When my servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close: I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me. (The Quran II : 186)
Karim Sab, (67) shriveled and taciturn, sits every evening on the cuddapah black-stone bench in front of his dormitory. His posture denotes uncertainty, even loneliness, like an autumn-leaf about to be wind-blown; and he waits there till the sunlight turns yellow and makes dull the hills around him. The mid-November mist fills the somnolent air in Anantapur with a chilled invisibility.
As an inmate of the Home for the Aged in this Andhra town, Karim Sab's life is uneventful. Nothing remarkable has come his way except that he has been a classmate of the one whom he calls "Sathya"— and whom the world now knows as SATHYA SAI BABA.
Karim Sab informs this author that he has known BABA in the primary school, six decades ago. Delight ripples over his tired features as he recalls those happy days. His simple faith in Allah rules out questions about the ways of divinity. Calling these experiences as "jewels in the heart" he feels grateful and is content for the chance he has had.
"Even as children," he tells the visitor, "we were certain that Baba was not like all of us, though He moved and played with us. Hazrat Mohammad Sahib must have been like this. And Lord Jesus Christ—Hazrat Ibraheem."
When shown the photo of Baba he grows reminiscent: "As a child He was tiny for His age—yes, the same generous mouth and those large black eyes too were there. They sparkled like pools at sunset. Once we were free— it was a drill period—and Baba led us to play in the open space in front of the school building. We refused, of course."
"Why?" enquires the visitor.
"The ground was hard with sharp stones and gravel. We were poor, no shoes for us. We said so, but He wouldn’t listen. "Come" He insisted, "See, see, I can run." He started running over the crushed earth as if it was velvet. We hesitated looking suspiciously. And ah! wonder of wonders! Before our wide eyes it changed. Wherever His feet touched, a Tulsi plant sprang up immediately, just like that."
Karim Sab stops, breathing heavily as if he has been reliving the moment.
"Yes, we looked on," he mused, "as He ran lightly on the ground patch by patch, it turned to glowing green. The whole place was covered with Tulsi that sent a faint welcome smell! No, not the plant, but a low dense bushy type of growth. We ran to this carpet, rolled on it, stamped and wallowed till we were exhausted, and then we lay there, flat on our backs, panting for breath. The fresh aroma rose and covered us too, soothing like the touch of a warm blanket. Through its haziness we saw Him stand above us, hands folded behind, an unspeakable tenderness playing on lips."