16 to 31 January 2009
Jai Meher Baba to you all!
Friday 16 January 2009. Though Bhauji's birthday is on the 13th, this was the day set aside for the celebration.
Tea, chocolate cake, and another snack were served in two separate areas of the Music & Arts Center verandah. The auditorium was full with Trust workers, Trust residents, and other Baba lovers from Ahmednagar. From Meherabad were Hostel-D and the Meher Pilgrim Retreat pilgrims, the residents and the surrounding Baba community who also happily joined in the celebration of dear Bhauji's birthday.
The verandah was decorated in the area near the main side door. Balloons and pretty decorations surrounded a chair for Bhau to sit on. Then a large card, signed by so many, was given to Bhau.
Susie Biddu was the MC and announced the performances. There was singing by the Iranians, Angela Iimuri sang, Rama (Bhau's wife) sang, the Trust workers sang, and then a play 'Glory of Love' was performed by those who help take care Bhau. In the evening at 9:00 pm, Peter Booth showed a Baba film in the MPR Dining Hall.
Saturday 17 January. I was up the hill by 5:30 am to clean Beloved Baba's Cabin Room. I was able to take Darshan when the doors of the Samadhi opened, then went to clean. I then put flowers on the Gadi and Samadhi threshold before heading down the hill.
I met Fereshteh at 7:00 am to clean the Jhopdi. There were two other Iranians with her, so we let them also share in the cleaning. It is such an honor to be able to clean any place Baba had used, and the Iranians felt this deeply.
When I got to the MPC at 10:00 am for the Tour of the Historical Sites of Meherabad, there was a small group waiting. We finished the Tour at 1:00 pm in the museum.
After lunch, as I laid down for a rest, I got a phone call asking if I would be at the appointment with the contractor in Ahmednagar by 3:00 pm. I had thought the appointment was at 4:00 pm. There went any hope of a rest. This was the final meeting with the contractor, Sharad. I was meeting with him and the mediator, who had helped get Sharad to sign a contract to 'finish the house in six months or walk away'. Since Sharad did not finish the house, he has since vacated his equipment from the house, and I now paid him the final bill. I also got a commitment for when he would make the proper road in front of the house-building site. By the end of this month he said he would have the water connection made and the meter put in place.
So, the house will soon have electricity connected to the rooms, and water connected to the house as well. The electricity is hooked up in the electrical room, but the wiring isn't connected to the different rooms they need to be connected. And, the water needs plumbing from it to the house plumbing. It is coming together little by little.
I got home by 6:00 pm, had dinner, made popcorn that I took to the MPR Receptionists meeting at 7:00 pm in the Spiritual Training Academy. We had to decide how we were going to fit the 320 pilgrims we would take in the MPR for Amartithi. We had to decide how many extra hired help we needed, how many volunteers needed, what and where to put signs giving the pilgrims the information they would need to know. We finally finished at 9:30 pm.
During the receptionists meeting, one of the receptionist's got a phone call. Steve Edelman just died. We said the 'Beloved God' prayer for Steve.
Sunday 18 January. I had Sirish pick Virginia and me up and take us to Meherazad. On the way we stopped at Sukhsagar restaurant and ordered butter paner and ice cream we would pick it up for lunch on the way home.
At Meherazad, I took Virginia around in the wheelchair. Today, I didn't take her into Baba's room because she said her leg was paining her. I put the wheelchair next to Mehera's verandah, where Katie and Meheru were sitting. Katie sent her Jai Baba, and when I took Virginia near Meheru, I went up to tell Meheru Virginia's leg was paining her and she would not be able to come up the stairs to say hello, and would say hello from the wheelchair. Meheru got up and came down the steps to give Virginia her love. It was so very sweet to see.
I then took Virginia into Mandali Hall, where she sat in a chair and was able to watch the performances. An American, Drew Andreotti, sang 'Begin the Begin', an Iranian woman sang a song while playing the daaf, and Angela Iimura, from Australia, sang a song while accompanying herself on guitar.
