Symbols of the world's religions



William Donkin

The contact on 11th February [1948] was undoubtedly the most important of all in Bombay. After a long journey by train, particularly in India, the first desire of the average traveller is to wipe away the dross of nights and days of locomotion by a bath, a meal, and a few hours of rest. With Baba, however, work is ever the first consideration, and as soon as the train from Allahabad reached Victoria Terminus on the early morning of 11thFebruary, Baba went at once to contact Umar Baba, the spiritual chargeman of Bombay.

Umar Baba is a man of ferocious aspect, a sixth plane mast, in a complete majzoob-like state, and is at times so violent that people fear to come near him. In spite of this, he is very greatly respected throughout Bombay, and very widely known. He is past middle age, has long black hair and a long white beard, and is often to be seen pacing to and fro with a furious look on his face.

Up to a few years ago, the spiritual chargeman of Bombay was Tippu Baba, who died in 1944. In those days Umar Baba was usually to be found near that part of the Bombay docks known colloquially as Bhau ka Dhakka. Certainly every Indian, and possibly also many outside India, will remember that in April 1944, Bombay was shaken by a ghastly explosion that destroyed much of Bombay docks, a large section of the adjacent city, and an uncounted number of lives. The two ships whose explosion caused all this devastation lay in a wharf at Bhau ka Dhakka, not far from where Umar Baba used to live.

A few days before the explosion, it is said, Umar Baba told a certain tea-shop proprietor, who used often to give him tea, that he should move away from the dock area at once, or he would most certainly be killed. This man followed Umar Baba's advice. Umar Baba also told many others to go away, assuring them that, unless they did so, they would die.

On the day before the explosion, Umar Baba left Bhau ka Dhakka, and come to the Juna Qabristan (the old graveyard) on Grant Road. After the cataclysm of the explosion, those who had heard and followed Umar Baba's exhortation to move away from the docks began to disseminate his prophetic warning, so that the renown of this great mast was spread far and wide.

Not long after this explosion, Tippu Baba passed away, and was buried in the Juna Qabristan. Umar Baba then went and lived in this Juna Qabristan in the heart of the city, and since the death of Tippu Baba he has been the spiritual Chargeman of Bombay.

When Baba entered the graveyard early on the morning of 11th February, Umar Baba was still apparently asleep, and his mujawar was manifestly fast asleep by his side. As soon as Baba approached to within a few yard of Umar Baba, the mast arose, and one of Baba's men shook the mujawar by the shoulder, asking him why he slept when his guru was awake. The mujawar got up at once, and was asked to persuade Umar Baba to sit with Baba for contact.

This was done and Baba sat with Umar Baba for a short while. Baba, who was extremely happy at this successful issue to his work, he gave the mujawar an ample reward.


THE WAYFARERS, pp. 384-386
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