I was travelling to Meherazad on my birthday (21st February, for those of my readers who forgot to wish me a happy birthday), and sat next to a very nice American lady. We got talking, as you do on the way to Meherazad, and I mentioned that I had known Beloved Baba and the Mandali since I was born. On hearing that she said that she was very disturbed. She had been to a talk at the Meher Pilgrim Centre given by Mehernath Kalchuri, and he had said that the Mandali squabbled amongst each other, were jealous of each other and were always trying to get one another in trouble with Baba. She asked me if this was true.
For a while now I have been asked again and again about things written in the "Growing Up With God" book and other instances of reminisces and have withheld comment. Each of us has different memories about growing up with Baba, and each of our memories is unique. But in this instance, when she said that many others who had been at the talk felt the same way when it was over, I feel impelled to make a clarification.
I said before that Baba Himself said that He was the Avatar, His Mandali was not Him. OK, but in all my life before Beloved Baba dropped His Body and after, I have lived with and been close to the men and women Mandali. I can say with both the clarity of vision of a child and the judgement of an adult, the Mandali were brothers and sisters in Him. They may have had differences - they were only human - but they were not driven by jealousy or spite or any other petty motives. If one was affected then all suffered. Yes, there was one among them who did have a tendency to try and poison others against people but Baba knew who it was and He took action accordingly.
While on the subject, I will now refer to some of the stories in "Growing Up With God". Stories I found disturbing and demeaning to the Mandali members they refer to. Firstly, IF Baba asked Sheela to call His sister Mani a "white pig" and she did what He asked as a child, as an adult she must know that He did things for His own reasons. To write about it serves no real purpose. And I say IF because Mani is no longer with us to either confirm or deny this. Same with the other stories.
However, there are stories that are not true, and I know that they are not. This is because I was there and I was equally witness to the events and what actually happened. She mentions that in 1965 "a Parsi child" had her Navjote performed by Beloved Baba at Mehera's insistence, in Guruprasad. Baba was most reluctant to do this and would not ever have done so had Mehera not insisted that she had given her word. After it was over all that Baba gave that child was a handkerchief. That child was me. The real story is that my grandfather wanted the Navjote done by a Zoroastrian priest, and Baba said no. He was going to do my Navjote Himself. He set the date and we all went as a family to Guruprasad, where He put on the sadra and kusti for me, made me recite the Parvardigar, Repentance and Beloved God prayers before Him, gave me a silver glass full of sweets (I still have the glass), and gave me a message along with a beautiful photograph of Him which also I still have. The message says:
"Dearest Baby Mehera,
May Ahuramazda, Zoroaster and Meher Baba help you to get rid of all superficial ceremonies.
Avatar Meher Baba" and the date.
The message is in Eruch's hand. We had a lovely day in Baba's company and Mani took pictures of us in Guruprasad gardens, we had lunch with Baba and I will always treasure that memory.
The other is again about Navjotes, co-incidentally. When describing the Navjotes that Beloved Baba performed on the occasion of Dara and Amrit's wedding, the book narrates that He was not at all happy to perform the ceremonies. He didn't want to do so and only did because Arnavaz insisted. Arnavaz was the best example of surrender to His Will that I have ever known in my life. Many of you have had the experience of talking with her, and know this to be true. She would never have done so. The fact is that Baba sent out messages to all His close families, saying if you want your children's Navjotes to be done by Me bring them on the day. My sister Dolly was one of the kids who was so selected. Baba made Eruch write three times and three times my grandmother said no, she is too young. Because of her my sister missed her chance. And again, Baba didn't just give the children handkerchieves, He gave them their Sadras, Kustis, and a loving embrace. If my memory is at fault, then surely Amrit's isn't and nor is that of my family who were all involved in all the arrangements? This change has been made to the previous post because someone has requested it who was personally affected, but the rest is unchanged, since that is what happened.
A little research or just a courtesy query to the families concerned would have helped Sheela write a book that was closer to the truth. Perhaps saying that the book was written with the frankness of a child excuses all factual errors? Each child who has grown up with Baba feels that he or she was special and especially beloved. That is only natural, because Baba made us feel that way. However, children and teenagers grow up and they then develop the judgement to evaluate their childhood experiences and discern. They also learn to check and verify, one hopes. In this case that does not seem to have happened.
I could point out other discrepancies, but this is a start to getting things into perspective and doing some reality checks. I am sorry that this had to be written. I am not raising controversy nor am I on a witch hunt. All I want is for there to be some clarity and respect for the Mandali and their lives of sacrifice and service. Talks and books that cast doubt on these are not really helping and only give a distorted view of life with Baba. It is worth remembering that children's perceptions of their parents can be very distorted even when they are adults, and that all families (the Mandali was a family in all senses, except not all were related by blood) have ups and downs, but that does not make them dysfunctional. Just normal. I hope my readers will take this in the spirit it has been written and if they are ever asked for their opinion, direct someone to this blog, if it would help them. In His Love, Jai Meher Baba.