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Recollections of the Last Darshan, May 1969
– From the diary notes of a then-young Baba lover
I first heard about Meher Baba in 1964, and in those early years I kept a diary of my hearing about Meher Baba in the 60's and also the most important event in my life at the time – my first visit to India for Meher Baba’s Darshan in 1969. I thought I would like to share my diary notes from the 1969 Darshan with others and have submitted them to the Meher Baba Australia Newsletter. I have the hope that I may inspire some others who were also at the Darshan to contribute their memories either in writing, photo form, or verbally so that they could be used to compile a commemorative booklet. As far as I know the most comprehensive personal account in print that I have read about an Australian at the 1969 Darshan has been written by John Grant in his book “Practical Spirituality with Meher Baba”. Bill Le Page has written a general account as well. In reading my account the reader should bear in mind that there are times when I refer to the men spending time with the men mandali and the women spending time with the women mandali. Naturally my account can only capture my time with the women mandali. For a very interesting account of the time spent with the men mandali you should read John and Bill’s books.
In November 1968 Meher Baba invited all his lovers worldwide to come to take his Darshan at Guruprasad, Poona, India in 1969 from April to June. This did not mean that we could go to India for all those months to be with Baba. It meant that most of the Australians could go from 10th May to 22nd May 1969. From the moment that Baba announced the Darshan my then-husband Stephen Campbell and myself, and most of our Baba friends worked at a frenzied pace to try and get the money for the airfare. We were all just relatively new to Baba and had not met Baba and this was just the most exciting thing in our lives. We longed to see the Beloved and now we were invited to go to be with him. We were hoping to go and to be with God in human form.
Baba in his Infinite mercy awakened in me many dreams foretelling his Darshan of the following May – I even knew that Joy, Noddy, Stephen, and I would definitely go. I knew how much the fare would be exactly. I knew that the Darshan would be some time around Easter the following year. I knew that something unexpected would happen before the Darshan that would cause everyone great concern.
On Silence Day, 1968 we decided to start saving for Baba’s Darshan. Joy and I could both feel Baba’s announcement of Darshan coming nearer and nearer, and practically each week we would ring Bill and ask him if he had received a letter from Baba yet, or if there was any news about Baba’s Darshan. Finally on 1st November 1968 Baba sent out a circular inviting all his lovers from all over the world to come for Darshan in Poona from 10th April to 10th June 1969.
Baba gave specific instructions that no one should attempt to see him or contact him until the Darshan period.
During those months prior to the Darshan, Baba’s health declined and on 31st January 1969 Baba died. This is referred to as the dropping of his body. There was a lot of confusion amongst us all as to whether we should just get on a plane and go immediately to India for Darshan of Baba while he lay in his tomb. We heard that many others were going. We thought that this would be our only chance to see Baba. I discussed this with Stephen and we looked at our financial situation and decided that we could just manage to pay for the airfare for him to go. We thought he should go immediately for seven days but then word came from the mandali that Baba’s April to June Sahavas was going ahead as planned. We were both very happy then to wait and go according to Baba’s plan. I remembered Baba saying that no one was to contact him or go to India prior to his prescribed time, so I felt that we were obeying Baba. There was some consolation in remembering Baba’s words that he would give his Darshan reclining.
I kept thinking that Baba after all was “not this body.” This was how my mind rationalized my feelings. Fortunately for my heart Baba had given me a dream the night before he dropped the body where I visited him in his tomb and bowed down to him. In my internal world I had gone to a large white tomb under the ground – in the tomb were gathered many women in black. Their heads were bowed down in mourning. There was a feeling of deep love and peace. In the tomb was a white slab and on the slab were beautiful roses and a huge symbol of the fish. The fish was Baba.
After this dream I felt Baba was alive and with us constantly, but financially it still seemed an impossible task to save up enough money for Stephen and I to both get to the Darshan. It seemed that even by working day and night jobs as we were, we could not save enough. It still seemed that of the two of us, only Stephen could go. I prayed constantly to Baba for help.
In February, just before Baba’s birthday, we were robbed and lost all of our valuable things, plus all the work equipment, bank books and passports. For two weeks we were penniless, but I kept praying and began to believe more strongly that I would go. Then, one day I added up all our finances and thought that if we just didn’t have to deduct the rent money from our budget we would have exactly the amount needed for the fare. The very next week we received a letter from our landlord saying that our building had been sold and we had to move out. He apologized and said that as compensation we didn’t have to pay any more rent but would have to move out in about six months time. I was astounded and cried thanks and “Jai Baba!” to dear Beloved Baba.
