Padri and the Tonga Horse

The following is an account of events that began in 1979 or ’80, as told to me by Bob Street, one of the early Western residents at Meherabad:

Padri sitting on the veranda outside his room.

One day Padri, Erico and I were sitting on the veranda of Mandali Hall outside Padri’s room, in Lower Meherabad. From the road we heard the sound of a high-speed motorcycle and a thud, followed by the whine of a motorcycle tire spinning very fast. We thought there must have been an accident, so we walked down the road a little bit. Sure enough, a motorbike had struck the back of a horse tonga, knocking the tonga and driver into a ditch. The motorcyclist and passenger were also lying on the ground, one with a broken collarbone and maybe a broken arm.

In those days there were hardly any motorized rickshaws but, as Baba would have it, one was just coming by and Padri stopped it. He got the motorcyclist and his passenger into the rickshaw and sent them off to the civil hospital. Then Padri detached the harness from the horse. He discovered that a wooden strut had broken off and jammed into its shoulder. Padri was very calm in those kinds of situations. He pulled the broken piece of wood from the horse, but as soon as he did the wound began to bleed profusely. Padri helped the driver up and led him and the horse over to the Rahuri Cabin on the other side of Mandali Hall. He tied the horse to a neem tree, cleaned the wound and bandaged it. He also gave the horse a homeopathic treatment for weakness from blood loss.

A recent photo of the Rahuri Cabin. The neem tree in the foreground is where Padri tied the tonga horse.

Padri knew the tonga driver because every week he would drive his tonga past Meherabad on his way to Nagar to buy supplies for his shop. Padri told the old man to come back for his horse in ten days.

The next day we saw that the horse was not standing but kneeling down. On the third day the horse was on its side on the ground, and its breathing was labored and making a rattling sound. I feared it had lost too much blood and was not going to make it. However, Padri kept treating the horse and giving it some gruel and food also. On the fourth day the horse was a little better and on the fifth day it was better still. Within ten days the horse had basically recovered. It was limping but able to walk around.

The tonga driver came back on the tenth day. He couldn’t believe that the horse was still alive. He was almost in tears. He offered Padri some money. Padri said, “No, no.” So the man said, “Well at least take the wheels from the carriage. They are still good and are worth some money.” Padri replied, “No. I don’t want them. Come have some tea.” Later a truck was found to take the horse home.

A modern-day horse tonga in India.

We didn’t see them for almost six months. Then one day Padri, Erico and I were again sitting in the same place by Padri’s room. There was very little foliage in those days compared to now, so you could look all the way down to the dhuni and up the road. While sitting there we heard the cracking of a whip and shouting. We looked over and saw a tonga and a horse. The horse was refusing to move even though it was being whipped. Finally, the driver stopped whipping the horse and let the horse go where it wanted. It walked over to where Padri was sitting. It was the same horse that Padri had treated! Erico and I couldn’t believe it. Padri chuckled. He went into his room and brought out a handful of plain sugar pills for the horse. Then the horse and tonga drove off.

The next week the same thing happened. The horse refused to go any further until it had seen Padri. So this became the routine: every week the horse would come and get some sugar pills, and even if Padri was not in his room—if he was down by the original well in his shop—the horse would stop there. Then Padri would tell the old man, “All right, take him to my room. I’ll give him his dose.”

And the horse stopped at Meherabad every week until Padri died—about two years later. Even the week Padri passed away the horse came looking for him one final time. That horse remembered what had happened and was grateful that Padri had treated him with such kindness.

It was an amazing recovery… seeing him go so far down, and still come back to life.

—Bif Soper for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 5 January 2017

Photo of Padri around the time the story occurs.
(Photo by Goodie Harding)