the management that I belonged to Waltair and was closely associated with the late Sri Durgiah Naidu who had pioneered the effort to build guest-cottages at Shirdi and was familiar to them, we three were generously accommodated in the storeroom. Rather an extraordinarily kind gesture!
The first thing I did after depositing our things was to no to the meals counter to buy tickets, when I was admonished by Shri Soni that "our first priority is Baba's darsan and not food". But I had no qualms about it knowing that Baba knew my heart. I was aware of Baba's approval for a spiritual trio like me of the Upanishadic dictum; 'Annam Brahma' (Food is God). Be that as it may, after darsan and food, we went to listen to the Kirtan at the Samadhi mandir. On entering, my glance fell on a woman's attractive face. Was it mere chance or Baba's method of testing? I went out and came back to the room. After all, one spot is as holy as another at Shirdi, I felt, even as any part of a thing made of sugar-candy tastes as sweet.
The next morning, by the time I bathed and came for Baba's darsan, there was already a long queue of devotees with trays loaded with flowers and offerings of different kinds. Only then was I somewhat shamed into realising I was empty handed. I then went to the bazar and after buying things for 'naivedya' besides a garland and just one rose in bloom, returned and took my position. When compared with the huge garlands smothering, as it were, the samadhi and costly offerings made by others, I felt like a beggar at the royal Darbar.
At last, my turn came. With some trepidation, I lifted the tray to give it to one of the priests. Luckily for me, the young man in charge of the stores happening to stand by Baba's statue, recognised me. Possibly sensing the discomfiture in my thoroughly humbled countenance, rather impelled by Baba Himself, he reached out for the garland and the rose, put the garland round Baba's neck till then unadorned, and placed the rose on His Head! I felt accepted. Tears of gratitude overwhelmed me.
On reaching Kirkee the same night, the joy of my two companions knew no bounds to find a telegram and a letter carrying good tidings awaiting them, one announcing Smt Choudhary's safe delivery and the other from Sri Soni'