Now let's start with another experience by anonymous Sai sister.
Anonymous Sai sister says: My desire to visit Shibpur first sprouted when I read the wonderful blog written by Sai devotee Sowmya Hebbarji and then upon seeing a picture of the life-like fiber glass statue of Shibpur Saibaba I was convinced that somehow Baba will fulfill my earnest desire to see him at Shibpur. After a lot of planning and coaxing, my father along with a dear friend, a Sai devotee and trustee of a Sai Temple in Hyderabad, agreed to join me. On October 27th, 2010 we all met up at the Shamshabad airport to board our Kingfisher flight to Kolkatta. Upon entering the plane and looking for dad and my seat I realized that we had been upgraded to business-class. I could not believe my eyes and checked again with the flight stewardess. The best guess seemed to be that the flight was oversold and hence dad and I were moved to business-class. My surprise knew no bounds. The first thought that hit me was Baba decided to fly us in real style. Unfortunately, my friend did not get upgraded and since he was kind enough to accompany me all the way to Shibpur leaving his business, I gladly offered him the seat. Within two hours we landed at the Kolkatta airport and met up with the car Amitji had arranged for us.
After about four to five hours we arrived at Shibpur. We were welcomed by Amitji’s cousin and made to sit in a lovely circular room made of Bamboo and a thatched roof. Water was served and after a few minutes Amitji arrived and introduced himself. I was very excited to meet him. Having spoken to him for so many months over the phone, a face-to-face meeting was a welcome change. We trio were introduced to board members which included Samity secretary Probhat Jodhar, the president and other trustees. Then, a gentleman was called- he was considered about 80% handicapped- Amitji told us that the room we were sitting in was built by the efforts of this gentleman. Having sat there for just a few moments, I began to feel a wonderful tranquility of some sort. My mind was getting calmer by the minute. But all the while my eyes were focused on the little thatched room where the Shibpur Statue was kept. Then we were offered some lunch of Pooris, Potato Sabji, Date chutney, Daal Tadka, rice and not to forget a plate full of Bengali sweets. After a sumptuous meal we were talking about the temple finances, and the current state of affairs and next steps. All the while I was thinking “Let’s talk all this later now I want to see Baba.” Just then Amitji said that Baba will see us only at 5:00 pm. I tired real hard to convince him that I could not wait so long but none of that worked so, I said alright Saburi it is. I had carried with me four dresses for Baba – three for the small statue– red stain with a golden border, blue satin with a silver and blue border and turmeric yellow with a hunter green border and for the large marble statue a lovely rust bordered satin cloth. I handed those over to Amitji.
It was always my desire to feed Baba guvar-ki-Sabji. I have a particular dish that I make using a masala I pick from the Indian store in the USA. As funny as this seems, I actually carried a bottle of this masala with me to India so that I could make my guvar for Baba. I had made the guvar and some bajara rice packed and froze it a few hours before I left home. I handed these over to Amitji’s wife Piyali (a wonderful person and a noble soul) and asked her to offer it to Baba if it was still in mint condition else to get rid of it. She took the containers away and promised to offer it up at Baba’s dinner time. My travel companions swore it was really ridiculous to carry food but I heard Baba was in Shibpur and I had to take my offering.
Finally, it was nearly 5 pm and we were waiting in the Samity office. After tea and some Marie biscuits Amitji said we could enter the small temple where the Shibpur Sai fiber glass statue was placed. Excited me waited not a second longer and charged to the temple like a bull that has been shown a red cloth. I closed my eyes while entering the temple and once I estimated I was before Baba with great expectation I opened them. Lo and behold! The statue on the throne was dressed in the red dress that I had given Amitji earlier in the afternoon. For a second, it looked like he was smiling saying “You have finally come”. A smile spanning my entire face was an expression of the immeasurable happiness. A feeling of my love being accepted by my guru just added the icing on the moment. My mom and I had lovingly picked each color and coordinated it appropriately and driven really far to give it to the right tailor. Never in my wildest dream had I thought of such immediate acceptance. Amitji then entered and said Baba wanted to wear the red dress so he dressed him up accordingly. Speechless, I just sat on the floor in front of Baba and so did my father and friend. We were left alone. In a few minutes I began to feel really uncomfortable and thought of leaving the room. It was like this little voice telling me to leave. But not wanting to offend anyone I just moved towards the tail end of the room. Then Amitji returned to the temple and told us of his own accord that sometimes people visiting Baba in the temple felt really uncomfortable and just leave. Even the pujari feels this some times and then the puja is completed by someone else. It was an answer to the feelings I was feeling. Amitji also added that it was Baba’s call and that’s why all three of us were there. He said if Baba does not want to see you he won’t and as an example there was once a couple who came from a far at this time Amitji was in Calcutta. They just visited Bade baba in the main temple and did not even go to the little thatched room where the Shibpur statue is kept. The villagers pleaded with them but they just left. Imagine coming all that way but not seeing the real wonder. It is just like visiting Agra but not seeing the Taj Mahal.
We were then asked to step out so that arrangements could be made for the aarti. When we stepped out of the temple we were surprised to see that it looked like the Dhuni was ready to be inaugurated. I was really happy to be part of the inauguration and was standing there waiting for some great personality to arrive to cut the ribbon. Just then Amitji comes to me and says “I told you I had a surprise for you. Now come pick this scissor and cut the ribbon- Inaugurate the Dhuni” I looked at him as-if he was high on something. He then realized I did not understand he was serious and told me that he meant what he said and put the scissor in my hand. My dad and friend were surprised too but they gave me a nod to go-ahead. So amongst the band, sounds of conches (shanks) and singing I took Baba’s name and cut the ribbon. Then my friend was asked to break the coconut and I was the first to enter the Dhuni room and bowed at Baba’s lovely portrait. A photographer was all the while capturing these wonderful moments I will treasure for life. I was actually still dazed and not sure what was happening. Given the allergies, bad cold and fever, I thought I must be imagining all this due to the heavy medication. In fact all this was very much happening. I could not believe the honor my deva had bestowed on me. I could almost sit at that very spot and cry so emotional was I. I am a very ordinary person - not a star, not a politician nor a bureaucrat – Why me? Later my dad told me that when I was in the restroom in the afternoon, Amitji had told dad and my buddy that the entire village of Shibpur was waiting for my arrival. Baba had told Amitji that he will send his devotee across the seven seas to inaugurate his Dhooni in Shibpur. I am not sure how Amitji zeroed in on me. It has been a few days now but I still do not feel worthy of this honor. Baba is far too kind to us. Right now work is on to bring the fire from Dhuni in Shirdi to lite the Dhuni in Shibpur.
Then we returned to the small temple and the aarti commenced. Baba was offered all different types of cut fruits such as Apples, Bananas, cherries, etc. and beside that was a plate with the guvar sabji and Bagara rice. Again my joy knew no bounds. I cannot think of a better day where I have been given so many gifts one after another. The aarti commenced. I was not sure what to expect but the pujari was dressed in a bright red shirt and red Dhoti. He stood on the left of Baba while someone else stood at the right with a fan (like the one used in a Gurudwara). A crown was placed on Sai’s head and the Gayatri Mantra was recited thrice. When I looked back, the little room was packed and people actually were seated out and participating in the aarti. I thought to myself this is how the aarti must have been in Shirdi where it is said that people actually flowed out in the courtyard of the mosque when aarti was performed. Then the Gayatri was followed by the Guru Mantra. After this all began singing an aarti song in Bengali and the pujari was doing the aarti while dancing left-to right with some really cool moves. My dad lovingly called it “Disco Aarti”. There was so much of Bhakti and passion in this aarti that we all had never seen before. The sound of Conches and Bengali women shouting “OOOO”, as done in Durga worship, accompanied the aarti with musical instruments. This is when I realized Baba really lives up to his words “I reside where there is full devotion”. Where else could there be more innocent and pure devotion than those of the villagers of Shibpur?
After the aarti in the small temple, a procession was taken where we stopped and worshiped the place where Ramdas Biswas used to pray to Baba, then the Gurusthan and then made our way to the newly contrasted temple that holds “Bade Baba” a term used by all the villagers to address the marble Shirdi sized statue of Baba gifted by Mr. Ramani. A similar aarti commenced in the temple with conches, musical instruments and women shouting “OOO”. First a loban aarti was performed followed by an agarbati aarti and then a regular aarti. The atmosphere was so energized and the face of Baba began to glow. It may sound a little weird but I observed the difference in the marble face before aarti where it did not hold a special glow and during aarti where the face of the statue literally lit up. This glow was not from a reflection of the aarti lights since it was there even during the aagarbati aarti. During all these aartis Amitji was not present. He had told me he performs his private puja after all the aartis are completed.
After the aarti was completed Amitji walked in and began to read the Satcharita in Bengali. At this time, my body was burning with fever and to avoid fainting in the temple, I decided to step out for a bit for some water and air. Amitji’s cousins tended to me. Later my dad told me that as soon as I stepped out everyone seemed very upset and asked if they had made a mistake that unsettled me. My dad explained that I was feeling a little sick and would be back. It was nothing that they did wrong. Then the villagers happily finished the last few minutes of the ceremony. We were all so touched by their gentle love and concern.
Later that evening, Amitji had invited us three to join him in his private puja at the small thatched room where the Shibpur statue is currently kept. During his pooja, Amitji keeps just a small kerosene lamp on and all electric lights are turned off. This is when one can see Baba in his true grandeur. The luster on Baba’s face makes it seem that he is alive seated there. Amitji asked me to carefully observe the moods displayed by Baba’s face. What I saw seemed more like an illusion to me at that time. I was staring at Sai’s face all throughout and could actually feel like his eyes were looking all over the room and then came on me for a few seconds. My fear was at its peak and I told myself hold on…don’t faint. Suddenly the eyes went back to their statue state. The deepness within them disappeared. Amitji continued on the side with his pooja. Then suddenly it seemed like Baba was gone. I could not see the face of the statue for a fraction of a second and then it came back. This happened three more times. At this time I was freaking out. Judging by the intellect it seemed like either I have smoked something or must be high on grass neither of which I had consumed – The feeling was exalting- indescribable.
When the pooja was completed, Amitji said I could spend a few minutes with Baba alone. Finally, I had got my moment. I stared at Baba’s face in the light of the kerosene lamp. It had a lovely glow and seemed like he was very much seated. We began to have a conversation though not aloud- like this little voice from my soul was saying something but the words did not spring from my head. It seemed like he wanted to drive home a point to me. One of unconditional love for the guru, where if something does not go your way- do not blame the guru. All he said was I want unconditional love from you, not one that is event driven. In my case this was apt. Then I responded by saying “You always say you should be the object of my anger love and everything. Why are you saying this now? I got no response. I then sang my favorite song to him – Das GanuMaharaj’s Reham nazar karo aab maro Sai. The little voice asked to come forward and then press his feet. This was a desire I always held and to this day I press the feet of Baba’s small marble statue I have at home. When I began to press the feet of the statue I could feel some nerves and found the feeling really different. Seemed like there were tendons on the feet of the statue. I pressed away to my heart’s content and then stood up and held his face in my hands. In my soul I could feel my seva was accepted. I smiled and said in his ear to always be with me and love me like his child.
