A Muslim Devotee
Dr. Syed was a Muslim scholar and a great devotee of Bhagavan. His wife too became a devotee without losing her faith in the ways and conventions of the Muslim religion. She would not appear before other men. Stealthily she would come to the Ashrama, hide herself in one of the rooms and implore her husband to ask Bhagavan to come to see her. It was a most unusual request, but such was Bhagavan’s grace and compassion that even this was granted. Mrs. Syed would at first keep silent, rather than talk to Bhagavan through her veil; then later she would talk to him without a veil. But it took a long time for her to venture into the Hall without a veil and sit there like everybody else.
Dr. Syed and his wife used to stay in a rented house outside the Ashrama and cook their own food. One day she felt a very strong desire to invite Bhagavan to their house for food. She nagged her husband, but he did not have the courage to request something so unusual. Meeting his wife outside the Hall was unusual enough, and twice he had asked Bhagavan to consent to it; that Bhagavan should go to their house for food seemed unthinkable. But the intrepid lady went on pressing her husband until he became more afraid of her than of the enormity of her request and hinted her wish to Bhagavan, who smiled and kept quiet. She would not give up. She was certain that Bhagavan would grant her wish if the matter were put before him in the proper spirit and form. At last, while Bhagavan was going up the hill, Dr. Syed and his wife stood before him and told him her desire. Bhagavan just laughed and went up the hill.
When they returned home in the evening, there was quite a row in their house, she accusing him that he had not asked Bhagavan in the proper way. At last he had enough of it all and said to her: “How am I responsible? The truth of the matter is that your devotion is deficient. That is the reason why Bhagavan refused.” These words of his must have touched her deeply and she sat in meditation throughout the night. She wanted by sheer intensity of prayer to bring Bhagavan to dinner. During the early hours of the morning she must have dozed. Bhagavan appeared to her in a dream or vision and told her: “Why are you so obstinate? How can I leave the Ashrama and come to your house for food? I must dine along with others, or they won’t eat. Besides, as you know, people are coming from distant places, facing a lot of trouble to see me and to have food with me. How can I leave all these guests and come to your place? Feed three devotees of mine and it will be the same as feeding me. I shall be fully satisfied.” In her vision she saw the three devotees whom she had to invite. One was Dr. Melkote, the second Swami Prabuddhananda and the third was myself.
She told of her vision to Dr. Syed, who invited all the three for food in his house, telling us that we could not possibly refuse. We were astonished and asked him the reason. Dr. Syed told us the whole story. We were all Brahmins and, although we were delighted to represent Bhagavan at the feast, we were afraid of what the Ashrama Brahmins would say. For a Brahmin to eat in a Muslim’s house is a serious breach of convention.
Dr. Melkote was in the guest room near the flower garden. I went to him and asked him, “What are you thinking about?”
“I am thinking of the dinner at Syed’s place.”
“Are you going ?”
“I wonder. They are Muslims.”
”If we go, we are bound to get into a lot of trouble.”
“Yes, they may turn us out of the Ashrama.”
“Then are you going ?”
“I am going,” said Dr. Melkote. “I am taking it as Bhagavan’s direct order. Otherwise, how could Mrs. Syed pick us? How could she know our names and faces so as to show us to her husband?”
“Prabuddhananda can go, for he is a sannyasi and can eat anywhere. Besides, he is not afraid of the Ashrama authorities, for he cooks his own food. But we are taking serious risks,” I said. “Well,” said Dr. Melkote, “we are going, and Bhagavan will attend to the risks.”
In spite of these brave words Dr. Melkote was perplexed. We were to dine in a Muslim’s house. Even if the food were vegetarian, what about the kitchen and vessels? What do Muslims know about the Brahmin rules and habits concerning cleanliness? How would we explain our going to a Muslim house for food? Why should we trust the vision of some Muslim lady? Could we really say that we were merely obeying Bhagavan’s orders? Who would believe us? Surely not the Ashrama Brahmins! And what an assortment we three made! One was a Kanarese householder, the other an Andhra bachelor, the third a Bengali sannyasi!
The next day when the bell for dinner was rung, we three went before Bhagavan and bowed. Bhagavan did not ask us the reason, he merely looked at us. Instead of going to the dining hall with others we marched out of the Ashrama, passing before Chinnaswami who – O wonder! – did not ask us why we were going out without taking food.
Mrs. Syed got up early in the morning, swept the kitchen and washed the vessels carefully herself. She would not allow the servant girl to enter the kitchen. She had been scolded repeatedly by her relatives and the Muslim Moulvis for her devotion to a Hindu saint. She told them that while she used to say her prayers she would see the Prophet standing by her side. Since she met Bhagavan, the Prophet had disappeared and Bhagavan was coming to watch her pray. So great was her devotion!
After getting everything quite clean, she lovingly prepared dish after dish, and when we arrived, we found the food excellent. After the meal she offered us betel with her own hands.
When we were returning to the Ashrama, Dr. Melkote had tears in his eyes. He said: “I come from Hyderabad and I know well the Muslim ways and customs. A Muslim lady will give betel leaves with her own hands to nobody except her husband or a fakir (a saint). In her eyes we were fakirs, the forms Bhagavan took to go to her place.”
When we returned to the Ashrama we were astonished that nobody enquired why we had not been present in the dining hall, where we had gone or what we did in a Muslim’s house. How wonderfully does Bhagavan protect those who obey him!
From Ramana Smrti Souvenir