Joy abounds as ‘reincarnation of Sai Baba’ recovers

Haima Deshpande

Mumbai, Aug 4: Life offers numerous challenges while also posing questions and planting dilemmas. The life of a seven-year-old white Spitz, ‘Sai’, considered to be the reincarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi not only poses questions but also leaves you bewildered. Sai lives with Swami Narayan at the Sai Baba temple at Panvel. Swami Narayan, an extremely well-read, suave, English speaking saffron-robed spiritual guru, believes that Sai’s journey in ‘this life’ needs a deeper understanding of the complexities of existence.

On Sunday evening, when the dog was discharged from intensive care at the BSPA Hospital, Parel, Swami Narayan and his co-habitants of the Panvel Ashram organised a one-of-its-kind celebration at the hospital. The recovery party, unique in many ways, left the hospital staff misty-eyed and speechless.

An auspicious time was found from the Panchank for Sai’s departure from the hospital. An elaborate aarti was performed and a vermillion tikka was applied on Sai’s forehead. He was then draped in a warm shawl and carried out of the hospital in music belted out by a special uniformed band hired for the occasion. The canine was taken away in a top-open, chauffeur-driven car of foreign make. Free biscuits and pedhas were distributed to all the dogs and animals at the hospital. A substantial financial donation was also made to the hospital.

Neeta Parvate of the hospital told Newsline: ‘‘All the ashram’s inmates were here at the hospital. The Spitz was kept in a special intensive care unit manned round-the-clock by two sevaks and two sevikas. He took treatment in a very dignified manner. It was as if he knew that someone was taking care of him. Looking after Sai was a different experience.’’

Dr Vishwasrao Gaikwad, who attended on Sai, too expressed surprise at the mannerisms of the dog. ‘‘Yes, it was a different experience,’’ said Gaikwad.

Interestingly, Sai leads an enviable life at the ashram. None other than his four attendants and the swami are allowed to touch him. No one disturbs him during his ‘rest’ time and he is presented in public either in the morning or evening. He sits on a special aasan (seat) and gives darshan. People pay obeisance to him from afar. During darshan time, Sai is draped with a red, soft cloth with zari embroidery. A vermillion tikka adorns his forehead at all times. ‘‘Sometimes he lifts his paw and blesses,’’ says a devotee.

Sai’s living quarters too are enviable. His large room, sprayed with room freshner, has a bed with an extremely soft mattress and clean printed sheets in pastel shades. The room, air-conditioned, is maintained at a certain temperature throughout the day. At any time of the day, there are two attendants (two sevaks and two sevikas) exclusively available to cater to the canine’s needs. His food, bathing soap, shampoo, talc and deodorants are all imported from the United States and Europe. He eats only in special cut-class crockery.

According to the sevaks, the dog also performs puja at the Sai Baba temple and is taken out in a special palanquin in the Panvel area at 5.30 am, on Monday and Thursday mornings. Devotees take his darshan and offer the dog special puja during this special procession.