Mani S. Irani
It took place at Meherabad, when I was about seven and a half years of age or "half past seven", as we say in Gujerati. The occasion was a happy one where Baba's men and women mandali were gathered before Him. Perhaps it was for a singing programme I don't remember.
Always in our life with Baba the men and women were segregated, even from sight. So the men were sitting on one side of the hall, and the women on the other side. Between them was a screen, just high enough so that the women didn't see the men and the men didn't see the women. A clear passage or aisle down the middle led to where Baba was seated on the gaadi at the far end of the hall.
When I came in on this assembly, very self-confident and happy, Baba and His mandali were already seated. In a hurry to get to Baba, I crossed over all the slippers and sandals lying outside the entrance, and went straight up to Him. I expected a welcome smile and all the loving which I usually got.
Instead, I found Baba looking hard at me. He had a heavy frown on His face, and His eyes were flashing fire. Before I knew it, He pulled His hand back and gave me a resounding slap on the cheek.
There was a stunned silence. No one could believe what had just happened! I didn't make a sound. I just stood before Him like a statue.
Baba gestured fiercely, "Look at everyone here. All of them have removed their sandals outside before coming in." He pointed at my feet. "And you, you still have your slippers on! Who do you think you are? Go! Go right out and remove them at once!"
All eyes were on me, and you could have heard a pin drop. I had to walk back all that distance down the aisle. It seemed the longest walk I'd ever had. Straight as a rod, I went out and took off my little slippers. But instead of coming back to Baba, I slipped into the women's side and sat among them, hiding myself as much as I could.
As soon as I sat down, there was a clap, a loud clap from Baba, and one of the men's voices, "Mani! Baba wants you."
I wasn't moving. I just burrowed myself deeper among the women.
Immediately there was another clap. And again a more insistent clap and a more insistent voice. "Mani, Baba is calling you."
The women said, "Go, Mani, go! Baba is calling you. What are you doing here?"
It was unbelievable. I wasn't obeying Baba! Baba was calling me, and I wasn't going to move.
Another clap. A louder voice. "Mani is wanted at once!"
The women kept pushing me from behind till I was forced to stand up. Once I was up, my head was visible above the screen, and I saw that all eyes were fixed on me. There was nothing I could do except walk to Baba.
As straight and proud as I had walked out, I walked up that aisle back to Baba. I stood next to Him, head high, without shedding a tear.
Baba had a twinkle in His eyes. He put out His arms and lovingly gathered me to Him. That's when the dam broke. That's when I bawled, "You hit me! You hit me!" I hadn't cried when I was slapped, but when I was embraced, "Boo-hoo..."
Baba petted me and kissed my tears away. The more He kissed me, the more I bawled. The more I bawled, the more He hugged me. At last I was comforted and went and sat down among the women mandali. Now my world was rosy again.
It turned out to be one of those occasions which ended with my feeling happy that something unhappy had happened, because I got a double dose of all this loving from Baba. But I never forgot my lesson and never again forgot to remove my slippers.
GOD-BROTHER, pp. 67-71
1993 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust