5. GULAB AT LONI TAKLI
Savitribai loved Gulab with all her heart. But her sons and daughters-in-law (the uncles and aunts of Gulab) looked on him with disfavour. They did not like that Savitribai should have brought this blind child to stay in their house. They were all greatly displeased. They all ill-treated Gulab without exception. But Gulab endured it all without a word of complaint. Even when his uncles and aunts passed nasty remarks, he would remain calm and quiet. He would never answer back. He would play alone for hours together.
It was indeed most unfortunate that Gulab had lost first his eyes and then his mother. Besides his relatives Ill-treated him and neglected him. It seems it was a great loss to a small child of only four years. Yet this loss was more than compensated for by the extra ordinary quick development of his intellectual faculties and by the unusual awakening of the sixth sense in him, unlike in other ordinary human beings. Gulab could easily notice what others could not see with their own eyes. Gulab could apprehend with the power of his mind what others could not perceive with their physical and mental faculties. His grandmother realised this phenomenal growth of the faculties of this blind child. She was overwhelmed with gratitude for this wonderful grace of God.
When Gulab was only five years old, he spread his hands at the time of taking food. It was as if he was welcoming some invisible body before him and wished to offer his food to him, before he started eating. The grandmother did not understand this. She would say, “Gulab what are you doing? Whom are you welcoming? Why don’t you take your food?” But her questions did not reach Gulab for he would be lost in talking to the invisible someone before him.
When his grandmother had repeated her questions 4/5 times Gulab would awaken. He would say: “Granny, a beautiful child had come. He had four hands. He had a golden robe and a crown on His head. He had golden ornaments in His ears. He was anointed with the paste of sandal on His forehead. He had peacock feather on His crown. I was welcoming Him and offering Him food.” The grandmother would be overwhelmed with joy seeing that this was indeed the description of Lord Krishna as a child. She realised that her grandchild was not an ordinary child. All love and affection would well up in her heart and she would joyfully hold her grand-child close to her bosom.
Though Gulab was blind, he could move in the house easily like any one else. He would go to the well behind the house and sit on the parapet (wall) encircling the well. The grandmother would be worried. She would shout: “Be careful, you might fall in the well.” But Gulab was not afraid. He enjoyed sitting on the parapet. Women in the neighbourhood used to go to this well for fetching water. They knew that this blind boy had unusual faculties. When Gulab was sitting on the parapet of the well, they would come silently and stand in a row behind him. Gulab would unmistakingly tell them their names in the order in which they stood. They would ask him with surprise, “How do you recognise us even if we come silently without speaking even a single word?” Gulab would say it’s true that you did not speak. But the jingle of your bangles and the anklets on your feet tell me your names.”
The ladies would say : “But everyone of us has bangles on her hands and anklets on her feet.” Gulab would say: But the jingle of the bangles and the anklets is different for each.” The ladies could not contradict him. The inner perception of Gulab was thus immensely developed even in his childhood and he could apprehend what was happening around him through this inner perception and non-physical faculties.
6. AUGURIES IN CHILDHOOD
Gulab could predict many future events even at that early age. If he met a pregnant woman he could predict whether she would get a son or a daughter and every time his prediction came true. Once he told a pregnant woman that she would get twins and what a surprise! She did get twins.
Once a distant relative of Gulab’s grandmother came to meet her. He told her that his marriage was settled and that it would be celebrated at his village on a particular auspicious day suggested by the priest. He requested Gulab’s grandmother to attend the marriage ceremony.
Gulab was playing alone in the same room. On hearing the request of the man, he stopped his play, fixed his blind gaze on the man and spontaneously predicted: The marriage will be celebrated without a difficulty. But while returning from the marriage a poisonous snake will bite you and you will die on the spot.’ All were startled. The man was furious. He said: “Your gtandmother has spoiled you by over-caring. You are a spoilt child.” Gulab was not angry. He said quietly, I speak what I foresee. I do not envy anybody nor am I angry with anybody.” The man left the house in great anger. But he could not escape his destiny. For, while returning from the marriage celebrations he was bitten by a poisonous snake. As was predicted, he died on the spot.
