Back in my early days as a journalist in the erstwhile Maharashtra Herald in the late 1980s and 90s, I remember that at precisely 6pm, four or five young Sindhi girls would enter the office and ask for the editor.
They always had this piece of paper in their hands which they fidgeted with all the time. If the editor was busy they would stand around, giggling among themselves. Dressed in white salwars, without any makeup, their eyes would light up once the late Mr S D Wagh called them in.
It would be a brief visit and once they went away, Mr Wagh would instruct us –Must Carry.
These ladies were from the Vaswani Mission and everyday they would send us a programme of what their Spiritual Leader Dada J P Vaswani was planning for the next day plus a synopsis of the day’s programme.
I used to treat that as just another story on just another day in the office. The name Vaswani did connect because of Vaswani Chowk which one passed regularly.
The statue of Sadhu T L Vaswani stood right in the middle, a hand raised like an umpire giving a batsman out. As kids, we took childish pleasure in saying ‘’Howzzat’’ whenever we passed.
Sometimes looking at the same write-up everyday does increase curiosity. It did and I gentle asked those ladies who came in usual if they had anything on the Dada.
They were extremely pleased and brought me a whole load of booklets written by the great spiritual leader. Thus began my journey into a new spiritual side of my being. Back then, we were all influenced by Osho and his exciting brand of philosophy which immediately influenced the young mind.
But Dada was so different. There was clarity and simplicity in what he said, the message loud and clear.
Then I left India to take up a job in Bahrain. My life changed and Dada like India was only another state of mind. The Gulf was a difficult place to live in, particularly in the 90s. The job description entailed long hours and late finishes, almost 3am at times.
For a lonely man to return home and have no entertainment was difficult. Winding off meant watching some Arabic channels without understanding a word of it.Then some clever little Indian fellows found a way to get some Indian channels through a dish. It wasn’t legal but the authorities let it go.
And one day while scanning through the limited channels I came across Dada’s face on one the channels.
I was overjoyed, overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe it. There he was, with that lovely smile on his face, telling us about life in a sort of Sindhish accent, with touches of humour.
He was not the typical spiritual leader. He was a human who understood life and helped others through his wisdom. He was you and me but he sometimes saw it better and helped us to open our eyes and minds.
After a hard day’s work and a wretched office atmosphere full of politicking etc, I had my dinner and waited for him to come.
He gave peace of mind. He gave me companionship. He was my friend.
Then one day he disappeared. But he had caught my imagination so much that every visit to India meant buying his books and taking it with me. I introduced him to a Bahraini friend of mine and she too was impressed.
But my crowning moment came around seven years ago. I was caught in heavy traffic near the Sassoon Hospital when I let my eye rove around.
The suddenly, I saw Dada, sitting in a car, humble as ever, looking around with his customary smile. Then he caught my eye and waved. I had found my life.
Om Shanti Dada