S.S. VARELA. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.
S.S. VARELA. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.



They boarded the ship S.S. Varela on 22nd February 1924 at 7:30am and departed Bombay harbour at 9:30am.


The men mandali that accompanied Meher Baba were :

Adi K. Irani, Beheramji H. Irani, Rustom B.'Baidul' Jafrabadi, Gustadji N. Hansotia, Rustom G.'Masaji' Irani, Khodadad F. 'Nervous' Irani, Faredoon 'Padri' Driver, Hormusji Vajifdar.










1930 - Passengers waiting to board at Kiamari, Karachi's wharf.
1930 - Passengers waiting to board at Kiamari, Karachi's wharf.


February cont.


During the 2 day voyage to Karachi. Meher Baba and his men always travelled lower class, which meant they stayed on the deck of the ship and braved the elements. Masaji did the cooking, mostly simple vegetarian meals with tea. Beheramji came down with a fever, and Adi had sea-sickness. Baba nursed both of them until they arrived in Karachi.


Pilamai had come to the wharf to see Baba on the 24th February, bringing flowers, vegetables, etc. Other admirers came as well. They soon departed the same day and some days later, when they entered the Persian Gulf, the waters were calm, steaming to Bahrain arriving about the 28th and then to the Persian port of Bushire, arriving about the 1st March.


RD p.298





1940S : Bahrein and the port. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.
1940S : Bahrein and the port. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.
 Map shows the whole trip in Febraury & March 1924. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
Map shows the whole trip in Febraury & March 1924. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.
1920s : Bushire Port, Persia. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.
1920s : Bushire Port, Persia. Image rendition by Anthony Zois.





1st March , 1924




When the ship arrived in Bushire on the 1st, a launch took the passengers to the dock and very agile porters took their belongings and placed them on mules to and then taken to Mr. Gilam Husain Lodi's house. A very cold front has set in prior to their arrival in Bushire. Keeping warm was crucial, the whole atmosphere was very wet and gloomy and not comfortable.




Both Baba and Vajifdar were suffering from nausea. Water had been purchased and brought to the house, but it had maggots in it and was also cloudy white. They decided to go inland to Shiraz, the home of the Perfect Master and poet Hafiz *( b.1325 - d.1390 ) and hired a truck to transport them there for 400 rupees.




The next day, 2nd March, Padri also got severe fever, Baba decided to cancel that trip and take another ship the S.S. Baroja back to Karachi. It was agreed that Baidul and Beheramji were to get down at Bandar Abba on the way, so they could go to their respective homes in Persia, and the rest onto Karachi.


The S.S. Baroja was very basic, a combined passenger and cargo ship.




RD  p.300


LM  p.601


* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafez



3. Map shows a close-up view of the sea routes in late February 1924. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.

3. Map shows a close-up view of the sea routes in late February 1924. Map graphics by Anthony Zois.




Note : To read the rest of the journey see the link for the SS Baroja or Chapter 6 of Meher Baba's story.



They boarded the S.S. Varela at 7:30 A.M. and departed from Bombay harbor at 9:30.

Meher Baba was returning to the land of his ancestors and appeared excited about seeing Persia. To console those who were not going with him, he lovingly embraced each one. Some felt he was taking their very hearts away with him and they wept as he waved goodbye. With the Master were eight men mandali: Adi K. Irani, Baidul, Behramji, Gustadji, Masaji, Nervous, Padri and Vajifdar. In the interim, Ghani, Ramjoo, Rustom and Abdur Rehman (Barsoap), were to await Baba's return at their homes. Shireenmai, Gulmai and other ladies, along with the mandali from Kasba Peth, also came to see them off; as instructed by Baba, Daulatmai and Mehera returned to their family home in Poona.


SETTLED ON BOARD the ship, Masaji cooked for the men and prepared one vegetable dish for Baba. Their meals were simple, consisting of a potato dish, fresh bread and tea. Behramji was still not well, and the constant rocking of the ship in the waves worsened his condition. Adi, too, suffered from sea-sickness and could not control his vomiting. Baba would nurse Adi and Behramji, urging them to try to eat. It was a difficult journey.

When the boat docked at Karachi for a brief period, Pilamai and other devotees were present with flowers and food, and Baba was received with great reverence. Behramji and Adi remained indisposed, for they could not control their vomiting.

Later on board the ship, there was a discussion between two sects of Muslims, the Shiites and the Sunnis.
A quarrel resulted and each side began angrily vilifying the other's religious leaders.

The irony was that between the opposing groups were two brothers-in-law, one a Shiite and one a Sunni. The Shiite brother-in-law was greatly drawn to Meher Baba and, during the argument, turned to him and asked, "To what religion do you belong, sir?"

Smiling, Baba replied, "To me all religions are one."



  Lord Meher Volume 2, Page 600




THE SEA was calm as the boat steamed into the Persian Gulf, but a shivering cold storm swept over them after leaving the port of Bahrain. By the time they reached the port of Bushire ( Persia ), Baba, who until then had been quite well, also suffered nausea. Then Vajifdar, too, started feeling nauseous.

No sooner had they anchored at Bushire than a rain storm broke with crashing thunder. The Persian coolies picked up the group's heavy baggage, and Baidul tipped them with bread and onions, which they seemed to relish. While hauling the baggage, they would utter, "Ya Ali! Ya Ali!" in honor of the Almighty – much to the good humor of the mandali amidst the miserable conditions.

Meher Baba and the mandali stayed at Ghulam Husain Lodi's house in Bushire.


  Lord Meher Volume 2, Page 601



Built: 1914 By Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., Newcastle.
Tonnage: 4, 691g 1, 956n 5, 160dwt
Engines: Twin-Screw, 3 Cylinder Triple Expansion, 4, 700 IHP. 16.23 Knots (Trials).
Passengers: 32 First Class, 24 Second Class , 1, 160 Deck.
Refrigerated Space: 3, 190 cu ft fitted in 1939.
Launched 9th June1914. Completed on 11th August 1914. Yard No. 930

Varela is a Cape in Southern Indo-China, now Vietnam.

The first built of her class which consisted of four ships the Valera was one of three launched from the Neptune Yard of Swan Hunter the remaining ship was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Govan. The ships were built for the mail run Bombay-Persian Gulf but with the outbreak of war all four found themselves on Military Duty. The Varela actually managed to complete one round trip on her intended commercial route when she was requisitioned on the 2nd of August by the British Government, she had the distinction of being the first British India ship to be called up. Initially she was a supply and despatch ship for the Royal Indian Navy but on the 28th October she acted as Headquarters ship for the Allied landings at Fao/Sanniya in the Persian Gulf. After the landings she embarked the wounded and sailed for Basra where she became the base hospital for the campaign. In October of 1915 she underwent conversion in Bombay to an Indian Expeditionary Force Hospital Ship with 450 beds, she served in the Persian Gulf for the Mesopotamian Campaign and her success in the role assured the conversion and deployment of her sisters in similar employment.

From November 1917 she was officially designated an Ambulance Transport and was not released from these duties until October of 1920; thereafter she returned to her peacetime role in the Persian Gulf. In July of 1927 a bizarre incident took place off the Mekran Coast some twenty miles from the shore. At 1430 the Chief Engineer reported to the Commander Captain Charles J. Halls that one of his firemen was missing. The order was given to turnabout and the ship was set on the opposite course, those not involved in searching the ship acting as lookouts. Varela continued searching until dusk when it was assumed the fireman had drowned and as custom dictates his belongings were sold, monies raised from the sale together with outstanding wages were all entered into the Ship's Official Log. Copies of the log were sent to one and all and on the ship's arrival in Bombay the money was sent to his next of kin in Simla.

On the 23rd July the Captain was sat in the British India Club in Bombay when the Varela's clerk informed him that the fireman in question was back onboard. It transpired that he had boarded the Barpeta, another Company vessel, at Gwadur but had informed no one of his presence consequently he was not on articles not was he on the passenger list as a D.B.S. The Barpeta's Captain who was also in the club registered appropriate surprise when thanked for returning the missing fireman.

The Captain returned to the Varela where the 'lost one' was asked for his version of events, they are as follows: Having finished his watch he went to the galley, picked up a mug of tea, went aft and sat on the Ship's rail. The ship then rolled quite dramatically and he found himself in the sea with the ship disappearing into the distance, he vehemently denied falling asleep, though in my experience I could never be sure whether they were awake or asleep when polishing machinery in the Engine room. It was also recorded in the Ship's log that on that particular day there was a slight sea and swell only.

After the ship disappeared he started to swim in the direction that he estimated land lay, he swam for the rest of the day and all the night. The following day at roughly noon he sighted the floats of fishing lines, after tethering himself to the floats he waited for the arrival of the fishermen. The fishermen duly arrived and the fireman was not only landed ashore but was also taken overland to Gwadur where he boarded the Barpeta.

The next problem faced by the Captain was how do you make a man rise from the dead without divine intervention, fortunately with the aid of Captain Pringle Curry, the shipping Master in Bombay and the Authorities in Simla a satisfactory outcome was achieved, I'm sure that the fireman's family were quite relieved but having probably spent all the money on a funeral so to speak how he regained control of his property I'm not quite sure.

For the next eleven years Varela's life was quite uneventful and it wasn't until September 1938 that she was once more called up to Active Service for the Munich Crisis. She spent the entire war serving as a Personnel Ship

Varela in Wartime Livery

and continued in that role until 1946 when she returned to her normal peacetime role on the Persian Gulf Service. With the arrival of the Gulf 'D's in 1947 she transferred to the Calcutta-Madras-Rangoon Service and in 1951 made her final voyage to Cardiff carrying of all things COAL!

She was finally sold to Bisco for scrap on the 22nd March 1951, work commenced on the 26th April by Thomas W. Ward Ltd. at Briton Ferry.