Chapter 10: The West Learns To Sing
On Saturday, 29 August 1931, Age watched as Meher Baba, 37, sailed from the port of Bombay on the SS Rajputana, accompanied by 16-year-old Agha Ali, Chanji, 38, and Rustom, 32. They were required to be at the docks at 7:30 A.M. to pass a medical examination. Despite waiting for more than three hours, their names were never called, and they boarded the ship at 11:00. They sailed two hours later, at 1:00 P.M.
No one in Bombay had been informed about his voyage and consequently none of Baba's followers turned up at the docks to bid him farewell. Baba left India surreptitiously; not even the mandali in Nasik had been informed he was leaving for Europe.
Just a few days before, Mahatma Gandhi had agreed to participate in a Round Table Conference in London concerning India's independence from the British, and for that purpose was proceeding there on the same ship (unknown to him) with Meher Baba. Although no one had come to say goodbye to Baba, there were thousands on the pier waving bon voyage to Gandhi (including Jawaharlal Nehru) — and thus unknowingly to the Avatar also.
Vishnu had been called to Bombay prior to Baba's departure, and he left for Nasik the same day. When he informed both the men and women mandali about Baba's journey, they were stunned. Their surprise was great because they had found Baba in a run-down condition recently when they had met him a month before in Pimpalgaon Baswant. One of the reasons Baba had not disclosed his trip was that some of the men, had they known about the journey, would have wished to accompany him.
K. J. Dastur, for example, would have insisted upon going with Baba and he was bitterly disappointed when he heard the news; whereas the rest of the mandali, though surprised, were pleased that Baba would be meeting and drawing Westerners to him. Jalbhai remarked sardonically, "Baba enacted a fine charade for our benefit." Buasaheb commented, "Had he not kept the trip a secret, most of us would have pestered him to take us with him." Such sentiments were exchanged among the men, but, reconciled, they were amused at Baba's wonderful ruse.
Dastur, however, remained distraught and thought: "I cannot believe Baba has gone to England without me; I have an M.A. and LL.B [master's and law degrees]. How could Baba have left behind such an educated person as myself?