SHIRIN SHERIAR IRANI (Bobo)
Shirin Sheriar Irani, Baba’s mother, lived from time to time in Poona and in Baba’s Ashram at Meherabad. She was totally devoted to Baba.
Shireenmai (as they came to be called out of respect) was 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.
Few surprising and interesting incident of her life with Baba are briefly described as below.
One day Shireen became so exasperated that she picked up child Meherwan (Baba) up outside and, taking Him back into the house, tied his leg to the bedpost with an old sari. She put a plate of puffed rice and some water near Him and then returned to the kitchen. Merwan started crying, upset by His loss of freedom, but Shireen ignored Him and eventually little Merwan fell asleep.
When Shireen came to check on Merwan, she found Him sleeping; on His cheeks tears sparkled like pearls. Shireen was overcome with tenderness for her son, for He looked so helpless leashed to the bedpost, and she untied Him. Moments after awakening, however, finding Himself no longer bound, He ran outside to the lane. Shireen would often have to tie Merwan to the bed, and this continued until he grew to a more manageable age. Sometimes Sheriar would come home, find his son tied, and free Him out of pity. But after He had played with His father, He would escape outside until a passing neighbour would pick Him up and bring Him back to the house
Memo pressed Merwan again to find another job, and He was accepted as a schoolteacher at Nargol village in Gujarat. He was hired to teach two subjects, English and Persian. His salary was Rs.200 per month and he would send half of it home to his mother. But this teaching job lasted for only a few months, and Merwan either quit or was fired.
Upon Merwan’s return to Poona, Memo again tried to find some steady employment for her son. She told Bobo that the sooner Merwan became involved with a steady job, the better he would feel and the sooner his “mental distress” would be alleviated. His mother would not leave Him alone or give Him a moment’s relief about getting a job. This went on every day, and her pestering was a constant irritation to Merwan.
As the years went on, Memo never gave up hope that Merog would be cured of His “mental affliction,” settle down with a family, and make something of His life. Behramji was a shrewd businessman and had several tea and toddy shops in Poona by this time. One day Memo took Him aside and offered to advance half the money necessary to start another toddy shop if Behramji would take Merog as a partner. Behramji was delighted and agreed to her offer. On 1st August 1918, Behramji procured a liquor license (this time he remembered to have it in his own name) and, in partnership with Merwanji, opened a new toddy shop at 723 Kasba Peth. Merwanji took the business seriously. Each morning from six until noon he worked in the toddy shop.
After Baba’s long stay at Sakori, Memo went to Babajan and asked when her son would come home. Babajan said “He is My beloved son. He belongs to the whole world, not to you!” Helpless Memo returned home frustrated. Later she requested that her mother, Golandaam and her niece, Naja, try to persuade Babajan to call Merwan back to Poona.
Finally, Memo became so distressed that she went to Sakori to confront Upasni Maharaj. Memo had been to Sakori a few time whenever Merwan had gone there she would inevitably find out and arrive later, hoping to persuade him to let her take Him back. Maharaj would trick her all the time
Maharaj greeted “Welcome, Mother, welcome! “Memo was irritated by his comment and asked, “How could I be your mother when you are so old?” “You are the mother of the entire universe, dear woman!” replied Upasni Maharaj.
Upasni gently replied, “Your son seems mentally unbalanced. I don’t know what to do about Him. I myself don’t force Him to stay. I have even beaten Him with a stick to chase Him away, but he will not go! What am I to do with Him? Memo replied, “Yes, it will help. I shall arrange his marriage as soon as we get back to Poona!” “That is a good idea,” replied Maharaj, but then he added, “Mother, do one thing first. When you find a nice girl for Merwan, find another girl for me. Then we can both come with you to be married.” Memo was shocked by Upasni’s request and replied, “Who will give his daughter to an old man like you?” “But when I am your son, how can I be unsuitable?”
After some time, Memo could not control her distress, and she also went to Kedgaon to plead with Narayan Maharaj about Merwan. On this occasion, Narayan received her with great respect and told her, “You are very, very fortunate. Your son is Jagat — the Lord of the universe — and you yourself will be worshiped in times to come as the mother of the entire universe. Have patience, everything will soon be all right. You will see. One day you will know who your son really is.”
Memo was comforted by Narayan’s gentle manner; however, she was not fully consoled nor did she understand the Sadguru’s remarks. Memo could not bear to be separated from Merwan much longer.
It was also difficult for Memo to bear the ridicule of the local Zoroastrian community. Some Zoroastrians in Poona would mock her son’s spiritual tendencies, telling her, “Merwan will run away to the Himalayas and become a naked sadhu. Memo continued to miss her son terribly. She could not tolerate being separated from Him any longer.
A week after the encounter with Upasni Maharaj, Memo went to Sakori again — more determined than ever. She confronted Maharaj and railed, “Why don’t you give me back my son? You have taken my son away, now send Him back!”
