How Baba helped Shantaram, Physically and Spirituallyo
Shantaram A. Naik was born in Madkai, Goa (Ponda District), and his father was a farmer. Upon completing his education, he got a job in the Government regime, and soon rose to the post of an Officer. As luck would have it, he sustained an injury to his right hand. Shantaram had his hand checked by various specialists who subjected him to various forms of treatment, but to no avail. Finally he decided to go to Mumbai and have his hand treated there. At that point in time Goa was not a part of the Indian State, so Shantaram had to get a visa to enter India. He tried his best to procure a visa, but failed to do so. Finally he decided to enter India illegally. Shantaram thus boarded a small boat which brought him to Karvar and thence to Mumbai. At sea he faced a lot of difficulties, but by Baba’s grace he somehow reached Mumbai. In Mumbai, Shantaram stayed at Byculla with a Christian friend, who immediately got him checked by a surgeon. The surgeon told him that his arm would have to be amputated. Shantaram was now in turmoil and didn’t know what to do. In utter anguish, he lay on his bed and tossed and turned about.
When he finally fell asleep, Baba appeared in his dream and asked him to come to Shirdi. The very next day he decided to visit Shirdi, but he didn’t know how to get there. After asking a few friends, he went to Dadar and boarded the train for Shirdi at 3 p.m. on the 18th of August, 1957. Shantaram reached Kopergaon at 2 a.m. and he was the only passenger to disembark there. A few passengers were sleeping on the platform. Now Shantaram was frightened as it was the first time he was going to Shirdi and he had no idea how to get there. In fact, he knew nothing at all. Bewildered, Shantaram went and stood near a pillar and prayed to Baba for help. At that very moment, an old man brought his tonga and stopped in front of him. He spoke in Hindi and said, “You want to go to Shirdi, isn’t it? Come sit, let’s go.” The road was deserted and Shantaram was fearful, but within 5 minutes they reached Shirdi. The old man stopped the tonga, and looking towards the temple spire, he pointed the way to Shantaram. Then Shantaram asked him the fare. Without saying a word he showed him two fingers making a ‘V’ sign. Shantaram gave him two rupees. Then Shantaram stooped to get his bag and when he looked up, the old man and the tonga had disappeared.
Astounded, Shantaram walked towards the temple. Many questions arose in his mind. Was it possible for a tonga to traverse 10 miles in a span of 5 minutes? Why did he ask for two rupees? That was a large amount in those days. How could the old man and his tonga disappear? But with Baba everything is possible. For instance, in chapter 33 of the Shri Sai Satcharita the Jamner miracle has been described, where Baba becomes the tonga driver who takes Ramgir Bua to Jamner, leaves him there and disappears.
Shantaram went to the Samadhi Mandir, but the doors were closed, so he sat there and waited for them to open. Then he dozed off, and had a dream in which he saw some scenes of Shirdi of bygone days. He woke up, attended the Kakad Arati, and offered flowers to Baba. Shantaram begged Baba to have mercy on him and prevent his right arm from being amputated. Then he returned to Mumbai.
Two days later, Shantaram and his friend went to the same doctor for a checkup. However this time the doctor informed him that amputation would not be necessary, but he would have to undergo a major surgery. Consequently, he would only be able to write with that hand. After carefully thinking it over, Shantaram agreed to have the surgery performed. The operation was a success and after two months his bandages were removed. The doctor handed a piece of paper and a pen to Shantaram, and the first words he wrote were ‘Sai Baba’. At that moment Shantaram’s heart was filled with love and joy. After completing his medical treatment, Shantaram returned to Goa, and went back to work.
The incident of the old man and his tonga disappearing lingered in Shantaram’s mind. With every passing day his faith in Baba grew stronger and he started chanting Baba’s name with devotion. He found profound solace in chanting Baba’s name. Now he was well on the path of devotion. Shantaram voraciously read books on devotion; he also attended kirtans and pravachans (spiritual talks). Each step he took helped him on his spiritual path. One night he again dreamt of the scenes of bygone Shirdi, and the dream recurred the next night too.
Shantaram decided to visit Shirdi again, so he came to Mumbai and took the train to Kopergaon. He reached Kopergaon around 2 p.m. this time, and he again remembered the scene of the old man and his tonga disappearing. Shantaram had mixed feelings—happiness that Baba had come as a tonga driver for him, and sadness that he had been unable to recognise him and fall at his feet.
Upon his return home, Shantaram undertook innumerable pilgrimages to various holy shrines. He also read a lot of books on religion and spirituality. For a long period of time Shantaram was overcome by a sort of restlessness, thus he would go from one deity to another. He was unable to have one-pointed concentration on any deity. Then Baba appeared in his dream and said, “Arre! Why are you wandering from one forest to another? Why are you reading all these books? Do not read too many books.”
From that moment, Shantaram stopped wandering about, and curtailed his reading. He followed Baba’s instructions and sat at home and started doing Baba’s ‘manas puja,’ that is, mentally worshipping Baba with all rituals, as one would do externally. Over time, he had numerous visions of Baba, and many other experiences. The next leela shares some of Shantaram’s later experiences.
Ref.: Prasad, Volume 33, No. 9, August 1979.
Beautiful picture of our Baba shared by Jyoti Nagpurkar