16 Jan to 1 February 2007
16 Jan to 1 February 2007
Jai Meher Baba to you all!
I usually write the Meherabad Diary from the 16th to the end of the month, but, since Amartithi is not over until the 1st of February, I have included it as well. I did not want to write about Amartithi, and not finish up the Celebration until the next Diary.
Tuesday 16 January 2007. In the morning, I took my scooter to Bajaj, the motorcycle dealership. I left it for a complete service. They told me it would be ready in the afternoon.
I had a rickshaw follow me to Bajaj. I took it into the bazaar. I stopped at Meher Tailor to give him some information he needed to repair a linen tablecloth. Then we returned to Meherabad. But, on the way we first stopped at a fruit stand near Bajaj. It is one of the larger ones, lots of display of delicious fruit.
I worked around the house and garden. I also took down the small trunk from the loft. I keep some of the Amartithi supplies in it for Baba's Cabin Room. I took out two clipboards. These will be used at the Meher Pilgrim Retreat to clip Amartithi volunteer sign-up sheets for the Samadhi and Baba's Cabin Room.
At 4:00 PM I had taken a rickshaw back to Bajaj to get my scooter. They said it would not be ready until close to 6:00 PM. A part had to be replaced in the carburetor. I had a lot of trouble starting the scooter—they said the problem was the bad part.
Since I could not wait or come back, the workers agreed to drop my scooter off at my room. I called my neighbor, Marge, and asked if she would be home. Yes, she would be able to give them the money I would leave with her. They would leave my key with Marge.
It is very pleasant walking from my room to the Samadhi. All the stones along the road and paths have been whitewashed, the weeds have been cleared, and the plants and trees have been trimmed.
The poles being put up on the hill, for the pandal, look to be covering a wider area. Now they start even to the compound wall facing the Samadhi. This gives the pilgrims a lot more shade from the hot sun.
My duty started at 6:00 PM. The large group of Argentines sang during Arti. Such beautiful music they make. Spanish is a very beautiful language to listen to when sung.
Wednesday 17 January. This was my half-day duty at the Retreat. Suzie has the afternoon shift. The Lobbyman asked me if he could use our two porters to help Adair move cabinets. I did not need them at the time, so I said of course.
When I heard a lot of banging, I walked to the foyer and looked up. The cabinets were being brought to the upper floor Administration Hall. A number of beds will be put in there to accommodate some of the extra 80 beds that will be placed in different rooms.
The cabinets are from Hostel-C. We left most of them for the Hostels use when we moved up to the Retreat. We had taken only a few. Now, we had to borrow them to use as a separation wall between the men and women, as well as a place for the pilgrims to lock their personal possessions.
Debjani, one of our Residents, is now helping me organize the volunteer schedules for the Samadhi and Baba's Cabin Room. She came into the Reception Office and we worked out how we wanted to title the sheets. Then, Debjani, bless her heart, made the permanent sheets. She has a clear hand when printing and made the sheets colorful with using different color markers. We then clipped the sheets to the clipboards. We next tied string to the clipboards so we could hang them on the Dining Hall door.
By the time I went home after lunch, the Cabin Room sheet was almost full! I was most happy to see that. When I first started to organize volunteers for Baba's Cabin Room during Amartithi, I did not know what I was doing. No one had done it before me. I did not really know how to go about getting volunteers. I did not know how many to have during a shift, etc. Consequently, by the time Amartithi was over that first time, I was so exhausted I could hardly move. So many hours I had spent covering the shifts! Now, wow! Pilgrims are even sending me request to sign them for a shift. And residents like Debjani and Prema are helping organize. I am so thankful for the assistance.
When I got home, I rested for one hour, then grabbed my camera, tripod, and rode my scooter to the old MPC. Bhauji was to give the second of five talks to the residents and volunteer workers on service.
This time Indira brought biscuits and tea from Hostel-D. During the first talk no one had arranged for tea. Bhauji arrived shortly after 4:00 PM. After he greeted everyone, he had his tea. At 4:30 PM he gave the talk. This talk was on sanskaras. Bhauji was glad I taped it. He said in the future, people would want it. Usually there are two or three of us taping. The next talk will be after Amartithi.
