Judy Stephens

Meherabad, 1952


16 to 28 February 2009

Jai Meher Baba to you all!

Monday 16 February 2009. I picked Fereshteh up on the way to the Meher Pilgrim Retreat. I parked with the front part of the car facing away from the trees. I was hoping the windshield would not get as dirty this way. You see, for over a month now, something has been splattering all over the front of my car. It is like glue. I think it must be a certain time of year when the flower trees that line the parking area drip, and the breeze spreads the stuff. I have been meaning to ask Jeff DeLoe about what is causing this sticky splatter, as he is the gardening supervisor for the MPR. He might have been the one that planted the trees.

We were so busy in the morning. There were pilgrims coming in both doors for everything under the sun. We only had around ten arrivals, but we have close to 150 pilgrims at the MPR.

At 1:00 pm, I got a call from my hired supervisor at the house construction site. The tractor with the 25 solar panels for electricity and 24 batteries had just come. Sharad, the old contractor, had been storing them for my family. Plus, the remainder of the plumbing that had not been returned in the last batch was also delivered. The plumbing had all been brought from the States, and was expensive.

Since it was lunch time, it was a good time for me to leave to go to the house, which is only about five minutes away, as everyone would be at lunch. When I got to the house and checked the last of the plumbing, I found some of the stainless steel piping was missing. They would have to find and bring it. We wrote down everything that was delivered. I would have to email the Pages and find out if there was anything not delivered — like, "Why 25 solar panels, and only 24 batteries?"

When I got back to the MPR it was 2:00 pm — and lunch was over. Fereshteh saved a plate of food for me. I took the covered plate into the Staff room to eat. When I removed the lid, I saw she had given me enough food for a 6'4" football player. I ate only a little, and showed her how much was left. She and Hooyar had been talking to a couple of Iranian men pilgrims who had just returned from Bhauji's office late, and they had missed lunch. We gave them the rest of the food on the plate, plus some fruit Fereshteh and I had. I was happy that I did not have to throw all that food away. Later, Fereshteh said she knew I didn't eat a lot, but for some reason she piled my plate anyway. She said it was amazing how it worked out for the two men not to go hungry!

When I got in my car to go home, the sticky stuff was all over the car! It didn't make any difference which way I parked. I definitely am going to have to find out what is causing this problem.

Tuesday 17 February. I was up the hill for my early morning Darshan at the Samadhi. When I got back to my room I did my workout, and then got ready to go into Ahmednagar. I had to go to BSNL (the phone company), to see about a slight problem with the bill for the two phones at the house construction site. I had to talk to the 'big boss' to get it straightened out. As I was sitting in the office waiting, the 'boss' commented about Amartithi being over. We began talking, and he said he goes to the Samadhi, and feels great peace and happiness inside. I asked if he had ever gone to Meherazad. Yes, once he said. There too, he felt great peace. We talked for about ten minutes about Baba, and how all people worship the same God. It was a very pleasant surprise, and the wait was enjoyable.

I also went into the bazaar and bought things needed at the house, like a trash can, etc. On the way home, I dropped the things off at the construction site.

I was awakened from my lovely nap by the supervisor of the house. He is a carpenter by profession, and I hire him to make furniture for me. I had a night stand made, and he was delivering it. It came out really cute!

After coffee, I went up the hill for my 6:00 pm Samadhi duty.

Wednesday 18 February. I picked up Fereshteh and we went to the MPR for our Reception duty. It was so busy even though I did not have any arrivals.

After lunch, I went upstairs to the Administration Hall, where Roxanne (housekeeping supervisor) had put a bed and rest area for us receptionists. Since we are full on the women's side so often now, we have nowhere to rest — and our days are often ten to eleven hours. Well, my key opened one door, but inside the door was locked. When you are tired and need a rest, it is very frustrating when something like that happens. Especially it is frustrating when this was the third time in a row I tried to go into the rest area and found either the key was changed or just didn't work. Roxanne was visiting her family in Mumbai, so someone in housekeeping was not paying attention.

