MEHER BABA'S 1952 VISIT TO THE WEST
* VISIT TO EUROPE & RETURN TO INDIA *
SYNOPSIS OF THE 1952 TOUR
They then left by train to Florence, South Carolina at midnight, the same day. They arrived at Florence, SC., the next day at 11am ( 21st ), they were then driven to the Meher Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach, SC, arriving at 3pm.
After a month stay on the Center, Baba and his women Mandali drove off in 2 cars for the West Coast. A few days later on the 24th May, at Prague, Oklahoma, Baba's car was involved in an serious accident with another motor vehicle.
Meher Baba and some of the women in his car suffered serious injuries.
Following his treatment at the local hospital, he was transported along with the group back to Myrtle Beach to recover and seek expert treatment from nearby medical institutions. During this period he and the female mandali stayed at Elizabeth Patterson's home - Youpon Dunes, staying for 5 weeks.
Baba and his entourage of 15 drove to Florence, SC. and travelled by train back to New York City, staying in Scarsdale, N.Y. till the near end of July. During this time he & Mehera had appointments with medical specialists.
They stayed a week, before flying to Zurich, Switzerland on the 6th August. Their destination was to Locarno near the Italian border, where Hedi Mertens lived. Here Baba was to continue his recuperation and his
medical treatment. The women mandali explored the majestic surroundings nearby with Baba occasionally as well, until the 21st
August, when they all then motored to Geneva, Switzerland and then taken a flight to
Paris where they changed planes to an international flight to Karachi, Pakistan via Beirut, Lebanon and then onto Bombay, India.
The Switzerland & Italy visits is the journey that will be examined on this webpage, before they all mostly returned to India.
The return flight destinations are covered in the latter part of the " 1952 Overseas visits " web page. Click on the under-scored name to visit that page and scroll down to the appropriate section.
Meher Baba made a statement about coming to Switzerland this time.
This visit is part of his "Full Free Life" ( FFL ) and prior to this period he was i the "Complicated Free Life " ( CFL ) when he had his accident in the US and ended in America.
The FFL was the reverse of the CFL and the FFL would conclude until November 1952.
Then the " Fiery Free Life " would begin.
ARRIVING IN ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
Click on the "button" below to see images of Zurich.
Meher Baba and his entourage flew by Swissair Flight 111 to Zurich, Switzerland on the 6th August from London.
After Meher Baba and his entourage cleared Swiss Customs, who had only checked one of their bags, were met by Irene Billo who
had hired 2 cars along with 2 drivers for their journey to Locarno in the South of
the country, near the Italian border where they were invited to stay with Hedi Merten at her home Ronco dei Fiori, in the suburb of
Solduno & the next door residence which belonged to **Professor Eischmann, who
was away on holidays.
( ** Prof. Eischmann belonged to a Christian group called 'Eranos' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eranos ).
Both Hedi & Irene had stayed with Baba in India in the mid-1930s.
Meher Baba had come to Locarno once before on a day trip on the 29th April 1932. He and his companions were staying in Lugano at that time for 10 days.
The 1st car, a 1947 Chrysler carried Meher Baba & his Women Mandali.
The 2nd car, a 1946-8 Packard carried the rest of the women including Dr. Donkin.
( see "Road Trips" )
Only one of these vehicles was at Baba's disposal for the rest of his time in Switzerland, except on the last day when they used both cars again, to transport them all to Geneva to catch flights to India and elsewhere.
Irene travelled in Baba's car to Locarno.
This journey from Zurich took all day to reach Locarno arriving at 10:30 pm.
Irene Billo along with Max &
Gisella Haefliger and their 3 daughter - Rona (12), Monika (11 & Verena (8) had all agreed to help Hedi in hosting their guests. They all stayed at Hedi's.
There is little mention in any of the publications about this tour, about which exact route was taken by the cars to Locarno. Only sketchy details are given.
The common language in this part of Switzerland is Italian.
The following maps 1-5 ( in travel sequence ) shows the entire possible route
taken, marked in Yellow. Click on the maps to enlarge them. Alternative routes are marked in
There was only one stop for this trip. Lunch was served at Andermatt
about halfway to Locarno.
On the following day 7th August, Max Haefliger a Swiss Baba follower had been sent to Zurich to fetch the Men Mandali from the airport and bring them to Locarno by train. They were then transported to Baba's residency nearby upon arrival.
The following maps and highlighted towns/cities are generally in a timeline order.
Click on the maps & pictures to enlarge them, more information about each town is found by clicking the "button" link for each location. If a name is under-lined then this place or person is hyper-linked to their relevant webpage.
The information for Meher Baba's visit to Switzerland has come from various publications. Because of copyright restrictions only general information will be provided except if it derives from the Lord Meher publication & its On-line site.
The list of relevant publications will be shown at the end of the webpage.
1st Car : 1947 Chyrsler New Yorker 4-door
- see below
This car carried Meher Baba, Mehera Irani, Mani Irani ( Baba's sister ), Meheru & Dr. Goher Irani & Irene
The following images are of other vehicles of the same type. See more images of these vehicles click on the following web extension. Road Trips - 1952 : Switzerland
2nd Car : 1946-8 Packard Super Clipper Touring Sedan
- see below
This car carried the rest of the women - Rano Gayley, Delia De Leon, Charmian Duce & Dr. Donkin.
The following images are of other vehicles of the same type. See more images of these vehicles click on the following web extension. Road Trips - 1952 : Switzerland
They all agreed the meal was delicious and the service was great. When they left to continue it was already dark.
Hedi Mertens was a Swiss artist and follower of Meher Baba since the mid-1930s. She and late husband Walter had travelled to India and toured with Meher Baba then. They had also hosted him at their then home in Zurich during his travels through Europe in the mid-1930s.
When Meher Baba and his group arrived to stay with Hedi, she was leasing her home at that time. She had also secured the next door property for Baba's use to aid in his recovery from the horrific automobile accident in Oklahoma, USA earlier in the year.
When Baba's entourage arrived at Hedi's home, after the long drive from Zurich, Baba was quite tired and was moved to his room by wheelchair.
Early August 1952
One day Max Haefliger drove Baba and Dr. Donkin to the doctor. ("Baba was like a commander," he remembers.) The doctor advised massaging Baba's arms and legs and a little exercise. Therefore, a local masseur was called to massage Baba daily and Baba was also made to walk with crutches. Although he had much pain in his leg, he began taking a few steps with Donkin's help.
Mehera also visited a plastic surgeon in Locarno, Switzerland.
As Charmian Duce ( Ivy Duce's daughter ) related:
Before leaving Locarno, Mehera was taken again for plastic surgery and the surgeon took off the scab on the wound and immediately announced that the skin was perfectly all right and would grow back and that she wouldn't need to have any further surgery. The day before we left Locarno, Baba called me in and made me look at it. They took off the bandage and kept it covered with ointments for several days and the wound had completely healed except for some slight swelling over one eye, with hardly a scar. So she seemed to be all right then.
Baba paid constant attention to Mehera, Charmian Duce stated:
Incidentally, as busy as he was with all of these people he yet found time to see that we all were busy and had things to do. Never a day passed, away from him, that he did not call Mehera, or Mehera call him, to see that each was well and happy. I don't think a day passed when they were away from each other in the States or Europe when I was present that I did not put in a call for Baba to Mehera or vice-versa with an inquiry about how things were going and the well-being of the other person.
Mehera was taken 3-4 times to the plastic surgeon Dr. Andina in Locarno. She saw the doctor more times than Baba. When there was suggestion for Mehera to have plastic surgery, Baba dismissed it. Mehera never had any follow up surgery for her injuries to her head.
When the doctor presented them with his bill, he referred to Baba & Mehera as Mr. & Mrs. Irani. This bemused Baba and the women.
Baba would refer to his daily exercises as 'Chinese Torture', often saying " You're torturing me again and again.... "
Hedi Merten's home "Ronco Dei Fiori " Solduno,Ticino, Locarno
In the house that Baba stayed in, the walls on the outside had pink stucco with a large wooden door under a stone archway.
Baba's room was on the ground floor which had an entrance to the garden and to a bathroom as well.. There were 16 people in the house and they all stayed upstairs. Charmian shared with Delia. This is where the men Mandali stayed.
The distance between the 2 buildings was a 8 minute walk.
All food was prepared and cooked at Hedi's home and the meals were walked over to Baba and the men Mandali. They were not permitted to go to Hedi's home.
At night, the sound of the gushing river nearby could be heard, Baba was observed often not to sleep well and to be awake all night.
Wake-up time was 7 am.
Meal times were ; Lunch at 11 am and Dinner at 5 pm.
There was a roster for night-watch duties, to care for Baba.
1952 Solduno, Locarno
The men mandali stayed 2 minutes further down then the Villa Ronco Dei Fiori ( road ).
Anita de Caro & her husband Roger were granted permission to visit the houses daily. She would take the women shopping and sightseeing in Locarno.
Baba had told Anita not to worry if men saw Mehera when they went into town. Anita felt that she thought Mehera was a lot more subdued than her previous visit in the mid-1930s.
Anita also had her arm in a cast and would compare casts with Baba.
The original plan of the Baba's tour of the West was that after the American tour, Baba and the women Mandali were to have stayed in Paris as guests of Anita & Roger. When the accident in the US occurred, the plans were changed which were more in-line with Baba and Mehera's recovery.
Irene Billo organized quite a few outings for picnics at the various lakes.
During this time, Baba agreed to give Darshan** to the locals of the town.
** Being in the presence of & receiving blessing from a spiritual master.
The original B/W images of the 'colourized' images of Meher Baba are courtesy of MN Publications.
Early August 1952
Perhaps in resumption of his work in looking for the ideal boy, Baba again expressed his wish to have a young boy near him who could do night duty. Irene brought her nephew, a sweet-tempered boy named Konrad Benedict Koethner, was fourteen and a half. Baba liked him, kept him and assigned him two hours of duty every night, along with Rano and Nilu.
One night when Konrad's night watch duty was over, Baba rang the bell by his bed and, when no one answered, he went on ringing. At last Rano came running, and Baba asked her, "Where were you? You are supposed to be on watch! I have been ringing and ringing!"
Rano replied, "But it is not my time to get up. Where is Konrad? He still has an hour left."
Baba motioned to her to look at the clock in his room; Rano was startled to see that it was past time for her to be on watch. She apologized to Baba and attended to his needs.
But a few nights later, the same thing happened. Baba rang and no one came. When Rano appeared she again said it was not yet time for her to come. But when she compared her watch to the clock in Baba's room, she found that Baba's clock was an hour fast. It was then discovered that Konrad had been setting the clock ahead so that he could finish his duty and go to sleep! When Baba was told of his trick, he had a good laugh at the boy's cleverness and reduced his duty by one hour.
There were plans to cross the Italian border and to visit town of Stresa and the nearby landmarks. Baba was keen to take the women Mandali to this area which he had visited in the 1930s.
6 Italian visas were necessary and they were obtained by Irene Billo in downtown Locarno at the Italian Embassy on the 7th August.
In the following days, errands were made in Locarno, such as Dr. Donkin visiting the American Express office near the Railway Station. Charmian ( Baba nicknamed her "the good girl") was given the duty to drive them into town and back again. She drove Hedi's tiny Fiat 'Topolino' which proved to be very temperamental for her use it.
Charmian had taken 2 short 8mm films at the house.
The whereabouts of these films are unknown.
1950 Fiat Topolino
On 14 August, Baba sent Gustadji, Meherjee, Sarosh, Adi and Nilu back to India. Of the men mandali, only Don remained with him. Baba went on sightseeing trips with the women, and on the 18th, proceeded with them to Geneva by car.
The men Mandali travelled by car to Geneva over the Alps, the same route that Baba used almost a week later. Once they arrived
in Geneva, they obtained tickets and flew back to Bombay, India.
15th August - India's Independence Day
Locarno was celebrating India's Ind. Day by having a fireworks
display over the lake. Candles in their hundreds were floated on the lake. Baba and his entourage were taken to a high vantage point nearby to look at the
spectacle of large sailing ships and a small flotilla of smaller boats.
On another day Baba and companions were taken to view the lake from up high and watch as a storm
Whilst Baba was is his room resting, he would ask the ones near him to read to him about
" Real Saints " such as from the writing of St. Catherine, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis and of Rabia of Basra.
There was a church built in Locarno soon after the death of St. Francis by the Franciscan Order and another in 1487.
TRIP TO MALOJA, SWITZERLAND
10th August 1952
Meher Baba and his women companions- Mandali drove
to the small town in S-E Switzerland of Maloja.This town
is the way to the big ski resort town of St. Moritz.
Because they crossed into Italy, Irene days earlier had obtained 6 visas for this visit and also for the next visit to Stresa.
Irene Billo came along also, as did her mother who lived north of Maloja in Lenzerheide. She taught at a Summer school there. She along with many others met Baba in Switzerland in the 1930s.
A photo was taken of the ladies on the terrace ( see above ) prior to entering the Hotel Schweizerhaus for lunch. Baba had already been wheeled into the private dining room. Baba had soft food only.
**Meals were served with wine. Baba said it was unusual for a Master to sit with his disciples while they had wine.
After lunch, they returned to Locarno enjoying the wonderful mountain sceneries and that of the various lakes especially Lake Como.
**It is presumed that the 'wine' moment occurred at the Hotel Schweizerhaus, as it is a ski lodge. The only clue the original source gave was that it occurred at a ski lodge terrace. There are no mentions in any of the various sources that Baba visited another ski lodge.
