Many of you will have already read the posting on Trust Talk about a new road through Meherazad. It gives you some idea of what has been happening for us all since that morning of 24 July 2012, at 9.30 a.m. when the villagers of Pimpalgaon Malvi which is right by Meherazad, started digging a road to take them from their village to the small town of Shendi, which is on the Ahmednagar-Aurangabad road. This road has been on the agenda for many years, from the time the Mandali were alive. It had been successfully resisted for so long. However, a change of policy at Government level, aimed at boosting rural infrastructure, gave the village council (Gram Panchayat) the ideal opportunity to push this through.
They came to talk to Falu Mistry (Trustee responsible for the care of Meherazad) and when he told them no, they took matters into their own hands. Commencing digging from the edge of the forested area that is close to Seclusion Hill and is in the care of the Gram Panchayat, they started excavating
with a digger on Meherazad property itself! The picture above shows where the road emerged from the forest into our land. In the pictures below, you see how the road is being dug right past Meherazad, cutting across the path leading to Seclusion Hill and onwards, until it finally meets the village road that goes into Pimpalgaon Malvi.
Along the way, a lot of trees were felled, the JCB earth mover just pushing over the trees that stood in it's way. Many of them were quite old trees, well established and sturdy. But they had to go to make way for "Progress". It was not easy, and Falu and the Meherabad and Meher Nazar Trustees did their best to halt the work, so we could find a legal way of stopping this road. Our hopes were dashed when the district land and roads official, the Tehsildar, told us that there had been a foot road along this route since the 1920s and has been shown on survey maps since that time. It was the legal right of the village council to have this road, and even get Government funding for it's construction! He suggested a compromise solution, so the villagers, the Trustees and he all came to the verandah outside Mandali Hall and talked through our options. He got us to agree to give a road, but got the village to agree that the route it followed through Meherazad lands would be decided solely by the Trust so as to cause the least disturbance and disruption to the sanctity and peace of Beloved Baba's home. At no point would the road be wider than 10 feet, and he also got them to agree to the fencing of all our properties - not just along the route of the new road but also in the surrounding areas, where there has been constant encroachment and creation of unauthorised roads.
The official we met was a very nice man, but he could tell us no different from his colleague...the road had to go through. And it did. Late afternoon saw us all at the Tehsildar's office getting papers signed, and then we went back to Meherazad knowing that our landscape was going to be changed for all time. Not just by the road, but by all the fencing that will need to be put up along the original property and also the buffer zones. The following day we stood out in the sun and watched our boys measuring 10 feet along the route and marking out the lines in chalk for the JCB to go through. It was all done pretty quickly. As many of you know, I have been living mostly at Meherazad for the last so many years, looking after my aunt Manu Jessawala and my uncle Meherwan Jessawala. Because I happened to be there, and because I speak fluent Marathi, I was asked to cancel my trip to England to see my son Sheriar and my partner Gary, and be here for the duration of this crisis. It is Baba's Will, and needed to be done.
What does this road mean for us? It means that a fairly busy passage is being created which will become the preferred road to Ahmednagar, because it takes off nearly 6 kms from the existing route. It passes very close to Meherazad and so we will have traffic noise and the fumes and pollution that is inevitable when you have a common throughfare.
It is not all doom and gloom, though. We have had to work more closely with the Gram Panchayat members and they have shown themselves to be more reasonable than we thought. Now that they have what they want, they are prepared to support us in our aim to make Meherazad secure via our fencing plans, at least for the time being. They have been accommodating and start the work at 9 a.m. and stop it at 5 p.m. even though they don't have to. Baba wanted harmony above all, and this has been somewhat lacking in recent years between Meherazad and the village. This road may change all that, and if it does, it will be worth all the aggravation.
Why fence? We have the original Meherazad site to protect and preserve for His lovers all over the world, so that they can visit and get a flavour of what it was like in Baba's time. Meherazad is unique in that it was Baba's home to the end and also the home of the remaining Mandali until they were gone. It is intimate and serene in a way that Meherabad can't be. There are no pilgrims staying here, no MPR and no shops or restaurants close by. His Presence is like a gentle fragrance permeating all over, and you can sit in His bedroom or in Mandali Hall and know that it is little changed from when He Himself was there. You still wake to the call of the birds, much as Baba did. You still see the gardens in all their beauty as Mehera did when she tended to them. You still see the verandah where the ladies sat until Meheru went to Baba on 21 April 2012, and shared memories of times with our Beloved. You still hear Meherwan speak where his brother Eruch sat and spoke for so many years.
If we don't fence, the land gets encroached upon by neighbouring farmers and we lose it. The Trust has also purchased many acres of buffer land, to keep the centre which is Meherazad pristine. These lands need to be cultivated as they are agricultural lands. Should we continue to not cultivate, under current legislation the Government can take the lands away and give them to landless farmers or to local farmers who are prepared to till them. If we fence, we can plant trees and not have our efforts destroyed by grazing cattle within months. If we fence we can stop locals using our lands as unofficial shortcuts and thereby establishing rights of way. The Trust can set in place a development plan that will provide volunteers years of joy in bringing about the transformation from fallow land to verdant tree plantations of neem, tamarind, guava, chikoo, ayurvedic plants, etc. Fencing is no longer a distant possible, it is an immediate essential.
Will the AMBPPCT have enough money to do this work? I don't know. But I do know that if funds are needed, I would donate for this project. Not only donate money, I would put my own time and effort into bringing these ideas into fruition. Meherazad meant so much to His close ones, it means so much to us all who visit His home, and it needs to be preserved so that our children and grandchildren can continue to come and be here in the years and decades to come.