94-MANI BEHRAM DESAI (Mansari)
Mani Behram Desai, nicknamed Mansari by Baba lived at the top Meherabad Hill and was in charge of the maintenance of Meher Baba’s Tomb. She had been a mandali member since 1938 and had lived major part of her life at Meherabad. She was also called chilli by Baba. She was very short in height about 4 feet 4 inches. She was not allowed by Meher Baba to leave upper Meherabad beyond railway line.
Some of her life time episodes and talks with Meher Baba are written below.
In 1923, Baba visited was Sohrabji's house in Navsari (Gujrat). Baba sanctified every corner of the house; He made a point of walking through every room. Sohrabji's niece, Mani was a special bud of the Master's Navsari Garden? At that time she was away at school in Bombay. But to prepare the ground for her blossoming into a lovely flower, Baba had spread His light and divine water in Navsari. The seed of that bud received His light and water and came to Him forever fourteen years later.
Kaikobad had brought Sohrabji's young niece with him from Navsari, Mani Beheram Desai, eighteen, later nicknamed Mansari by Baba. This was her first meeting with the Master also. From the time Mansari first laid eyes on Baba at Meherabad, she surrendered totally to Him. Thus in May 1927, two more circle members began to enter the inner life with Meher Baba, and after some years both Kaikobad and Mansari became permanent residents at Meherabad.
In 1932, from Navsari, Sohrabji Desai came with his niece Mansari and other family members. One day Mansari asked Baba for some work with which to serve Him. Baba directed her, "Go out into the bazaar and bring Me some jamun (a type of plum), but don't go too far. Find some nearby and come back."
Mansari left for the bazaar but had trouble finding the fruit, since it was not in season. Despite Baba's order, she looked far and wide in the city for several hours, only to return empty-handed. She thought it would have pleased Baba if she had been able to find a few of the plums, but Baba responded, "Obeying My order was more important than bringing the fruit. Always remember to obey Me. By sticking to what I tell you, you will please Me."
Baba left Bombay for Baroda on Monday, 29th February 1932. From there, He traveled to Navsari on the 1st of March. Sohrabji Desai rushed to the station to meet Baba just as His train arrived. Four tongas were hired to convey them to Sohrabji's residence. Baba was received with reverent love by the entire family including Mansari.
In 1935, on the 7th July, Baba left for Navsari. Even though Baba wished to remain in seclusion, Chanji had been sent a few hours in advance to inform Soma Desai and his family, so they could meet Baba at the Navsari railway station where Baba's train would be stopping briefly. Everyone in Sohrabji's family was devoted to Meher Baba. Sohrabji Desai's and Keki D. Bajan's families (including Mansari) were waiting on the station platform, and Baba lovingly met with each.
A public darshan program was held in Navsari on 23rd December 1937, and many came for the occasion. Sohrabji's niece Mansari was deeply affected by Baba's love and was literally "drowned" in it. Baba's visit at this time was chiefly concerned with Mansari, for her time to join His ashram had come.
For many years, Sohrabji Desai's niece, Mani, had desired to stay permanently with Baba. During Baba's stay at Panchgani, the earnest young woman had come twice about this matter. Baba had made her go back home each time, but He instructed her to be prepared to move to Ahmednagar whenever He happened to call her. In June 1938, Baba fulfilled His promise, and accordingly, Mansari (as she was later known) became a permanent member of the women mandali, joining them at the Ahmednagar bungalow on the 15th of June 1938, at the age of 28. Mansari was put in charge of cooking, which she did during the next two months of their stay in Ahmednagar.
Mansari's connection with Meher Baba was very deep, and she had not been neglected by Him all these years. Since the age of five, she had suffered from an incurable skin disease. The best doctors had been called, and she was sent to the finest hospitals in Bombay, but no medicine or treatment worked. When she was eighteen, Kaikobad Dastur, a family friend, had visited Meherabad and taken her with him to meet Baba. Mansari had agreed, even though at the time she was skeptical of her family's faith in Baba. Meeting Baba, however, changed her heart, and she bowed to Him weeping. Kaikobad narrated her sufferings to Baba who remarked to her, "And only because of this you weep so much?"
Mansari replied, "I am not weeping because of my disease, but because of your love!"
Baba consoled her with these instructions, "Don't worry; you will be permanently cured. Take some ash from My dhuni, and every morning before tea, say My name and swallow a pinch of it."
Returning home to Navsari, Mansari followed Baba's exact instructions and in a month she was completely cured. Soon after her recovery, Mansari's uncle Sohrabji Desai went to Baba. Returning to Navsari he told the family, "Baba sends His love and blessings to you all." Turning to Mansari he remarked, "Baba seems to have developed a skin disease exactly like yours.”
Mansari grew mad with worry, believing Baba had taken on her suffering and was caused to suffer on her behalf. Her disease returned. When she next met Baba, she prayed to Him not to take on her suffering again.
Baba replied, "Let it be as it is. Neither you nor I will have to suffer. This was all My game to draw you to Me. It was I who created this incurable disease, and now that you are Mine, you will never suffer from it again." True to His words, the disease left Mansari forever.
Eruch brought his family from Nagpur to Ahmednagar on 1st August 1938 to join Baba's ashram. Baba gave nicknames to Mani Desai and Mani Jessawala to distinguish them from His sister Mani. Mani Desai was to be known as Mansari for she came from Navsari and Mani Jessawala as Manpur or Manu for she was from Nagpur.
A stout female physician named Dr. Kalavker had been hired for three months for Maternity Hospital on Meherabad Hill. But if a patient in labor happened to arrive from the village at night, the doctor refused to get up and attend the patient. Once a village woman in labor showed up at 3:00 A.M. Baba awakened Mansari, but she did not have any experience in these matters and did not know how to deliver a baby. Fortunately, Memo was there at the time and came with Mansari to the hospital. Baba Himself boiled hot water in another room, lit lanterns and made the necessary preparations. Memo delivered the baby with Mansari's assistance and when the child was born and washed, several times Baba went in to see it and kissed it.
Mansari was of short stature. Baba had given her a large floppy hat to wear when walking in the sun. She wore it between the hospital compound and the kitchen. When she would carry the tea on a tray to the hospital patients, the hat would gradually fall down over her eyes, as it was too big for her. Baba would point her out to the other women, and all would have a hearty laugh over it.
On 1st February 1939, Baba left Agra around noon for Delhi. When Baba took the women to see the Qutub Minar — a stone tower 238 feet high (the highest structure in India at the time) — He climbed up only part of the way and then came down. Mansari thought Baba had continued up and she climbed to the top. The group was about to leave, when Baba noticed Mansari missing. He looked up and saw her waving from the top. Baba motioned her to come down immediately.
When she came, he asked, "Are you mad? Why didn't you follow us down?"
Mansari explained that she thought He had gone up to the top and she wanted to be with Him. Upset, Baba scolded her, "You want to be with Me and say you love Me! It is so difficult to be with Me! So difficult to love Me! The Qutub Minar has separated you from Me."
In Delhi, at the time the group was leaving Chishti's tomb, Baba turned to Mansari, dictating: "A Fakir once said, 'When I saw in my own heart the impression of divine beauty, the sight of God, Wherever I cast my gaze, I saw Parvardigar (Infinite God).' "
Mansari asked if Baba was that Fakir. Baba nodded, yes He was, for He had spontaneously dictated these poetic lines in honor of Chishti, the Qutub-e-Irshad of his time — the head of the spiritual hierarchy.
Once Dowla fell ill, the residents formed a language-chain, since Dowla was fluent only in the Persian dialect Dari. Dowla explained her indisposition to Soonamasi in Dari; Soonamasi retold it to Mansari in Gujarati; Mansari recounted it to Nilu in Marathi; and Nilu explained it to Don in English! Baba enjoyed this novel diagnostic method also.
Mansari had been told to serve as a nurse and report on the non-English-speaking Eastern women's health to Rano, who would then report to Nilu or Don. But when Baba was among the women, instead of attending to her work, Mansari wanted to be present with Him. This gave rise to discord between her and Rano.
Baba left Meherabad for Ranchi on Wednesday, 3rd July 1940, by train with the men and women mandali, and three masts, Chatti Baba, Shariat Khan and Mohammed. Mansari accompanied Baba along with other and several women servants.
Lucky (monkey) adopted by Meher Baba was very disturbing for women mandali. On 5th September 1943, when Baba came, Mansari was so irritated, she complained to Him about Lucky (Monkey). Baba replied:
Mansari gets exasperated and excited in no time and cannot control her ire, because she is not so strong. And you all cannot help her, because you too are weak. I want you to help each other. I do not want you breaking My orders for a monkey. The more I ask you to be more obedient, the less you all obey. You obey less and help less because you are helpless! Unless and until you keep strict watch over yourselves, you cannot follow My orders. It is not possible! So try!
In 1941, Mansari was kept occupied translating articles from Meher Baba Journal into Gujarati.
In Rishikesh (Now in Uttarakhand), there was no indoor plumbing in Rishikesh, so the many sadhus who lived there would go to the jungle to answer nature's calls. But the women mandali, who were living in strict seclusion, could not go off to such isolated places for this purpose. The problem was solved by Baba, who instructed Krishna to have a pit dug in back of their compound. Rano, Margaret, Irene and Kitty would collect their own daily eliminations in a tin pan, which Krishna would empty in the pit and then cover with earth. That of the Eastern women, Mansari would gather and keep outside for Krishna to collect and empty.
Baba had taken up residence in His Jhopdi in lower Meherabad, but He would walk up the hill daily to work with the masts and to meet Mehera and Mani. Because He was still in partial seclusion, when Baba was walking up the hill, a bell would be rung and all the women would go inside their rooms. After meeting only Mehera and Mani, Baba descended the hill. The bell was rung a second time and the other women could then come outside.
Once the bell rang when Baba was coming up the hill, and Mansari, who was missing Baba terribly, came out to see Him. Baba was annoyed and asked her, "Why did you come out?"
Mansari pleaded, "I too have a heart, Baba. How can you expect Me to bear not seeing you?"
"Let your heart go to hell!" He said. "It is no heart if it does not follow My wish! Why do you call it a heart?"
Baba continued scolding, "What have you gained by seeing Me? You cannot see Me! When you don't obey Me, what is the use of seeing Me? You will never be able to see Me that way. If you want to see Me, follow My behests. Do you hope to 'see' Me by incurring My wrath? That seeing is not seeing. Try to please Me and one day you will really see Mme."
In 1943, at Lahore, Baba divided the eighteen women into two different groups. Mansari with others were kept in second group.
The Pimpalgaon rest house, later named Meherazad, had been bought in an auction in 1940. Upon returning to Meherabad, on 30th November 1943, Baba sent Masaji, Gustadji and Slamson (Gustadji's brother) to live there. Baba informed the women, "For My work, I have to reside in Pimpalgaon with Mehera, Mani, Meheru, Margaret and Walu. To help in the work, the rest of you continue staying in Meherabad."
Addressing Mansari, He spelled out, "I will be very happy if you remain alone on Meherabad Hill."
Mansari began crying and said, "I have come to stay with you, Baba. How could I remain alone?"
Baba told her, "If you want to stay with Me, you will have to stay according to My pleasure. If you cannot do that, then you will not be with Me, although you may be with Me physically. If you keep My pleasure by remaining at a distance, then you will truly be with Me forever!"
Mansari wept bitterly, and Baba sharply stated, "You are mad! I am not keeping you away from Me. Even if you wanted to be away from Me, I would not allow it."
In 1948, Baba reached Aurangabad after Kashmir Visit, He called the other women there from Meherabad including Mansari and Kaikobad's family. Baba described to them His Kashmir visit and, after a few days, sent them back to Meherabad.
This set Mansari thinking, and Baba asked her what was crinkling her brow. She replied, "If you permit, I will tell you." Baba permitted her, and she said, "I want to stay in Meherabad, even if I have to stay alone." Baba was pleased by Mansari's decision, and He embraced her.Baba had discussed the matter of the New Life alternatives and conditions with the women mandali on Meherabad Hill. The first day of His discussions with the women, Baba had declared to them, "None of you should suggest anything to Me, none should ask Me anything. My decision is final. No one will be allowed to stay here any longer."
In 1950, while in Rishikesh there was no indoor plumbing, so the many sadhus who lived there would repair to the jungle to answer nature's calls. But the women mandali, who were living in strict seclusion, could not go off to such isolated places for this purpose. The problem was solved by Baba, who instructed Krishna to have a pit dug in back of their compound. Rano, Margaret, Irene and Kitty would collect their own daily eliminations in a tin pan, which Krishna would empty in the pit and then cover with earth. That of the Eastern women, Mansari would gather and keep outside for Krishna to collect and empty.
Baba was in Satara in August 1950, this incident took place on Meherabad Hill. Mansari was lying on her bed one night thinking of Baba. Suddenly a cobra slithered in and crawled onto her chest. Mansari felt it, and with a sweep of her hand brushed the snake away. Hearing it fall, she leapt up and saw the snake on the floor, hissing menacingly with its hood spread wide. She was alone in the room. Jamadar, the night watchman, was some distance away. The cobra was blocking the door, so she could not go outside and call for help.
Somehow she gathered courage, and killed the snake with a bamboo staff. But the episode did not end there. Cobras abide in pairs. The next night, when Mansari was praying in front of Baba's photograph, another cobra appeared. She bravely managed to kill this cobra, too.
But the amazing coincidence was that before all this had happened; Baba had one night come in her dream and asked her, "What would you do if a cobra came into your room?"
Mansari had replied, "I would kill it."
In the dream Baba had encouraged her, "Yes, do not be afraid. Kill it; I am with you."
After she killed both snakes, Baba appeared again in her dream and told her, "I am quite pleased with your courage. Now no snakes will bother you." And truly, henceforth no snake entered Mansari's room. Although far away from Baba, various lovers and disciples had different experiences of His inner guidance.
In 1956, Baba and the women visited Meherabad, and saw all the residents there, such as Padri, Mansari, and Kaikobad's daughters. Baba then took all to a special showing of a Hindi film at Asha Talkies, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje.3966-1956
Years ago, Baba gave Mansari a stick for protection against robbers, but she said, 'Baba, the whole village reveres you; they would not dare to step into the ashram. "
Baba continued: "Mansari is not the nervous type. She is afraid of absolutely nothing except one thing. Only snakes, the very sight of snakes! One night she awoke and there was a cobra on her chest. Her eyes met those of the cobra! I had always warned her that when in difficulties or emergencies to repeat My name with all her heart. But she was frozen with fear and for about five minutes could not say anything. Then she took the stick, crying out My name, and knocked the cobra off the bed. Then she saw it crawling up on the bed again! Repeating My name she killed it with the stick. She was trembling for two days afterwards. She cried the next time she saw Me, saying how I had saved her life."
Baba humorously imitated Mansari's fear, her trembling, her looking into the eyes of the snake and so on throughout the story.
Baba then asked, "What do you suggest we should do until 11:45 A.M.? What do you want?"
"Whatever makes you happy, Baba!" all responded.
"Everything makes Me happy! I am very happy. Yesterday's performance made Me happy, not because it made Me laugh, but because you all love Me."