GUSTADJI NUSSESHERWANJI HANSOTIA (Gustadji)
Gustadji Nusserwanji Hansotia a Parsi from Gujarat, India, was one of Baba’s close Mandali. He was born on February, 20th 1880, in a village Hansot in Gujarat state. He was sent to live with aunt in Mumbai for his education, but he quit the school when he was in third grade. After his father’s death in 1905, he started doing a variety of jobs in Mumbai. He worked with One Mr. Mehta a photographer. He took also lessons in singing and playing harmonium. It was during this period that he heard the name of Sai Baba from his music teacher, and so also from his friend Homi.
On Homi’s insistence Gustadji went to Shirdi for Sai Baba’s darshan for first time. Sai Baba unexpectedly gave a very loving treatment and lovingly inquired about him. Gustad ji would also visit Hindu Master Upasani Maharaj in Sakori. Gustadji again went to Sai Baba to live permanently with him but this time he was totally neglected the Master. Still he stayed in Shirdi and had taken daily darshan sitting near Him but Sai Baba did not even look at him.
In April 1917, with Upasani Maharaj, Gustadji went to Mumbai invited by one of His devotees for foundation lying ceremony of a medical dispensary for poor, where Meher Baba (Merwanji) was also invited by Upasani Maharaj. Gustadji Met Meher Baba for the first time.
Upasani Maharaj ordered Gustadji to obey Meher Baba (Merwanji) and never leave Him. Gustadji started working with Meher Baba in Poona. He would perform the daily puja and arti in the nearby temple but he had no place to stay, therefore Meher Baba advised him to spend nights with Babajan on the street.
There had been many interesting incident during his stay as a mandali men with Baba conveyed messages making Gustadji as instrument. Few are briefed as under.
Gustadji was real fakir. He was as negligent to his clothes as he was of own body. He would wear the same faded coat, over a torn shirt and had one pair of patched trousers. Gustadji had the privilege to sing Arti of Upasani Maharaj at 5 O’ clock daily in a room where photograph of Upasani Maharaj was kept and Meher Baba (Merwanji) would sit at 3 O’ clock in the morning. During 1919, Gustadji along with Slamson (Gustadji Brother) and Nervous was managing Toddy shop.
During October 1917, Merwanji was staying with Upasni Maharaj at Sakori. One night Upasni sent Merwanji to Shirdi to see Gustadji, who was then living under Sai Baba’s guidance and had been fasting for months. Merwanji arrived about eleven at night and found Gustadji, who was astonished to learn that Merwanji had come just to see him. After Merwanji inquired about his health (the prolonged fasting had reduced him almost to a skeleton), Gustadji started talking about Sai Baba. Merwanji was about to leave when Gustadji suggested he come with him for Sai Baba’s darshan before departing. Merwanji replied, “I have no time! I must leave for Poona.” His leaving without meeting Sai Baba, further convinced Gustadji that Merwanji had come to Shirdi for the sole purpose of befriending him.
At this same time, Gustadji was set to journey to Poona and take his place by Merwan Seth’s side. Sai Baba had dropped His body in October 1918, and Gustadji had been living with Upasni Maharaj, who was acknowledged as a Perfect Master also an heir to Sai Baba’s spiritual charge. During the month of December, Upasni instructed Gustadji to leave Sakori and join Merwan Seth, who had previously written Gustadji that he had arranged a job for him in Poona, and included money to defray his traveling expenses. After arriving in Poona, Gustadji, under orders from Upasni Maharaj, was now to obey Merwan Seth’s instructions and orders.
Gustadji was first instructed to work during the day in the toddy shop. He would then perform the daily puja and arti ceremonies in the temple room next door, and, as per Merwan Seth’s instructions, spend all night with Babajan on the street under her neem tree. Gustadji got little or no rest, however, because Babajan did not sleep and he had to attend to her every need. It was winter and cold at night, and Gustadji would carry wood on his head from the toddy shop to Babajan’s area to make a fire to keep the old woman and himself warm.
After a few months, Gustadji suggested to Merwan Seth, “It would be more proper if Babajan had a better place on which to rest than the dirt road.”
Merwan Seth agreed, saying, “But first find out if it is all right with her. And ask if a wooden platform is good enough.” Gustadji asked Babajan, and again she agreed. Merwan Seth paid for the platform and arranged to have it built.
Again after few months, Gustadji approached Merwan Seth saying, “It would be more proper if Babajan had a better place on which to rest. How about having a mattress made?”
Merwan Seth agreed, then said, “But first find out if it is all right with her.”
Gustadji asked her. Babajan agreed, but told Gustadji, “You will have to carry the mattress wherever I go.”
Gustadji agreed. Merwan Seth paid for the mattress and it was given to her. That very first night, Babajan roamed throughout the streets of Poona with Gustadji following behind her, carrying the mattress on his head. Then it started raining. The mattress became heavier and heavier as the rain soaked it. Babajan made Gustadji stand with it on his head to dry, saying it was very precious because her “son” Merwan had given it to her. After a few days, the mattress rotted and was discarded, much to Gustadji’s relief.
Gustadji’s story is unique, as he was a devoted seeker and had a close association with three of the Perfect Masters of the Age — Sai Baba, Upasni Maharaj and Babajan. He was to become Merwan Seth’s closest companion. Gustadji was born in the village of Hansot in Gujarat on 20th February 1890. He was sent to live with his aunt in Bombay for his education, but he quit school when he was in the third standard (grade). His father died in 1905, and Gustadji started doing a variety of jobs, first working in the Indian government’s excise department, and later for private companies. However, Gustadji could not keep a job for long.
During a visit with his brother at Deolali near Nasik, Gustadji first heard of Sai Baba. His brother managed a toddy shop, and Gustadji also helped in the business. From 1910 onward Gustadji visited Sai Baba occasionally. When he moved back to Bombay, he was employed by Mr. A. B. Mehta as an assistant in his photographic studio. But from Gustadji’s first visit to Sai Baba, his heart was never in his work again. He felt more and more drawn to stay at Shirdi with the old fakir. He visited Sai Baba every month, sometimes staying four days, and, once, for as long as 20 days. At Shirdi, Gustadji also associated with Upasni Maharaj and would visit Maharaj at the Khandoba Temple. As related, it was during April 1917, while he was working for A. B. Mehta, that he first met Merwan at Sion in Bombay.
By 1918, Gustadji had been made the manager of a liquor store in Bombay, also owned by A. B. Mehta. After a few months at this new job, Gustadji fell seriously ill and had to quit. He was invited by Sai Baba to move to Shirdi, which he did. Upasni Maharaj had moved to Sakori and Gustadji would visit him there.
Other than a few occasional visits to Upasni, Gustadji stayed near Sai Baba in Shirdi for six months and fasted under his direction. Gustadji was close to Sai Baba and was present the day that Sai Baba died — 15th October 1918 — and witnessed Sai Baba’s funeral.
After Sai Baba was buried, Gustadji moved from Shirdi to live with Upasni Maharaj near Sakori. He had become gaunt and haggard under Sai Baba’s orders to fast, and had suffered severe hardships under Upasni also. Once Gustadji did something unknowingly wrong, and Upasni lost his temper with him and beat him with a bamboo cane so severely that the cane itself broke into pieces. Gustadji intuitively knew that he was serving penance for his past karma and remained under Upasni’s guidance, staying with him until Upasni sent him to Poona to be with Merwan Seth, who in turn sent him to Babajan every evening.
Yet one day something curious took place. Merwan Seth ordered Gustadji to sit with him in the temple room by the toddy shop. He ordered Gustadji not to leave the room, even to ease himself. After four hours, Gustadji’s bladder was so painful that when Merwan Seth was gone, he slipped out onto the street to relieve himself.
But as Gustadji sat in a corner to piddle, he looked round and saw Babajan running towards him. This was extraordinary, because Babajan rarely left her seat in the cantonment to venture into the city. Babajan grasped Gustadji’s arm and said, “Come on, fellow, with me.” She looked pleased, and Gustadji summoned a tonga to escort her back to her seat.
Just as the tonga was nearing Babajan’s neem tree, Ahmed Abbas came alongside on a bicycle, panting furiously. He pulled Gustadji out of the tonga onto the road. Ahmed Abbas told Gustadji that Merwan Seth had ordered him to go as fast as his bike would carry him to Babajan’s tree and prevent Gustadji from reaching there. Merwan Seth had explained that if Gustadji reached there with Babajan, Gustadji’s connection with Merwan Seth would be severed.
Ahmed Abbas had arrived just in time; another minute and it would have been too late. Gustadji then understood the importance of carefully obeying Merwan Seth’s instructions.
Gustadji thus became one of the first among Merwan Seth’s circle of disciples. His younger brother Ardeshir N. Hansotia (nicknamed Slamson), had also had contact with Sai Baba and Upasni Maharaj and also now became one of Merwan Seth’s close associates.
During this period, Gustadji was allowed to eat only a little boiled spinach with a small amount of dal and rice. Due to his severe fasts of many months under Sai Baba and Upasni Maharaj, he was already emaciated, and, under Merwan Seth he stayed extremely thin.
After some time, Merwan Seth allowed him to eat regular meals; however, at that time, Gustadji was more interested in performing the arti and puja ceremonies than in taking care of his body. Merwan Seth tried to persuade him to eat more regularly.
Gustadji would try to avoid going with Merwan Seth whenever he went to visit his aunt Dowla Masi, because she would force him to eat, scolding, “You must eat, Gustadji! Look at you. You’re as thin as a rail! Merog, order him to eat!” Merwan Seth would then laugh and order Gustadji to eat something to appease his aunt.
Gustadji would avoid Shireenmai, also – but for a different reason. Whenever Shireenmai saw him, she would abuse Gustadji, blaming him for “encouraging” Merwan. “This is the man who is responsible for taking my Merwan away from me!” she often lamented.
Gustadji was a fakir at heart. He was as negligent of his clothes as he was of his body. He would wear the same faded coat over a torn sadra (thin muslin shirt) and had only one pair of patched trousers. He never wore a cap; whether in the afternoon sun or the cold of winter, he would simply tie a handkerchief around his head for protection.
Meher Baba occupied a new hut from 27th January 1922, constructed by Sadashiv Patil on Fergusson College Road, Pune. During this period, Baba had displayed Gustadji’s photograph on the wall of His hut, and one time while garlanding He remarked, “To garland Gustadji is, to garland Me.” This was Baba’s way to impress upon all His close disciples to pay respects fir Gustadji.
During the month of August, 1922, Meher Baba sent Gustadji as leader, with some of His mandali to Sakori. After discourse, Upasani Maharaj emphasized them, “Under any and all circumstances, through thick and thin, don’t let go of Meherwan’s (Meher Baba) feet!”
After this matter with the Hindu mandali was settled, Baba confronted Gustadji about his eating habits: “Why aren’t you eating the quantity of food I tell you? Why do you continue to disobey Me? For God’s sake, eat your food as soon as you feel hungry, irrespective of the time. Don’t complain afterward that I did not tell you!”
Gustadji replied, “That is precisely what I am doing! I create hunger by aimlessly moving about here and there in the building. The one cupful of cow’s ghee you’ve told me to have at ten o’clock kills my appetite. I do not like to eat custard or pudding at any odd time.”
Baba scolded him, “Don’t go on repeating the same thing again and again. This is what upsets Me. You should concern yourself with doing what I tell you. But whenever I tell you anything, you do not pay attention to it and, because of this, you make mistakes.”
Gustadji was irritated. “You know full well that I am doing my best to please you,” he replied. “At times I eat less, at times more, depending on the vagaries of my stomach. I can’t understand why you force me to eat more when I have no desire to do so! If I get ill, who will manage the petty and trifling affairs here, as I do from morning to night?”
Baba became more annoyed by his reply. “These words clearly show that your understanding is very limited. If I tell you to do a certain thing and am ignorant of its implications and consequences then I am not a Sadguru! And no earthly good can come out of your staying with Me.”
Gustadji replied, “I have come to you, according to Maharaj’s instructions, to follow your orders and listen to you in each and every thing. That is why I am staying with you!”
Baba did not like this reply either and upbraided him, “That is exactly what you are not doing while remaining with Me! On the contrary, you want Me to act according to your wish.
From now on, I won’t tell you anything. You draw up a program, give it to Me and I will follow it.”
Gustadji replied, “If the situation were really like this, I would not have come to you but, on the contrary, I would have taken you to my house. If your desire is to test me, I do not see the necessity of it, since I have already suffered enough at the hands of Sai Baba and Upasni Maharaj. You are welcome to try the novices in this Path. In spite of my finding no necessity for being tested, I do things and work with others just to keep them company and help them. Now, when things appear to be going smoothly, every two or three days you bring up something that causes mutual annoyance and creates an argument between us. Such incidents dampen my spirit and dishearten me.”
Baba consoled him. “Having such a close connection with Me — actually being My ‘dark side’ — does it behoove you to suggest that My orders and actions are at random and meaningless? I have not gathered the whole of the mandali and kept them with Me to try them or you. Even after My experience, Maharaj made Me sit in filth. Where was the necessity in that? Should I consider it as a trial in My case? I do not intend to test you or anyone. I only ask you to do exactly what I tell you. In so doing you will help Me in My work. ”
“I am always ready to obey your orders.” Gustadji replied earnestly. “And with a clear conscience I can say that I have been doing so all along.”
Baba concluded, “Do not try to grasp My actions; you will never fathom them. Even if I hand you a cup of poison, drink it without the least hesitation. By so doing, you will greatly ease the burden of My work.”
At this point Gustadji quieted but inwardly felt distressed. Baba had referred to him as His “dark side,” which he had once explained to the mandali: “Gustadji, unlike the rest of you, is fully prepared for Realization. The only thing needed is to tear open the veil.” But Gustadji felt that by being the “dark side,” the Master was making him grope more and more in darkness before enlightening him!
Baba replied, “No doubt Gustadji conscientiously tries his best to help Me, but in his own way, and therein is his mistake. Everyone knows that he is the one who looks after My person, My individual needs, and sees to My comfort from morning to night; but all must obey Me implicitly in every situation.”
The following day was Id, a holy day in honor of Prophet Muhammad, and a celebration was held. Munshiji brought a white kafni with lace for Baba to wear. The Master looked magnificent in it. Seeing Gustadji’s torn shirt, Baba told Gulmai to repair it, but Gustadji would not let her. Baba later told her, “Never mind what he says. If you sew for Gustadji, it is tantamount to doing service for Me.”
In 1923, at midnight, Baba, Behramji and Gustadji arrived in Sholapur. Being in peculiar attire and carrying a stove, cooking utensils and a lantern, they were interrogated by a suspicious police officer. Gustadji told him the facts, but the policeman called the railway ticket collector and asked for their tickets. Gustadji replied that he would hand over the tickets when they left the station’s exit gate, according to the rules.
To avoid a quarrel, Baba told Gustadji to accompany him to the bathroom; but the police officer followed them and started a fight with Gustadji. The stationmaster appeared as Baba came out of the toilet. Baba glanced at him, and the stationmaster rudely told him, “This lavatory is only to be used by first and second class passengers.”
Meher Baba pointed overhead to the sign which read, GENTLEMEN, and politely asked, “Where is there any indication about first and second class passengers? This toilet is for gentlemen, and I too am a gentleman, sir.” At this, the stationmaster was abashed and began to think he was not dealing with an ordinary traveler. He then became amicable and treated the stranger with difference.
This silenced Gustadji and the other men. Gustadji reestablished himself as the household manager, and Baba promised once again not to interfere. But the Master is beyond promises, and words cannot bind him. There was a deeper significance to his creating uproar over the food. The Hindu mandali had their food cooked separately and, according to their orthodox views, would not eat food prepared by others or by Hindus of lower castes. This confrontation was the beginning of doing away with their prejudice. The Master, in a very natural way, abolished this distinction of different food for different mandali — but it would take two years more to do so.
The group had to carry their baggage along the narrow jungle road, and Padri asked Gustadji to light a lantern to guide them, implying that Baba might trip and fall. But Gustadji insisted that the other travelers along the road were carrying lanterns and there was sufficient light and no need to waste kerosene. As they began to follow one man, he walked briskly ahead, leaving them stumbling in the dark. Padri fell down and injured his leg, and later vented his anger at Gustadji. A Muslim police officer happened by and escorted them to a dharamshala where they rested for the night. As the place was situated in the middle of the jungle and was frequented by wild animals, the policeman strongly advised them to stay indoors and not venture out in the night.
Gustadji was a garrulous raconteur and had a wealth of stories from his days with Sai Baba, Upasni Maharaj, and Hazrat Babajan. Since he was so talkative, the other mandali would at times wish him to be quiet. One day Buasaheb teased him a little and Gustadji became so upset that he went on abusing Buasaheb for over two hours. After hearing about his harangue, Baba too seemed fed up with Gustadji. On 1st May 1927, He ordered him, “From now on, you are to remain silent.”
As was his method, Baba had deliberately created the row (started by Buasaheb) to provide an excuse for putting Gustadji on silence. He explained to Gustadji, “The observance of silence on your part will be most helpful to Me in My work. Therefore, be silent for My sake.” Although loquacious by nature, Gustadji nevertheless began observing silence and remained silent until his death in 1957. He communicated his thoughts through hand gestures.