Turning and glancing at Memo’s son Adi, who had accompanied her, Upasni continued, “I’ll tell you what I will do. Do this for me: I’ll order Merwan to go back with you, but you will have to leave this son of yours here with me.” Memo became incensed, “What? How dare you! You have swallowed up one son and now you want to swallow another one?
Upasni said, “Your son does not want to go home, He does not want to get married, and He does not want children. Forget about your ideas and go back home. He wants to stay here with me.” Upasni embraced Memo and gently said, “I bow to your love for Merwan.” Memo left quite unconsoled.
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 Golandaam 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.
Spiritually, 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. Once Baba told His mother, “If you want salvation, bow down to Me and pray to Me.” Memo was indignant. “You are my son and you want me to bow down to you?! I pray only to Zoroaster.”
Memo came to Meherabad a few days later. She was disturbed, for she had found it shocking when she heard that Baba had distributed sweets to all when Jamshed died, and asked in a critical tone, “Merog, did you have to distribute sweets when your brother died? Do you know how disrespectful it looks and what some people in Poona are saying about you? Your brother dies and you distribute laddoos!” Baba calmed her with this reply: “Mother, if you could see Jamshed as I see him, you would not only have distributed laddoos but pedahs (a more expensive sweet}!”
Memo tried to prevail on Baba on His marriage Baba replied. “”As your son, I would never disobey you. Of course, I respect your wishes. However, in order to get married, there must be two persons — a man and a woman. What am I to do? God has raised me to such a state of consciousness that I do not find anyone else in the world but Me! I experience myself to be in all. God has made Me realize that I alone exist, and that all else is illusion. “When a man goes to a cinema and watches a movie of a beautiful actress on the screen, can he marry her? No, because she is only a two-dimensional image on the screen. Likewise, I see you all on the screen of maya. How then can I get married?” Memo was sincere in her wish, and Baba’s reply made her weep.
Memo was the main target of these antagonistic Zoroastrians, and she was troubled the most. While she was residing in Banu Mansion, all her neighbours, except for a bachelor, approached the landlord and threatened to vacate the building if he failed to evict Shireenmai. They even signed a petition to this effect.
Through Baba’s watchful nazar, matters worked themselves out in a wonderful manner. The man who was harassing Memo the most was transferred and subsequently left Bombay. In another tenant’s family there was a death, and this tenant, too, had to leave to stay with the dead relative’s family. Another lost his job. All the other tenants, except for the bachelor who had not taken part in deliberately causing trouble for Memo, for one reason or another moved out of the building within a month, and the Avatar’s mother was left in peace.
Memo was a courageous and bold woman. Because of her inner strength, she confronted the opposition straightforwardly. The same situation faced her in Poona, where she was constantly ridiculed wherever she went. But no harm came to her because of her intrepid nature. Her real strength was her belief in her son’s divinity, and Baba’s nazar was on her, which enabled her to face the bitter antagonism against Him.
In 1938, Once in Panchgani, Memo lost her temper, stormed out of the bungalow and hid behind some bushes. Baba himself went to search for her but could not find her. He sent a servant named Nana Koli to look for her. When Nana found her, he requested that she return to the house. But Shireenmai’s indignation had not yet cooled, and she flatly refused to comply. When Baba was informed, he went to her. Shireenmai was still fuming and would not listen. Baba seemingly got fed up with her and went back inside. After a while, he again sent Nana. When Nana explained to Shireenmai how upset Baba was, she went back and the incident was forgotten.
Once, on His mother’s visit, Baba gave the duty of looking after her to Gaimai, advising her, “Try your best to keep Shireenmai pleased and always do as she requests.” Gaimai was determined to serve her well.
Meanwhile Gaimai’s Sister Banumasi Kerawala was in Bombay and was about to join Baba with her two sons, Dadi and Sam. Memo asked Gaimai one day, “Write to Banu to bring me fish from Bombay when she comes.”
“But Mother,” Gaimai replied, “eating fish is forbidden in the ashram; it is against Baba’s order. Even the Westerners have to live on vegetarian food.”
“This restraint is for you people,” Memo said, “not for me! Send her a letter. What are you afraid of? Am I not your God’s mother?”
Gaimai thought: “Baba wants me to do as Shireenmai says, so I’d better carry out her request.” She wrote to her sister.
Pendu arrived from Meherabad on 6th April, with Savak Kotwal, Banumasi and Gaimai’s other sister Gulamasi Satha. Banumasi had brought the packet of fish, wrapped in ice. Baba was with the masts at the time.
Memo took the parcel inside and told Gaimai to cook it for her lunch. Gaimai prepared it, but before Shireenmai could eat it, Baba walked in and said, “I smell fish. Where is it coming from?” Gaimai told him everything and Baba became very, very displeased.
