I am so delighted by these news that my dear friend and colleague in Bahá’í studies, Hossain Achtchi has enthusiastically agreed to speak at our first cloud conference. What an extraordinary life. His father was Aqa Husayn-i Ashchi, Bahá’u’lláh's cook, who joined His household as a teenager and was thus ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's companion from when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was 19 to the day of His passing in 1921.
Here is a photograph of him with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: he is standing second from the right:
There can't be that many people left alive a single generation apart from intimate companionship with Bahá’u’lláh Himself. Hossain will share his family's first hand recollections of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and tell us what it was like as a family to grow up in the influence of such memories.
I share below an anecdote from the autobiographical memoirs of Hossain's father recounting an episode he remembered as a teenager living in the household of Bahá’u’lláh, introduced by Adib Taherzadeh:
"One of the features of the life of Bahá’u’lláh was that although born of one of the wealthiest families in Persia and having lived many years in luxurious surroundings, He spent forty years of His Ministry in an austerity to which He had never been accustomed during the earlier days of His life. For two years he lived in the utmost poverty in the mountains of Kurdistán where many a day He subsisted on milk alone. In Baghdád He lived a simple life and had to endure many privations. 'There was a time in 'Iráq,' He affirms in a Tablet, 'when the Ancient Beauty...had no change of linen. The one shirt He possessed would be washed, dried and worn again.' In Adrianople and 'Akká He submitted Himself to the privations and hardships which a ruthless enemy had imposed upon Him.
"Although many believers through their devotion, and often by sacrificing their own needs, offered gifts to Bahá’u’lláh, He usually distributed such gifts among the poor and He Himself lived with the utmost simplicity. For example, Husayn-i-Áshchí, a youth from Káshán who served Bahá’u’lláh as a cook in Adrianople and later in 'Akká, has left to posterity the following account of the days when He stayed in the house of Amru'lláh in Adrianople.
'This house [of Amru'lláh] was very large and magnificent. It had a large outer apartment where all the loved ones of Bahá’u’lláh used to gather. They were intoxicated with the wine of His Peerless Beauty...However, the means of livelihood were very inadequate and meagre. Most of the time there was no food which could be served to Bahá’u’lláh other than bread and cheese. Every day I used to save some meat and oil and store them in a special place until there was enough to cook. I would then invite Bahá’u’lláh to a meal on the lawn. We managed to save some money and buy two cows and one goat. The milk and yoghurt which were produced were served in the holy household...
'In the winter there was a brazier in each room. It was among my duties to light them. In order to economize I used to measure the amount of coal that I placed in each brazier. Someone had informed Bahá’u’lláh of this. He summoned me to His presence and said: 'I hear you count the pieces of coal which go into each brazier!' Bahá’u’lláh smiled and was very amused. He agreed that such economy was necessary in a large house.' "