Chatting with Mohammed Mast, Part 2

Mohammed Mast continued to live in the Meherabad Mandali Hall and after some time, through continued insistence by Siddhu (one of the mandali who was Mohammed’s caregiver), or Padri (who took over that responsibility after Siddhu passed away), Mohammed’s fierce “Jao!” (“Go!”) to anyone he didn’t know became more muted; he calmed down quite a bit, and could be charming, accepting soap bars and smiling when photographed.

Mohammed smiling for the camera, ~1987.
(Photo by Bob Street)

It turned out that the mast spoke in a very simple and clear Marathi, and sometimes would chat when he was sitting on the back verandah in his chair. If he was used to you, he could sweetly begin a conversation using a specific nickname he invented and then proceed to ask for whatever it was that he particularly wanted from you: 6 cloth bags, a glass or dish you were holding, another pot to pee in (to add to his collection), etc. Or he’d tease you with a joking remark that he had invented and then repeat it ad infinitum, laughing all the while. Or at routine timings, he’d mutter “Nako” (“No, I don’t want it”) over and over, followed by a thousand excuses he’d come up with to explain why he didn’t want to drink his milk, have his bath, or whatever. Or when you tried coaxing him to do something and he was absorbed in something else, he’d endlessly repeat, “Thamb, sangto; thamb, sangto …” (“Wait, I’ll tell; wait, I’ll tell …”).

If asked, Mohammed would occasionally speak about his beloved “Dada” (Baba). Dr. Donkin in The Wayfarers (p. 48) described some things Mohammed said about Baba: “Dada is God,” “Dada is Master,” “Everything depends on Dada’s Will,” “Because Dada is there the world is there” and “Dada is the Master of Mercy.” In more recent times, those around him heard: “This is Dada’s door,” “This is Dada’s water,” etc.

Baba with Mohammed in Arangaon, 1954.
(Photo courtesy of MSI Collection)

Mohammed could be lively; he could be cross; he could be a “tiger’s child” (as Padri would say); he could be truly sweet; he could be very gullible; he could be out of mood. But he was irresistible when he started singing in his slightly gravelly voice, showing his delightful range, endless repetitions and many subtle variations on his familiar Konkani folk tunes. A song he would sing in the rainy season was “Allah mia lagna alla” (“God’s marriage is coming”) followed by “Dham dhoom!” which was his way of saying the rains are coming and then imitating the sound of thunder.

But it was most enchanting to hear his sunrise song, often sung when sitting alone on his bed just before dawn:

“Pivla dev ougowlah!, mota dev ougowlah …
Lal dev ougowlah!, mota dev ougowlah.”
“The yellow god is coming up, the big god is coming up;
The red god is coming up, the big god is coming up.”

We nicknamed him “Mo,” and although Eruch chided us that we treated him “like a toy,” to us he was an adorable elder member of the family. But very occasionally the sight of him sitting quietly in deep absorption would remind us of what Baba had said: Mohammed Mast was actually a soul intoxicated by Divine Love, aware of God’s Light everywhere and in everything, and lost in a sublime world we could never imagine.

* According to Meher Baba, a “mast” is a seeker of God who becomes so intoxicated with the experience of the Divine that he loses interest in the external world of forms. His behavior may resemble that of a “madman” although it is actually a reflection of an advanced inner awareness. (See The Wayfayers, by William Donkin, for more information.)

“Mo” on the Meherabad Mandali Hall veranda, wrapped in a blanket.
(Author’s private collection)

—Heather Nadel for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 26 November 2015