A white donkey named Champa was brought to Meherabad. Baba sat on it for the first time. Ghani had been specially called from Lonavla just to hold the reins and lead the donkey. It was a matter of amusement for the mandali and provided them an occasion of merriment.
Gustadji was fond of riding, and Baba once directed him to ride the donkey.
No sooner did Gustadji climb onto its back, than the donkey, instead of moving forward, went backwards! Gustadji did his best to bring it round, but it stubbornly kept going backwards and then threw Gustadji off. Laughing, all the other men ran to help him to his feet.
When Baba was out looking for masts on Mukamma Ghat in Batanagar on 1st April 1948, an amusing incident took place. Baba was conversing with Baidul, Chhagan, Eruch, Gustadji and Kaka. As Gustadji was keeping silence, he was “talking” with his fingers, and Eruch, who was the most adept at putting his gestures into words, was interpreting for Baba. Because Gustadji had enjoyed a bumper breakfast that morning, he was in a good mood and his fingers moved rapidly.
Nearby a policeman was observing this odd exchange and became suspicious. He asked everyone to accompany him to the police station. Eruch asked what they had done wrong. “This man is not speaking but making signals and I am suspicious of him. You’ll have to come with me to the station to be interrogated.” The policeman thought there were some secret coded messages being passed between Baba and Gustadji by signs. Due to the bitter relations between India and Pakistan at the time, even the smallest, most trivial incidents were viewed with apprehension.
Eruch assured him, “We are Parsis, and this person is dumb and therefore was speaking through signs.”
Gustadji’s feelings were pricked by this repeated remark and he gestured to Eruch, “Why do you always call me ‘dumb’? Am I dumb or observing silence?”
Eruch did not pay any attention to him and continued talking with the officer, but Baba snapped at Eruch, “What is he saying, what is he saying? Why don’t you tell me what Gustadji is saying?”
When the policeman saw that there were two “dumb” persons in their group, he became even more suspicious! Eruch, with difficulty, persuaded him of their innocence and the man left.
Now an argument ensued between Eruch and Gustadji. Gustadji asked again, “Why do you always call me dumb?”
“Had I not said you were dumb, you would have been locked up in jail!”
“So what?” Gustadji said. “That would have been better than being insulted!”
Baba continued goading Gustadji and at the same time demanding that Eruch interpret his gestures. Finally, Eruch got so exasperated he told Gustadji, “Pardon me; henceforth I will never call you dumb again.”
But this was not the end of their confrontation. Baba continued to encourage Gustadji to keep on talking, and he went on making more and more signs which Eruch not only had to “listen” to, but also interpret and repeat. At last Eruch got so fed up with Baba siding with Gustadji, that he exploded in sheer anger and said something disrespectful to Baba.
After a little while, Baba asked, “Do you know how much you have pained Me?”
Eruch had cooled down and answered, “I did not mean it. Others have used much stronger language than I did. You did not feel so pained then.”
“You have no idea how much you have shocked My heart! Listen to this story and you will realize why I feel so deeply hurt.” Baba then recounted:
A woman in a village once cohabitated with a man who was not her husband and the people came to know of it. It was the custom then to punish such a crime by making the adulteress sit in a circle. Every villager would then pick up a stone and strike her.
The woman was made to sit in the town square and the villagers began stoning her one by one. When the woman’s daughter’s turn came, she could not bring herself to stone her own mother. Instead, she picked up a rose and threw it at her.
But the rose wounded the woman much more than all the stones combined, because it came from her daughter, one whom she dearly loved and had raised so tenderly.
Similarly, others’ “stones” do not hurt Me as deeply as your rose.
Gustadji was an ice-cream addict. He always expressed to eat ice-ream in Tajmahal hotel when ever Baba was in Mumbai. This happened may times and ultimately Baba agreed. Baba said to him that you go in a suit and new shoes along with Dr. Nilu. It so happened in the hotel that floor was too slippery and Gustadji not accustomed to new boots slipped on the floor three to four times causing much embarrassment to Dr. Nilu and the hotel guests. Ultimately they had to returned to Baba without having ice-cream in Hotel. Gustadji replied to Baba He will never go again.
Baba said, “Gustadji is My friend. Even a mahayogi would not have the patience as shown by Gustadji. To observe maun (silence), to refrain from reading, writing and to live without work is yoga which I could not have done.
He died on 30-10-1957. Baba said, “Gustadji has realized My Real Self at the time of dropping his body.”
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