MUNDEGAR SHERIYAR IRANI (Bobo) Meher Baba’s father
Sheriyar Mundegar Irani was father of Meher Baba. Sheriarji was from Iran and sincere seeker of God. He went to all hardships to realize God. He did Chilla-Nashini of 41 days without any food and water. He was conveyed by angel that “You are not destined to gain God in your life but through your son your wish would be fulfilled. Dejected Sheriyar ji came to Bombay and stayed with his sister. Unwilling to marry He was forced to marry as girl of aged 6 years at His age of 40. Sheriarji and Shireenmai (as they came to be called out of respect) were destined to have nine children-seven sons and two daughters. Of these, three died in childhood: a son name Shirmand at seven months; another son named Jehangir at two years; and a daughter named Freni, who died of the plague in 1902 at the age of seven. Sheriar Meher Baba was second son. Mani was the daughter and youngest sister of Meher Baba.
His association with his son as God father and conversation are recorded as under:
In 1899, Sheriar opened a teashop in Char Bawdi in Poona. He, Shireen and little Merwan lived behind the shop for some months. They moved to Quarter Gate when Sheriar bought another teashop, christened Café Sheriar, where he also sold cold drinks, sandalwood and incense used by the Zoroastrians in their religious ceremonies. They lived behind this teashop, also, upstairs in a building on Irwin Road which faced Quarter Gate Square.
One day during this period, Merwan wanted to buy some candy, so He snuck a coin from His father’s pocket. At the neighbourhood store, He chose what He wanted and handed the coin to the shopkeeper, but the man returned it to Him, saying, “This money is no good. You have to give Me back the sweets.”
Merwan walked home disappointed and approached His father, “Bobo, this money is no good. Give Me some good money.”
Sheriar handed his son another coin and, using a colloquial expression, asked, “Does this man want money that can walk? All right, take this one to him. This coin will walk.” (“Money that can walk” referred to the currency being in circulation; the coin that the shopkeeper returned was no longer legal tender.)
Merwan examined the coin, puzzled by His father’s question. He asked, “How can it walk? Where are its legs? Is this a magic coin, Bobo?” Hearing these innocent remarks, Sheriar burst out laughing and explained the expression to his son.
Merwan had a mischievous side and continued to sneak money from his father’s pockets secretly. But, he also had a generous kind nature and He would give the money to beggars that came to His lane. (Perhaps, partly in emulation of His father). Shireen was disturbed when beggars started knocking at the door and she complained to Sheriar, telling him not to keep money in his pockets where Merwan could get at it.
Merwan would also steal sweets from the kitchen, leaving His mother wondering where they had gone. Despite her best efforts, she could not solve the mystery and the sweets kept disappearing no matter where she tried to hide them.
One day she caught hold of her son, “Merog, are you stealing sweets from the kitchen?”
With a surprised look, the Merwan replied, “What? Sweets? Memo, you know I only like dal and rice, and spinach. Why are you asking Me about sweets?” He was so earnest that Shireen believed Him. As a boy, Merwan was also fond of cream, which He would stealthily skim from the top of the milk pot.
It was in year 1901; one day Sheriar hung his coat on a high hook. But, when no one was around, Merwan climbed on a stool and took some coins. Outside, He distributed the coins to a few poor men who had come to the house. Sheriar and Shireen were watching from a distance. Shireen was rebuking Sheriar about it when Merwan came in. Immediately, Shireen began scolding Him, “Why do you always steal money? You are a thief!”
Merwan turned to His father and asked, “Am I a thief, Bobo?”
Laughing, Sheriar consoled his son, “No Merog, you are not a thief. Thieves do not give money to the poor.”
On 1st September 1902, at the age of eight, Merwan was admitted to the Sardar Khan Dastur Noshirwan Zoroastrian School in the Camp (cantonment) area, which He attended for a year. In the Pudumji School, boys and girls were taught separately, but in the Dastur School, classes were coeducational. Merwan did not like it. He felt shy in front of girls. The very first day of school, when He went home for lunch, He refused to go back in the afternoon. Despite entreaties from His mother, He would not reveal the reason for His attitude.
Later that same day when Jamshed came home, he informed Memo that Merwan did not want to go to the Dastur School because of the presence of girls in the class. Shireenmai confronted Merwan but He would not be swayed.
When Bobo came home that evening, he prevailed upon Merwan to go back. “If you do not go to school,” he reasoned, “years will pass by in vain without learning. If you do not like the company of girls, you can simply avoid them — but you have to go to school.” So Merwan resumed attendance the next day and followed His father’s advice. If an occasion arose when He had to speak with a girl, He would stare at the floor while talking to her.
In the year 1905, one morning there was a communal feast at the Zoroastrian fire-temple and all the Zoroastrian boys were let out of school an hour before lunch to participate. After the feast, there was plenty of time before school resumed for the afternoon. Merwan and his friends started playing a rough game which had one player on the ground who was the “hunter” protecting his base. The others climbed atop the wall surrounding the temple or the high trees in the compound. The object of the game was for the hunter to pursue and tag one of the boys before the others could leap down from the walls or trees and scramble to the base. In the course of the game, several of the boys got cuts and bruises.
Merwan was seated on the edge of the wall with his feet dangling over the side. The hunter climbed the wall as he chased one of the other boys, who escaped. Then the hunter lost his balance and bumped into Merwan from behind, knocking him to the ground. Merwan’s head struck a stone, causing a deep two-inch gash on his forehead. He started crying and was rushed to a doctor, who was unable to stop the bleeding.
Although different physicians attended Him, the bleeding continued for three days. On the third day, a physician applied one last remedy and warned Sheriarji, “Your son’s condition is grave; if the bleeding continues; the boy must be moved to a hospital.” The bleeding finally stopped after the third night. The physician was surprised and told Bobo the next day, “Your son has been given a new lease on life. I did not want to tell you, but I was convinced he would not survive.” For some time thereafter, Merwan suffered the pain of the wound and, even though the bandage was removed, He continually complained of headaches and weakening sight. Memo was afraid that He would gradually lose His eyesight and she forbade Him to read or write. Finally, after three months the headaches went away and Merwan’s vision returned to normal.
Merwan’s father, Sheriarji’s was a boy; he was the caretaker of the Tower of Silence in his hometown in Persia. Bobo told he used to see many spirits while he guarded the dead. Their presence was a common sight to him and he was not at all afraid of them and was never harmed by them. He told Merwan that, in their spirit-form, the good ones look just like humans; the bad ones look like humans also, but with their feet reversed – their heels are in front of their legs with the toes at the back.
He also told Merwan that departed souls and spirits gathered at the Tower of Silence and held meetings at night.”
During year 1909, living in Poona was a well-known European astrologer named Mr. Browne who was an acquaintance of Bobo’s. Mr. Browne persuaded Sheriarji to allow him to examine his son’s time of birth and predict his son’s future, since he had been impressed with Merwan for a long time and wanted to take a closer look at the boy’s astrological chart.
Merwan did not believe in such occult sciences, but on His father’s insistence, when He was fifteen, He and Bobo visited Mr. Browne one day. The man was also an adept palmist and wanted to read Merwan’s palm first, before doing an astrological chart. He scanned the boy’s palm intently and became confounded. He usually required only ten minutes to read someone’s palm, but he was so astounded that he examined Merwan’s hand for over an hour, consulting various books after minutely studying the lines. Mr. Browne then solemnly declared to Sheriarji, “In the future, this boy will become the greatest philosopher of the age.”
Mr. Browne’s prediction, however, produced no effect on either Merwan or His father. Merwan disliked fortune-telling or the occult arts and refused to discuss the subject. With the passing of time, the family forgot about the man’s prediction.
Merwan’s character sketch foretold years later by another astrologer proved accurate, as these excerpts indicate:
The person born under the planetary effects of this chart will be the doer of great and good deeds. The man will be industrious. He will attain glory and fame all over the world.
This person’s devotion is profoundly deep and intense and there will come a day when renunciation of all worldly things will manifest. Then he will become a great yogi and be acclaimed and worshiped as a great being. Anyone coming under this person’s gaze or influence will be captivated and charmed, for his power of attraction and personality are marvelous. In conclusion, this soul will do some great work for humanity…
Why is he born? To carry out the will and work of God on earth. This illustrious soul will be the medium of salvation for all who come in contact with him.”
During year 1914, after a few more days of Merwan’s strange behavior, Memo had had enough. Terribly worried, she and Bobo spent a considerable amount to consult the best physicians in Poona. Many were called to treat Merwan — chief among them was a family friend, Dr. Bharucha. He gave Merwan an injection of morphine, in an attempt to induce sleep; but the narcotic had no effect and the young man’s eyes remained open.
In the beginning of 1917, Sheriarji sold his teashop, borrowed money and obtained a license to open a toddy shop on Sachapir Street. Merwan started working in this new toddy shop two hours a day. He did all sorts of chores to help His father — washing and filling bottles, sweeping the floor, and selling drinks. At times, when a customer became intoxicated from too much to drink, Merwan would sit with him and sing Tukaram’s abhangs (devotional songs). The drunkard would merrily join in, clapping His hands and singing along. In this manner, the toddy shop truly became a tavern of Song, with Merwan as its keeper- distributing the wine of love to all who came there.
A few days passed while Merwanji continued His daily duties at his father’s toddy shop. Then one evening, a Maratha clerk working at the recruitment office mentioned to His father about Merwan’s enlistment. The father was a regular customer at Bobo’s shop and went for a drink, as usual. Merwanji knew him also, but He rarely worked in the toddy shop in the evening. The man started talking to Bobo. “Your son should be complimented,” he said. “You must be very proud of Him. It’s a big sacrifice on His part to volunteer and serve His country in this bloody war.”
Bobo at first could not follow what the man was talking about and thought he was under the influence of the toddy. He started making light of it, teasing the man, “My friend, you have drunk too many tonight. You don’t know what you are saying! My Merog, a recruit? Nonsense! Merog is not the military sort.”
The man was surprised by Bobo’s remarks and disclosed the facts of the matter: “I am telling you, Sheriar, it is true. My son told me that Merwanji signed the papers.” Only then did Bobo believe him, and he became anxious.
When Merwanji returned home from His nightly visit with Babajan, Bobo confronted Him immediately, “Son, I have heard some shocking news.”
Have you enlisted in the navy?”
Merwanji replied, “Yes, Father, that is a fact. I am joining to be near Baily and we’re going to travel all over the world together.”
“Listen to me, son,” Bobo said, “you must stay away from such things! Have your name withdrawn tomorrow!”
Merwanji refused, pointing out, “Once My name has been registered, it cannot be stricken. I want to join.”
Merwanji further pleaded, “Bobo, give Me your permission. Give Me your willing permission to join the navy.”
Bobo was obstinate and refused to hear another word. “Nonsense, you are not meant for such things, Merog! I do not want you to go away — it is difficult for me to let you out of my sight for even a few days — much less months or years at a time. Merog, you are not meant for such a life. I am going to that navy office tomorrow myself and make certain that your name is erased from the enlistment list.”
Bobo’s remarks did not affect Merwanji, and He disregarded His father’s threat. But the very next morning, Bobo did go to the head recruiting officer and, using his influence (and a thick packet of currency notes), had his son’s name removed. Merwanji appeared disappointed and, moreover, so was Baily. Bobo made Baily promise not to talk to Merwan about such things or he would forbid Him to visit. Baily promised and continued to meet Merwanji at the toddy shop every day during the remainder of his leave. The two friends reminisced about their childhood days and mutual friends, discussed poetry and talked about Baily’s future.
