Experiences of Sam Patel with Meher Baba
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The first recording with Sam Patel didn’t come through at all. I called him up, apologized and he was kind enough to go through the talk again. We met after a few days at the Meher Baba Center in Mumbai.
“Am very happy that this book you are working on and writing is not only a book for those who know Meher Baba but also for a new generation of readers,” Sam spoke softly.
“That is why it is so important that when you speak please speak for those who may have not read a word written on Meher Baba. You may feel that the information you are providing is common knowledge and truly basic, something which all may be aware of but that need not be the case for those reading this book. The most important part of this book is that I would like to bring out the personality of Meher Baba. His likes, dislikes, His peculiarities, His human side and His Godhood. The reader should be able to get the Avatar’s essence without having read any other book on Meher Baba. I hope you will keep this in mind when you narrate your experiences with and about Him.
“Yours is a unique story. Someone who knew Meher Baba, someone who distanced himself from Meher Baba and then someone who embraced Meher Baba again for life.”
“Yes,” began Sam.“I feel very shameful about it all but then one has to go through one’s journey and learn from one’s failing.I normally don’t talk about these things,” he went silent and his eyes teared up.
Most of the people whom I have spoken to about the Avatar, those who have had the grace and opportunity of meeting Meher Baba, always got emotional while talking about Him. Many have cried openly while others have held back their tears. Stories may vary but their emotional attachment and love for Meher Baba always came forth while they spoke and reminisced about their time spent with the Avatar.
“Let’s start with your grandfather.”
“My grandfather lived in a small village called Kundiyana. His name was Kaikashroo Rustomji Patel. We had a family business of tadi and country liquor and any opportunity he would get, he would sneak out and go to the village spiritual gatherings or satsangs near the Temples and take along with him, my young dad and my uncle. He would sit there and enjoy listening to the spiritual talks. He was made of a different mettle all together and passed away at a very young age.”
“How old was he when he passed away?” I inquired.
“Must have been thirty-five or approaching forty. He died from severe pneumonia. That’s what my dad tells me. What has been etched in my mind is that when my grand-father’s mother, brought my grand-father’s wife and his three little kids to meet him, knowing that he would die within hours or days, he turned his face away. He told his mother, his wife and children that, ‘Now let me focus and meditate on God, I don’t want to get involved in worldly things. Let me be detached from all this’. And that’s how he passed over. People who knew him, used to call him ‘Pirmard’, and my father would be called ‘Pirmardkiaulad’. Pirmard means a man of God. I am grateful that I come from this stock of spirituality and I would like to believe that our spiritual journey began with my grand-father.
“My father along with his siblings and mother were brought to Bombay or Mumbai, as there was no school in the town where they formerly lived. My dad’s mom went through a terrible time and being a widow she was ill-treated.”
“How old was your dad when your grand-father passed away?”
“He must have been around fourteen or fifteen years old.”
“Was he the eldest”
“Yes, my dad, Eruch Shaw was the eldest and they come down to Bombay and studied at the Petit Orphanage. Then my dad started doing small odd jobs to keep the home fire burning. But even his main focus was always only on God and spirituality. In those days also he would do his chanting and meditation and stuff like that. My granny told me once that, ‘Your father was that mad that he would wake up at three-thirty or four in the morning and meditate and chant and he always wanted to have a bath before his prayers even though we did not get water that early in the morning’. Those days water supply was limited in Tardeo. Water would come at only specific times in the day. But it seems that whenever my dad woke up and went to have a bath, water would come gushing out and he would have his bath and instantly the tap would dry up. I would like to believe that God provided water to him. These are small things, I know.
“My dad was a very emotional person. Very very emotional person. My uncle Hoshang was the intellectual one though he too was also very spiritually inclined. He would read books on different Masters and study spirituality. His spiritual path was the intellectual one. Both these brothers were seekers. Their journey started as seekers. They would go to Shirdi, they would go to Haji Ali, they would go to Mira Datar. Mira Datar was my grand-father’s connect. And later on, I got to find out in Meherabad that Mira Datar, was a perfect Master. That is the connection we have. If there is any black magic done on anybody, if it cannot be treated anywhere else in the world, if you go to Mira Datar, it can be cured. I have seen it happen, those who are possessed and all that stuff, gets cured there. But well, that’s another story.”