Well, that was the final straw as far as I was concerned! But, I had to wait until the housekeeping staff returned from their lunch. I went to housekeeping and asked one of the workers to please unlock the door, to the Administration Hall. I told them until Roxanne returns they would have to have the Lobbyman open the Hall for cleaning. I told them I was putting my lock on and only reception and the Lobby would have a key.

Just as we changed the lock, I got a phone call from Meherazad — Arnavaz had just gone to Baba at 2:34 pm. So, while I was running around trying to open the door to the Hall, Baba was opening the door for Arnavaz to be with Him!

Then came the mad rush to call for a bus to take the pilgrims to Meherazad, and put up the notices on the white board and Dining Hall door. Meherazad had called and told us what to write about Arnavaz. Fereshteh asked the kitchen to please serve tea a little early. The bus would leave MPR at 4:30 PM to go to Meherazad. The bus would first stop at the MPC to pick up anyone from Lower Meherabad who also wished to go.

We had to call Hostel-A and have Harry cancel the afternoon Baba film that was to be shown. Harry also had to let the pilgrims who were at the theater know about the bus to Meherazad — as rehearsal was going on for Baba's birthday play.

I closed the reception office at 4:00 pm. I drove Marge, Gus and Rada to Meherazad. Arnavaz's body was wrapped and laid out on a stretcher in front of Baba's chair in Mandali Hall, with only her face showing. She looked very peaceful and at rest, and there was a beauty you felt while looking at her lovely face.

Mandali Hall already had a number of people there. I sat down on one side. Ward Parks was playing the guitar and leading in songs. Then others would sing. We heard the bus arrive, and soon the pilgrims began lining up at the door to take Darshan at Baba's chair, and then to be with Arnavaz for a minute. The Hall was soon overflowing with pilgrims. The energy was very beautiful and peaceful. Katie and Meheru, the last of the women Mandali, were also in the hall, saying good-bye to a life-long companion.

We left at the same time the bus took the pilgrims back to Meherabad in time for Arti. Cars were still arriving at Meherazad, as I am sure they did throughout the night as those from Mumbai and Pune came to say good-bye to Arnavaz.

Thursday 19 February. Arnavaz's cremation was to be at 11:00 am. I called Hardeep around 8:00 am to find out what time her body would be taken to the Samadhi. He said it would be brought in only a few minutes. I quickly went up the hill. When I reached the Samadhi the ambulance was already there. Arnavaz's family were in the Samadhi where Arnavaz's body was placed. She was put with her head facing Baba's feet. The stretcher fit just right between the door and where we bow down to Baba.

After putting garlands on Baba shrine, they went and put one on Mehera's and Mani's. Then the men went into the Samadhi and carried Arnavaz into the ambulance to take her to Lower Meherabad.

I quickly walked to the main bungalow, called Mandali Hall for years. Large rugs were placed on the floor, with an open space between the doors for pilgrims to walk. Just as I got to the Hall, the ambulance arrived. The stretcher was carried into the Hall and placed with Arnavaz's head close to Baba's chair. Then, beautiful singing went on for over an hour as the line continued for those who wished to say good-bye to Arnavaz and have Baba's Darshan. A large basket of roses and daisies were put next to the stretcher so anyone could take a flower and place it on Arnavaz's body.

Bhauji was helped into the hall, where he sat on one side of Arnavaz. Then he got up and was helped to stand at her feet as he paid tributed to her love & service to Baba. After he was seated again, Meheru came from Meherazad and sat on the other side of Arnavaz. Meheru led the Arti and everyone sang with full hearts. I became aware that I was looking at the last two Mandali left alive, except for Katie at Meherazad. It was painful on my heart to see. Shortly after, Bhauji left Mandali Hall to return to the Trust.