Memo intervened, “I have called for the fish! Why are you getting so upset with her?”
Baba said, “Mother, you can have fish in Poona, not here! No one can eat meat or fish in My ashram!”
“Who are you to stop me?” “I am God!” “You may be God for all, but to me you are my Merog. The doctor has told me to eat fish for my diabetes and you can’t stop me from eating it.”
As this heated argument was going on between mother and son, two stray cats slipped into the kitchen and made off with the entire fish! When Memo saw this, she wailed, “Merog! Why do you harass me so? You didn’t want me to eat it and so this had to happen!”
“Now do you believe that I am God?” Baba asked. “Maybe for others,” she conceded, “but to me you will always be my naughty Merog!” Baba had a hearty laugh and those present enjoyed the humor of the whole incident.
On a previous occasion, Baba told mother Shirin, “Have you given Me birth, it was I who first gave birth to you and then you bore Me later. I was your mother in the beginning of creation.”
Another time in Bangalore, someone presented Baba with a beautiful, costly shawl. Memo admired it and was thinking Baba would give it to her. Instead, touching the feet of a poor man with his forehead, Baba gave the shawl to him. Memo was upset. “Merog, have you any sense or not?” she asked. “Are you insane? Is that man superior to you in any way that you bow to him and give him such a valuable shawl? He looks as though he has not eaten in a week! What will he do with such an expensive wrap? He’ll sell it, buy illicit liquor and get drunk!”
“None is greater or lesser to Me,” Baba replied, “It is only Me who is in him — and in you also. In you, I did not like the shawl, and in him, I liked it. That is why I gave it to him.”
Memo shouted, “Don’t talk to me like that! I did not at all like seeing you keep your head on that vagabond’s feet.”
Baba shrugged and asked, “What can I do? I derive pleasure from such acts, because I see Myself in all. Except for Me, no one else exists.”
Once, when Memo attired herself in Gaimai’s silk sari, Baba asked her, “Whose sari is this?”
Memo said, “What is it to you?”
“Look, I am wearing an old, patched coat. See how I live, though I am the Avatar. You, being the Avatar’s mother, it does not behoove you to put on silk saris when the Avatar is going about in a tattered, patched coat!”
“Who told you to dress like that? You wear what you like.
In 1943, Memo sent for the tailor, and giving him cloth to make some blouses, she made this odd remark, “I don’t know if I’ll be alive to wear these clothes.” The fact was that Memo had had a dream in which she saw a red horse enter her house, and had taken this as a sign that her end was imminent.
On Sunday, 21 February 1943, Memo fell and suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors said they could not save her and that she would not survive. Baba was in Mahabaleshwar and was informed immediately. Two days later, on the 23rd, Baba arrived at the mandali’s quarters at eight o’clock in the morning, and instructed Chanji to leave for Poona to help His brothers (Jalbhai, Beheram and Adi Jr.) deal with the crisis. Baba also warned, “My mother might pass on, so inform all concerned in Bombay, Ahmednagar, and elsewhere, to be ready at any moment for the news.” Chanji left on the afternoon bus and arrived in Poona at seven in the evening. Baba’s three brothers were at the hospital, watching over their mother.
Memo was brought home on Thursday, 25th February 1943, but she was still unconscious. Yet she had a pleasant smile on her face, as if she were watching something magnificent. That night, at 9:40 P.M., Memo passed away at the age of 65, merging forever in the Ocean of bliss. Chanji recorded:
The end was remarkably calm and sudden. Just a quarter of an hour ago, we had seen her breathing hard, as usual. While Adi Jr., Beheram and Myself were lightly chitchatting in Beheram’s house, there was a sudden call that Shireenmai was collapsing. We rushed to her bed to find the end was coming. But so smooth was the final stage (about fifteen minutes) that none could definitely say when it truly ended.
Baba received a telegram that night and came directly to Poona from Mahabaleshwar. It was late when He arrived, but He did not enter Baba House to see Memo’s last remains, but instead stood outside at a distance in the lane. Shortly thereafter, He went to Bindra House with Eruch, who had accompanied Him.
At Bindra House, Baba remarked to Gaimai, “It is good Memo died before I came. Had she not died, I would not have allowed her to die, and she would have suffered greatly. She would have slowly recovered, but she would have been paralyzed for life.”
Gaimai related to Baba that when Memo had breathed her last, she (Gaimai) had seen many tiny, shimmering, golden hands emerge from Shireenmai’s nostrils and hover over her before floating away. Baba’s final remark was: “She is now freed.”
Shireenmai! Age will always remember you! “How blessed you were to have given birth to the Avatar!”
Memo dropped her physical body on 25-2-1943 (same date and month of Baba’s birthday).Meher Baba said, “Memo has come to Me and is now fully in bliss. Now Memo is quite happy free of all worldly ties.”
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