The Maternity Hospital on the Hill

On August 29, 1938, Meher Baba convened the large group of Eastern and Western women living at Upper Meherabad and assigned each of them duties for the next several months. Nadine Tolstoy was to be the “chief matron” of a maternity hospital that Baba planned to open.

The hospital still stands just 72 feet behind Baba’s Samadhi, but the unpretentious building is barely visible behind a row of tall bushes. It was built in 1938, a year that saw a flurry of construction at Upper Meherabad: the second floor to Meher Retreat, the structure that would become Baba’s Samadhi, meditation rooms, and a wall around the Upper Meherabad compound.

Meherabad Hill in 1938. The main structure of the maternity hospital is the second building from the left.
The building on the far left contains the kitchen and bathing rooms.
(Photo courtesy of the MSI collection)

The hospital had ten beds, with a kitchen and bathing quarters built next to it. The building had two additional rooms, divided from the hospital room by a solid masonry wall. These rooms were used to produce the Meher Baba Journal.

Baba assigned several of the women to assist Nadine in the hospital. Irene Billo mixed medicines and sewed nightdresses and baby clothes out of unbleached cotton. Katie Irani remembered working in the evenings with Dr. Goher, Arnavaz, and Nargis to roll bandages and sew nightdresses on the sewing machine. Manu and Meheru Jessawala remembered bathing, dressing, and feeding the patients. Mansari supervised the cooking for the patients, which she did not like to do as it took her physically away from Baba. Baba also hired a female physician and at least one nurse.

The first patient arrived at 3:00 a.m. on October 11—a mentally disabled young woman who was pregnant and abandoned. [1] Even though the young woman was already in labor, the doctor refused to come to the hospital from her room in Upper Meherabad. Despite the women’s pleading, the doctor never opened her door.

Instead, Baba Himself came to the hospital. Saying they would all deliver the baby together, Baba took off His coat and lit the stove to heat water. During the delivery Baba sat just outside the ward with Mansari. Every five minutes Baba instructed her, “I think the child has come. Go and see.” [2]

The baby, a girl, was born at 5:00 a.m. after an easy delivery. As soon as she had been bathed, Baba held her and kissed her. Irene Billo remembered, “After the baby was born, Baba visited the hospital five or six times a day to see her.” [3]

Elizabeth Patterson had written on the back of a copy of this photo, “Nadine Tolstoy
with first patient, an expectant mother, in hospital at Meherabad Hill.”
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Baba’s mother Shireen, who was staying in the ashram, urged Baba to fire the doctor for failing to carry out her duties. In response, Baba told Shireen, “You take care of it.” [4] Shireen went directly to the doctor’s room and banged on the door. The doctor opened her door a crack and Shireen demanded to know why she had not shown up the previous night. The doctor explained that she had been off duty and was tired. Shireen asked the doctor for her name.

“Doctor,” she replied.

“Your name is Doctor? You have no other name?”

“Yes, my name is Doctor.”

Shireen persisted, “When you were born, your name was Doctor?”

Shireen became increasingly pointed in her determination to learn the doctor’s name but the doctor refused even this. In disgust, Shireen left. She went to Baba and urged Him to fire the doctor (whose name was Dr. Kavalker), but Baba did not agree at that time. [5]

Nadine’s and the other women’s work in the maternity hospital ended in December 1938 when they joined Baba on the first Blue Bus tour. In later years, Baba used the building for different purposes: as a mast ashram, for seclusion work in the Cage Room constructed within the building, and for living quarters for both Mansari and Kaikobad’s wife Jerbai and their three daughters, Meheru, Gulu and Jalu, who lived there for the rest of their lives.

During the time the maternity hospital was operating, Baba would visit every day that He was at Upper Meherabad, inquiring how many babies had been born and holding each newborn in His arms. No one knows the life stories of the babies born there, but each baby had the great fortune to receive the special attention of the Avatar of the age.

Baby born at the maternity hospital wearing a gown sewn by the women mandali.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

The maternity hospital building today. The foundation was built using some of the stones from
the Post Office building in Lower Meherabad, which had been dismantled previously. The wall
on the left faces the Samadhi through thick foliage.

The maternity hospital building today, seen in the background behind
the foliage, with the Samadhi on the left and the Tin Cabin on the right.

——Clea McNeely for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 4 August 2016

[1] Accounts differ as to whether this mentally disabled woman was the first patient and whether she was brought to the hospital on October 11 or October 12, 1938.

[2] Mehera-Meher, Vol. 1, by David Fenster, page 443.

[3] Ibid., page 443.

[4] Personal communication with Meherwan Jessawala

[5] Ibid.