Arriving in Bombay at 2 AM Sunday, 11th May, 1969
Setting foot on the airplane for India had been a dream come true. Not until we reached Bombay could I actually believe I was there. Everyone was terribly excited. India was alive in our bones and our hearts sang aloud “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” When we set foot on Bombay airport early that Sunday morning, to our surprise we were met with a loud “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” coming from a very enthusiastic group of Bombay Baba lovers who had waited for us. I can remember someone saying that they thought that Jal and Dolly and also Francis Brabazon were amongst the rowdy group. It was a rousing homecoming to our big-hearted Baba family.
As we were not scheduled to go to the Darshan at Guruprasad, Poona until 15th May, we spent our next few days soaking up Baba’s India (as Marge Donaldson put it). Our itinerary had us going to Aurangabad, then Bombay again, and then finally to Poona to Baba’s Darshan.
For a fleeting moment when I first set foot in India I thought, “Mother heart and father wisdom of the universe and this earth, this advent I am home at last.” I felt it was a spiritual homecoming – a pilgrimage of the heart.
Fortunately over the next few days of observation of Indian life, self criticism stepped in and tempered my tendency towards spiritual romanticism. I was disturbed by the suffering I saw in India and was glad Baba had made India his home and had filled his life with love and service. I felt only those who could show such love and service and sacrifice could truly call India their home.
First stop Aurangabad, Monday 11th May
Our plane from Australia had been late to Bombay and as a result we barely got to our hotel and hopped into bed before it was time to get up again and go back to the airport to leave for Aurangabad where some pretty extensive sightseeing had been planned for us, might I add in the height of the Indian summer heat. Some muttered that it was over 40 degrees, some even said 45 degrees.
In Aurangabad we were always running everywhere – our impatience was beginning to stampede. Aurangabad was a very old and very simple Mogul city. All the time I was there I was aware of Baba’s ancient India. Baba’s old men and women souls, his children souls and the way of life, the handcrafts, the work fields, the old shops, and the ancient hustle and bustle of the market place and a new noise – the taxi cab horns and motor rickshaws. And new memories of Baba, such as the mast tours, the New Life and the old life of Baba’s ashrams and hospitals and his treks on foot across India. I looked at the dry, barren, dusty ground and thought of his footsteps on the ancient earth.
I couldn’t help thinking also of the Maharashtrian hero Shivaji and how he prepared the land in a way for Baba’s advent. Some even said that Shivaji was a minor Avataric advent.
On this day we went to the Ellora caves which were incredible in their beauty and art. You could almost see the hands carving beautiful traditional Hindu Gods and stories. Here was a living monument, as they say. It was inspiring to imagine so many souls working for so long at Ellora in mastery to depict the Real.
However, even here in this Divine atmosphere we were still running (us young ones). It was so peaceful and for the older Baba lovers it was quiet and calm (such a difference it was for them), our youth and their age.
Marge and I worshipped Shiva as Baba and gazed at his story so perfectly told in pictures in the caves. Shiva was there in all his forms and his wife Parvati in the Kailash temple. A huge monument carved out of a single piece of stone.
In the Kailash temple, what was timelessness was immersed in the vitality of peace and so many pilgrims’ footsteps could be heard pitter-pattering amongst the echoes of Hindus at prayer. Yet this was the true meaning of peace-- where silence is heard above all sounds because sounds are beautiful harmonic vibrations within the one timeless vibration of silence.
After our visit to the Kailash temple, we all went to the Buddhist temple some distance away. As we walked in, everyone was still. Buddha was so poised, and sat on a lotus throne in what seemed like a ribcage of columns. I felt as if we were inside our own bodies’ ribs – just in the spot in our bodies where our hearts would be. Symbolically we were standing inside our hearts. By standing in that position in that cave we became part of the sculptural scene and we represented our own Buddha nature in our hearts. We sang Arti and, because of the acoustics, our voices echoed from the walls. Buddha smiled a quiet smile.
At the nearby Jain temple, Stephen, Judith Garbett, and I spent a very quiet moment remembering Baba, and Judith said the Parvardigar prayer in a very soft, gentle and loving voice.
Our trip to the Ellora caves was now complete and for the moment I noticed that our youthful impatience had subsided and we returned to the bus much less like a stampeding herd. The bus was to take us back to the hotel.
As we drove across parched countryside dotted with numerous shrines, we seemed to have gone into a reflective state; but the seriousness of the moment was soon changed when we saw some delightful monkeys playing in the trees.
