Dhondibai’s Story

Eruch in his later years had the habit of starting his day with a walk at dawn. I loved going with him whenever I was staying in Meherazad.

Of course Eruch knew all the families living along the approach road. The men would greet him from afar in their fields. The children would come running because his pockets were filled with sweets that he gave out as “Meher Baba’s prasad.” The women would also come and shyly ask if they too could receive prasad.

Eruch giving “prasad” to a toddler in his mother’s arms, during his morning walk, 1996.

One old woman who lived alone near the end of the road was always eager to talk with Eruch. Unlike the other neighbors who would lament about the lack of rains or the vagaries of the price of onions, she would talk about Baba. She praised Eruch for having chosen a life of service to God rather than “samsar” (the mundane family life in the world). Her name was Dhondibai. She had the wrinkled face of people who have spent their lives toiling in the fields. She lived in a hut, with a well next to it, and owned a small field of lentils.

A hut like Dhondibai’s on the Meherazad approach road.

Dhondibai also had two sons, but if they came to visit, it was to harass her to sell the field as they wanted the money. Yet this old lady seemed to have a special connection, an immediate closeness with Eruch. I remarked about this one day, and Eruch replied, “You know, Baba unveiled Himself for her.”

I didn’t know, so he told me the story.

One morning (in the 1960s) Mani found this lady on the veranda of the small cottage at Meherazad. She told Mani she had come because she longed to see Baba. Baba was in seclusion at the time, so Mani explained it was not possible to see Him. But Dhondibai insisted, saying she did not need to “see” Him, she needed just “a glimpse” of Him. Mani didn’t have the heart to send her away, so she told her to hide behind a bush, and explained that when Baba would pass by on His way to Mandali Hall, she would be able to catch a glimpse of Him. But that day, when Baba was being carried in the lift chair through the garden, He had covered His face with a scarf. Mani thought that she had made Dhondibai wait in vain. But when He approached the place where she was hiding, Baba suddenly removed His scarf—just long enough to grant Dhondibai the glimpse she had been longing for. A few seconds later, as He passed out of her view, He covered His face again.

Baba sitting in the lift-chair at Meherazad, 1960s.
(Photo courtesy of the Avatar Meher Baba Trust Archives)

Mani has written how amazed she felt by Baba’s acknowledgement of this woman’s longing to see Him. *

Yes, this shriveled little lady in a faded cotton sari, living in poverty, had the kind of love for Baba that made Him uncover His face in response to her longing to see Him. I stood there dumbstruck, glimpsing the insignificance of our material possessions compared to the real value held in a heart truly able to long for God.

—Anne Moreigne for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 27 April 2017

* The Joyous Path, by Heather Nadel, Vol. 2, p. 690.