THE NEW LIFE BEGINS
Meheru and Mehera with Don Stevens
Don: Meheru, may I ask you a little more about showing any moods during the New Life? Eruch told two or three stories about the complications experienced in this regard, especially one about Daulat Singh. He was sent home by Baba because one day he gave way to tears in front of Baba. His daughter was getting married and he was swept up by emotion. Because of this Baba made him go back to his family, but he was to live the New Life there. It was an interesting story. Were there any similar flare-ups of moods or of strong emotions amongst the women which had to be dealt with in the New Life?
Meheru: No, not that I remember, But when Naja and others had to come and stay with Baba, they weren't to mention anything about what the others were doing in the old life.
Don: Oh, so Naja and perhaps one or two others who were not accompanying Baba were allowed to come?
Meheru: Naja came, and later on Rano and Kitty.
Don: For visits?
Meheru: For a period Baba kept Naja, and then she was sent back and Kitty and Rano came for a period. Naja was a little upset that she might be sent away, and she said, 'Oh, Kitty and Rano have jobs.' Baba was very disturbed and he said, 'You've broken my order by even mentioning this.' But then Baba forgave her and said, 'It's not to happen again.'
Don: In domestic life during the New Life, were there problems when you were carrying out your duties? Suddenly you might become annoyed with Mani, or Mani might become annoyed with Goher? Were there little problems like that where you had to be careful they didn't come to Baba's attention?
Meheru: Well, little irritations. There was nothing serious.
Don: But little irritations? They did not disturb Baba?
Meheru: No, nothing really. We tried to do our best.
Don: Provided you got anything out of your systems before he came back, it was all right?
Meheru: No. It was not at all like that.
Don: But you could be angry with each other away from Baba?
Meheru: No. It was not so. We always had to watch our mood. It was Baba's order. We avoided disagreement. We tried to obey Baba one hundred per cent.
Don: So there were no big problems that cropped up amongst the women in their daily life?
Meheru: We were always very united and loving towards each other. It was the New Life, and we had promised Baba, so if by mistake things started to go badly, we would remind each other.
Don: Even when you were terribly tired, still you had a sense of unity?
Meheru: Always, because in the New Life, when we stopped we were very tired from walking along the road. You see, when we were on the way we would long for a place to camp, and it would still be miles away. We'd be walking and walking, and at last we would get to the place. It was usually a nice orchard with a well and water. As soon as we camped our caravan was brought to us. It was meant for us women, and all our belongings were inside with Baba's things and the household utensils they had to be enamel and tin so they would not break, not glass or crockery. Anyway, we were happy to get to our destination, relax and wash our feet and hands. By that time, before we realized it, invariably there was a crowd of people around us, so we could not relax. We were like a circus come to town.
Don: People from the neighborhood would come around through curiosity?
Meheru: Yes. Though we might be far from the nearest village, somehow these people would get the news and nearly the whole village would come and crowd around. You can imagine it! How can you relax or feel at home, yet you must not get angry with them. We were tired. We wanted to relax, to wash our feet. We wanted to attend to nature. We wanted to put the mats on the ground for resting. We wanted to draw water for our needs. There was much to do and yet here was this crowd watching us. We felt like saying, now go away. But all the people were smiling, and we had to smile.
They would want to see the caravan. 'What new kind of carriage is this? It looks like a bus and the wheels are like a motor car, and yet bullocks are drawing it, not even horses.' They were very surprised. They had never seen anything like that. They would all bend down and look at the wheels, here and there, inspecting everything. Then they would stand round smiling very happily. They had never seen people like us in that part of India. They were all Hindus.
Don: Yes, probably very few Parsis in those areas.
Mehera: None at all. And we were wearing a new kind of attire. The mandali were all in white robes with green turbans looking like some sort of regiment. The villagers couldn't make out who we were, so they would ask, and we would tell them we were going to Haridwar. Then they would feel very happy. 'Oh, you are going on a pilgrimage to Haridwar?' And they were greatly impressed.
Don: Baba had already told you that Haridwar would be the destination?
Mehera: Yes. And Baba did take us to Haridwar.
Don: You were saying that when you would come to the orchard with the well and you would want to rest and do the things that were necessary, the people would come crowding round. What was Baba doing then?
Mehera: Baba always kept more to the area with the men mandali, because all the important activity was taking place there, such as feeding the animals and so on.
Don: And the men were away from the crowd?
Mehera: You see, the orchard would be very big. We would be in one part of the orchard and the bullock carts and the camel cart and the white horse and the two little donkeys and all that retinue was taken to the other side with the men mandali. Before they could relax they had to prepare a meal for the animals. If there wasn't the right kind of fodder to be had, they had to chop something up.
Meheru: They cared for the animals before themselves. But the crowd would usually divide, some going there first, and after they'd seen enough, they'd come and watch what we were doing. They tried to make out who we were.
Mehera: Baidul and others I don't know who they were, because we couldn't see them would chop up the sugar cane tops. After they had given the food to the animals, they had to bring them drinking water and make them comfortable. Only then could the mandali attend to themselves. It was very hard on them.
