Happy Birthday to You!
Some of Baba’s old treasures were shown by the Mandali to the lovers. One was an old patched coat, originally black but practically covered with patches of blue and black. Baba had said that this coat was the most sacred of His possessions. He had worn it steadily for eight years from 1921. Referring to the coat, Baba had said, “What it has in it will be revealed after I drop the body. Then thousands of men and women will come to worship it.” Eruch told us that after Baba had stopped wearing this coat, He used to change His clothes frequently, and then would give them away, but these things (coat, sandals and a white sadra) Baba would not part with. The white sadra was worn by Baba when He wore the coat. The sandals were very old and Baba discarded them a couple of years after His silence….
The eighth day, Friday 7th February, (1969) dawned. Lovers were awake from three in the night. This was the last day of the sahavas as Baba’s body was to be interred at 12:15 p.m. The trustees had decided on this issue at a meeting. Coincidentally, it was Baba’s birthday according to the Zoroastrian calendar. Ladies were dressed in fine clothes and seemed quite gay. By 4:30 a.m. all had collected at the Tomb. Eruch and a few others were busy arranging blocks of ice, changing the covers placed over Baba and rearranging roses in the crypt. It was announced that exactly at 5:00 a.m., Baba’s birth time, all should call “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” three times. Eruch said that when Baba was with them physically, He always celebrated His birthday in this simple manner by asking the Mandali to shout “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” at 5:00 a.m.
Mehera, Mani and the women Mandali went inside the Tomb at 4:50 a.m. All stood around the Tomb singing Baba’s name, “Sat Chit Ananda, Paramananda, Meher Baba Vidnyanand.” At exactly 5:00 a.m. all joined in three loud cheers of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” Soon after the women Mandali had garlanded Baba, the doors of the Tomb were opened and they left. The darshan programme started.
On this birthday, the last one in His physical presence, the Mandali recalled the times they used to celebrate Baba’s birthday in the early years at Meherabad. The day would start at 4:30 a.m. Baba would be clad in a new white sadra and chappals (sandals). Over the sadra, there was sure to be a new coloured silk coat such as Baba always wore. Before long, however, Baba would take off the new coat and put on His old, patched but comfortable coat. The gramophone would strike up one of Baba’s favourite tunes or songs. Then would follow, sung by all, “Happy birthday to You.” Baba standing, Mehera would place around His neck a simple garland of flowers from the garden. The traditional fare would be brought to the breakfast table, “rava,” (a sweet preparation made from cream of wheat). Baba would then call everyone to come in turn with her individual plate and He ladled out a lavish portion of “rava,” giving each a look or a smile. Next, the servants were called to come with their plates. Lastly, Baba would call for a large container in which to put the remainder of the “rava,” to take down the hill for the men Mandali. In less than five minutes, however, Baba would be restless to be on the move and down the hill to give His prasad to the men, and Baba was not seen till late afternoon.
Immediately after His return, he would order lunch to be brought in the traditional fare of rice, dal, curd and spiced vegetables. Baba served Himself and His plate was put aside. All came forward with their plates and were served by Baba. After all were served, Baba would begin to eat and all followed suit. Lunch over, Baba sent all to rest for an hour. Tea time, the bell would ring. All assembled in the refectory and saw Baba standing beside a cake — a gift from one of the devotees from Bombay. Baba would cut the cake, giving each a slice, and to the children an extra large slice.
Soon Baba was off again down the hill accompanied by Masi, the gate-keeper, and she ran beside Him with quick steps as she carried the remainder of the cake on a platter and tried to keep pace with Baba, who, umbrella in hand, led the way. Baba would return up the hill tired, but happy, and the day closed with a few spiritual songs on the gramophone. Lastly, arti was performed with lighted camphor, and all sang the song of worship.
How different it was on this day, 7th February, 1969. The darshan programme began at 5:00 a.m. Everyone bowed down at the threshold and looked at their Beloved for the last time. Only group heads and a few others were allowed inside the Tomb. A very few lucky ones got the chance of going down to the crypt and touching Baba. After 7:00 a.m. no one was permitted to enter the Tomb except the two on duty, one at the door and the one fanning Baba. Almost all the women and many men came inside to offer their last service of fanning their Beloved. Each one was given the fan for about two minutes.
After dawn there was a tremendous rush. Newspapers in Poona, Ahmednagar and in other areas had announced that today would be the last darshan and that Baba’s body would be interred at 12:15 p.m., exactly seven days after He dropped His body.