In the afternoon, Mike and Janine and Stephen and myself went to the fort at Daulatabad and climbed to the top. It must have been a mile to the top via hundreds of steps, through cavernous torture chambers, across bridges, over ravines and through booby-trapped narrow pathways. Thousands of brave souls had given their lives in battle in this fort. Finally we reached the summit and the temple which was both Muslim and Hindu. Prayers were being sung and seemed to echo across the skies. We met a Marathi family with whom we communicated in smiles. They were so gentle and slender in posture like young plants. I again remembered Shivaji and his horsemen warriors and his meeting with the masters Tukeram and Ramdas.
Reminiscences of the incredible night at the Bombay Baba Centre
We left Aurangabad early on Tuesday morning (13th May) and flew back to Bombay. All the way back on the plane, and in all subsequent plane trips we passed over the Indian continent, my eyes searched the land below until they nearly fell out. I was just filled with the wonder of India. I never wanted to forget an atom of its beauty. The setting of our beloved jewel, Baba.
We stayed at the West End hotel for one night and that evening some of us visited the Meher Baba Centre in Bombay for an eventful meeting of all Bombay Baba lovers. This gave us a glimpse of the love feast that was to come consisting of our Beloved Babas love and our love for him.
Kishore and the other musicians sang many songs including the Song of the New Life, and we sang the Australian Arti and the Gujarati Arti. The Indian songs were very much like this hymn given to us there at the Centre:
Meher my lord your servant am I
Though I be weak give me courage to die
You are my ideal
All that is real
What can compare with you
Meher my lord may my heart be your shrine
True from myself let it be your design
Burn my desires
Help me aspire
To become perfect in love for you
To become perfect in love for you
Meher my lord whom the worlds cannot hold
How do I come here your love to behold
You who are seeing
My very being
That which in truth is you
Meher my lord my treasure my soul
Strip me of self so that I may behold
Leave me no longings
Save the longing
To become perfect in love for you
To become perfect in love for you
Meher lord make me dust at your feet
Only as dust is surrender complete
Drowned in your ocean
Love makes devotion
Silent in sight of you
Meher my lord your servant am I
Though I be weeping let none hear my cry
Help me rise higher
Help me aspire
To become perfect in love for you
To become perfect in love for you
Still in Bombay, then to Poona, Wednesday 14th May
On Wednesday we had a day sightseeing. I was sick so I stayed in the hotel and rested but the others went to the Elephanta caves and shopping and more sightseeing. That afternoon we left on the plane and flew finally to Poona. Even though these days were unforgettable all were feeling impatient to reach Poona and Guruprasad.
Our arrival in Poona was joyous. We poured out of the plane like a river of love. Dr Donkin and Meherjee and some others were there to greet us and accompanied us to the hotel. As the bus drove past Guruprasad all the mandali, except Mehera I think, were standing at the gates crying out “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” What a homecoming for our dusty journeyed souls-- they leapt!
When we reached the hotel I was taken straight to hospital by Dr Donkin in his incredible car. The drive there was like a dream. He didn’t drive like most people do – he glided. It was like being on magic carpet. I felt about Donkin that at this time in his life he was almost with Baba. There was just a fine veil left that separated him from Baba. He was almost transparent and his eyes were oceans. He was like an elfin lord. He hardly spoke and yet he said everything. He took me to Dr Grant and while he waited for me to be examined he did a sort of soft shoe dance in the corridor of the hospital. When I had seen Dr Grant and had been given a prescription, Dr Donkin looked at it and checked it carefully. He had a quiet word with Stephen about my health and drove us back to the hotel on the magic carpet again. (Like many others who were to come as pilgrims from the West I was ill while I was in India, partly because I arrived exhausted from overwork from trying to save for the airfare, and partly from the usual dysentery and viral infections which we are all so familiar with.)
At Guruprasad finally, Thursday 15th May
On Thursday morning, the first morning of our Darshan, the bus came to take us to Guruprasad. We were told by our bus walla, Jal Dastur, that each day the bus would come to get us to Guruprasad before 9am and collect us to take us back to our hotel before 11am. It was important to start the bus trip with a very loud “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” Jal told us.
However, when we arrived at Guruprasad we all stood speechless at the entrance. The thundering herd stood still. We appeared to me suddenly timid.
Guruprasad was in structure a building which appeared to me like some Indianized Greek temple on top of Mount Olympus. It was one of the homes of the Maharani of Baroda. It was modestly palatial. But at the time I think we were all blind to our surroundings
Eruch and Francis encouraged us to come in. I remember we still all stood there, then very quickly Joy went forward in a confident way like she had been there for years. We all followed in our own time.
Eruch and Francis welcomed us with warm embraces and a hearty “Jai Baba!” Then all the mandali except Mehera embraced us. Pendu was like a giant cuddly bear – I was lost in his embrace, and Bal Natu and Aloba were quiet and reticent but warmly welcomed us with their loving hearts.
