BEGUM, THE LITTLE LADY
Mehera J. Irani
The foal was so sweet, I drew Baba's attention to her, "Baba, look at that darling baby horse!" Baba smiled lovingly as He watched the tiny horse, admiring her cuteness and petite stature. He asked me, "Do you like her?"
"Oh, yes Baba. I love her."
"All right," Baba gestured. He told Goher to ask the traders if they would sell us the foal. The traders at once agreed.
Baba named the tiny filly Begum, which means "lady" in Urdu. Begum was really a lovable pet. She was extraordinarily plain in looks with no style at all. But she made up for it with her good nature and we all loved her very much.
We girls loved to go for long walks with Baba. Sometimes we would have a picnic under the trees. One day Baba took us for a walk to Ling-mala waterfall. It was not an easy road, but rough-going as you had to watch your footing over the loose rocks. Baba and I were walking side by side down the narrow, thickly-forested path. Without warning, Begum pushed her head between us. Only then did she feel protected from the forest on either side.
In Mahabaleshwar, there are forested areas where there are wild animals including tigers. We felt perfectly safe, as tigers do not roam the paths where people walk. But Begum with her horse-sense felt wary of the thick forest. When we came to the clearing at the edge of the mountain, she became her old happy self. The view from the mountain heights was really breathtaking; waterfalls, blue valley below, and the sheer mountain cliffs framing the great expanse. And, because Baba was with us, we enjoyed it all the more having the Creator, Himself, as our companion.
The servants' quarters, out-buildings, and stables were situated far from our house. I was concerned about little Begum being isolated from us, so we devised a home-stable for her in one of the large dressing rooms. We spread gunny-sacks and grass on the floor and she was comfortable and content during the nights.
Sometimes when we were together in the drawing room, Baba would remember Begum and tell us to bring Him some carrots and send her inside. Begum would then be brought to Baba for a pat and caress, and He would give her the carrots.
On October 13, 1950, Baba stepped into the 'Old Life' for one day. He sent for the mandali from Poona, Meherabad, and Meherazad, and other devotees from around India, to join Him at Florence Hall, Mahabaleshwar for a special programme. Baba had arranged for Qawali singing in the drawing room. After the singing was over, I told Goher to give Baba some carrots. Then I let Begum into the room.
Baba may have stepped into the 'old life', but old life or new life, Begum didn't care which life she stepped into as long as Baba was present and carrots were forthcoming! She went straight up to Baba without hesitation, and He fed her the carrots. The mandali were surprised and amused to see a horse in the drawing room eating carrots from Baba's hand. And Padri, who had been given permission by Baba to take photographs that day, was quick to snap this delightful scene.
In May 1951, we left Mahabaleshwar for Hyderabad and Baba decided it would be best if Begum remained in Mahabaleshwar. A man there happily agreed to keep Begum.
Begum, the tiny "lady" horse, provided Baba and all of us with many happy moments during our stay in Satara and Mahabaleshwar. And though the New Life is remembered as an important phase of Baba's work, there is a corner of our hearts that also remembers it because of the fin-filled times we spent with Baba and the animals that shared those unique days with us.
BABA LOVED US TOO, pp. 95-100
1989 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust