121-PILAMAI HORMOUZD IRANI
(Sister of Sirinmai)
On January 14th 1921, the Hindu holiday Makarsankrant was celebrated in Sakori. A Zoroastrian woman named Pilamai Hormuzd Irani of Karachi had come to Sakori for the first time for the celebration. Pilamai and Gulmai were distant relatives through marriage. A year or so previously in Bombay, Pilamai had met Gulmai, who was there visiting her brother. The two women became closer during this visit. Pilamai confided her problem with depression to Gulmai, who suggested she meet Upasni Maharaj (who had helped Gulmai overcome her own malady). At her suggestion, Pilamai brought her children and stayed in Sakori for a month. Pilamai Irani lived in Karachi and was one of close ones and lived with mandali from time to time.
One day Pilamai and Gulmai were sitting near Meher Baba, and He asked Gulmai to sit closer, saying, "Sit here, Mother. I have something I want you to understand. Every Sadguru has a spiritual mother; Durgabai is Maharaj's. Narayan Maharaj and Tajuddin Baba have one also. Similarly, all Perfect Masters have spiritual sisters, too. Likewise, you are my spiritual mother and Pilamai is my spiritual sister; I have a past link with both of you through many lifetimes. I am telling you the fact that I am your son; and Pilamai, I am your brother. You are most fortunate."
Taken aback, Gulmai replied, "I know nothing about spiritual facts. I am not equal to even the dust under your feet. I am not worthy of anything spiritual. I am a simple woman — quite tired of life — with the one desire to stay near Maharaj always, to serve him and die at his feet."234-1921
One of Rustom's aunts, Pilamai Irani, had come from Karachi for the wedding. After meeting Baba at Sakori two years before, she was consumed in the fire of his divine love and became his devotee. During this occasion, Pilamai told Baba that she was ready to surrender her life to Him and wanted to stay with Him, but He persuaded her to return to Karachi. She reluctantly agreed on the condition that He visits her there, which He promised. The result of this, and the natural way in which the Master accomplished His work, was to gradually unfold. On the surface, it looked as if Pilamai invited Baba to grace her house; but the Master alone knows the secret way in which He reveals His intentions. Those who were continuously with Meher Baba had some understanding of how He manipulated events, making them seem quite natural. And occasionally the mandali would fathom the hidden meaning behind the outward expressions of His work and statements.
On Friday, 25 May 1923, Meher Baba ordered everything from Meherabad to be transferred to Khushru Quarters. Only beddings and a few necessities were taken on the journey. That morning Baba walked alongside the path of the railway tracks from Meherabad, reaching the Ahmednagar railway station at 10:30 A.M. A few of his followers were at the station, and they reverently bid him farewell.
Baba and His fourteen mandali occupied a third class compartment. They were accompanied by Pilamai, her small son Vithal, Gulmai, Sarosh, Soonamasi and Khorshed. The train left in the afternoon and reached Manmad in the early evening. Food for all had been prepared by Gulmai and Pilamai, and at Manmad they cooked fresh food for Baba.
Pilamai had brought a small chair for Baba to sit on in the train. However, He did not use it and asked her why she did not sit on it. Humbly, Pilamai replied, "How could I sit on it when you are sitting on a bench? I have nothing but respect for you!"
"When you don't respect My words, how can you respect Me?" Baba pointed out. "Only if you sit in the chair according to My wish will I believe you truly revere Me!"
"But this chair is meant for you," Pilamai countered. "It is not proper for me to occupy your seat."
Baba said, "You are My spiritual sister and therefore you, more than anyone else, should follow my orders and see that My wish is fulfilled."
Pilamai said, "I would sacrifice my life for you, Baba, but I cannot occupy this chair. I would feel ashamed to do so in your presence when you are sitting on an uncomfortable, wooden bench."
Baba said sternly, "You revere your feelings of shame more than me! And since you cannot carry out even my smallest wish, how could you ever hope to sacrifice your life for me?"
Baba continued, "Do not think it is so easy to give up your life for my cause. Give up your life while living by dying to your own desires!"