Mike and Janine and I met Rano Gayley who seemed to adopt us as her little people (we were all like tiny elfin folk). Francis by contrast called us his Neanderthals. Rano called Mike and Janine her babes in the wood. Joy and I talked to Rano later on for what seemed like lifetimes about art and all the painting she had done for Baba and under Baba’s instructions. She explained each one to us carefully (except the last one at Meherabad which Baba never explained).
We met Nariman and Arnavaz and also Meherjee and Adi. They were all warm and friendly and seemed more wholesome and down to earth than the rest of the mandali, who appeared to me like souls or spirits almost one with the divine ocean in their grief.
Baba was so present among us that it was only now being with the mandali that for that moment I remembered that Baba was not in his physical body. It was striking how it seemed only like yesterday that Baba had dropped his body and here at Guruprasad there was an air of sadness about.
Mani then came and was so overwhelmingly like a happy bird. She kept saying, “Look, Baba children have come home, Baba told us all about you. He said ‘You will see my children’, and you have come, you have come.” The mandali treated all the young and new Baba lovers like beautiful buds on a tree specially planted by Baba, which was watered and cared for by his tears and love.
To the older ones and those who had met Baba before, it was a homecoming of a different order. But it was so evident that we were all one united family.
Inside Guruprasad, Baba was waiting. His presence was indescribable, hours passed in seconds. He was everywhere and we bowed to him in our heart of hearts and in the hearts of all. It was difficult to feel anything else but complete oneness. Love was like a current flowing, and yet not contained in anything – just permeating our beings and everything.
Eruch welcomed us all in a very cheerful manner. I could feel Baba smiling and joking at Eruch’s remarks. The Master’s Prayer was recited and with every line I could feel Baba throughout everything. It was so powerful and gentle. “O Parvardigar” Baba was glowing and radiant and towering.
Then came the beautiful moment when Mehera joined the group with the greeting, “Jai Baba” and the women mandali sang Baba’s Arti, “In Praise of Lord Meher Baba,” like one united exquisite bird soul. It was the most delicate but firm moment and our souls were dancing a soft dance of love with the Beloved. I felt our silent song in reply would go like this:
Beloved God Meher Baba
Thank you for these days
Thank you for bringing
Our souls to your feet
Thank you for your song
In our dear hearts
To you beloved we remain
May your victory always
Be told in our cry
Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai
May we always be your
Accept our love offering
Dear God Baba even though
It is but one tiny grain
May our love, with you
And be your pleasure. Oh most
Beloved one Meher Baba.
Then Francis stood up and began his talk and it did mirror how we all felt. I thought, “His words are our words and his sentiments are our sentiments.”
He opened his talk with something like, “You have come across continents and oceans to bow down to the Beloved in your hearts, and that is a different order of devotion altogether.” He continued his talk and reflected on Baba’s Godman-ness and the elusive loveplay of the Beloved. It was a unique experience hearing and feeling Francis talk, somehow he captured the vastness of Baba’s universal Godness and it seemed to sweep like a great ocean wave across our hearts in some sort of vast swoon, which left one sighing with longing for the Beloved.
After this came the moment for Baba’s Darshan and each bowed to him in a quiet surrender, it was so simple and timeless really. Baba was all there was, and one simply was not there and yet at his feet at the same time. I couldn’t help praising Baba continuously and thinking of him as well. His suffering concerned me greatly – I just kept giving to him and he seemed so much God and yet so much human, very much man and mankind. Yet all the time it was him giving and giving his infinite love.
After the program we visited Baba’s bedroom and the room where he used to give discourses. Then in the afternoon the women visited the women mandali. I will always remember seeing Mehera. She was talking to Judith at the time and I could hear her voice in my heart but my mind couldn’t really register what she was saying. She would talk non-stop mostly and always about Baba unless she was asked a question about something else, but even then her answer always unfolded in a bloom of Baba Baba.
She and Eruch were alike in the way that they seemed like they were Baba or part of Baba; almost him.
As I stood closer to Mehera she said to us all, “Baba is God.” It was incredible. It echoed a million times in my mind and heart and everything seemed to be crying “Baba is God” almost with her voice. Even now I can hear it: “Baba is God, Meher Baba is God.” I will always see her twinkling eyes and hear her voice saying “Baba is God” until my last breath in millions of lives to come. After Mehera’s words, I didn’t hear another word. An hour must have passed.
