43-FERDOON NAOSHERWAN DRIVER (Padri)

43-FERDOON NAOSHERWAN DRIVER (Padri)

Faredoon Naosherwan Driver, better known as Padri, (November 27, 1903 – March 13, 1982) was born in Pune, India and was one of Meher Baba’s close mandali (devoted disciples). He lived with and served Meher Baba from 1922 until Meher Baba’s death in 1969, beginning his stay with Baba in Baba’s first ashram, Manzil-e-Meem. Later, after moving His ashram to Ahmednagar district, Meher Baba called Padri one of the four “pillars” of Meherabad. (Meherabad was Meher Baba’s second ashram and is today the site of Baba’s samadhi shrine). Padri, who was originally a garage mechanic, later became a doctor of homeopathy treating local villagers near Meherabad.

Meher Baba nicknamed Faredoon “Padri” because of his lanky, priest-like stature. Padri emphasized obedience to the master and had little patience for ostentatious sentimentality, famously quoted as saying, “Love is for the saints and the masts, not for the likes of us!”

His life time reminiscences and conversation with Meher Baba are produced below:

In 1923, Baba instructed the mandali men that as long as they were in Karachi, with the exception of Gustadji, all of them should find jobs.

He added that it was not an issue of earning money, but that each should do his job faithfully and honestly. Baidul and Padri were soon employed in a teashop at a salary of Rs.20 per month.

In year 1924, Padri with mandali continued physical labor of centering on the "Bathroom Building," near the Mess Quarters. One day Baba found Padri and Ramjoo chatting idly for a few moments. Upset with them, Baba threw a stick he was holding at Padri, narrowly missing him. He then rebuked both men and told them to stop working; however, they resumed their work after a while.

In front of some of the other men, Padri showed his blistered palms to Baba, who remarked: "You people swear you are ready to give up your life for Me, but blisters make you complain. This is not even the beginning of giving up your life — yet you whimper and cry.

"It is a sin to complain in this Path where, for years on end, the body is cut up bit by bit - remaining wounded until it gives up the ghost! Seal your lips and let Me kill you slowly — inch by inch. Bravery lies in this, not in showing Me the blisters on your palms!"

But Padri's hands were swollen and it was decided that he had to be taken to the Ahmednagar hospital to have his blisters treated. Rustom requested that Baba accompany them in the car. Adi said he would drive, and Baba immediately became displeased with him. Adi then voiced his anger at Baba; however, when they reached Ahmednagar, he asked for Baba's forgiveness and was pardoned. Padri's hands were treated and he was kept in Ahmednagar to recuperate. In his absence, Ramjoo became the manager of Meherabad, taking over Padri's duties and awakening the mandali at five o'clock each morning.

On another occasion, Padri sent word to Maharaj through Yeshwant Rao that Meher Baba had sent the horse and ox as gifts for him, and had requested that Maharaj accept them.

Maharaj, however, was in a fierce mood and sent word that they should immediately return with the animals. He shouted that he was unable to accept such gifts!

Shocked by this stern reply, Padri and Nervous became anxious, wondering what to do with the animals. Where were they to go in the middle of the night? But Maharaj sent another message saying that they could rest overnight in Sakori and then return in the morning with the horse and ox. They spent a sleepless night camping with the animals, and in the morning they begged Maharaj to accept them as an offering from Meher Baba.

Maharaj was standing at a distance and began cursing them: "Call the police at once! They have stolen these animals and brought them here! You sons of bitches had better leave here immediately or you will find yourselves locked up in jail!"

Frightened, Padri and Nervous took the animals and hastily left Sakori. They reached Chitali hours later and fortunately found the same train carriage in which they had come. They returned to Ahmednagar and, after leaving the troublesome horse and ox in Sarosh's charge at Khushru Quarters, they boarded a train for Bombay.

In Bombay, Baba questioned the two men. Had they successfully delivered Sufi and Sant to Maharaj? Padri smiled, cursed and then told everything in detail, and Baba had a hearty laugh.

In 1924, Padri bought tickets to Madras, and reached on 3rd August. They stayed at the Shaikh Siddiqui choultry near the railway station.  The next day, inquiries were made for travel to Porto Novo, but the area was heavily flooded by the monsoons and many had been rendered homeless. It was then that Baba's statement before starting was remembered: "During this journey, I will serve the sufferers."

Roasted chickpeas, cheese and bread were bought as snacks during the train ride. Baba instructed Padri to keep plenty of change handy so that when Baba touched the feet of sadhus, they could be given a few coins as dakshina.

Due to the flood damage, only one train was proceeding to Porto Novo and that, too, with much difficulty. There was a tremendous crowd pushing and shoving near the booking office, and ticket sales had stopped. Padri returned to where Baba was waiting, without tickets. Baba told him instead of buying the usual third class he should try to get second class tickets, but Padri pleaded that nothing was available due to the rush to board the only train for Porto Novo. Baba reproved Padri for not thinking of buying the tickets earlier. Baba expressed His unhappiness as they were forced by circumstances to return to the dharamshala.

Early next morning, 16th August 1924, Baba felt very ill and had eight to ten loose bowel movements. He was also in an irritable mood, for He had had no sleep the previous night. Gustadji, Behramji, and Padri arose at five o'clock appearing fresh and ready to start. Baba became extremely vexed and expressed His anger:

You are all self-servers and have no care for Me! You have no real feelings for Me in your hearts! Not one of you has any thought for me! In the evening I told you that I was suffering from dysentery as I had in Ajmer, but none of you paid any attention to Me and fell asleep. While you snored soundly throughout the night, I did not sleep at all. I passed so many watery stools. No one kept awake with Me or even awoke to help Me. has it been written in any book that you should go on sleeping and leave your companion alone to suffer?

Then, about himself, Baba said: "I, too, am a self-server and, because of that, I am traveling all over India in search of sadhus who may crush My ego!"

Padri lost his temper, claiming Baba was being extremely unfair. After allowing Padri to vent himself, Baba began leading the walk at 5:45 A.M.

In another event seeing some children grazing goats in the distance, Baba directed Padri to ask them if they had anything to eat. One lad replied he had some chapattis and hot chili chutney. Padri conveyed this to Baba who said to pay the boy one anna and bring the chutney. Padri was aghast and said, "Baba, you have dysentery. You're not going to eat chutney, are you? It will upset your stomach even more!"

Baba replied, "What do you know? On the contrary, the chutney will eliminate My dysentery and cure Me!" Reluctantly, Padri paid the boy, brought the chutney, and Baba ate it with a chapatti from Gustadji. All gazed in disbelief while He appeared, for the first time in days, to be quite happy and satisfied.

Age was astonished. "Can anyone imagine the mystery of the Avatar's love and work? He ate after meeting with one of His spiritual agents — having done some work on the inner planes. And the simple shepherd boy did not have any notion of who Meher Baba was. What depth of love the Beloved possessed to accept the boy's offering without his knowing to whom His humble food was given."

After eating the chutney, Baba sent word to the boy that it was delicious. He had broken his fast with the shepherd boy's spontaneous sharing. Meanwhile, the boy had been intently staring at Baba, charmed by his animated features.

By this time, Padri, Gustadji, and Behramji were fed up with hearing this baffling repetition and pleaded with Baba to cease such statements. In reply, Baba said, "I am serious; I have no stuff in Me! And My Masters, Babajan and Maharaj, also have no stuff in them! Upasni Maharaj is not even a saint, let alone a Sadguru!"

When one of the men asked why He uttered such strange statements about His Masters, Baba explained, "Divine Law compels Me to say it, and Divine Law applies to you also. Whatever you do, you are obliged to do it according to Divine Law."

Baba's remarks were mainly directed toward Padri, who was only 21 at the time. The reason Baba was constantly repeating this over and over again was that Padri's mind had become disturbed, thinking: "What type of spirituality is this? What type of Masters are these who behave toward one another in a way in which even ordinary people would hesitate to act!"

When Padri had delivered the horse Sufi and the ox Sant to Upasni Maharaj at Sakori, Maharaj had not only abused and cursed him terribly, but he also refused to accept the animals. This was inexplicable when it had been clearly explained that they had been sent by Meher Baba.

Padri thought: "If Baba already knew what was going to happen, why did he send Nervous and me there in the first place? Why did Maharaj act so furiously?" Along the tour, the questions disturbing Padri's mind were answered by Baba at different times without ever being voiced. Padri knew Baba's remarks were directed at him and felt ashamed for doubting the wisdom of the Master's orders, though he found no way to understand their full meaning.

Despite their attempts to control their minds, the men still became fed up with Baba for repeating the same theme again and again. He would do so morning, noon, and night, until they could not tolerate hearing how saints and sadhus were out to destroy his Baba-hood.

It would not be a matter of him saying he was "not a Baba" for a few minutes — the mandali were made to listen to the same haranguing monologue for hours, until they could stand it no longer and would plead with Him to stop.

On 21st November 1924, Baba wrote to Padri (in Gujarati):

Due to My weak health and great strain of the working since yesterday, a lot of vital fluid is flowing by and a great weakness has overcome Me. Still there is nothing to worry about. On the seventh day, i.e., on Monday, we will know what the situation is regarding My health.

If this condition continues, then perhaps the working will have to be discontinued. If My health does not give more trouble, then the cart (universal work) will proceed further. This will happen according to the orders of the Old Ones [Perfect Masters]. It is to be seen also what explosive message arrives.

If coming out (of seclusion) happens, I am thinking of going to Mahabaleshwar to improve my health. To eat once in two days is not difficult, but weakness is making the work difficult. Do not be frightened. After two or three days we will see.

The next day, Baba wrote, "Because of fever, extreme weakness has set in."

During the evening of 9th July 1924, Baba walked to the women's quarters at the Post Office building to convey His final instructions to them: "Now listen to My last words, because from tomorrow I will keep silence for one year. Attend to your duties with love and fulfill them with all your heart. Cook for the children at the school as if they were your own.

All of you take care of everything at Meherabad as usual. And take care of your health.

"Whenever you go out during the night, always carry a lantern with you. Always beware of snakes! I will save you from every calamity under the sun, but I won't help you if you are bitten by a snake. So be careful!

"Keep on doing your work. I have given you all of your duties. Continue doing them — every one of you. There will be no hitch in the work; although I will be silent, everything at Meherabad will run smoothly. You don't have to worry. I have My own reasons for keeping silence. I must do it.

"Stick to your jobs and do as I instruct you. Don't deviate from the work and don't worry about it. If you obey Me, nothing will be difficult."

It was 8:30 when He concluded: "I am going to the Jhopdi now. All of you go to bed." There were about 20 men around Him. A few men made some comments, and within a few minutes the group dispersed.

The men began unrolling their bedding, and Padri went to urinate. He had only gone a few steps when he spotted a three-foot long cobra. Lifting his lantern, he shouted, "Snake! Snake!"

The other men came running with the bamboo staffs, which were kept for such incidents. There was shouting and the whacking of staffs as the snake was being killed.

Baba heard the commotion and came out of His room. "What is all the noise about?" He asked.

"Baba, we have killed a snake!"

"Who saw it?"

"I did," Padri reported.

"Were you carrying a lantern?" Padri nodded yes, and Baba was pleased that he had done so. Padri then handed him a staff, and Baba crushed the head of the cobra.

He ordered Padri to wash his hands several times after burying the snake. Then he repeated: "I am warning you all again. Be careful of snakes! Always carry a lantern and take care. Now I want everyone to go to sleep."

Padri was usually taciturn by nature, but he desperately wanted rain due to the intense heat and dust storms. He suggested that the old dhuni be demolished and a new one built in its place, since in the past whenever a dhuni was lit, plentiful rains would fall.

Hearing Padri's plea, Baba remarked, "Let the Brahmins come or not come. From the 8th of June, rains will start."

But Padri interposed, "Considering how unbearably hot it is, there should be rain by the 1st of June 1927."

Baba accepted Padri's view, affirming, "If there is no rain by 1st June, break the old dhuni and build another one." But three days later, on 28th May 1927, it rained for 20 minutes. Thus the old dhuni was preserved.

Like Ram, Baba shot arrows into the hearts of His close ones, piercing the veil of the ego-mind in order to create a feeling of love. It is a torturous process. Since Chhagan's departure, Padri had become one of Baba's favorite targets.

Once, Padri was driving, Baba shot a few arrows at him, inquiring, "When I tell you to drive fast, why don't you do it? Why do you ignore Me?"

"Baba, the condition of the road is very bad," Padri said in his defense. "If I were to accelerate, there might be an accident."

"That means you know more than I do!" Baba snapped. "Has your father ever driven a bus?"

"My father was a driver and now I am one, too!"

"You have the features of an animal," Baba exclaimed. "You look like a giraffe! Besides being tall, you talk quite tall!" Padri stopped the bus.

As Baba continued teasing him, Padri stood up to leave. Baba motioned to him, "I will beat you soundly and tie you up so you won't be able to leave. Now sit down, stupid!"

After the situation calmed down and the tension was diffused, Baba led the group to visit the Malegaon bazaar. At one point, they stopped for tea at a restaurant. Padri was still steaming inside and refused the tea, personally given by Baba. Baba handed him a cup, forcing him to drink.

During 1936, Padri subscribed to the Illustrated Weekly of India, and he was complaining on 26th July, about the non-delivery of an issue. Baba opined that what is past is past and one should not cry over spilt milk.

Padri was in an irritated mood already and said, "Does that apply to you?"

Baba said, "I am above all that," but He was highly displeased by Padri's disrespectful remark.

Once, Padri was busy trying to take photographs in the diminishing evening light. But both Masters would not stand still. Maharaj looked at the camera in Padri's hand and asked, "What is that box?"  Padri was afraid Maharaj would be annoyed and take a swing at the camera, but nothing like that happened, and Padri went on taking pictures - immortalizing the momentous meeting.

About mandali Baba said: Pendu, Padri and Vishnu are three of the four pillars of Meherabad. They work without any desire. They are service personified. They have rendered great service for the last 25 years. Padri, for instance, has not even the desire to know anything spiritual. All he wants and all he desires is to work for Me.

In 1948, Baba stopped at the homeopathic dispensary and asked Padri and Murli, which of them, including Adi Jr., knew the most about homeopathy.

Padri replied that Murli alone was fit to treat patients independently. Baba remarked, "Personally, I have little faith in homeopathy, but if the occasion arose, I would wish to be treated only by you, Padri."

Baba also appeared surprised at Padri's decision of "No." to join new life. The mandali too were surprised. Some speculated that Padri had come to some sort of limit of his endurance, and he realized that joining the New Life was going to be a very taxing thing. As Meherwan Jessawala explained, "Padri had passed through many such 'new lives' with Baba in his old days, and he knew the rigors of what was coming, so probably he must have felt that he wouldn't be able to please Baba as He would want to, so better to say 'No' than to be a burden to him. In any case, Padri's saying 'No' was a great surprise to everybody, including Baba Himself. Although, of course, Baba being all knowing knew what was to come, but on our level he was both surprised and a bit disappointed."

Baba remarked, "I wished Padri to accompany Me, and his negative reply has pained Me. But at the same time I am glad, as Padri is one of the four pillars of Meherabad; and seeing that the other three pillars (Pendu, Vishnu and Adi Sr.) are coming with Me, in case of their 'falling' (dying), at least one will be left standing!"

Padri himself, years later, stated that he felt he was doing what Baba wanted him to do. Perhaps Baba had hinted to him to stay behind to look after the Meherabad property. )

On Tembi Hill near Meherazad, Padri had repaired the two small cabins on the top, which Baba had used in His seclusion there in 1947. According to Baba's wish, no one was to see Him. Only Mehera and Mani had permission to meet Him halfway up the hill. By 22nd November 1951, the women were already back in Meherazad, as were the remaining men companions.

Colonel M. S. Irani was also Padri's maternal uncle, so Baba sent Padri to Poona to assure him of Mehera's well-being in year 1952. Padri arrived at his house at about three o'clock in the afternoon, but had to wait an hour to see him, as he was napping. The meeting took place at four o'clock, and Padri told him, "Uncle, Mehera is all right. The rumor about her death is not true."

"What have I to do with it?" the Colonel snapped.

"I have been sent to personally convey this news to you," Padri explained.

Becoming upset, the Colonel shouted, "I do not need your news! What does Meher Baba think of himself? What right has He to send me His 'love blessings'? He should accept My love blessings!"

"If you give Him your blessings, I am sure He will be overjoyed," Padri wryly observed. "But giving a blessing will bind you, so you'd better think twice before offering it."

The Colonel was highly irritated and, writing a few choice unmentionables on the telegram received from Baba, he handed it back to Padri. "What a love blessing," Padri thought.

After talking with the Colonel for a while, Padri returned to Meherazad, where he delivered the colonel's missive. The Colonel's two sisters, Daulatmai (Mehera's mother) and Freiny Masi (Padri's mother), remained at Baba's feet until the end. But Baba used Colonel Irani as a medium for His work, which the Colonel did in the form of hostile opposition until his last days.

After inspecting preparations at lower Meherabad, Baba departed for Meherazad. As soon as Baba arrived at Meherabad on the morning of Thursday, 23rd September 1954, He reprimanded Pendu and Padri regarding their work. Then in morning, He walked up the hill, where He made His usual inquiries about the men's health, stating, "All of you must be fit by the 29th and 30th. The wind is not good for the throat; keep warm."

In another event, on His return to Meherazad, Baba expressed His dissatisfaction with Padri and his management of Meherabad. Pendu and Padri were old friends, and Baba remarked, "No one is allowed to visit Meherabad, but the relatives of Padri's servants Nana and his wife Tani go there. This is not good, and Padri should be informed about it."

Addressing Pendu, Baba reprimanded, "Why haven't you mentioned this to Padri? Are you afraid of him?"

"I am not afraid of even his father!" Pendu declared.

The next day, Padri was summoned to Meherazad and Baba asked Pendu to tell him, "There is a ban on any outsider entering Meherabad. Why do you allow Tani's relatives to come there?"

Padri replied, "Tani stays in Meherabad all day long, and those in her household come to see her about work."

Pendu said, "If anyone comes to meet you, he is made to stand near the dhuni platform, where you go to speak with him. Can't Tani walk to the dhuni to meet with her relatives?"

Baba agreed. "What Pendu says is true. This partiality is not good. If Tani wishes to see anyone, she should meet them at the dhuni."

Padri said, "All right, from now on I will send her there."

Pendu continued, "If Tani is in Meherabad throughout the day, where does she bathe?"

"In Meherabad."

"In the mandali's bathroom?"

"Yes."

"Look at this!" Pendu declared, "Is the bathroom meant for the mandali or for Tani?"

Baba commented, "Pendu is right. Tani should not bathe there. She has a house in the village and can bathe before coming to work." Padri acknowledged the validity of this point also.

Pendu continued the interrogation, "Nana and Tani are cultivators. Where is the thrashing yard for their grain?"

"In Meherabad," Padri answered.

"This is too much!" Pendu declared, "Are Nana and Tani your servants, or are you theirs?"

Baba remarked, "I did not know of this. Padri, what are you doing? I don't like it at all! It is good Pendu is bringing this out into the open. Reflecting on it, he has been unable to sleep at night because of it. This is why I have called you. Remove Nana's thrashing apparatus from Meherabad!" Padri agreed to do so.

Continuing, Pendu probed, "Where are Nana's oxen kept?"

"In Meherabad — but only when the grain is thrashed," Padri answered.

Pendu remarked to Baba, "Padri has become the king of Meherabad! He does what he likes there!"

Padri could be short-tempered. Upset, he retorted, "I will stop it all! If you want, I will also drive Nana and Tani away!"

It will be better if you do so," shouted Pendu. "What a mess you have created!"

Baba was quite pleased with Pendu and instructed Padri, "Do not dismiss Nana and Tani, but stop everything else."

This incident is an example of obeying the Master's wish. Although close friends, Pendu put all his heart into scolding Padri, as Baba wished. Such incidents often occurred among the mandali. Baba would purposely create the friction. It was all to keep His pleasure, to help His close ones to burn up their attachments, and master perfect obedience. The same was the case with the women. Yet the clashes flourished against a background of amity in an atmosphere where, despite their personal differences, all resided as one family.

While Baba was away, Padri requested that Baba allow him to sink a borewell on the property, which Baba agreed to. A bore was sunk up to 65 feet, but without success. On 28th April 1967, Baba was informed and He permitted Padri to bore further, up to 100 feet. At the depth of 83 feet, an ample supply of soft water was struck, and Padri was very happy. Baba too was pleased.

On 10th August 1968, Bill Reading (foreign Baba Lover) rode a bicycle to Meherabad, where he was given a tour by Padri and was introduced to Mohammed Mast. Padri coaxed the mast into shaking hands with Reading and, in his words, "The instant we touched hands a sensation not unlike a mild electric shock — minus the jolt and corresponding discomfort — swept through my body."

Reading further recalled, "After I took some photographs of Mohammed, Padri suggested a cup of tea, which he served in his room. While talking to Padri the sensation of Baba's 'presence' came over me. Tears welled up in my eyes and I started to weep. Baba's presence seemed to emanate from Padri and his sincere and simple life."

After listening to Padri talk about Baba over tea, Reading's emotional state calmed and they took a walk up the hill, because Padri wanted to show him Upper Meherabad and Baba's Tomb. In Reading's words, "There is one other event that to this day I am very glad I did, although I don't fully understand why. The place seemed deserted as Padri left me alone in Baba's Tomb to attend to some chore. I walked around looking at the mural on the ceiling when I suddenly felt a strong urge to get into the crypt. I clambered down the end near the entrance to the Tomb and crouched down up the other end. And I thought of Baba and what it would be like when his body would be placed here. After five minutes or so, I climbed out and went outside to see where Padri had gone."

Eruch had sent a message to Padri and Chhagan to stay in Meherazad for seven days to help with the night watch, and Padri arrived that evening on his motorcycle. After Padri left Meherabad, Mohammed Mast asked Sidhu where Padri had gone. Sidhu told him that Padri had been called to Meherazad to assist the mandali, as Baba was not well. Hearing this, Mohammed Mast, who would mostly mutter unintelligibly, said clearly, "Padri will come back tomorrow."

Sidhu said, "No, Baba has called him for seven days."

Mohammed Mast then said, "Tomorrow, Dada (Baba) is coming here and is going to join Gustadji (who had died)."

When Padri arrived at Meherazad, he went to Baba's room. Baba was disturbed by the noise of Padri's motorcycle, but directed Padri to have dinner, and that he would be given day duty. "Come when I call you," Baba gestured.

In 1969, seeing that the allopathic medicines were not giving Baba any relief, Padri began giving him doses of homeopathic medicine every ten minutes to relieve the spasms. "These doctors are all barbers!" Baba had said to Padri. "You give Me something." After Padri gave Baba a fourth dose at noon, Baba teased, "Your medicine is useless; it is not helping me at all!"

At Meherabad, Pendu was working as a nurse in the hospital, and Padri was practicing homeopathic medicine. Both were fully occupied in these labors day and night. Baba would be very exacting when He observed their work and would daily find some fault with them. On June 3rd 1969, both of them became upset with His criticisms. Exasperated, they pleaded with Baba to ease up, and He appeased them with this advice:

Be like a football, which never cries out or complains when kicked. Its fortune is to receive kicks, and the force and height of its kicks are its beauty. You, too, should try to reach the level of accepting and remaining humble and unaffected by kicks – My criticisms. My kicks will raise you up high, higher, infinitely higher and beyond! The greater the force of the kick to the football, the higher it flies. Similarly, you will also rise high above the world.

Baba then compassionately told Padri, “Continue giving medicines to the sufferers, and I will go on blessing you.” From that day on, Padri’s treatment carried with it Meher Baba’s blessings and he was the instrument for curing many seemingly incurable diseases by homeopathic treatment.

Baba said, “Padri is one of the four pillars of Meherabad. He worked without any desire. He is service personified. He has rendered great service for the last 25 years. Padri, for instance, has not even the desire to know anything spiritual. All he wants and all he desires is to work for Me”. He died on March 13th, 1982 at Meherabad, India (aged 78).

Padri’s remains are buried at lower Meherabad.