The Original Chapatti Kitchen at Meherazad
To step into the original Chapatti Kitchen is to step all the way back to Baba’s time because this rustic structure remains almost exactly the way it was when Meher Baba and His mandali lived at Meherazad. There is very little information about it, but one of the former kitchen workers said that when she started working in 1957 it was already there, and that it fell down twice during the next twenty years. No one knows who originally built it but Shankar Bhosale, one of the servants who carried Baba in His lift chair, reconstructed it the last time it collapsed.
The Chapatti Kitchen is behind Baba’s house, a few yards away from the Main Kitchen. The building is a patchwork marvel: a stone floor, a roof of corrugated concrete sheets (called patra) placed on top of teak beams, one wall made of brick, another wall made of mud reinforced with patra, and two walls made mostly of old louvered wooden doors that were salvaged from another Meherazad building.
The heart of the room is the handmade mud stove (chula) for making chapattis and bhakris (two types of flat breads). This traditional Maharashtrian stove is built on the floor, constructed around a metal frame which is plastered with mud. The stoves have to be re-plastered every few months because they crumble. This work is done by one of the women servants.
The original room once had more uses than it does now. In addition to the chapatti and bhakri that were made daily in Baba’s time, water for bathing was heated over the fire in a big, earthenware cauldron called a deg and also in a large pot called a bagoola. And because Mehera didn’t like the odours that lingered in the Main Kitchen after it was cooked, fish was also prepared there. Dog food, with chapatti or bhakri as a main ingredient, was made there too. During the seventies Meheru had a new three-sided room attached to one of the sidewalls. A new chula was made for the water bagoola and it, along with the fish and dog food preparation, were all shifted to the new side.
In the 70s and 80s Mehera, from time to time, took pilgrims to the Chapatti Kitchen to see how chapatti and bhakri were made and, occasionally, to take a turn making them as well. She also gave folded chapattis or bhakri with various sweet fillings to pilgrims. This was very special prasad, especially for the men who were not allowed to attend her teas in the dining room.
Chapattis and bhakris for Meherazad are still cooked every single day in the Chapatti Kitchen. And although it can be intensely hot and smoky inside, the atmosphere is as wonderful as the food that is made there. On slow pilgrim days, all are invited to have a look.
—Cindy Lowe for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 27 August 2015