I have tried to describe Mehera’s beauty a hundred times but it escapes the pen: “She was Baba’s beloved”; “She was the purest soul in the universe”; and “She loves Baba as he should be loved.” But she was as indescribable as Baba is indescribable. Only the language of the heart can speak of their loveliness.
After our time with Mehera we found ourselves in the main hall of Guruprasad. The women mandali had filled us to the brim with their stories, happy and sad, and now the program began with the vibrancy of Mani playing the sitar. We all surprised the women mandali by singing Baba Bhagawan with them. We were lucky that the Bombay Centre women Baba lovers had taught us this song when we stayed in Bombay.
There was joyous laughter as we all shared the surprise and once more there were many more stories told by Mani, Mehera, and Meheru about our beautiful Beloved Baba.
Later that day I visited the Bund Gardens and I felt Baba and Babajan visiting each other and Babajan a fortress of a woman sitting under the tree. I could feel her close to my soul there and at her tomb. It was an awesome feeling. I thought of another special moment under a tree when Baba had gathered his western lovers who had come for the East West gathering. It was sad souls running by his car when he was leaving – their hands outstretched and their hearts crying “Baba Baba Baba”.
I went to the Sassoon Hospital to the room where Baba was born. It was like the manger in Bethlehem – the mother of God and God I. I thought, "Here is where the deliverer of the world was delivered to the world.”
My next stop was to Baba’s childhood home where Jal, Beheram and some family live. We went into Baba’s room there and saw the stone where Baba bashed his head for hours and days. I felt very moved there – I touched the stone and thought it was a cushion, just very soft and gentle. Later I felt a bit strange and Jal gave me a photo of the room and the stone.
The following day at Guruprasad, Friday 16th May
Everyone’s pace had quickened and we all walked into ‘our home’ and took our places before Beloved Baba. Eruch introduced us to the mandali and workers again. Francis and Adi read and we all entertained Baba with songs and skits.
It was an embarrassing moment for Stephen and I as it was our turn to sing a song. We had practiced especially but just at the right moment Eruch had stepped forward and quietly said to us, “Don’t be nervous, only Baba can hear you.”
This time when we went to Guruprasad, apart from attending the program we women went to spend time again with the women mandali. We all sat around on their beds and Mehera got out her suitcase full of all sorts of letters, photos and trinkets, and Baba’s hair.
She gave us all a bit of Baba’s hair and she passed around the letters and photos sent to her by Baba lovers from all over the world. She told us many stories about experiences Baba lovers had had surrounding Baba’s dropping of his physical body. She was always remembering Baba’s dropping of his body and her grief was unimaginable at that moment, but then she would laugh when she saw a funny photo of Baba or was asked to tell us stories of the riotous plays they performed for Baba. She said when she first met Baba he asked her to sing a song. She was only sixteen and the only song she could remember was Swanee, so she sang that to Baba and he remembered it.
It was at one of those meetings with the women that one of the women mandali brought Joan Bruford over to Mehera and said quietly, “Mehera, Joan has a story to tell you.” Mehera beckoned for us all to gather around. Joan spoke in a very clear voice so we all could hear. She said that on the preceding days just before Baba dropped his body she was walking on the track at Avatar’s Abode that goes between her house and the chook pen and she saw Baba standing in front of her. She said it seemed perfectly natural; then she got distracted by something and when she looked back Baba had gone. The next day when she went to the chook pen the same thing happened. On the third day she saw Baba there again in the same spot but this time she just kept eyes fixed steadfastly on Baba and she was particularly transfixed by his beauty. When she looked down at her own body she saw that it was only a skeleton. Mehera seemed to love the story and then related even more stories about lovers who had seen Baba just before he had dropped the body.
It was at this meeting that one of the women mandali (I can’t remember who) told me about the last hours of Baba’s physical life:
It was an unforgettable feeling of pain and suffering, and utter hopelessness and helplessness as the mandali worked day and night to relieve Baba’s intense pain. His spasms grew worse and worse and the men worked continuously massaging his body and mopping his brow. Baba had been calling his workers from all over India and giving them instructions. He gave out the three Hafiz quotes to the mandali. Mani had to write the family letters about birds chirping at Meherazad while Beloved Godman was being torn to pieces.
When I heard this, my heart felt like a wringer and every bit of my love was gone into reliving Baba’s pain. They must have all felt so helpless and yet the women said they really expected Baba to recover. Baba got worse and worse. It was agonizing – eventually Baba was persuaded to groan a little to ease the pain, but finally he dropped his body.
