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5

 

house where Baba spent much of His youth, now occupied by Baba's brother Beheram and his family. As soon as our two buses unloaded, the narrow streets filled with curious householders and swarms of children—all as delighted with our outlandish clothes as we were with theirs. We heard the words "Meher Baba" pass from lip to lip. We crowded into the narrow alley and into the garden of the house with its screened-in well, (which supplied water to hundreds during the desperate water shortage followed by the 1961 Poona flood) then one by one into the little dark room where Baba, in the early days of Godhood after Babajan's kiss of Realization, used to knock His forehead on a stone on the floor during that period of infinite agony. Relics of Baba's youth were in a lighted glass cabinet, including His cricket bar, a photo of His parents, His white cotton sadra, nails and hair. Catty-corner across the alley was the house called "Bhopla" (pumpkin) House, (because of a big round stone at the doorstep), wherein the Irani family actually lived at the time of Baba's birth. Next came a visit to St. Vincent's High School, now being torn down and rebuilt, where Baba was a student. I stooped and pocketed a broken brick. We proceeded to a crowded thoroughfare in Poona Cantonment and saw in the distance a sort of open shed, built near a lacy green tree. Here again a curious crowd collected as the foreigners took off their varied footgear and entered the tomb of Hazrat Babajan to pay their respects. Pictures of her, and of Baba, her spiritual son, were hung on the walls. The trunk of the neem tree under which she used to sit was enclosed inside the shed.

 

We visited another sacred tree—a huge living mango tree by the misty banks of the Mula-Mutha River, in the Bund gardens, already familiar to us through films. We wound our way to it through the Bund gardens, near the race track, where Baba often walks with the mandali on the shady paths bordered by exotic flowering shrubs and trees. He used to frequent these gardens in His childhood. The buses stopped here and those in good shape trod on foot down the dirt path. At the mango tree by the river we also got out of the buses and strolled about. I picked up a few brown leaves and touched the gnarled bark, feeling a strong charge in this old living tree whose branches had already sheltered two living Perfect Beings —Babajan and Baba. This is the "goodbye spot" for Baba's Poona lovers. Across the bridge, (two years ago almost covered by flood waters), we drove to Deccan College where Baba was a student until His sophomore year. A handsome brick building of the Victorian era, like almost every other public building I'd seen in India, it was now deserted, and used only by the Government.

 

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