Before we left, one of the Receptionists wanted a 'mini meeting'. We talked about the moving of pilgrims on the 29th. We will have to move out around 36 pilgrims from the Retreat to the old MPC for Amartithi. The pilgrims will sleep on mattresses on the floor. Or, they can choose to go to a hotel. We simply have too many requests for the Retreat. And these pilgrims who are going out have been here for some time, some for months. They will be brought back into the Retreat after Amartithi.
I had to leave before the meeting ended. It was starting to get dark, and I needed to pick flowers for the next morning.
Thursday 18 January. I was up the hill by 5:30 AM to clean Mehera's shrine. Then I put flowers in Baba's Cabin Room. I saw the replacement of the stolen Baba photo had been put on the shelf, where the original one had been. I was so happy to see it I told Baba, "You're back! You're back Baba!" I did not realize how much I missed seeing His photo in that corner. Now, the Cabin seemed complete. You see, Mehera had selected these photos and where they were to be placed in the Cabin.
When I got home, I was having breakfast when I heard a motorcycle in the field behind the nurse's quarters. Then I heard dogs barking. I went outside in time to see a horse running past the hospital, closely chased by my dog, Foundy, and another dog. I could hear the motorcycle as it came closer. It was obviously the owner of the horse, trying to catch it. The dogs were not making it any easier for him.
Later in the morning I took my bicycle to the store. I saw Kishore, the carpenter, and gave him a design for a small, three-drawer toolbox. I have been using a metal trunk. Every time I wanted something, I had to remove all its contents to get at it. How nice it will be to just pull out a drawer and see the tool I want.
Friday 19 January. I did my workout then took my scooter to the Retreat to see if there were enough volunteers who signed up for Samadhi duty during Amartithi. We were allowed to have 50 foreigners sign up. There were a few spaces left. Since it was during breakfast, it was easy to fill up the spaces. The Indian volunteers sign up at Jal's office.
I took down both sign-up sheets. The Cabin Room was also full. Just as I was taking the sheet down, a pilgrim came to ask if she could still sign. I said she could be first on the list to contact if someone cancelled. She was happy with that.
I took the Samadhi duty sheet to Shridhar. The sheet had to be given by Saturday. Shridhar is one of the Trustees, and in charge of scheduling the Amartithi Samadhi duty. It was nice to have it filled in time.
As I was on my way up the hill to take Baba's Darshan, I saw a lot of cars at the MPC. Bhauji was giving his talk at 4:30 PM. I went to see Jaloo after taking Darshan. I enjoy spending time with her so much. We don't say much; it is just very comfortable being around her. Before it got dark, I picked flowers for the morning.
Saturday 20 January. I was up the hill by 5:30 AM to clean Baba's Cabin Room. Sometimes I just stop and think, what an incredible way to start a day! My heart is so grateful to be able to be here.
I then went down the hill to clean the Jhopdi and the Table House. Joseph and Mariko were waiting for me. We clean it together. We have been cleaning it together for over a year.
At 10:00 AM I went to the MPC to give the Historical Tour of Meherabad. No one was waiting, so I had the morning to myself. I went home and did some work around the house.
In the afternoon, there was a concert in the Music & Arts Center. At 4:00 PM tea and cake were served. At 4:30 PM the program began. Adrienne Shamszad, accompanied by Simon Reese, performed.
Sunday 21 January. I woke early to do my workout. Then, after working on the computer for a while, I went to the Meherabad Trust Office to ask Jal about the bus schedule for Amartithi. He said it would be ready later in the day.
Now, on the 1st and 2nd of February, Mani had given us permission to stay up until 12 midnight. Because, it is hard to just go back to the regular schedule after Amartithi. Especially when the heart still wants to celebrate. The 800 Indian volunteers have a celebration at Hostel-A. We at the MPR usually have our own. But, a number of pilgrims asked if we could join the Indians. So, I asked Jal if we could have a bus to take the MPR pilgrims to Hostel-A. Jal said he always wanted the East and West to get together, and he would arrange a bus.
I then walked to the Retreat. Electrical poles were being put in place by the railroad tracks where many of the stalls will be located. When I passed the Samadhi, there was a beehive of activity. A number of pilgrims were helping clean the whole portal area. They were washing the railings; some were wiping the ceiling beams, etc. This is done every year just before Amartithi.
Walking past the Samadhi, I followed the newly whitewashed stones. At the part when you near the turning place, stones had been piled on both sides, like a bridge. On the other side of the hedge more of the piled stones were placed.
At the Retreat, I got the Cabin Room list and made another copy to take to the MPC, where some pilgrims will be staying. I saw Jeanne Felkner. She is helping at the old MPC. She said there is something creepy on a few of the walls there. She said there are thousands of 'daddy long leg' spiders bunched in several places. They will have to be removed.
After a nice nap, I got up and had a good cup of coffee before going to the MPC to see those 'daddy long legs' before they are removed. It was creepy seeing them! Definitely they would have to go! They should not have been allowed to breed on the walls.
While in the MPC I went in Debjani's room. It is a 'Volunteer Service' center. She had a three panel stand made to hold her information. She also has a desk with her computer and a printer. She is all set up for work. Next to her room is the video room, for working on videos. One of the Argentinians was at the computer doing graphic design from photo shop. He said in Argentina he is working with some others to make spiritual comic books.
It was 5:00 PM and a poetry reading was to start in Meherabad Mandali Hall. There were about 14 of us there. Most present were from Iran. I offered to go first. I quoted a line from Rumi 'without you, this universe is useless dust.' Many readings of Hafiz were first in Persian, and then translated into English. Stories were also shared about Mohammed the Mast.
Monday 22 January. It was a full day at the Retreat. From the moment the Reception Office doors are open, the day begins. My arrivals came early and I was able to leave by 6:00 PM.
Tuesday 23 January. I went into Ahmednagar to run some errands. I stopped at the bank to cash a check. I always have the manager sign it so I can draw money out of my account right away instead of having to wait three weeks for it to clear. Since there is an ATM machine near Meherabad, it makes it easy to get cash.
I was up the hill by 5:30 PM. I have Samadhi duty at 6:00 PM. The hill is starting to look very colorful with the beautiful colored pandal being put on top of the poles.
Wednesday 24 January. I had a half-day at the Retreat. However, Suzie asked if I would also do the afternoon shift as well. There was to be a program in the afternoon for the 100th Birthday of Francis Brabazon. Suzie helped organize it, she is from Australia, like Francis was, so it made more sense for her to attend. Jeanette Isaac-Young, from Australia, was in charge of putting it all together.
It was a very busy morning. I had 24 Iranians arriving. They got to the Retreat at lunchtime. So, after lunch they all came into the Reception Office for the orientation. A number of them did not speak English, so one of them translated. The orientation was not quite finished when the bus left for the program at the Music & Arts Center. The Iranians also wanted to go, so I called Jal and he sent another bus.
I had put up a notice on the message board in the Dining Hall to ride-share on Thursday. A pilgrim from England came into the office to let me know he would like to share a car for the day trip to Pune.
It was my daughter, Mehera's, birthday. I would call her in the morning—when it is her birthday in the States.
Thursday 25 January. The car picked the pilgrim up at 5:45 AM and then me at 6:00 AM. I like to get to Pune early and have breakfast there. I called my daughter on my cell phone while we were on our way to Pune. She was happy to hear from me.
Mick, the pilgrim who shared a car with me, is a gardener in England, so he enjoyed going with me to pick out some plants at one of the nursery's. I bought a lovely fica tree for the Reception Office, and a bougenvillia for my garden.
We then stopped at Babajan's tomb and Baba's house. After doing some more shopping and having lunch, we went to Jangle Maharaj's Temple. Next door to it is where the caves had been carved down into the stone, and Baba sat in one during the time he was coming down through the planes. The place is only about 15 minutes from Baba's house.
Saw something interesting while waiting at a red light. There was a countdown clock next to the red light. It counted how many seconds you had to wait until the light turned green.
We got back to Meherabad by 6:00 PM. I went to the Retreat to take the fica tree to the Reception Office. Then I walked home, stopping first at the Samadhi.