When it was time to take Arnavaz to the cremation site, her stretcher was again placed in the ambulance for the ride. We all walked or rode. The cremation site is only on the other side of the old MPC. Chairs were placed on one side for those who would want to sit. A cover was put above the chairs, to give shade from the hot sun. Meheru arrived in the car. She placed flowers and then sat on one of the chairs. The singing continued as the pyre was lit. Rick Chapman then stood and read out a eulogy he had written and was emailed to Baba lovers around the world. More songs were sung and then everyone began to leave. The bus to take the pilgrims back to the MPR was waiting on the road.

This was really a beautiful way to have our final farewell here at Meherabad. There is so much beauty and love expressed in saying good-bye. It was a grand sendoff!

Friday 20 February. In the morning, Marge and I went to the Prithvi organic farm nearby and picked lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. How fresh can you get! It is a ten-acre farm owned by a Baba lover named Gurdev.

Bhauji gave a talk at the MPC at 4:30 pm. Tea and snack were first served at 4:00 pm.

In the evening there was a Baba film shown in the MPR Dining Hall.

Saturday 21 February. I was up the hill by 5:30 am to clean Beloved Baba's Cabin Room. After putting flowers on the Gadi and Samadhi threshold, I went back down the hill to clean the Jhopdi. Fereshteh meets me there at 7:00 am to help.

I went to the MPC at 10:00 am to give the Tour of Meherabad Historic Sites. This was the last Tour that would include the museum. Thursday, the 26th,will be the last day it will be shown before closing for the summer.

They are going to do Archival renovation work in the museum, and I believe put the two Rano paintings back on the West wall where they had been for many years. They had been moved to another place when it was found the walls behind the paintings were damaged. Now, they will be fixed.

After my nap I went to the house construction site and saw the work going on. The stone part of the front wall is almost done. A trench for the water pipe connection is being dug, and Pandernath, the carpenter, is working on all doors and windows.

Sunday 22 February. After my workout, I got ready to go to Meherazad. The car came to pick Marge and me up. We went to get Virginia, but found she had just gotten sick from something she had eaten, and had gone back to bed.

Since we had already hired the car, we went ahead to Meherazad. There were three busloads of pilgrims. So, everywhere it was full. Some Iranians and Argentinas sang to Katie. Meheru came into Mandali Hall when the bell rang for the program to begin. There were some songs, and Hugh McDonald did some of his magic tricks. Peter Booth then showed a short film he put together of Arnavaz with Baba and Mehera.

Just as we were leaving Meherabad, Marge and I stopped to talk with Michelle and Chris Dunsworth. They were leaving for England the following day, so we all decided to have lunch together. We went to the YashanJoli, a place I had mentioned in the past where the food is very good.

Chris and Michelle have a new baby, and I was glad I finally had a chance to visit. Then Marge and I stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home at Sukhsagar.

That evening we had a receptionists meeting at 7:00 pm in the Spiritual Training Academy. We were finally able to meet and discuss what changes would need to be made in how we man the Reception Office at the MPR. We could no longer run it like we did in the MPC. We all realized it is not possible to give the service we want, or be helpful to the pilgrims in the way Mani had wanted us to do, with only one receptionist on duty each day. To have 28 arrivals, and a pilgrim retreat with already 170 pilgrims staying ... how can one person possibly give good service?

So, we brainstormed. And, we realized we need not only more receptionists, but also more Iranians and someone who can speak Hindi. We also need to hire a clerk who will be able to do a lot of the 'busy stuff'. We are just getting too exhausted right now. We have grown in pilgrim numbers so quickly that we are completely overwhelmed.

Monday 23 February. I went up early to take Darshan at the Samadhi, as I knew I would be very busy at the MPR and my not have time to go again before going home. I picked up Fereshteh and as soon as we reached the Reception Office, we were busy. With so many Iranians, it is good that Fereshteh can help them in their own language.

We had to put up several notices on the Dining Hall doors. One was about the 'Feeding of the Poor' program at the Trust compound the following day. We also had to inform the pilgrims staying at the MPR that they had to come to the Reception Office to get their ticket to attend Baba's Birthday play on Wednesday the 25th. There were also notices of the birthday bus schedule and the different programs.

