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BHAU NAFDE : 50 YEARS OF BABA LOVE

 

Bhau Kalchuri, one of Meher Baba's intimate mandali has mentioned in his LORD MEHER -THE BIOGRAPHY OF THE AVATAR OF THE AGE MEHER BABA that the Nafde family is respected all over India for their profound love for Baba. Dattatreya Yashwant Nafde, affectionately called `Bhau', his wife Shakuntala Nafde, affectionately called `Tai', and other family members fully deserve this appreciation. Theirs is a life of total silent surrender at the feet of their divine beloved Avatar Meher Baba. Bhau Nafde is the main architect of this deep spiritual transformation of his family and of all those who came in his contact. Instructed and blessed by Beloved Baba, Bhau Nafde collected a small group of devotee-lovers and started Meher Baba Bhopal Centre in late fifties. He has served the cause of Baba, all these years, with amazing simplicity and inspiring selflessness.

Mani, Meher Baba's sister and one Baba's women mandali, used to say that it is Baba who makes the stories, we only tell them. Bhau Nafde's story is something special made by Baba - simple, straight with no twists and turns, and which touches the heart. The following is an abridged account of Bhau Nafde's life and times with Beloved Meher Baba as narrated by him to Prof. J.S. Rathore.
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hau Nafde was born to simple middle-class parents on 2nd October 1919. His was a huge joint family - father, mother, three brothers, three sisters, five cousin brothers and two cousin sisters. No body in his family was interested in spiritual matters and the family lived a simple life of a devout Hindu home. Rituals and religious festivals were dutifully observed and celebrated. In 1937, Bhau passed his matriculation examination. This was the time when his elder brother, who was living with a family in Chindwara, a small town in Central India, fell seriously sick and Bhau rushed from Jabalpur, to attend and help. The family with whom Bhau's elder brother was living was deeply devoted to Sadguru Tajuddin Baba, one of Meher Baba's five Perfect Masters. Bhau, who was attending to his sick brother, started living in Chindwara and was also drawn towards Tajuddin . Soon Bahu got a government job at Chindwara , which according to him , was e due to the blessings of Tajuddin Baba.

The family with whom Bahu and his brother were staying was related to Nana Kher, one of Baba's mandali, whose loving way of greeting `Welcome Home' at Meherabad has touched the hearts of Baba lovers all over the world. Nana used to visit his relations at Chindwara quite often and talked about Meher Baba day in and day out. He told Bhau that Baba is God-incarnate. He gave Bhau few books to read and Bhau was deeply moved by The Perfect Master by Charles Purdom and The Wayfarers by Dr. William Donkin. Bhau recalls that these books convinced him that Meher Baba is God-incarnate and he told Nana Kher that one day he will surely have Baba's darshan. Bhau got married in 1945 to Shakuntala and in 1948 was transferred to Jabalpur.

Nana could see the heart of Bhau being lighted by Beloved Baba's grace. He mentioned about Bhau to Baba and Baba invited Bhau to attend a special meeting at Meherabad between 7th-9th November 1952. This was a unique period of Baba's life. In February 1952, Baba had concluded the Manonash period of his New Life and from middle of November Baba was all set to give his first ever public Darshan in Hamirpur. On 8th November, Baba gave the Repentance Prayer at Meherabad and Bhau was a witness to this great event. Bhau was drowned in the infinite ocean of Beloved Baba's love and resolved that come what may, he and his family will never miss a Baba sahwas or darshan.

 In 1953, Beloved Baba instructed Bhau Kalchuri and Nana Kher to undertake a tour of Central India and spread the message of his Truth and Love. Bhau Kalchuri and Nana arrived in Jabalpur and stayed with Nafdes. There they received a telegram from Baba to collect Shobha mast from Katni, a nearby town, and bring the mast to Ahmednagar. Accrodingly , Bahu and Nana brought Shobha mast from Katni and halted again with Nafdes along with the mast. Meanwhile, another telegram from Baba informed them that the mast was no longer needed by Baba and should be taken back to Katni. Shobha mast was the one with whom Baba had worked at Meherazad during his Manonash period. Pankhraj, a devotee-lover of Jabalpur, brought Shobha from Katni to Ahmednagar on 26th December 1951. Next day the mast was taken to Meherazad where Baba wanted to give him a bath. The mast refused this. On 28th, he was brought again to Meherazad and this time he allowed Baba to bathe him. Baba dressed him with new clothes and he was then sent back to Katni. This 1953 incident, in which a manonash period mast was brought from Katni to Bhau Nafde's house and was later sent back, shows that Baba wanted it to happen that way involving Nafde family.

 In 1955, Bhau Nafde participated in a Five-Day Baba Sahwas at Meherabad. In April 1957, they were asked to attend a one day darshan programme at Sakori, the sacred seat of Sadguru Upasani Maharaj, one of Meher Baba's five Perfect Masters. There were around 300 devotee -lovers. Baba gave a full coconut fruit only to Bhau Nafde and Hoshang Bharucha as prasad. Baba instructed them to keep the fruit with care and worship it in the way they like. This coconut fruit is Nafde family's most precious treasure.

