Experiences of Shireen Lala with Meher Baba
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
“Who first met Meher Baba in the family? How did this journey begin?”
“My dad, Polly Umrigar, was a cricketer who played for India. The entire team was going to England and along with some high official, they were all in Poona. So, Baba called all of them to meet Him and take His darshan. This darshan was only for the Indian cricket team. Dad, along with the team went and met Baba and dad said that the meeting was divine and wonderful. This is what my mum and dad told me. I have no recollection. Then, they were at the station and Baba sent a message to dad and He told dad that, ‘you will not be the Captain of the Indian cricket team but you will do wonderfully well’. I believe, that particular Indian tour, was my dad’s best tour. I don’t know much about the statistics but he did brilliantly and that tour is considered as my dad’s best performance of his career. The fact, that both the predictions of Baba came true, regarding him not being the Captain but he doing brilliantly well on the tour, sowed the seeds of faith in my dad for Meher Baba.
“Meher Baba had given a message to the Indian Cricket Team on the 2nd of April, 1959. The message is as follows: ‘To — The All-India Cricket Team. In going to England to represent India in the field of sport you have also the unique opportunity of yourselves practicing, and of conveying to the people there, the great spiritual lessons of concentration and love. When you take the field, if you play as eleven men with one heart, each enjoying excellence of performance in another player as he would in himself, whether that player is on your side or on the side of the opposing team, and so eliminating feelings of jealousy, anger and pride which so often mar sport, you will not only be entertaining the spectators, but demonstrating the real spirit of sportsmanship. True sportsmanship is concentrated ability enlivened with appreciation of the performance of others. And when this is
manifested, every one, both players and spectators receive spiritual upliftment as well as good entertainment.
Some of you are “all-rounders”. I am the greatest spiritual “all-rounder” of all times, because I feel equally at home with Saints, Yogis, philosophers and cricketers as well as with so-called sinners and scoundrels. I give you My blessing that in all your actions you show forth the spirit of love.
– Meher Baba “Guruprasad“
24- Bund Road
2nd April 1959’.
“I remember, Rustom Dadachanji uncle was very involved with Meher Baba and if memory serves me right, it was through him, that Baba had called dad and mum to meet Him. All of them went to meet Baba and even my mum fell in love with Him. Please let me make it clear that many people have these dreams of Meher Baba and grand things happen with them in connection with Meher Baba, nothing like that has happened to me. I came to Baba in a very simple and a natural way. I love Him immensely and I know that He is always with me and loves me truly. The way parents take one to the Fire Temple or Church or Temple, my parents took me to Baba. He is our everything. I was apparently two or three years old, when, in Guruprasad, I think I was taken to meet Him. It is wondrous but I still have some memory about that meeting. Call it a memory or a vision, I am not certain but I can yet remember the meeting. It is strange, I know but then that is the working of Meher Baba. If He wants something, then that thing shall happen, no matter what. I have visions or thoughts in my head about the crowd that day, the people, the flowers, the fun, seeing Baba followers and lovers and of course lots of children to play with all the time.
“As years passed, we became a part of the large Baba family and the children bonded. We all grew up together under the watchful eye and all prevailing love of Meher Baba. Our parents became very close and the children became the best of friends. All the children grew up together. We would travel together, all crammed in cars to meet Baba and mum says that she remembers how I would put flowers on Baba’s lap and run away. I think it was just the fun and the loving, very lively grown-ups, the kids and the love, that really got me hooked. I definitely have memories of Baba’s very soft-soft beautiful radiant feet where I would place my head. That feeling still remains with me. All of us touched His feet and they were the softest, most beautiful, shining feet. I would think that how can anyone have such spongy soft feet? He must be an Angel and these feet had to be the feet of God. That was the beginning. My love for Him just grew and grew. From Guruprasad we began to go to Meherabad. All families with elders and kids in car loads and meeting Mehera and the women mandali, are memories which I shall always treasure. What I wouldn’t give to relive those days?”
“Are you still close to your childhood friends?”
