Judy Stephens

Meherabad, 1952


16 Jan-1 Feb 2012

Jai Meher Baba to you all!

Monday 16 January 2012. I slept late because I didn't get home from Bhau's Chat until almost 9:30 PM. By the time I got to sleep it was much later. I also didn't want to deal with the very cold morning. Later in the morning I stopped at the Samadhi to say my prayers before going to the Page house to check on the latest work.

Tuesday 17 January. I went up the hill and cleaned Mani's shrine before getting in line to take darshan when the Samadhi doors opened. I saw Abbas and told him about the Saturday party at Harry's. Abbas said he is leaving on Friday. I was surprised and said he told me he was leaving in 14 days. No, he said four days. It was my mistake. I asked if we could do a tea in the afternoon instead before he leaves. He said okay.

After cleaning Baba's Room I went home and called Harry to tell him Abbas is leaving on Friday. Harry said a tea at our Savages Kitchen would be good. Anne would have the bhais (women) make the tea. I called Alan and ordered the cake. So, we will have the tea on Thursday at 4:00 PM. Harry sent out another notice informing all the community about the tea for Abbas, but he said we would still have the potluck Saturday night, just so we all have a chance to visit each other.

I noticed I was beginning to feel unwell. I decided not to go to Meherazad and spent the day resting. In the evening a friend did my Samadhi Prasad duty from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

Wednesday 18 January. I slept late and went to see Dr. Gus at 9:00 AM. Then I went into Ahmednagar and parked my car at the Trust. I took a rickshaw into the bazaar to look for two new saris. Bhauji's grandson, Zubin, was getting married to a lovely woman named, Sheenal. The wedding is next week. The day before the wedding there is dinner and dancing. So, I would need two new saris.

I went to one store but the man would only let me open three saris. I wanted to see more but he said not to open. I went to a store named Sardas, and as I was walking in I saw this beautiful sari on a dummy. I told the men in the store I wanted one like the display one. They told me it was a designer sari and only one of a kind. I told them I wanted it. Then I found another sari I liked.

Next, I looked at shoes. I found one pair that matched the designer sari. I was very happy with my purchases. I know I don't really like to wear saris, but sometimes they fit the occasion — especially here in India. I will have to take some photos when I wear the sari so you all can see how pretty it is.

Thursday 19 January. I went up the hill early and cleaned Mehera's shrine. I got in line for darshan when they opened the Samadhi doors. I then went down the hill to my room and got ready for Meherazad.

It was fun at Meherazad. I sat on the verandah most of the time with Meheru and other pilgrims.

— photos of Meheru

In the afternoon, we had a tea and cake in the Savages Kitchen at 4:00 PM. This was so our Baba community had a chance to wish the best for one of our Iranian residents who will be going back to Iran for cancer treatment. It was a wonderful gathering; so full of love and companionship, like a family. Anne had the kitchen women make the tea. I asked Alan to make the cake. I also picked up 20 teacups and saucers from Hostel-D. To our pleasant surprise we had to keep washing the cups and saucers as more and more residents showed up. I would say we easily had 50 or more.

Soon after the tea was served the Iranians got out their instruments and we had beautiful music for the next hour. Abbas, who the tea was for, actually started dancing at one point. We passed around four cards for everyone to sign so Abbas could take them back to Iran with him.

— photos of Savages Kitchen tea

Friday 20 January. I slept late then got ready to go into the bazaar. I drove to the Trust and parked my car. Yoki and I took a rickshaw into the bazaar. I wanted to buy a pair of shoes that matched the other sari I bought. I found a pair, but when I stopped to try on my top that was being made by Meher Tailor, I found the shoes did not match at all. I would have to take them back and exchange them. I was so exhausted I just didn't have the energy to go back into the bazaar. Meher Tailor is real close to the Trust.

After my lunch and nap I drove to the MPR to check on the signup of Amartithi events. I also checked the Page house but nothing had been happening.

Saturday 21 January. I went up the hill early to clean Mani's shrine before taking darshan in the Samadhi when the doors opened. I next cleaned Baba's Room and then went down the hill to do a quick clean of the Jhopdi. At 10:00 AM I was at the MPC to give the Tour of Meherabad Historic Sites.

There were three pilgrims waiting. We had fun on the Tour. Even though I give the Tour, it is fun to me going around Baba's places, seeing them and focusing on Darling Baba.

After lunch I had a short rest before driving to the Trust to park my car. I took a rickshaw back into the bazaar with the pair of shoes that needed to be exchanged. The man in the store was very nice and I found a replacement pair that matched my sari — since I took my sari with me in a bag.

There was to be a potluck dinner at the Muir house. I stopped to buy a beer and dropped it off at their house (living in Staff Quarters we are not allowed to have meat, fish, or alcohol). I went to the potluck at 7:00 PM. Many residents came with different tasty dishes. It was relaxing and we enjoy being in each other's company.

Sunday 22 January. I had been coughing a lot during the night, so I slept late. I wasn't sure I should go to Meherazad because of the coughing. But when I got up I only coughed twice, so I decided I would go but not get near Meheru. There were not that many pilgrims considering it is one week before Amartithi. I sat on the verandah with Meheru for a while, but at a distance. When the bell rang for the program to start in Mandali Hall I left.

In the afternoon, at 2:30 PM, there was a groundbreaking for two homes of residents. They will live one in front of the other. Their homes will be on the North side of the MPR, with a view overlooking the whole valley. There is a ceremony that is traditional for this occasion, and the photos I hope will show it.

— -photos of the groundbreaking.

I didn't go to Bhauji's Chat because I am not quiet well and we are all in a small office. At Meherazad I was in the open and away from Meheru.

Monday 23 January. I woke late. I had been coughing a lot during the night. It seems when I lay down I cough, which is a problem as that is how I sleep.

At 9:00 AM I was up the hill at Baba's Room. There was to be the annual cleaning before Amartithi. This is an extensive cleaning, with small brushes getting between the spaces of the tin roof and the wooden beams on the outside roof. The cleaning also includes carefully brushing the screens of the windows, the screen doors, the inside beams, etc. We finished around 12:00 noon. I had a great crew of four, and I appreciate their hard work. They do it with such care and love for Baba.

— photo of two of the women

When I drove down the hill I noticed the piles of gravel, on the railroad crossing for Amartithi, had been smoothed out to widen the road. It was always chaos when the railroad barrier was opened after the trains passed. There had been space for only one car. But, you had pilgrims, motorcycles, bicycles, plus other cars all trying to squeeze past through that space. At least now there will be more space for the pilgrims to walk.

— photo of the new space on the sides of the Amartithi railroad crossing

When I laid down to take a nap I started coughing and coughing. It is strange that when I stand up I hardly cough at all.

Tuesday 24 January. I was up the hill early to clean Mani's shrine and take darshan in the Samadhi when the doors opened. I next cleaned Baba's Room then went down the hill. I had coughed most of the night so I decided not to go to Meherazad

This was my oldest daughter's birthday, and I happily called her. A mama loves to hear the voice of her children. It sounds like music to the heart. After calling I spent a good part of the day resting. I had Samadhi Prasad duty from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

There are so many Amartithi preparations going on all over Meherabad. I took photos of some of it:

— --photos of Amartithi preparations

Wednesday 25 January. Last night, as soon as I laid down, I started coughing again. After some time I realized that laying prone was making me cough, and though that is how I slept I was no longer being able to sleep. I was fed up with the coughing and so I put a few pillows under mine, which made me lay at an angle. But, this did the trick and I was able to fall asleep.

We were going to do a major cleaning of the inside of the Samadhi at 8:00 AM, or as soon as when all the Arti pilgrims left for breakfast. I drove up the hill to the Samadhi with my neighbor, Marge. We met Janaki and Marge's son, Paul. We got everything ready for the cleaning. We removed the two mats pilgrims sit on, and we put cloth over the marble .

Paul is tall. So he had the honor of using the extension to the lambs-wool duster and carefully wiped the inside of the dome. He also wiped the steel cross beam support. When he was finished Marge, Janaki, and I dusted the walls with lambs-wool dusters. Then the floor was brushed and washed.

Thursday 26 January. I was up the hill early to clean Mehera's shrine. After taking darshan I went home for breakfast. Later, around 10:00 AM some of us were invited for the opening ceremony of the new Meher Nazar Bookstore. There would also be a Baba library and coffee shop, run by Raj Kalchuri. Bhauji was coming for the cutting of the ribbon.

Bhauji and crew arrived around 11:00 AM. The car with Bhauji in it drove as close to the ramp as possible. He was then helped onto the wheelchair and taken to where he would cut the ribbon.

— -photos of Bhau arriving and cutting the ribbon

Bhauji looked so frail to me. He seemed very withdrawn. He was here, but it seemed like he was more elsewhere inside. It is hard to explain.

After Bhauji cut the ribbon he was taken into a large room where a photo of Baba was placed on a decorative table full of flowers. He and his family took turns garlanding Baba's photo. Zubin and Sheenal also did some special garlanding. The prayers were said and then refreshments were served.

In the early afternoon at 2:30 PM I met some of the men workers up the hill. They had to remove all the benches from the portico of the Samadhi. They also would move the two cabinets into Baba's Room, where they will stay during the whole Amartithi time.

I had some hard clean plastic I wanted to use on Baba's Room floor before the cabinets were put in place. We put the plastic and one of the men cut it where it was needed. Then the men carefully put the two cabinets where I wanted them. I need space for a rack to go for the volunteers to put their personal things. The other rack would go between the two cabinets. This is to hold the different buckets of water and cleaning cloths.

In the evening there was a fun Dinner, Wine, and Food party in honor of the coming marriage of Zubin and Sheenal, one of Bhauji's grandson's. The event was in the open area behind the new Meher Nazar Bookstore building. I could not believe how quickly the place was transformed into a beautiful reception area. White cloth walls cover the three sides, the ground was covered with rugs, tables with cloths were everywhere, and food tables were in three areas. Next to one of the food tables was the liquor table. On one side was a DJ and in the center area was a stage for dancing.

— photos of reception party

Many of us danced most of the time we were there. Special permission was given for the pilgrims to stay late, as curfew is normally at 10:00 PM. Many women wore saris, including me. It was an evening so full of fun. I left around 11:00 PM because I knew the wedding was the next night.

Friday 27 January. I slept late and went up the hill later in the morning. I also stopped at the Page house to check on the work.

There was a bus going to the Trust from the MPC at 2:15 PM if any woman wanted to have help with her sari or have her hair done. Another bus would leave at 4:30 PM. I didn't want to take a bus with a fancy sari on, so I was thinking of driving. I called Zahra and she said she would drive at 5:00 PM. We met at the MPC. As I was getting out of my car to join her, a group of around eight pilgrims came from the MPC and said the bus never stopped for them. Later I found out the bus driver went to Hostel-D instead of the MPC. Just one of those normal 'mistakes' that happen here all the time. Zahra suggested she and I both drive and give everyone rides. I didn't have on my glasses for night driving, but she said I could follow her home. We got everyone in our cars and arrived at the Shilpa Garden right after the groom had entered the driveway on the white horse.

Here in India the groom rides a white horse from a location near the wedding site, to the wedding location. A band follows the horse and there is dancing while many people walk behind the dancers and horse. I had to miss that part, but at least I was able to see Zubin on the white horse.

— --photos of Zubin on the horse and we all walking down the driveway to the wedding site.

It was a traditional Hindu wedding. The priest sang the blessings for about an hour, with other stuff happening that I didn't understand. Finally the bride and groom stood up and walked around the fire seven times while stopping to do some other stuff. They were then officially married. The reception was on the vast lawn next to the wedding platform. Way to one side of the vast lawn was a stage for the newly wed couple to sit on these throne chairs while guests came up the stairs to congratulate them.

It was a very beautiful wedding. I don't think anyone can beat the beauty of the wedding sari and jewelry. There are special saris for the family members of the bride and groom, very elaborate with lots of beadwork. Many of the women had their hands painted with henna. It is a real art and amazing to watch it being painted on the body.

— -photos of some of us in saris and other photos of the wedding.

I left while the dinner and music was in full swing. I was simply too tired and I had to get up early the next morning.

Saturday 28 January. I was up the hill early to clean Mani's shrine before getting in line to take darshan in the Samadhi when the doors opened. I then went to Baba's Room and cleaned it.

We changed the cloth covers on the stretcher and curtains and shelf covering. Zahra brought in two Iranian women. One was here for her first time. She had tears in her eyes. Zahra told me the woman was from Iran and was part of Baba's family. Her great-grandfather was Sheriar's brother. Her name was Mani and she was the first person I had ever met from Baba's family who lives in Iran. I have so many questions to ask her, like how did she know of Baba? I don't believe Sheriar ever went back to Iran. Are others from Baba's family in Iran also following Him? You see, that is only some of the questions I have.

I had an orientation at Baba's Room at 5:00 PM for those who will be volunteering during Amartithi. They were very interested in the history and looking forward to Amartithi.

Sunday 29 January. I slept late and had an easy morning as Meherazad was closed until after Amartithi.

At 2:30 PM I drove to the Trust. With so many pilgrims here I knew if I wanted a seat close to Bhauji during his Chat, I had to be early. By 3:30 PM the Chat room is already full. We had a break around 6:30 PM for half and hour. At 8:30 PM the Team requested Bhauji that it was time to stop as many had to get back to Meherabad for dinner and curfew.

Some friends from Mumbai were at the Chat and Rakish, husband of Ashu, drove my car back to Meherabad for me. We were going to pick up a Baba lover friend of Robin's, who was coming to help with Amartithi. Jay (friend's name) was waiting in front of the Yash Palace. He had just taken a bus in from Pune. I was happy to say Jay wanted to help at Baba's Room, which turned out to be such a blessing as he was always on time, came often to see if someone didn't show up, or offered to just be on hand. He is a young man and I wish he would be here every year for Amartithi — but he is a young man and who knows where life will take him.

Monday 30 January. I went up the hill at 9:30 AM to put the rope up for the line at Baba's Room. I found there were only four pink poles instead of the five I needed. It seems every year there is some misunderstand of the number I need. Anyway, hopefully this will be the final year of misunderstanding.

I went back down the hill to get everything ready to bring back up to Baba's Room. Marge, my neighbor, gave me a key that was left for me. The key is to the lock that is kept on the Watchmen's Hut during Amartithi. I am now going to start keeping my Amartithi cleaning supplies in that Watchmen's hut in the compound next to the Samadhi. The women who have always done Mehera's, Mani's, and the other shrines keep their supplies in the Hut. I only found out about it recently.

It was a wonderful beginning of Amartithi for me. The volunteers did an excellent job and almost everyone showed up on time for their shift. With two night and three days of Amartithi I share doing one of the night shifts. We need a supervisor during the night and I take one night and someone else takes the other. This way there is a chance to sleep. The night shift is from 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM the following morning.

Tuesday 31 January. I had a good sleep and a refreshing bath before going back up the hill around 9:30 AM. I had the 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon shift. The 12:00 to 2:00 PM shift must be at Baba's Room by 11:00 AM because pilgrims began sitting next to the Samadhi at 10:00 AM. From the Samadhi outward the hill fills with sitting pilgrims very fast. By 11:00 AM the security men stop all pilgrims from moving past Baba's Room. There is no space left except a narrow 'emergency' pathway.

There was an elderly man sitting on the parapet (stone ledge) that surrounds Baba's Room, he was facing the Samadhi. Suddenly he faints. He is helped and revives as they take him to one of our Medical Tents that is closest to the Samadhi. They immediately drive him down the hill to our Meher Hospital. Within half an hour he dies.

What is really amazing is this man's best friend died in that same room, on Silence Day, a few years back. What souls they must be. For them to come to their Beloved Baba and have Meherabad be there exit from earth and into His arms! How absolutely fortunate!

There were eight people total for the two shifts for Baba's Room for the time of 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. When we stopped the line for taking darshan in Baba's Room we had some sitting on the steps to save the space for all of us, the rest were in Baba's Room doing a major clean. This meant removing all the flowers off the stretcher and photos and putting the good ones in one basket while the old wilted ones went into another basket. We then cleaned the shelf and ledges, the photos and stretcher. After sweeping we put all the good flowers back, making sure every picture had flowers. We then sat on the steps and waited until Begin the Beguine began to be played. When the playing of the music stopped, the thousands of pilgrims started chanting Baba's name to Meher Dhun. When the announcer said Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai, immediately the hill fell silent. How glorious it is to sit on the steps of His Room, next to His Samadhi, in total silence with thousands of His lovers. So powerful is the atmosphere! What joy the heart fills!

After Silence I went down the hill for lunch and a short rest. I got back up the hill a little after 4:00 PM. I saw a crowd right at the entrance to the compound. I thought, "What happened now?" As I made my way closer I saw it was a car. Bhauji had come. Bhauji had said he would drive by only, not come in. But I guess his desire to be with his Beloved Baba in the Samadhi was just too great. His team and others had their hands linked to prevent pilgrims from disturbing Bhau. He was helped into a wheelchair and taken into the Samadhi. I stood on the parapet of Baba's Room and waited for him to come back out.

I went home and slept for a few hours before being back at Baba's Room for my 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM supervision job.

Wednesday 1 February. I was so happy everything went well with people showing up for their shifts that I was able to go home and sleep at 4:00 AM. By 9:30 I was once again back up the hill. I went to one of the food tents and had a masala dosa. It is like a flat pancake with spicy potatoes inside. There are two sauces you can dip your dosa into. It is very yummy!

From 12:00 noon to 2:00 PM we were wrapping up to close. Amartithi was officially over at 2:00 PM. In Baba's Room all the Amartithi things were removed, a final cleaning was done, and that was the end of this year's Amartithi.

In Beloved Baba's sweet love, Judy

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