Then Gary Kleiner talked about his friend, Steve Edelman, who went to Baba the day before. Gary talked about what a noble man Steve was, and how much Eruch enjoyed Steve's company. Eruch had told Steve he wanted him to be with him when he died. So, Steve wound up his business and went to live at Meherazad with Eruch during his last year of life. Steve was with Eruch when he died. It was a beautiful tribute to Steve.
We picked up the food and went to Virginia's for lunch. Neela had chicken and rice to go with our lunch yum! Then I went to check the house construction site. A nap was next in store.
Monday 19 January. I only had three arrivals, but then PRO called to say two of them would be coming the next day. We have a list of pilgrims on the Dining Hall door who were scheduled to go out just before Amartithi. Some of these pilgrims would go to the MPC; the rest would have to either stay in someone's home, or go to a hotel. Those going to the MPC had a deadline of 1:00 pm today to let us know if they wanted to keep the MPC accommodations or the offer would go to the next person on the waiting list.
At 5:30 pm I got a call from PRO. An Indian pilgrim came in their office and showed a confirmed reservation that was to begin the next day however he came one day early. He was told to go straight to the MPR. I checked the computer to see who this pilgrim was, then found out he is an Indian-American. Meaning, he has a foreign passport, and he can't stay at the MPR without first registering with PRO.
Well, at 6:15 pm, the pilgrim still had not shown. The person from PRO said she would check at the Samadhi to see where he went. At 6:30 pm he showed up at our MPR Reception Office. He had three friends with him, and they had all gone to the Samadhi first. We were able to take them all in because they were staying only one night.
Tuesday 20 January. I did my morning workout, and then kept the TV news on to watch the excitement building for the inauguration of Barack Obama. One of my neighbors and I went to Meher Darbar and bought snacks to share during the evening. I had invited any American resident in Lower Meherabad to watch the inauguration in my room if they wanted.
I had someone cover my Samadhi duty at 6:00 pm. I didn't want to miss any of these historic events. I am so proud of America! What a major jump we have made in the equality of all people! And, what a beacon to the world! How much one can see Baba's hand of love in this historic day!
Wednesday 21 January. I watched more of the inauguration events during the morning. I had another receptionist cover for me so I would be free to witness this amazing time.
Later, I went to Meher Darbar to make some Xerox copies and I saw a new sign on all the booths of the computers. A driver's license or passport was now required to show in order to be allowed to use the computers. I asked if this was a new security law of the Indian government "yes" was the answered.
Thursday 22 January. I called Raoshab (Meherabad's bazaar wala) and we agreed to meet at the Music & Arts Center at 4:00 pm to load two raisers (small platforms) into the truck and take to the MPR. We have used these in the past to post the Amartithi schedule of performances. Since the performances are around the clock, the printout is pages long.
I went to the MPR to do some Amartithi work. As I was leaving and walking down the ramp, I saw Joshi's assistant (the contractor who built the MPR). I had asked him if he was interested in helping finish the house under construction. We met at the house, walked around and talked about what needed to be done. He said he would get together with me right after Amartithi. So, it looks like Joshi will finish the inside of the house, and Phiroze will finish the outside.
I had also met with Sharad's plumber, Goric, at the house site. He is going to put in an under ground connection to Sharad's water. A meter to gage the usage for cost will also be installed. So, there will be two sources of water. Sharad's and the underground tank that I will have water trucks bring and put in the underground storage.
Friday 23 January. I went to Pune. I bumped into another resident, Susan, and we had lunch together. In Pune I bought two toilets. On the way home I had called Kishore and had him meet me at the house construction site. I dropped the toilets off at the house and got home at 6:45 pm. I had 15 minutes to change clothes, eat a banana, and get to the Receptionists meeting in the Spiritual Training Academy. We made final decisions on how we would handle the coming week of Amartithi and the pilgrims arriving and going out to other accommodations.
Saturday 24 January. I was up the hill by 5:30 am. I took Darshan at the Samadhi and then went to clean Beloved Baba's Cabin Room. Then I put flowers on the Gadi and the Samadhi threshold before going down the hill to clean the Jhopdi with Fereshteh.
