A PINCH OF SALT
One day, during this last visit to Ahmednagar, we were taken to the Pimpalgaon water reservoir for practical training in map reading. No one among the group of over 500 cadets and instructors knew that we had come very close to the residence of God in human form. Since we were there for the whole day, our lunch was brought out to us. Everyone was tired and hungry so they immediately started doing justice to their lot, but I was a little different from the others.
From my childhood I had a habit of putting extra salt on my plate whether or not it was actually required. True to this nature, I asked for extra salt from the men distributing the food after I had gotten mine. When they could not provide me with any, I was extremely upset and could not start eating my food. All the others were enjoying their lot and also laughing at my plight of not being able to start eating just for want of a little pinch of extra salt. At this point I noticed a bungalow across the fields and decided to beg for the salt there. My whole attention was focused on getting salt and all other things ceased to exist for me.
So, I crossed the fields and reached the gate of the bungalow in no time and asked a man at the gate to give me a pinch of salt which he gladly did. I was so ungrateful and unconcerned about other things that at that time I never bothered to enquire about the place. I wanted salt and I got it so I was happy. I came back to my group, ate the food and forgot the incident. Within two to three days, our training was over and we went back to Jabalpur by the end of December 1960.
On the 1st of January, 1961, our college reopened and the very first day I happened to meet one of my botany professors, Dr. S. Bhatnagar. I don't know why, but all of a sudden I asked him to permit me to come to his house in order to get some of my Botany difficulties solved. He readily agreed to my request and the same evening I found myself at his gate. He very lovingly took me inside his sitting room which was very simple and had (as I recall) only one large photo hung on one of the walls. No sooner did I notice this photo than I was powerfully drawn towards it just as a piece of iron is attracted towards a magnet.
Now, from my childhood days, I had always had a very strong feeling that something was missing from my life. The photo in my professor's room attracted me so intensely because I felt that it was the missing thing. Yet I asked myself, how can this be the missing thing? It may be just a photo of my professor's father. But the photo was so attractive that I tried to overlook this last thought.
In those days, the teacher-pupil relationship was such that I could not on that very first day ask my professor about the photo. The day passed, and my attraction to the photo grew stronger and stronger. I started to make it a practice to visit my professor's house very often. Every time he would receive me gladly, thinking that at least he had one student who was very interested in his subject.
He never had the least idea that I was not visiting him solely for study, but my main interest was to have at least a glimpse of that beautiful photograph. Because it would have been impolite for me to simply sit there and stare at the photo I used to occasionally ask my professor for a glass of water, so that when he left the room, I could gaze at the photo undisturbed.
A sort of hide and seek game was going on between my professor and me since he wanted to deliberately avoid telling me about the photo and I was interested only in learning about it. My professor was afraid that if I knew who the photo was of, I would give up my studies, so he decided that he would tell me about the photo only after I had completed my education. But destiny could not wait for such a long time.
One day I noticed a garland on the photo. For the first time I knew that the photo must be my professor's guru and not his father as no one worships his father in this way. With this discovery, the beautiful figure in the photo became my guru as well. My professor was a very honest and sincere teacher and I felt that these qualities must be due to the grace of the guru whose photo was hanging on his wall. I made him my guru in the hope that he would inculcate in me the same qualities he had bestowed on my professor.
In spite of all this, I still did not know even the name of my guru. In this way, four months passed. Our college closed down for summer vacation and for two months my professor was out of town so I could not visit him. In July 1961 the college reopened and I took the first opportunity to visit him so I could quench my thirst for that mysterious photo which had been preoccupying my heart for the last six months.
That July my professor gave me the sad news that he was being transferred to another city. So I gathered my courage and asked him about the photograph. Straightaway he told me the photo was of Avatar Meher Baba. When he uttered the words, "Avatar Meher Baba," my soul and my heart readily accepted Him as the Avatar.
I next asked where He lived. When I was told the place was Ahmednagar, I was extremely elated as I had visited that city thrice before knowing about Him. I was naturally curious to know the exact place in Ahmednagar so that I could find out whether I had ever been close to that place during my visits there. When my teacher told me that Baba lived some nine miles away from the town, near a reservoir, I asked my teacher if it was the Pimpalgaon reservoir. He said, "Yes," but in wonderment asked me how I knew its name. I then told how I had visited there with the N.C.C. I further asked whether Baba's bungalow was the only residence in the vicinity of the reservoir. On getting a positive reply, I told him about the incident of my begging salt from that very bungalow.
Soon after knowing about Him, I wrote a letter to Baba which was very lovingly and promptly answered. His letter transformed my life completely and awakened more love in me to accept Him as my Master. Baba asked me to wait for the proper time for His darshan. The 1962 East-West Gathering was my first opportunity to have my Beloved Father's darshan. Thus a pinch of salt begged at His threshold has brought me into the orbit of His sweet love.
OUR CONSTANT COMPANION, pp. 11-14, ed Bal Natu
1983 © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust