DESAI MUNCHERJI SOHRABJI
While staying at Manzil-e-Meem, Baily completed the first part of his Gujarati account of Upasni Maharaj's life, and was almost halfway through the second part, when Baba said the first part should be published soon.
Baba opined that the manuscript should be edited first, and he suggested Soma Desai of Navsari. Soma Desai was the nom de plume of Sohrab Muncherji Desai, a well-known Gujarati author and scholar. Years before, during 1917, Merwan had sent a ghazal to Desai. Sohrabji was so inspired by this particular ghazal that he would read it often, and he ardently wished to meet its author. But he did not have the slightest idea who had written it; he had never heard of any writer named Huma.
Baily doubted that Desai would consent to such an undertaking, but Baba ordered him to leave for Navsari that evening.
There are two versions of what transpired in Navsari. One version (often repeated by Sohrabji's relatives) is that Baily duly informed Sohrabji that he had been sent by Meher Baba with the order that he should do the final editing of the manuscript. Sohrabji was irritated at this and demanded, "Who is this Meher Baba to order me to edit his work? I am no one's servant. Besides, I have no time for such work. Tell Meher Baba I cannot help him."
Baily tried his utmost to induce him to assist, but Sohrabji was obstinate and returned the manuscript. Baily returned to Bombay and informed Baba.
After a few days, Baily was sent again with this message: "Sohrabji, only you can do this work; it is Meher Baba's wish." When Baily delivered these words to him at Navsari, Sohrabji was all the more annoyed. He said, "Who does Meher Baba think he is? Tell him not to be so arrogant!" Baily did his best to elucidate about Baba, but Sohrabji refused to listen.
On his return, Baily narrated what had happened, and again Baba sent Baily and perhaps Rustom with the manuscript and this third message: "These manuscripts of Upasni Maharaj's biography are presented to you by Huma, which is Meher Baba's pen name. This work must be done by you." Baba had told them to leave the manuscript there and not to say anything else.
When Sohrabji saw Baily and Rustom again at his doorstep, he shouted, "Why have you come back to pester me?" But without giving him any further chance to protest, they delivered Baba's message, left the manuscript there and departed for Bombay. (They had no idea that for the past five years, Sohrabji had longed to meet the poet Huma.) Hearing the name Huma had a profound effect upon Sohrabji and he immediately calmed. He read the ghazal by Huma again. Tears came to his eyes and he touched his forehead to the manuscript papers in reverence.
Shortly thereafter, he wrote to Baba:
Sir, please excuse me. I bow down to your order. You had stolen my heart long ago, but only today is the secret of your identity revealed! Your leela is unique. I am yours!
— Sohrabji —
Years later, however, Baily wrote a different version of his first meeting with Soma Desai, in which he related that he was given a cordial welcome by Sohrabji. "There was something so pure about Soma's personality," Baily wrote, "that anybody would be attracted at first sight itself. Full of simplicity and humility, ready to serve others as if serving God, treating everyone as equal irrespective of caste, color or creed — a real man of God."
According to Baily, Sohrabji expressed his inability to take on such work as he had two pending books of his own to finish. Apologizing sincerely, he returned the manuscript to Baily without even opening it. He said, "Other than this seva (service), if I can do anything, I am willing to do so. My respects to Babashree from myself and my entire family.
I am desirous of his darshan and in future if there is any chance, I beg him to give me his darshan."
Baily returned to Bombay and gave a detailed account of his meeting to Baba. Baba told him to rest — and then return to Navsari and make the request to Desai again.
According to Baily, before he departed, Baba gave Baily a photograph of himself and said, "Give this to Desaiji as my gift and ask him to remember me continuously. He should not be in the least anxious or worried about anything, leaving everything to me and be resigned to me."
Along with the photo, Baba gave Baily instructions of what to say to Sohrabji regarding the work, saying with emphasis that corrections, editing and so forth were essential, and that the task was to be accomplished by Sohrabji alone. Under any and all conditions and circumstances, Baba emphasized, he wanted the work completed. Not only that, but Baba wanted Desai to arrange the proofreading, binding, printing and publishing of both volumes of the book!