“So how did your dad meet your mother?”
“In Tardeo itself there was a gentleman named Maneck Mehta, who was like a spiritual man, long hair, wore a mala around his neck. He would play the harmonium and sing and give discourses. My father was a very close follower. Apparently, there were a lot of men and women coming to those meetings. Until one day ManeckMehta decided to take his group for Meher Baba’s darshan.”
“Your dad had heard of Meher Baba before?”
“Yes, through Maneck Mehta. I think. I am not too sure. Anyway, the minute my dad and the group went there, my dad fell in love with Meher Baba. Love at first sight. He told Maneck Mehta that, ‘I would like to follow Meher Baba’. You see, until then my dad was jumping around, from one place to another, trying to find a Master. When he saw Meher Baba he realized that he had found his home. Maneck Mehta was very……what should I say, not furious, but was very reluctant to let him go and kept saying, ‘If you want any God, I can give that God to you’, but my father refused saying, ‘I only want Meher Baba and will only follow Him’. ”
“The very first time your dad saw Meher Baba he fell completely in love with Him?”
“Oh yes. Love at first sight and love till eternity and beyond.”
“Meher Baba was in silence then, right?”
“How old was your dad when he met Meher Baba for the first time?”
“He must have been in his late twenties. Now in Maneck Mehta’s group there was a lady, Sunnu Bharucha. She too had gone for Meher Baba’s darshan along with Maneck. After returning from the darshan, she got a dream in which Meher Baba appeared and told her that, ‘I love you very much and you are blessed’, and He told other stuff too and then said, ‘I want you to look after a very dear lover of mine who is not capable of handling himself. Will you do this for me?’ She said, ‘Yes Baba I will try’. Even in her dream she didn’t know who the man was that Meher Baba wanted her to take care off. She asked Meher Baba, ‘Who is this man, I don’t know him’. Baba said, ‘In your next meeting he will be sitting beside you’. That’s where the dream ended.
“The next time when she went for Maneck Mehta’s meeting, two guys were sitting next to her on either side of her. She kept wondering ‘who is this joker whom I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with’ and she came out of the meeting more confused. For hours she pondered as to who was it that she was supposed to take care of for the rest of her life. Again at night Meher Baba appeared. She told Baba, ‘I am confused Baba, one was a bearded fellow, I don’t like him at all. The other one was good (majano hoto)’ and Baba said, ‘that’s the one’. So that is how my mom got friendly with my dad and then they got married. Thus, Meher Baba got my parents together and got them married though not in the physical plane but more in the dream state or Spirit plane as they say nowadays.”
“Did they keep meeting Meher Baba often?”
“They would keep running to Meher Baba whenever they could or were given permission or when the circulars would give an itinerary. As a kid I have always noticed that the minute a circular would arrive by post, my father would jump with joy. Unfortunately, due to financial reasons and family responsibility he could not attend a lot of the programmes or spend a lot of time with the groups who went for fifteen or twenty days and camped where ever Meher Baba called them. He would go once in a while and sometimes to go Guruprasad, the palatial mansion in Pune, where Meher Baba would spend a few months in summer. I have had Baba’s darshan at least three to four times.”
“When was the first time you recollect seeing Him?”
“At Sunderbai Hall.”
“How old were you?”
“Must be twelve.”
“But you must have met Him before that?”
“Dad had not taken you before that?”
“No. this was the first time. I would come to the Center, but meeting Baba in person, this was the first time.”
“But I am sure your dad must have taken when you were very small.”
“I don’t remember. I don’t want to lie about anything.”
“When you saw Him at twelve what did you feel?”