Pilamai pleaded, "Baba, I don't understand anything about spirituality, but this is an expensive and comfortable chair. I only want you to sit on it. I bought it for you alone."
Getting up, Baba angrily flung the chair out the window of the moving train! Only then did Pilamai realize that the Master valued nothing in this life except obedience to his wishes.
Baba did not say another word to Pilamai. After some time, her son Vithal began crying. It disturbed Baba who told her to stop his crying. Pilamai realized that she must do as He instructed so she tried her best to quiet the child. She gave him milk but he threw it aside and continued crying. Desperate, Pilamai took him to the toilet and stayed locked inside. Vithal finally stopped his tears, but as soon as Pilamai would bring him out of the lavatory, he would begin all over again, forcing his mother to hastily retreat back inside. For almost two days, Pilamai's confinement in the foul-smelling toilet continued until the train reached Agra in northern India, where all disembarked on 27th May 1923.
Baba was in a good mood when group arrived in Karachi on 31st May 1923. Pilamai's husband Hormuzd, Baily, and other devotees were waiting at the station to welcome them. Baily's sister Khorshed had moved to Karachi, and Baba had sent him ahead to assist with travel arrangements. Baba rode to Pilamai's house in a Victoria and relaxed there.
During this time, Baba's golden brown hair had grown quite long and curly. While staying at Pilamai's, He asked Gulmai to comb His hair. It was the first time that the Master permitted one of the women mandali to comb His hair. Gulmai did so with a new comb and brush and, from that day on, she carefully preserved all the loose hair.
Pilamai made everyone comfortable in her home. Later, she guided Baba and the mandali on a sightseeing excursion to places of interest in Karachi. One day Baba went to visit His maternal aunt and uncle, Banu Masi and Khodadad Masa, who had moved there from Bombay.427-1923
On 7th June 1923, after spending a pleasant week in Karachi, Baba departed with the mandali for Quetta. Pilamai had spared nothing in seeing to Baba's comfort, and He appeared pleased with His visit and her consideration.
While they were making themselves comfortable, Baba said, "Arangaon is not such a nice place. It is not good to remain here now. Think of some other place which is free of snakes and scorpions." Several places were mentioned, but none was approved by Baba. Pendu then suggested traveling to Quetta, where he had been living prior to Manzil-e-Meem. Baba liked this prospect since He had promised Pilamai to visit Karachi. Baba later concluded, "Not only should we leave Arangaon, but we should also leave Ahmednagar District, Bombay Province and India altogether, and go to Persia [Iran] via Quetta and Karachi."
In 1923, Meher Baba stayed in Pilamai’s house in Karachi for one week. Baba called her his “Spiritual Sister. During His stay in Karachi, the Master had kept Himself aloof and had even forbidden Pilamai to come and see Him. She was naturally feeling despondent and anxious, knowing that Baba was so nearby. Pilamai suffered a profound longing to see Him. On the last day, before departing, Baba went to her home and put her mind and heart at ease with His benevolent, smiling presence. Such times of separation were meant to create more longing in those already brokenhearted.
Baba was returning to Persia the land of His ancestors. Memo, Gulmai and other ladies, along with the mandali from Kasba Peth, also came to see them off. They boarded the ship. When the boat docked at Karachi for a brief period, Pilamai and other devotees were present with flowers and food, and Baba was received with great reverence.
On 15th May 1927, Pilamai and Khorshedbanu Pastakia, along with a few boys from Karachi, arrived at Meherabad to stay in the ashram for some days. Among these children were two of Baba's cousins, Merwan and Homi (the sons of his maternal aunt, Banu Masi). The boys had been living in Karachi and were brought to Meherabad to study in the school.
One day an urgent message was received from Karachi that Pilamai had started fasting, taking only water. Her reason was that, despite His promise, Baba had still not visited Karachi. Baba sent her a telegram instructing her to stop the fast at once and begin eating, but Pilamai refused. Baba then sent the following cable to her:
You are My spiritual sister. I am beyond promises and he or she who tries to bind Me to My promises is neither My brother nor My sister! I am pleased only when My slightest wish is carried out without question. I order you to take food and will see if you dare not do it!
Receiving this message, Pilamai immediately broke her fast and wrote for Baba's forgiveness.
On 1 January 1928 was the 52nd day of the Master's fast and the twelfth day of his seclusion. Baba was sitting in the upper portion of the underground crypt-cabin. In honor of Mehera's birthday that day (according to the Zoroastrian calendar), Baba permitted Rustom to bring her and the other women up the hill for darshan. In second group of women brought later, included Pilamai
During stay at Toka, the women mandali consisting of 11 ladies including Pilamai, were given the duty of preparing 1,000 chapattis a day for the ashram residents. The mandali helped to clean the wheat, Shanta prepared chapatis with the women mandali, Kaikhushru Masa, his wife Soonamasi, and Pilamai slept in a small tatta hut adjacent to the kitchen.
On 3rd September 1928, Pilamai left Toka for Bombay, from where Pilamai traveled on to Karachi.
Pilamai joined Baba and the group in Bombay. Baba left Bombay for Meherabad by train, arriving there on 27th May 1927. He had traveled approximately 3,700 miles in eighteen days. Baba had also been fasting since arriving in Quetta eleven days earlier.
On the night of 21st September 1929, the ship arrived in Karachi. Baba and the mandali were met by Pilamai, Baba's maternal aunt Banu Masi, and Merwan and Homi, her two sons who had been at the Meher Ashram School. The most distinguished among the others waiting to receive them was the mayor of Karachi, Jamshed N. R. Mehta. Pilamai invited Baba to her house and Baba went her house accompanied by Buasaheb and Vishnu.
Baba directed the mandali to erect a canopy in the compound of Gyas Manzil for His birthday celebrations on the 17th, and to arrange for food for the visitors. Baily arrived the same night with a few other lovers from Karachi, including Pilamai and her husband Hormuzd. (Baily and Hormuzd were accommodated at Gyas Manzil and the women of their group at the Talatis.)
Reaching Lahore on the 28th April 1931, and leaving Buasaheb, Gustadji and Raosaheb there, Baba departed for Karachi. They arrived in Karachi the next day and stayed at Pilamai's house. To please Ali, Baba often remarked, "In these hard times — with the hopeless situation all around — Ali is the only source of solace and comfort to Me."
After Baba returned to Nasik in 1930, Pilamai's son Vithal was also eager to remain near Baba and he was allowed.
On 25th June 1931, after being issued visas at the British Consulate to re-enter India, group left Duzdab by train for Quetta. After ten days in Quetta, they left by train again and arrived in Karachi on 5th July 1931. Again they stayed at Pilamai and Hormuzd's house.
In Karachi, Pilamai had a long talk with Baba, expressing her desire to join the ashram. Baba assigned Jamshed Mehta the work of obtaining visas for himself, Chanji, and Agha Ali. Rustom was also to accompany Baba to England, but he had still not been informed about it.
While Baba was in Bombay, Pilamai came there on 25 February with her daughter Silla. Pilamai was intending to stay in Nasik with the women mandali; she had been with Baba in Meherabad and Toka, and Baba had stayed at her home in Karachi several times. Eventually, Pilamai stayed with Baba for several years and fervently stuck to Him until the last.
Once Baba returned to Nasik, he resumed his usual activities. Both the men and women. Pilamai and her daughter Silla were the of the mandali member since her husband Hormuzd had died in a car accident in May 1933, they would sometimes go to Karachi to attend to family matters.
The Zoroastrian New Year was celebrated on 21 st March 1934. Gulmai visited that day. Chanji brought Pilamai and others for the occasion.
At Meherabad, Baba held a meeting on the 4th about the running of Meherabad while He was away. He had considered shifting the women to Nasik (he even went to look at suitable bungalows there) and disbanding the mandali, but in the end he decided to have everyone remain at Meherabad until He returned. Padri and Pendu were given charge of looking after the men and Pilamai the women, with Gulmai acting as an intermediary.
On the 25th Pilamai left Nasik for Bombay, and from there she and her children continued on to their home in Karachi on the 30th.
On 19th October 1936, Baba boarded the Kathiawar Mail train for Karachi. (There were Hindu-Muslim communal riots in Bombay, prior to Baba's departure.) Reaching Karachi two days later, Baba met Pilamai and her family, and his maternal aunt Banu Masi and her family.
While in Delhi at night Baba took the women to see the lights of old and New Delhi. Arriving from Karachi, Pilamai joined the group on the morning of 5th February 1939.
Baba returned to Meherabad on 15th August 1934 and began settling matters with the mandali living there. Pilamai was managing the kitchen, where Masaji was the cook. Not a day passed that there was not a quarrel between them, mainly because Pilamai would grudge Masaji the proper ingredients needed for cooking the meals. Masaji complained that Pilamai was too strict a manager, whereupon Pilamai threatened to leave for Karachi, claiming that Masaji was always "crossing" her. On the 19th, Baba prevailed upon them to work together harmoniously by pointing out, "You have both been with Me for many years, yet you have not yet learned renunciation. You know that the body will drop one day, so why this continual expression of hatred, jealousy and anger between you? To renounce these traits is real renunciation!"
From 19th February 1938, three-day celebration begun at Meherabad. Almost 500 lovers from Bombay, Poona, Ahmednagar, Nasik, Navsari, Nagpur and other towns and cities, gathered to quench their thirst. More than 200 came from Bombay, Meherabad and Ahmednagar, including Pilamai and her daughter Silla came.
Pilamai left for Karachi the on 11th March 1939.
On the 4th March 1940, Pilamai and her daughter, Silla, arrived from Karachi to join the ashram in Bangalore.
Leaving Loralai on the morning of 11th March 1941 (without any guards), they reached Quetta at five o'clock in the evening. Three days after they arrived. Soon after Baba's arrival in Quetta, Pilamai arrived from Karachi and was permitted to stay for a week.
Daulat Singh was denied darshan was his disappointment was too great to conceal. On the tenth day, Baba sent Adi Sr. with instructions for Dr. Singh to return to Kashmir, travel on to Lahore, and contact Pilamai in Karachi. Daulat Singh did as he was told, and left Meherabad with heavy heart. He contacted Pilamai, and asked her to promise to inform him as soon as Meher Baba was in the area.
Pilamai came from Karachi and brought Baba two parrots, a male and a female. The male did not live long, but the female, named Mittu, lived and traveled with Baba and the women for the next few years.
Baba and the mandali returned to Lahore on Saturday, 13th November 1943. After staying in Lahore for more than five months, on 20th November, the majority of the men and women mandali were sent back to Ahmednagar. They traveled to Manmad by train and then took buses to Meherabad. Pilamai was appointed to oversee the women's group, and during the journey, if any man tried to enter their compartment, Pilamai would shout in Urdu, "Janana! Janana!"-meaning this was a "women-only" compartment and no man should enter. Margaret would tease her by echoing, "Banana! Banana!"
During this period in 1944, there were 26 men, 33 women and ten children staying with Meher Baba under his orders at Meherabad and Pimpalgaon. Among Pilamai was one among women.
Baba Himself left Mahabaleshwar on the morning of 29th January 1951 accompanied by Eruch, Pendu and Gustadji. On the way, between Mahabaleshwar and Poona Baba halted in Poona where He had called Pilamai of Karachi and her daughter, Silla, had deep love for Baba. Up until 1947, she and Silla had been staying in Meherabad. After that, both had returned to Karachi, and later settled in Lahore. Before entering the New Life, Baba had kept Rs.2, 000 aside for Pilamai's maintenance, but she would not accept it. Since Pilamai refused the money for the sake of love, Baba decided to distribute this sum in the name of love to seven deserving individuals of his Old Life, remarking, "Charity begins at home."
5th June 1960, was the largest public darshan that summer. An estimated 10,000 persons poured into Guruprasad seeking the God-Man's touch. Pilamai Irani and her family and many dignitaries, lovers from Delhi, Bombay Ahmednagar, Sakori and Australia came to see Baba on this occasion. 4699-1960Baba left Meherazad for Satara with the men and women mandali on 5th October 1954. Baba went to Viloo Villa before starting for Satara, where He met Gulmai, Piroja and Pilamai.