Baba, Rumi and Padri

Faredoon Driver, nicknamed “Padri” by Meher Baba, was one of the earliest mandali, having met Baba in Poona in 1922. After Baba dropped His physical form, Padri continued to serve Him at Meherabad until his own death in 1982.

Padri didn’t speak much, but when he did, people listened. His distinctive way of speaking was precise and elegant, even his abuses(!). He could be straightforward or stern or very witty or profound. Regarding “straightforward,” I recall his habit of “training” some of us by pounding on the window at 5:30 a.m. every morning, shouting “Cha”—the word for tea—very loudly, which made one sit bolt upright out of deep sleep.

He could also be very funny: young visitors were “loonies” (a short form for “lunatics”) and young people who lived at Meherabad year-round were “savages.”

Padri standing in the door of his room, which also served as his homeo-
pathic dispensary, located in the Main Bungalow, Lower Meherabad.
(Photo from a private collection)

Padri’s views could sometimes surprise you. I remember sitting next to him on a bench on the Main Bungalow verandah one day in the late 1970s. A troublesome and very strange pilgrim was walking by, and I muttered, “Now there goes a real loonie.” Padri immediately replied sternly, “You cannot set foot in Meherabad without lifetimes of service and longing.”

Padri was a keen walker, with his long strides and love for the countryside. When he wasn’t riding his bicycle or his cherished, carefully maintained motorcycle, he often wandered by foot far and wide. He checked on the nearby village and farms, and always on Meherabad, from the progress of its ants, to the growing height of its trees, to its buildings young and old.

The Old Dharamshala as seen looking west toward the Hill, 15 September 1935.
(Photo courtesy of the MSI Collection)

The Old Dharamshala in a current photo from the same angle.
(Photo by Bif Soper)

One day when walking with us, Padri gestured towards the Old Dharamshala and its front verandah which faces in the direction of Baba’s Samadhi. Perhaps we were asking him about the early days at Lower Meherabad, when the mandali spent a lot of time in that building. (It was a “Mess Quarters” and then the “Bungalow” and later the “Meher Charitable Dispensary and Hospital,” and so on.)

Standing outside the building, Padri told us the following recollection (from perhaps 1925 or 1926): One day Baba was sitting in a chair, relaxed, head back with His legs and arms stretched out. Two of the mandali were massaging His feet, and another two were trimming His fingernails. Off to the side, one of the Irani mandali, Kaikhushru Afseri—later called “Raosaheb”—was reading out to Baba a Persian ghazal by Jalal al-Din Rumi. As many of you know, Rumi was a great poet and a Perfect Master.

Padri was there at the time, and recalled that listening to the ghazal, Baba’s chest began to turn reddish. Gradually the red climbed up His neck to His face and onwards to His eyes. Padri then recounted that the white of Baba’s eyes slowly turned red, and rolled back into His head so that one could hardly see His pupils. In his life with the Master, Padri went on, he had never seen Baba so intoxicated, either before since, and that Baba seemed to be far, far removed from the world they knew.

Baba with some of His men mandali at the Old Dharamshala on 21 March 1926.
Padri and Afseri are at the very back. Afseri has his arm around Padri.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

—Heather Nadel for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 15 September 2016