BEHRAMSHAW D. JESSAWALA (Pistol) – PAPPA JESSAWALA
Behramshah Jessawala (father of Eruch) was a self-made man; very disciplined and fiery (Baba nicknamed him as Pistol). He was a successful executive and married to Gaimai Satha a very beautiful wife. She was 15 years younger to him. He naturally wished his relatives and friends to see his beautiful wife expecting praise for him. But she was very much devoted to Zoroaster and later to Meher Baba.
In the family he was the strict disciplinarian who inculcated routine habits in his son Eruch which proved invaluable in Eruch’s subsequent life with Maher Baba.
Behramshah D. Jessawala, served as boiler inspector at Nagpur till he joined Baba in forties. He first met Baba in 1927. His entire family is totally devoted to Baba.
In 1938, fulfilling his promise, Eruch brought his family from Nagpur to Ahmednagar on 1st August 1938 to join Baba’s ashram. Pappa Jessawala had come with them also and, after discussing all the arrangements with Baba, Baba sent him back to Nagpur on the 5th August. He still had another year of service before he retired with a pension, and Baba advised him to complete his obligation and join him after one year.
Many of his lifetime events and conversation with Meher Baba are described below:
In 1936, before Baba left for Nagpur, Baba joked with him, “Pappa, I wanted Eruch to be with Me from his childhood, but you would not part with him. But had you turned him over to me at the time, I would have had to look after his upbringing and studies. So, I thank you for giving him to Me now and saving Me all the trouble. It has lightened My burden considerably.”
A few years before, when the Jessawalas had visited Meherabad, looking at Eruch, Baba asked Gaimai, “What is he studying?” She told Baba, and he replied, “Why do you want him to study further?
Give him to Me!”
Without hesitating, Gaimai said, “Take him, Baba; he is yours!”
Taken aback by this, Pappa Jessawala pleaded with Baba, “How can we give Eruch to you? He is our only son!”
Baba only smiled in reply, later indicating to Gaimai, “Eruch is My son; I will give you another.”
At this time in Nagpur, Gaimai was pregnant and two months later a second son named Meherwan was born.
Baba and mandali reached Nagpur at 9:30 on the morning of 26th December 1937 and met at the station by Pappa Jessawala and his son Eruch, Jal Kerawalla and Dr. Deshmukh. Baba rode in the Jessawala’s car with some of the mandali; the rest followed in another car to the Jessawalas’ grand residence, called Mary Lodge. Gaimai and her two daughters were waiting for Baba, standing in the doorway. Immediately as Baba entered, they embraced Him and prostrated, touching their foreheads to His feet. They then performed arti, breaking coconuts at Baba’s feet and tossing flowers and sprinkling scented water everywhere.
Baba retired to the main bedroom. After a quick bath and breakfast, Baba granted an interview to Deshmukh and two of his students, Sushila and Vimala
In 1938, Pappa Jessawala had a fiery temperament (in fact, Baba’s hand sign for him was shooting a gun, and he would refer to him as the “Pistol”), and Eruch was doubtful of his consent.
Pappa Jessawala came to Meherabad on the 21st October 1938, and saw Baba. A three-hour meeting was held, in which Pappa agreed to allow his family to remain at Meherabad and to leave their responsibility to Baba’s care.
But when Pappa was told what Baba had ordered, he spread his arms and told his family, “I have worked hard and built up this property for your sakes. It is for your comfort and happiness. If you find happiness in staying with Baba, I have no objection. But do not throw the responsibility of selling all this upon me. You all attend to it, if you really want to go.” According to Baba’s instructions, Eruch and his mother and sisters then spent an intense few months selling all their possessions except their car. (Far fewer proceeds were realized due to the haste required). Society ridiculed them and opposed their decision, but they were firm in their resolve.
In 1939, Pappa Jessawala had retired and come to Bangalore to live in the ashram with his family. Baba asked Pappa to accompany Kaka and Adi Sr. to bring a mast to the Links. The mast’s name was Chaddarwala — a great sixth-plane mast and the chargeman of Bangalore. Pappa demurred explaining, “Kaka and Adi are more experienced than I am. It is better they go.”
But Baba instructed, “I wish you to take part in this mast work. I have work to do through you. Even if the mast bites you, don’t be afraid!”
Pappa was afraid and said, “I have diabetes. If he bites me I will become ill!”
Baba insisted, “You have to go. I want you to be in charge of the mast ashram here, so you must do this work.”