“Just love. Love personified. With Radiance. That smile and everything. Truly very handsome. No photograph does justice to His beauty. He was awesome. We use this word ‘awesome’ for everything nowadays. But He was awesome. I was awe struck. I didn’t get much time with Him though. I was wearing clothes which were very tight for me. Clothes my brother should have worn but I liked those clothes a lot and my brother and I had fought over the clothes which I eventually wore and Baba caressed my face and the look was, ‘You should have given these clothes to your brother’. I always remember this incident and can’t help but laugh. That time I was too young to realise how He had read into the entire situation. Then we sat in the hall, and I remember there were oranges being passed on and I got one and passed it on to my brother. He was in his own world (dhun) and he ate the whole thing with the peel and all. The chap didn’t even peel the blessed fruit. But I have realized that between the two of us, this younger brother if you ask me, is far, far way ahead in terms of following Meher Baba. He doesn’t come to the Center, nor does he come to Meherabad. He doesn’t do any social activities at the Center or anywhere else; nothing. He is a very head strong fellow. His only driving force is to live by Baba’s words. Poor fellow, he has suffered a lot. Faced a lot of setbacks in his life; even till now. But he has always been steadfast in his faith. No matter how much he has suffered, His faith in Meher Baba is rock solid. Whereas I am a bit of the wrangler type. Do this and do that, socialize too. Aspi, my brother, in his first meeting accepted Meher Baba as Prophet Zarathushtra come back. I didn’t. I felt that He is nice and very holy and this and that, but uh….” He stopped talking and smiled.
“You didn’t take Him as an Avatar?”
“Noooooo. I don’t think so. Those days all this Avatar stuff didn’t go down my throat so easily. Any way life went on. I saw changes happening in my dad’s nature and in his life. In the sense, he became very soft hearted and tender to an extent that if there was a love song being played on the radio, he would start weeping. And me being a youngster at that time, I would laugh at him. Kind of ridicule and say, ‘Dad it’s just a bloody song’. He would say, ‘Beta, I compare it to my love for my Lord, Meher Baba. Someday when you grow up and get mature, you will also feel it and realise it’.
Sam got very emotional while speaking about his father’s love for Meher Baba. He contained his tears.
“I guess your dad’s words have come true, haven’t they?”
“Yes. I too get emotional whenever I hear a sad song. Many times, yes. His words came true.”
“Was life hard then financially?”
“Oh yes. Very tough. We had lots and lots and lots of problems in the family, monetary wise. There was no stable income coming through. My dad’s printing press was auctioned off and all sorts of things happened. He took it all with a pinch of salt. He was least affected. It was my mother who was pumping and jumping.”
“How was your mother’s love for Meher Baba?”
“Even for her, He was the Avatar?”
“Oh yes, yes, yes. She had an experience once, when they had just returned back from Maneck Mehta’s meeting. My mother had also started chanting the name of Meher Baba. One morning when she did that and she stood by the window, she saw Seven Faces of Meher Baba all in a row in the sky. She had narrated that to me. She loved Him a lot.”
“How did you take all the financial strain and suffering going on?”
“Well, when I saw my dad literally suffer so much, I was kind of put off, from all these things spiritual. I kept blaming Meher Baba for everything. My logic was that because my dad was His follower all this was happening to him, whereas the rest of the world was having a ball. So, I kind of blamed Meher Baba for all our suffering. My dad never said anything to me, nor forced me and I just drifted away from Baba. Before I moved away from Baba,I had met Baba once at Arnavaz’s place. It’s called Ashyana, at Bridge Candy and then at the East West Gathering. I remember both the times had touched His feet and He blessed me. Nothing special that way.
“As I told you soon after that I became very angry at Him and blamed Him for everything and then just drifted away from Him. Call it the stupidity of youth, jawani ka josh, as we call it, I wanted to have nothing to do with Meher Baba and went back to the Fire Temple and began saying our Zoroastrian prayers. I was spiritually inclined towards God but I had moved away from Meher Baba as I was angry with Him.
