87- SITARAM DATTATREY DESHMUKH (Chhagan)

87- SITARAM DATTATREY DESHMUKH (Chhagan)

He had long association with Meher Baba. Many of his life time episodes and conversation are produced below. Sitaram Dattatrey Deshmukh a young man of nineteen was a resident of Bhingar Township on the outskirts of Ahmednagar. Chhagan, as he was called, was a frequent visitor to Sakori.

It was year 1925, one day he was informed that Maharaj's chief disciple was a Zoroastrian — and that He was living at Arangaon Village near Ahmednagar. Chhagan was shocked by this information, since he was a strict Brahmin — absorbed in Vedantism. For quite some time, he was hesitant to visit this Irani guru.

But ill fortune befell Chhagan and he was forced by circumstances to seek Meher Baba's darshan. He took a tonga to Meherabad and was relieved when Baba greeted him warmly. Baba asked what he wanted. Chhagan narrated a woeful tale of material ruin: "My family's financial condition has deteriorated badly. I wish it to be as it was before."

Baba said, "I know everything. Don't worry. It will gradually be restored."

Soon after, Chhagan's father, too, began coming to Meherabad. One day Baba asked Chhagan, "Would you work as a teacher in the school here?"

Chhagan said, "I wish to serve you and will do whatever work I am given."

Baba then directed Chhagan to live at Meherabad, and with his father's consent, he moved there.

But this orthodox Brahmin, who was used to food being cooked in rich ghee, could not assimilate the simple meals of unseasoned dal and rice served at Meherabad. Obtaining Baba's permission, he returned home after only a few days. However, Baba told him to send his father to him. When his father came to Meherabad, Baba informed him of certain matters, stating that his son had a deep, spiritual connection with Him.

When Chhagan's father returned home, he sternly told his son that he must go back to Meher Baba!

Chhagan replied, "I won't go! I cannot eat the food there."

His father then disclosed, "I have promised Meher Baba I would send you. You will have to go." Chhagan had no choice and reluctantly began staying at Meherabad, assisting Arjun and Vishnu as a teacher in the Hazrat Babajan School.

One day Chhagan's father went to see Upasni Maharaj, and Maharaj asked him about his son. He explained that Chhagan was now staying with Meher Baba at Arangaon.

Hearing this, Maharaj exclaimed, "What the hell have you done? You, being a Brahmin, sending your son to an Irani who sits and eats with pariahs? Go bring him back immediately! If he refuses to come, tie him up and drag him home! You have no idea what you have done. You have spoiled your son's religious purity!"

Chhagan's father was shocked and went to Meherabad, humbly informing Meher Baba of what Upasni Maharaj had declared and requesting that he allow Chhagan to return home. Baba replied, "What Maharaj says is true. He is your son, and if you want to take him, you may."

But Chhagan surprisingly intervened, telling his father, "When I left here, it was you who sent me back. You gave Meher Baba your promise, and I am here because of that promise. I cannot go back now! I won't leave Meherabad!"

Chhagan had had a small taste of the wine flowing at Meherabad by then, and it was his thirst for more wine that was speaking through his heart. In his longing to experience more of the Master's Love and Truth, the desire for material wealth and rich food faded from his memory.

In dismay, Chhagan's father went back to Upasni Maharaj and told him everything. Maharaj consoled him: "If your son does not come, don't worry. You didn't know this, but I will tell you now that I, too, have mingled and lived among the outcasts.

Who says religious purity is affected by their contact?"

Much later, as Baba promised, Chhagan's family regained their lost wealth, although by that time Chhagan had joined Meher Baba's mandali and was detached from such material desires.

Different men would keep watch each night during this period, and Gulabsha, who had come to stay at Meherabad, was put in charge of this duty. Chhagan would help. Once Chhagan fell asleep while on duty at night, and Gulabsha was very upset with him. Sarcastically, he advised, "If you feel sleepy, why don't you apply chili powder to your eyes?" Chhagan took him seriously and the next night, to avoid falling asleep, he sprinkled a little chili powder in his eyes and soon began crying aloud in pain. Hearing Chhagan in pain, Baba Himself washed his eyes with cool water, but the burning and swelling did not cease for several days.

In 1926, one day, Baba asked Chhagan a question. But when Chhagan failed to give an immediate reply, Baba actually fell at his feet remarking, "Henceforth, don't do any work. Simply eat, drink, and loll about the place." for a few moments Chhagan was taken aback and stunned that the Master would bow at his feet.

He ran off toward the surrounding fields. Baba directed the mandali to bring him back. All shouted at Chhagan to stop, that it was Baba's orders that he return, but Chhagan did not even turn around. In fact, Chhagan had run so fast that they had lost sight of him. The mandali searched, but they were unable to find him. Baba himself then set out in a small horse-drawn tonga to look for him. The tonga was not able to traverse the rough terrain of Meherabad easily. So after some time, the horse was detached from the tonga, and Baba directed Rustom to go on horseback in search of Chhagan.

After much difficulty, Chhagan was found three or four miles away. He was brought before Baba, who explained certain matters to him and he was pacified, thus bringing the situation back to normal. Everyone, including Chhagan, was exhausted from the chase, so Baba directed the men to relax for the rest of the day. In the evening Baba played cricket with the mandali, and then went for a spin in a large motor vehicle to Shindewadi with a dozen of the men.

Baba discussed His concern about Barsoap with the mandali. Chhagan, who had been appointed Baba's orderly the previous day, had neglected to remove the slate, chalk and other writing materials beside Baba's seat, which he should have done according to Baba's order the previous day. Suddenly, Baba scribbled something on the slate. Moments later, He reminded Chhagan that He had announced His desire to stop writing and was furious with him for having forgotten to remove the writing materials. Baba then stormed out of the hall and locked Himself in the Jhopdi, remaining there the rest of the day.

During 1927, when Baba began keeping silence, it was generally thought that He would make a mistake eventually and some words would escape from His lips. But this had not happened, even once. Yet within two days of His ceasing to write, there was a slip on His part because of the disturbing confrontation with Barsoap and Chhagan's negligence.

In the morning on 11th February, Baba set out on foot with the mandali for Akolner to attend the wedding of Chhagan's sister-in-law, Sumati. When it was time to start, Baba directed Chhagan, "You walk ahead and lead. I will follow you," but Chhagan refused. Baba warned him, "Remember, take care. Do not be dragged away by Maya’s flood."

Baba then addressed the mandali as a whole, although they realized later it was actually a hint to Chhagan, "There is no mard among the mandali — no real man such as this spiritual line requires. This path is very, very hard, fraught with so many and such varied difficulties that it would take a man of iron with a heart of stone to withstand its trials."

When Baba reached the house of Chhagan's wife's uncle, no special seat had been arranged for Baba, and He sat quietly in a corner on an ordinary chair. As per Hindu custom, Chhagan had been married as a child in an arranged marriage years before, but since he was staying with Baba, he had never lived with his wife, who was still quite young. At Akolner, Chhagan's relatives confronted him about this, asking contemptuously, "Don't you love your wife? Why did you marry her if you did not want to be with her? How will you benefit by following this Bua (saint)?"

Chhagan's wife Shanta had been staying with her parents and her father Trimbak Badve was upset at this. As soon as Badve saw Baba, he began abusing Him terribly. "How dare you separate a husband from his wife? You are not a saint; you are bogus!"

Such harsh accusations were voiced by others at the wedding reception, as well. Baba ignored them and responded with a silent smile. When the ceremony was over, Baba indicated that He wished to leave and none of the people even folded their hands to Him when He left. Chhagan, surprisingly, remained behind with his in-laws rather than leave with Baba and the mandali.

In 1927, on the way back to Meherabad, Baba quoted the proverb, "The path of Truth is not a bed of roses" and commented:

About Chhagan, Baba remarked,

Chhagan is quite firm, resolute and determined to stick to Me, renouncing all else. But he actually disobeyed and broke a series of My orders specially given to him that he should go to his family and wife in advance, before the wedding party arrived at the destination. Thus he creditably stood all the trials and tests that I intentionally subjected him to. But, in spite of his firm will and intention to stick to Me, under pressure from his wife's family, he gave in at last — for whatever reason, good or bad. That should not be. He must stick to one word, one attitude, one aim — even if the whole world opposes him.

I have been cautioning the mandali to take a firm decision either to stay with Me or not to stay, and Chhagan decided to remain with Me — leaving everything.

He should have stuck to his decision, especially when he had invited Me to his father-in-law's house. He should not have remained behind with his in-laws. If he had any sense he would have accompanied Me back to Meherabad. He is still kaccha (unripe, raw) and inexperienced. This was the reason I drew your attention this morning to the fact that there was not a single real man among you. This hint referred to you all in general and Chhagan in particular.

In this particular episode today, Chhagan may have been impelled by an honest and sincere motive and by genuine consideration for Me, since he may not have been able to bear the words of others of his family and of outsiders against Me and the mandali. But what are these "words" of ridicule or blame or defamation? To us Sadgurus, they are the chirping of sparrows and nothing more. So should you, ordinary human beings, treat the taunting words of the people of the world quite lightly, indeed, disregarding them utterly — particularly those of you who want to enter into the spiritual line.

Baba was pained by Chhagan's behaviour and observed, "I will have to take back the lost sheep.”

He sent Vishnu to Akolner with the message that, after eating, Chhagan should return to Meherabad. Baba remarked to the mandali, "Chhagan is a very loving and sincere fellow, and up to now he has pleased Me and induced Me to give him a push. But his behavior today is disappointing, in spite of so many warnings and hints."

Someone suggested that Chhagan may have agreed to stay with his relatives to avoid further insulting remarks towards Baba, rather than for any selfish motive. And indeed Chhagan later confirmed that this was so, stating that he had stayed to prevent further scope for criticism of Baba.

Baba then proposed that Chhagan and his wife be accommodated in a small, private hut at Meherabad, but Chhagan was not to touch her except to garland her once a day. Vishnu was sent with the message to Chhagan's in-laws that Chhagan alone should rejoin Baba now and that, after ten days, Chhagan would be coming to take his wife to the ashram.

After the wedding of Ramchandra Gadekar, Baba returned to Meherabad. On the way he kept mentioning Chhagan, which revealed how much He loved him. The Beloved does everything for His lovers, and even if His lovers undergo the most torturous austerities and perform the severest penances for thousands of births in an attempt to repay His love — they can never do so.

According to Baba's instructions, Chhagan had returned, but the events earlier in the day had left him emotionally shaken. Chhagan was deeply depressed over disobeying Baba, after Baba had agreed to walk to Akolner, and then had been insulted when he arrived at the reception. Chhagan asked himself, "What's the use of living when I have caused so much distress to My Guru?"

Instead of coming back to Meherabad, Chhagan had stayed in Arangaon where he stripped himself of his clothes and delivered them to the police. Wearing only a langoti (loincloth), he wandered into the fields with intent of committing suicide. Some of the mandali had been sent to search for him, and after an hour they found him on the hill. He told them that, although he had intended to end his life, "Near the Tank, I heard a voice tell me to check myself, which brought me to my senses." The mandali took him back to Arangaon, persuaded him to put on his clothes, and then brought him to Meherabad at eight o'clock that night.

When Baba returned from Ahmednagar and heard that Chhagan had come, He sent for him and listened to his explanation. Chhagan said, "I did nothing more than talk with my wife. Shanta complained that her parents and relatives were taunting her and giving her a lot of trouble. She wishes to live with me and agrees to allow me to tread the spiritual path; she will not force me to lead a family life. She too will live a simple, spiritual life."

Although pleased, Baba showed surprise to hear this and pardoned Chhagan, making him swear again to obey His instructions. Chhagan promised and placed his head on Baba's feet. As if to seal the promise, Baba smeared ash from the dhuni on Chhagan's forehead.  Chhagan went to the Jhopdi where he resumed his duty, spreading Baba's bedding for the night, as usual. Thus despite the insults heaped on Baba, His disciple had returned to his position in the circle and that was what the Master was really concerned about.

In the afternoon, while Baba was having a discussion with the mandali and boys, Baidul brought a cupful of rice and reported, "Baba, look at this; the rice is half cooked.

This is the sort of food Chhagan prepares."

Baba sent for Chhagan and demanded, "Why is the rice uncooked? Are you trying to kill My boys? Don't you feel ashamed? I don't want to see your kala mooh (an idiomatic insult meaning black face)! You have grown as tall as a palm tree, but with about as much sense!"

Baba directed Rustom to give Chhagan four strokes with the cane. Rustom administered the punishment, and Baba further chastised Chhagan, "Now get out of My sight! Don't stand around like a statue!" Chhagan left and everyone thought that the matter had ended. But it was not so.

In a short while, Baba sent Chanji and two other men to bring Chhagan back to him. They searched the premises but could not find him. Baba later snapped at Raosaheb and Meherjee, "Why are you two sitting here? Go find Chhagan!" They began looking for him, eventually checking the storeroom, where they found Chhagan hiding. He was holding a razor in his hand, contemplating slashing his throat. Meherjee and Raosaheb rushed forward and grabbed him just in time. They then escorted him to Baba.

After hearing Meherjee's description of the scene in the storeroom, Baba reproached Chhagan, "You should be ashamed of yourself. When you have surrendered your life to Me, what right have you to take it away? Your life no longer belongs to you. It is My property! What right have you to destroy that which belongs to Me?

"Your behavior is shameless. What is there in dying such a death? Timid, cowardly people die like that. Bravery lies in living while dying; bearing the punishment I met out."

Baba then forgave Chhagan and embraced him. Chhagan forgot his sorrow and despair in the warmth of the Master's loving embrace and resumed his duties with a light heart, knowing that his life was no longer really his own. It was an object lesson for each of the mandali.

In 1929, one time Baba informed the men: "I have decided that those at Meherabad should come to stay at Nasik. Most will have to work in Rustom's motor works."

Baba asked Chhagan's opinion of this plan, and he replied, "I have come to be with you, not to work in a garage. If you don't wish to keep me near you any longer, I will go away."

"That is not the point," Baba explained. "I order you to work in Rustom's workshop. And if you obey My order, then you are with Me."

"I wish to remain physically with you always."

"What is the use of staying with such an attitude? Though you may be at My side, if you don't obey Me, then you are still far, far away from Me."

Chhagan walked out. After pondering the matter, he returned, seeking Baba's forgiveness. As a punishment, Baba motioned for him to do five deep-knee-bends holding his earlobes (the typical punishment meted out to naughty Indian schoolchildren), which he did. Those present were amused by Chhagan's antics, and in this manner, Baba pardoned him.

At this point of the journey, as had happened in the past, Chhagan was in a bad mood and not talking to anyone. In Agra, they stayed in the Empress Hotel in the cantonment area, and Baba remarked that they would stay in Agra for only a day.

The next morning, Baba gathered the mandali at about eight o'clock. He questioned Chhagan about his sour disposition, which had been gloomy since the previous day. Baba then stated:

This frequent losing of temper and being out of mood is of no use, particularly in the company of your Master, whose will, wish, and word must be your law. Hafiz says,

"I cherish my enemies and allow my friends to perish.

But none dare question the wisdom of my wish."

Further addressing Chhagan, Baba spelled out:

Take a drum and go to the bazaar and beat it like the eunuch that you are!

Don't be a child crying for paltry things. Are you a six-foot-tall baby or a full-grown man? Be a man! Don't stick to petty things. Don't get upset over trivialities.

On 10th May 1929, Baba and the group took a bus to Manmad and then left on the Delhi-Allahabad Express for Hardwar. Near the village of Khandwa an accident occurred; a man was struck by the train and severely injured. A large crowd gathered around the man.

Meanwhile, Baba dispatched Chhagan to buy some rice and dal from a vendor. Chhagan thought to himself, "A man has just been seriously hurt — all are rushing to his aid — yet this Deva (God) feels hungry and wants something to eat! How can Baba be so merciless? Who could eat at a time like this?" With these thoughts in his mind, Chhagan made his way through the crowd to bring the food, but he could not return quickly because of the excited crowd on the platform. After some time Baba lost His patience and sent Gustadji to look for him, and when Chhagan returned, Baba admonished him for taking so long.

Watching Baba eat, Chhagan thought, "Outside a man is dying and inside Divinity himself is quietly enjoying His lunch in peace. How can Baba be so cold?"

Baba gestured to Chhagan, "What are you thinking?"

Chhagan replied that it was nothing. Baba shrugged and then spelled out, "You only think of the man who is hurt, but you have no thought for Me. How will you help him by thinking about him? Your sympathy is empty; it carries no weight.

"You see Me eating food, but what do you know of what I am really doing for that man? If you believe that everything is in My hands and not a leaf moves without My will, then why don't you accept that whatever has happened to him — and whatever will happen to him — is according to My will? Your only duty is to follow My wish. Why give importance to your wish?

"I am eating this food, but it reaches the belly of that man! You can't see that. Remember, I am the Benefactor of all. Your sympathy cannot do a damned thing! To fulfill My wish, you have to burn up your desires. Only then will you be fit to serve Me."

Baba then sent Chhagan to see what had happened to the injured man. Chhagan was dumbfounded at the scene which met his eyes. The man had not only regained consciousness, but he was enjoying a cup of tea! He was about to be removed to a hospital in an ambulance and a doctor remarked that there was no serious injury. He would be all right and be able to walk once his fracture was set. Hearing this, Chhagan repented for his thoughts.

The fact was that Baba was not really hungry, but He pretended to be so in order to revive that man and to teach Chhagan a lesson about how He worked at times.

Baba would go to such lengths to drive home a message to His disciples, sacrificing His own comfort and often spending hours in the process for their sakes.

Like other mandali on past journeys, Chhagan became a scapegoat for Baba's goading. Due to Baba's frequent taunts since the journey started, Chhagan was becoming increasingly depressed. On 22nd May 1929, Baba criticized all: "No one gives Me companionship. The mandali have no thought for Me. I am suffering with pain in My heart, and I have to suffer additionally because of the mandali not being in a good mood. No one has any thought for Me; they only think of themselves. I can't tolerate this suffering anymore. It is killing Me! You are all trying to kill Me!"

Baba then lambasted Chhagan and Buasaheb for four hours, without letting up, until seven that night. The situation was so distressful that the group dreaded what would happen next. Baba concluded the scolding, "I fail to understand what Chhagan wants Me to do. He himself suffers and he makes others suffer. What harassment I put up with! My health is very bad — you all know this — and on top of it I have to pander to your moods. Now, if you want to stay, stay. Otherwise, pack up and get out. I won't tolerate this sort of behavior."

After a few minutes, Baba remarked to the other men, "I trouble Chhagan a lot. The whole night he keeps watch by My side, and when he is about to rest during the daytime, I don't allow him to sleep. What can he do? But what can I do? I don't like his sleeping and want him to be near Me, but how can he maintain a good mood without sleep?

Baba took Chhagan and the mandali on a guided tour to see the Agra Fort, the tomb of Nurjehan's father and mother, and the Taj Mahal. In the evening Baba went for a walk with the two boys, Raosaheb, and Kaka Shahane.

Quite weary from the journey, Chhagan awakened late the next morning and was severely taken to task by Baba. "Whatever I ask you to do, you do not do!" Baba scolded. Turning to the others, He fumed, "No one does what I ask! All of you have no care for Me! I try to wake you up at five and you go on sleeping." Baba also taunted Buasaheb; consequently, when it came time to eat, both He and Chhagan were in irritable moods.

Baba later tried to cajole Chhagan out of his depression by inquiring, "Are you here to serve Me or am I supposed to serve you?" Chhagan refused to cheer up and stopped eating. Baba personally served him a cup of tea, which soothed him.

In 1930, once, Chhagan was also ordered to cook Baba's food. However, Chhagan's hands were cut and badly blistered by the cave digging, and he had a standing order that before cooking Baba's food he was to wash his hands ten times with soap. He therefore told Baba, "My hands are cut. How can I wash them before cooking your food?"

"There is no need to wash them," replied Baba. "Bandage them and then begin."

"But look at my hands; they are filthy."

"Forget about the dirt. It is My order which washes out all dirt." So Chhagan would cook each day, and Baba often remarked how tasty the food was.

Chhagan brought the boy to Baba who at first liked him very much. But after a few minutes, Baba disapprovingly noticed a small cut on the boy's leg, and directed Chhagan, "Take the boy to Meherabad, where Padri can treat his wound. Tell Padri to bring him to Panchgani once the wound is healed."

Chhagan was puzzled by Baba's instructions, as the boy's injury seemed minor. He wondered why Baba was making such a fuss, forcing him to take the boy all the way to Meherabad, when a local doctor could easily have treated the wound. But He did not say anything and, before he left, Baba further instructed him to be sure to contact Sadashiv Patil in Poona on the way and deliver a message, which Baba dictated.

Chhagan then left Panchgani with the boy, whose name was Yusuf. In Poona, as he was nearing Sadashiv's house, a Muslim woman who was filling her water vessels at a public well saw the boy and suddenly began calling out, "Yusuf, Yusuf!" She came running to the boy, embraced him and cried, "Yusuf, my son, where have you been? I can't believe it is really you! I have been longing for sight of you day and night for years! My son, have you forgotten your own mother?"

A crowd gathered and Chhagan could not understand what was happening. He grew frightened by the presence of so many people and forced his way to Sadashiv's house, where he described the situation to him. Sadashiv approached the woman and questioned her. He found out the woman's only son had disappeared from home five years before, and she and her husband's search had proved fruitless. The parents were overwrought with distress at their failure to locate their lost child. Grief-stricken, they had all but given up hope of ever seeing him again.

Chhagan then asked Sadashiv, "What am I to do now" Baba's order was to take the boy to Meherabad." Sadashiv sent a telegram to Baba explaining the situation. Baba's reply promptly came, instructing Chhagan to leave the boy with his parents and return to Panchgani. Only then did Chhagan understand why Baba had sent him on this journey. The message Baba had given Chhagan to convey to Sadashiv was nothing important, but Baba wished to reunite the child with his heartbroken parents.

In 1936, Shakuntala daughter named was born on the 18th to Chhagan's wife, who became quite ill after the delivery. Four days later, Baba directed Chhagan to take his wife to Ahmednagar and return after admitting her to the hospital. But Chhagan was in a bad mood and refused.

Baba asked him why he did not want to go. Chhagan replied, "When nothing avails, what is the use of going?"

"What do you mean nothing avails?" Baba asked. "Everything avails! You keep night watch by My side, eat vegetarian food, do not drink liquor and are not inclined to doing any evil deeds. Does this not all avail? Everything avails!"

This silenced Chhagan and Baba continued, "Mental upsets are present for all. Let thoughts come and go, but do not be anxious about them. Do not pay attention to whatever thoughts, however evil, might arise. Continue obeying Me. This will set things right. Otherwise it will mean unnecessary harassment for you, and for Me, also! If you want to be with Me, you must obey My orders. If not, then go away!"

So according to Baba's wish, Chhagan took his wife to a nursing home in Ahmednagar, where his in-laws looked after her, and Chhagan returned to Meherabad.

In 1939, some masts were persuaded to come to Baba in Jabalpur, but when they could not be persuaded, Baba would leave Jabalpur to contact them. One day Chhagan brought a boy who was a mast from the town of Seoni. After contacting him, Baba sent him back with Chhagan. Many in Seoni believed the boy to be a saint. Upon his return, the young mast declared, "I see Meher Baba in everything and in every being!

Chhagan would look for boys and bring them to Baba, but Baba would always send them back and criticize Chhagan at length, "For goodness sake, what sort of boys do you bring Me? Are you blind? Can't you find even one to my liking?"

Chhagan replied, exasperated, "To find such a boy, I would have to be God-realized! This is not a job for an ordinary man!"

In India, the "profession" of being a sadhu or sanyasi is as common as the profession of a priest or preacher in the West. One day, while observing a mass gathering of sadhus and sanyasis, Baba remarked to the women, "Of these 8,000, only eight are real!"

Memo's sister-in-law (Sheriarji's sister) Piroja Mami (paternal aunt) once came to Bangalore to see her favorite nephew. After dinner, she went to Baba's bathroom to wash her hands. It was evening and Chhagan was on night watch. He stopped her before she could enter, and Piroja indignantly said, "I am Baba's mami. Who are you to stop me?"

"No one is allowed here," Chhagan informed her. "Baba is resting. Please go back."

Chagrined, Piroja Mami left. Baba called Chhagan and asked what all the commotion was about. When he was told, he called Piroja Mami back. Then winking at Chhagan, Baba began scolding him in front of her, "You pig! Why didn't you allow My mami to wash her hands?! Touch her feet and beg her forgiveness. Never, never treat her like that again! She is the Avatar's mami!"

Chhagan did as instructed, and Piroja Mami was, of course, satisfied. Baba then told her, "Mami, please take care not to come here at night. A ghost is haunting me, and that is why Chhagan tried to stop you from coming to this side. It is dangerous for you to come here at night."

"Oh, is that so?" she declared. "I didn't know. I will never come here again."

After she went out, Baba and Chhagan had a good laugh, and Baba remarked, "Mami is very innocent."

In 1943, when the meeting about the Divine Theme chart was going on, Chhagan was occupied with his duty of cooking and did not know what had transpired. He, like some of the other mandali, could not attend the programs, since he had to look after things and seldom had time to be present in the tent.

Chhagan was pondering his fate when Baba asked him, "What are you thinking?"

He replied, "I heard that you explained the Divine Theme to the gathering very well. I didn't get a chance to hear it."

"All right," Baba spelled out. "Now listen to this: In brief, you always live in water, but you have no idea what water is! Understood?"

Chhagan laughed and replied, "Yes, I have understood that much, Baba. I've grasped it well."

In 1945, speaking about mandali, Baba said about Chhagan: How can I describe the love of Chhagan? He has been with Me from the beginning.

In 1949, one afternoon, at five o'clock, Baba divided the mandali into two teams and a volleyball match was played at Meherabad. Annasaheb Kale was the referee, Sailor the captain of one team, and Sidhu of the other. Chhagan was in On Sailor's team. Baba awarded a prize of Rs.28 to the winning team.

Chhagan's fourteen-year-old daughter, Shakuntala, stayed at Meherabad during her school holidays and would always prepare and keep jam ready for Baba; but Baba rarely put in an appearance at their home. Still, in the hope that He would come, she kept up her habit, but perhaps not as vigilantly as she should have. As weeks passed, she prepared jam every day, but not as early as she used to do at the beginning.

On this day, when Baba arrived, he conveyed to Shakuntala that He was hungry and that she should give Him something to eat. Shakuntala had the jam on the stove, but it had not yet thickened. She shyly told Baba that it would take a little while for the jam to congeal. "Bring it as it is," He replied, and He ate the warm jam with a chapatti. Shakuntala felt ashamed of her laxity, and so renewed her practice as before. Although Baba was not visiting every day, she kept his jam ready on time; and thus the task proved a medium for remembering the Master.

One time, Baba asked Chhagan to bring milk to be served to Badri mast. It was 1:00 A.M. and the whole village was sound asleep. With much difficulty, Chhagan managed to persuade a villager to sell him a rupee worth of goat's milk, a little brown sugar and a piece of bhakri. Baba gave these to Badri Baba and then sat with him. By 2:30 A.M. the contact was over and Baba was happy. Badri Baba was a high mast, and Baba was quite satisfied with the work accomplished.

Eruch had lost money while journeying on mast tour with Baba in Badnera. The group immediately left for Badnera and, in order to search for the lost money and Eruch's shoe, Chhagan led the way on foot carrying a flashlight in each hand. Luckily, at the second mile Chhagan spotted Eruch's shoe and at the third, the bundle of currency notes was found.

Chhagan volunteered to walk to the town of Seoni and bring a new tire and tube. He left, but half an hour later they realized that he had forgotten to take any money with him. Vishnu was sent to catch up with him. A robbery had been committed that night and the police were patrolling the area. When Chhagan entered the town looking like a disheveled zombie, the police arrested him. Chhagan, however, was able to convince them that he was not the man they were looking for and he was released. Vishnu and Chhagan returned to the car with the new tube and tire. After it was fitted, they drove on to Seoni.

Chhagan has accepted to accompany Baba in New Life and wrote "Yes," but his wife started weeping when she found out. When he informed Baba, He was also freed. Baba, however, ordered Chhagan to eat food obtained by begging. Later Baba amended the order, telling Chhagan to move back to Meherabad. He would be given a small stipend, which he was to supplement from outside employment.

In 1055, at Khuldabad, Chhagan cooked and Baidul prepared the tea. Both were at constant loggerheads, but they fought only in the kitchen and their dispute was not broadcast. Chhagan was an excellent cook, and Baidul only mediocre. The cause of the strife was that Baidul would try to make suggestions to Chhagan about his cooking.

In 1958, Chhagan was in charge of the kitchen and labored tirelessly to provide tasty meals and tea to the congregation. He would go to sleep at 8:00 P.M., and Bhau would wake him at midnight to begin preparations for breakfast, and then go to sleep himself. Getting up at 4:00 A.M., Bhau would go to the makeshift kitchen where Chhagan would be ready with breakfast for 800 persons and would be starting to make their tea. At 5:00 A.M. the sahavas men and women would have breakfast, and everything would go off like clockwork. Yet, those who attended had no idea of how it was all managed! )

In 1960, Chhagan's daughter, Shakuntala, 26, had married in May and came to Guruprasad in June with her family and husband, Suresh Kirtane, to receive Baba's blessing.

In 1967, Baba sent Chhagan as his representative to the annual melas (fairs) held at the end of November 1967 in Hamirpur (Meherpuri), Mahewa (Meherastana) and Nauranga (Meher Dham). Bhau was told to write a speech in Hindi for Chhagan to deliver. Before Chhagan departed on the journey, Baba called him to Meherazad and asked him to read the speech. Baba also sent for the women mandali, who came and listened outside the window of mandali hall behind a curtain. Chhagan read Bhau's speech and sang a few songs so well that Baba was immensely pleased and gave him a hearty embrace.

Baba also sent Chhagan to two other "Meher Melas" in Uttar Pradesh, one at Bagda and another at Khandarka, and later Baba sent him to Kanpur for Baba's birthday celebration. Each time, before Chhagan left, Baba would call him to Meherazad to read out the Hindi speeches prepared by Bhau. Chhagan would read them in the hall, before both the men and women mandali. It was a pastime for Baba, but for Bhau it was one more additional duty. He had to do night watch, the Hindi correspondence, be present with Baba in the day, write speeches for Sarosh and Amar Singh Saigal and then Chhagan, besides working on other writings.