The idea did not appeal to Pappa, but he went with Kaka and Adi anyway the same day, in a taxi into the city. They followed the mast from morning to evening, trying to coax him to come with them. Finally, when it was dark, with much difficulty the mast was persuaded to accompany them in the taxi and was brought to the Links. On the way, the mast began slapping and cursing Pappa, but he tolerated it. When they saw Baba, Pappa declared, “Here is your mast! We were only able to bring him after the greatest trouble, so that you could do your work with him!”
In 1939, at Byramangala (Karnataka), Papa Jessawala was the head of the reception committee; when program began in the morning, Pappa Jessawala, garlanded Baba on His arrival. In the Master’s honor, Syed Rasul Arif recited a poem in Urdu and Sampath Aiyangar delivered a speech. Ghani then explained the significance of the seven-metal spade which Baba would use to break the ground. Baba proceeded to break the ground and lay the foundation. Sitting on a special stone seat (which was to be kept as a cornerstone of the future building), Baba rose and scooped a little earth with a special seven-metal shovel (forged at a local workshop) as acclamations in his praise rent the air. Baba struck the earth seven times and sat back on His special seat. The message from Baba was then read out by Aiyangar
In 1940, Pappa Jessawala could not find a suitable bungalow to rent in Rangoon. He telegraphed this to Baba who immediately canceled his proposed visit to Burma. Pappa returned to Calcutta, and Baba sent Chanji to meet him with new instructions to search for an appropriate spot for Baba on Ankai Mountain near Manmad. From Calcutta, Pappa went directly to Manmad.
Pappa Jessawala and Kaka Baria had been sent to Ankai on 26th July 1940. They returned to Meherabad on the 28th, after visiting some caves on the hill. Two days later, Baba sent a group of five men — Pappa, Gustadji, Pleader, Savak and Swami Bhabananda — to stay at Ankai in the caves for one full year, coinciding with Baba’s seclusion at Meherabad. Gustadji was already observing silence and Pleader, Savak and Bhabananda were ordered to remain silent also. Pappa was to be their spokesman, and Baba instructed all “to obey” Pappa. Baba directed Pappa to look after the others well. While the group was preparing to depart for Ankai, Baba encouraged Pappa seriously, “Your austerities on the mountain will result in your spiritual progress.” How Pappa’s and the others’ “spiritual progress” was achieved will be seen soon!
Baba then told the women about the five men staying in Ankai:
Theirs is a hard test. Four of them observe silence and the one who is allowed to speak is the Pistol (Pappa). He does everything and makes so much of a row that it drives them all crazy. He gets up at 4:00 A.M. and wakes them up just to keep him company. Every week things have to be brought from Manmad. There are no wells or proper shelter there. In their weekly report the four under him reported, “We will keep silence for eternity and fast to death-only if Pistol is not here!” I replied, “Stay with Pistol and keep silence only for one year.”
Four “prisoners of the Pistol” at the Ankai Cave were having a rough time under the strange schedule arranged by Pappa Jessawala. Gustadji got so fed up with Pappa’s regimen, he had Savak write a pleading letter to Baba, on his behalf, to this effect:
I was with Sai Baba; I was with Upasni Maharaj; I was with Babajan; and now I am with you, Meher Baba. But I have never come across a “Master” like Pappa! Affairs here have reached such a state that, either I will have to go away, or the “Master” will have to leave. If you want to save us from this sorry situation, the only solution is to free us from the Pistol’s clutches!
In 1941, Pappa had brought nearly 60 boys, whom he had made stand at attention in a row on the railway station platform. He proudly told Baba, “Select whomever you like. You’ve no idea how difficult it was to find such fine boys!” This made Baba laugh, and giving a rupee to each boy, he sent them all away.
Pappa asked incredulously, “Didn’t you like even one?”
“There’s no question of liking,” Baba said. “My work is over.”
Your work is over? How could it be over by paying a rupee to each? I could have done that, and it would have saved me the trouble of rounding them up and bringing them here.”
Smiling, Baba replied, “It is my work; how can you understand it?”
“Strange, very strange work indeed! With so much effort, I found and brought so many boys — and you sent them all back. Is this the way you work?”
Again, this made Baba laugh, and He calmed him, “Don’t worry, Pappa. You will reap the fruit of your labor. This work was given to you solely for the purpose of allowing you to serve Me.”
In 1942, Pappa Jessawala had been entrusted with the work of disposing of the Byramangala property, at the best price available. The land there for Baba’s proposed center was between five to seven hundred acres, at the time. Pappa was traveling back and forth between Dehra Dun, Ahmednagar, Nasik and Bombay for this work, while his family remained in Bangalore, according to Baba’s instruction.
Pappa arrived in Dehra Dun on the morning of 12th April 1942 and left the following night for Ahmednagar and Nasik, after meeting Baba.