“Oh, super close. I love them. Then, as we grew up and became teenagers, by then, Baba had dropped His physical body, we were on our own and every month or two, we would just take an ST bus, go to Meherabad, stay there and it was so very beautiful. Of course, we always went with one chaperon aunty who usually was Arnavaz’s sister, Nergish. Imagine, a bunch of young girls who had grown up with Baba and in His love, who was their only God. It was so enjoyable; spirituality combined with heavenly times. Yes, there was a great longing for Baba but it was also a lot of fun. I remember that I always got very upset when we all had to leave and go back home but it wasn’t all about spirituality. It was also about having a time of our lives. Now, of course, I realise how beautifully Baba was moulding us, slowly but surely, with a lot of happiness and joy but bringing us to His fold and on the path of spirituality. We spent time in Baba’s energy and Meherabad’s vibrations. Just to be around, where He had spent such a long time, itself was so beautiful but for us, it was as natural as breathing. We loved Him but being young, He was like the most beloved family member. The God part would come later, I think, after we grew up. All of us slowly realized that what He truly meant to us and that we were fortunate to be able to spend some time in the presence of God. We spent time with the mandali, whose every moment was devoted to Baba. I feel that happy period was preparing me for life ahead, in the gentlest manner possible. Today, I can’t do without Him. Even in those days, I couldn’t do without Him but as years pass by, my love and longing for Him has only increased. Every bit of my life is Baba. My home may not be decorated with Baba’s photographs and I may not get all these visions and experiences that many people have and talk about but all I know is that for me, Baba is everything. He is there with me every minute of my life.” She halted and then smiled. “Where were we?”
“You were talking about spending days in Meherabad as a teenager.”
“Yes. Meherabad days were the best. You must remember that it was rustic living, there was no electricity, and barely any civilization around. It was stark and beautiful. We stayed in those lovely little cottages, at lower Meherabad. We spent our time playing and talking to the grownups who were our real mentors. My parents would always be around. We always spent the most divine day of silence in Meherabad. What can I say Ruzbeh? Baba was an integral part of my growing up years.”
“What was your interaction with Meher Baba?”
“Just being in His presence was the most important interaction. You see, I was born in 1958 and He dropped His body eleven years later. I remember the Guruprasad days of meeting Baba. I remember the crowds, the flowers, Baba, touching His feet. I can visualize all that stuff but the real memories are about Meherabad and then growing up in His love and spiritual presence.”
“What about Mehera Maa?”
“Oh my God, I adore Her. We would go to Meherazad and sit on that veranda, She would talk and She was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met and She loved us girls. We would dance for Her and make Her smile and play around Her. I loved sitting on the Meherazad veranda and listening to Baba’s stories.”
“Tell me about your dad’s love for Baba?”
“He was hooked from day one. He had full faith in Baba. Everything about him revolved around Baba. Then, at the age of eighty, he got cancer. We had just celebrated his eightieth birthday. Number of cricketers were present. Then, a couple of days later, he fell down and then he was detected with cancer. He always said, ‘Baba has kept me so well and happy for eighty years, now, I am ready to go to Him’. He would tell mum, ‘pack my bags, I am ready to go to Baba’. Eight months later, he passed away. We did all we could. Then, it was decided to stop the chemo. He couldn’t take the chemo. He passed over with Baba in his heart.”
“What about your husband and children? Are they Baba lovers?”
“My husband, Dinyar is not a Baba lover but I feel blessed to be married to him and become a part of his loving family. They are such good people, that for me, they are Baba’s people. Dinyar has never objected of me going to Meherabad or taking the children with me. Now, all my children are in America and they don’t come to India often, but yes, growing up, I took them along. Dinyar would be so sweet, he would say, ‘this might not be my scene Shireen but this is your faith, love and journey and I shall always support you’. He would drop us, pick us up, as he knew what Meher Baba and Meherabad means to me. We travel quite a lot but Meherabad has always been my happy place; my favourite place.”
“Do you often go to Meherabad?”