Merwanji’s father Sheriarji was a kind and generous man. Even when Bobo was older, he had the forbearance of an ascetic. He had not become wealthy, but was successful in his toddy shop. He gave money to the poor, and distributed not only financial help but blankets and clothing as well. If the toddy shop closed unusually late at night, Sheriarji would sleep there instead of returning home. Having slept many a night in the cold as a wandering dervish, he knew what it was to sleep on the streets. If He saw any poor person shivering in the cold, He would inevitably give His own blanket to him. This happened so often that one day Memo remarked caustically, “If we had collected the amount of blankets Merog has given away, we could have opened a blanket shop by now.”
Sheriarji’s family had grown quite large with six children, so on 15th February 1919, he purchased the house across the lane from Bhopla House, at 765 Butler Mohalla.
The new house (now known as Baba House) was more spacious and had a “wishing well” in the center of the back courtyard. For about a year, however, Bobo rented out the house. A room at the back, which had a separate entrance, was kept for Merwan’s use. Although Merwan Seth would often sleep at night at different places, every afternoon, He continued the terrible rite of banging His forehead on the stone floor in this room. Eventually this pounding stained the stone with blood, no matter how He tried to conceal it from his mother.
During year 1921, Memo would become deeply disturbed about her son’s situation and feel terrible anxiety about Merwan’s future. She would convey her fears to her husband, but Bobo was resigned that his son belonged to God. It was difficult for Memo to tolerate her husband’s resignation, for she wanted Merwan near her despite Merwan’s adamant refusal to agree to marriage, settling down and raising a family.
After this quarrel, Memo suffered a breakdown and her health deteriorated. She would lie in bed weeping and was, most of the time, insensible. She refused to cook, and the children and home were attended to by servants. Bobo called a doctor, who was concerned about her mental and physical condition. Memo’s mother Golandoon and Bobo did their best to nurse and comfort her, but she was disconsolate.
Weeks passed, there was no sign of recovery, and Bobo thought Memo might die. Once, while she was sleeping, Bobo, who was keeping watch over at her bedside, saw the door open and two figures approach her bed. One spirit resembled Merwan and the other, wearing a white turban and kafni, resembled Sai Baba. The two figures stayed a few minutes near Memo, gazing at her; then they vanished. Soon afterward, Memo awoke and, for the first time in weeks, spoke clearly and asked for water. Bobo poured water for her and, amazingly, Memo’s condition rapidly improved. She then became well and normal, much to the relief of everyone in the family.
In 1922, Sheriarji knew what had become of his son and who He was, but Memo continued to take him only as her favorite child whom she loved dearly. Naturally, his mother was pained by his staying away from home and in such an unbefitting hovel — a grass shack! She was still not reconciled to how Merog had changed, and shed tears over his absence.
In 1923, Baba with the mandali went to His family’s house in Butler Mohalla to visit His parents, brothers and sister. He inquired of Bobo’s business and Memo’s well-being. Sheriarji possessed a spiritual outlook and his mind was always absorbed in God, no matter what he was doing. While providing for his family, Bobo always remained resigned to the will of God as it presented itself. Shireenmai was more down-to-earth and practical in managing their large household.
Once, Baba visited Baba House and met with Bobo, Memo and Mani. When Baba arrived, He found Bobo standing before His photograph in worship. Baba embraced His father most graciously and lovingly. “Bobo was undoubtedly a true dervish,” Age noted. “In answer to his heart’s intense longing, Infinite Consciousness had taken human form as his son — rewarding Sheriarji for his years of wandering in search of Truth.