Friday 26 January. I began writing the annual announcement for Amartithi. It is all the information the pilgrims will need to know during the very crowded and busy time. Things like the bus schedule, when laundry would start up again, how the pilgrims are to get their token and badge for Amartithi. Also, warnings about locking their valuables and be careful of the thieves who come during this time. Pilgrims have lost all kinds of things by not being careful.
I had forgotten the scheduled shutoff of the electricity for today. There was to be some work done and so several hours in the morning and several hours in the afternoon there would not be any electricity. I was writing the announcement on my computer in my room when the electricity went out. I needed this information for the announcement at 1:30 PM at the Retreat. I had to write it by hand.
I walked to the Retreat. It has become hot again, so I was using an umbrella for more shade while walking. It is quite a pleasant walk.
There were about 200 pilgrims in the Dining Hall. Some were staying in the condos, not all staying at the Retreat. After giving the announcement, I answered questions. Then I walked back home. When the electricity came back on I was able to put the announcement information on the computer and print it out. One copy was to go to the old MPC where pilgrims will be staying on mattresses on the floor. One copy will go on our notice board at the Retreat. The other copy was for our Reception Amartithi file. But, first one of the Iranians wanted a copy to translate the information into Farsi. Many of the Iranians are not able to read English. And we have many more Iranians coming on the 29th.
I then picked flowers and put them in the refrigerator to stay fresh.
Saturday 27 January. I was up the hill by 5:30 AM. The whole hilltop is now covered by the beautiful pandal. After cleaning Baba's Cabin Room, I went to the Gadi under the Tin Shed and put flowers on it. Then I put flowers on the Samadhi threshold.
When I got down to the Jhopdi it was already 7:00 AM. Mariko, Joseph, and I cleaned the Jhopdi and Table House. We always put flowers at the doorway of the two places. I was walking by the men mandali's graves, looking for flowers, when I saw a small stone marker with writing on it. I stopped to read it. It was from the Argentinian group. In 1998 they had the stone put in place with a dedication on it. It was in Spanish, which I do not speak. But, I could make out that it was something like 'the men eternally,' directly below this were the dates. I had never noticed it before.
At 10:00 AM I went to the MPC to do the Historical Tour of Meherabad. When we get to the Museum on the hill, there are always more pilgrims who wander in.
As soon as the tour was over, I got a rickshaw and hurried to the bank. I got there at 1:30 PM. The front door was locked. I was able to go around the back door. The manager told me the bank door closes at 12:30 PM on Saturday.
I showed the manager my deposit slip from Tuesday when I wrote a check. It was supposed to clear that day. But when I stopped at the ATM on Thursday on my way to Pune, my deposit had not cleaned. The bank manager went on the computer. And, yes, there was my deposit. I showed him the slips I got at the ATM, and the deposit was not on them. He said, "Oh, the account number of all the bank accounts were changed as of 31 December." He showed me the ATM slips with my new number. Why was the deposit not showed? He did not answer that question. But, I figured it must be that once I use the ATM it activates the new deposit, since it was the first one I made since the account numbers were changed.
Now here is the ultimate question, 'Why were we not informed?' We almost never are, we find out somehow. I did not ask the manager the question-it is just the way things are done here.
At 4:45 PM there was a meeting for all volunteers of Amartithi Baba Cabin Room duty. We met at the Cabin. There were around 20 volunteers. We gathered chairs from a pile nearby. Everyone was given a basic history of how the Cabin duty came about and how it evolved. The cloths used for cleaning will be color coded. This was the brainchild of Prema, who had written up the duties of the three positions. Debjani has been a major help in recruiting volunteers. The two-hour shift duties were explained.
Sunday 28 January. I did my workout and then organized things I will need for Amartithi. I went to the Meher Darbar (near Meherabad) to Xerox some of the information about the duties at Baba's Cabin Room. At 10:00 AM, Judy Robertson gave a 'Tour of the Sacred Sites of Meherabad'. She is one of our part-time residents. She likes the name better than Historical Tour, which I use. Anyway, she also gives the Tour, usually on Monday morning. But, with Monday the 29th being an extremely busy day here; she gave it on Sunday—as Meherazad is closed during Amartithi.
