Symbols of the world's religions

               

THE LAST PERSON BABA REMEMBERED

Eruch Jessawala

 
Baba has his own way of drawing His loved ones. Doctors are a prime example. And Dr. Ginde, you may say, is a glaring example of this. Baba was suffering from excruciating pain in His face. He had what is called trigeminal neuralgia. Our Feramji who just died this last June, also suffered from it and the pain was so bad that he used to come out of his room and bang his head against the pillars of the verandah to get some relief. Baba hadn't been able to eat for several days because of the pain, and naturally we were all worried about Baba's condition. Nariman was living in Bombay then and he contacted Dr. Ram Ginde.

Dr. Ginde was the top neurologist in the country at the time, a renowned doctor, and Nariman went to Beach Candy Hospital to see if Dr. Ginde would travel to Ahmednagar to examine Baba, because he knew that Baba would not come to Bombay to be treated. In a way, it was a preposterous request to expect such a big person who was so famous and so busy to go all the way to Ahmednagar, but, of course, where Baba was concerned, no task was too imposing for Nariman to take on.

How can I explain this to you all? It wasn't that we weren't aware of how preposterous some of the things we asked people to do were — we were intelligent people, Nariman was a man of the world, he knew very well how important people had to be handled — but there was an air of freedom around Baba. Baba was the Emperor, the whole world was His, everyone in it was merely one of His vassals, so what did it matter to us if the world thought this one was great or that one was a VIP, or this one was a Maharaja — it was all the same to us. We were in the world but we truly were not of it. We were free men who had chosen to become His slaves, and by becoming His slaves, we became totally free from bondage to the values of worldly people. So Nariman didn't hesitate for a second to go and ask this famous neurosurgeon to see Baba.

I remember Nariman telling us about it later. It was amusing the way he described it. Instead of having an interview with Dr. Ginde in his office as he expected, he found that Dr. Ginde was too busy for that. Nariman ended up following Ginde around the hospital as he made his rounds, talking to him in between patients. Dr. Ginde was very abrupt, almost rude, but it was just that he didn't have time for the social niceties. So Nariman followed Dr. Ginde around and explained the situation, and Ginde agreed to come. Dr. Ginde had never met Baba before and, of course, at first wanted Baba to come to Bombay, but Nariman told Ginde that Baba couldn't come to Bombay and that Ginde would have to go to Ahmednagar. "How?" Ginde asked. Nariman said that he would arrange a car and driver to be put at Ginde's disposal, and eventually Ginde agreed.

A certain date had been set up, and on that day the car containing Dr. Ginde arrived at Meherazad and I went to receive him. As soon as he got out of the car he said to me, very curtly, "Do you have anyplace to piddle?"

"What?" I was a little taken aback. And the question surprised me because we used to piddle wherever we wanted to in those days. We didn't have the latrines you see now. There were just a few buildings here, and we were completely surrounded by fields, so whenever we had to ease our bladders we would just wander into one of the fields and go. So I told Dr. Ginde, "Yes, just this field."

Ginde walked off into the field where Falu's rose garden is now, and I showed him the water tap and the soap and he said to me, "Do you know how to wash your hands?" I don't remember what I said to that, but he went on, "Most people don't have any idea how to use soap properly to wash their hands. You don't just rub some on and then immediately wash it off." And the whole time he's talking he's rubbing his hands with the soap, making a rich lather. And he gave me a lecture on the proper way to wash your hands. I don't remember it now, but it had something to do with working up a good lather and letting the soap bubbles stay on your hands for a while so that a catalytic agent had time to work, and it was the reaction caused by this agent which actually got the hands clean.

I don't remember exactly what he said, but I'll never forget the way he immediately started lecturing me on the proper way to wash your hands. He was like an army general ordering his troops about, showing them how to do this or do that. After coming into Baba's contact he was a completely different person, but this was how he was with us in the beginning. Very abrupt, very curt. In the meantime, Dr. Goher had come to tell Dr. Ginde that he could see Baba. So Dr. Goher led him to Baba's room, and Ginde began his examination and he quickly diagnosed the problem as trigeminal neuralgia.

