The official opening ceremonies for Meher Ashram were held on Sunday, May 1st, 1927. A procession started at two-thirty, and Baba, the mandali, the pupils and teachers all joined in. They paraded to the family quarters, led by a band and a group of lejim dancers shouting and playing musical instruments. (1) When they arrived, bhajans were sung, Baba’s arti was performed, and he distributed prasad to everyone. A group photograph was taken and then all returned to Meherabad.
When the Meher Ashram school first began, there were ten students. The boys were Baban Shahane, Babu Kale, Banshi, Balchandra, Bhiwa, Chhabu, Dattu Mehendarge, Hari, Madho Shinde and Murli Kale. The school was located in the Family Quarters, the ashram staff staying there also. Sidhu and the God-intoxicated youth, Mastan, were housed in another portion of the family quarters. The Hazrat Babajan Girls’ School was shifted from Arangaon to the post office, which required the women mandali to move to another building.
Baba saw to all arrangements for the boys of the Meher Ashram – their food, milk, sandals and clothing. Each pupil was given a black cap, khaki shirt, a cotton coat, pants, underwear, and a trunk to keep these things in as well as a towel, handkerchief, blanket, sheet, pillow and two turbans.
Chhagan was assigned the duty of cooking vegetarian food for the boys. For breakfast, milk tea and chapatis were served; for lunch rice, dal, vegetables and chapatis; and for dinner chapatis and two types of vegetables.
Baba had previously ordered Ramjoo Abdulla to come to Meherabad twenty days a month and spend the remaining ten days at his home in Talegaon. Ramjoo arrived in Meherabad that day and participated in the celebrations.
As Gustadji’s room in the mess quarters was vacated to make space for Dhake, the principal of the school, living arrangements were made for him on the veranda of Baba’s Jhopdi. He was instructed to live alone and to keep aloof from the other mandali. Baba was so strict with Gustadji that he was forbidden to leave the veranda except to answer the call of nature.
Gustadji was a garrulous raconteur and had a wealth of stories from his days with Sai Baba, Upasni Maharaj and Hazrat Babajan. Since he was so talkative, the other mandali would at times wish him to shut up. One day, Buasaheb teased him a little and Gustadji became so upset that he went on abusing Buasaheb for over two hours. After hearing about his harangue, Baba too seemed finally fed up with Gustadji and ordered him, “From now on, you are to remain silent.” However, Baba had deliberately created this row (started by Buasaheb) to provide an excuse for putting him on silence.
Baba ordered Gustadji to maintain silence from May 1st, 1927, explaining to him, “The observance of silence on your part will be most helpful to me in my work. Therefore, be silent for my sake.” Although loquacious by nature, Gustadji nevertheless began observing silence and remained silent until his death in 1958. He communicated his thoughts through hand gestures.
(1) A lejim is a wooden musical instrument with bells which each dancer plays as he moves in rhythm. In India, usually only men dance in public.
Lord Meher, Original ed., Bhau Kalchuri, Vol. 3, pp. 933 – 934.