Aloba: “His love is intense.”

Ali Akbar Shapurzaman (Aloba) first arrived in Baba’s Meher Ashram School in July 1927. He was eleven years old. Ten months later, at nine o’clock on a February morning in 1928, Baba called him for his first private audience and asked him to read a sentence from both his English and Persian books—sentences Baba Himself selected. Later that afternoon, Aloba’s uncle arrived from Bombay and demanded that both his son and nephew Ali (Aloba) be handed over to him. Aloba was taken away to Bombay and did not see Baba again until 1935.

Aloba with Baba in about 1936. A copy of this photo sits on Aloba’s
bed in his room at Meherazad. (Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

Ali Akbar did not become known as “Aloba” until 1949, during the New Life. Baba and His companions were in the North, in an area where there had been riots between Hindus and Muslims dating back to the partition in 1947. Hindus there felt Muslims “defiled” their wells just by drinking from them. En route to this area, Baba asked His companions to be very careful to not upset cultural feelings. Baba took only one specific precaution: He asked that Dr. Ghani be called “Ghanoba,” and Ali to be called “Aloba.” Thus even they could draw water from the wells of Hindus.

Eruch explained, “He [Baba] always aimed towards a solution which wouldn’t harm society nor damage the life we were living together. Not that the result was a compromise, for he had nothing to do with the world when he set out on the New Life with the companions, and he made us see that. At the same time he wanted to see that we lived in a society without harming or going against the principles of that society, while yet living our own life which he called the New Life.” [1]

Aloba has been known by this name ever since.

Many of us remember Aloba ringing the bell at Meherazad while calling out, “Board the bus!” In the earlier days when pilgrims could stay until six, the bell he clanged was the very same Persian bell that was around the neck of the camel during the New Life.

Eruch once compared Aloba’s ringing this particular bell to a metaphor drawn by Hafiz in the first ghazal* of the Divan. [2] It seems the bell on the lead camel in a caravan is recognized as the call to cease resting in an oasis, to begin the journey again. Here is Jamie Newel’s adaptation of Hafiz’ metaphor in his song, “Oh Bartender:” [3]

How can I be happy and free from doubt
On this path to my Beloved One
At any moment the caravan bell may ring out
and say your time in this resting place is done.

This was indeed how it felt for many pilgrims, after a heart-full day in the oasis that is Meherazad, to hear that bell vigorously swung by Aloba as he told us in no uncertain terms to board the bus.

Camel’s bell from the New Life hanging in Mandali Hall at Meherazad.
This bell is still used to beckon pilgrims when programs are about to begin.

Aloba was known for his emotional nature. He famously loved ghazals and often lost self-awareness in the surcharged atmosphere of qawwals performing before Baba.** There were even times when he had to be led from the room by several mandali.

In anticipation of this probability Baba one time asked Baidul’s son-in-law Pesi to mind Aloba. Wouldn’t you know, once the qawwals got going it was Pesi who became ecstatic and required Aloba’s help! Later, when Baba asked Aloba why he had not become intoxicated like he usually did, Aloba’s explanation was simple: he had not been looking at Baba.

Aloba was compact in stature, but his energy was large. Here’s how Baba once described him: “Aloba is in my contact since his childhood. His love is intense. His body, mind, heart, everything is for Baba.” [4]

Aloba on the veranda exhibiting his enthusiasm for Baba. July 1975.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)

When Aloba came to Los Angeles, I experienced his one-pointed focus on Baba in a moment I will never forget. It was some days after our Sahavas program and we were having a dinner for the workers, an opportunity for us to have time with the guests that we had been unable to enjoy during the Sahavas. After dinner we gathered in the large living room in anticipation of Aloba giving a short talk. As he looked out over us he saw that some were still finishing dessert and some had coffee or tea. Aloba bellowed at us—if not in volume at least in force of conviction: “You think this is entertainment!?!” We all learned two things very quickly: what chagrin feels like; and, experiencing Baba’s presence in the company of a mandali was not icing on the cake—it was sustenance for a starving heart.

Aloba’s room in Meherazad is now open to Pilgrims. It is just as he left it, and it intimates volumes about his life of service to, focus on, and love for Meher Baba.

Aloba standing in the door to his room in Meherazad. Note Aloba’s
pleasure in showing off the tattoo of Beloved Baba on his chest.
(Photo courtesy of MN Publications)/p>

—David McNeely for Avatar Meher Baba Trust, 2 March 2017

* The ghazal is a poetic form in which Hafiz wrote.
** Qawwals are singers of a form of Sufi devotional music which Baba liked.


1. Don Stevens (ed.). Tales from the New Life with Meher Baba, Avatar Meher Baba eBook, 2011.
pp. 119–120.
2. Ibid, p. 179.
3. James R. Newel. “Oh Bartender.” The Songs of Hafiz, Minor Incarnations, 2010. Lyrics
adapted from Clarke, Wilberforce. The Divan-I-Hafiz. Ibex Pub, 1997.
4. Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher, Online Ed. p. 3809.