16 to 31 December 2008
Jai Meher Baba to you all!
Tuesday 16 December 2008. Every year on Mehera's birthday we have a 'residents' garland for Mehera' that is put on her shrine during the special Arti at 10:00 am. So, I put up two notices in Lower Meherabad. One was put on the 'notice board' at our mail table, and the other one on the Savages' Kitchen information board. The notice reminded the residents to give some rupees if they wanted to share in the garland for Mehera.
I dropped an envelope for the money at the Pilgrim Reservation Office in the old Meher Pilgrim Center. The PRO office is in Lower Meherabad, so it is the most convenient place to give the donations. There is usually enough donated money to buy not only a large garland for Mehera's shrine, but also enough for ones on Baba's Samadhi, Baba's Cabin Room, His Gadi, and one for Mani's shrine.
I had to make a bank deposit, so I went to Ahmednagar. Before heading home for lunch, I drove to the house construction site to just look around. In the afternoon, Dr. Anne gave the first of a three-part first aid class in an MPR room above the Security gate house.
I was up the hill by 6:00 pm for my Samadhi duty. I love having this, because sometimes I get so busy with my day-to-day stuff, the next thing I know, the day has passed without my going up the hill.
Wednesday 17 December. I was up early and went to the Samadhi for my morning Darshan. Then I got ready and picked up Fereshteh on the way to the MPR for duty.
It was a very busy day. According to our expected arrivals list, we will be full for the holidays. We will have to move some women out of the MPR who have been here for some time. They will have to go to Hostel-D, as we will have 100 women without them. We have 50 beds on the ground floor, and 50 beds on the upper floor of both the men and women's sides. That means we can have a total of 200 pilgrims for regular pilgrimage. Amartithi is a different story all together. Anyway, the women's side will have an overflow for a few days.
I closed the Reception Office at 6:00 pm and went home to change clothes. There was a receptionists' meeting in the Spiritual Training Academy at 7:00 pm. Since it is almost the end of the year, we had to decide if there was anything we needed to build or buy for our office in the coming year. By the end of this year, we would have to present a budget for expected costs for approval by the Trust, in their next meeting.
We decided we really didn't 'need' anything. We did 'want' to design and build a new desk station and cadenza that would be more functional and aesthetically nice than our hodge-podge desk and computer table. However, the Trust doesn't have a lot of money right now for unnecessary expenditures. So, we decided we would not request anything other then some computer stuff that is essential.
We did decide we would go ahead and plan and design a new workstation planning cost no money. And, who knows, maybe somehow the money will come. If it isn't too much, we may be able to pay for a lot of it by ourselves.
Another item we covered at the meeting, which I really liked, was to put a nice sign on our Reception Office door that says 'Reception Office welcome-please come in'. We were very surprised when we found out that pilgrims are unsure if it is okay to come in our office when they see we are busy. We just were not aware of this for a long time as we thought the door was always wide open and people would naturally know it was okay to come inside. We were told that often there were people who would stand outside the door and wait and if we didn't notice them, they would go away. So, we have decided to make it clear that we do want pilgrims to come into the office any time when we are there.
In the afternoon, from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm, Dr. Anne gave the second of the First-aid classes at the MPR. Also, in the afternoon at 4:30 pm, a Baba film was shown in the Music & Arts Center. Tea and snack were served first at 4:00 pm.
Thursday 18 December. I went to early morning Arti. It is really lovely to be there for the prayers and singing. I don't go very often because I am usually busy during the morning hours. Mornings seems to be my most productive time.
Later, I had a meeting with Phiroze, one of the contractors who was going to excavate and build an underground water storage facility at the house. We met at 11:30 am. The work will start in a week's time.
Bif, my neighbor, stopped by to help me hook up the DVD player my daughter gave me. He also helped change a camera I have to high definition. Dina Snow, from LA who handles the Love Street Lamp Post, said I needed it for her to be able to publish any photos I send about Meherabad in my Meherabad Diary. I have been thinking it would be more interesting to see some photos of what I am writing about.
In the afternoon at 3:30 pm, Dr. Anne gave the last first-aid lesson at the MPR.
Friday 19 December. I went up the hill in the early morning to take Darshan at the Samadhi. Then I immediately went home and got ready to go to Pune. I had a car picking me up at 6:00 am. In Pune, I first went to have a manicure. The hair salon is in one of the nicer hotels. They began the security check on your car a few months ago. Now, there was an additional security arch you had to walk through before being allowed to go into the hotel.
After lunch I went to a place called Ishanya. It is the largest showroom mall in India. It looks like a new space age place. There is a lot of security at the gates to enter. Then again, you had to go through a security arch and have your bags checked before being allowed to enter the mall. It seems this is becoming a measure of protection for places where not only foreigners go, but also high-end shoppers. It is sad because it wasn't that way even one year ago.
I saw a most interesting sight in Pune. The Indian people are very innovative, and this oxen pulled cart was no exception. Instead of seeing the standard wooden wheels, here was this cart with four car tires on it! I had to do a double take to make sure I actually saw tire wheels. India is certainly a most interesting place.
At Meherabad, Bhauji had given a talk in the old MPC Hall at 4:30 pm. Tea and snack were served first at 4:00 pm. In the evening, Peter showed a Baba film in the Dining Hall of the MPR.
Saturday 20 December. I was up the hill early to clean Baba's Cabin Room. After putting flowers on the Gadi and Samadhi threshold, I went down the hill to clean the Jhopdi with Fereshteh. To my surprise, I was a half-hour early. I usually meet Fereshteh at 7:00 am to clean. So, I went home and did some work around the house. Then, went back to clean.
At 10:00 am I went to the MPC to take anyone who wanted to go on the Historical Sites of Meherabad. First, I stopped by the PRO office and picked up the money residents gave toward the garland for Mehera's birthday.
In the afternoon, around 2:30 pm, as I was taking a nap, I heard someone yelling, "help"! I got up, grabbed my bamboo pole, and ran to the nurse's quarters, next to where I live. One of the women there saw a small snake. She is very frightened of snakes and wanted someone to kill it. As I started to kill it, I saw it was a young cobra because it opened its hood. I kept hitting it until it didn't move anymore. We live in a rural area, and snakes are part of the environment.
In the afternoon, at 4:30 pm in the Music & Arts Center, two films were shown of Mehera in celebration of her birthday this coming Monday. One was 'Happy Birthday Mehera', and the other 'Mehera, Baba's Beloved'. Tea and snack were served first on the verandah at 4:00 pm
Sunday 21 December. I went up the hill for my morning Darshan. Then, later I got ready to go to Meherazad. Virginia was finally well enough to go with me. She had been sick with flu for several weeks. The Mandali were very loving to her and happy she was well enough to visit Meherazad once again.
One of the pilgrims named Alan was very happy when he saw Virginia. He said when they met each other 35 years ago at Meherazad, for some reason they just starting laughing. They kept laughing for at least 15 minutes. Alan also said he was here in 1973 when Virginia finished building her house and everyone came for the open-house, including Mehera and all the women Mandali.
There was a ballet performance by two women pilgrims. One of them was named Amy Wallin. She had studied with Margaret Craske. They both wore long, flowing skirts and the whole performance was graceful. Then, because tomorrow would be Mehera's birthday, a film about Mehera, narrated by Meheru, was shown. It is so sweet, seeing some of the special love Mehera had for Baba.
On the way home, we stopped at the restaurant where we usually buy homemade ice cream. I got two large containers of chocolate for dessert for after we had lunch at her house. Neela, who takes care of Virginia, had lunch ready.
When I got home, I called the flowerwala and ordered all the garlands for Mehera's Birthday tomorrow. All the garlands are put on the shrines in the morning before 7:00 am Arti. But, the one for Mehera is only put on during the special Arti at 10:00 am.
Monday 22 December. I was up the hill by 6:15 am to collect the garlands given by the residents of Meherabad. Any residents who were at the Samadhi before morning Arti were able to help in putting a garland on Baba's Samadhi, Mani's shrine, Baba's Cabin Room, and the Gadi. The garland for Mehera would be put on during the special Arti later. I then went home and got ready for my day at the MPR.
I picked up Fereshteh on the way to the MPR at 8:15 am. We wanted to be at the Reception Office early to take care of any pilgrims needs before closing the office from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Both Fereshteh and I wanted to attend the special Arti at 10:00. Meheru was coming from Meherazad for this special time.
The Arti was so beautiful. Being able to be at the Samadhi to celebrate Mehera's birthday with Baba brought a feeling of warmth and caring that touches the heart. The songs to Mehera, and songs about her special love for her Beloved Baba, made us all feel we were so fortunate to be there. The Prasad that was given out was chocolate brownies, very tasty.