Mehera told us that she cried, “Baba come back, you are God!” But Baba’s physical body was now an empty house. After this Mehera’s grief was immeasurable. Almost immediately the tireless Eruch began to work. All the mandali, one by one, began to work to continue preparations for the huge crowds that would come to pay homage to the Beloved in the tomb on Meherabad hill. Also subsequently for the `69 Darshan which they realized must continue as Baba had promised to give his Darshan reclining.
In those last seven days Eruch worked like a giant amongst men, said Francis who himself had felt half stunned and like an automaton: “Eruch was something else.” And so were Mehera and the women who visited Baba’s tomb everyday. Mani said simply about Baba, “He is the slave of his lovers’ love.”
Another day with the Beloved, Saturday 17th May
This day we were welcomed by Eruch again and we took our places on the floor of Guruprasad to be part of the program. Eruch read the Australian Arti which was written by Francis. The Le Page young girls and Joy sang it very sweetly. There were more jokes and singing. Then we returned to the hotel and rested. Some went shopping in Poona.
At about 5pm Stephen went with the men to spend time with the men mandali and Eruch told them many stories with Francis and John Bruford adding bits.
When the men came back to the hotel they met the women and we all went to the Poona Meher Baba Centre and saw some films and met the Baba lovers there, and also went to Baba’s room there.
The Poona Centre was full of people, a beautiful meeting of easterners and westerners offering love songs to Baba. The Beloved’s eyes were shining and star glancing. The Arti was sung. The atmosphere was incredible with all the lights out and just candles lit around Baba’s photo. Madhusudan and his family sang in such a way that cannot be described, only experienced, and to add to the heaven on earth there also seemed to be lots of little children singing who sounded like little tinkling bells. The whole hall was singing and ringing out loud. I felt the love would break the walls and lift the ceiling off. I felt like the voices would reduce the building to rubble and we would be left singing in a heap of dust. At last a cry of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” – we were filled to the brim with love and we went back to our hotels.
Next day off to Meherabad and Meherazad, Sunday 18th May
We arrived at Meherabad hill and took darshan at Baba’s tomb. At some stage I walked around Baba’s tomb and stopped at the four signs of the world religions and also outside the window where Baba used to sit when he was in seclusion. I also went to the graves of Baba’s mother, father, Nonny, Nadine, Norina and Baba’s pets. Baba’s tomb was still and very quiet and sort of Beyond Beyond state of God and yet it was as if Baba was standing there as well. We all took darshan and I think we all felt an emotion that has never been named. Baba’s tomb was so living but impossible to describe. It was inconceivable to the mind absolutely.
After taking Baba’s darshan we all sat in the tomb and sang Francis’ song “Rest Beloved”. It was soul stirring – I could feel my soul moving as if it were waking from a long sleep. I just gave Baba all, and all I could think about was something as beautiful and soft as rose petals and as fragrant as something intangible and delicate and exquisite. Something you almost catch in the summer breeze.
We all left the tomb and went to the room where Baba stayed (it now contains a stretcher from the ambulance that carried him). The room was made of soft light coloured wood and was very Spartan, yet warm and sunny.
We visited the water tank which had been converted to a sort of museum containing Baba’s bike, photos, paintings, all sorts of garlands and crowns, his sandals, some clothes, fingernails, toenails and hair.
One photo that struck me was the one of Gustadji and Baba, and also the painting of Rano’s which Baba had her paint exactly as he described but never explained the meaning. As I stood before it a voice seemed to rise within me and unveiled the whole meaning of every part of it. It was as if a voice inspired a perception but as my mind tried to grasp it, whatever the perception was faded. It was mysterious like something only my inner self was supposed to know. Some kind of knowledge, something vast. I felt like I was swept away by some giant hand and then put back in the same place.
After lunch we left upper Meherabad but I must say lunch was really good. Eating where Baba had eaten. One thing that happened at upper Meherabad was due to the fortunate occurrence of me being small. I have noticed that small people gather together at places at the same time and what I found was because the women mandali were also small I was always bumping into them somewhere about, and this time I had the fortune of bumping into Mansari. But before I continue that story I must say I did have my small theory confirmed by Francis who was also small and he said, “Yes I have noticed that. I have the same experience of bumping into small people gathering too.”
So there I was standing small somewhere when a very tiny little Indian lady came and stood small next to me. She very quietly said that she had been asked by Baba to take care of the tomb and live at upper Meherabad. She said prior to that she used to walk 15 miles to Meherabad on Baba’s birthday. Now she decorates Baba’s tomb each day. She said she prefers to use pink roses and if there are any visitors staying she allows them to decorate Baba’s tomb. She told me how Baba had given her the name Mansari. She offered me a drink of water and I had a drink.
