Under the Tin Shed, Part 2—Cooking and Dining with Baba

The Tin Shed served as the dining area for the women in the ashram times (late 1930s into the 1940s). In those days everyone got up at five o’clock and tea was at six. Lunch was at eleven and at five or five thirty in the evening there was supper.

Some mornings Baba would call them to be with Him for tea. Teakettles and chapati containers were kept on a square, galvanised metal table, which was placed against the wall, and everyone would pour out her own tea. When Baba sat on the gadi, Mehera would sit on one side so that the two of them could be seen together, while everyone else sat on the other side drinking tea and eating chapatis.

Low wooden benches served as tables and they sat on small stools which had each person’s name written on the back. There was a pinjara (a small cupboard with screening to protect foodstuffs) and a wooden stand with many shelves on which everybody had a spot to keep one big enamel plate and an enamel mug, as well as a spoon, fork, and knife plus a tea spoon. At mealtimes they would take their plates and cutlery and gather round—to sometimes even be served by Baba!

Baba under the Tin Shed with Gaimai and Manu Jessawala, 1938. Note the pinjara in the background.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Katie (close one who lived in the ashram) and Naja (Baba’s cousin and very close woman mandali) did much of the cooking. When Baba rang the bell to call everyone, sometimes Katie was still cooking. Years later she recalled, “If my cooking rice was on the fire, I would pull out the logs, because it might get burnt. I didn’t know how long Baba would keep us. Sitting with Baba my mind would be, ‘What’s the rice doing, is it being cooked, will it be ready for lunch, what’s going to happen?’ … But I would just have to leave it to Baba to look after the rice or dal or whatever was cooking.”

View from under the Tin Shed, 1938. Baba’s kitchen is in the background.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Dinner would be one vegetable and chapatis. Katie also recalled, “There was a time when Padri grew lots of cauliflower in the fields down the hill. So, a basket full of cauliflower came up, and Baba said, ‘You are to cook this now, and don’t ask for any vegetables from the market.’ We had to economise in every way and be careful – Baba didn’t want waste. So every day there would be cauliflower until Padri had exhausted the amount he had grown. It wasn’t very exciting – cauliflower every day for dinner. People would be saying, ‘Oh, no, not cauliflower again!’ Every day Naja and I would break our heads coming up with new recipes, while down the Hill, the mandali also had to eat the same vegetable.” Then Padri would grow something else, and so it would go.

After Baba and many of the mandali moved to Meherazad, He would come to Meherabad for gatherings. The next part of this series will recount gatherings under the Tin Shed for Sahavas programmes in the 1950s and also during the pilgrim years following January 1969.

—Meredith Klein for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 14 May 2015