In 1957 Nafdes were in Bombay and attended Baba's darshan programme at Sunderbai Hall. They also attended the day long qawali (Sufi singing) programme at Ashiana , the home of Nariman & Arnavaz Dadachanji. In 1958, Bhau Nafde attended Five-Day Baba -Sahwas programme (16-26 February), arranged exclusively for his eastern lovers at Meherabad. Later Bhau was called to attend a day meet at Meherabad on 10 July 1958. This was the day when Beloved Baba gave his Universal Message to the world and Bhau was fortunate to witness that. Baba gave copies of Universal Message to his lovers assembled over there and asked them to disseminate it far and wide.

 Bhau kept in touch with the members of Baba's close mandali through regular correspondence. Eruch, one of Meher Baba's close mandali, in one of his letters expressed Meher Baba's wish that a Baba centre be started at Bhopal. Thus in September 1959, Bhau Nafde with Shambhulingam, Shirdhonkar, Parkhe and others started Avatar Meher Baba Centre at Bhopal. This was the period when Nafde family came in close contact of the Baba group at Hamirpur and started actively participating in their annual Meher Prem festivals.

The decade of 60s was again a period of intense and exciting Baba activities for Nafdes. In 1961, they participated in darshan programme at "Guru Prasad" (name of the palace of Maharani of Baroda, a devotee lover of Meher Baba) in Poona. In 1962 (1-5 November), they attended the East-West gathering of Meher lovers at "Guru Prasad." In 1963, Baba permitted Bhau Nafde to stay for a month in Poona and attend his darshan programmes at "Guru Prasad". Every day Bhau would reach "Guru Prasad" in the morning and join again in the afternoon from 3 p.m. onwards. During this period Bhau was fortunate to participate in a game of cards with Baba, and to join him in one of the visits to the house of a lover. In 1965, Bhau's father Yeshwantrao Nafde died and Bhau informed Baba about this. Yeshwantrao Nafde lived separately and never remembered Meher Baba. Bhau was therefore deeply moved when he received a telegram from Meher Baba saying : "YESHWANTRAO RESTS HAPPILY IN ME. BE RESIGNED TO DIVINE WILL. LOVE TO YOU AND FAMILY."

Telegram dated 6.12.1965 sent by Baba to Bhau Nafde

 

The same year Nafdes attended Baba's darshan programme at "Guru Prasad " which lasted four days. This was their last live darshan of their divine Beloved Avatar Meher Baba. Beloved Baba dropped his physical body on 31st January 1969. His body was kept for darshan in his Samadhi or Tomb-Shrine from 31 January to 7 February 1969, the day when it was finally interred at 12.15 p.m. amidst loud cheers of " Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai." During this period, Bhau and his entire family assembled at Samadhi to have a last darshan of the divinely beautiful human form of Beloved Baba. They received the precious gift of a cloth-piece of Beloved Baba's sadra from Bhau Kalchuri after Baba's body was interred. Later, Tai Nafde received the gift of Baba's hair from Mani at Guru Prasad between April-June 1969.

Bhau has many reminiscences of the time that he and his family spent with Beloved Baba. Recalling a few, Bhau narrated the following :

"All of us were attending Baba's darshan programme at Sundar Bai Hall, Bombay. Kunda, our daughter, expressed her desire to sing Baba's aarti. Baba said, " See the time. Its too late now."

A few days later we went to Ashiana to have Baba's darshan and participate in the Christmas programme. Tai prepared a barfi-cake on which she had inscribed "Baba Give us Your Love." Baba was very happy to see us there and said, "You wanted to sing my arati. Sing it now." We were deeply touched and sang Baba's aarti with great love."

Bhau recalled another cherished memory as follows :

"This happened in Guru Prasad, Poona. We all were there. Baba caressed Bhau's cheeks with great love and compassion. Then he pointed towards a coin lying on the floor and said, "Take it with you and treasure it."

On yet another occasion Bhau recalled :

"This happened in Meherabad. Baba had visited Arangaon a day earlier. Bhau Nafde noticed a shining red spot on the left arm of Baba. He thought that somebody has lovingly put a paint mark on Baba's hand. Moments after, he was amazed to see that Baba had asked Eruch to explain that a lover in Arangaon has hugged him hard in love and left a nail scratch mark on his arm. Eruch instructed that lovers should take care and should embrace Baba softly".

Bhau Nafde is 81 and lives in Bhopal with his family immersed in Beloved Baba's love. Baba love is Baba's special gift to him. As a true lover, Bhau is not satisfied, and prays to have the intensity of love of Rano Gayley, Kitty Davy and Arnavaz Dadachanji for Beloved Baba.

Love perhaps is always a story of more and more and still yet more.

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