Ashwini Bhai wrote to Sri Sri Thakur that he would definitely bring along his family to meet him. As he went inside the home to inform his wife, he saw her moving from one child to the other, sitting beside their beds, gently stroking them, massaging their heads and giving them medicine. At that time, all his children were suffering from cold, cough and shivering with high fever. But he couldn’t let go of this opportunity to meet Sri Sri Thakur. He sat down with his wife and started making arrangements for their travel to Kolkata. They wrapped the children in warm sheets, patting them and telling them how they would soon be with Sri Sri Thakur. The hope of meeting Thakur took away all their pain and their face brightened up with gleaming smiles. After the train journey filled with excited chattering about finally getting to see Thakur, they finally arrived at Kolkata Station. Without wasting a moment, they rushed to their rented house where Shanti Maa resided. Sri Sri Thakur had also chosen to stay there along with his disciples. Sri Sri Thakur sat in the hall downstairs, as if he was waiting for the arrival of Ashwini Bhai.
However, upon meeting Sri Sri Thakur, he was disheartened to learn that Shanti Maa was no more. She had already left her body and begun her journey beyond. Everyone was left in shock upon hearing this heart wrenching news. It was difficult for them to bear this huge loss and they began to weep, lamenting their loss.
Shanti Maa had breathed her last in that very house. All the devotees had assembled in the room on the second floor to pay their last respects. Seeing the fragile condition of the children, they were forbidden to go up to the room. But Snehalata, without paying any heed, ran up to pay her tearful homage to her beloved Shanti Maa.
From Asansol, Ashwini Bhai was again transferred to Chattagram. On his request, Sri Sri Thakur came to visit him there. They spent the few days they had happily. The day before he was supposed to leave, Sri Sri Thakur beckoned Ashwini Bhai and Maa close. Looking at them both with kind eyes, he asked, “Won’t you both get initiated?” They were overwhelmed with joy on listening to these words from Sri Sri Thakur. They made all the preparations for the ceremony and got initiated by Sri Sri Thakur. They surrendered their whole lives at the lotus feet of their Guru. How fortunate was Ashwini Bhai! How merciful was Thakur! Sri Sri Thakur knew his own people – bound for so many births, and their body, mind and soul were drenched with such unexpected grace of their Guru.
After another promotion, Ashwini Bhai moved to Dhaka as Sub-Judge. There was a place called Siddheswari named after the temple of Maa Siddheswari Kali in the suburbs of Dhaka. Further down the road from the temple was a double storied house surrounded by a garden with flower and fruit bearing trees. Either side of the path leading to the house was lined with Nageshwar (Mesua ferrea) trees. The house was at the centre of a large yard with a pond at the rear. The house was named ‘Saraswata Kunj’, which became Ashwini Bhai’s abode of joy and bears testimony to so many incidents and memories of Sri Sri Thakur.
Siddheswari was away from the chaos of the city. It was sparsely populated and not many devotees came there. It was secluded and generated the vibes of an ashram of sages. Whenever Sri Sri Thakur visited Dhaka, he would divide his time between Nrupen Bhai’s home and Saraswata Kunj. Nrupen Bhai’s home was in the centre of the city and devotees would throng to that place. So Siddheswari, far away from crowd, was the perfect place for Sri Sri Thakur to rest. Sri Sri Thakur had an easy bonding with the family of Ashwini Bhai. He had become friends with the children and the bond of friendship ran so deep that it shrouded the Guru-Sishya relationship. Their relationship was so intimate that Sri Sri Thakur addressed the children as ‘bandhu’. The intimacy is evident from the following letter:
Bandhugana! (Dear Friends)
I was happy to receive your outpour of love in your letter. You should have written to me sooner. Now our friendship is stronger, and you should have written earlier without wasting so much time. I was so angry but your letter filled my heart with affection instead. Whatever may be the reason, don’t forget your friend. I have also lost my milk teeth like you all. We are of the same age. Hence our friendship should soar higher. Why didn’t you write about ‘Balai Bandhu’ in the letter? I have also received a letter from your sister. All is well here. Bless you all.
After being introduced to his children, Sri Sri Thakur had written a letter to Ashwini Bhai –
“During my stay in Kolkata, your children had added colour and spirit into the rigorous, hard life of this sanyasi. They have not left me yet. The charming image of the adorable Chhanna (Ashwini Bhai’s youngest daughter) always flashes in front of my eyes.”
The hearts of Ashwini Bhai and his wife were filled with parental love for Sri Sri Thakur. It was a wonderful bouquet of serving, sharing and parenting. Whenever the news of Sri Sri Thakur’s visit to their place arrived, the household would spring into action. Their house had many maids, servants, orderlies and peons working there but Ashwini Bhai would always pick up the broom and the mop himself and be the first to clean the bathroom meant for Sri Sri Thakur. Worried, the children would offer to help but get the same reply – “I won’t have any peace of mind if I don’t clean it myself.” Following him, the whole family would get busy arranging the house to welcome Sri Sri Thakur. When he resided at their home, it appeared as if he was the owner, the head of the household. The rest of them were there to serve. Ashwini Bhai would make his own food, finish all his jobs in the morning and discretely get out of the house to go to work so that there was no disturbance in the service of Sri Sri Thakur. His wife also poured her heart out in taking care of Sri Sri Thakur. Once, while Thakur was residing with them in their home, Ashwini Bhai even received a transfer order. Without disturbing anyone, he quietly moved out of the house with a servant and a cook. He never had any problem.
... to be continued
Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty's essay, 'Sri Ashwini Kumar Dasgupta'.
Sadguru Swami Nigamananda Paramahansa Dev