Blue Bus Tours
Author Susan McKendree
Susan McKendree is a Baba lover, writer, poet and collage artist who lives in Weaverville, NC, just north of Asheville. She became interested in Meher Baba’s Blue Bus Tours in 2012, and what began as research for a series of meetings about the tours morphed into the manuscript for a book over the next five years, which has been submitted for publication. Susan also creates paper and mixed media shrines and traveling altars for Meher Baba, as well as the other Avatars and the Perfect Masters, using images and the Masters’ own words.
MEHER BABA’S BLUE BUS TOURS
In December 1938 Avatar Meher Baba and twenty of His closest Eastern and Western women disciples departed Meherabad in a specially built bus—painted two tones of blue, for a tour of Central India. During the next three years, the Blue Bus made four journeys, traveling “the length and breadth of India.”In time these tours have come to be recognized as a unique phase of Meher Baba’s work.
What sets the Blue Bus Tours apart from other phases of work was the attention Baba gave to His female disciples. Eleven of the women were Easterners, ranging in age from seventeen to fifty-four. They included Baba’s closest female disciple, Mehera Irani, as well as Naja Irani, Soona Irani and her daughter Khorshed, Walu Parwar, and Kakubai Deorukhar; His sister Mani Irani; Mansari Desai; and Gaimai Jessawala, accompanied her daughters Manu and Meheru. Some of them had been living in His ashram in deep seclusion for as long as thirteen years. Joining the women on the second evening of the first tour would be Katie Irani, bringing the total number of Easterners to twelve.
The nine Westerners ranged in age from twenty-two to sixty-three. They included Kitty Davy, Elizabeth Patterson, Norina Matchabelli, Nadine Tolstoy, Hedi Mertens, Helen Dahm, Nonny Gayley, Nonny’s daughter Rano, and Irene Billo. Margaret Craske would join the ranks of the Westerners after Nonny’s death in 1939. Many more women would be invited to join the tours for short periods of time at Baba’s invitation.
Baba’s intentions for the tours were fourfold. First and foremost He wished to contact spiritually advanced souls whom He called “masts,” and He would establish a series of small, temporary ashrams to accommodate the most advanced of these contacts.
His second aim, inextricably linked with the first, was to guide the course of World War II by embarking on long periods of seclusion, often with the masts, frequently fasting and always in silence.
Baba’s third objective was to establish a Universal Spiritual Center, centrally located somewhere in India, where seekers from all castes and creeds could come to study.
His final intention was to give the women the opportunity to experience new lifestyles, as well as to visit museums, historic monuments, and important places of pilgrimage—most especially those associated with His previous Avataric advents.
In addition to focusing on the achievement of these four goals, Meher Baba continued to carry out the ongoing aspects of His work, which included managing the Meherabad ashram, attending to the spiritual training of the mandali, offering darshanfor His devotees, and attracting new followers.
The first Blue Bus Tour began on December 8, 1938, and during the coming three years Baba and the women would tour the Taj Mahal in Agra, climb the Qutub Minar in Delhi, view the burning ghats from a boat gliding down the Ganges in Benares, and visit the sites where Krishna spent his childhood and Buddha began his teachings. They would gaze up at the fifty-seven-foot Jain colossus of Gomateshwara, see the tomb of St. Francis of Xavier, and carry flowers to Sufi dargahs.
Baba would call an eight-month halt in Bangalore and South India to conduct His mast work, just as war erupted in Europe. Later His entourage would spend a sweltering month on the tropical island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) avoiding falling coconuts, menacing cobras, and deadly stinging insects, before continuing west to the Arabian Sea, where they took long walks on the beach and ate fresh fish for the first time. They would venture north into the Himalayan foothills, west through the Thal Desert in the Punjab and make five increasingly terrifying river crossings in the Indus Valley before reaching Quetta (now in Pakistan), where they had to break the ice in their buckets of water before they could bathe.
The last tour ended on November 28, 1941, and although Baba continued to travel with the women, it was by rail, in order to focus almost exclusively on His mast work. In all the Blue Bus was driven tens of thousands of miles.
It was Baba’s work with the women that sets the Blue Bus Tours apart from other phases of His work. Without the women, Baba simply would have made four more of His many journeys across the Indian subcontinent, documented in a rendering of fact recorded by the men. By contrast, the women recorded their memories of the tours in the form of stories and memoirs that bring their experiences to vivid life.It is to them (and to Baba, of course) that we owe a great debt of gratitude for the story of Meher Baba’s Blue Bus Tours.
Bhau Kalchuri, Lord Meher, on-line version, 2329.