We all went down to lower Meherabad where I thought things were really sparse and manly. At lower Meherabad I could imagine Baba working with the men mandali and playing La Risqué and Seven Tiles. The sweat would be pouring off him and he would pat the men on the back while discoursing and joking.
There were various little huts where Baba spent time in seclusion. The big meeting hall there had walls decked with photos of Baba and I sat there for quite a while thinking of the New Life. Joy and I walked around and looked a tiny table-cabin that resembled a very large table with a box-like room underneath. Baba wrote what was referred to as ‘the book’ in this tiny space that was almost like a dog kennel. It was timeless, dark, poky, but simple. It was confined.
The time had come for us all to meet Mohammed the mast. Mohammed was so incredible. He had journeyed through ages and ages, you could feel his longing, his eyes went right through you to within you. I felt like I was looking at him from across time and space. I felt he was an incredible sort of French person and I kept thinking of him saying “Dada is gone but he will come back.” I could only think of him saying “Dada Dada” in a French sort of way. Mohammed was old and bent with an awesome look like Babajan or Narayan Maharaj but at the same time he also looked like an innocent child. It was obvious that we knew him and he knew us and he would remember us for all time to come.
Something strange happened with Mohammed too! Joy gave him her scarf. It was really the only thing any of us had given him that wasn’t edible and that he could keep. Padri said to him, “You don’t need that”, but Mohammed said firmly, “She had plenty of scarves and I need this one”.
Mike also had a funny thing happen with Mohammed. Mike had a banana hidden under his arm and Mohammed kept pointing at Mike and Mike appeared not to know what Mohammed wanted. When Mike pulled out the banana we all laughed. Roy Hayes tape recorded our meeting with Mohammed.
After our visit to Meherabad we visited Meherazad. Compared to Meherabad it was a truly beautiful paradise with trees and gardens and the picturesque Seclusion Hill in the distance. Baba lived there as well as the women and men mandali in separate quarters. Francis had been living in India for ten years with Baba after his time in Australia at Meher House and Avatar’s Abode. He seemed tickled pink to show us his room in Meherazad. He told us that he used to write his poetry with blotting paper under his arms to absorb the sweat. He always got so little sleep he said because of the electric generator. However when the electric generator was done away with he fared no better because one of the mandali in the next room was an astoundingly loud snorer.
He told us a story about a mast who used to come and stand on the veranda and when Francis came by he would start saying A B C very slowly and then DEFG very quickly and would continue this way until the entire alphabet was completed. After our visit to Francis’s room we went to Eruch’s and Kaka’s rooms.
We all sat down in Baba’s discourse room and crowded around his chair as close as we could. Then we saw the New Life caravan and the Blue Bus. They were very small. Mani and Meheru had filled our heads with so many stories of the New Life and Blue Bus tours that I felt like they had only happened yesterday. The stories were so vivid it was easy to imagine the mandali and Baba in the Blue Bus all jam packed with the animals and luggage plus old men with beards and any manner of people Baba picked up along the way. I remember that Eruch and Baidul had to get out and walk one time because there was no more room.
Baba’s room at Meherazad was very soft and pinkish like a rose. It was very restful, cool and delicate and not at all a Spartan atmosphere like Meherabad. The women mandali had made the curtains and bedcover of rose design material and they had made cushions of soft pink material. There were all sorts of knick-knacks on the dressers and cupboards. Altogether it was very homely and comfortable.
Baba’s clothes were laid out for us to see. The pink jacket and the blue jacket and sadra and sandals. It was very lovely. I could feel Baba’s presence there and I could feel Baba’s nazar upon us in a loving way. I understood that there was a place for work with Baba but there was also a place to make homely.
It was sad leaving these little oases in the desert. No matter whether we were at Meherabad or Meherazad all the buildings and their surrounds glowed with Baba. I wondered if I would ever visit these places again but I could feel that experiences with Baba are infinite and will always be with us.
We returned from Meherabad and Meherazad to the Ahmednagar Baba Centre and we were all so tired and exhausted I was not sure how we were going to make the next leg of the journey. We saw Upasni Maharaj’s room where he proclaimed Baba to be God but I hardly remember it. Thank God Adi came up with an abundant amount of energy that seemed to revitalize us into a state of happiness. In the hall at Ahmednagar he seemed to entertain us for hours with ghazals which he sang and translated. It was a bit embarrassing that we were all too tired to sing but fortunately the Luck brothers from USA turned up and sang instead.
We all left Ahmednagar tired and happy and the bus sped off to the resounding cry of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!”