Don: So Baba would be with the men while they were tending the animals, and meanwhile all those curious people were about. Wasn't Baba irritated with them, didn't he try to shoo them away?
Mehera: No, no. And Kakaji would be cooking for us, and Baba would watch Kakaji Baba was interested in all our activities.
Don: So all the cooking was done in the men's camp by Kaka, and the food would be brought over to you?
Mehera: Yes. There was a large quantity of food to be cooked. Baba gave it to the men to do because there were many men mandali but just four of us women. There was never running water. It had to be brought from a well. The men would bring it for us halfway to Goher, and Goher would bring it on in two little pails and put it in the samovar. Then we would all wash our faces and hands and make ready for Baba's tea, but there was always the crowd standing about, men and women, young and old, all standing around in a big circle watching us. We didn't know what to do. We couldn't feel at home because there were so many people watching us. What to do? We would say to them, 'Now we are going to have tea. Our tea is going to come.'
'Oh yes, oh good, yes, have tea,' they would reply, and they would remain standing there to watch us drink our tea. When the tea came we would think, if Baba comes, how uncomfortable he will feel with such a crowd watching.
Then Goher would say to them, but without getting angry or irritated or speaking tersely, 'Namaste, namaste,' just as we would say, 'Jai Baba.' It means 'greetings.' So she would say, 'Namaste, now you must go. Our men mandali are there. All the men should go to the men. It's all right if the women stay. We are all women here. What is there for the men to stand around here for?'
So the men would agree, 'Ah, yes, that is true,' and they would all walk off. It was good that we thought of that idea. After that, whenever the village men came round, we let them stay for a few minutes to see the caravan and then told them to go to the men mandali's side. The women stayed around us, wanting to talk to us about this and that. Of course we were not in the mood to talk. We wanted to rest and have tea because we'd been walking since morning. It was very funny, I can tell you, with so many people coming and going. It was very inconvenient not to have a private place, even to do one's private business. It was very uncomfortable, but we could not get upset with them, you know.
Don: Mehera, did this last during all of the New Life, all these people crowding around whenever you stopped?
Mehera: As long as we were walking, yes, till Najibabad, which is not very far from Dehra Dun. It was so cold for us, too. We had never had to tolerate so much cold in winter. Going towards the north is going towards the Himalayas, and the Himalayas then were covered with snow. You could see the snowcapped mountains from certain points as we went further north. It was so cold that Baba gave us women the caravan to sleep in. There were three benches in it, like three seats, and we longed to go inside because it was so cold outside. As it grew dusk there were stars in the sky and the outlines of the trees, but no roof over our heads. We would wait out in the open until it was dark and time to go to bed, then when we got inside the caravan we would shut the windows and pull the curtains down, leaving a slight crack for fresh air, and settle down for the night.
When Goher came she was the fourth, and as she had no seat to sleep on she had to lie on the floor. But she was quite happy as long as she was under a roof and warm. The mandali were not warm. Many of them could not sleep at all because it was so cold under the stars. It rained sometimes. When they could not get warm some would stand and stamp their feet or try to get a fire going. But you see, it was Baba who gave them the strength and also the help to go through with the New Life. He sustained us all.
Meheru: Back to the very first day of the New Life, early on October 16th, while it was still dark, the car driven by Sarosh came to fetch us. Baba and the women companions drove in the car. It was raining. I well remember what a rainy day it was. At the railway crossing near the station, the bus with the twenty men companions and all the luggage was waiting.
Don: Meheru, isn't it very unusual to have heavy rain that late in the year? Usually your monsoon is almost finished in September, isn't it?
Meheru: It was an unusually good monsoon that year and it continued until the month of November, which is most unusual.
Don: One often used to hear Baba say that whenever he started an important spiritual work there was a storm and rain.
Meheru: Yes, that's true, I have often noticed this.
Don: Did he make any comment about this when you started the New Life?
Meheru: No, not to my knowledge. Baba had said that no one was to see us off. I believe that the villagers of Arangaon decided that if they'd all come in a body to the station and in their love weep at Baba's leaving and ask him not to go, Baba would listen to them. But Baba found out about this beforehand and said that they should not do this, that no one should come at the time of departure.
When we came to the level crossing Baba told us to get down from the car and start walking, but almost immediately it started to rain again so we got back into the car. We drove then to Supa, to the P.W.D. bungalow where we arrived in the early morning. Mehera, do you remember anything about Supa?
Mehera: We probably stayed two nights there. We had started very early. We got up at half past three or a quarter to four. Baba always wanted us to get up very early.
Don: Every day in the New Life?
Mehera: Yes, every day in the New Life, and even before the New Life. Five o'clock or five-thirty was the usual time.
Don: But in the New Life you rose even earlier?
Meheru: Yes, the colder it got the earlier we rose, or so it seemed to us.
Don: Well, you probably couldn't sleep anyway, it was so cold.
TALES FROM THE NEW LIFE, pp. 138-143
Narrated by Eruch, Mehera, Mani and Meheru with Don Stevens
1976 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust