Chapter 9: Tumultuous Travel
At quarter past nine on the morning of Friday, 20 September 1929, Kaka Baria drove Baba and the mandali to Victoria Docks. Several of the Master's devotees had come from Poona, Ahmednagar, and Bombay to wish him farewell. Memo and Gulmai were the first to garland Baba. The group boarded the SS Varsova and sailed at eleven o'clock that evening. Cheering, all his devotees joined in a hearty bon voyage.
Age witnessed this scene and reported, "Baba's close lovers were waving kisses with such depth of feeling it seemed as if they were bidding farewell to the very source of their being! Angels wept at the unique expression of their love. They watched as the Master waved from the deck of the ship to his lovers of all castes and creeds, rich and poor. When the lover speaks to the Beloved through tears, it cannot be described; only the heart can understand what sonnets of love are exchanged between them."
On board the ship, it was puzzling to the other passengers to see the one who was given such a loving and grand send-off occupy an open space on the third-class deck. A wealthy Parsi merchant and contractor from Nasik named Burjor F. Joshi whispered to Chanji, "A saint of Meher Baba's caliber should not travel third class. I will arrange a special cabin for him." Chanji explained that Baba always traveled third class. Not satisfied, the man approached Baba directly and pleaded respectfully, "Your Holiness, the deck is no place for a person of your saintly status. Permit me to arrange a cabin for you and your companions in first class."
Baba gestured in reply, "I am quite happy where I am. A fakir's place is always among the poor."
But the merchant could not accept this. Joshi found the captain of the ship and requested that he provide a proper accommodation with all comforts for Baba and the mandali at his expense, and he especially asked him to see personally to all their needs. The captain made all the requested arrangements, but Baba shunned the offer despite Joshi's frequent inquiries. At his earnest request, however, Baba did agree to shift to a second-class cabin. Joshi had heard of Meher Baba, but he was meeting him for the first time. His first encounter with the Master caused a profound turmoil in his heart; he was determined to see Baba more comfortable, and his efforts surely proved a blessing at some point in his life.