There was a volunteers meeting at 3:00 PM in Hostel-D. It turned out this meeting was for the 800 Indian volunteers who will be doing security for Meherabad. The meeting was in three languages, Telegu, Hindi, and English.
On my way to the meeting, I met a pilgrim I know. He said the meeting was changed to 4:00 PM because of the fire. What fire? He said it was behind the Samadhi. Since I had an hour until the meeting, I went up the hill to see.
The fire burned dry weeds. There was a slight wind, so the fire went in many different directions. It covered many acres. With so many people here there was plenty of fire crews. Plus, we have a big water tanker that is kept on the hill during Amartithi. The fire was believed to be deliberately set, because there was another fire near the Archive building not two hours before.
I went back down the hill in time for the 4:00 PM meeting. The Hostel-D verandah was packed with the 800 volunteers. I stayed for a while just to see how things were done.
In the evening at 6:45 PM, there was a Receptionist meeting in the Spiritual Training Academy. We went over our schedule for Amartithi, how we would do orientation, and how the badges and tokens would be given out. We also talked about the stations and schedules of the porters.
Monday 29 January. I was up at the Retreat by 7:45 AM. During this Amartithi period, we Receptionists have agreed to split our normal day into three shifts, each shift having at least two Receptionists. We would also have 'helpers'. This would be our first 'official' full running of the Meher Pilgrim Retreat as well as working in those who have come just for Amartithi. We knew we would make mistakes—we needed this 'first time' to work out the problems we would not have been able to foresee.
As soon as I arrived the pilgrims immediately began coming into the Reception Office with questions and needs. We had originally decided to give out Amartithi badges on the 29th, but somehow we changed that to the 30th-not sure why.
Well, many pilgrims were asking, "where and when will we get our badges?" By the time the other Receptionist arrived we were hopping. We soon began calling the other Receptionist telling them it would be better to go back to our original plan of giving the badges on the 29th. So, we had a volunteer use the Carom game table as her 'badge' table. She sat on the verandah outside the Lobby-plenty of space.
With some cancellations, the 33 pilgrims who were going to go out to the old MPC and sleep on mattresses on the floor, was reduced to only 10 pilgrims. We stored the luggage they would not need in our 'luggage room'. We also had an additional storage area we would be able to use during Amartithi from Housekeeping.
My morning shift was from 8:00 to 12:00 noon. I returned to the Retreat to do the late shift from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. On the 30th and 31st our hours would be longer.
Tuesday 30 January. I woke early to be at the Retreat by 8:00 AM. I got there by 7:30 AM. The sky was cloudy and you could smell rain in the air. I thought, 'oh dear, I hope it doesn't rain like it did two years ago.' Thankfully, the sky cleared by midmorning.
When I reached our Reception Office, there were pilgrims already waiting to sign in. I looked at the expected arrivals list for the day—103 pilgrims expected!!! Yes, that is the right number, 103!!!!
At least half of them came in small numbers during the morning shift. We had pilgrims sitting down to sign-in the book while we put chairs in a corner to give Orientation to those who already signed. But the number kept growing. During this time we had pilgrims who were already staying at the Retreat coming in the office with problems. We also had pilgrims wanting their badges—but they had to show they had paid for their Amartithi stay first—which meant we also during all this had to write slips with the pilgrims name on it for Accounting to initial. This the pilgrims would bring back to us to get their badges. With the badges they would be allowed to get their tokens—that Steve Edelman was giving out in the Dining Hall.
A 'helper' came at 9:00 AM and gave the badges out on the verandah. That helped a lot. But, Adair and I felt we really needed at least four or five Receptionists in the morning hours. It really was barely being handled. We had to stop giving the Orientation tour because we simply were swamped in our office.
The 12:00 noon to 4:00 PM shift were also swamped. But, the late shift only had a few arrivals. Which means next year we will have to invest most of our help in the first two shifts on the 30th.
As soon as I was off at 12:00 noon, I went to my room in Lower Meherabad and fed my dog, Foundy. I put him in his 'doggie yard'. I then got all the things I would need for the 'Baba Cabin Room' Amartithi duty. This included two wire racks. One to hold baskets that held cloths to keep the Cabin clean, and buckets to hold water for the different jobs. The other rack would be to hold our purses, bags, etc. I took a rickshaw with all the stuff up the hill. It was only 1:00 PM when I reached the Cabin, and a line of pilgrims had already been under way for some time. It looked like next Amartithi I would have to set up earlier.
