Baba…the name was fervently on my lip when I got up from my dream. The familiar face soft with wrinkles, and eyes dripping with love, were his. He came and sat with me along a charpai in a stony cave. Holding his hand, I said Baba (as though I knew him since ages, or since as old as I knew myself), ‘Baba, what is my connection with you? How is my spirit linked with yours? Tell me!’, I urged. His gaze poured unto mine as a long deep pouring of love from one vessel to another; and his words melted into my ear like solace soaks unto a grieved soul. “In a matter of ten days, the secret will be revealed to you!” With a sprinkle of hope on my parched heart, the dream ended, and the wait began.

Ten days passed, ten weeks passed, ten months passed without a clue. His ten days were to be my ten years, it seemed. A thin veil stayed between my ignorance and my knowing. But once a while, the veil lifts a wee bit and revealed glimpses. One such day crossed my street while journeying to Bangalore on Karnataka Express, when unexpectedly fever swept over me and rose high enough for me to ponder getting off the train. Manmad was the closest station, where I got off with my luggage and inquired about a night halt. The villager informed me that Baba’s abode Shirdi, was a mere hour’s drive from the station! Well indeed, how could he see me cross his gate without stopping me for some rest and tea! So there I was, tumbling forth in the direction of Sai Samadhi, rolling in a strange fever I knew now to be a friend.

As Shirdi neared, I felt a cool current sweep over me. The ripples of his love had begun to reach, caress and comfort me. The sleepy village soon made appearance. Time seemed to have slept since the time Baba blessed its soil with his signature, while village elders are still brimming with his miracles. Who can say that Baba has left Shirdi? His presence is more palpable than the stories of his stay. Checking into a room near the Shrine, I strolled out near the Neem tree (Gurusthan) where Baba first appeared in 1854 as a tender boy, and spent hours in contemplation under its shade. I visited Dwarkamai, the mosque where Baba lived for 60 years, and lit earthen lamps (begging oil from grocers) that burnt through the night. I saw the legendary flame or dhuni whose ash Baba distributed to remind his devotees that death sleeps in life. I entered temples of Dattatreya (whose incarnation Baba is believed to be), Ganesha, Shani and Mahadev that Baba visited daily. Flashes appeared before my eyes of times when Baba used to stroll on this soil, and perform Dhoti-poti, a hathayoga technique wherein he would take out his intestines and hang them up to dry. Or perform khandyoga, separating his limbs from his trunk. Echo of numerous Naam-Saptahs or chanting weekends held in the village amidst these very lanes fell on my ear.

I started moving towards the Samadhi, where Baba rests. This is the spot where Baba sat in silence for twelve years so that he could speak to his children even after his passing. The line of devotees was long. Yet, wait seemed dear. What matter were a few hours, when I had been prepared to wait for years! Besides, he was with me even during the wait. I had heard tales of Baba’s life, and his miracles, but I had neither read his scriptures nor knew the hymns that the devotees were so comfortable chanting. Yet, I felt no stranger to the gathering. For all I knew, Baba preached no religion other than that of love. And as I trickled along the stream of his lovers, with folded hands containing thin lines of all my destiny as an offering.

Just then, his lifelike idol stood ahead of me. My head bent low, and the wish waiting at the threshold of my heart since long, leapt forth and clung to his feet, “O fakir, apni fakiri ki daulat baksh! Bless me with the wealth of your renunciation!” Suddenly, from that vast void which is Baba, I recognized spontaneously what chains are about. I knew in a flash that everything I own is bondage, anything that I ask for keeps me chained. Anything that I hope for, keeps me thirsting for the mirage of birth and death. I wished to carry just one luggage, that of an overflowing heart, and shed all the rest. The fire of renunciation flared up in the dhuni of my existence. Everything since then and now is seems the same, except it is just different!