Dining with Baba at Meherazad
Meherazad pilgrims can now visit Baba’s dining room in the main house where He would eat with the women mandali. But what was it like to have lunch with the Avatar of the Age?
Lunch with Beloved Baba was a lively occasion. During the 1960s, my family would spend our Diwali/Christmas holidays in Ahmednagar and Baba would call us to Meherazad to eat with Him and the women Mandali. The talk at lunch was usually about daily events. He’d ask about school, about what was happening in Bindra House where we lived, and generally catch up with our lives. Most of all, it was a joy being in that same space with Him. And for us kids it was also lots of fun!
Baba sat at the head of the table, with Mehera on His right and Mani on His left. The other women mandali arranged themselves around the table at their usual places. Guests were accommodated by pulling up extra stools. We had to sit very close and elbows often found their way into someone’s ribs. Mehera served Baba first. He loved onion and garlic that had been chopped fine and crisply fried in ghee until it was golden brown. A small vati (bowl) full of this delicious mixture would be placed at His side and He’d help Himself to it, sucking on it until it softened and then taking a mouthful of daal and rice and eating the lot.
On meat days Mehera would make sure that Baba had the choicest pieces. Baba would arrange them around the rim of His plate and eat up the rest of whatever was served. He was saving the meat for Mastan, His ever-faithful dog. Mehera would gently chide Baba, saying that it was important for Him to keep His strength up. To please her He would take a piece of meat in His mouth and suck on it, then take it out and place it on the plate rim again. (Baba could not easily chew meat as He had no teeth.) He really enjoyed fish, however, especially fried pomfret or Bombay-duck, and fish was much easier for Him to eat.
After lunch Baba walked slowly to His room with Mehera’s support and we all followed behind them. A sheet would be spread on His bed, then His plate brought in and placed on the sheet. Baba would sit on the bed and Mastan would be brought in. The big dog would jump on the bed and sit on the sheet, close to Baba. Baba would then feed him the meat pieces, one by one, with His own hand. Lucky dog! I was most jealous! I once threw a spectacular tantrum in Baba’s bedroom, which moved Baba to send Mastan away and allow me to sit in his place, though I didn’t get any of the treats kept for the dog!
Sometimes, Baba would leave daal and rice or something else on His plate, and Mehera would then hand it out as Prasad, usually to guests. Divine leftovers!! However, no one else was allowed to leave anything on her plate. Everything had to be eaten up, because Beloved Baba was very particular about not wasting food, and we couldn’t share with Mastan!
–Mehera Arjani for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 27 November 2014