Hadshi-Mumbai Diaries - Travelling with the Lord 2
The Jadhav brothers were, in a sense, not new to Swami as they had been devoted to Sai Baba of Shirdi for very long; so much so that the family felt restless if they did not make an annual pilgrimage to Shirdi. On innumerable occasions, they witnessed inexplicable instances of His benediction. For example, once a family member fell extremely ill when the scheduled time of departure for the pilgrimage arrived. Nevertheless, they set out on their holy journey, and by the time they reached the Divine city, the malady had completely disappeared.
Was that not cruel of God to smite them thus, just to test their faith and secure their pilgrimage? "No!" was the vehement answer. "He knows that it is good for us and those are just reminders when we forget Him. Life has been wonderful for us due to His grace," said the Jadhavs.
Going back to their trip to Whitefield, the Jadhav brothers had in their party Mr. Naidu, an acquaintance who was a senior Sai devotee. And from him they learnt that earlier Swami had indeed made several trips to various shrines and cities of India. However, the chances of Him coming to a remote village in Maharashtra (hundreds of miles away from Puttaparthi), were remote! Notwithstanding this, their resolve to take Swami home was only further strengthened after they had their first darshan of Him.
Upon their return, news floated of Swami’s impending arrival to Maharashtra. Swami had expressed His solidarity for the people of Latur, the home-town of Jadhavs, which had been struck by an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale. The catastrophe had rendered 7600 people dead and more than 16000 injured!
"The earthquake has brought fear into the people. I need to come there,” Bhagavan told Mr. Shivraj Patil, who was then a Member of the Lok Sabha.
The Jadhavs’ coming into contact with Mr. Patil was the mysterious working of Swami’s will. Working hand in hand with this long-standing and esteemed devotee, the Jadhavs prepared for Swami's visit. The best part was Bhagavan Himself took an active interest in the Mandir that began to blossom at Latur and even promised to personally inaugurate it.
A couple of years went by.
On one occasion when Swami was at Kodaikanal, the temple drawings were shown to Him, and Bhagavan seemed very pleased. All of a sudden, one day, Swami unveiled the plans of the Mandir to His students and said, "This Temple is coming up in Latur. I will go for its inauguration." Then He asked Mr. Patil who was seated by His side, "What is its capacity?" Not knowing the exact figure, he hesitatingly said, “5000 people, Swami”. That turned out to be an overestimate! The Jadhavs, however, took this seriously and erected a multi-storeyed Mandir which would indeed accommodate that such massive numbers!
Now, Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav also nursed another secret desire – he wished to make a replica of Swami in bronze, and also design and build a chariot for Swami’s use whenever He visited the state. Privately, he had his apprehensions. Firstly, it is considered inappropriate to make a bronze statue of a living personage, and second, Swami may not want to move around in a chariot!
A few days later, when Mr. Shivraj Patil was with Swami in the interview room, Bhagavan mentioned to him about Uttamrao Jadhav's nervous disquiet and said, "I will give him peace. He is outside. Go and tell him that he can make my idol, and that I will sit in the vehicle that he wishes to construct." Ah! Is there anything called secret or anxiety where the Lord is concerned? Then what to say of secret anxieties! Mr. Patil was totally oblivious of this and he too simply marveled at the Lord’s omniscience as he conveyed this message to Mr. Uttamrao.
There were experiences galore as the construction of the Mandir progressed in right earnest. It was a daunting task no doubt, but the Jadhavs felt the comforting Divine presence throughout the period in so many ways. Vibhuti manifested copiously from a photo of Shirdi Sai photo. And on one occasion, they saw Swami’s face replacing the face of Lord Vitthala in the picture!
It was in 1999 that the Jadhavs returned to Puttaparthi to inform Swami that everything would be ready in twelve months’ time. At that time, Swami said, "Not one but two years." Perhaps, Swami had heard it wrong, they thought, and so Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav repeated, "Swami, it will take only one more year." "No! It will take two years," Swami clarified again.
As per the Divine words, everything was set in 2001. And the historic visit to Latur and Chakur did materialize. Swami fulfilled the promise of sitting in the golden chariot that had been created especially for Him. The experiences and details of that Divine trip is part of the folklore in the Marathawada region and it needs to be documented as another separate book, but for the records, here is a brief account.
July 15, 2001 was the glorious day when Swami left for Latur by a special plane which took off from the Sri Sathya Sai Airport at Puttaparthi at about 7.30 a.m. The journey was made in an hour. The then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh and his Cabinet colleagues, former Home Minister of India, Mr. S. B. Chavan, former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. Shivraj Patil and other dignitaries welcomed Baba on His arrival at Latur airbase at 8.35 a.m. When the motorcade proceeded towards the town, masses in their traditional costumes lined the entire route to offer Bhagavan their respectful salutations. The road was decorated with beautiful arches and welcome gates depicting Baba's teachings in Marathi and English.
At Latur, Swami addressed a congregation of intellectuals at the residence of the local M.L.A, Mr. Diliprao Deshmukh. Bhagavan also gave darshan to devotees at the residences of Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav.
On the following day, Swami went to “Sai Nandanavanam”, a temple built for Him in Chakur. At the entrance of this edifice, Baba ascended the magnificent golden chariot and traveled a distance of 1.5 kms. Mammoth crowds of devotees hailed Bhagawan with full throated shouts of `Sai Ki Jai, Jai Jai Sai'. The entire area was vibrant with colourful banners, flowers, buntings, lanterns, garlands, flags and huge gates; everywhere there were impressive displays of His sayings and teachings in local languages as well as in English.
At the Shivalaya (temple dedicated to Lord Shiva), Swami was given a traditional welcome with Poornakumbham. Bhagawan lit the sacred lamp, then placed His hand on the Shivalinga surcharging it with Divine energy. He also consecrated the other idols in the Prayer Hall as well as in the surrounding nine temples. At two in the afternoon, after a few public speeches by elders, Swami blessed the crowd with a Divine Discourse.
The next day, Swami proceeded by road to Nanded. This city presented a multi-hued look as lively decorations beautified every corner. Baba arrived at the residence of Mr. S. B. Chavan and showered the bliss of His darshan on the devotees gathered there. In fact, this visit of Baba was the fulfillment of a promise He had given to Mr. Shankar Rao Chavan, the father of S.B. Chavan, about 25 years ago! Swami had told him that He would visit his house when He came to Pune for the inauguration of a temple.
At 12.55 p.m., Bhagavan came to Sri Guru Gobind Singhji Stadium to bless the devotees gathered there with His darshan. This was followed by an enchanting discourse. Even as this was going on, Swami started advancing the function, much to the surprise of the devotees present.
Soon, everything became clear as the hitherto blue sky was covered with thick rain-bearing clouds. Nanded had not yet received its share of rains for the year and everyone seemed to be praying for it. No sooner had Bhagavan completed the discourse and His aircraft left the skies of that city, there was a heavy downpour. It was as if Bhagavan willed to answer the sincere pleas of the devotees instantaneously! It was indubitably a memorable trip for anyone who was a witness or a part of it.
This being the history, I was so excited about this divine odyssey to Hadshi. A confirmation list would be announced, we were told, and so, I eagerly waited everyday for that call which would say “Yes, you are in!"
The mind is so funny. My heart said, ‘Swami called you into the interview room and asked for your name to be written. What further affirmation do you seek?’ But the mind kept grumbling, ‘You never know how things can change with Swami. You are meant to love His uncertainties! So you better be prepared for everything!’ And I, though mostly on the side of the heart, cannot say with authority that I wasn't troubled by the mind!
It was on October 26 that we were all called to the University’s Administrative Block and communicated the good, nay the best news. Ah! My joy knew no bounds that day, and I began preparations in full gusto for the D-date, October 28, 2009.