”

   “Oh yes. And sometimes, feel His presence very much.”

   “What about Mehera Maa? Did you interact with Her?”

   “No. I rarely saw Mehera. I was always with the men. In 1960 when I was thirteen years old, I guess being a child I must have seen Mehera but from 1963 onwards there was no question of me seeing Mehera. Mehera wouldn’t come in front of any man knowingly. There was one incident. It was in 1965, when Baba didn’t want to come in the mandali hall, normally when His hip was bothering Him a lot. He would stay in His bedroom. He would call us in His bedroom. So, Dr. Goher would come over and say ‘chalo Baba is calling’. We would go inside. I happened to be the first one to get to Baba’s room. I opened the door and Baba’s bed was to the right and opposite the bed there was another door which opened to the women’s side. I opened Baba’s bedroom door and right in front of me, standing at the opposite door, was Mehera. She was doing Her naman, paying Her respects, to Baba before She left for the women’s accommodation. As soon as I saw Mehera I again shut the door. Eruch was behind me and said, ‘chal chal, go inside, why are you closing it?’ I said, ‘Mehera Mai is there’. He said ‘oh ok’. We waited for a while and then we went in. Baba didn’t say anything, He knew that it was a genuine mistake from my side. He had called us and it was a genuine mistake. I knew who Mehera was because I had seen Her at the age of thirteen. There were many men, including men from the mandali, who didn’t even know what Mehera looked like because they had never even seen Her. Quite amazing.”

   “What about your wife? Has she met Baba when He was in the body?”

   “No. She came to Baba after she married me. Hers was also a slow progression.”

   “You spend six months in Meherabad every year?”

   “Yes, we spend six months here since 2005. We come normally in October and we stay till the end of March or something like that.”

   “One last question. Have you had any dreams of Baba after He dropped His body?”

   “Very rarely. Very rarely. I can’t remember now when was the last time that I dreamt of Him. I am not very intuitive. But once in a while even if I get a dream, I wake up the next morning knowing I have dreamt of Baba but for the life of me I cannot remember the dream.” He continued to cough.  Then cleared his throat. “I haven’t dreamt of Baba for a real long time. I miss Him dearly. Especially His physical presence.”

   “I guess there is no substitute for a loving warm hug from Him.”

   “Exactly.”

Be blessed always.

Jai Baba

 

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​​​

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