The human mind is a funny instrument. Most times it comes across as a rational device prone to logical thinking. Yet, there are times when it makes you comply with the seemingly absurd and unimaginable. During such times these requests can be attributed to intuition, blind faith, desperation, frustration, or may be sort of a last-resort. These were the thoughts that crossed my mind when I heard my Dad announcing a trip to Shirdi. While there is nothing weird in visiting Shirdi, it does raise eyebrows when it comes from a person who has always stayed away from rituals, god-men, and fervent displays of religion; whose focus has been on practicality, whose principle in life has been ‘Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta’.
We found ourselves in Shirdi an hour before amidst a multitude of devotees. Apparently we were late to gain entry to the holy chambers, in spite of having passes arranged for. Dad was ready to make a turn-back, but Granny persisted. (She isn’t the one to give up so easily.) So after some phone calls, we were put at the end of a queue that seemed to be progressing quickly. The women and men were separated just before entering the holy sanctum. The chamber was resonating with a soothing chant of ‘Aum Shree Sai Nathaya Namaha’. It took me a while to get used to my surroundings; women shuffling around me to get a better view of the idol, people chanting and murmuring prayers, unoblivious of everything, regulars acknowledging each other or explaining newbies like me what to expect next, little boys crying at being separated from their mothers. The chamber was ornate with designs embossed on silver. The benign idol of Sai Baba looked upon us as multiple air-coolers and fans kept us cool. In the meanwhile, the stage was being set for the daily aarati (prayer recital). The aarati started at ; my hands folded as an automatic response to the recital, but leaving that I was not sure how to behave.
I am a believer; I believe that there is a supreme power and that man does have his limits. I am okay with calling this supreme power God. I haven’t thought much about God beyond this simple belief that I hold in my heart. So I don’t think twice if I have to bow before Ganesha or Shiva or any other Hindu deity. However, this was a new experience. The idol which everybody was worshipping here was that of a mortal human being; just like me. I don’t know much about the life and work of Sai Baba and so feigning zealous devotion was a far cry. My mind was coagulated by a million thoughts….
The pictures in the museum portrayed Sai Baba as a simple man. Now, his idol was seated on a silver throne, dressed in a jazzy purple (!) kaftan and his head adorned a gold crown. “What an irony..,” I sighed. “The time and money invested in this enterprise could move mountains,” I said to myself. “Baba, do you approve of all this?” Oh well, I’ll save my rant for another post….
As I tried to find my way out of this mental maze, I noticed two words on the silver embossing “Shraddha-Saburi” (Faith-Patience). That was the
moment. I waited outside for Dad after the aarti. He seemed happy and relieved at the same time. “Faith and Patience, Daddy,” I exclaimed as I hugged him. He understood. Eureka