The name of one of his maternal uncles was Bajirao. When his first wife died, he married a second time. The new wife Janabai wore silver anklets on her feet as was customary. When she walked the anklets made a particular jingle. Within a few days after the marriage, Gulab told his grandmother “Granny, did you hear the jingle of the ornaments on the feet of my new aunty? Is it not peculiar? It seems her husband would die shortly and she would be a widow at an early age.”
The grandmother was shocked to hear that. Her fond grandchild was telling her that she would lose her son shortly. She could not bear those words. She pressed her hand on the mouth of Gulab to stop him saying anything further. But her inner mind repeatedly told her that the predictions of her grand-child came true invariably. As foreseen by Gulab, his uncle did die after four years and Janabai became a widow before she was out of her teens.
7. QUEST FOR THE DIVINE
Gulab had no interest in eatables or in playing with children of his age. He would accompany his grandmother invariably whenever she attended the religious discourses in the nearby temples. He would listen to the discourses with rapt attention. Gulab’s grandmother had inherited certain idols which had been in the family for generations. She had great faith in them. She worshipped them daily. Gulab would sit beside her at the time of worship and ask her many questions. At times he would sit before the idols with closed eyes. His grandmother would say, “Gulab is in meditation.”
One day his grandmother and a maternal uncle visited the famous temple of the goddess at Mahur. Gulab accompanied them. He asked a number of questions to his grandmother when they were worshipping the deity. The grandmother could not answer all those questions relating to the deity. Gulab asked many questions to the priests of the temple about the history of the temple and the spiritual influence of the deity. He showed great interest n the legend about the temple and about the deity. He was satisfied when he got all information and when he was allowed to touch the idol.
Gulab used to attend the spiritual discourses in the nearby temples invariably. Some of the priestly families in and around Loni Takli used to read the scriptures regularly. Gulab would go to these houses and implore them to allow him to sit there. He would listen to the scriptures with rapt attention. He would ask questions to the elders regarding the message of the scriptures.
Shri Lakshman Bhat one of the chief priests in Loni Takli had great affection for Gulab. He taught Gulab many verses in Sanskrit and religious poems in Marathi. Gulab learnt by heart almost all the verses which Shri Lakshman Bhat knew. Gulab also met Muslim families in Loni Takli. He showed great interest in Koran, the holy book of Islam. He would implore them to recite verses from the Koran. Gulab had even learnt by heart many such verses.
8. BACK TO MADHAN
When Gulab was ten years old, Gonduji, his father, got married again. The maternal Uncles of Gulab were always reluctant to keep him in their house at Loni Takli. So when Gonduji got married again, he called Gulab back to Madhan. It was really unfortunate that Gulab’s stepmother hated him. Instead of giving motherly love and affection to this blind boy she ill-treated him. She would openly say that blind Gulab was a nuisance for her. She would call him names and would wish that Gulab was dead. Once or twice she went to the extent of putting poison in some eatables and offering them to Galab with the intention of killing him. But God is kind. Gulab’s aunt (wife of father’s brother) came forward to love him. Gulab used to call her “Tai”. Actually GuIab was the only son of Gonduji. Gonduji’s three brothers had no children. But except Tai nobody loved him or cared for him. Gonduji’s mind was poisoned by his new wife and so he too ignored his blind son.
At Madhan also Gulab attended all religious discourses. He would persuade elders to read scriptures for him. He would request Tai, his aunt, to give some token gift in the form of foodgrains to those who read scriptures for him. Even at that age Gulab would not like others to do something for him without taking something in return.
Children of his age spent time in playing games. But Gulab would sit alone and worship stone idols. A Christian missionary used to visit Madhan. Gulab would implore him to read the Bible for him. He would also request a Parsee family in Madhan to read ‘Zend Avesta’, the holy Book of Zarathushtra.