Rumors were rampant at this time that Bangalore was in imminent danger of being bombed by the Japanese. There was a huge exodus from the city, and it became almost deserted. Pappa, fearing for his family’s safety, sent a telegram to Eruch in Bangalore, telling him to come immediately to Dehra Dun with the rest of the family and all of their belongings.
Pappa sent the telegram from Ahmednagar, on his own, without consulting Baba — but he signed it as being from Baba, as he knew his family would obey such an instruction if it came from Baba.
When Eruch, with others arrived in Dehra Dun on 17th April 1942, Baba was very displeased to see them and asked, “Why have you all come here?”
Eruch replied, “Because Pappa sent me a telegram to come, saying it was Your order!”
Later, when Pappa returned to Dehra Dun, Baba asked him why he had cabled his family without Baba’s permission. Pappa explained, “Bombs are falling on Chittagong. Who knows when they will start falling on India? I was frightened, so I sent them the telegram.”
“But you should have asked Me!” Baba chided.
“You were not there and to delay in times of danger is not good. Times of war are times of worry and trouble. For safety’s sake, steps must be taken immediately.”
Baba teased, “Everyone thinks you are so brave; now, even you are afraid!”
“How can one be courageous when bombs are raining down?” Pappa replied.
On their way to Dehra Dun, the family’s household items had been lost when the baggage car of their train got connected to a different train. They had to make do without their belongings (though everything was eventually recovered months later). Because he had so few clothes, young Meherwan would wear Mani’s blouses. In the words of Pappa Jessawala: “Though their clothes were lost, their lives were saved!”
In 1943, Pappa Jessawala, Eruch and Sadashiv Patil arranged a small darshan function in Poona in honor of Mehera’s birthday, and Sarosh drove Baba there on the 30th of December 1943, Mehera, Mani, Margaret, Meheru and Walu accompanied him and were accommodated at Bindra House. Pappa and Eruch had to move into the garage, as they were not to see the women.
In 1944, after the day’s program, Baba ordered Pappa to keep watch near the Bindra House gate, and not permit anyone to enter. So, Pappa took up his post and stood at the gate…
Soon, Ghani came to see Baba, but Pappa prevented him from entering. Annoyed, Ghani asked, “Who are you to tell me I can’t go inside?”
“It is Baba’s order,” said Pappa.
“Go and inform Baba that I have come. He himself has called me, and it is necessary that I see Him.”
“Baba has told me not to permit entrance to anyone, and he did not say to come and inform Him of anyone’s arrival.”
Baba was enjoying this scene from the window. Shortly, He called both inside and assured Pappa, “I am very happy with you. You do your duty 100 percent. This is the way to obey Me. Even if a king comes, don’t allow him to enter! Only you obey Me perfectly. You are one man who can be trusted.”
Pappa was beaming with pride, and Ghani asked sarcastically, “He can be trusted and not us?”
Baba winked at Ghani, and he kept quiet.
Pappa said, “I will not permit anyone to enter, Baba. But you, also, should not call anyone.”
“Quite true, quite true,” Baba gestured. “I will not call anyone else.”
Reassured, Pappa resumed his position by the gate, where he shortly encountered another old lover — Dhake of Ahmednagar. Pappa stopped him, and Dhake became enraged. Pappa then went to Baba and complained, “What sort of illiterate people come to you? They have no idea about obedience. Dhake should be fired from the mouth of cannon! He is a bad sort of fellow, and I don’t think you should allow him your darshan.”
Baba called young Meherwan and told him, “Tell Dhake to leave. I don’t want to see his black face!” This pleased Pappa and he calmed down. Shortly thereafter, Baba sent Pappa on an errand and called Dhake inside. Baba met with him, and he left.
Pappa returned and resumed his watch at the gate. Then Gadekar came with his wife Gunatai. Pappa informed Baba, and Baba teased him, “I had complete trust in you that you would not allow even a king to enter. How has Gadekar bewitched you?”
“Baba, they are both great lovers of yours and above even an emperor! He spreads your love everywhere.”
“Since you praise them so much, I will see them. Send them in.” Gadekar and his wife went in, and Baba met them. Baba wanted to see them, and Pappa’s praise gave him the excuse.
On Sunday, 24 November 1946, Baba dictated instructions to nine close disciples to find either a mast or saint from various areas of India. Papa Jessawala was the chosen one.
