13. The Incident of the Palanquin Bearers
Revered Sarat Maharaj had come to Jayrambati to see the Mother while she was ill. Even after recovery, the Mother did not agree to go to Calcutta. So the Swami, who considered himself to be the Mother’s gatekeeper, stayed on at Jayrambati near the Mother in great joy for more than a month. At last he fixed a date for returning to Calcutta. Accordingly he made Pranam to the
Mother with great devotion that morning, and after receiving her blessings, he with his party started on foot for Kamarpukur. The arrangement was that the next day Yogin-Ma and Golap-Ma would go to Koalpara in a bullock cart, while Sarat Maharaj would go in a palanquin to visit the Badanganj High School, and after having his lunch at Headmaster Prabodh Babu’s place, reach Koalpara at dusk, and join them The great devotee (Prabodh Babu) had procured a big palanquin suitable for the Swami, and had got eight strong bearers to carry him. It was rather late in the afternoon by the time Sarat Maharaj had finished his food after visiting the school. For, the devotee Headmaster, in his eagerness to honour the Swami, had made elaborate arrangements for his reception and feasting, and could not therefore keep to time. The members who formed the Swami’s retinue were annoyed at heart because of this unexpected delay, but the Swami took it easy and the others, therefore, had to put up with it patiently. Thus the party was delayed, but they had the satisfaction of partaking of a sumptuous feast, and of taking ample rest afterwards.
On resuming their journey in the late evening, it was realised that the party would be reaching Koalpara only very late at night. So in order to allow the Swami undisturbed sleep, it was decided that he should return to
Jayrambati, and start from there for Koalpara early next morning. It was dusk when the Swami with his party reached the southern boundary of the village of Jayrambati. He then got down from the palanquin and walked barefooted, following the devotional practice he observed in moving about the birth places of the Master and the Mother. So, walking bare-footed with the shoes in his hand, he arrived at the Mother’s place when the night had already set in. Just before that, Swami Bhumananda had reached the Mother’s place to give advance information about their return and their intention to spend that night there, and specially to request the Mother not to bother about their food.
They were all happy at the return of the Swami. His bedding had gone to Koalpara. So the Mother sent for him some bedding from her own room After making Pranam to the Mother, the Swami informed her that they had a very heavy lunch at a late hour, and were therefore in no need of food for the night. The Mother, however, asked them to accept some sweets and have a drink of water; for she could not bear the thought that the boys had gone to sleep without any food. So at the Mother’s request they had some sweets and then went to the Drawing Room for rest. There they sat and talked among themselves about the experiences of the day, late into the night. It was arranged that the bearers of the palanquin would sleep in the Drawing Room of Bara Mama (the elder uncle). For providing themselves with some refreshment for the night, Swami Bhumanandaji had already given them a rupee. So when the Mother asked a son to arrange for the bearers’ refreshment, she was told that it had already been taken care of.
After all arrangements were made for the comfortable accommodation of all, the Mother went to sleep, happy and peaceful, while the others, sitting around Swami Saradananda in the Drawing Room, went on talking about the reception at the Badanganj School, followed by the great excitement, welcome and the feast at Prabodh
Babu’s place at Shyambazar. The night was well advanced when all of a sudden a voice was heard coming from the corner of the front door opening into the Mother’s room, “Oh sirs, have you all retired for the night? What about refreshments for us?”
Though the voice was not very loud, in the silence of the night it produced a stir in the Drawing Room. Swami Bhumananda at once opened the door, came out and approaching the speaker asked him to keep quiet. The boy whom the Mother had asked to see if the bearers were given refreshments, now ran out through the Backdoor of the Drawing Room, entered the store room, took out the tin of puffed rice (Muri) in one hand and the pot of molasses in the other, and within the twinkling of an eye, placed sufficient quantity of both before the man. Swami Bhumananda accompanied the man to the Drawing Room of Bara-Mama, where the bearers were resting.
The Mother was falling asleep, when the sound woke her up. She then called out, “O My dear!” By that time the son had given the puffed rice and come and stood by the side of the Mother’s bed. He replied, “Yes, Mother”, whereupon the Mother asked him, “My dear child, were not the bearers given refreshments then?” The son replied that they were given parched rice and molasses now, and besides that, they had been given a rupee earlier for the purpose. The Mother was pleased to know that 1hey had been satisfactorily served with snacks from her store room She turned on her side, and went to sleep.
Now, in the Drawing Room of Bara-Mama, where the bearers stayed, there was a great uproar. Swami Bhumananda was a highly choleric person. Before his volley of fiery words, there stood the trembling bearers with folded hands! How dared they create this disturbance at night when they had already been given a rupee and had agreed to ask for nothing more – he demanded in a threatening voice. At this the leader of the bearers, who had gone to ask for the refreshments, said, “Maharaj, we had gone out enquiring where puffed rice was available. But the inmates of a house there dubbed us as great fools, and told us that if we had simply asked for it, standing by the side of the door of the Mother’s house, we would at once have got our fill of puffed rice and molasses. For, they said, that was the custom at the Mother’s place. Maharaj, we did not want to do so and create a disturbance. But when they insisted again and again on our asking for our needs at the Mother’s house itself, we hungry people, who did not know where else to go for puffed rice in this strange place, had no other go but to get Backand try our luck. We thought we would ask once and desist if we failed. We have now already got the refreshments we require. We are not to be blamed in the matter. It was the people of the locality who misdirected us.”
By now Bhumanandaji’s anger had abated somewhat. He said, “Well then, return the unspent rupee.” But on their entreaty to pardon them and allow them to retain the money, he did not insist further on it being refunded. He then returned to the Drawing Room and narrated everything to revered Sarat Maharaj, who was greatly amused and burst out laughing, saying, “They had a right to the ‘Muri and Gur’ of the Mother’s place, and so they acted correctly in claiming their due. Those who were extremely calculating and gave them a rupee in advance, have to be the losers!” This incident would clearly show how the Mother showered her love and affection even on bearers and labourers completely unknown to her, and how this tenderness of the Mother made an indelible mark on the hearts of all the people in the neighbourhood.