77-RUSTOM GUSTAD IRANI (Masaji)
(Father of Pendu & Naja)
Rustom Gustad Irani, (Masaji) was a part of mandali along with his children Pendu and Naja. From the outset, Rustom Masa (Baba's maternal uncle) had been with Baba. He had dedicated his life in Baba's service, and also surrendered his daughter (Naja) and son (Pendu) at Baba's feet. Masaji served as a cook for the mandali, a night watchman near Baba, a sweeper of the women's toilets in Toka, and in many other capacities. He had a temper — he could become upset in no time! — But he was also a practical-joker and very humorous. He was a strong, fierce man and followed Baba with all his heart until the end. Masaji’s renunciation, service, strength, and love was worthy of a true disciple.
He was known for his cooking. He used to be in charge of preparing meals for the Muslims, Parsis and Iranis. Masaji would cook such delicious food, using pure ghee (clarified butter) and other costly ingredients, that the Zoroastrians and Muslims did not miss meat. Breakfast consisted of as much tea, bread and butter as one wanted. In the afternoon tea was served, and the evening meal was bread, (millet) bhakris or (wheat) chapattis and another vegetable. And most of the meals were served by Baba personally ladling the food onto each one's tin plate
Few of his reminiscences are as under:
In 1911, while at Deccan College, Merwan formed a drama (theater) troupe that rehearsed at the home of His aunt Pila Masi and uncle Rustom Masa (Masaji) on Sachapir Street. The group staged two or three public performances at a local theater with the proceeds donated to charity.
When Merwan was a teenager, Memo had a baby (Adi) to look after and she did not like it if Merwan brought a lot of friends to the house. Pila Masi, on the other hand, loved to have Merwan bring his companions to her home, and they would come and gather on the carpet, play cards or draughts and narrate stories about Hindu and Muslim Perfect Masters, saints, and miracles until late in the evening. Pila Masi and her husband Masaji had a large compound around their house where Merwan and his friends often played cricket. (It was here where Merwan and his friends had rehearsed their plays, also.) If Merwan missed coming to her house for even one day, Pila Masi would become worried. "Why hasn't Merwan come today?" she would wonder. "Something must be wrong." Therefore, whenever Merwan would leave Poona for Shirdi, he would inform his aunt where he was going, telling her not to worry and adding that he would see her as soon as he returned. Consequently, only Pila Masi would know of Merwan's whereabouts when he was not in Poona. When he would return from Shirdi, he would bring prasad for her from Upasni Maharaj.
Once in 1925, Masaji narrated what happened to him the previous night. He was on watch with Baba and was sitting by Him near the dhuni before the rain started. He felt drowsy and dozed off for a moment; meanwhile his scarf fell into dhuni’s flames. Baba clapped loudly a few times and Masaji awakened to find his scarf on fire. He yanked it out of dhuni and extinguished the flames. Baba then forbade him to sit near the dhuni and warned him to stay awake while on night watch.
It was in year 1926, Once, Chanji and Masaji admitted that they had taken food outside. Baba turned to Masaji and Chanji and said, "My standing order was not to eat anything outside of Meherabad unless given permission. Why did you not comply with it?" Masaji spoke in their defense stating they had broken the order in good faith since they were under the impression that the order was canceled once they left Meherabad. Baba was furious and caught hold of him, shoving him so violently that He ripped Masaji's clothing. He then lifted him up and threw him ten feet! The mandali standing nearby were astonished to see someone as lean and thin as Baba pick up and throw such a hefty man as Masaji.
In 1929, the Baba’s group left Lahore by train. Baba had not eaten for two days due, He said, to indigestion. When food was ordered, Masaji also did not eat. Baba asked him the reason and Masaji replied, "You have taken nothing for the past two days and again today you are not eating. I do not have any appetite when you go hungry." Turning on Raosaheb and Buasaheb, Baba criticized, "Did you hear what Masaji just said? Listen and remember it well; it is an example to be followed. Because I do not take food, Masaji also is not eating. Meanwhile, you two are devouring it like animals! When you are devoid of all feeling for Me, why do you continue to stay with Me? What is the point of calling yourselves My disciples?" Buasaheb felt so bad he didn't eat the meal, and Chanji also threw his portion away. On this occasion Raosaheb and Buasaheb kept quiet, bearing the painful sting of Baba's remarks. This was one more blow into the minds of the mandali as the Master shot another arrow into their hearts
At Meherabad Masaji had been appointed as Mohammed Mast's personal caretaker in Panchgani. It was a duty that tried Masaji's patience. At his advanced age and with a cantankerous nature to begin with, Masaji's moods were difficult to control. To make matters worse, when Baba was in a good mood, for His own purposes, He would humor Mohammed by teasing Masaji. At one point, Masaji became so annoyed that he disobeyed Baba and uttered regrettable things, and was ready to go away. Baba, typically in such situations, showed indifference. "Who cares if you go?" he gestured. "Who needs you? If you leave, a hundred of your fathers (better than you) will come prostrating to serve in your place!"
But then Baba would lovingly forgive Masaji, and tell him, "If someone taunts you and you sulk, it is understandable; but this one (Mohammed) is like a child. Why pay attention to his words and take them seriously? You should disregard them. You require great good fortune to deserve the opportunity of doing such a duty (of looking after him). But it is unfortunate that you cannot digest what I am giving you." And Masaji would weep and lay his head on Baba's feet.
Sometimes, in an ill-tempered mood, Masaji would deliberately threaten Mohammed, making the mast afraid of him. This Baba did not like, nor would he tolerate. His work with Mohammed was something very special and beyond our understanding. He would always humor Mohammed, bearing some of the mast's obstinacies with unimaginable patience. He wanted the mandali to deal with the mast in the same way, but that was extremely difficult for Masaji.
Masaji arrived in Jabalpur by train with young Meherwan Jessawala on 26th December 1938. As soon as Masaji saw Baba, he fell at His feet and began weeping. Baba asked the cause of his outbreak and Masaji replied, "Baba, you have saved me; otherwise, I would not have been able to face you ever again! At Chalisgaon station, I got down to check the luggage in the baggage compartment, but the train started before I could return! I was left standing on the platform and did not know what to do.
With your name on my lips, I began weeping, and somehow the station manager came to me and offered his help. He wired the next station and sent me there by another train. When I arrived, I found Meherwan safe." Baba took Masaji in His embrace and assured him he was always with him. Masaji then returned to Meherabad.
In 1944, Mehera's birthday was to be publicly celebrated that year, and preparations were being made to observe it at Meherabad. The mandali began making arrangements for cooking lunch and erecting a tent for the occasion. Masaji was in charge of the cooking and had to hire utensils and vessels, and for that he went to Poona. Invitations were sent to devotees in Bombay, Poona, Ahmednagar, Nasik and a few other places to take part in the occasion. They were informed that their lodging and boarding would be provided. Pendu was occupied with pitching the large pandal and Padri with making arrangements for electricity and water.
On 18th December 1944, Masaji returned to Meherabad on with a truckload of requisite items. But traveling in the open truck in the hot sun had affected the old man's health. After having the truck unloaded in front of his son Pendu, telling him to store the things inside, Masaji went and lay down on his cot. Vishnu's mother Kakubai came to his room and discussed the cooking details with him. No one realized he was seriously ill.
Masaji slept that night, and the next day after lunch went to his room to take a nap. At 1:30 P.M. Jangle came to ask about purchases to be made in the bazaar. He knocked on the door but there was no answer. Slowly opening the door, he saw Masaji's head lolling a little over the edge of his bed. Jangle called him—but Masaji was sleeping the sleep of death. Jangle shouted for Pendu, and he, Padri, Nilu and Vishnu came running. Nilu felt Masaji's pulse, but could do nothing and said it was heart failure. A doctor from Ahmednagar was summoned, but Masaji had already passed away. He was 77.
Baba arrived from Pimpalgaon and ordered a grave dug on the other side of the road near the railway tracks (opposite the Mess Quarters). A coffin was brought and Masaji's body placed in it. Baba touched the body before the lid was nailed shut. The mandali shouldered the coffin and Baba too lent a hand. Before lowering the coffin into the ground, Baba again touched it and was the first to toss earth over it. The mandali each threw in a fistful of earth, and Baba placed flowers over the grave.