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Accommodations for Residents
This article discusses facilities for persons from the West and the East who serve the Trust and live on Trust property.
Regarding accommodations for residents, the Trust Deed states:
“(F) In the course of developments according to the availability of funds, preference shall be given to objects and works in the following order: . . .
(iii) Facilities for a few persons from the West and the East, considered suitable to live there for the rest of their lives like Dastoor and Mrs. Kaikobad and their unmarried daughters.”
In July 1944 when Baba called Kaikobad to Meherabad to live there as one of His resident mandali, he brought with him his entire family, that is, his wife, three daughters, and a son. The family resided in the building on Meherabad Hill that formerly housed the Maternity Hospital. When Kaikobad followed Baba into the New Life, his was the only family to continue residing on the Hill. His wife Jerbai and three daughters remained there after the New Life came to an end, and further on, throughout the 50s and 60s. After their older sister and parents passed away, Kaikobad’s youngest daughters, Goolu and Jalu, continued to reside there. These sisters were two of the blessed souls of this Advent; they spent most their childhood and almost their entire adult lives under Baba’s supervision. Goolu passed away on November 14, 2006, in the home He provided for her, a few steps from His Samadhi. Her sister Jalu resides on the Hill to this day. During these sisters’ lifetimes, steady growth has transformed Meherabad from a quiet, remote oasis into a beehive of life and activity.
In the mid-1970s, a trickle of Baba lovers began to flow into Meherabad to live there long-term, and, if possible, for the rest of their lives. Just as Kaikobad and his family were housed in whatever suitable space was available at the time, so, too, were these early residents who came to stay.
Heather and Eric Nadel first came to reside at Meherabad in August 1976. They were given half of a room in the 1948 Bungalow at Lower Meherabad, right next to Old Mandali Hall; they stayed in the same quarters for thirty years. Ted Judson, the only other Westerner staying then at Meherabad, lived in Rahuri Cabin. At that time the Bungalow was also a home for Padri, his homeopathy clinic, his office, the Post Office, Mohammed the Mast (in the Hall itself), Nana Kher, Shushila (Vishnu Master’s cousin), and tiny Radha-bai (Siddhu Kamble’s widow); Minoo Bharucha lived part of the year in a small storeroom near the current Post Office before settling elsewhere at Meherabad permanently.
Heather and Erico’s room originally was Pendu’s room, but it was divided in half by a partition; this allowed the western half of the room to function as a dispensary. This dispensary shifted to Arangaon when the current building replaced the old Family Quarters (FQ). The eight-foot-high partition went partway up to the ceiling, just high enough to give some privacy. The Nadels moved in, installed their trusty “Efar” kerosene stove, and eventually employed “Kali Bhami,” a lively servant from the Ladies’ Ashram-on-the-Hill to help with food (vegetarian), laundry, and household chores.
In 1971 when Rano had returned from her first trip out of India in twenty years, she described the accommodations at the Meher Center in Myrtle Beach and encouraged the Trust to create a facility for pilgrims to stay at Lower Meherabad four days a week; at that time, they stayed either in Vishnu/Donkin’s small bungalow, which is now Ted’s workshop, or in the Interview Cabin or in “Room #4,” which was Donkin’s Clinic in the 1948 Bungalow. They all, including Ted, ate in a new, little, pink arched Dining Room that has since become the Meherabad Trust Office. Padri built a small “tempo-wary,” as he would say, kitchen nearby that evolved into the current Meherabad Accounts Office.
By 1977, a few more Westerners came to serve Baba on a long-term basis. Alan Wagner arrived in March. After an initial short stay in Donkin’s Bungalow, he was shifted to Mohammed the Mast’s old room at the northern end of the original Mandali Hall, next to the Dharamsala, where he stayed for many years. A few months later, Janet Podmore, now Janet Judson, settled in a storeroom, now the Meherabad Post Office, next door to Minoo. Other residents of that time, among them Bob Street, Jack Caraco, Denny Moore, David Fenster, Jack Small, Lindsay Wessell, and Vesta Clinton resided in the Trust Compound (“Meher Nazar”), or at “Russi Pop’s House,” i.e., Dr. Goher’s father’s home in Ahmednagar.
Alan, who was planning eventually to run the kitchen at the Meher Pilgrim Center, established a small communal kitchen for all Lower Meherabad residents after discussions with Padri, Mani, Eruch, Naja, Bhau, and Pendu. He could try is hand at and learn more about Meherabad methods of cooking. Fortunately, an old cowshed was conveniently located near his room. Padri had the onions that were stored there shifted elsewhere, built several small clay stoves, plastered the floor afresh with cow dung, and the five “members,” i.e., Heather, Erico, Ted, Janet, and Alan, dined there and alternated with each other in cooking the meals; initially they ate on the verandah of the Old Mandali Hall, then moved into the cowshed as “improvements,” like a stone floor and burlap bags to sit on, were added. A month or two of food preparation revealed that although all co-op members were equal in the Nazar of their Beloved, they were unequal as cooks. So they resolved to hire full-time cooks, share their personal servants, and let Alan have a free hand and total control. One other member took the job of accountant and tracked costs. It was a thrilling adventure. As Alan, the heart and soul of the original kitchen, later remarked, “The kitchen was part of our home, and not a canteen. The food was received as Baba’s prasad to keep us all here, caring for us and nourishing us.”
Like all the mandali, Mehera took a keen interest in the residents’ welfare. One day, she visited and observed the residents dining, seated on their burlap sacks in the former cowshed. She thoughtfully had benches and a table fabricated for them so they could eat more comfortably; some of those benches are still in service in the current residents’ kitchen. An old, broken-down pindra, a large screened-in cupboard used to store milk and vegetables that Mehera identified as coming from her family’s residence in Poona and that had seen service at the Prem Ashram, was repaired by all the kitchen members and raised further their standard of living. She also ordered other improvements.
Padri humorously dubbed the new kitchen the “Savages’ Kitchen.” Mehera came to inaugurate it. By that time, the residents ate from the new tables. It was simple and charming. On special occasions, for lunch or dinner, the residents entertained guests like Kitty Davy, Francis Brabazon, members of The Society for Avatar Meher Baba, and most especially Mehera and the women mandali, who came every summer to lunch with the “Savages” crew. When Janet and Ted married, Mehera and the ladies came to have tea and cakes.
“Savages’ Kitchen” has been functioning continually since 1977. It is not administered by the Trust; it is run by and for the residents who wish to avail themselves of its services. Volunteers among the residents take care of accounting, food supervision, food ordering, menu/cooking supervision, and dispensing of staples, in addition to their other duties at Meherabad. The original agreement between the members was to make all decisions by consensus.
The steady influx of more and more residents coming to serve at Meherabad necessitated more accommodations. In 1978, the Trust constructed the first Staff Quarters in Lower Meherabad. By 1979, this was populated by Gary Kleiner, Peter Nordeen, Dadi Kerawalla, Banu Masi, Bob Street, Meheru Billomoria, and Minoo Bharucha. In April 1981, the Trust gave a contract for the construction of still yet more Staff Quarters near the Hostels. Two new buildings went up, each consisting of three 12 ft. by 16 ft. rooms with an 8 ft. by 36 ft. verandah. The construction of additional Staff Quarters near Meher Hospital began in 1986.
It was dear Mani’s wish that every effort be made to ensure that the women residents lived in their Staff Quarters Compound in privacy and safety, and, as far as possible, to separate their compound from the other residential areas where men and married couples stayed. Thus, a natural hibiscus screen in a stone planter about a foot high and thirty feet long was built for this purpose, and the plants have now grown quite high. Inside this living natural wall exists a hint of the fragrance of the secluded compounds and enclosed private worlds Baba created for His Women Mandali. Similarly, Mani looked after the welfare of all the residents, men and women, and also sought to share her years of experience with them.
By the year 2000, at Outer Meherabad the residential buildings included the following: Doctors’ Quarters, Men’s Nurses’ Quarters, Women’s Nurses’ Quarters, “the New Staff Quarters,” and the “Boys’ Block;” at Lower Meherabad, the small bungalow originally made by the contractor for the Meher Pilgrim Center, has housed various residents. Others reside at the Meher Nazar Trust Compound in Ahmednagar and at Meherazad as well.
The new century has already brought many changes. The completion of the Meher Pilgrim Retreat revealed the need for some quarters nearby for staff and management. To meet this need, in the future new administrative staff quarters will be built near the Retreat. The coming years will herald a new phase in residents’ accommodation, and many more of Baba’s lovers will come to stay at Meherabad and join in His work.
In The Spiritual Training Programme, Bhauji wrote: “When Beloved Baba was physically present, He would give whatever was necessary for the Mandali to live a very simple material life. I am suggesting that the Trust also help the Trainees live a simple material life by providing them with the basic material necessities . . . As funds become available, more staff quarters and more staff kitchens and dining halls should be built. Insofar as possible, each Spiritual Trainee should be accommodated in his or her own room. If a married couple wants to undergo Spiritual Training, then two rooms should be provided with kitchen and bathroom. . . . If a married couple wants to have children, they should make their own living arrangements outside of the Trust Estate. But the opportunity should be provided to them to continue to render selfless service with love, honesty, and sincerity, so that they may please Beloved Baba. Also, as funds permit, staff quarters should be separate for men, women, and married couples.”
Taking care of material necessities is, of course, only one part of creating an environment conducive to living a spiritual life of service. Spiritual trainees perform their duties under the aegis of the Trust’s Mastery in Servitude program which provides, for those who are willing to avail themselves, the opportunity to live a life of humility, purity and truth in the service of God. Bhauji often reminds those who work here, “What is your duty? You just do. Do not say, ‘I am doing this’ and ‘I am doing that.'”
Bhauji explained further: “It is the duty of the Board to care for the Spiritual Trainees. But in trying to administer this care, things should not become standardised or institutionalised. If that happens, the charm will be lost. The Trust will lovingly provide the essentials to Spiritual Trainees, who are Baba’s dear lovers; so that they can focus on what is real. . . . I am trying to give the feeling that, no matter how many Trainees there are in the future, everyone here is in the same household. Home means home. Those whose hearts are His are His home, and so they are precious to Him.”
The contents of this article are drawn from conversations with long-time residents.