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6

 

Twilight was falling as we re-crossed the bridge and stopped at Sassoon Hospital where Baba was actually born—in the left wing. Shirinmai, His mother, once recounted how the nurse was a nun, hastily called from Mass early one Sunday morning, who actually delivered the new little Christ child into this world. She said, "I didn't even give her time to take off her veil!”

 

Now our bus went to the far side of town; we stopped and walked down a muddy lane past a cowshed or two to an open field, where the floor and the brick walls of the new Avatar Meher Baba Poona Centre Hall is being built. It was explained that land is very hard to obtain in Poona and the construction had been delayed. Bamboo scaffolds were used, the same as one saw in Hong Kong.

 

On our way home via Laxmi Road, we paused at the equestrian statue of Queen Jhansi-Ki-Rani, the Mahratta Warrior Queen who stood off the British. Then we bisected the narrow lanes of the Poona bazaars—tiny cupboards open to the street, stacked with "bizarre" wares of every sort, lit by flickering kerosene lamps or Diwali lanterns and often provided with stove and bed for round-the-clock comfort. Crowded as the stalls were, the air was fresh, not fetid, as in Bombay. Poona seemed endless; or was it just fatigue? Now we could believe it was inhabited by 1,000,000 souls. Anyway, the hard hotel bed felt soft and very welcome as I fell asleep, thinking of that one marvelous glance from Baba.

 

 

Wednesday—October 31

 

There was an air of excitement among the women at breakfast—while the men grumbled good-humoredly. We women were to be the first to greet Baba—as Mani had intimated in her letter of October 16: "The Beloved has wished a special visit on 31st morning of all the Western women to Guruprasad to see Baba―and Mehera and the rest of us women, plus Arnavaz [Dadachanji] and our dear Rani [of Baroda] who will be with us at the time." The Maharani Shantadevi is the devoted follower of Baba who has for many summers and now for the special Sahavas, loaned Baba the villa well-named "Guruprasad."

 

We were to go in separate groups. Our group—Jeanne Shaw, Ella Winterfeldt, Adele Wolkin and myself—went in first. Baba gave each of us a warm individual embrace and then we each greeted Mehera, who looked as beautiful as ever—Mani, of the sparkling black eyes and gay smile—Dr. Goher, and Rano—both thinner than I recalled, and Meheru, Naja, Khorshed and Arnavaz. Baba introduced us to the Maharani who sat on the floor near Him.

 

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