Several visitors came to Meherazad in December 1948 to see Baba. Among them were Daulat Singh again, with his son Upkar, Kharmen Masi’s son Homi, Jal Rusi and Kishan Singh. Pappa Jessawala came on 4 December with fruit trees to be planted at Meherazad. Baba told him, “You will be doing a great service to Me if you can manage to sell off the Byramangala lands.” Pappa had been asked to do this before, but the matter was still unresolved. A power-of-attorney from Baba was executed and given to Pappa for this purpose
In 1949, the postponement of opening an ashram in Mandla disappointed many people there. Their letters requesting Baba to reconsider came frequently to Bangalore. It was therefore decided to build a small structure on the property in Mandla. For that purpose, Baba sent Pendu, Pappa Jessawala and Homi (Kharmen Masi’s son) there. Baba instructed Pendu to build an exact replica of His Tomb on Meherabad Hill. Pendu and Pappa were to look after the construction work for two months and Homi was to cook for them. “Mandla is My spiritual home of ages ago,” Baba remarked. “I am having this small structure built there because of My link with it from the past.”
In 1952, Baba had come to Poona, at Don and Eruch’s urging, to have a set of dentures made, for which Pappa Jessawala had contacted their family dentist, Dr. Bharucha. Eruch had brought Dr. Bharucha to Meherazad on the 16th, for the initial examination. The dentures were now to be fitted.
Bharucha agreed to supply platinum dentures for Rs.600. But instead, when they were delivered they were not made out of platinum, but of a cheaper material which was lighter. Pappa was furious and quarreled with the dentist, arguing that he should not be made to pay the platinum price. Pappa railed, “Such deceit is not good. We had agreed to pay Rs.600 for platinum, not ordinary dentures.” Finally, the matter was settled at a lower price, and the doctor was paid Rs.450.
Pappa informed Baba of this, but Baba stated, “Go and pay him the remaining balance.”
“What are you saying, Baba?” Pappa Jessawala asked incredulously. “Why should he be rewarded for his trickery?”
Baba replied, “Just to make him remember his deceit, he should be paid the Rs.150. It will remind him of what he did. My ways are quite different from the world’s.”
As decided by Baba, eleven men from the group were to repeat God’s name on Baba’s behalf, continuously from the 2nd of November to the morning of the 14th, in his Jhopdi. The repetition was to be non-stop the full 24 hours throughout the next twelve days. Pappa Jessawala, as a Zoroastrian, was to repeat Ya Yezdan from 9 A.M to 11 A.M.
In 1959, at night, exactly at ten o’clock when Meherwan was about to go to bed, Pappa shouted for him, Meherwan was in quandary. Baba had ordered him to go to bed at ten o’clock, now this unexpected situation has arisen. Meherwan lay down quickly to fulfill Baba’s order and then ran to his father’s bedside. He found Pappa breathing with difficulty and sweating profusely. Anxious about Pappa’s condition, Meherwan went out to bring the doctor, but it was too late. Pappa’s time had come. He died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 74 with the word Baba on his lips.
Guruprasad was informed and Baba sent Nariman and Meherjee to Bindra House. According to Baba’s instructions, Eruch stayed at Guruprasad. Pappa was merged forever in Baba’s Ocean of Divinity. Meherwan was not upset over his demise — he was worried about his own disobedience to Baba’s instruction.
Pappa Jessawala’s body was removed that night to the Zoroastrian bangli (a place where corpses are bathed and kept temporarily for offering prayers). The next morning, Saturday, 30th May 1959, at 7:00 A.M., Baba went to Bindra House accompanied by Eruch and sat in Pappa’s room. There, Baba put Pappa’s hat on His head and gave Eruch Homi Damania’s cap to wear. Baba asked for something to eat, and Roshan and Naja prepared food for Him. He wanted bread with it, but there was no bread in the house.
On the pretext of bringing some bread from a nearby bakery, Baba again sat in the car with the mandali. On their way, they were driven past the bangli at the exact moment when Pappa’s body was being taken in a procession to the Tower of Silence. Baba had the car stopped. After watching the procession for a few minutes, Baba remarked, “The work is completed.”
He then asked Eruch, “What happens after you eat?”
Eruch said, “You digest your food and then defecate the waste.”
Baba explained, “The body is to the soul as the waste is to the food. The body eventually becomes the excreta of the soul. Death is the process by which the soul excretes the human body. How do you feel after you go to the toilet?”
“Relieved and happy.”
“The soul, too, feels happy and relieved to be free of the body. That is how one should feel about anyone’s death.” Later, Baba remarked how fortunate Pappa was that, even at this final stage, Baba’s glance had fallen on him.
Taking Pappa’s hat with him, Baba returned to Bindra House for lunch with Eruch and his family, and then proceeded to Guruprasad. All at Bindra House were as calm as if nothing had happened. This was Baba’s love-game and His gift to His lovers. They had faith in Baba’s words that everything in the world is unreal and they remained unaffected.
Pappa died on 29-5-1959, Baba said “Papa has come to Me forever.”
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