Adi K. Irani, Baba’s secretary and disciple for over four decades, came inside the Tomb at about 9:00 a.m. He sat on the landing of the crypt intently gazing at Baba for whom he had given his all. There was not a sacrifice which he had not made in the cause of His Beloved. His money, his lands, his property, his body, mind and heart all had been sacrificed in His love for Baba. Not only this life but millions of lives he would sacrifice at the feet of Baba. He sat there with his elbow on his thigh and his hand supporting his head while he remained unmindful of the rush of lovers at the door. He was lost in the memories of his past with Baba: the hard work Baba had extracted from him; the fun he had had playing, eating and moving about with Baba; the mast tours on which he had been with Baba; the days when he had heard Baba sing and talk; the days when Baba had taken him on world tours and tours to the West; the days he had spent working, toiling in his office in the cause of Baba. All this and much more came into his mind. Now, he would be deprived of his Beloved’s company, His warm embrace and His smile that would remove the fatigue of days. As all these memories came back to him, his eyes were filled with tears which overflowed from a heart that knows real love. One could see him wiping away those love tears every few minutes. Saying farewell to Baba was especially very poignant after spending so many years with Him.
Some lovers who had heard that Baba’s body had not yet been interred rushed to Ahmednagar and came on the last day. An Irani family was one of them. They came inside the Tomb and the flood-gates of their hearts opened and suffused their eyes with tears. These fortunate ones had a chance to see Baba before He was taken away from our physical sight for all times.
Baba had once said: “My lovers are fortunate to have God in human form in their presence. Just a glance from me can give you all you need. You will be sitting here without any outward change, but you will become what you really are — you have to wait for that moment. That moment is near and for that you have to love me whole-heartedly… In Avataric periods, one does not necessarily have to make the inward journeys by stages. If you have the Grace of the Avatar, He just takes you from where you are to where you should be, where God wants you to be.”…
On the last day someone remembered Mohammed, the mast at Meherabad. He was brought to the Tomb by Padri and Sidhuji. Though bent at his waist, having dug ‘deesh’ all his life, he can stand erect for some time. He stood at the threshold of the Tomb and would not come in even when asked to do so. He said, “Pahile, pahile” meaning “Seen, seen.” He meant he had seen Baba. He then said “Bus, bus” meaning “Enough, enough.” He went back with his guardians to his room.
Kekobad, one of the Mandali, was brought on a chair by four strong men. He had broken his hip and so was unable to walk. Baba had said that Kekobad can see Him continuously all day and night in a small flame. Kekobad repeats Baba’s name 100,000 times daily since many years!
Once, an old lady, completely bent at right angles at her waist, came in. She would put her hand on her forehead to avoid the glare on her eyes so that she could see Baba in the crypt. When asked whether she could see Baba, she just shook her head in the negative. She seemed to have got hypermature cataracts in both eyes! She was led to the landing of the crypt and only after she had sat down there and a torch light focused on Baba’s face, could she see Him. It was then that Eruch told us that she was Valu, an old and faithful devotee of Baba from the early twenties. She was very dear to Baba and though she could not see Baba well, Baba saw her and acknowledged her long, sincere, unselfish and loving services for the Avatar of the Age. Tears came into her eyes as she remembered the years she had spent with Baba. They were tears of love.
“Who weeps for love, he weeps the best;
Who cries for else, he does but jest.”
Thousands came from Ahmednagar and from the nearby villages. All bowed at the threshold, folded their hands and moved on. They left, but the silent inner voice of their loving, aching hearts raised a cry. “When shall we behold that Beloved face again!” Their only solace was Baba’s words, “I am always with you, taking care of you; wherever I am, wherever you are, I am with you helping you.” Those who came received His love in silence.
Baba has said, “Devotees spend their lifetime savings and even risk life itself in pilgrimages to bow down before God in forms sanctified by tradition, and their rewards are according to tradition. But you have journeyed to bow down before God who has taken human form because of love and your reward will be according to your love.”
At 11:20 a.m. all had taken Baba’s darshan. The trustees came in the Tomb and finalised plans. A movie cameraman and his assistant were permitted inside. Exactly at 12:00 noon, Dr. H. Kenmore said the Parvardigar prayer. At 12:15 three loud cheers of “Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!” rang out. The doors of the Tomb were temporarily closed and Baba was covered with a clean sheet. Eruch then removed the ice blocks, passing them on to the Mandali who stood around. These, in turn, passed the blocks to the Westerners who stood outside the Tomb. When all the blocks were removed, the pink cloth round His head was changed for the last time. His hair was brushed, the scarf round His head made tidy, dust particles on His face softly wiped away and new roses adorned Him.
(To be continued…)
Photos: Mohammad the mast, Sidhuji, Kaikobad Dastoor, Valu