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The trip to Sai Dhaam Shirdi is always mesmerizing and now it has become so much a part of life that no sooner does one of the trips completes, the anticipation of the forthcoming starts to hover. So on the designated day, I started from my office in the evening and accompanied one of my friends till metro station with a plan to catch Airport Express Metro therefrom. The day was tiring and fatigued (as all Fridays and Mondays surprisingly are). To avoid last minute rush, we started from the office well in time, however, as luck would have it, the moment we hit the national highway, a massive traffic jam awaited our arrival. Even after spending almost half an hour, the car just managed to cover a very small distance. As the clock was ticking, there were a flurry of thoughts rambling in my mind and soul moving me at the edge of my seat. I couldn’t help myself thinking and wondering about the outcome of this race against the time. Somewhere at the back of the mind the “What If” scenarios were also being worked out along-with a silent prayer to Baba to let me reach on time and not to miss the train, which at that moment appeared quite probable. But, fortunately, our crawling managed to take us past the jam and with exactly fifty minutes left for the train departure, I was dropped at the metro station. Without wasting much time, I took the ticket and harped on the first available metro to avoid further loss of time. By a fluke, I made to the station just in time as the clock still displayed ten minutes for the train to start. That indeed appeared a positive start - a good omen, as Paulo Coelho puts in The Alchemist.
The irony of being a lone traveller accompanied me this time too and no sooner did I sank to my seat (which was lower berth), pairs of prying eyes of the fellow passengers scanned me from top to bottom. The look on their faces and the glance they shared amongst themselves made me mindful of the probable proposal which would be hurled to me at any time.
And the next few minutes proved me right when one of those pairs of eyes widened up into a smiling face and supplicating tone, “Are you travelling alone?” That familiar question took me to the flashback of many requests of a similar kind to which I succumbed despite my innate desire to refuse. That’s commonly when the request is to exchange the lower berth with some other seat and whenever such proposal is made, I realize that the child in me wakes up incredulously.
Anyways, quite reluctantly, I consented for the seat swap with a consolation that the exchanged seat was also a lower berth albeit side lower. Life is a strange mix of events and sometimes tends to surprise us with its déjà vu element. My arrival to the new seat was again welcomed by another pair of meddling eyes but this time the glance was soothing rather than disturbing and the smile that accompanied was warming rather than conspiring. There was an old lady who was already sitting on that berth and there was some instant association with her that kicked within me. The sight of her instantly reminded me of my grandmother whom I miss badly even now. Thus, when she asked for another seat swap, I couldn’t refuse and instantly moved to her seat, even though that was an upper berth. And before moving, I don’t know why, the innermost part of my heart nudged me hard to touch her feet and needless to say I did and got her blessings in return. There are no reasons for some of your acts in life and the joy that these deliver eventually absolve you from searching them anyway.
These rounds of seat swapping landed me to the seat near the exit door as against my original berth which was in the middle of the coach. As it was already late night, I retired to sleep in my couch with some long forgotten visions of my good old days with grandmother that lay afresh and anew cloaked under the layers of time and tide. I don’t remember when while dabbling with those bouts of anamnesis did the sleep queen actually overtook me in her stride.
The (not so) lyrical tone of the tea – coffee vendor brought me back in the morning from the scintillating world of dreams. Lousily I laid there for another fifteen – twenty minutes before finally waking up and coming down to the seat (when I realized that the train is running late by about four hours…phew!!!)
Strangely enough I discovered that rest of my mates in the coupe were a part of the same (big) group who were coming from Kaashi Vishwanaath, going back to their home in the south. And unfortunately, most of them were ladies constantly chatting in their regional tongue (perhaps Tamil or Telugu in either case, alien to me) and giggling throughout. Poor fellow, me, could only manage to pop up my head occasionally from the book I was reading and smile meekly still trying to figure in my mind as to who was their subject of constant laughing!!!
Just before an hour or so of my scheduled disembarkment at Kopargaon, that same old lady with whom I had swapped my seat, came to our coupe. Coincidentally, she was the part of the group coming from Kaashi Vishwanaath. She looked at me with a smile gesturing, “hope you were fine and comfortable”. When I affirmed by nodding my head with a smile, she joined the conversation of the other passengers before again coming back to me, “We are coming from Kaashi Vishwanaath darshan in Banaras.”
I smiled and said, “That’s wonderful Amma, hope you had a great darshan there.”
“Yes…” She said and then stopped in between for few moments before resuming, “the trip was wonderful.”
“Amma you seem to be lost a bit. Hope all’s well?” I asked.
She smiled, “Yes son, it was just that I wanted to make an offering to Baba before culminating the trip. I am a devotee of Sai Baba and when we started for the trip, I requested Him to give me a chance to make an offering to Him during the trip as a token of His blessings. He has been guiding me through-out but my ill luck, I didn’t get any chance of making the offering to Him, which is making me restless a bit.” She showed me some currency notes and a coin tied in a rubber band which she had kept aside to be offered to Baba when she had started for the trip.
“Amma, I am going to Shirdi. If you wish, I can offer these to Baba’s holy feet on your behalf” I said.
My mention of Shirdi brought tears to her eyes. She touched her pendent which has Baba’s picture on it and murmured something in her regional language. I was surprised and puzzled. She handed me over the money and caressed my hair saying, “I was foolish to doubt Baba’s ways. See how kind is He to send you as His messenger to collect the offering. Now I am content and satisfied that my trip is actually blessed by Baba. Baba rightly says, Have faith and patience. Then I will be always with you wherever you are.”
She then narrated one incident when she got lost from her group in Banaras and despite her hardest of the effort, she couldn’t find even one group member. Even after re-entering the darshan queue many a times in a bid to spot any of her kins and mates she couldn’t find anyone. She remembered her hotel / lodge name and thus prudently hired an auto for Ganga Hotel but again, to her utter surprise, there were spate of hotels and lodging homes with the name ‘Ganga’. This terrified her gravely and she started crying in the auto only calling Baba’s name. When even after doing rounds and rounds across the area in the auto she couldn’t find anyone, she uttered a prayer to Baba crying and holding the same pendent, “Baba I came here at Your behest only. Infact everything I do in my life, I do after due prostration to your lotus feet. At the start of this trip too, I asked for your darshan but you didn’t obliged me and now you have abandoned me here in this distant place amidst unknown people who don’t even understand my language. I don’t know I want my people in next five minutes else I will feel that you have indeed abandoned me. I am Your responsibility and You have to relocate me to my people. You just cannot be angry with me without any reasons”
Baba always assures HIS children, "If one devotes their entire time to me and rests in me, need fear nothing for body and soul”. And as the next set of events unfolded, I became all the more affirmed as to how true HIS assurances and words always are. No sooner did Amma complete her prayer, one of her group member held her from behind smiling and asking, “Where have you gone, we were all looking for you since long”.
She was smiling all the way while narrating the incident with moist eyes. “I am a foolish woman son,” She said, “To think that Baba has abandoned me when infact HE has always been there to take care of me is nothing but ignorance and foolishness. Ever since we started from the Banaras for our home, I was restless with the feeling that I couldn’t make an offering to Baba. And see, HE has sent you to do the needful and absolve me of my restlessness. That’s what the Guru does – take extra steps to remove the child’s anxiety and anxiousness.”
I was speechless. I took the money from her assuring that I will place them at Baba’s lotus feet and bid her good bye.
As I debarked the train at Kopargaon, the whole thing was still running in my mind. Was it a mere coincidence that Amma who was travelling with me for more than twenty four hours actually befriended me during that last hour sharing her story with me? Or it was Baba’s unique way of blessing her and re-affirming her belief in Him via me. I don’t know and I didn’t dwell deep too . . . as I said earlier, there are certain things in life which are beyond logics and reasons perhaps this was also one of them. As I traced my steps towards the auto rickshaws standing outside the station, Baba’s words were ringing in my mind, “I get angry with none. Will a mother get angry with her children? Will the ocean send back the waters to the several rivers?”
~*~*~ . . . Read Part (II) >>> Here ~*~*~
~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram
© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)
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