The Record Room and Bal Natu
The Meherazad Record Room is a plain, stone building, built years after Baba dropped His body. Nonetheless, this building has become full of Baba stories and redolent of His love, which permeates all of Meherazad.
Built in the early 1980s, this one-room structure was a repository for miscellaneous Baba material, including binder after binder of correspondence from Westerners to the mandali, as well as some older letters from various people to Baba. It even stored some correspondence between Baba and Westerners, including Norina and Elizabeth, which He had signed. (These are safely in the archives at this point.)
In addition, there were shelves of books that Eruch liked to refer to when talking with visiting pilgrims, such as Footsteps of the Buddha and Tales of Sufi Saints and Mystics. At times the building also stored urns with the ashes of several of the women mandali, waiting for internment at Meherabad. In short, it was a fairly eclectic hold-all.
The Record Room also became Bal Natu’s “office” where he worked on his six volumes of Glimpses of the God-Man, his four volumes of “Conversations” and his various collections of Baba lovers’ stories.
On his desk, Bal had a metal tray filled with scratch paper. Once, while helping him, I picked up a sheet and was astonished to discover this “scratch” paper was blank sign-up sheets that Pendu and Eruch had taken around India and Pakistan in 1952 when Baba sent them on a seven-month tour to prepare His lovers and those genuinely interested in spirituality for Baba’s work in the “Fiery Free Life.”
On these sheets were boxes people could check to indicate whether they were willing to give their money, their property, their service, or their very life for Baba. (Baba found it amusing that while many of His lovers checked that they were willing to give their very life for Him, few were willing to give their money.) I alerted Bal and presumably, these papers found their way to the Archive Building.
At the end of the room, opposite the desk, was a bed Bal used to rest during the day. His own bedroom (room number three next to Mandali Hall) was often used by visiting pilgrims to hold their knapsacks, guitars, and lunches, and even to nap on themselves, never realizing that it was Bal’s room. But Bal was far too polite and self-effacing to ever bring this to anyone’s attention.
When the conversations in Mandali Hall were primarily in English, some Indian pilgrims would congregate in the Record Room, where Bal would regale them with stories, answer their questions, or just listen to their concerns.
One time a large group from Andhra had come and, even though they were all fluent in English, they met with Bal in the Record Room because this had become their common practice. The Andhra people were distressed because there was a strong difference of opinion in the group. Bal said something to the effect that harmony was important and that there wasn’t any need to confront or condemn others because of their beliefs. “But shouldn’t we say what we honestly feel?” they retorted. “Shouldn’t we stick to our guns?” Without a second’s pause, Bal responded, “By all means, but don’t fire them.”
And before long, the Record Room also became a meeting place for Western pilgrims who sought out Bal. Bal always encouraged everyone, even those who were helping him with his writing work, to go sit in the Hall with Eruch instead, or to go to the women’s porch, as he felt that he wasn’t one of the mandali and people shouldn’t waste their time with him. But he was always ready to give personal attention to any individual or group who came to see him. Despite the fact that he was usually trying to work, if someone knocked on the Record Room door, he would immediately stop what he was doing and welcome them with a big smile and genuine delight.
In his last years, when his health was very poor and meeting people would exhaust him, Bal still found it impossible—much to the chagrin of those trying to care for him—to say “no” to any request from any person or group who dropped by the Record Room wanting to talk with him.
Today the Record Room serves as a small library and office for some of those who reside at Meherazad. And, for many, it is a storehouse of memories of Bal Natu.
—Steve Klein for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 20 July 2017