Friday, August 21, 2009

Family portrait

Baba (Merwan Irani) is on the far left. Sitting next to him is not his father as one might expect. It is his father's brother Khodadad. The portrait was taken in 1916 or 1917.

L-R: Merwan (Meher Baba), Behram (brother), Khodadad (paternal uncle), Jal (brother, standing at top), Adi Jr. (brother, seated at bottom), Shireen (mother), Jamshed (elder brother).

Notice how Baba's brother leans away from his mother subtly. Jamshed, who was the firstborn, was rejected by his mother at birth and raised by his maternal aunt Dowla and her husband Faredoon in Lonavla not far from Poona. Baba used to go and stay with his elder brother in Lonavla whenever he had a vacation from school and they were very close. Jamshed and his adopted family moved back to Poona for his high school education. Jamshed died suddenly of heart failure in 1927 at the age of 34. Baba later said that Jamshed received liberation (moksha, freedom from all births and deaths).

Merwan & Jamshed
For the facts of Jamshed's birth see Lord Meher, either the original American print edition (142-3) or the current revised online version (106). I do not know what "common custom" Lord Meher refers to where mothers give to a sister their firstborn child. Perhaps someone can explain it. Both versions of Lord Meher are incorrect on one point. Shireen was fourteen years old when she had Jamshed, not fifteen as stated there. However, her inability to bond with him properly, perhaps due to her age as the book suggests, is clearly explained.

"Some months after Jamshed was born, Shireen again conceived, but this pregnancy was experienced differently. From the beginning, Shireen felt the natural joy of an eagerly expectant young mother. She had been unprepared for her maternal duties with her firstborn. Whenever her sister Dowla would bring Jamshed to her, she would shy away from the baby. During her second pregnancy, however, she had matured and her feelings were quite the reverse. The young woman's heart longed to shower love upon her unborn child." (Lord Meher revised online version, p. 106)

For Shireen's age at the time of Jamshed's birth, it is easy to calculate. Shireen was born sometime during 1878, month and day unknown. Jamshed was born Jan. 2, 1893. If Shireen was born after Jan. 2, 1878, which is of course likely, she was still fourteen at the time of his birth. She would have had to be born Jan 1st or 2nd (and no other date) to have already turned fifteen.

See also Revisiting an old photo.

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