The following notes of Chacha's history are related by Baidul, who gathered them from various people in Ajmer. Chacha, a Pathan, whose real name is Nur Ali Shah, came to Ajmer from his home near Peshawar many years ago....
Chacha was a hafiz, one who knew the Koran by heart, and he came to Ajmer to teach Arabic. Soon after he arrived he went to the famous shrine of Khwaja Moeinuddin Chishti, and he seems to have felt irresistibly drawn to stay there.
For twelve years he remained in the "solah khamba" graveyard in Khwaja Saheb's shrine, and something seems to have happened to him there, for he became thenceforth a majzoob.
At the end of twelve years he emerged from the shrine, and for six years sat in one place. Thereafter, for a year, he went to Taragarh, the great fort on the mountain behind Ajmer.
From Taragarh he made his way to Indore, about 300 miles to the south, and there is a strange and hardly credible story that he died there, and was buried. At Indore, he had been known as Ganja Baba (ganja means bald). A year or so after he was supposed to have died some people came from Indore to Ajmer, at the time of the yearly festival at Khwaja Saheb's shrine and, to their astonishment, they discovered Chacha, their Ganja Baba of Indore, alive, and sitting by a water tap near the shrine.
It is said that they called others from Indore who had both known Ganja Baba, and had witnessed his death and burial, and they too confirmed his identity. This strange tale of resurrection then began to be disseminated abroad, and the fame of Chacha grew in stature.
Whether this story is the purest fiction or not, I do not know, and the reader will, no doubt, accept or reject it according to his inclination. At least, it is an example of the kind of strange legend that may grow up around a personality such as Chacha.
After sitting for some years by the water tap, Chacha eventually moved into a tiny hovel of a room....
Baba began contacting many masts, and a small mast ashram was established....
At that time, Chacha was living in the squalid and verminous little hovel near Khwaja Saheb's shrine, and was never known to move from it. An attendant (mujawar) saw to his needs, and Chacha himself was in a state of filth almost beyond belief.
He was dressed in an old hat and unwholesome clothes that were stained and impregnated with stale tea, and the remnants of decaying food. The name Chacha was given him because, in his fondness for tea (cha), he used to call out, "Cha, cha", (tea, tea), whenever he wanted it. A great deal of tea, instead of being swallowed, would spill over his clothes and also heaven knows how over his hat, and the latter was encrusted with stale tea and sugar, and stuck irremovably to his scalp.
Kaka was sent to bring Chacha to Baba, and perhaps, as in the case of Karim Baba, he was given the inner key that opened the door to Chacha's consciousness. At any rate, Kaka astounded the local people by bringing Chacha to Baba's house, thus doing something that no one had achieved before, for Chacha had never been known to move anywhere at anyone's behest since the day he had set foot in Ajmer so many years before.
As soon as Chacha arrived at the house, Baba and the mandali set about giving him a bath, but before this could be done, his hat and his clothes had to be cut away with scissors, for, as we had already learnt, they were so stiffened and adherent with tea, food, and filth, that neither his raiment nor his cap could be removed in any other way.
On that day Chacha underwent the unique experience of having his first bath for about thirty years; and it became, in fact, his last bath also, for even during his stay in Satara in 1947 he steadfastly refused a bath, and is not believed to have been bathed by anyone, before or since.
After this bath he was clad in a new kafni and he then asked Baba for a special vegetable and some jawar (millet) bread. These were brought, and Baba fed him with his own hands. After the meal Chacha demanded a tonga, and when one had been called he climbed into it, and telling Baba to sit beside him, the two set off together, Chacha giving a brief order to the tonga driver to take them to Taragarh. Baba, however, did not seem inclined to go with Chacha all the way to this ancient fortress, and took Chacha as far as his hovel, and left him there.
For about two weeks after this initial contact, Baba rose nightly at 3:30 a.m., and travelled through the dark, empty streets to Chacha's hovel, and sat alone with Chacha for about an hour each night. These nocturnal visits were necessary, because, by day, the crowds were too great to allow privacy of contact....
BROKEN-DOWN FURNITURE NEWS
Nov-Dec 1992, pp. 5-6
Excerpted from THE WAYFARERS