Back in Poona the next few days were a blur (Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th May)
We were now back in Poona. So much happened that I got the days mixed up. One day I remember I was sick and was lying in Guruprasad on the Maharani’s bed in a room just off the side of the main hall. From there I could still watch the day’s program. The men mandali were nearby in a room watching the Australians perform. It was so beautiful to hear them laughing and joking amongst themselves and yelling “Jai Baba” to those who entertained.
The same day I remember Dr Goher walking like some sort of goddess on Mt Olympus through Guruprasad. Later I remember her coming up to myself and Janine and enquiring about our health. She touched my lips and said I was dehydrated. The next moment she came back and placed a glass of lemonade in my hand. I smiled thankfully. Goher gave Janine and I instructions about our diet. She was so thoughtful and considerate that she especially came to our hotel to see Joan Le Page and Beth Buchanan when they were ill and could not go on the Meherabad trip.
All the mandali were so thoughtful and aware of our needs. They had courteousness like knights and ladies of King Arthur’s round table. All the time you were with them you grew more and more responsive to the real self in each other, and responded with more and more love and care.
One day, I can’t remember which of the days we were at Guruprasad, we saw five men from Andhra entertaining Baba. They performed for about one and a half hours. One man played the harmonium and one played the tabla while the other three sang the life story of Baba. The performance was unique in the way it was done because one man told another man about Baba while the third interjected with his doubts about whether Baba was really God. It reminded me of the Book of Job and I realized that so much of the Old Testament of the Bible we see as dry was originally not dry at all but was sung or acted out orally, and it only became dry when we wrote it down. The Indian Baba lovers at all the Baba centres seemed to have music in their blood and in fact in their whole beings. Their souls would just sing out in ecstasy to Baba.
The last day we went to Guruprasad some of the Indian lovers came and sang to Baba. They were a family who Baba had visited at their home. The whole family were dancers, even the little ones. The two year olds performed a very simple dance and sang a song called Chocolates. The older girls all under eleven years danced more complicated dances, for example Radha playing the flute to Lord Krishna. There was also a beautiful talented girl who was called Mira. Mehera said Baba called her his star, this girl danced a dance depicting Mira’s love for Lord Krishna. All the dancing was so alive and the children seemed to have wings on their feet. They wore very colourful costumes which made the performance dazzling and our souls got carried away dancing with them to Baba.
After taking Baba’s darshan it was time to leave Guruprasad and the feet of the Master Beloved Baba for perhaps he only knows how long. We were getting ready to be sad about this when we learnt that we women were to come back the next day. The women mandali had conspired together and convinced Eruch and Francis to let us come back the next day for lunch.
Mehera herself with the help of the other women mandali prepared Baba’s favourite dishes and offered us to join them for lunch. Who could say no to that, especially Eruch with his love for food and dear Francis with his love for our dear Australian souls, and especially Baba could not say no with his love for us all. So it was announced by Eruch that we could return the next day for lunch. We were jubilant.
Definitely the last day at Guruprasad, Wednesday 21st May
The last day at Guruprasad was a very happy one. We women were invited to eat in the kitchen with the women mandali and all the others ate in the main hall. The women except Mehera and the Shantidevi Maharani of Baroda were like excited schoolgirls at a picnic, and so were we. The mandali had prepared Wadi and various blown grains and nuts and mangoes and Baba’s most favourite dish which was like a round vegetable ball in batter with a sweet hot sauce for dipping. It was really wonderful all sitting around the table eating and laughing. Mani and Naja were telling all sorts of stories about cooking for Baba and the men mandali. Everyone was so happy. We had the most beautiful mangoes and, well, it was all really the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. Soul food. Naja explained to me in great detail how to cook Wadi, but do you think I could remember? It was so difficult to concentrate at the time with all the joking and laughing.
That time Mehera told us how she looked after the garden for Baba at Meherazad. She said a man used to come every day and fill the birdbath with water and the mandali had to check if it was done. One day Baba suddenly asked if the birdbath was full of water. Mehera said that was the very day that the man had not come and also that no one had checked. The birdbath was empty. Baba was displeased, said Mehera with a sorry look on her face.
Just before we left Guruprasad Mani gave Joy and I a copy of Baba’s Arti.
Hours and days had passed so quickly and none of us wanted to leave Guruprasad and Poona. Our hearts were so full of love and the mandali bid us farewell to the cry of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” They all said, “Take Baba’s love with you to Australia. Take him in your hearts and give his love to all.” We left Poona on 21st May to fly to Bombay at about 6pm.
It wasn’t long before we left Bombay airport with a farewell from the Bombay Baba lovers and there is one last thing that I had almost forgotten. We all sang to them while we waited on the tarmac. They were on the departure deck above us and they all joined us singing too.
Then in one voice we all cried “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” and then we left.