“I remember meeting Meher Baba at the East West gathering. Baba wanted His followers from India and abroad to come together. It was His way of bringing the east and west together. He wanted to create a balance between the materialistic attitude of the West and the religious and spiritual attitude of the East. I guess He wanted to create a midway. When we got this news in the family, my mum was overjoyed, she went out and got a new saree, and said, ‘I will wear this, and do this’. She was very excited. My dad went and did the train booking. We went with Hoshang kaka and his family, his two kids, myself and my brother and I remember distinctly going for that darshan in the day time and then it started to get cloudy. After the darshan there was an announcement made by Eruch that Baba says, ‘It is going to start to rain and pour very heavily, so those who have taken darshan in the morning, please do not come back, let the others get the privilege of Baba’s darshan’. The minute that announcement was made, we were standing in the line, my dad just pulled us out, my mum first and then us kids. Hoshang kaka kept looking and said, ‘What are you doing?’. My dad said that, ‘We have had Baba’s darshan and this is Baba’s wish, so we must follow His orders’. My kaka said, ‘Who is going to see. I am going to go ahead and take His darshan again’. My dad took my mum and us, found a place to sit, then he kept moving about, somehow or the other reached near the stage and stood in one corner. My kaka kept moving up in this queue and when his turn came for darshan; Baba was seated on His dais and everybody would bow their heads at His Feet and Baba would watch them and caress them. When my Hoshang kaka’s turn came Baba just turned His face away. Hoshang kaka said something that I still remember. His exact words were, ‘I really felt like a lump of shit’. To make matters worse, my dad who was standing in a far-off corner, weeping away quietly, Baba told Eruch to call him and somehow somebody went and brought dad to Baba and Baba embraced my dad, by then my kaka was pushed out of the queue. So that was my kaka’s lesson in obedience.”
“Meher Baba was big on obedience.”
“Absolutely. Because there is a saying which I learnt later on. Meher Baba insisted that, ‘When you become Mine, I dare not, care not’. But at the same time to allow Him to care for you, you have to obey Him. Because He knows better than you can ever know about yourself.
“Anyway, back to my story of me being angry with Meher Baba. So, this joker Sam Patel drifted away from Baba for almost ten to twelve years. I stopped going to Meher Baba. Even if there was any discussion at home, I never took part in it, never visited the Center, gave all sorts of excuses.”
“And how did your dad take this attitude of yours?”
“The beauty of it was that he would never force us, he would never pull me by the ear and say ‘come on’, he never ever forced me. He would always say, ‘No problem, he will come around’. When you are young and restless, till life doesn’t strike you down you don’t learn and when life trounces you, when dunyana fatka parey, it is then you try to seek solace.”
“How old were you when you got back to Meher Baba?”
“Oh this phase of my madness went on for a while and thus I wasn’t even present when Baba took His samadhi.”
“You had not even gone to Meherabad when Meher Baba took samadhi?”
“No. I was stupid and angry. Imagine I didn’t even go when Baba dropped His body.” His eyes welled up again.
“Your dad had gone when Meher Baba dropped His body?”
“Yes. Mom and dad, both had gone.”
“I just didn’t go.”
“I don’t remember. He must have.”
“Okay so years later what took place that you again gravitated towards Meher Baba?”
“Years later, I was flying with Air India. Out of the blue, my cousin Jimmy said that we are planning to go to Meherabad, would I like to come along with them.”
“I told my cousin that I was not very keen on this Meher Baba business, but I would come along as an outing kind of a thing. All was very hunky dory, until I reached the Samadhi. The moment I entered His Samadhi and I bowed down and then suddenly, for no apparent reason I kept crying and weeping and I couldn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do with myself and something inside told me, that this is where I belong.”
“When did you accept Meher Baba as an Avatar?”
“That very moment. Through my tears and heart break I knew He is the One. He is the Avatar.”
“What was your age then?”
“Late twenties, early thirties. Then, I got interested and started meeting Baba lovers and once in a while dropped in at the Center.”
“How do you feel not being there when Meher Baba was in the body?”
