Meher Baba’s Accident in India in 1956
As told by Meherwan Jessawala to Bob Ahrens in the 1990s during Morning Walks at Meherazad
Baba had traveled after recuperating from the 1952 USA accident, spending about 9 months in Dehra Dun then shifting to Satara as His base for almost 3 years, until the accident in 1956. He did not stay at Meherazad during this time (except for June 1956). He traveled up and down India during those 3 years, doing mast work and contacting people. He also spent periods of strict seclusion during this same time. At one point, when they were in northern India, Baba told Eruch he had to get back to Satara within 24 hours, so Eruch, who had not had any sleep for several days, drove non-stop to Satara and made it within the 24 hours, which pleased Baba. Eruch said it was like driving in a tunnel. At one point he apparently drifted off and came to abruptly, finding Baba’s hand on the steering wheel, steering it back onto the road. The car had veered off and almost flipped, and everyone got a “mighty start.” After they arrived, the next day, Eruch told Baba he had a request, which was never to drive again. He didn’t trust himself after this incident and didn’t want to risk driving with Baba in the car. He described a sensation which came over him to steer off the road (which he obviously resisted). He requested Baba to please not have him drive again. Baba said, “Nonsense,” and assured him that everything would be ok, and Eruch said nothing.
In Satara, the mandali stayed at Rosewood Cottage and the women at Grafton. There was a third cottage which was where Kaikobad (one of the mandali who repeated Baba’s Name many times a day at Baba’s order) lived and where Baba would do seclusion work. It was situated roughly midway between the two other cottages. Baba did some strict seclusion work in Satara.
Since His accident in the US interrupted his travels there, Baba indicated he wanted to return to the US. This was announced, much to the joy of his Western lovers who made all the arrangements. Baba was to fly to the West in July. He returned to Meherazad in June of 1956 for a month of “R & R,” with 4 of the mandali (Eruch, Gustaji, Kaka and Vishnu) and the four New Life women (Mehera, Mani, Goher and Meheru) plus Naja. Meherwan was also called to stay with Baba for the month.
During the month, Baba called Meherwan to Room #4 (Vishnu’s room) where He gave interviews (Mandali Hall was still essentially an unused garage). He dictated a circular, which Eruch took down after sending Meherwan for pencil and paper, telling of an upcoming personal tragedy which would test the love and conviction of His lovers, but that they should stick to Him through thick and thin. This was typed up by Meherwan, given to Adi K Irani, and immediately sent out to His lovers worldwide. Obviously, six months later was the accident in India.
Baba went to the West and, when he returned, he was based again in Satara and activity continued at breakneck speed. Baba traveled a lot, working with the masts with an intensity that, in retrospect, might be interpreted as His trying to get everything done before the impending second accident, which severely curtailed His physical activity thereafter.
On December 1 Baba indicated to the Mandali that he would go through an intense fast for 24 hours, without taking even water, from midnight that night until midnight the next night. He asked them to participate but warned them not to leak the news out to the women, as He didn’t want Mehera to find out. She would be upset and work herself up about it. Baba tried to avoid causing her any suffering, when possible.
Baba said, “What shall we do tomorrow, as the day will be very long without food or drink, and we should find something to pass the day?” He then answered Himself, “Let’s go to a cricket match!” So, someone checked and there was a big match in Poona on December 2 and they made plans to go. They rang up Meherji to have him bring crates of soda water (“Dukes”) from Poona that evening. Baba loved soda water; He felt it helped His digestion. He would drink it and have a good belch! [By soda water is meant something like Club Soda.]
Meherwan knew the main distributor in Poona (the drink came from Bombay) and would arrange to have a truckload brought to Bindra House, where his family lived, and would then have it sent to wherever Baba was.
Meherji was to bring the soda water to Satara, but Baba ordered him not to come in a car, but to come by bus. Meherji, however, couldn’t see how to bring all the soda water in a bus, so came with it in his 1955 Chevrolet. He was thinking, also, that this would be a comfortable car for Baba and the mandali to ride in the next day to Poona to see the match. Baba was upset about this and told him to have the car sent back, which he did, with his driver. Meherji could ride to Poona with Baba, Eruch, Pendu and Nilu. Vishnu was already in Poona attending a continuation of his court case and would ride back with them, while Meherji would stay in Poona, where he lived.
Kaikobad begged Baba not to go on the trip on the 2nd as it was predicted to be a day of solar eclipse, which he felt was a bad omen for driving. Baba told him not to worry but to focus on his repetitions of the name of God (by Baba’s order).
So it was all arranged. Baba told them to drive over to pick Him up at Grafton. He noted that, when Goher came out with the lunch basket for Baba, they should take it, as if Baba were eating, not on a fast.
So the next day (Dec. 2, 1956) the men drove from Rosewood to Grafton and picked Baba up. Goher had not yet come out, so Baba told Eruch to start the car and start pulling out to cause Goher to think they were leaving and run after the car (as a joke). Eruch did that and Goher did come out and started running after the car. Baba had Eruch drive a little further before they stopped and Goher, breathless, caught up with the car with the lunch basket, which was put in the car, and Baba and the four men drove off to Poona.
They arrived uneventfully in Poona. However, there was a traffic jam, and everything was backed up. Baba sent Eruch to see what was going on. He inquired of a police officer who told him Nehru (prime minister of India) and Chou En-lai (the Chinese Premier) were coming in a procession to see the new military facility. Nehru had been courting the Chinese and even gave up India’s seat on the permanent Security Council of the UN to the Chinese and allowed the Chinese to govern Tibet. He saw them as allies. (This, of course, blew up in his face later.) Dr. Nilu expressed a wish to see Chou pass by in the parade of cars and asked Baba if he could get out of the car and go up to the front to watch. Baba was upset with this. “Why would you want to see that monkey face!? What is there to see?” etc. Anyway, he did allow Nilu to go but was not happy about it. After they passed, Nilu came back and Baba asked him if he was satisfied and teased him a little more. As the traffic started to move, they drove on into Poona.
They went to the stadium, which was new and not complete and still open, and Baba directed Eruch to find a shady spot to park under a tree to watch the match (from outside the stadium), which he did, under some trees. They opened the doors and Baba sat in the back seat with his legs hanging out and watched the game. Around noon, the teams broke for lunch and went into the locker rooms to eat, as was the custom here, so Baba suggested they drive somewhere to pass the time since they were fasting. Eruch suggested the new military training center—the National Defense Academy—a state of the art center, one of two in India, where military officers were trained. (The was the same facility, it turned out, that Chou En-lai had been riding to see with Nehru.) So they drove over to the facility to look at it. However, security was stepped up and the guard at the gate wouldn’t let them in—with the dignitary visit security was heightened. However, Eruch argued persuasively with the guard (they would only pass through and stay in the car, be right back etc.) and the guard allowed them through, as they also looked educated and dressed in European clothes, which impressed him, but asked them to keep to their promise so he didn’t lose his job. So, they drove around the facility and returned to the cricket game by the time it resumed.
However, their car was spotted by Gadekar, who was with Ramakrishnan in another car. (Both were living in Poona.) Gadekar, thinking this was an opportunity to see Baba, followed in their car. Eruch noticed this and tried to lose them, but they arrived at the cricket match and parked a distance from Baba’s car. This was a time when Baba was in seclusion and lovers were warned not to seek his company. Gadekar was a long-time Baba lover who had been at Meherabad in the early days. His father was a cobbler in Arangaon and was the one who had made, among other pairs, the sandals that Baba wore for 7 years in the 1920s (and are now displayed in the Museum on the Hill). Many of the cobblers in Poona became Baba lovers due to the influence of Gadekar’s family. Gadekar himself was educated by Baba and had a different occupation. He is buried in lower Meherabad with the other men mandali. Gadekar knew better than to follow Baba’s car, but, somehow, he got focused on seeing Baba.
According to Pendu, he (Pendu) noticed the car but didn’t tell Baba because he knew it would put him out of mood. He even positioned himself between Baba and their car to block Baba’s vision. However, Baba’s brother Jal, whom they had picked up in Poona, was sent back and forth getting info about the game and he noticed them and told Baba, who got upset and told Eruch to leave. They drove up to Gadekar’s car and Baba gestured, “Why have you come, breaking my order?” Baba continued, “After all these years you seek darshan above obedience to my orders? What kind of example are you setting for Ramakrishnan (a relatively new Baba lover at the time) with this behavior?!” Gadekar admitted his error and began weeping and Baba forgave them and told them to forget the whole thing, and they shouldn’t give it another thought but not to repeat the error. Then he sent them away. Baba stayed out of mood, however.
Baba then had them drive to drop off Meherji and pick up Vishnu and stopped by Baba House to drop off Jal. There, Baba was in a very serious mood. Playing marbles with his nephews, the twins, He hit a marble with such force with His shooter that it shattered. He met with his brother Behram, Behram’s wife Perin and their daughter Gulnar and left. Baba told Eruch to drive in a leisurely fashion, as they would otherwise arrive back early and face questioning from the women (the women were expecting Baba at six p.m.). Later Baba told Eruch to speed up and then to slow down again. They approached the accident spot, which happened to be at a place where they had all played cricket the previous year. Baba pointed this out as they passed (Meherwan wasn’t sure if he pointed it out coming or going). The road there was straight with no distractions or difficulties.
Earlier Baba had changed places with Vishnu, who was sitting behind Him, then He changed with Pendu who was in the middle in the back. Then changed back to the front next to Eruch (the driver) with Vishnu behind Him in the back with Pendu in the middle and Nilu to his right.
Suddenly, as they were passing the exact site where the cricket match the previous year was played (in Udtara, 13 miles from Satara), Eruch felt as if the car was driving on jelly and it pulled to the left off the road and into the ditch. Eruch used all his strength to pull it back. As he tried to wrest the car back up toward the road, it ran over a stone culvert, smashing up the car and flipping it 180 degrees back into the ditch facing towards Poona. The right side of the car was demolished. Nilu and Pendu were thrown out on the right. Eruch was caught behind the steering wheel and must have been knocked out momentarily.
Vishnu, once he got over the shock, realized what had happened and got out and opened Baba’s door. Baba had had his right leg up on the dash and the hip socket had been smashed. However, initially Vishnu saw only a great fire or light where Baba was sitting—a beautiful effulgence. Then, seeing Baba, he described Him as having a “radiant face in glorious triumph.” Vishnu said he felt as if he were seeing Lord Krishna victorious at the time that the great and terrible Mahabharat war had been won against seemingly impossible odds. It was the most profound experience of Vishnu’s long life with Baba.
When the vision gradually dissipated, he saw Baba sitting silently with blood covering His face (especially the right side) and a look of stunning triumph on His face. Baba pointed to His face and right pelvis, indicating it was very painful. By this time Eruch had come to. He had multiple rib fractures. He came over to Baba’s side of the car, despite his own agony, and helped Vishnu lift Baba out of the car and lay Him on the road. He was so focused he didn’t feel his rib fractures. A car was passing at this moment which they hailed and told the driver they had had an accident and would he carry them to Satara? He agreed and they got Baba and Vishnu into the front seat (the back was now packed with other people) and the car took them on the bumpy road to Satara and Grafton Cottage, where the women were. Soon thereafter, a truck came along, which Eruch hailed. He and the truck driver got Pendu and Nilu (who was likely dead at this point) into the very back of the truck (which was filled with its wares). Eruch climbed in with them, despite his excruciating pain, and, at that point, passed out again. The truck started up and they bumped off to Satara.
The car carrying Baba and Vishnu went to Satara and arrived at Grafton Cottage. Vishnu yelled for Dr. Goher and all the women came running out. Mani saw the driver and, for a moment, he appeared as an angel to her (they never identified him or were able to find him again). They got Baba out of the car and put him in a chair and carried him into the house. He was in a lot of pain but silent, of course. Vishnu stayed long enough to help with all this and to get Baba lying down, then left, since Mehera was anxious to be with Baba. Mani biked off to get Dr. Donkin who came immediately. They rang up a local surgeon who saw Baba but needed him to go to the hospital for XRs. Baba’s right acetabulum (the pelvic socket into which the leg bone—femur—fits) was smashed. The surgeon placed Him in a large, cumbersome and heavy cast, reaching from His waist down to His right foot. Baba was very uncomfortable in this. The doctor stitched up Baba’s tongue (which had a laceration and was almost amputated toward the tip) without anesthesia. Baba had Goher hold his hand to remind him not to cry out.
In the meantime, the truck arrived at the men’s quarters at Rosewood and the doctor came over there. He pronounced Nilu dead and indicated that Eruch, with multiple rib fractures, and Pendu, with skull and brain injuries and crushed pelvis etc., should be transferred to the hospital. Bhau and Aloba took them there. There was no room in the local hospital—Satara Civil Hospital—even on the floor, as all space was taken up with patients. There was a barn, presumably a leftover from when the complex was a private estate, and this was cleaned up and the two men were put on very tiny beds in the barn. The barn had only partial walls, and no proper flooring and the wind whistled through it; this was December, so it was quite cold. The beds brought in for them were tiny, very narrow. Eruch was fitted with a tight chest binder, making it difficult to breathe. He had multiple rib fractures. Pendu remained unconscious and moaning. He was put in a cast for the smashed pelvis. Bhau was the only one of the men mandali left at Rosewood and he was supposed to be on complete bed rest for pleurisy, on orders from Baba, but he had to care for the two patients, bringing food, blankets, cleaning etc. No one else was there to do it. When Baba saw Bhau, he was upset that he was disobeying His orders, but what else could he do?
Nilu’s body was sent to Meherabad, by Baba’s order, and cremated, accompanied by Vishnu. Baba sent a message to Eruch and Pendu that they could break their fast and eat and drink as allowed and desired.
Goher got in touch with Nariman Dadachanji in Bombay, asking him to get an ambulance and bring it to Satara and transport Eruch and Pendu to Poona, to more suitable surroundings. Nariman called Meherwan to get the ambulance in Poona. Then he (Nariman) would take the early train to Poona and they would proceed together in the ambulance. Meherwan procured an ambulance from Sassoon Hospital, to pick up early the next morning.
Nariman arrived the next morning from Bombay, went to Bindra House to meet Meherwan, and then the two of them picked up the ambulance and drove to Satara.
When they arrived at Grafton, Baba was surprised to see them. “Why are you here?” (Baba was still in seclusion.) They explained that Goher had called them. “Oh?” said Baba and called Goher. She explained that the conditions were horrid for Eruch and Pendu and she felt they should be moved to better conditions. “Am I still in charge?” Baba asked pointedly. “Am I giving the orders?”
Finally, Baba indicated that they could go ahead and transfer Eruch and Pendu, if the doctor agreed, and told them to scram. As they were making a hasty retreat, Meherji, who had come up from Poona and was staying with Baba to help out during the days, ran after them and called Meherwan. He asked him to find and rent a bungalow in Poona as Baba would be shifting there soon. Meherwan said he would.
When Meherwan and Nariman got to the hospital and arrived at the “rooms” in the stable, Eruch was propped up because of his ribs. Pendu was on his back, unconscious, groaning with a cast on his lower half and his head all bandaged up. Eruch said, “Why are you all here?” They explained the plan to move him and Pendu to Poona. At that moment, however, the doctor came in on his rounds. Nariman, doing the talking, explained that they wanted to move Eruch and Pendu to Poona and asked the doctor’s permission to do so. He said they could leave but his advice was to stay put. However, if they left, he would want them to sign a form stating they were taking them on their own responsibility. He told them he felt they were getting as good care there as they would get anywhere. He went on to say that, if Eruch were transported over the bumpy roads, with his many fractured ribs, and they hit a bump, one of the rib fragments could penetrate the lung and cause internal bleeding and they would arrive with a corpse. He suggested that the binder kept things in place and that, with a few more days here, Eruch should be fine and able to go home. Pendu, also, could suffer further to his hip or brain on the trip and die. Given this explanation, they decided not to move them and took the ambulance back to Poona.
Meherwan went post haste to rental agents in Poona and found a newly built, never occupied home, Silver Oaks, built for an Italian, which was very modern and beautiful in its design and interiors. It was located in Salisbury Park, a secluded neighborhood, near where Meherji lived, which would be perfect, as he was helping to attend to Baba. It was unfurnished and the agent could only give it to them for 1 1/2 months. Meherwan immediately agreed. So, he and his family (except Papa) and the servants got to work. Meherwan rented and had delivered furniture for the house. The family cleaned it all up and brought dishes etc. and their own linens. (They had rented the furniture, including beds, but used their own dishes and linens.)
(About a week after the accident, Eruch showed up at Bindra House! He had improved enough to be released, went to Rosewood in Satara for a few days, then took the bus to Poona, where Baba had been transferred!)
Baba was transferred to Poona on the 10th. Dissatisfied with Sassoon Hospital and the doctor, Donkin found a military orthopedist at the other hospital, which was a military hospital. Dr. Chatterjee was the orthopedic surgeon there and was more satisfactory. Baba had been transferred to Silver Oaks, the bungalow that Meherwan had obtained. Dr. Chatterjee had the large cast removed (under which were bed sores) and put Baba in traction. This was a great relief for Baba and He was much more comfortable. However, Baba would tend to slide down in the bed because of the traction device and it would be quite painful to have to hoist him up again.
Also Baba was extremely constipated, which was not an insignificant source of pain and suffering. It was difficult moving his bowels while in the bed, especially with his hip pain, etc. His abdomen puffed up. At one point, Dr. Chatterjee had Him taken to the hospital and, in a treatment room, manually disimpacted Him. Meherwan describes hard “knots” that filled the pan after this procedure, which was quite painful to Baba but, afterward, afforded him significant relief.
Meantime, Donkin had found, in a “flea market,” various pipes which he bought for a song. He recognized them, which the seller did not, as components of a high-level hospital bed. He put this all together at Bindra House. It had all the gizmos, including panels which could slide out underneath where a pot could be placed for evacuation. Donkin designed a mattress, in four pieces (from head to buttock, two parts around the buttock and the lower part) and had the mattress made. Meherwan’s aunt bought expensive Egyptian cloth and employed a “cotton fluffer,” whose profession was to fluff up the cotton for a mattress, and sewed the various sections of the mattress. Meherwan painted the metal, after thoroughly sanding it down, a metallic silver. It was all loaded on a cart and taken to Silver Oaks and installed for Baba, who was “mighty pleased.” He could use the various bars and pulleys to exercise and pull Himself up, evacuate without having to get up, and remain more stable with the traction.
Eruch had shown up and started bicycling from Bindra House to be with Baba every day. (The very first day he met Baba, Baba gestured to Eruch about the urge Eruch had told Him about on the earlier trip to crash the car and teased him as to whether he was now satisfied. Poor Eruch!) Meherwan could only visit if called, as Baba remained in seclusion.
For a quite a few years after this accident, Eruch used to feel depressed about being responsible for Baba’s accident and physical disability. Baba would tell him not to feel so, as it was all preordained. While Eruch was still in the hospital, the police came to interrogate him. As he was the driver in a single car accident, they charged him with negligent driving resulting in the death of a person. A criminal case was filed against him. After returning to Meherazad, he had to make several trips to Wai, where the court had jurisdiction over the entire Satara District. He would travel from Ahmednagar to Poona in the State Transport bus and then on to Wai.
His case dragged on for years. When the case came up for its final hearing, the prosecutor failed to prove any of the charges. The judge therefore pronounced him not guilty and acquitted him. In his written judgment, the judge gave “An act of God” as the reason for the strange accident!
Meherwan related an episode which occurred in Poona in Silver Oaks, where Baba called the women to come into His room; the men naturally left. When the women arrived, Baba had tears flowing from His eyes and this continued for something like 15 minutes, while they silently stood around him. At last, Baba called for a handkerchief, wiped His eyes, and related that these tears they witnessed were not for Himself but for His creation. He was seeing before Him the suffering His creation would have to undergo, despite His having suffered for it, and the tears were flowing for this suffering His creation would experience.
Jai Meher Baba!