I got back to the MPR close to noon. Peter called and said he would show a film of Mehera at 9:00 pm in the MPR Dining Room. So, Fereshteh wrote it on the board to inform the pilgrims.
In the afternoon, Bhauji gave a talk at the MPC at 4:30 pm. First tea and snack were served at 4:00 pm.
Tuesday 23 December. The day passed quickly, and in the evening, I went up the hill for my Samadhi duty at 6:00 pm. Sometimes, before my duty I stop by Jaloo's to say hello. She lives in the building directly behind the Samadhi lucky her.
Wednesday 24 December. I was up the hill early to take Darshan at Beloved Baba's Samadhi. I then went to clean Baba's Cabin Room. The resident who usually cleans it on this day was very busy at Hostel-D. She said they were expecting a lot of early arrivals. Hostel-D will often have busloads of pilgrims at one time. They have a very different system for pilgrims. There they can bring their own bedding and do their own cooking. They have large bays to accommodate them.
I knew Fereshteh and I would have a full day at the MPR, so we left a little earlier that normal. Fereshteh and I were at the Reception Office by 8:45 am. When we opened the computer, we found there were 56 pilgrims to arrive! Yes, 56 pilgrims! Okay, I thought to myself, plan to be busy.
Fereshteh was such a big help. While I gave orientation to some of those who had already arrived, she was on the computer looking up what room each pilgrim would go into, as well as which ones were first timers. Besides taking care of the arriving pilgrims, there were the usual situations to take care of.
Because there would not be a Christmas program at Meherazad this year, the Christmas program was scheduled instead to be in our Music & Arts Center at 4:30 pm. Tea and snack were served first at 4:00 pm on the verandah. I, unfortunately, was not able to attend, as I had to stay at the MPR. I heard the skits and performances were enjoyed very much.
I finished at the MPR by 7:30 pm. Just before leaving, another receptionist stopped by and told me they had just come from the 'open-house' party at the Stone Terraces condos. The condos are about a ten-minute walk from the MPR. I had forgotten completely about it. The party had started in the afternoon and would go until late. So, I stopped by and enjoyed the delicious food and company. Lorraine and Scott both love to cook, and they were the ones hosting the party. It was a great way to close a busy day!
At the Samadhi during evening Arti, only Christmas carols were sung. There are music sheets passed around so everyone can sing along.
Thursday 25 December. Christmas day. I was up early at the Samadhi to wish Baba a Merry Christmas from His birth as Jesus. Then I got ready to take Virginia to Meherazad. My neighbor Marge joined us. We stopped at YashanJali to order lunch, which we would pick up after Meherazad. When we arrived at Meherazad, the line to take Darshan in Baba's room had already started to form.
This would be the first Christmas that the program was not held at Meherazad in many, many years. A small stage was set up near Mehera's porch, at the same place the performance stage used to be for the Christmas programs. A choir of singers were singing Christmas carols while the pilgrims went into Baba's room, then greeted Meheru and Katie, who were sitting near the edge of Mehera's porch. This way the pilgrims could greet them without climbing the stairs to the porch.
Mehera's chair was next to Meheru and Katie, so the pilgrims were able to also take Mehera's Darshan. Then, they entered another line to go into Mandali Hall to take Beloved Baba's Darshan at His chair. Santa Claus (resident Martin Horda) gave out a bag of goodies to each pilgrim that always had a quote by Beloved Baba in it. The pilgrims then boarded the buses to return to Meherabad.
When I was sitting next to Virginia, listening to the carols, I watched the line of pilgrims, and thought to myself, 'this is how it will be when all the Mandali are gone'. It was kind of sad to see the change already happening.
We invited Bob Underwood, a long-time friend of Virginia's, to join us for Christmas lunch at her house. He just adores her and was very happy with the invitation. It was a fun lunch, and the chocolate ice cream dessert added the right touch. Dear Virginia could hardly hold her eyes open by the end, so she went to bed.
Friday 26 December. I slept late, as I felt I have still not recovered from Jet lag or maybe it's the helping out with my eight grandchildren that I am recovering from. Anyway, I took the day off to rest, though I did go up to the house construction site and check the excavation that had begun for the underground water storage tank.
Bhauji came to the MPC to give a talk at 4:30 pm. Tea and snack were first served at 4:00 pm. At 9:00 pm, a Baba film was shown in the MPR Dining Hall.
It is so cold now when the sun goes down. We don't have any type of heating system, so we have to put on very warm clothing to keep the chill off. This is the time of year when the pilgrims ask for extra blankets.