Then I realized we did not have the tickets for the play. I called the Meherabad Trustees office in Lower Meherabad and arranged to have them picked up.

My arrivals were pilgrims who had only been away, not out of the country, and so I didn't have to give any orientations and was able to leave early. I had seen my neighbor, Marge, and she suggested I join her in the morning to decorate the Samadhi for Baba's birthday. "Oh yes! I said, "I would love to!" I had never done it.

Tuesday 24 February. I was up the hill for my morning Darshan. Then I came back down the hill to my room for my workout and breakfast. Kishore, our supervisor at the house construction site, came by and I gave him some instructions. I also said I would be up to the site either before or after the decorating.

I then found out from Marge she was going to decorate at 9:00 am. By the time I drove across the train tracks it was 9:00 am, so, I went straight to the Samadhi. There was a crew of maybe eight pilgrims. One of the things I did was work on the backside of the partition around the portico. When wire were poked through, I would bind them together. The decorations sparkled beautifully inside the partition. Small blinking lights had been strung. Then hanging silk roses and other decorations were strung from the portico ceiling and door of the Samadhi. Marge had hand made all these beautiful silk roses and other lovely decorations over the years. She is really amazing in the beauty she creates — all for our Beloved Baba.

When we finished the Samadhi portico, we went to the Gadi area under the Tin Shed. Decorative banners were put up. One of them is in three sections, that says 'don't worry, be happy'. There were also three large tubs, full of red roses that had to have the stems cut. On Baba's birthday, these roses would be spread one by one to cover the marble shrine, the rest would be put in a large basket for the pilgrims to take and give to Baba. At 4:00 pm this 'rose cutting' project would start. A notice had been put on the MPR Dining Hall inviting any interested pilgrim to participate.

While we were decorating at the Samadhi, the Trust in Ahmednagar held the 'feeding the poor' program. A bus took pilgrims from the MPR and Lower Meherabad who wished to help. There was a 'raising' of Baba's flag ceremony. Then the poor would be allowed inside the compound to sit at any of the surrounding tables. Pilgrims had volunteered to serve the food. The bus returned at 12:30 pm.

I offered Marge a ride home. She was very glad to have it; as it has been hot since just before Amartithi. The temperature is in the high 90's almost daily. We first stopped at the house construction site. I just wanted to look around to see what work was going on. Kishore had two women cleaning. They now come every Tuesday. Outside the front wall, a trench had been dug to the driveway for the water connection. I noticed the old pipe had been removed. I asked the man digging if they were putting in new pipe. He said yes. Marge and I then went home for lunch and a rest. I had Samadhi duty at 6:00 pm.

Wednesday 25 February. Happy Birthday Dear Baba!!!!!!! This was Baba's 115th Birthday. I set the alarm to wake up at 2:15 am. I needed two cups of coffee to wake up enough so I didn't feel like I was dragging my body. I put on a pretty Punjabi outfit and went up the hill. I got to the Samadhi by 3:15 am. Already the flowerwalas were putting up the rangala (flowers that looped in long streamers) along the border of the portico, and along the cover of Mehera's shrine.

I wanted to be early to be sure to get a seat for the celebration. We have so many pilgrims here, both at the MPR and the Hostels. There were already pilgrims sitting there, and soon more and more began arriving. The 'hill committee' was covering beloved Baba's shrine with many cloths. I don't know how many were put on by the time I began counting. I counted at least 15 cloths before being distracted. Hundreds of pilgrims would be putting garlands on Baba's shrine, and the moisture from the flowers would be absorbed by the many layers of cloth.

When all the layers were on the shrine, then the 'hill committee' covered the top cloth with dozens of single red roses. A beautiful garland was then placed. After each committee member took Darshan, the Baba lovers in line began going in one at a time.

The feeling at the Samadhi was one of happiness and joy and sweet love. At 10 minutes to 5:00, Ted Judson announced we would all began singing Baba's name until 5:00 am, then everyone will say 'Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai' seven times. Next, the prayers and Arti would be said. Then 'Happy Birthday, Baba' would be sung in four languages — Gujarati, English, Spanish and Persian.

Afterward, singing followed, for the next two hours. Meanwhile, under the Tin Shed, tea was served. When I finally walked to the Tin Shed to get my tea, I heard the lovely sound of singing to Baba at the Gadi. It was an incredible, wonderful morning. I reluctantly went down the hill to get ready for my day of duty at the MPR.

The Pilgrim Registration Office would be closed the whole day, and there were no expected arrivals. I did not want to miss any of the afternoon celebrations, so I put up a notice on our Reception Office door telling the pilgrims the office would be closed at 1:00 pm to attend the Baba's Birthday celebration.

When I got home, I took some rope and went to the theater to reserve several seats close to the door. Virginia would be attending and she would need easy access to the door if she had to leave. Then I went home and rested for an hour.

From 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm there was an art exhibition displayed on the walls of the Music & Arts Center verandah. Different artists had the opportunity to display their individual expressions of love of Baba. There was some amazing art, and it was all so tastefully set up. While the pilgrims walked around looking at the displays, tea and cake were served.

At 4:30 pm everyone was seated in the theatre, and the side doors were locked. If anyone had to go outside, they would have to use the back doors. The play was arranged by a professional actor and mime by the name of Steven Wesson. There was a lot of symbolism throughout the play. A boat was the 'between lives' as the soul went through the reincarnation process with the seven Avatars. The soul was 'awakening' to itself as One with the Divine Beloved, Meher Baba.

Thursday 26 February. I was so tired I slept late. I tried to do as little as possible to let my body start to recover from the exhausting past three months.

Friday 27 February. In the morning, Marge and I went to the fruit stand and bought delicious fruit. We tried one small walnut size fruit called a raspberry. It tasted like a combination of a cherry and a tart grape — and they were delicious!!!! Marge and I were sorry we had not bought more.

I picked flowers for tomorrow before getting ready to go to the party at Jal & Dolly's. This was their 53rd wedding anniversary, and every year they invite the whole community to share in it. Drinks and snacks were served while music for dancing soon had everyone getting in the party spirit. Later, dinner was served and more dancing continued. Just before everyone went home, there was the 'fire dance' by Archana and Samarpan. We finished the evening with the Arti.

Saturday 28 February. I was up the hill by 5:30 am to clean Baba's Cabin Room. After putting flowers on the Gadi and the Samadhi threshold, I went down the hill to clean the Jhopdi.

The Tour of Meherabad Historic Sites was cancelled because this was the last day Meherazad would be open until next pilgrim season in July. Sirish, our car driver came to pick up Marge & me at 9:15 am. We then went to get Virginia, and off to Meherazad we went. Of course, we stopped at Sukhsagar restaurant to order butter paneer and ice cream, which we would pick up on the way home.

We stopped at another restaurant closer to Meherazad for tea. Virginia likes having this tasty treat. When we finally reached Meherazad, there were already a lot of pilgrims there. It was so crowded everywhere, so we stayed less than an hour.

In the afternoon, there was an Indian Classical Music performance at the Music & Arts Center. The performer was Jitendra Abhisheki, son of one of the most renowned exponents of Indian classical music. Tea and cake were served first on the theater verandah at 4:00 pm.

I drove my car to the house construction site. On the way, just as I was making the curve to the MPR road, there were many villagers standing. Some had flags, and they waved me to stop. They explained there was a bicycle race going on and to drive carefully. When I passed the Prithvi's store, I stopped and joined the others standing on the side. I found out it was the second annual bicycle race for women, sponsored by Prithvi. This year there were ten women racing. Last year there were only around four.

Soon we saw bicycles heading toward us. A girl in her teens was in the lead, peddling like crazy. These bicycles do not have any gears, it is all leg power! The fact there were more women this year is quite an achievement. Years ago you would hardly find any woman riding a bicycle — now Arangaon was having a 'women's bicycle race'. Prithvi is an organization that, among other things, helps empower village women throughout India.

In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy

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