In year 1926, once, when Bobo was bedridden and all of Baba’s brothers were staying with Baba, a man knocked on their door late at night and informed Baba’s mother and father that Baba had been arrested and would shortly be sent to prison. Hearing this, Memo left Poona immediately by train and arrived in Meherabad that very night. Bobo, too, spent a sleepless night, chanting the name of Yezdan. When Memo found her beloved son safe and in good health, she sent a telegram to Sheriarji.
Bobo was a guileless person and fully trusted Mulog, whereas Shireenmai possessed a keen, intuitive intelligence and was not as easily fooled. One day Mulog called Bobo to his house and told him, “You are old. Why don’t you allow me to look after the toddy shops? Wouldn’t this be better for you? But if you agree, you must give your consent in writing, assigning responsibility to me. I have also purchased some additional acres of (toddy) trees and the deed requires your signature.” Bobo was ready to stop working by this time. Mulog brought a stamp paper which he told Bobo to sign. The details in the contract were blank, but Mulog said he would fill in all that was required after consulting an attorney. Trusting him, Bobo did as he was asked.
Mulog proved to be a treacherous fellow and completed the document with false statements. After some time, he claimed to have become the owner of all four toddy shops and produced the signed contract to prove it. The case was taken to court and dragged on for several years. Memo was overwrought and consulted an attorney. He would tell Memo what to say in court and she, in turn, would make Bobo memorize the attorney’s advice. The attorney told Bobo to tell the court simply that the signature on the contract was not his, but he refused to lie. Eventually the case was lost, and except for their house and a little money, Meher Baba’s parents were defrauded of the business they rightfully owned.
Bobo tried to console Memo by saying, “We have lost nothing, but look at the suffering ahead of him and what he will have to pay in lives to come. Mulog will have to repay the debt in his future births.”
Memo sardonically replied, “But I won’t be there to see it!”
Although Memo had bitterly recriminated, and everyone felt sorry for Bobo. Bobo, as always, was resigned to the will of God. He was not a vengeful man and his sympathies until the end were with the young man. Through a friend, he sent this message to Mulog:
I forgive you fully for what you have done. If there ever comes a time when you wish to ask my forgiveness, I may be dead because I am already an old man. So remember, there will be no reason for you to ask my forgiveness as today I have completely forgiven you. It is now a matter between yourself and God.
On 24th March 1932, Baba sailed from Bombay for England with His small group of six mandali, Memo and Mani had come to Bombay to bid Baba farewell, but Baba’s father Bobo was indisposed. However, before Baba’s departure, He had stopped by the family’s house in Poona, where Sheriarji met his beloved Merog for what was to be their last time together. Seeing his son’s loving countenance comforted Bobo’s heart, leaving God’s Light burning brightly there.
Previously, during the middle of the night on 30th April 1932, Baba had suddenly clapped and called Adi Sr. Baba pointed to his chin and then threw his hands upward. But Adi could not follow Baba’s gestures and Baba had sent him away. Only after the news arrived did Adi realize what Baba was gesturing that night. Pointing to his chin had signified a beard, Baba’s gesture for an old man.
But the next day, 4th May 1932, was not a happy one, for they received word that Baba’s father had died on 30th April 1932, at the age of 79. Ramjoo had sent a cable to London on the 1st, saying, “Father Sheriarji expired Bombay last night,” and Quentin forwarded the message to Lugano.
Memo was cabled: “Father Sheriarji is near Me. Don’t worry. Mind your health. Should I send Adi? Wire immediately. Baba”
Sheriarji’s body was taken to the Tower of Silence in Bombay.
Baba consoled His brothers Beheram and Adi Jr., and explained to them about death, “Death is necessary and is like sleep. When a person awakes from sleep, he finds himself as he was. However, after death, a person finds himself in a different atmosphere and in a different body. Both death and birth are dreams. Where is the sense in being merry or miserable for the sake of a dream?
“Bobo’s death, however, is not sleep. He has gone beyond it and is awake forever! He is emancipated and has gained mukti (liberation).”
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