59-KALE RAMCHANDRA BAPUJI (Kalemama)

59-KALE RAMCHANDRA BAPUJI (Kalemama)

Kalemama (Ramchandra Bapuji Kale or R. B. Kale – was commonly known as Kalemama in Meher Baba’s circle) was Meher Baba’s close companion and one of the earliest Mandali, since 1926.

Kalemama, a Civil Engineer by profession was in the Maharashtra State Services. He served on many important positions like Chief Executive Officer of Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, Secretary of Dhule Municipal Corporation, and State Engineer at Akkalkote Sansthan etc. Kalemama met Meher Baba in 1926 at Meherabad for the first time. He soon became a close Mandali and disciple of Meher Baba. Kalemama extensively traveled with Meher Baba to many places. He also supervised the various construction works at Meherabad.

Ramchandra Bapu Kale, had first met Baba at Meherabad six months earlier in May 1926, (He had met Sai Baba and Narayan Maharaj also.) Kale was so overwhelmingly drawn to Baba that he sent two of his sons, Babu and Murli to study in the school. A few years later, he himself came to stay with Baba in Meherabad and was affectionately known as Kalemama (Uncle Kale).

Kalemama was one of those rare disciples of Baba who also had the rare opportunity to meet Shri Sai Baba, Shri Upasni Maharaj and Shri Narayan Maharaj, a number of times. The Wedding of one of Shri Sai Baba’s very well known disciple Mr. Bhate’s daughter was proposed with Kalemama’s elder brother Anna ji. Shri Sai Baba called the families to Shirdi, and Kalemama spent his winter holidays at the Shirdi Ashram in 1910. Kalemama along with Mrs. Kalemama and Murli came to settle at Meherabad Ashram after accepting Meher Baba as their spiritual guide. Kalemama being a civil engineer supervised a number of construction activities at Meherabad.

Kalemama had been repeatedly requesting that the Master visit his house, and Baba finally agreed to come. Baba was driven there on 5th February in Adi Sr.'s new Chevrolet, with Buasaheb, Jalbhai, Dhake, Shahane, and Vishnu. At noon, they reached Malegaon, where Dhake's father-in-law Bapu Puranik warmly received them. Baba saw Dhake's newborn son Kamlakar, and then left, reaching Dhulia in the early evening. Kalemama gave Baba and the group a hearty reception, and Baba spent the night at his house.

Kalemama held an important post in Dhulia as the municipal engineer. He had arranged everything for Baba's reception with the help of Pandoba and Manekar. Upon Baba's arrival, joyful cries of "Sadguru Meher Baba ki jai!" rang out. Baba was profusely garlanded with flowers, and amidst loud cheers of welcome and gladness, made His way to Kalemama's house.

Kalemama and his family took great care seeing to Baba and the mandali's comfort. The whole family was absorbed in Baba's love and dedicated their lives to Him. Kalemama's two sons, Babu and Murli, were still in Meherabad. Babu was longing to be with the Master permanently as one of the mandali

There had been many his episodes and conversation at times with Meher Baba some of these are produced as under.

Baba and the mandali reached Kalemama's residence in Dhulia in morning on 20th August 1929. Baba was received with great reverence by Kalemama and his wife, who pleaded with Baba to remain at their home for three days, to which Baba agreed. Upon His arrival, so many people demanded darshan that Baba had only enough time to change His clothes. Baba and the mandali had no opportunity to rest after their tiring journey. It was a Hindu festival that day, the full moon "Coconut Day," and there was a special bhajan program from nine-thirty until midnight.

Leaving Sholapur on 23th March 1930, Baba proceeded to Pandharpur where He stayed for four hours. He then left for Panchgani, via Satara and Wai, where He spent the night. His host in Panchgani was Kalemama's son-in-law-Raosaheb M. V. Pandit the principal of the Hindu High School, Kalemama's son-in-law and his family welcomed Baba heartily. Baba appreciated Pandit's efforts and praised the family's devotion.

Three days later on Wednesday, 9th April 1930, Baba, with a group of eighteen (which including Kalemama, others and few boys), took a bus to Panchgani. They were the guests of Raosaheb Pandit, the principal of the Hindu High School. The mandali stayed in specially constructed grass huts near the school, and Baba was given a room inside the school.

On 11th April 1930, Kalemama was sent to Savantwadi to talk with the Maharaja there. Tiger Valley was under the Maharaja's jurisdiction and permission was required before the digging work could begin. Baba remarked, "Who knows whether the Maharaja will permit Me to use this place? If he permits it, it would be better; otherwise, we will have to leave. The Maharaja is a good king and devotional; he used to visit Swami Siddharudh and is interested in the Path."

Upon request, the Maharaja did permit Kalemama to construct a cave in Tiger Valley and expressed his wish to dedicate it to Meher Baba.

Visiting Tiger Valley in Panchgani the next day, Baba selected a spot in the forest for His seclusion. Baba instructed Kalemama to have a cave dug there and have it ready within a month. Kalemama, an engineer, promptly proceeded with the work and began drawing up the excavation plans. Huts were to be built in the valley for Baba, the mandali, and the boys.

The digging of Baba's cave was going slowly. On 19th April 1930, showing His displeasure at the tedious pace, Baba asked the mandali if they thought the cave would be ready by the 15th of May 1930. All expressed their doubts, but Kalemama assured Baba he would do his best to see that the cave was ready in time. However, Baba remarked, "I think it is better if we return to Meherabad where a cave for seclusion can be dug more easily." Padri, who had come to Panchgani, was willing to proceed to Meherabad to take up the work, but Kalemama promised Baba that the cave would be ready on time. Baba then canceled the Meherabad plan and decided to go to Bombay until the cave was finished.

During September 1933, the booklet Questions and Answers was being translated from English into different languages - into Marathi by Kalemama, K. K. Manekar and Kelkar of Dhulia, into Gujarati by Soma Desai (with Chanji's help), and into Persian by Raosaheb, who daily read out his version to Baba.

During this same period, Kalemama's wife was seriously ill with heart trouble. Baba went to the Family Quarters to see her on 13th March 1934. She felt so happy at seeing Baba that she forgot her pain. Baba assured her, "You will be freed tomorrow. Do not worry." The woman expired at 3:30 A.M. that night and was freed forever by the God-Man. After the death of his wife, Kalemama moved to the men mandali's quarters and lived there the rest of his life

In 1935, one reason Baba had chosen to go to Dhond rather than Ahmednagar was that there was less of a chance He would be recognized getting off the train there. Adi drove Baba and Jalbhai to Meherabad and arrived around 5:30 A.M. (Gustadji and Rao came later with the luggage.) Baba walked straight up the hill to the new tin and wooden cabin which had been hastily erected in a week by Padri, Pendu and Kalemama. Since it was still dark, none of the resident mandali knew of Baba's arrival. They were told later and given Baba's strict instructions to keep the knowledge of His presence in Meherabad from outsiders.

Baba seemed to be in a good mood on the afternoon of 10th April 1934. "Humming merrily to Himself, as He so often does when in a good mood," Baba quoted lines from the Persian poet Khushraw on the alphabet board and had Kalemama repeat them several times.

Baba assigned to Kalemama the work of erecting huts in Rahuri for Himself and a few of the mandali, and instructed Dhake to obtain a piece of land for the purpose. Baba also proposed that a trust be created for the maintenance of the women and mandali.

On 13th May 1936, Baba left Mysore for Nasik with Kalemama by train. Rustom met them in Poona and accompanied Baba to Bombay. On the 17th, Adi Sr. drove Baba to Nasik and from there to Rahuri. An isolated area had been selected for establishing the ashram, and the land was leased for five years from a Marwari named Laxminarayan. The landowner was paid in full, and Baba instructed Kalemama about the proposed work.

Baba instructed Kalemama and Dhake, when they met Laxminarayan, to prevail upon him and remind him that mercy was the fundamental principle of the Hindu religion. He should have mercy on the animal and get it treated, or purchase another bullock. Dhake and Kalemama tried to persuade him at length, but the man would not agree and countered, "I simply cannot afford to spend Rs.200 to buy another bullock just to satisfy your humanitarian instincts!" and he asked the mandali not to meddle in his affairs.

During the latter part of July 1937, prior to departing for France, Meher Baba was chiefly occupied in serving the masts and mad who had been brought to stay at Meherabad. He gave detailed instructions about their care while Baba was in France. Baba also assigned duties to each of the other men mandali. Kalemama was to look after the mechanical works.

In 1938, Baba had sent Kalemama to Panchgani to lease a bungalow for Himself and the women mandali, as He intended shifting there for the upcoming hot summer months. (Panchgani has a much cooler climate than Meherabad during March, April, and May.)

Kalemama was working with Pendu and Padri, but he was so meticulous he would tell the workers to tear down a section of a wall they had been erecting all day if it did not meet his standards. Frustrated with Kalemama, Padri finally quit in disgust and said he was so fed up he was having nothing further to do with the work. The huge steel girders for the second story of the Water Tank building had to be ordered from Bombay, and this had caused a delay of a month and a half.

In 1939, Baba visited the site of proposed ceremony at Byramangala at Bangalore, as work has begun. Kalemama with other mandali were busy arranging the affair. A large pavilion was erected, invitations were printed and mailed out, and announcements given in all major newspapers inviting the public to attend.

It was during 1939 while he was spending sometime at his daughter’s place, who was married to Shri M. V. Pandit founder Principal of the well known “Sanjeevani Vidhyalaya” of Panchgani, Kalemama wrote his memoirs of his meeting with the Perfect Masters.

Baba had already announced that he would be going into strict seclusion for six months, from the 1st of August 1941, and Pendu and the mandali had been busy making the arrangements. Pendu and Kalemama had been ordered to erect four cabins on the four corners of Meherabad Hill for four night watchmen, who would either be from the mandali or hired villagers.

But in the end, Baba decided instead to go to Karwar, along the western coast of India, and then Meherabad. Kalemama was instructed to hire bungalows in Karwar, Dharwar or Belgaum with the assistance of Vishwanath Haldankar.

On 24th December 1941, a telegram was received in Ahmednagar that Upasni Maharaj had dropped his body. Baba directed Kalemama, with others to go to Sakori to participate in the last rites, which they did on the 25th. Maharaj was buried at Sakori, and they returned soon after the ceremony was finished, arriving back at Meherabad at ten that night.

Bhilar is a remote, jungle-like area between Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. Baba, accompanied by Kalemama, Vishnu and Chanji, went to the village to see a place called Jalki's Bungalow on 22nd March 1943. He had Kalemama rent it and ordered him to enclose the compound with bamboo matting to insure privacy for the women.

Kalemama was among the men mandali in Lahore.

Baba had sent Kalemama to Sholapur, where he found a good bungalow for this family, enclosed on all sides with bamboo matting. After things were ready, Baba sent the mother, Khaja, her sister and Amir in Adi's car to Sholapur on the 1st of February 1944.

Kalemama was kept there to look after them.

Previously, they had been sweepers — toilet cleaners, the lowest class of domestic servants — and now they began living the lives of princesses and princes! Kalemama, who was a Brahmin, had to look after them and arrange everything to suit their comfort. To wipe out his sanskaras of prejudice, Baba had given him this duty, and he had to bow and acquiesce to their every whim and fancy.

Besides being put in this awkward position of being a servant to Harijans, Kalemama knew quite a few people in Sholapur. They would inquire who the new residents in the bungalow were. What could Kalemama say? He would hide from his acquaintances and try to avoid their embarrassing questions. But when he went to the bazaar, he would be confronted by one person or another. When pressed as to why he had been evading them, he would reply: "The pilgrim of the Path who is merged in his devotions is not permitted to go anyplace where his practices are likely to be disturbed."

In 1945, according to instructions, those invited arrived in Meherabad, Baba gave them individual interviews. Called to the meeting were the following 40 men: Kalemama was one of participants.

About mandali Baba said: Kalemama is the personification of "restless rest." The state of this disciple is well described by Gustadji, who refers to him by making a whirling sign with his hand. For such a restless man to have 100 percent faith in Me and stick to Me for years is a yoga which would not have been possible for Me.

After demise his wife Baba had a private talk with Dhake during the meeting. He explained, "You are now free and I will look after your children. Now don't fall into that trap (meaning marriage) again, and stay with Me permanently." On Dhake's agreement, Baba welcomed him to join the mandali, "From tomorrow, come to stay with Me." To this also Dhake consented.

Baba then clarified, "Come to stay with Me permanently, after six months." In this manner everything was settled.

But in the meantime, Dhake got engaged for a second time. When his wedding invitation was received, Baba immediately sent Kalemama to him with orders that he should not marry. Kalemama was unable to contact Dhake in time and the marriage was performed. Baba was furious over the affair and temporarily forbade Dhake from coming to Him.

After receiving Baba's permission, Vishnu, with Kalemama's help, arranged to secure a nawab's bungalow in Pasarni, two miles from the town of Wai near Mahabaleshwar. Baba and the women would be accommodated in the main house and the men mandali in the servants' quarters outside the bungalow's compound wall.

At Meherabad, Baba arranged details of the mandali's work there, visited the Satha family at Akbar Press, and several times went to Pimpalgaon to inspect the construction work going on, and to meet the servants. Kalemama had been instructed to enlarge the small cottage on the Pimpalgaon property, and to build a few storerooms for Baba and the women, as accommodations at present were not sufficient.

In 1946, in the afternoon Sarosh drove Baba to Pimpalgaon, where Baba encouraged Kalemama to finish the construction work as soon as possible. Baba went again to Pimpalgaon with Sarosh on the 26th, morning, and again on the morning of the 29th. Adi Sr. was purchasing and sending all the construction material from Ahmednagar to Pimpalgaon.

A plan for a new hall at Meherabad was drawn up by Pendu, Padri and Kalemama. It was to be quite large, 126 feet in length by 40 feet in width, and Baba gave his approval. Application for formal permission to build it was submitted to the authorities in Ahmednagar on 26th October 1947, and construction began soon afterward. The building material came from a military auction held at the time.

During 1948, construction work was also progressing for the new hall and residential quarters for the mandali at lower Meherabad (on the site of Nilu's old dispensary, opposite Kaikobad's cottage). One day Baba went to bless the first door frame to be erected, by touching it. Kalemama was overseeing this work with Pendu's help.

Baba began the meeting by stating, "I have called you all here to take part in the purification ceremony to cleanse the atmosphere, and keep it free from maleficent spirits and evil influences."

Baba then called on Kalemama, Khak Saheb, Don and Kaikobad to recite particular passages from the Gita, Koran, Bible and Avesta respectively; and, as they were reading, Baba would intermittently explain the meaning of the selected passages.

On 18th August 1949, immediately upon His arrival from Meherazad at 6:50 A.M., He instructed Kaikobad, Don, Khak Saheb, and Kalemama to be ready with copies of the Avesta, Bible, Koran, and Gita.  Baba entered the hall and called the four mandali "priests" — representing a Christian priest, a Zoroastrian dastur, an Islamic mullah and a Hindu pandit — and had them stand on his right. Kaikobad was first asked to perform the kusti (sacred thread) ceremony and read aloud the usual prayer for five minutes. Then Don read the crucifixion of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. Khak Saheb offered namaz (prayers), and Kalemama completed the readings by repeating the seven shlokas from the tenth adhyay (chapter) of the Bhagavad Gita.

The four mandali priests — Kaikobad, Don, Khak Saheb and Kalemama — were asked to read certain passages from the Avesta, Bible, Koran and Gita. Baba stated, "First of all, I want to invoke God's forgiveness for myself, for the mandali and for all, through all four — Zoroastrian, Christian, Muslim and Hindu — approaches to God."

In the morning on 4th November 1952, Baba inquired about the health of everyone present. He was in a happy mood. He summoned the five "priests" — Kaikobad, Kalemama, Ramjoo, Murli and Daulat Singh. Murli had not yet come, so someone went to bring him. Baba cracked, "He is so lazy that even if I were to promise him God-realization, he would not come on time!" When Murli came Baba asked each of the five to repeat seven times a short prayer he dictated glorifying God.

In November 1952, Baba returned to Meherabad in the morning. He remarked, "Today is a very important day for Me. Be sincere and serious about the duties entrusted to you.  He then prepared for the prayers by the five "priests." A copy of each holy book had been placed on a table to His left. First, Baba sat on a cushion on the floor, applied a red dot to His forehead in the manner of orthodox Hindus, tied a silk cord around his waist and lit a prayer lamp which had seven wicks.  Kalemama began the morning's program by reciting a Sanskrit couplet by Valmiki praising Ram, followed by a selection from the Dnyaneshwari. When he finished Baba bowed down to him.

Baba paid particular attention to Kalemama, and later it seemed that He had come all the way to Ahmednagar just to see him. Despite being 78 years old, Kalemama was in good health and happy, but the meeting proved to be his last, as three months later, at Meherabad on 16th September 1954, he departed this life.

Mrs. Kalemama passed away at Meherabad in 1932 and Kalemama on 16th Sep, 1954.