The line did not stop for most of the Amartithi. The pilgrims would come straight to the Cabin from having just taken Darshan at the Samadhi.
To me, I had seen two exceptional performances during the day. One was by the Meher English School children. As I walked up the hill I heard the school children singing. I went to listen. Instead, what met my eyes was a major part of the audience joyously waving scarfs above their heads. I saw one man ecstatically dancing while waving his scarf. Then I saw the school children on stage. All had scarfs; all were waving them while singing something about 'bolo Baba' (meaning 'call Baba'). I don't know what the song was about, but clearly the audience did and they were experiencing great joy in it. Myself and some other residents also began waving our scarves. It was just incredible! The energy of joy was consuming.
The other performance I saw that really moved me was of Andrienne-an Iranian-American (who sang), Kokila from England (who played the violin), and two men from Iran-one played the flute and the other the daaf. Adrienne sang the 'seven names of God'. The combination of music, with the various ranges of her singing was breathtaking. It was spellbinding!
Wednesday 31 January. During Amartithi, my dog is not allowed to run free. So, first thing after getting up (after coffee of course), was to take Foundy for a walk to do his doggie business. I walked up the hill, hoping to not have to 'eat dirt' on the way. I had found that riding my scooter I would get covered by dirt from the passing vehicles all over Meherabad. At least by walking I have a free hand to cover my nose and mouth.
When I get up the hill I always go the Baba's Cabin Room first. I check to see if everything is okay. I help clean or do anything that many be needed. My shift was from 10:00 to 12 Noon. So, before starting my shift, we all gave Baba's Room a complete cleaning. We wanted everything to be nice and clean when the Silence began.
Soon, you saw people began sitting around the Samadhi. The space quickly filled and the hill itself became one mass of Baba lovers sitting-and expectedly waiting. At 11:45 AM the announcement was made of the sequence of events until the Silence. Then, Began the Beguine was played, followed with one of my favorite, the 'Baba' chant. It was intoxicating! Thousands chanting Baba's name-it was glorious! Then, silence.
The Silence was broken with Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai seven times. The prayers were then said in different languages, beginning with English. Later, I went to my room to sleep. It was hard to wake up. It took several cups of coffee. When I was awake enough I walked back up the hill and just 'hung around'. The line for Darshan was too long. There was no way I was going to get in before midnight. So, later I went back to my room and went to sleep.
Thursday, 1 February. I was up the hill by 8:00 AM. I heard the Iranians singing, so I went to sit by the stage. One of the Persians' got up and started to do a Sufi dance, going in circles. The performances on the morning of the 1st February were mostly by Westerners. Another performance was of two pilgrims doing a dervish dance. They came out wearing long white garments. They both had on a rainbow color cloth waist tie. On their heads were tall hats the color of Baba's flag. When the music started, they started going in circles. It was very beautiful, almost soothing to watch. You could understand how the Sufis could do this kind of dance for hours.
Around 1:00 PM, I remembered I had left some of my things at Baba's Cabin. I got up and walked to the Cabin. Yes, there were still volunteers directing the pilgrim line. But, most of the pilgrims were gone. So, we closed the 'official' scheduled duty. We did a through cleaning after I took all my stuff out. Amartithi was over.
In the evening, at 9:00 PM, a bus took pilgrims from the Retreat to the Music & Arts Center to join with the Hostel-C and Hostel-D 800 volunteers in a Celebration of a job well done. All the theater chairs were still up the hill, so everyone was sitting on the terraces. A group of Indians were on stage singing. The Westerners joined on stage, and began to dance. Right away the Indians joined us. The rest of the night was wild! We all had so much fun dancing. Some times Jal would have the men sit down and let we women have the stage to ourselves, then he would let the men have it to their self. Mostly, we all just danced together.
One thing was missing—water. I did not think to have water brought. We were very thirsty. Next year, I will ask Peter to please bring some filtered water. We all had so much fun being with the Indians. It was truly the East and West together. We were all together celebrating in His glory!
In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy