My dear girl Why get exhausted for nothing? - Smt. Parvatibai Sapatnekar's experiences with Sai.
(From Shri Sai Leela - July 1986)
Wednesday the 13th September 1983 was a lucky day in my life. Some months back I had learnt that somebody from the Sapatnekar Family from Akkalkot mentioned in Chapter 48 of Shri Sai Satcharita was staying at Shivaji Nagar in Pune and I had thought of looking them up. I did not have the exact address. So I looked up the telephone directory and hit upon Shri. D.M. Sapatnekar 25/1, Shivaji Nagar, Pune-5 (55485). The initial 'D' I thought might stand for 'Dinkar' — the name of one of the sons mentioned in Ch. 48.
I rang up and Shri D.M. Sapatnekar himself came on the line. I told him that I was a devotee of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi and was keen to meet the family — having read about them in Shri Sai Satcharita. Shri Sapatnekar was highly pleased and invited me to visit them with pleasure. To my surprise, he added that he himself was 'Dinkar' mentioned in the book and that his elder brother 'Murlidhar', who was born on account of Shri Sai Baba's blessing, was also staying in Pune. Before I could disconnect he gave me another pleasant shock. He told me that his mother Shrimati Parvatibai (aged 88 yrs.) who had personally met Shri Sai Baba and got His blessings, was also staying with him — not very well and confined to bed only.
I was overjoyed and went to them on the same day at 5.30 p.m. Shri Dinker Sapatnekar is a retired Judge from Maharashtra State Service. He is about 68 years old and hardly moves out having had an attack of paralysis on his left leg. Immediately he took me to his mother's room. The old lady was sitting on the bed. It suddenly flashed to my mind that this was the most lucky and blessed lady to whom Baba appeared in a dream, whose pain in abdomen and waist Baba cured on His own and whose barren womb, Baba blessed with a son as per her wishes. I felt very happy to be in front of such a pure and noble person and my head bent down in reverence and my hands stretched to touch her feet. After preliminary queries about my family, she narrated to me in detail her experiences with Baba. Even at that ripe age and frail condition of her body, when she started the description in her clear and sonorous voice with extreme enthusiasm and gesticulations of hand, I was stunned to see a pleasant shine of devotion and joy on her fair face. I started listening in rapt attention.
She said, "When I was married, I was hardly 13 years old and my husband (Shri. Mahadev Waman Sapatnekar) a widower of 33 years age. He had lost his first wife and also a son due to a throat disease. My in-laws were staying at Madhegaon but my husband lived and practiced as a lawyer at Akkalkot (the then District Headquarters). He was already disappointed in life having lost his first wife and a son. Afterwards when I too did not have an issue 4 — 5 years after marriage, he became very miserable and started losing interest in life. Then (in 1913) my father-in-law (we used to address him as Baba) asked him to go to Shri Sai Baba at Shirdi. We had heard about Shri Sai Baba from my husband's friend and one time co-student Shri. Shevde. But my husband had no faith in Shri Sai Baba and he did not wish to go. But those days how could a son dare disobey his father? So at last, accompanied by his younger brother Panditrao, he went to Shirdi.
On seeing Shri Sai Baba my husband approached him to bow down but Baba suddenly shouted, "Chal hat (Get away)" and pushed him with such a force that his pugree was thrown away. My husband became very sad and as after 2-3 days stay also when the same thing continued, returned to Madhegaon in a great disappointment and anger towards his father for sending him to Shirdi and getting insulted. When my husband went to Shirdi, he had left me at Madhegaon with my in-laws. I was very keen to go but in those days how could a wife say anything to her husband?
During nights we ladies (myself and the wife of my husband's brother) used to sleep together. Once while fast asleep I had a dream. Suddenly there was a very bright flash. In those days there was a shortage of water in our village. Suddenly I realized that there was not a drop of water in the house. So I took a pitcher and started going towards a well nearby — known as Lakkadsha's well, I was in a great hurry. In our times a daughter-in-law was not supposed to go out of the house alone and hence I wanted to come back home before Baba (my father-in-law) returned from the court. As I went near the well, I saw standing there a fakir with a cloth tied on his head. He came near me and said, "My dear girl! Why get exhausted for nothing? I shall get your pitcher filled with pure water." I was really scared. I suspected a bad intention on his part and when I also saw him raising up his kafni and sitting down to pass urine in front of me, I was doubly sure of his indecent intention and ran towards our house. He also followed me and continued to say, "Do not run away, you will regret later. I have come to give you something "On reaching home I closed the door firm and fast but the fakir came to the door and continued to throw small pebbles through the slits all the time saying, "I have come to give you something'.' I did not know what to do and was about to shout when I woke up suddenly. Looking around I saw my sister-in-law sleeping next to me peacefully as usual. I asked her what the time was. She laughed and jokingly said, "Aren't you getting sleep? Ah! Quite naturally. Brother-in-law (my husband) has gone to Shirdi, so you must be dreaming of him!"
Next morning while I was narrating the dream to my mother-in-law, Baba (my father-in-law) overheard it. He came in and inquired in detail about the dream. He suspected there was some divine purpose. He said to my husband, "Your wife had a great desire to visit Shirdi and this dream may be on account of the same. So you go to Shirdi again taking her with you. My husband was annoyed and replied, "Why do you listen to her. The idea was in her mind all the time and hence its appearance in the dream. I don't want to get insulted again," But my father-in-law quietened him and advised him to take along his elder brother's wife also (who had only daughters and no sons till then).
So accordingly we went to Shirdi, Shri Sai Baba was then returning from Lendi Baug. On seeing him I was stunned. He was the same fakir seen by me in the dream. Then looking at me He, holding His abdomen started yelling, "Oh Mother dear! How much my abdomen is paining and waist is aching too." I was baffled and wanted to know what was wrong with Baba. But the devotees nearby told me that Baba acted like this whenever His devotee was suffering and the devotee was cured. I however could not help laughing and enjoyed the perfect acting of Baba. At that time I failed to understand but after 2-3 months when the pain in my abdomen and waist disappeared on its own, I realized that the above acting was for my sake only and my heart was full of gratitude and love towards Baba.
Later in the day after Baba had settled down in the Masjid, we went to see Him with flowers and other offerings. As per custom in those days my husband moved ahead and I followed him. The moment my husband went near Baba, He greeted him as in the past shouting, "Chal hat". But when my turn came, He quietly allowed me to place myhead on His feet. I was overjoyed and forgot myself. Baba took handful of Udi, dubbed it on my head and said, "Take. One, two, three, four. How many you want?" My husband was very unhappy. Everybody else was enjoying Baba's blessings but not he — for him it was only "Chal hat", He started thinking and suddenly he felt that it may be the result of his earlier doubt and wrong notion about Baba. So he decided not to leave Shirdi unless and until he received Baba's blessings and in a few days time he got the opportunity. He once saw Baba sitting alone in the Masjid. Immediately he ran and held Baba's feet firmly all the while tears rolling out of his eyes.Baba placed His hand on his head and made him sit next to Him. Meantime a shepherdess arrived and started rubbing Baba's feet as usual. Baba also started conversing with her and my husband was surprised to hear the contents. It was all about his own story. Baba was saying, "This gentleman says I have killed his son. Do I kill other people's sons? Alright, now I shall bring a son in his wife's womb". My husband was full of joy and after bowing down to Baba again and again, hurried to the place we were staying.
On meeting us he narrated the incident to us and asked me to get ready for the Arati (waving of lights) quickly. He also asked me to prepare 'Puran-poli' (sweet chapaties) as naivedya, but the priest told us to prepare halwa. After the Arati all the naivedya (prasad) thalis were placed before Baba. Our thali was quite in rear of others, but to our great satisfaction Baba bent forward, and picked and ate handful of halwa from our thali only.
Next day was Thursday and we waited to see the Chavadi procession. ('Chhabina' was the word used by Smt. Sapatnekar). How beautiful it was! Devotees were walking ahead, dancing and singing 'Bhajans' to the tune of cymbals and drums. Baba was following. Chhatra (decorated umbrella), Chamar (Chowrie or fly-whisker) and a palanquin. But Baba never sat in the palanquin. If devotees lifted Him and put Him inside, Baba disappeared and was seen walking back again. Baba Himself also used to dance. What a pretty sight. I still can visualise it. And lo! On Baba's face I actually saw the same shine on Pandurang's face at Pandharpur.
Next day we were leaving Shirdi. While going to see Shri Sai Baba, my husband said to me, "I shall offer one rupee as dakshina to Baba. If he asked again I shall give one more rupee. But if He asks for more I shall have to sell my gold ring and your bangles also". To our great surprise, when my husband placed one rupee on Baba's hand, he asked for one more only and said, "I shall not ask for more since you will have to sell your ring and wife's bangles." Hearing this husband's doubts about Baba still lurking in his mind was cleared and he was convinced about Baba's divinity.
Within a period of one year only, that is in 1915, my son Murlidhar was born. When he was 8 months old we took him to Shirdi for Baba's darshan. Later I had twomore sons — Bhaskar and Dinkar. We took them also to Shirdi. Dinkar was then only 2 or 3 months old. As soon as I placed him at Baba's feet, He lifted him in His hands and threw him in the air with a great force. Nothing happened to Dinkar and a devotee sitting around caught him safely.
In all I had 8 sons and 1 daughter. Baba had said to me, "Take. One, two three, four. As many as you want", and really He had thus fulfilled His promise. As soon as my first son Murlidhar was born, my husband's faith and devotion to Sai Baba became firm and in years to come it developed so much that when my second son Bhaskar aged 10 years died, he collected all his remaining sons in front of Baba's photo and said, "Baba '.Take away all these. I shall not mind. But I shall not give up your bhakti (devotion)".
Dear readers, such is the most interesting and instructive story of Sapatnekars — coming from the horse's mouth — from one of the chief actors of the scene in Ch. 48. I have tried to render it in English language so that the Non-Marathi readers can share my joy.
Sapatnekars originally hail from the village Sapatne. Later they shifted to the Taluka town — Madhegaon. Practicing law has been their family profession. Even to this day it is being followed by the members generally. The hero of this story late Shri. Mahadev Waman Sapatnekar became a well-known pleader at Akkalkot and acquired a reasonably good property. In 1961 some of the family members shifted to Pune.
While talking to Shri Dinkar Sapatnekar, I learnt that his father was initially a devotee of Shri Dutta and used to visit Ganagapur quite often. Once there only, having lost his wife and son, his father to end his life had jumped into the river but Shri Dutta Himself took him out and ordered him to go to Akkalkot. After few years, as narrated above, Shri Sai Baba drew him towards Himself and fixed him forever in His devotion.
From the above one point is clear that darshan and blessing of any saint is not possible without one's good deeds and hard penance of past life. One more point also has struck me. Possibly Baba wanted to show that He and Shri Dutta are one and wanted to give a push to Shri Sapatnekar's original spirituality by removing his uncalled for disappointment and sorrow of family life. 'Chal hat' drama might be Baba's Leela for the same. Really is the wonderful skill and adaptability of Baba in drawing His devotees towards Himself and leading them towards spiritual uplift
(After this interview, within a period of 1 1/2 months only, this noble lady laid down her life at 4 p.m. on 30th October 1983. According to Hindu calendar this was the same day and month' (10th day of Ashvin) when Sai Baba took Samadhi, except that it was in the second half (Vadya) of the month. Also like Sai Baba, this lady breathed her last after the 10th day had finished at 3.51 p.m. and the 11th day (Ekadashi) had commenced. At the time of death she was 88 years old and was conscious till last moment. Next morning at 7 a.m. that is after 15 hours when I went to pay my obeisance to her, the shine on her face was still there and a thought came to mind that perhaps Baba had arranged my contact with her only 18 months before her passing away so that Sai Bhaktas could hear her story from her own mouth. How kind and thoughtful of Him. )
Lt Col. M.S. Nimbalkar (Retd.)