Meher Baba had come to Locarno once before on a day trip on the 29th April 1932. He and his companions were staying in Lugano at that time for 10
Click on the Lugano 'button' above to visit that web page.
LAKE COMO, ITALY
TRIP TO STRESA & BELLA ISLAND ( ISOLA BELLA )
This was the final big trip in this part of the country before they drove to Geneva almost a week later on the 18th August to fly back to India.
There were many others who took part which is now referred to as the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and is a
public hoilday in Egypt.
TRAVELLING TO GENEVA
( see the following maps ).
Baba's driver throughout this visit was a large man ( he was named "The Bear" ) who had a charming wife & had 3 kids. Because of his heavy built and size he would lift Baba at all his destinations with a careful graceful ease.
They all had lunch along the road amoungst the pine trees, Charmian recalled.
The road to Geneva was via the town of Domodosola, Italy, the Simplon Pass, Martigny & Montreux in Switzerland. The final stretch was along the full length of Lake Geneva, which Mehera recalled as "a wonderful drive".
They arrived in Geneva later that day.
Baba chose the Hotel Cornavin to stay the night.
Baba and the group were supposed to fly from Geneva the next morning, so they spent that night at the Cornavin Hotel. The next day was spent frantically trying to reserve seats on a plane bound for India, because Air India had called to say their flight had been cancelled due to a labour strike in Bombay. ( Charmian had driven Baba and the women to the airport.)
Dr. Donkin flew back a few days later via England. Delia De Leon had been sent back to London ( 20th ) the day before Baba departed, and Charmian was staying on in Switzerland for a week ( 26th ) with friends.
** When Charmian arrived to London she stayed with Delia for a week before travelling up to Scotland.
Air India had indicated that the labour strike might last a week, so alternative arrangements were urgently pursued by both Rano Gayley & Dr. Donkin. There was a lot of angst in trying to achieve getting 6 tickets together on one flight, eventually, it came about with Air France.
Instead of flying direct to Bombay, which was their original intentions, the flight took them as far as Karachi, Pakistan via Beirut, Lebanon. The remaining leg of their journey would be arranged in Karachi once they arrived.
A cable was sent to Minoo Kharas in Karachi,
requesting him to meet Baba and the women Mandali at Karachi Airport the following
day ( 22nd August )when their plane arrives. They stayed the night at the airport and flew out the next afternoon for Bombay.
ORLY AIRPORT, PARIS, FRANCE
Geneva to Paris ( Orly Airport ) - Flight 437
Departed Geneva at 5:40 pm and arrived Paris' Orly Airport at 7 pm. Change over to new plane 4 hours later.
They could have taken a later flight to Paris, but Baba insisted they leave on an earlier flight.
The long 4 hours wait were done at the airport.
When it was time to board the connecting flight to Karachi, Baba was wheeled to the steps leading up to the plane and because he could not do that task of climbing up steps, there were 3 airport workers available to carry Baba up the stairs, but they really needed a 4th man, where at the moment a big assistant appeared and said " What ? Carry Monsieur up in a chair".
He reached down and picked up Baba out of his wheelchair and carried him up the stairs and placed him gently onto his seat in the plane . Baba said later " He doesn't know how fortunate he was".
This airport was handling all domestic & overseas destinations in Paris.
At some point in 1952, there was a gradual hand-over of overseas traffic to newly updated Orly Airport which was 13 kms / 8 miles south of central Paris, whereas, the older Le Bourget was 10 kms / 6 miles north of central Paris, the first airport of Paris.
Air France Flight 180
Flight continues to Beirut, Lebanon & Karachi, Pakistan.
This flight departed at 11:00 pm.
MARSEILLES AIRPORT, FRANCE
1952 RETURN ROUTES FROM NEW YORK TO BOMBAY, INDIA
To read about this visit to the West in 1952 by Meher Baba visit the following web-page -
This visit consists of 7 web-pages.
REFERENCE BOOKS & ON-LINE
LORD MEHER 1st Edition Vol. 11-12 BHAU KALCHURI
THE JOYOUS PATH Vol. 2 MANI S. IRANI
MEHERA MEHERA J. IRANI
MEHERA-MEHER Vol. 3 DAVID FENSTER
THE OCEAN OF LOVE DELIA DE LEON
SLAVE OF LOVE ( .....DR.DONKIN ) BOB MOSSMAN
SPREAD MY LOVE CHARMIAN KNOWLES
SURRENDERING TO HIM RHODA DUBASH
LORD MEHER ( on-line website ) DAVID FENSTER