Baba’s Tin Cabin
“Why does this cabin have such a strong foundation for these simple tin walls?” was a question pilgrims often asked Padri as they stood with him on Meherabad Hill. The building they were looking at was the Tin Cabin very near Baba’s Samadhi. It was built in 1935 right on the spot that Baba had picked out.
According to some old-time residents, Padri’s description of his discussion with Baba went something like this:
Baba: “I want you to build a cabin right here.”
Padri: “What do you want me to build it with—bamboo mats and sheet metal?” [These were the materials that many of the temporary buildings were built with.]
Baba: “What do you think?”
Padri: “If you want something good, and we have the time, we can do it.”
Baba, enthusiastically snapping His fingers: “Now you’re talking! How long will it take?”
Padri: “At least six months.”
Baba: “Take all the time you need.”
This casual conversation took place during the end of May 1935, and then Baba announced that He was going to Mt. Abu for one year. “Good,” thought Padri, “that will give us plenty of time to build the cabin.”
So Padri began planning the building. Baba’s compound was already established in the area around the crypt-room, and the cabin would be placed there as directed by Baba. It would stand just outside the gate of the women’s compound but there would also be access for the men mandali. It would be 11 x 11 feet inside, at Baba’s wish. Padri felt that, due to the strong winds they had recently been experiencing on the Hill, the building had to be very secure, made of thick walls of rock or brick like the Jhopdi down the Hill, and have a good roof. Because there was very little water at Meherabad, especially during May and early June, Padri decided to excavate the earth for the foundation, but to delay construction because curing the masonry would use a lot of water.
However, as soon as He arrived at Mount Abu in early June, Baba sent instructions to Padri for the cabin work to begin. Padri recalled that soon after that, when he enquired how long he would now have to build the cabin, Baba’s reply was, “How about three months?” Baba’s stay in Mt. Abu ended quickly, however, and He soon sent Pendu from Gujarat to Meherabad with an urgent message for Padri: “Get the work done!” His new plan was to continue His seclusion at Meherabad.
On 10th July 1935, Baba secretly returned to Meherabad and, according to Padri, “We were now under the gun.” He could forget three months; immediately on His return, Baba said, “You have one week!”
With Baba present, the acceleration of the work increased dramatically, and they worked morning, noon and night to get the cabin finished. The masonry foundation plinth was already done, but there was no time to build thick masonry walls. So they built a simple wood frame that was exposed on the interior, nailed boards to it to create the walls and ceiling, and arranged for galvanized steel sheets (“tin”) that were easily transportable to provide water-proofing on the outside. (Padri never had time to paint the wood until sometime later.)
Such was the pressure from Baba to have the cabin ready for His seclusion that, in the evening of July 15th, He stood right outside the cabin door rocking back and forth with impatience. Padri had no time to sweep out the last of the sawdust, and barely had time to pick up his tools and leave, when Baba rushed inside and closed the doors to start His work.
Although Baba’s rush to work in the cabin completely changed its structure, Padri summed it up: “It is a monument to having something prepared according to Baba’s timetable, to give Him something when HE wants it, not when you want it.” As he also remarked, “In the end, it is not worth doing if it’s not what the Master wants.”
—Heather Nadel for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 16 March 2017