|Aloba speaking on the veranda outside Mandali Hall, Meherazad.|
Mandali Hall, 7 November 2013. Meherwan was asked about his memories of Eruch as a boy, growing up. A few stories were exchanged, and then the talk turned to Aloba. We were talking about how Eruch’s spiritual longing grew from his exposure to Catechism class in the school he attended in Nagpur.
I then mentioned how Aloba, in his role as marriage counsellor, used Baba’s name and prayers as a tool to turn the couple’s attention away from their issues and problems towards Baba. His theory, as far as I can make out, was “The couple that prays together stays together.” A very good theory. I was once sitting on the porch outside Mandali Hall and listening to two couples discussing their meetings with Aloba. One was saying how because of their marital problems Aloba had instructed them to establish Baba’s photograph in their living room, pray together before it 7 times a day and take Baba’s Name so many times (I forget the number). The other couple quite smugly said, “Your problems must not be so serious as ours.” When asked why they thought so, the husband said, ”Alobaji has told us to also establish Baba’s picture, but we have to pray 10 times a day and he has also told us to take Baba’s Name many more times than he has told you.” This one-upmanship over their relationship issues was so sweet, and Aloba’s solution so very Aloba!
Meherwan reminisced how Aloba was very emotional and passionate, especially about Baba. How he would long and long for Iranis to come to Baba, and how eventually they did. After Baba dropped His Body, Aloba told the rest of his companions that he felt he should go to Iran. This was when there was very little money in the Avatar Meher Baba (Firstly) Trust – the arm of the AMBPPCT set up to take care of those Baba had supported financially and deemed ‘beneficiaries’ in His will. So Eruch told Aloba, “Look Aloba, there is not much money, so all we can spare is Rs. 200/-. If you can manage on that amount, then go.” Aloba was very happy, and set off on his travels. Meherwan recalls Aloba telling how he would go into a roadside restaurant and try to bargain down the price of a meal. If there was a thali offer on, he would try to convince someone to share the thali meal so that he paid less! How he would travel with great discomfort but for very little money. Once he shared a taxi with 16 other people and a donkey tied to the roof carrier! He got the Iranis to support him some with what they could spare, and he talked about Baba, cried with love and longing and often fainted out of his ecstasy. Baba had already sent some of the Prem Ashram boys back and they were now living in Iran. Aloba must have contacted them, and through them others. He had a very successful trip (the first of quite a few in later years) and returned back to Meherazad. Imagine everyone’s surprise when he returned some of the money he had been given!!! Only Aloba could make the impossible possible!
Meherwan then recounted this story, which is so sweet and so Aloba, it really has to be told. Next to Guruprasad was another bungalow, appearing deserted and shut up to all intents and purposes. Except, every morning an elderly Caucasian man would emerge and walk past Guruprasad gates towards the main part of Pune Camp. Baba once wondered through His gestures who could this be? The man was walking past the gates and Baba turned to Aloba and said, “Aloba, go find out who he is.” Baba hadn’t even finished gesturing His wish, when (Meherwan described this so perfectly) Aloba set off like a bullet out of a gun! They were sitting on the front verandah of Guruprasad, which had a marble balustrade with a drop of around 10` on the other side. Aloba didn’t use the steps to go after the man. Instead, he climbed up the balustrade and then somersaulted down, landed on his feet and took off down the driveway. Reaching the outside boundary, he didn’t bother to open the gate but climbed up the fence and took a flying leap and landed beside the man. The poor guy must have been shocked out of his wits, seeing this hurricane land beside him! Of course, Aloba walked with him, and returned with the full story of his life, where he came from and what he did, etc. The man was called Kirkpatrick, and was an Irishman who worked for the priest in charge of St Mary’s Church near the Pune racecourse. Baba laughed and gestured, “See how Aloba operates? I hadn’t even finished my sentence and he went off. I am really frightened to give Aloba an order, when he rushes off like this I get palpitations!” Meherwan gestured as Baba had done, and everyone burst into laughter!!
Aloba had no compunction about confronting people, and sometimes he would be so direct, it hurt people’s feelings. Someone must have said something, because he came and told Baba, “Why are they saying I hurt their feelings? I am a good man, I don’t hurt anyone.”
Again, after Baba had left them, one day Aloba got it into his head that he was the one to find Baba’s missing book. The Book! He informed the rest of the Mandali that he was going to set out and wouldn’t return until he had found the manuscript. Knowing his ways, the Mandali was justifiably nervous. So Eruch suggested he ask for guidance. Now Aloba had two ways of deciding matters. One was to put two slips of paper with “Yes” and “No” on them at Baba’s foot cushion in Mandali Hall, and pick one. The other was to ask Hafiz. Opening the Hafizi to whatever page comes up and reading the message therein is used very widely amongst the Sufis. Aloba loved his Hafizi and used this way, called “Faal”, to decide matters. So when Eruch suggested he ask Hafiz, Aloba immediately agreed that this was an excellent idea. One morning shortly after, he came in all bathed and ready with the Hafizi. Eruch, Pendu, Mani, Goher and other Mandali were gathered in front of Baba’s chair and waiting. After prayers Aloba reverently opened the Hafizi. To everyone’s astonishment, every stanza on the page ended with the words “Ma posh” – “Don’t ask” – and Aloba realized that he shouldn’t go searching for the book, it was not what he was meant to do. Baba had spoken, and everyone was very relieved!!
In later years, when I came to Meherazad to stay and cooked for the Mandali, I would often make mince cutlets for the household, or other meat and fish dishes. Aloba loved meat of any variety, but he especially loved meat cooked with spices and oil. He would come and compliment me on the food, and pour blessings on my head! After Pendu died, Aloba’s usual seat was in the easy-chair outside Manu’s kitchen window. Any time we made akuri (spicy scrambled eggs) or omelettes, he could smell the food and would call out, “Manubai, aaj bahut achha khana banaayaa hai!” (Manu, today there is something very good cooking!) and of course Manu would make up a roll of whatever was being cooked in a chapatti and I would go give it to him, and he’d enjoy it with great relish!
In the days when pilgrims stayed in Meherazad until 5.00 pm, Aloba was responsible for preparing the afternoon tea for pilgrims, and once decided that it was too expensive to give tea with milk. So he started giving weak tea with lemon grass and mint, but sweet. It was an instant hit! And of course more got drunk than when he served regular chai! He was very cross that his purpose had been defeated, because it hadn’t cut down on costs. Another thing Aloba did was serve cold drinks and snacks. He had a store of biscuits and bottles of orange flavoured Rasnaa, an artificial mix for preparing squashes (no nutritional value, only many chemicals and sugar!)...BUT...both these items were strongly scented with camphor! Aloba preserved everything with camphor balls. Many is the time I have had to surreptitiously pour away the glass of orange squash, though many is also the time I’ve had to drink the glass down, because Aloba was sitting there watching me!!
Aloba was very close to my uncle Eruch. When Eruch died, he was hale and hearty. However, he then had a fall and broke his hip. Before this happened, Bhauji was very ill, and it was assumed that he would pass away before long. Aloba got so very agitated about this, because this meant that Bhau would be buried next to Eruch. Aloba told Manu and me quite a few times, that this was unacceptable. He and Eruch went back a very long way, from the time Eruch joined Baba. They were brothers, and it was only fitting that Aloba be the one to be buried next to Eruch, not Bhau who (according to Aloba) was a new-comer. Anyway, the broken hip meant that he had to go to Pune for treatment. Aloba told everyone that he was going for the last time, they would not see him again. He said his goodbyes, and even though everyone told him that he’d be fine, he insisted that he was not coming back. He even took Meherwan to his room and showed him where everything was kept (the makings for morning and afternoon tea, soap, detergent for dishes, washing powder, etc.) so that he could handle things from then on. And he was right. Aloba, who so many times had predicted Baba’s Manifestation on such and such date and always been disappointed when the day passed without drama, died on the operating table in Jehangir Nursing Home in Pune. He got his wish, and was brought to Meherabad and interred next to his dear brother Eruch, his body resting contentedly beside this beloved companion of his life with Baba.
Many of my readers will remember Aloba and will have stories of their experiences with him..please share them!! Jai Meher Baba.