When Baily presented Baba's photograph to Sohrabji, a profound change came over him. "For a few moments, he kept staring at Baba's photo. Then, slowly lifting it in both hands, he pressed it to his spectacles and forehead and finally flooded it with kisses. In a voice charged with emotion, he said, 'I wonder why I so strongly and intuitively feel deep within me that I have known Babashree for a very long time, that I have already been introduced to him and that we have an old contact or connection.' "
He agreed to do as "Babashree" requested.
Sohrabji began editing the work, during the course of which he had various spiritual experiences. He would write to Baba about some clarification in the manuscript, and no sooner had his letter been posted than Baba's letter containing the answer to his questions would arrive that very day! Rustom was sent to Navsari many times over the course of the next year in this connection.
In fact, Baba even wrote Sohrabji Desai to find someone who could render some of the biographical material into English, as Baba had plans "to circulate the book in Europe and America, especially the latter country, which is so very eager to know something more about spiritualism."
Baba also wished Upasni Maharaj's biography to be published in Urdu as well as in Marathi.
On 20 April 1924, Gulmai and Rustom arrived at four in the afternoon with special food for Baba. They brought a copy of the Iranian Association's journal Ahkbar, in which a critical review of Upasni Maharaj's Gujarati biography appeared. Sohrabji Desai had written an article in the same newspaper stating that he had met Meher Baba and fully believed that he was "the coming of the Jagat Guru [Master of the universe; the Avatar]!"
Sohrabji Desai had spoken to the Master about his friend Kaikobad Feram Dastur, and Baba assured him that Kaikobad would eventually come to him. Kaikobad was then 38 years old and a practicing Parsi priest. At Sohrabji's urging, on 14 May, Kaikobad came from Navsari for Baba's darshan. Adi Sr. met him at the station and drove him to Meherabad. After the bitter opposition Baba faced from the Zoroastrian community and in the Gujarati press, the mandali were eager to welcome such a pious and genuine Parsi spiritual seeker into their fold.
During the personal interview, Baba explained to Kaikobad about the four states of God and four types of faith. "If you follow my instructions to the letter," Baba promised him, "you will not only understand what I am saying theoretically, but actually see certain things." Kaikobad was deeply impressed. Noticing that Kaikobad's leg was injured, Baba examined it. He advised him to apply ash from the dhuni to the wound, and gave him some for this purpose. After staying overnight in Masaji's quarters at the Post Office, Kaikobad returned to Navsari the next evening. From that time on, he visited Baba at Meherabad frequently.
A small group of the Desai family met them at the train station and Baba embraced each one. He was taken to the Desai residence, where the rest of the family stood in line to meet him. Baba asked about Sohrabji, the famous elderly writer Soma Desai, who was critically ill. Baba was taken to his room before doing anything else. Baba comforted the old man and embraced him. Standing before Sohrabji, it was as if Baba had dropped a veil over the closing act of that life.
During his stay in Nagpur, Baba frequently sent Kaka to the railway station to bring any telegrams that might have been received for him, presumably expecting one from Navsari regarding Sohrabji. Baba was thus remembering the dear old man in his dying moments, and thereby enabling him to drink Wine. Minoo and Bapai's wedding was performed in Navsari on the 27th. The couple then went to Sohrabji for his blessings, which he gave. Twenty minutes later, he had a vision and saw Baba in a glorious form standing before him; then he merged with his vision! Baba had kept Sohrabji alive for this wedding, and as soon as it was over, he drowned him in his ocean of love and infinitude!
Baba received news of Sohrabji's passing the next day. As the telegram was being read out, Baba happily remarked, "Isn't that good? Well done!" as if congratulating himself. He had this message sent to the family: "Sohrabji has come to me and is happy."
As mentioned, Soma Desai was an eminent figure in Gujarati literature. He was the author of 100 books and a noteworthy contributor of articles and essays on spirituality to journals, newspapers and periodicals.