Saturday 27 December. In the cold mornings, now you have to really bundle up to keep warm. On the way up the hill, I make sure I have on a warm hat, scarf, and sweater over my double-layered top. I was up the hill by 5:30 am, in time for the opening of the Samadhi doors. After taking Darshan, I went to do my weekly cleaning of Beloved Baba's Cabin Room. Then, I went to place flowers on the Gadi and the Samadhi threshold.
When I went down the hill, it was still only 6:30 am, so I went home for a cup of tea. I then went back to meet Fereshteh at 7:00 am, and we cleaned the Jhopdi together. Afterward, I got ready for the Tour of Meherabad Historical Sites. There was a whole busload of pilgrims from Gujarat State. Some old-time Baba lovers brought along a lot of new Baba lovers, and they wanted them to see some of the places Baba did His Universal Work. Because of the size of the group, I had to cut a lot of the stories.
After lower Meherabad, we boarded their bus and drove up the hill to go into the Museum.
In the afternoon, a concert of ghazals & Bhajans was performed in our Music & Arts Center at 4:30 pm. Haresh and Dilip Soni are two brothers who perform professionally, and their father was a famous singer. The performance was so enjoyable, and I was glad I was able to attend.
Sunday 28 December. After putting on warm clothes, I went up the hill for Darshan at Beloved Baba's Samadhi. Sirish (a driver who often takes Virginia and me to Meherazad) picked Virginia and me up to take us to Meherazad. He has become a Baba lover since seeing a film of Baba at Meherazad one Sunday last pilgrim season.
He had brought some sweets his wife made for me. I had some, and I gave some to Virginia.
There were three buses and many cars at Meherazad. Baba's room was open for only a short time. But, the main house was closed, as Katie and Meheru would both be in Mandali Hall. It was really nice to see Katie there, as she has not been in Mandali Hall during the performances for quite some time. Sally Pearson did a dance to one of Bob Dylan's songs about everyone has to serve someone the devil or the Lord. After that, Ward Parks and an Indian performer sang "Baba Hu". Then, the performers from Saturday sang some ghazals. We all enjoyed everything. It was a very nice day.
Monday 29 December. In the morning in the MPC Hall, Arjang and Iraj shared the story of their family member, Khorsrow (I'm sorry, I don't remember his last name). Khorsrow had been the last Meherabad Prem Ashram boy still living. He went to Baba on 24 December 2007.
In the afternoon, Bhauji gave a talk in the MPC Hall at 4:30 pm. Tea and snack were served first at 4:00 pm
I forgot to mention, the MPR volunteer supervisors finally decided where to put cloth-lines for the pilgrims to hang up the wash they do themselves. We find their wash drying in our gardens, on our gates, on chairs, over the parapets, and they even pull out the drying racks from the bathrooms and put them on the verandahs. It makes the beautiful MPR look like a laundry facility. So, the official place to hang out wash to dry now will be on the clothes lines to be put on top of the roof of the Administration wing. This way it is in one place, and both men and women have access to it. Ted Judson will build the lines so they are secure.
We do provide a wash and iron service. But, some pilgrims want to wash their own stuff. Ted had actually designed a special area in each bathroom for that very purpose, but the clothes don't get dry in cloudy or rainy weather. Also, the clothes smell better if dried in the sun so, it is better to find a place the pilgrims will use.
Tuesday 30 December. In the very chilly morning, I layered my clothes and went up the hill for morning Darshan. It is amazing; there is a certain spot at the base of the hill, where the temperature becomes noticeably warmer. It is almost like stepping into a different climate. Of course, it is the reverse coming down the hill. Just as you get to the bottom of the path, before the road, the temperature is cooler.
I waited until it was getting light before going on a morning walk. Then, I got out my weights, and set-up my room to do a workout with a DVD. Now, I have been doing this for years off and on. But, since I returned from a visit to my family in December 07, I have been very busy with trying to get the house construction going again. I spent so much time and energy in the past year with the house, that there just was not much left and so my exercising fell to the wayside. I am determined to restart a healthy workout program again.
Okay, enough of the background. The DVD is a 45-minute aerobic and weight lifting workout. Somehow, I managed to survive 20 minutes with the last five minutes by will power only! I just could not do more. The reality of how quickly the body can get out of shape was quite clear. I am just going to have to build up the workout time little by little.
I think this is called a 'reality check!'