"I can give you some medicine for the pain, but there's nothing else I can do," Ginde said.

"There's no cure?" Baba asked.

"Yes, there is a cure, but it is worse than the disease."

"What's the cure?" Baba asked.

"I can give you an injection which will relieve the pain in an instant, but I don't recommend it."

As soon as Baba heard that, He wanted the injection given, saying that the pain was unbearable, but Ginde kept insisting that he couldn't recommend it. I remember Ginde said at one point, "If my own father were suffering the way you are, I would not recommend that he have the operation."

But Baba wouldn't be put off, so finally Ginde said, "Well, if you want it done, you will have to go to the hospital."

"Hospital?" Baba made a frown to show that he didn't like the idea. "Why not do it here?"

"But Baba," Dr. Ginde said, "it is a delicate operation. It has to be done in a hospital."

"Do it here," Baba gestured.

"Baba, that's impossible. First of all, the room must be completely antiseptic and..."

Baba turned to Dr. Goher, "Can't you make the room antiseptic?"

"Yes, Baba. We can do that, and in the meantime Dr. Ginde can have some breakfast. By the time he's finished, we'll have everything ready here."

"No, no, it's not possible. It's a very delicate, intricate, and sensitive operation. You need a special screen to make the proper measurements." And Ginde explained that you had to insert a needle into the brain through the temple. You had to make the most exact measurements so you would know where to inject the needle and how deep to position it so that it would be situated at the very end of the trigeminal nerve. Then you released a drop of alcohol on the nerve end and it deaded the nerve so that there would be no more pain.

"Do it," Baba gestured.

"But Baba, even if I could do it here, which I can't, I don't recommend it. The pain will stop but that whole side of Your face will be permanently desensitized, numb. You won't be able to feel any normal sensations like heat or cold. Better to live with the pain, which is only periodic, than the loss of sensation, which will be permanent. You will have no feeling on that half of Your face" — I think it was the right side of Baba's face — "You won't feel Your tears, Your saliva will dribble, Your eye will droop. Better to live with the pain, which is intermittent. I will prescribe some medicine to make it more tolerable." You see, already Dr. Ginde had developed some feeling for Baba. He didn't want to see Baba looking that way. That's why he had pleaded with Baba that even if it were his own father, he wouldn't want that.

But Baba was adamant. "No, I want you to do the operation," Baba indicated. "I will take full responsibility for it."

"But Baba, without a screen it is not possible to measure accurately. There is no way of knowing whether the needle is in the right position."

"I have been hearing," Baba gestured, "that you are the top neurosurgeon in the country, and you can't do the measurements properly without a screen?"

"It has to be exact, Baba. You don't want to deaden the wrong nerve."

"But surely, with your experience, you would be able to make the measurements."

You see how the conversation turned. Baba started playing on Dr. Ginde's pride. Buttering him up, as it were, emphasizing how skillful he was reputed to be. And though Baba was supposed to be the patient, see how He is the one who leads the doctor in the conversation. Baba conducts it all.

Dr. Ginde admitted that he could do the measurements without the screen. "But how is it possible for me to do the operation here? You will have to be anaesthetized."

"Why?"

"Baba, You must not move. This is a very delicate operation. The slightest movement of Your head could result in my hitting the wrong nerve."

"I will sit very still. I won't move."

"But I have to inject the needle to just the right depth and then release one drop of alcohol. How will I know if I have found the right spot, how will I know whether the pain has subsided? You don't even speak."

"I'll raise my finger."

"How?" Ginde demanded, and Baba gestured, "I'll do this," and showed him how He would raise His finger without moving His head at all.

"But will you be able to bear the pain without moving at all?"

"I will bear it."

"Your head mustn't shake at all."

"I won't shake."

And Baba indicated this with such calm authority that Dr. Ginde believed it and eventually was persuaded that he could do the operation here.

He went and had breakfast, which the women sent over while Dr. Goher supervised the cleaning of Baba's room. She turned it into an operating theater. And when it was ready Dr. Ginde came back inside and began taking the most precise measurements of Baba's head and forehead. He spent a long time with calipers measuring from every angle. Finally he was ready, and he inserted a large needle into Baba's head. Here, at the temple. You could hear the needle as it pierced Baba's skull — you may call it a long, thin nail, not even a needle. As I recall there was another needle inside this, with a drop of absolute alcohol. Dr. Ginde inserted this into the hole made by the larger needle.

"The instant you feel relief, raise Your finger," Dr. Ginde instructed Baba. Baba sat absolutely motionless. And when Dr. Ginde found the right spot and released the alcohol, without moving at all, Baba just raised His finger, like this.

Dr. Ginde withdrew the needle and then applied a dressing to the temple. Baba was very happy because the pain was completely gone, and Dr. Ginde was also very happy and very proud because, really speaking, the operation should not have been done like that and it required great skill on Dr. Ginde's part to be able to do it.

Ginde asked Baba to walk. He wanted to see if Baba's balance had been affected, but I still remember the sight because Baba took Ginde's hand, and the two of them, hand in hand strolled up and down the room. Baba turned to Dr. Goher and gestured that they should give Ginde some food. "Bring some rice and dal for him." Baba ordered, and when the food came, Baba fed the first morsel to Dr. Ginde Himself.

Ginde said, "But Baba, You have not eaten for some days, it is better if You have some food and Ginde tried to persuade Baba to eat.

"I am very happy," Baba declared.

"But I am not," Ginde answered.

"Why not?"

"It's not good, Baba. You should not have done it." He was glad the pain was gone, but he was unhappy that one side of Baba's face would now be permanently without feeling or sensation.

But, as usual, Ginde was in a hurry, so he wanted to leave right away now that the operation was over. And only a minute or two after, the car drove off. It was just at the end of the driveway, or the top of the hill, you may say, when the pain returned. Baba told us to immediately call Adi on the phone in Ahmednagar and tell him to stop Dr. Ginde's car and tell Dr. Ginde the news that the pain had returned. So we did. We didn't have a phone here, but we cycled down to the pumping station and called Adi and told him to stop the car when it came through town. So Adi did.

"What is it?" Ginde asked.

"I just received a phone call," Adi said, "that the pain has returned. What should we do now?"

Ginde replied, "Tell Baba that I am very happy to hear that the pain has returned."

And this was how Dr. Ginde was caught. It seems as if Baba suffered this excruciating neuralgic pain only to have the excuse to call Dr. Ginde to Him. And after the contact was made, which was the important thing, the pain came back and Baba's face was not affected. And Baba stopped complaining about the pain as well.

In subsequent years, Dr. Ginde saw Baba many times, but not as a doctor, and grew to love Him very deeply. You know that at the very end, on the 31st of January, Dr. Ginde was the last person Baba remembered.

You know that at the very end, on the 31st of January, Dr. Ginde was the last person Baba remembered. He had called Dr. Ginde and given instructions that he should come to Him at Meherazad before noon on the 31st, and throughout that morning Baba would inquire whether Dr. Ginde had arrived yet. Finally, just before noon, Baba told us to call Adi and leave word that as soon as Dr. Ginde arrived, he should be brought to Meherazad at once, without any tea or refreshment first.

And Ginde arrived just after Baba dropped His body. But you know that story, don't you, you know why Ginde was late? As I've told you, he was a very busy man. He was always in a hurry, so when he would come to visit Baba, he would drive from Bombay, spend a few hours with Baba, and then rush back to Bombay. But the whole way here, he would be instructing his driver to go faster. "Can't you go faster, why are you taking so long, don't dawdle." And he would instruct the driver to pass cars without regard for whether the road conditions permitted it or not. It used to terrify his wife, and she complained to Baba. "How often have I been telling him not to back seat drive, but he doesn't listen to me. But if you were to tell him, Baba, he will listen to You."

Baba agreed and told Dr. Ginde that from then on he was not allowed to say anything to his driver. He had to let his driver drive at his own speed and not insist that he try to pass every vehicle on the road. Dr. Ginde didn't like it, but his love for Baba was such that the obeyed. But now see the situation. He had been called to Meherazad on the 31st by Baba, and Baba had emphasized that he must be there by twelve noon at the latest. So Dr. Ginde had left early that morning, in plenty of time. But for some reason, his driver went even slower than usual. Of course, Dr. Ginde didn't know just how critical Baba's condition was, but he was beside himself, and yet he couldn't say a word to his driver. And then, to make matters worse, the driver suddenly pulls over to the side of the road and gets out of the car. Dr. Ginde thought the driver had to piddle or something, but the driver just stood there for quite a while, resting and Dr. Ginde, bound by his obedience to His lord, had to remain silent. And it was because of that that he was late. He arrived at Adi's office just in time to hear that Baba had dropped His body. The shock was so great that he had a heart attack right there in Adi's office.

But after only a minute he and Adi drove to Meherazad and he was able to pay his last respects to Baba. "Where were you?" we asked. "Baba wanted you here by twelve, Baba kept asking for you." And poor Ginde, it wasn't his fault that he was late, but how he must have felt it. I told you, the shock was so great that he had a heart attack as soon as he arrived and heard the news.

But then he stayed and was with us while Baba's body was lying in the crypt at Meherabad. It was Dr. Ginde who kept urging us to inter Baba's body. We hadn't planned to keep Baba's body for seven days in the Samadhi. We had no such plans at all. We weren't able to think ahead that way. We simply were following Baba's orders. We took Baba's body to the crypt at Meherabad because He had told us all many times how important it was that His body be placed there after He dropped it. And we played "Begin the Beguine" because Baba had told us to do that as well. But we had no idea so many of Baba's lovers would come to pay their last respects to Him. To have one last glimpse of His face. And with so many lovers coming, and from distant lands, how could we deprive them of this last darshan? We couldn't, so we got blocks of ice and kept Baba's body surrounded by ice blocks.

Even so, Dr. Ginde was upset. "Eruch," he would tell me, "Baba is God, but his body is human. It will decompose just like any other body; you must inter it." You see, Ginde was afraid that Baba's body would swell up and burst. "You can't keep His body indefinitely. This is a desert climate, you must inter it as soon as possible."

And we said we would as soon as there was the first indication that Baba's body was starting to deteriorate, but the days passed and we still hadn't interred the body and Dr. Ginde couldn't take it anymore, he decided to go back to Bombay. But before he went, he asked Don Stevens, who was there, to come and see him in Bombay on his way back to the States to tell him exactly what occurred during the next few days.

And do you know, Baba's body stayed fresh the entire seven days. But after a week it was decided that the time had come to inter Baba's body and so, on February 7th, on His birthday by the Zoroastrian calendar, the ice was removed and Baba's body was covered up. A wooden coffin had been made as a lid and earth was put on top of that and then a cloth was placed at the top. The marble slab wasn't installed until sometime later.

Don Stevens left and went back to America. But he remembered Dr. Ginde's request and so he went to visit him. He went to Dr. Ginde's apartment and opened his arms to hug Dr. Ginde when, to his utter astonishment and surprise, Dr. Ginde bent down and lowered his head on Don's shoes. Don didn't know what to say, he was so taken aback at this. Here was this man, this famous doctor, falling at his feet and wiping the dust off Don's shoes and placing it on his head. "You've just returned from Meherabad," Dr. Ginde explained, "so the dust on your shoes is sacred."

That is the degree to which this famous neurosurgeon came to love Meher Baba as the Lord. Dr. Ram Ginde, truly a great lover.

And to net this lover, Baba used the excuse of trigeminal neuralgia. At one time or another, I think every part of Baba's body suffered from some sort of ailment. And in each a different specialist would be sought out, and whosoever came to see Baba, they ended up by surrendering to His love. The Avatar suffers, but through that suffering His lovers are drawn to Him. And through our suffering for Him, not for ourselves, our love for Him is increased. And the more we love Him, the more we feel we don't love Him and the more we suffer for Him, until that love and that suffering reaches such a height that the Beloved falls in love with His lover and the game is over. The Beloved becomes the lover and the lover becomes the Beloved. That is called realization.

THAT'S HOW IT WAS, pp. 41-51
1995 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust

               

 Amartithi | Anthology | Main Page Norway | AvatarMeherBaba USA | HeartMind | Search