“I long to go to Meherabad, I don’t go as often as I used to. Baba is around me every single moment. I cannot wake up in the morning without Him. I can’t go to sleep without Him. My room is full of Baba. He is completely with me. I can’t take a step without Him. What I believe is, our growing days with Meher Baba, then at Meherabad with the mandali with all our friends, the Baba family, all that joy and all that love, gave me the strength to cope with life and all that which life had to offer. We have had to deal with a lot. My son got cancer as a child. Now, he is well with Baba’s grace but when he was three years old he had got a tumor and I would have collapsed if I didn’t have Baba to hold on to in my life. We all have to suffer, this is a part of our destiny but you know what Ruzbeh, He gives a cross and He gives the strength to carry it. The staircase of suffering is the path to God. He will give you the cross and some unbelievable strength to go through it. I cannot imagine how I went through those days. Even now, when I think of those days, I get emotional but those days, knowing that Baba is with me all the time, I got the strength to go through that very hard period. I still remember those days. My sons, Jehan was five and Cyrus was three years old. We were on a holiday because Dinyar’s sister lives in Hawaii and Cyrus’s tummy definitely looked a little bigger but we thought that a three-year old is podgy and didn’t give it much attention. We came back home. He was in his little shorts and running around and my dad asked, ‘does Cyrus have gas?’ I said no. My dad looked at Cyrus and said that all is not normal and that his stomach was not in proportion to his body. I didn’t take dad seriously. Then, the next day, my father saw Cyrus running around and he said, ‘if you aren’t taking him to a doctor, I will take him’. He kept telling me to show Cyrus to a doctor, so I relented. There was a tumor growing in my baby. If it wasn’t for my dad, who I believe was guided by Meher Baba, we would have done nothing and who knows it could have got too late. We did the biopsy and I was shattered. For a three-year old to get this cancer and to deal with it was very traumatic for everybody. We were contemplating to take Cyrus abroad for treatment but Naozer Kavrana who is a cancer specialist told us, ‘if it was my child I would do the operation here in India because we have the best doctors and what about post care and what about the support system you all will need for the whole year of chemo?’. There was so much uncertainty, confusion and fear. One day we were driving, rushing from one doctor to another, it was raining heavily and then I saw a big writing on this big double-decker BEST bus and it read, ‘you will never walk alone’. Though it was an advertisement for some rain shoes, to me, it was like Baba telling me that He was there with me and after that I stopped crying and I got much stronger. I get my messages from Baba like this all the time. I just look somewhere when am troubled or I am reading a book and I get my answer. After I read this message, you will not believe how everything fell into place miraculously.”
“How long did it take for Cyrus to be healed?”
“One whole year. Your life halts for that time. Your child goes through surgery and he has a huge scar going from one part of his body to the other. It was a six hour operation and all I did was hold onto my Baba’s picture. I believe the tumor was like a football. It was two and a half kilos. It was unbelievable for a three year old child to be carrying this inside him. Your life halts. Then the chemotherapy began and it was dreadful to see one’s own child go through this but Baba gives you the inner strength to cope with such trauma. Baba gives you the strength. Dinyar, my in-laws and my parents stood by me, rock solid. He gives you the cross Ruzbeh but He gives you the strength to carry it. Today, Cyrus stands at six feet two inches. He got married first in the family. God gives you everything back, a hundred time fold.”
“So he got completely alright in a year’s time?”
“He got alright in a year’s time but you have to be vigilant. You have to keep checking. You first check every month, then you check every six months, then you check after five years. He has only one kidney now, as a kidney had to be removed and I was kind of devastated and worried as to how my boy would live normally with just one kidney and I was praying to Baba and in no time Baba sent solace through my Jeroo aunty. She had come to meet Cyrus and us. I told her about the kidney and she calmly said, ‘till Adi was forty years old, none of us even knew that he was born with only one kidney’. That one statement made me calm down and gave me a lot of solace. So, everyday in my life, Baba is present. If you are down and out, He will send some help here, some help there, guiding everyone, as to what to do. My brother, Fali, as a child had a hole in his heart and Baba would ask my mom to update Him about Fali’s progress, regularly. When He was in the body, He took care of us. When He dropped His body, He continued and still continues to take care of us. Baba would keep tabs on all His followers. To tell you the truth, even now, Baba keeps His nazar on all His lovers.”
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