“Truly deep, painful regret. Really a great sense of regret that I have to live with for the rest of my life. If you read Jimmy Khan’s book and his life with Baba, he has had innumerable experiences and meetings with Meher Baba; which I could have had but never had due to my way of thinking. When I sometimes sit down and ponder over it, the conclusion I come to is, may be, I would not have been able to handle being close to Baba without developing a big fat ego. I would have become egoistic knowing that I had met Baba countless times etc., and I am this and I am that. That is not what Baba would want. I think whatever the reason was of throwing me away from Him, this could be one of them. Maybe I was a shallow minded person, who could not have handled things maturely. This is what I feel.”
“At what age did your dad pass away.”
“I was nearly fortyish.”
“He remained steadfast in his love for Meher Baba?”
“When he passed away, you were back with Meher Baba in your heart?”
“Yes. During the last years of his life he saw me with Meher Baba. Yes…”
“That must have made him really happy.”
“Oh yes! But I was still a very immature person. Very hot headed. Months before he passed over, once in anger due to an incident I had spoken to him very rudely. Told him that, ‘You are a very selfish person, and you have neglected us because of your spirituality’. Poor chap, he cried and cried. This was about six or seven months before he passed away. That guilt shall always remain in my heart. That’s how mad I was.” He stopped and sighed and looked lost in the past. After a while he looked at me and gave me a heart broken smile.
“Do your children follow Meher Baba?”
“No. The kids live with their mother in England. Once when they were here in Mumbai and I had taken them to show them who Meher Baba was, but it didn’t go down their throat. May be now they are more anti Baba because their father, who is supposed to be taking care of them is not. Their mother and I have divorced each other and I guess they don’t like Meher Baba because I love Meher Baba. Now I understand what my father must have felt when I drifted away from Meher Baba. But one thing is for sure, if I didn’t have Meher Baba all these years, I would have been on the streets. I was filled with vices. All kinds of muck were within me. It is only He who has got me out of it. Not completely. I am still floating around, but yes am on the path and trying to walk it with all my might and faith.”
“Has Meher Baba ever come into your dreams?”
“Yes. Not of late, but earlier I have had a lot of dreams as well as visions of Meher Baba. And they were very nice, very pleasant. Very reassuring.”
“Do you feel people have incorporated Meher Baba’s philosophy into their lives?”
“Those who are lucky and fortunate enough have, like my brother. I am still trying. I am not completely there yet but trying, what I have understood is that the underlined word or philosophy or whatever you call of Meher Baba is love. Today I am sitting in front of you because of that love. There is nothing to be gained, I don’t want anything from you, except that you are Baba’s creation and because it is Baba’s string of love that binds us together and that is why I am sitting with you sharing my life and my mistakes and it is He who through that love has made us sit down and talk like this.”
“Love, I agree but what about His insistence on obedience?”
“Yes. I feel He has given more emphasis on obedience than love. I am the other way around. I am His very disobedient idiot. And He still loves me.”
“What about Mehera Maa? Have you seen and met Her?”
“Oh of course, lots of times, but didn’t interact much with Her. From far, just said Jai Baba.”
“How was She?”
“Beautiful. Beautiful in all respects that you can ever think of. In terms of physical beauty, one of those rare Persian beauties, very simply dressed…and that glow that She had on Her face…. Very, very……. can’t describe Her beauty and Her love for Baba. Nobody can describe Her love for Baba. Mani aunty, Baba’s sister, I interacted with her a couple of times and She was a different character by herself. She was very joyful, very outgoing, yet very steadfast in Meher Baba. Mehera and Mani their anything and everything was centered around Baba. In fact, this was even for the mandali. Everybody and everything was centered around Meher Baba. This part I like a lot that, after Baba dropped His body, nobody else claimed Baba’s place or said that ‘Baba has put me on the throne now’, none of that happened. And if we went to them, the mandali, as and when we had problems, we would go for advice, they would sit us down, listen to us, council us and everything and then they would say,‘Leave it all to Meher Baba’. They had no cure for you. For them, itwas He who would cure you.”
“What about Eruch?”
