THE SECRET CUPBOARD
Mani S. Irani
My school wasn't far from home, so I used to walk to and from school every day. I even made an extra run home at lunchtime. Most of my friends stayed in school and munched on sandwiches and bananas which they had brought from home. I was smarter I ran home to enjoy a hot meal. When I reached home I would find Mother waiting for me, my plate laid ready on the table and my food kept warm on the stove.
As you must know, India was then under British rule, and whenever an important British personage died, a holiday was declared in his honour. On this particular morning at school, the nun in charge declared that she had very sad news to give us and announced the Lord so-and-so had died. "Well, children," she said, "in honour of Lord so-and-so, the school is observing a holiday."
We felt jubilant but managed to look properly sad and pious as we filed out of class with bowed heads. Once we were outside the gates we threw our solar topees into the air and cheered loudly, "Hooray! Lord so-and-so is dead! Hip, hip, hooray!" And my heart said, "Thank you, Baba, this is great," as I ran all the way home.
Mother wasn't expecting me to be home so early. She thought she was by herself and that I wouldn't be disturbing her privacy for another hour yet.
I've always been sensitive to atmosphere. And as I entered home, the atmosphere felt different. There was a still and solemn feeling, as though I were entering a church.
Walking softly to the threshold of her room, I found Mother seated before the open panels of my favourite little cupboard, an ornate rosewood piece. This particular cupboard in our home was smaller than the rest, and always locked. I'd never seen it open. It felt like there was a secret locked away inside.
Now, for the first time, I was seeing the cupboard with its panels open! In front of it was Mother, seated on a low stool. She was sitting with a pair of trousers draped over her arms and across her lap, as though she were holding a child later in life I likened this scene to a picture I saw of the Pieta.
Tears, silent tears, were rolling down her cheeks, and I saw them fall onto the trousers in her lap. I couldn't move. I'd never seen Mother cry. I did not have to ask. I knew that the trousers were Baba's, that in this cupboard Mother had stored clothes that her Son had worn at school and in college.
A timeless moment. And then Mother seemed suddenly aware of my presence. Brushing away her tears roughly, she pushed a pile of clothes into the cupboard and turned as though nothing unusual had happened.
"Why are you home so early from school?" she asked. "It's not yet lunchtime." I had to tell her the good new of the demise of Lord so-and-so, bless him.
Two days later when Mother wasn't around, I tried the cupboard door. It was unlocked. I opened it and found it empty. It was easy to guess that Mother had given away her Son's clothes, either to Gulmai, or Khorshed, or any of the others who were always asking Mother for Baba's personal belongings.
That moment when I had seen her weeping over His clothes was surely the moment when she gave up her personal claim to her beloved Son. It was her way of saying to the world, "I give Him to you. Have Him. He's yours."
GOD-BROTHER, pp. 122-125
1993 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust