Symbols of the world's religions



William Donkin

The two most important masts in Baba's ashram in Bangalore were Chatti Baba and Phulwala....

Phulwala (flower man) was discovered by Vishwanath at Belgaum, and he wrote to Baba about him. Pendu and Nilu then went to Belgaum on Baba's instructions, to bring Phulwala to Bangalore.

A mast such as Phulwala was not the sort of man who could easily be persuaded into doing other men's bidding, and Baba's two men, with the help of Vishwanath, trepanned him in the best detective novel tradition. They decoyed him into a taxi, and as soon as he settled into the back seat, Nilu climbed in and sat on one side and Pendu on the other, the doors were slammed, the engine started, and the party hied post-haste to Bangalore.

Phulwala was a typical jalali mast of the sixth plane. Baba once said in admiration of him, "Look at Phulwala, with one slap he could raise you in an instant to the sixth plane."

He was a dramatic-looking man with deep reddish-brown hair, bronze skin, and a look of almost intolerable ecstasy in his eyes, as if the ecstasy might shatter his body into a thousand fragments at any moment.

He loved flowers (whence his name) and slaked lime, which he would chew by the mouthful. Each morning, fresh flowers would be brought for him and he would wreathe garlands of roses, jasmine, gulcheri and mogra flowers [various fragrant flowers commonly used for making garlands] about his turban.

The lime he would mix with sugar, wrap in a twist of cloth, and chew for hours at a stretch. His manner and voice were formidable and compelling, and he gave orders with a regal command that seemed to brook no disobedience, and made people afraid of him.

He had a frightening gesture of coming up level with a man and flinging out his arm with a sudden jerk, so that his index finger pointed menacingly but a few inches from the man's eyes, and he would then utter some word or phrase in a terse and commanding manner, or merely look in the most startling way with his brilliant eyes into the other man's face.

He tied bits of old rag around his legs, feet, toes, wrists, and fingers, a habit that is common to many masts.

At first he refused to be bathed by Baba, but eventually agreed, though he always remained standing for his bath. He also declined to be shaved, but one day he demanded a razor blade from Eruch, and shaved his own chin with the naked blade.

Later he became more normal in behaviour, and used to enter into the spirit of the ashram, though his dictatorial manner remained. He used to tell how he had originally been a carpenter, and one day, when Eruch was repairing a broken bed, Phulwala demanded the tools and mended the bed in such a way that Eruch was convinced that he must once really have been a professional carpenter.

He would occasionally recollect flashes of his early life, and would speak of a loving wife and children; and once, he seemed to relate how he became a mast. He was apparently sitting one day in a coffee shop when someone gave him a cup of coffee, and at the moment of sipping from that cup something must have happened, for, in his narration of the incident, he suddenly stopped and stared, as if he had been thenceforth lost to the world.

In April 1940, when the mast ashram moved at Meherabad, Phulwala was taken there, and was eventually sent back to Belgaum in June 1940.

November-December 1992
Excerpted from THE WAYFARERS
1948 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust


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