“He was a gem. He was Baba’s slave. He was my favourite. I hope I was his favourite too. But there was some kind of connection between us. I have met him many times. All that I have missed out on meeting Meher Baba was made up with Eruch. That much I can say. And He would talk about Meher Baba. Everybody in the mandaliplayed their part. I feel all were equally important. They all had their own mindset, their own idiosyncrasies, like there was Adoba, who was very fiery. Eruch was very calm and all of them had their own unique personality.”
“It is amazing how Meher Baba could manage all of them so beautifully.”
“Oh He, if we can call Him was the best of the management Gurus. He would tap your best talent and put it to good use. And dig up all the rubbish that was lying within you and throw it away. That was His technique. Remember there was a lot of opposition against Meher Baba. There were innumerable controversies surrounding Meher Baba. People would talk such nonsense. Rumours about Meher Baba being a womanizer. How He took women and roamed around with them. He would sometimes take the women mandali along with Him openly. He would sometimes take them for movies too so people would say He is enjoying Himself and having a gala time, and who knows He must be speaking all the time in His own house but in the world He pretends to be in silence…… all sorts of nonsense. People never understood His spiritual stature. And I don’t think that till now I have thoroughly understood what Meher Baba is all about. I can say that He is an Avatar and Lord come back. This I am sure about. What or Who is God and all the spiritual stuff, my little chakli brain cannot fathom all this. And I don’t feel the need of it either.”
I looked around the Center. Photographs of Meher Baba adorned the large room.
“How come there is no Mehera Maa’s photograph in this whole place?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t know. Then somebody might come and ask why is Mani’s photo not there, why is Eruch not there.”
“But Mehera Maa was Baba’s Radha, right?”
“Yes…very much so. Yes, interesting you noticed this. Hmmmm. Baba loved Mehera. I have heard these kind of stories that if a couple wanted a child and if they didn’t have access to Baba very freely, they would go around to Mehera and say that, ‘Please tell Baba to give us a child’ and Baba would not never, but seldom turn Mehera down. He could never not listen to Her request. People used to do these stunts.”
“It was a different world. Living with Baba and the mandali?”
“Of course and the beauty of it all was, that there was no distance, that I am Baba’s sister, or I am Baba’s beloved and this and that…… all sat down together, wore simple clothes, did normal things that everybody does. Yet the focus was on Baba. If the talk somehow drifted to some worldly things…. it would begin with worldly things, but in a few minutes time they would make sure that the whole bloody thing turns around and it would come back to Baba. Baba said this, Baba said that. We went for a movie with Baba and this is what happened.”
“He was very playful also?”
“Mischievous is the word, He was playful but bloody mischievous. And very restless by nature. For Him to sit down and do something…. naaaa…… of course when He went into isolation and all, at that time He was all serious and in one place for long stretches of time. But He didn’t like people sitting with serious faces either. He would say, ‘What have you all come for, a funeral or something? Why are you so silent and down. Be happy’. He would keep announcing this. Even in smaller gatherings He would say that, ‘When you are in My company, sitting with Me, let not any of the worldly thoughts bother you. Because this opportunity doesn’t come frequently’. He would keep insisting on this. There were people who were totally focused on Him. They would not…… my dad for example. He would be so deeply engrossed in Baba that if someone tapped him he would get startled, as though he was coming out from some bloody trance or something like that. I have seen it happen. At the end of the day, the bottom line is everybody got whatever they deserved. My father got what he deserved. My mother got what she deserved, and that’s the way life goes on. My mom had a dream after my father had passed away, that his funeral in the spirt world was taken off in great glory and everybody was glorifying him. We said that Baba must have put him in some good place.”
“Yes, am sure.”
“That man suffered a lot, maximum pain.”
“But unflinching love and faith?”
“Yes, of course, no two doubts about that. Whenever there was a doubt he would correspond with Baba. Not very frequently, as he didn’t want to disturb Baba but only when things would get out of hand. He would write his woes and troubles and Baba would reply back through Eruch and whatever Baba guided was the word of God and he would obey with all his love and faith. No questions asked. Life is about going through all experiences with faith that Baba is with us. He is holding our hand. We must hold on to His daman.”
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