At 10:00 am I was at the MPC to take anyone waiting on the Tour of the Historic sites of Meherabad. There were a few pilgrims from Iran. Some did not speak English, so everything had to be translated into Farsi.
By the time the tour ended in the museum at 1:00 pm I was very tired. I had a good nap, and then drove to the house construction site to see the work going on with Sharad's water connection. The excavation was almost done. That is hard work as there are a lot of stones to break through.
Meherabad hill already has the colorful pandal being put up so it looks very festive. The bamboo poles to hold all the stalls are also being put in place all over Upper and Lower Meherabad.
This was my oldest daughter's birthday. I sent her a Happy Birthday email and also called her actually waking her up. I love hearing her voice mamas always love hearing their children's voices.
In the afternoon there was a concert in the Music & Arts Center. Tea and snack were served at 4:00 pm. At 4:30 pm the concert 'The Love Street Wine Shop' had songs, ghazals and poetry celebrating the life and work of Francis Brabazon on his 102nd birthday.
Sunday 25 January. I went up the hill for morning Darshan and then did my workout I am able to last much longer then when I first started out last month. Sirish came with his car to pick Virginia and me up and take us to Meherazad. This was the last Meherazad day until after Amartithi on Thursday, 5th February.
We stopped to order food on the way to Meherazad. Mehera's room was not open, as Katie was resting. Baba's room had a very long line and only a few pilgrims were allowed in at a time. I didn't take Virginia in because it was just too crowded. We went straight to Mandali Hall and waited for the program.
Meheru came into the hall when the bell rang announcing it was time for the performances. Kris Hein sang while Ward Park accompanied on the piano. Then, Peter Booth showed a Baba film. The weather was lovely, a nice day to be at Meherazad.
We went to Virginia's afterward and had lunch with the chocolate ice cream for dessert. I then went home, had some coffee to keep me moving, and went up to the MPR for a meeting with the volunteers for Baba's Cabin Room during Amartithi. I just explained to them what was required.
I then went home and rested. Later, my new dresser I had designed was finished and brought to my room. So, I had fun rearranging my stuff making it more organized.
Monday 26 January. I picked up Fereshteh and we went to the MPR for our day of duty. When we opened the reception office doors at 8:45 the pilgrims started immediately coming in. We had a large group of 14 from Argentina, some of them for the first time.
This was the last day for pilgrims to drop off their dirty laundry until after Amartithi. We have begun giving out the Amartithi badges to pilgrim staying at the MPR. They also got their token sticker for the Darshan queue on the 31st. We have so many notices up on the Dining Hall doors. Next year we will have two stands to hold them instead of what we use now. But, so much has to be shared with the pilgrims like the names of the pilgrims going out, where they are going, what time the bus comes for them, where to get accommodation badges, tokens, exchange money, curfew, and on and on. We finally finished at 7:00 pm. We had waited for one pilgrim who never showed.
Tuesday 27 January. Many pilgrims moved out to the MPC and private accommodations. We had only a few arrivals, but housekeeping had to change all those beds and make them ready for the next day.
In the evening, the Reception Office was rearranged before closing into the Amartithi setting. It is for faster check-in with the large crowds.
Wednesday 28 January. Fereshteh and I were at the MPR by 8:00 am. We had breakfast and immediately got busy. We had 105 expected pilgrims! There were four Receptionists on duty. But by the end of the day, I was so exhausted I could hardly walk. We had to handle all the arrivals as well as take care of pilgrims already in the MPR. We finished by 7:00 pm that is eleven hours!
We had a group of 35 Armenian Iranis. They were all Christians. They are mostly young and here for the first time. They are so sweet. Joseph, who had been here before, brought all of them. I had asked Rafik (another of the group who had been here before) if he would help me give a Baba flag to the group that had flown on the hill. They were so touched to receive it. We do not wash the flags, we give them just as they are when they are taken down from the tower-torn, faded, and like this one, it had bird pooh on it.
Don Stevens' group arrived around 5:30 pm. There were 40 of them.
Oh, wonderful news! Alan's kitchen guys began the Amartithi canteen in the MPR Dining Hall. There are usually five or so different kind of cookies, several kind of cakes, brownies, etc. Plus, coffee, tea, and soft drinks are available. Everyone will have their sweet tooth satisfied!
The hill was already packed with the 1000 volunteers that stay in Hostel-D and Hostel-C. They do security, and protect the thousands of pilgrims that sleep in the tents by guarding the doors. There are also policemen everywhere.
At evening Arti, I was told, when the Argentinean women started to sing and play their drum, their singing and sound was so lovely everyone around stopped talking and listened.
Thursday 29 January. I slept late, knowing I would have little sleep during Amartithi. I had an appointment with Katherine Hill at 9:30 AM. I was going to video her story of coming to the 1969 Darshan in Pune, given by Beloved Baba. We were to meet at the Rahuri Cabin. I drove there with camera. Since I had time, I walked to the MPC to meet Kathy when she got off the bus from the MPR. We walked back to the Rahuri together.
Kathy told her amazing story of her travel around India before the Darshan time, and then the Darshan itself. This video will in time be available at the LA Meher Baba Center. I then drove up to the house construction site to check on things. The work of connecting the water to Sharad's system has been stopped until after Amartithi. Phiroze, who is building the underground water storage tank, also is waiting until Amartithi is over.
Friday 30 January. I woke to talking and the sound of feet walking through leaves. This was right outside of my window. I looked out the curtain, but saw nothing. Then I thought I must have been mistaken and it was someone looking for the person I share the house with, Dr. Anne. People are always coming to see her.
When I got up and saw Anne in the kitchen, she said she too heard the walking by her window. She had looked out and saw a group of men, women, and children, all with bedding on their heads they were looking for their accommodations as they had just arrived for Amartithi!
I set up Baba's Cabin at 11:30 am with Mariko and Joseph. Already there was a long line and it continued all through Amartithi.
We receptionists had four shifts each day for Amartithi 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, 12:00 to 4:00 pm, 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, and then 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm. We also had one receptionist on call, because pilgrims can arrive any hour during Amartithi.
I think we had around 135 expected arrivals it was so exhausting. The food line never seemed to end. When the Armenian Iranian group arrived, one man came only because his friend brought him he knew nothing about Baba, the MPR or anything. He was unsure if he wanted to stay. I saw him the next night on the hill and he said he felt joy and peace!
When I got home I relaxed and began getting ready for bed. At 10:30 pm I remembered I did not take fresh, clean cloths for Baba's Cabin Room. I had left several, but I needed to change them. I got dressed and drove up the hill. After replacing all the cloths I went home and slept.
Saturday 31 January. I went up the hill early to check on Baba's Cabin Room. The volunteers were doing a good job. There are also several Baba lovers who will cover for a volunteer if that person forgets and doesn't show up, so they keep an eye on Baba's Cabin Room.
There are so many wonderful performers around the clock on the stage. I especially love listening to the Argentina group and the Iranians. There were also some International group performances that were incredible. You just can't describe the feeling of Amartithi. The energy, the joy, the feeling of brotherhood, the awareness of the reality of God, it is all embracing. This year others also told me they felt it more strongly.
I had the 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon shift at Baba's Cabin. The line was endless, but as the pilgrims began sitting around the Samadhi, the line was halted by 11:30 AM. All the space from the Samadhi outward to the compound, and down to the stage was filled with pilgrims.
When it was getting close to noon, "Begin the Beguine" was played. Then everyone on the hill began chanting Meher Baba's name. As the pace picked up, the clapping in time also increased in speed. The energy was building in beautiful love for His advent. At 12:00 noon, everyone said "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" then, absolute silence for the next fifteen minutes.
When it was 12:15 pm everyone yelled "Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!" Then the prayers in different languages followed.
I had MPR reception duty from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. We are on shifts during Amartithi. We still had arrivals, plus many who were already at the MPR wanted assistance. I then went home and rested, since I had 12:00 midnight to 2:00 AM duty at Baba's Cabin Room.
The last day of Amartithi will be in the next Diary, since it falls in February. And, frankly, I am just too tired to write about the wonderful last day with any justice
In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy