Thursday, 14 February 2013

1. A Quaint Journey

It was the year 1989. At Anantapur, students of the women's campus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, were assembled in the Prayer Hall of the Hostel for the evening session. We used to sing Bhajans and then there used to be talks by the warden, Dr. Jayalakshmi Gopinath, or a teacher or a student. These sessions used to be quite interesting, because often, we got to hear accounts of Swami's 'mysterious ways' and of His loving care and intervention in the lives of people around us. This was verily an introduction to Satsang. This was how we got acquainted with Bhagawan, and of living a life that is interspersed with the Presence of the Divine. 

The Anantapur campus in the late 80s
 One day, a quiet and unassuming girl got up to speak. This is her story:

Guheshwari belonged to a family of non-devotees. She had come to study here because of the Institute's reputation for discipline and so on. It was the October holidays; we were all going home for Divali, after exams. Due to some miscommunication, (there were no mobile phones then!) her family could not be intimated of the exact date of her journey and she was travelling alone, towards Dadar.
She got into the train and hers was a side berth. In the main area of the compartment were a rowdy group of young men in boisterous holiday mood. G. occupied her seat and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. But, as every girl will testify, travelling alone by train seems daunting sometimes.
At Dharmavaram, the station after Anantapur an old man got in and occupied the berth opposite to hers; a tall old man with a piercing eye, bushy eyebrows and a commanding manner. As he settled into his seat, he offered her a laddoo and said, "Puttaparthi laddoo". G. was not impressed; even little children know better than to accept anything from strangers. The old man started reading a newspaper and in some strange way, G. felt reassured by his presence. She forgot about the rowdies beside her and immersed herself in the passing scenery.

After a while, there came a tea vendor, the chai-wallah. She was about to order for tea; but the old man was faster. He ordered 2 cups and then before she knew it, the vendor was paid too with ready change. She wanted to pay him her due, but the old man brushed it off with a laconic comment, "How many things will you pay me for in this long journey. " He then buried himself in the newspaper. As the journey progressed, whenever she felt hungry or required something, her unspoken thoughts were fulfilled by the old man. G. decided not to argue but settle accounts with him before she left the train. There was something about him that brooked no argument.

The station where she was to get down was approaching in the wee hours of the morning. G. had hardly slept. All the others, including her strange benefactor, the old man, were fast asleep. The train stopped, she disembarked and realised that there was no one to receive her. Wearily, she made her way to the main platform, struggling with her luggage. As she wondered on her next course of action, she was hailed by someone. It was the old man again!! She was aghast; he had been sleeping and anyway how did he know her name? As these flurry of thoughts crossed her mind, he came towards her and said, "Since no one has come to receive you, let me help you. I have a taxi and I can drop you home." He took her bags and escorted her towards the taxi. As she settled into her seat, she felt that feeling again: an utter calm. For some inexplicable reason, she trusted him. The taxi ride was stranger still. The old man totally ignored her in the car and directed the driver perfectly, never once asking her for directions.

G. gave up trying to understand this mystery. They had reached her home. She got down and discovered no one was at home. Her family did not know of her coming. She went to enquire at the neighbour's house, The old man was observing her ironically, with some amusement. When she came back, her luggage was stacked neatly by the road. But there was no taxi, no old man, nothing. The street was dark and deserted, dawn was just breaking on the horizon.

G. ended her narration. Later on she had a dream where she saw Swami and Shirdi Sai blessing her profusely. That was all the explanation necessary for the strangest journey of her life!

We all listened spellbound. Divinity can assume any form, anytime, anywhere and when this happens there is no blowing of trumpets or heavenly lightning proclaiming the event. There is however one thing. There is this sense of great peace and of Love, of being held and protected. That is what G. experienced and that was what remained with her still.

Also read a similar story, published in the E-magazine, 'Heart-to-Heart' by Radio Sai in 2007:

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