I had two errands to do in Ahmednagar. One: stop by the bank. The other: to go to BSNL (my cell phone provider as well as my DSL provider). When I returned to India three weeks ago, I found I could not remember my voice mail password. I tried different ones. Then a recording came on saying I had only three tries and now I had to call BSNL for further use. Now, my voice mail doesn't work.
Anyway, I went to BSNL to have them fix my voice mail. Unfortunately, the man who runs that department was away for a week of training and no one else knew how to work the voice mail. No surprise there. That is how things go here. You really have to just roll with life in India the system and the pace has its own rhythm.
In the evening I had Samadhi duty. It is very crowded now, with many more coming tomorrow New Year's Eve.
Wednesday 31 December. This was the last day of the year 2008. Today was such a full, busy, and at times chaotic day. But, it ended in a most beautiful way bringing in the New Year at Beloved Baba's Samadhi.
I picked up Fereshteh and we arrived at the MPR by 8:45 am. No sooner were the Reception Office doors open than the pilgrims began to come in. Within the first hour the steel ball-bearing hook to the children's tire swing broke. Why? How? A grown man had been riding it standing up when it was full of children. His weight was just too much. But, it didn't break with him on it. No, he only weakened it so badly that shortly after, with six children on it, the steel-hook broke off just as if it had been cut! Thank God the steel hook didn't land on any of the children's heads! Of course the man was nowhere around when the swing broke. I will not be able to have it fixed until at least after Amartithi.
Then someone came in to tell me a screen door was accidentally broken. There were complaints of children running up and down the halls, pilgrims playing their guitars in their rooms until midnight, pilgrims using their cell phones in the sleeping wings and keeping others awake. Okay, you get the picture?
Well, you know, sometimes that is how things are chaotic. Oh, did I mention I also had 66 expected arrivals? Not to mention the changes pilgrims wanted who were already here. I was so grateful for Fereshteh's help. I took time off for lunch, around twenty minutes, but that was it for a break. I did not finish my day as a receptionist until 8:30 pm that was 11½ hours in the office with only twenty minutes off. Fereshteh works until 3:30 pm, then she goes to help her son, Hooyar, in Hostel-A.
It is strange, I knew it would be a super busy day, but surprisingly I was not exhausted when I closed the office doors. In fact, I went home to have dinner and change for our New Year's Eve party in the MPR Dining Hall.
On the way home, driving down the pitch-black road, I passed a Western women with her only light being her cell phone. As I passed and kept driving, I thought to myself "what in God's name is that woman doing on that road alone in the pitch black? Doesn't she know it isn't safe?" So, I turned around and went back to ask her, and to offer to take her somewhere safe. She said she got lost, and was going to the MPR. I told her I had always been told there were bad bootleggers around, but also snakes! After dropping her off at the MPR, I drove back down that road and I say this before God I passed a snake on the road not far from where she was standing!!!!!!!!
After dinner and changing clothes, my roommate and I went to the MPR party. Scott Hammelbach, a pilgrim staying in one of the condos, handled the decorations and the music. He did such a beautiful job. He had daises and other flowers all along the walk from the parking lot to the Dining Hall. He also had flowers in heart-shape arrangements on four corners of the Lobby and Reception office. He had long strings of flowers in loops going across the archways. These all had small lights throughout them. Scott continued this theme in the Dining Hall. It had a very festive feel.
Alan and the kitchen staff made delicious snacks éclairs, several kinds of dips, chips, nuts, and other snacks. They also served soft drinks. The Hall was full of happy, dancing pilgrims from Lower Meherabad Hostels, community members, and the MPR pilgrims. We had fun!!!!!!!!!! The music was a great selection so the floor was full of dancers.
The party ended by 11:30 PM, and a bus was waiting to take everyone to the Samadhi. I had left the party shortly after 11:00 pm, as I wanted to get a place to sit. Now for those who didn't want to go to the party, the Samadhi stayed open for singing from immediately after evening Arti. Singing continued until around five minutes to midnight. Ted Judson began singing the chant we always do at Amartithi before 12 noon. With the stroke of midnight, we said the prayers and sang two Arti songs. A few more songs were allowed, and then the announcement was made for everyone to depart.
There were hundreds of pilgrims here for the New Year Eve celebration. The MPR alone had almost 200. The hostels had several hundred more. It was a crowded and happy group, all smiling and feeling the joy of Beloved Baba's love. What a wonderful way to start the New Year of 2009.
In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy