I don’t remember the year. (and I don’t want to bother my mom now to ask for these details, as it is tough time for our family. My Dad is just out of danger from covid, only due to Swami ji’s grace and she is taking care of him, herself being a diabetic and heart patient.)

Alright, so since childhood I have seen my mother unwell and sick most of the time. (one of the main reasons I try to workout everyday is I don’t want my daughter to go through the same pain  , though i am far away from being called fit 😆).

I grew up or may be matured early due to that. Since Grade three, I started to cook. (A reason that I am bored of cooking now😏).

I was an unpaid maid at that time because mom was absolutely unable to do anything. Going to washroom was a task for her. Doctors were not able to diagnose what was the cause. We only knew she had Asthma. (later  after a decade we realized that she had severe blockages in  her heart arteries. )

Everyday while coming back from school, I used to think, whether I will see her alive or she will be gone and it continued for few good years. Dad and we kids, (my brother), used to sit beside her head and legs, respectively, and cry thinking that she will be gone tonight.

I used to prepare breakfast with the help of Dad, and cook once I was back from school. In between cleaning the house and clothes were normal routine.

(The worst was cleaning big bed sheets by hands for two reasons, one we didn’t have washing machine and second my hands were small to pull that weight once the sheet was wet. But I never gave up💪).

In short I was a kushal grihani quite early in my life.🙃

Too much background… 😃

Well one day I came back from school and straight went to kitchen to cook, just when I washed my hands and went to gas burner, I saw prepared meal. I was surprised. I then thought some kind neighbour must have helped today. Then suddenly I went to Mom’s room and there she was- well dressed, neat and clean. She had taken bath on her own. I observed the furniture has been arranged and she is sitting and smiling.

I asked who had come, who helped you…whats’ going on. She laughed (I felt in heaven with that smile…that’s the magic a mother has on her child😍)

She said Sai Baba came in her dream and gave her some khichdi Prasad and then she suddenly felt a rush of energy and she did all the household chores, including moving the furniture and cooking.

I was shocked😮. I called Dad in his office and asked him to rush home. That poor man, thought  his wife was gone lolzzzzz. 😄

He was so sad when he entered home but when he saw me excited, he asked what’s the matter. I told him everything. He hugged us all and thanked Lord. Mom said she wants to visit the Sai temple today.

In the evening we all went to a near by Sai temple, Chhatarpur in Delhi, and was surprised to see that the Prasad the temple was distributing that evening was none other than the khichdi.

We thanked Sai Baba for saving our mother. I am not saying since then she didn’t fall sick but the severity reduced a lot. So we decided to travel to Shirdi to pay our tribute .

We were travelling to a new state with no prior idea about the place but we had only two things in our heart- faith and devotion for Sai.

So, we boarded our train to Manmad, yeah at that time that was the nearest station.

We got down, it was really hot weather.  We checked with few autos but they were charging quite high. We thought if we have to pay a bit higher let us try hiring a taxi, but damn they were asking for more than my quarterly Kendriya Vidyalaya school fee.

(Please note, unlike today , those days we used to travel without any prior booking in any hotel or arranging cabs beforehand. And trust me that’s why our life was adventurous to some extent).

With not so big IAF salary, we dropped that plan. My mom suggested she is feeling fine and we can board the bus to Shirdi. I could understand she sensed my father’s dilemma. So we happily took our luggage and started to walk towards the bus station.

Suddenly out of nowhere a tall man, dressed like a fakir , stopped us and said I have been waiting for you for so long, where were you guys. Get in my taxi and I will drop you to Shirdi.

This was shocking for us, how did he know where are we headed and before this , when we were negotiating with other taxi drivers, he was nowhere to be seen.

Dad said,” Thanks but we are fine”.

The Fakir taxi driver said just get in the taxi with authority,  but not rudely.

Mom, typical woman, pinched Dad slightly and said try to negotiate we might get a fair deal. When dad asked-“how much will you charge”?

He said,” did I ask for any money?. Just get in the taxi otherwise we will be late for Darshan of Sai,” and smiled slightly.

Dad , a very kind bhole baba types trusting strangers till date, agreed and said ok we will pay you as per our capacity and we all happily got in the car. Dad in front seat , I, Brother and Mom in the backseat enjoying the 1.5 hours ride.

This journey from Manmad to shirdi remains one of my favorite till date.

While going through the scenic beauty around, watching mountains and large fields, we observed  that taxi driver bit carefully.

He was dressed like Sai Baba with white safa on his head, tied exactly in the manner I had seen in pics. He had white circular tilak between his brows. He was singing Sai’s bhajan happily and talking to us about the Leela of Sai Baba.

We asked his name- “Ali “, came the prompt reply.

He then asked us, which hotel have you booked. Dad replied we will try to find a reasonable budget hotel once we reach Shirdi.

He then smiled and told us that he will take us to a hotel which is newly constructed and very reasonable. If we like we can stay there or else he will take us around in his taxi to see other hotels too.

So after a good ride, he stopped in front of a hotel and asked my Dad to go inside and check the property if it suits us. Also he advised us, mom, bhai and me , to get down and see the surrounding.

Meanwhile Dad went to the reception, we were standing outside the hotel, watching large open fields and from a distance we could see the big hotel Sun and Sand opposite to where we were standing. (No no we couldn’t afford that big hotel. The hotel we stayed in was called i guess Ganga sai or something similar)

We curiously asked the taxi driver where is the temple of Sai Baba and how far it is from here- he said just turn and see for yourself- there it was….within walking distance from where we were standing was the holy place we had come to visit. 

Then suddenly the driver started to take  out our luggage from his Ambassador taxi and kept it at the entrance of the hotel.

I said Dad has not finalised the hotel yet, he patted my back and smiled and continued with the luggage.

Then I saw my Dad coming out and said yes we will be staying here. Mom was happy and said pay handsome to the Taxi person.

Now please visualise this…on our right is the entrance of the hotel, dad is standing in front of us,  on our  left Taxi and the driver at the back side of his Ambassador Car.

So the taxi is infact at the right hand side of Dad, hope i am not confusing you all. 🤪

 We bent down to carry the luggage and entered the hotel reception area….dad turned to his right to pay the taxi man and we looked back to see the same, in reality to see how much will be paid….and booooommmm

There was no taxi, no driver and nothing. We looked here and there and it was all gone in seconds. We then rushed to the reception and asked them, any driver known by the name of Ali they have ever heard of or seen.

They smiled and said “are you coming here for the first time?”

We with our jaws open  nodded in yes. They said – Aap par Sai Kripa hai….and then we looked at the big idol of Sai Baba which was at the entrance of the hotel. We actually found him smiling on us lovingly.

We all started to cry and tears were rolling down the cheeks.  What good karma did we do to deserve his grace.

Till date this incident gives me goose bumps.  Who was he? Are we truly blessed ? Did we deserve his grace like this?

Whatever it was — I am happy that my mom got better, we found an anchor in Sai for the rest of this life.

The biggest thing was, I was saved by Sai Baba from becoming a child labour😂 to some one more productive . (Am i really productive🤔, needs more contemplation😃)

But yeah those early life experiences are coming handy in the role of a housewife .😆

I love my Sai and is breath for my family members. 

 

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Shalini Pandey

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