Walubai, A Life Devoted to Meher Baba

Walu Pawar (also called Walubai) was the only woman from Arangaon Village to become one of Meher Baba’s mandali. Widowed while in her early twenties, she became a wealthy landowner through inheritance. She would have been a good catch for any number of suitors, but Walu was not interested in marrying again. She became intensely attracted to Meher Baba (who was staying at the time in Meherabad, a stone’s throw from Arangaon) and very quickly surrendered to Him wholeheartedly. In 1925 Baba asked her to join His ashram and live with the other women mandali in the Post Office quarters in lower Meherabad. [1]

In 1933 it so happened that Baba commented to Walu, “I come down from the hill twice daily to go to the mandali’s quarters and have to walk up twice more. How much better it would be if there were shade trees lining the path.” [2] On that very day Walu began to plant stem cuttings of banyan trees along the path to please Baba. Water was even more scarce then than it is now, so Walu would take wastewater from cleaning and bathing to nourish the saplings through the hot season, carrying it in two cans balanced on her shoulders. “She was a tireless worker—from morning to evening, she would work and slog.” [3] Many of these trees remain today.

One of the banyan trees along the path.

Speargrass was present then as it still is today, as many who walk around Meherabad during the fall months know from the seed spears that become lodged in their clothing—they can be very irritating and are difficult to remove. Meherwan Jessawala, speaking in Mandali Hall, recalled that Walu noticed how the speargrass would lodge in Baba’s sadra and trousers, and she had the thought, “One day while all are sleeping in the afternoon, I’ll go out and just light a match and then come away, and the fire will spread and in no time everything will be burnt out, and the whole path will be cleared of the speargrass.”

At about 2:00 o’clock on Saturday, the 19th of November in 1938, Walu struck her match somewhere near the middle of the hillside. Everything was dry, “just like tinder.” The fire quickly became a conflagration and Walu was unable to outrun it. By the time she got to the gate of the ashram compound her whole sari was in flames. “She got third-degree burns from her head right up to here [Meherwan gestured toward the thighs]. Third degree burns! And she started to shout, and all the women rushed out, and she fainted. … So quickly they took her inside.” Seeing Walu in such great pain, the other women mandali tried to comfort and attend to her as best they could.

But Walu’s emotional distress was even greater than her physical pain. Just a couple of months before, when telling His mandali about the Blue Bus tours that were to begin on the eighth of December, Baba had admonished them, “… I want you all to be very careful about your health: don’t do anything foolish to make you fall sick. … So all of you try to keep well.” Walu was anguished that she had disappointed Baba: “Baba will be upset to see me like this. What have I done? Now I will become a problem, and what will happen? I am desperate, what shall I do?!?” As Meherwan told the story, he paused to say, “Just imagine the dedication to, and love for the Lord. Only He can evoke that.”

Walubai with Kitty Davy, August 1938, Ahmednagar.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Dr. Kalavker and Padri were called, and they treated her. They reported to Baba that Walu’s wounds were very serious, and if they were to become infected she could die. They recommended hospitalization. Baba’s response was unambiguous: “No, all of us must start together. Maya must not be allowed to put obstructions in my way!” [4]

Despite her intense discomfort and the risk of infection, Walu did join Baba and the other women mandali on the Blue Bus. Rano was primarily in charge of Walu’s care, which consisted mostly of changing her dressings and helping her to be comfortable. For pain there was nothing more than aspirin, “and some ointments were there.” Walu recovered fairly quickly; just a little tightening of the skin lingered from the scarring across her chest. She remained with Baba as one of His mandali for the next three decades.

—David McNeely for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 11 February 2016

1. Lord Meher, online edition, Bhau Kalchuri, P. 568
(There is some disagreement in the sources of Baba history regarding the year Walu
joined Baba and the women as a resident.)
2. Lord Meher, online edition, Bhau Kalchuri, P. 1584
3. Meherwan Jessawala, from a talk recorded in Mandali Hall in August 2015.
All subsequent quotes not footnoted are from the same source.
4. Lord Meher, online edition, Bhau Kalchuri, P. 1960

Walu (seated on right) with Baba and the women, 1938, Upper Meherabad.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Walu is seated in a trailer behind Baba’s left shoulder, with Kakubai, Khorshed (in profile),
Mehera, Mani and Norina, near the Ahmednagar Tower of Silence, August 1938.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)