I resumed my seat and Amitji returned asking me to step out since Baba would eat his dinner. We were severed a lovely dinner and some Prasad from Baba’s meal. Later we retired to our arrangements. My father and friend stayed at Probhatji’s home and I was given a room in Amitji’s home. His cousin sister would sleep in the room with me since I was a scared to sleep alone. It was almost 1 am, Amitji and I sat outside having a small conversation of the events. It was then that I learnt sometimes people visiting do not see Baba on his seat. It took me a while to realize that some of the incidents I was judging by my intellect. When one has inculcated into himself through education the need for scientific proof, that’s when he does not realize a miracle even if it is in front of his eyes. Such was my case – I was confused. Amitji smiled and said Baba called you all this way just to confuse you. I responded with a corky smile - he will sort it out by morning.
I woke up at 3:55 am on Thursday morning since I did not want to miss the morning aarti. After freshening up Amitji and I had tea together at Ramdasji’s home and I headed to the little temple. The aarti there was almost completed and the handful of villagers headed to Bade Baba. The electricity was cut off at this time and all the ceremonies were conducted in lamps. Then after abhishakeam, Bade baba was made to wear the rust colored dress I offered. It was my desire that Baba should dawn the garment on Thursday and this he sure did. How the Guru knows the desire of his children and fulfills them, this was an example to me- every desire I had was fulfilled from offering guvar to pressing his feet.
The villagers requested through Amitji that I visit their home. So after a few minutes all trustees, Amitji and the three of us began a tour of the village. After walking a few steps and looking around it became clear that the village of Shibpur has never left the 1940’s. The homes were extremely run down and some of them made of straw with thatched roofs. Only three homes in the village were made of cement and none of these belonged to the common man. We urban dwellers looked around in shock. Even in India today there are some areas that time has left behind. The conditions were so poor and downtrodden that my eyes were filled with tears. But despite all the poverty these villagers offered up their best belongings and love for Baba. If they could not afford to pay cash to build the temple they volunteer their time free of charge. Sometimes they share what little they have to feed labor building the temple. This is their humble service. My heart was so touched at the royal welcome we received at each home. One of the homes had put on a new sheet on their wobbly cot to welcome us. One woman villager living in a straw home actually milked her cow and offered us three glasses of milk with so much of love that despite being lactose intolerant I could not decline. Believe me their condition is so bad that every glass of milk would be worth a lot but this humble loving lady did not care for anything just offered us the best she had. This act of “atiti devo bhava” I will never forget. They now require two lakhs to get their daughter married and despite that she offered us her only source of income – Milk.
We visited the home of the pujari, all the trustees and few villagers. Later my dad and I spent a few more minutes with Shibpur Baba alone. Our ride had arrived and before we took leave Amitji’s father told me in English “Do visit again and again and again. Not just Again- We know you will be back. Until then we will wait to see you.” We visited Amitji’s home in Krishnanagar. He served us a delightful meal of Poori, AlooPosto and Mutton curry – all my favorites. Being Thursday, I could not eat meat so I his lovely sister packed it for me so that I could eat it on Friday. I spent some time with his family and then after taking a few pictures headed back to the Kolkatta airport.
My trip to Shibpur has highlighted to me that it does not take a lot to be a true bhakt of Sai. Not wealth, not gold, not offerings - just earnest devotion with body mind and soul. You can read about everyone’s experiences and feel happy but true ecstasy can only come when you visit in person. We all wait to hear about miracles on healing the sick, making the poor wealthy etc., etc. but the biggest miracle to me is to see how Baba has chosen Shibpur and how the temple and faith are growing by the day in one of the most remote areas of the forward India. As Baba’s bhakts our duty is to do good onto the world. This is a perfect chance to make a difference in the lives of those among whom our Deva has decided to reside. On the way to Shibpur my friend said, “Can’t Baba choose a metro to settle? We have to go all this way to meet him in some remote village.” On our way back, my friend said he realized why Baba choose Shibpur – Complete Devotion, Heartfelt Simplicity and Unconditional Love.
© Devotees Experiences with Shirdi Sai Baba