CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO SOMA DESAI’S FIRST MEETING WITH BABA

Cyrus Daily Messages

Leaving Ankleshwar, they reached Surat at 6 o’clock on the morning of July 4th. (1923). From the train station they went by tongas to the Parsi dharmashala, which had plenty of room. After eating, all bathed and washed their clothes, which had been soiled in the muddy Narmada river. That day they ate three meals, which consisted of only rice and dal. From Surat, Baba wired Rustom to meet them in Navsari on July 6th.

Rising at 3:15 on the morning of July 5th, they left Surat at four o’clock. They shouldered their luggage and walked along the railway tracks, which ran parallel to the road. Reaching the town of Sachin at 9 A.M., they stopped near a porter’s hut where Gustadji cooked dal and rice for the group. After resting for two hours, they again started walking. They took short halts along the way and arrived in Navsari at 5:30 P.M. Although they had covered about twenty-four miles from Surat to Navsari and were very tired, they were not dejected as they had been in Kaira. Each one of the mandali had been completely exhausted and depressed in Kaira, while the Master was quite cheerful and vigorous. But in Navsari the opposite occurred; while the mandali were found to be in good spirits, Baba did not appear well.

Baba had them camp in the Sohrab Gardens of the Parsi dharmashala, which was situated in the center of the Zoroastrian community in Navsari. When they went to the well to draw water, the Parsi women and children began jeering. When the men sat down to their unvaried diet of plain dal and rice, the manager and other guests were astonished, since Parsis almost always eat meat with their meals. Oddly, however, another Parsi stranger came to the dharmashala requesting Meher Baba’s darshan. The Master refused to see him and sent him the message that due to exhaustion he wished to be alone that day. But the man insisted, so Baba sent Gustadji in his place and instructed him to pretend to be him! The Parsi had never seen Meher Baba and reverently offered namaskars. He respectfully greeted Gustadji with folded hands and then happily left. This unusual incident coincided with a dream Gustadji had recently had.

Meanwhile, some people spread the rumor in Navsari that a gang of thieves and dacoits had come to the dharmashala and that the local community should beware. These rumors implied that Meher Baba and the mandali were the criminals. Rustom had recently arrived from Ahmednagar and Baba immediately sent him to call Sohrabji Desai. Sohrabji was the literary scholar who was editing the Gujarati version of the biography of Upasni Maharaj.

Just after Rustom left, several police officers arrived and began interrogating the mandali. Although the policemen’s behavior was rude and insolent, the mandali meekly submitted to their questions and supplied them with all the necessary information about their identities and travels. The police questioned each man in detail and recorded his statement, but the men’s peculiar dress still made them suspicious.

One of the detectives continued to pester them in an intimidating manner with impertinent questions. Baba then signaled Ramjoo to reply in a similar way, and his change of manner made the detective angry and he threatened to take them all into custody. He then confronted the dharmashala manager and his staff, but they pleaded innocence.

Rustom returned within a short time. Seeing this well dressed man with a wealthy demeanor, who responded with quick, impatient answers, the detective found himself in an embarrassing position. Then Sohrabji Desai arrived on the scene. He was immediately recognized as Navsari’s renowned and highly respected writer. Sohrabji spoke sharply to the officer, declaring, “These men are Meher Baba’s disciples, and I have come for his darshan. Why are you harassing them?”

This made the detective apologize. Seeing a famous man like Sohrabji coming for darshan convinced him that Meher Baba must be a great personality. He asked for forgiveness and requested Meher Baba’s darshan, but the Master did not allow it. The policemen then left.

Meher Baba was quite happy to meet Sohrabji Desai, and it was clear to all the other mandali that this scholar was a close one in Baba’s circle of followers. Sohrabji wept with joy at seeing Meher Baba for the first time; he had been waiting a long time for this meeting. He invited Baba to visit his house, and he agreed.

Lord Meher, Original ed., Bhau Kalchuri, Vol. 2, pp. 544 – 546.

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