Om Sai Ram
I am indeed very grateful to Dr. Sai Nath Gawankar (son of Late Dr. Keshav B Gavankar to have allowed me to write about how his English translation has materialised.
When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.Poulo Coelho
Indeed this translation is a leela of Baba himself. Baba, along with Shree Akkalkot Swami Samarth, connected me with their devotees who were completely unknown to me, to organise the translation and publication of this book.
Now when I look back, I realise that Baba had been planning to get this noble work or endeavour of Late Dr. K B Gawankar. Baba, through a devotee Sri V V Leeladhar of Hyderabad whom I knew only over the internet, organise a visit to Dr. Gawankar’s house in Kurla, Mumbai on 31st August, 2007. My wife Manjari and I at this stage were only interested in darshan of Baba’s Kafani there as I had no clue about Late Dr. Gawankar’s association with Baba. Sitting in front of a big portrait of Baba, Dr. Sai Nath Gawankar and his wife Smt. Asmita Gawankar were taking us through the life of Late Dr. Gawankar. We never realise how few hours had passed. And then, Smt. Gawankar asked me if I wanted to see a book written by her father-in-law. I was quite keen so she kept the book in my palms. I do not know what overcome me at that stage and I asked her if I could get the book translated in English. She immediately replied with a big yes. I did a sankalp (vow) on the spot before Baba and prayed for his blessings and guidance. After we returned home I went into my bedroom. In a few minutes Manjari came and asked me if I could see something on her forehead? It was a fresh tilak of sindoor (vermilion) with finger impression. We could not understand how it could have materialized on her forehead and I assumed that when we bowed in front of Baba’s portrait, this impression would have formed from the sindoor spilled on the floor. So I called Dr. Gawankar immediately to verify the same. He told me that they never use sindoor in their pooja room and he felt this was Baba’s blessing to us for the sankalp we had taken that day. With this endorsement from Baba there was no looking back.
I immediately contacted some of my friends and colleagues who hailed from Maharashtra to suggest a translator who essentially had to be a spiritual person with knowledge of pure Marathi. I did not meet with any success. Then I remembered about the translation of Guru Charitra from Marathi to English.
There was only one telephone number given in that book. I called the number in Lonavala and enquired Mr. Joshi if he could give me. He gave me a number of Dr. V R Prabhu in Pune. I called Dr. V R Prabhu (Author of “The Eternal Sage”, (a biography of Sri Swami Samarth Akkalkot Maharaj) and “Sri Gu Charitra” – the biographies of two Dattavatars, Shri Narsimha Saraswati & S Sripada Srivallabh) immediately. Our conversation lasted for more than a hour as we had so much in common and Dr. Pabhu promised me to find translator at the earliest. The very next day he reverted and gave me the details of Smt. Sangeeta Joshi in Pune. Smt. Sangeeta Joshi is an ardent devotee Sri Satya Sai Baba and has been writing poems, gazals in Marathi as well a translating spiritual contents from English to Marathi. She readily agreed to help with the translation without any fees as a seva to Baba. Dr. Gawankar also called her and organised a copy of the Marathi book to be delivered her. This happened on Thursday, 9th August, 2007. She immediately got started with translation even though she was not keeping well those days. The rest is history.
I met Dr. Prabhu a few days later with a copy of the Marathi book and asked him about his opinion as he is a well read man. Dr. Prabhu explained to me a follows:
Books on Saints and Avatars are written by either journalists or devotees. Journalists are limited in the delineation of the life and teachings of the Saint and Avatars, because they have no knowledge of the historical or cultural context of the area where such Saints and Avatars lived. They also have no knowledge of the spiritual value or the uniqueness of the Saints’ and Avatars’ teachings. (They themselves may not be leading a spiritual life.) Further, the do not know the difference between a Saint and an Avatar: The only authentic source on the life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba is the “Sri Sai Sat Charitra” by Sri Dabholkar. He received expressed permission from Sai Baba to write about His life and teachings. The other semi-authentic sources are the works of B.V. Narasimhaswami. He wrote the first biography (in English) on Sri Ramanna Maharshi. On receiving a mystic directive, in 1930, twelve years after Sai Baba’s Maha Samadhi, he started meeting all the people who had seen Sai Baba and received His teachings and advice, as well as those who had lived in Shirdi at the same time and had observed Sai Baba in His day day activities. His work is limited by the fact that he did not know Marathi, language spoken in the area. He therefore had to reply on a translator for help. One does not know the translators grasp of Marathi and English, nor extent of his spiritual knowledge. One also doubts the spiritual knowledge the people interviewed by BVN.
Almost all the books on Shirdi Sai Baba are based on the above two sources. Journalists simply do a ‘rehash’ of earlier books and often plagiarise shamelessly. Devotees, too do not have knowledge of the spiritual value or the uniqueness of the Saints’ and Avatars’ teachings. They do not know the faint difference between a Saint and an Avatar. Miracles flow in the hundreds when Poorna Avatars like Sri Swami Samarth, and Shird Sai Baba walk on earth, the problem with the devotees writing about the miracles of Saints and Avatars is that of blind faith.
The combination of a journalist and a devotee gives much better results, e.g. Sri M.V.kamath & Sri V.B.Kher. The above discussion gives us powerful reason why this book “Shirdiche Sai Baba”, by Dr. Gawankar is a valuable contribution to the biographycs on Sri Sai Baba. he had personal darshan (meeting and interview) of Baba at the age of 12 and Baba blessed him by placing his hand on (future Dr.) Gawankar’s head. Further, Dr. Gawankar was vertually adopted by Sri Shyama and he spent 38 years with him. Before Sri Shyama died, he gave Dr. Gawankar, Sai Baba’s Kafni, Sri Shyama was very close to Sai Baba and was vertually His right hand man.
In view of these facts, this biography is alive and readers will have an authentic experience of Sri Sai Baba because of Dr. Gawankar’s first hand knowledge of Him. One certainly has to bow with gratitude to Dr. Gawankar for sharing his “anubhava” with us. The word anubhava is much more than experience – it also means realization and state of oneness with the saint or avatar.
Smt. Sangeeta Joshi must be complimented for her translation of a difficult Marathi text because spiritual biographies are very difficult to translate so that the “anubhava” of the author is truly communicated. I do hope and pray that all readers of this book would immensely benefit from the anubhava of Late Dr. Gawankar and encourage others too.
I am very grateful to Dr. and Smt. Gawankar, Sri Leeladharji, Dr. Prabhu, Smt. Sangeeta Joshi, Sri Jimmy Talaty, Sri Nandlal Punjabi, Sri Abdul Hamid Shaikh, Sri Dnyandeo Brid, Sri Altaf Shama for their immense support.
May Baba bless all the readers.
Om Sai Ram
© Author – Dr. Keshav Bhagwant Gavankar (Annasahib Gavankar) – Explicit Rights To Publish To Shirdi Sai Baba Books.com (Member of SaiYugNetwork.com)