6. FAITH AND INNOCENCE

In April 1874, the Holy Mother came to Dakshineswar again. During this second stay she fell ill of dysentery and suffered terribly. Through the devoted services of Shambhu Mallick and the medical care arranged by him she recovered sufficiently to go to her village home in September 1875. There again she had a severe relapse, so much so that her life was despaired of. She could hardly walk and her body was reduced to a skeleton. She was frightened at seeing her own reflection in the water—such mere skin and bone she had become. When the news reached Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna himself was anxious and remarked to Hriday, his nephew, 'Coming to earth, will she leave it without having realized the goal of life?'

As all human remedies failed, in great desperation one night she went with the help of her brother Umesh to the village temple of the Divine Mother, called Simhavahini, where she lay down vow to fast till the goddess cured her. As she lay there, she saw the vision of Simhavahini who

appeared before her and suggested a medicine for her eyes which when tried had an immediate effect. The goddess appeared similarly to Shyamasundari Devi and suggested another medicine for dysentery by taking which the Holy Mother completely recovered. As the news of her miraculous cure spread, the Deity began to receive the worship of people from far and near. Even now the temple retains this popularity.

After about a year the Holy Mother again fell ill and suffered this time from an enlargement of the spleen. Following the ways of the village people, Shyamasundari took her daughter to a neighbouring Shiva temple where a quack used to brand the region of the spleen with a piece of burning jujube wood. This drastic remedy was tried. One cannot say whether it had any effect, but what was noteworthy was that the Holy Mother withstood the severe treatment with incredible calm and fortitude, no one even being required to hold her limbs at that time. Gradually she recovered.

The Holy Mother went to Dakshineswar for the third time in January 1877. Perhaps on this (or may be on one of her other visits to Dakshineswar), an incident happened which showed how spiritual innocence is a great power, and guileless confidence placed even in an evil character can transform a life. On the journey from Jayrambati to Dakshineswar one had to cross vast fields. Once the Holy Mother was overtaken by darkness in one of those fields. The whole of her party had gone ahead quickly as night was fast approaching, but she could not keep pace with them. The path had the notoriety of being infested with dacoits and many wayfarers are said to have been robbed of their all and even killed. The Holy Mother was trudging on wearily. At that dark hour she saw a tall figure with a club on his shoulder approaching her. As he came near he sharply asked her where she was going at that hour. In all her innocence the Holy Mother said, 'Father, I am going to Dakshineswar where your son-in-law stays. I have been left behind by my party.' Soon she found approaching a woman who was presumably the man's wife. Her she accosted as mother and told the same thing. The man and woman were so moved by the guileless attitude of Saradamani that they took her to a shop for shelter and fed her with puffed rice bought from the shopkeeper. As no bedding could be had, the woman spread her own clothes and on that laid her 'daughter' to sleep. The couple belonged to a very low caste, but in their great affection for Saradamani they altogether forgot their difference of social position. The next morning they went with her as far as Tarakeshwar, where she met her companions.

By staying only one night with them, she made them so dear to her that they actually began to weep when they had to leave her. Before taking leave, the Holy Mother got a promise from them that they would visit her and their 'son-in-law' at Dakshineswar. This promise was fulfilled, and Sri Ramakrishna treated them as if they were actually his parents-in-law at Dakshineswar. The Holy Mother used to say later that however nice and kind her 'dacoit father' had been to her, she had no doubt that he had committed many acts of robbery.

The Holy Mother had to live alone at Dakshineswar this time since her mother-in-law Chandramani Devi had passed away on February 27, 1876. Meanwhile the great devotee Shambhu Mallick had built a cottage for her on an adjoining piece of land, where she could live a bit more comfortably. There she would stay and cook for the Master. But as Sri Ramakrishna fell ill of dysentery, she again shifted to the Nahabat so that she could take better care of him.