DELIA DE LEON (Leyla)
She was an actress. With her brother Mr. Jack de Leon, (Playwright and scenario writer) she started the little experimental Q. Theatre. She was very fond of literature and art and inclined towards the higher ideals of life.
She came into contact with Baba in 1931, and has ever since been His ardent devotee, accompanied Him on His tours in Europe, and had also been to India with the first western group.
A spiritual drama was being staged in Delia’s heart, and she surrendered to Baba forever. She was now eager to witness the play within, and she clung to Baba’s feet for all time to come. It was a wonderful was meeting in the theater with the Star of the Universal Show!
Delia was destined to play a part in the Divine Drama. She was to play her true role in the Master’s universal cinema as one of His circle members
Further narrations of her experiences are in her words.
Baba wanted to visit the theatre, so Margaret Craske bought tickets for a musical comedy and she invited me to come. She instructed me to wait by the box office until Baba’s party was seated. I was standing there when they passed. They had decked Baba out in a long English coat and He wore a hat that was down to His nose. His hair was flowing. Once Baba’s party had left the lobby, Meredith appeared and took me to His box.
There was one empty seat beside Baba; they told me to sit there. He simply looked at me and patted my hand. During the performance I hardly saw or heard anything except Baba. He chuckled quite a lot because there was a funny fat man in the play and Baba always liked fat men and comedians. After the play, I just looked at Him and said, “Baba, I must see you again.” He nodded.
He spent one week in London and I went every day to see Him at Kitty Davy’s house. I was with Him most of the time. He went to the cinema, He saw many people and when any of us asked Baba to go out He always had a lot of people come along, not just two or three.
The night before Baba left England we played Negro spirituals. He was especially fond of “Steal Away to Jesus,” and “Is There Anybody Here like Weeping Mary?” He sat among us, beautiful and radiant, while the songs played, and we were all terribly sad because we did not know when we would see Him again. He said, “Oh yes. You will see Me again.”
On one occasion He said to me, “You’re very lucky to have met Me now,” and He added, “It’s not luck that brings you here.”
When Baba came to England again on 24th June, 1934, I had a flat in Hampstead all ready for Him to stay. It was a large flat with a garden, lent by my sister-in-law, and so we were able to accommodate Baba, Elizabeth, Norina, Kitty, Margaret, Mabel, and myself. The men mandali and Quentin stayed at Margaret’s flat not far away.
My mother was then staying with my aunt and grandmother at the Star and Garter Hotel in Richmond (now the Petersham Hotel). Baba promised to see her so Minta drove us over and He had tea with them in their private sitting room overlooking the river. He was so kind and gentle with the old people and we naively accepted all this, not properly realizing how amazing it was that the Lord of the Universe, in the midst of all His work and activities, should find the time to visit one’s relations.
Although, as always, He was attentive and charming, at one time He got a far-away look in His eyes and went out and stood quite a while alone on the balcony, looking at the river and the whole panorama, which is a very famous view. It was to this area that in the 1960’s, a group of young Baba lovers came to live and work.
Some of her life time interaction with Meher Baba are produced below.
Later in 1931, Delia brought her younger sister Aminta Toledano, 23, her brother Jack, 28, and her mother to meet Baba. (Her father had died many years before.)
In year 1932, in Venice, Baba gave each of His lovers an Eastern name: Audrey — Shirin; Mabel — Phiroze; Delia — Leyla. For years afterward, Baba would address or refer to his close ones by these names; they, in turn, would sign their letters likewise.
On the evening of 9th July 1933, Quentin, Margaret, Mabel and Delia staged a skit which Baba had asked them to prepare while he was away in Rome. The theme of the performance was what Baba had often repeated to them: “If you find me a perfect boy, I will break my silence.”
They had, therefore, created a skit in which all of them were old people now and such a boy had finally been found, but a cable from Baba was received, saying everything was postponed (“owing to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius”)! This caused them to faint and, as they did so, pledge: “We still have faith!” After the skit, Margaret and Quentin danced with an umbrella (in a take-off of Meredith and Margaret Starr), and Mabel, Anita and Delia did an imitation of an African chieftain and his tribe. Baba was highly amused.
From the middle of January in 1937, Baba outlined duties for each of the Westerners staying at Nasik. Everyone was to rise at 6:30 A.M., meditate for an hour and together take an hour lesson in learning Urdu from Ramjoo. Individual duties of Delia was one hour teaching drama and art; one hour dancing with Margaret; two hours gardening.
February 10th was Delia’s birthday. It had become a permitted “tradition” that the Westerners were allowed ice cream on anyone’s birthday.
They were about to enjoy this treat when Baba called Delia and Margaret to his room. Delia expected a birthday kiss or embrace, but when they went to Baba they saw he looked upset. He scolded them: “It pains me to hear that you two think that I am arranging my birthday celebrations on the 17th and 18th only to ‘impress’ the Westerners. Do you think I need to impress anyone? At least this much you should have realized by now!”
Baba had been informed that Delia had remarked to one of the mandali about Baba wishing to impress “Countess Tolstoy.” Seeing Baba’s disappointment with them, both began crying. After a while, he forgave them and led them into the dining room to celebrate Delia’s birthday. It was one birthday she was never to forget.
Baba called group and sent them off to let them prepare their costumes for the costume party that evening before dinner. Norina and Elizabeth came dressed as Siamese twins — both wrapped in one sari.
They won first prize. Second prize went to Margaret who was dressed as a witch. Delia won third as a Spanish flamenco dancer. After ice cream and cake, Baba called them into the living room and discussed his upcoming plans for another journey to Europe. A decision was taken to proceed to Cannes in the south of France, and Baba instructed Delia and others to return to England in June.
Both missed Baba desperately, Baba sent Delia this letter to cheer her up:
You have grown much in your understanding, and realize that all I do and all I make each of you suffer is only to draw you closer in love to me, your Beloved. Could I bear to see you all suffer if it were not that the goal to which suffering is leading you is the pearl of great price? The love that passeth all understanding.
Why are you one of My circle? Because you have within you the very thing you now so earnestly desire — the capacity to love and to love to the very end. And when this power to love has reached its perfected state — i.e., when you are without any thought of self — then you will experience happiness beyond anything you have as yet experienced. This is Union. Love for the Beloved free from self. It is the effort you are making to control your moods and emotions and to get above dark periods that has made you feel me so near.
You are right when you say I haunt you so that your longing and desire for Me have become increasingly intensified. Why? Is it not I who am this desire and longing? You are Mine, and it is Myself in you I love. Is not the struggle worthwhile?
Delia became terribly upset, as she too naturally wanted to join Baba in India. Baba cabled her: “Not to worry. You are where I want you to be.” (At the time, Delia had no idea that her brother-in-law had cabled Baba behind her back, saying Delia’s mother needed her to look after her there in England.)
From the Links Baba further wrote Delia:
You speak truly and from deep experience when you say you can only learn through suffering and experience. Do you know these lines of Hafiz?
He who would tread my path, the thorn of grief will find,
What pilgrim hath in fear of this, his quest resigned?
Though knowest well, he who attains true perfect love
Is he upon whose soul grief as a lamp hath shined!
On 8th October 1948, Baba sent Delia and Jean back to the West. Jean went to California, and Delia to London, to set up the League, and then on to Panama, where she had relatives. Baba had instructed her to look for a suitable villa in Panama for himself and the women and to await their arrival, as he wished to visit the republic on his next visit to the United States. But inevitably his plans changed and the trip was canceled.
In year 1952, as Delia and Jean were departing, Baba assured them, “Do not shed even a single tear, for you will be seeing me again — whatever happens.”
At one point, Baba bent his head and stated, “Peter loved me the most — but even he denied me.”
Delia asked, “Was that a conscious act or did he do it unconsciously?”
“None (of the apostles) loved Jesus as Peter did,” Baba stated. “It had to be. It was God’s will. He was conscious. Afterwards he realized me.”
Delia said, “I always understood that Judas was unconscious when he betrayed Christ.”
In year 1956 during his stay in America, Baba usually rose in the morning and after His tea at the Guest House with the women, he would walk to the Original Kitchen to be with His lovers. Then, with the women, He would walk to the ocean or ride in a Venetian gondola on the lake.
Delia was afraid of going out in the boat, and would nervously step into it. Her fidgety movements and loud fretting would rock the boat, which Baba enjoyed very much.
Once, Baba wrote to Delia to arrange something very difficult. Delia sent this telegram: “I will try.” Baba cabled back immediately, “Leave it.” Delia then realized that Baba was dissatisfied and cabled: “I will do my best.” Baba was pleased and answered, “Go ahead. I will help you.” Though very few words were exchanged in these telegrams, Delia found them to contain a valuable lesson, and remembered it for the rest of her life.
In 1956, Delia told Baba of how sad she was that she was not going with Him to America. Baba replied, “Had I known you could afford to pay for your fare, I would have suggested it.” But, of course, Delia knew that if he had really meant for her to go, it would have somehow happened.
References/Images from: Various Lord Meher volumes, discontinued website's ambprasarkendra & love-remembrances, images and dates, stories etc from respective copyright owners websites or publications used with permission - i.e. In His Service, Glow International, MeherBabaTravels, MSI and MNP Collections, from AvatarMeherBabaTrust, BelovedArchives websites and from various other website sources, Books, journal etc. More information where ever available with us like letter scans, stories etc are added. Kindly feel free to Contact us with any updates, photos or corrections etc.
- Adele Wolkin
- Anita de Caro
- Aranvaz Dadachanji
- Delia De Leon
- Dolly Irani
- Elizabeth C. Patterson
- Enid Corfe
- Gaimai Jessawala
- Gulamasi Satha
- Gulmai K Irani
- Gulnar Sukadwala
- Hedi Mertens
- Helen Dahm
- Irene Billo
- Ivy Duce
- Jane Barry Haynes
- Jean Adriel
- Jeanne Shaw
- Kakubai Deorukhkar
- Katie Irani
- Kharmen Masi
- Khorshed Irani
- Kitty Davy
- Manu Jessawala
- Margaret Craske
- Mary Backett
- Nadia Tolstoy
- Nonny Gayley
- Princess Norina Matchabelli
- Roshan Kerawala
- Shanta Devi
- Shirin Sheriar Iran