By: Ramaswamy Seshadri
S.B. Dhumal may be considered one of the most ardent devotees of Sai Baba, who had total faith in Baba and surrendered himself entirely. He first heard about Sai Baba in 1907. He was a Pleader in Nasik.
S. B. Dhumal was in the beginning a devotee of Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Later Dhumal visited Shirdi and had a darshan of Shri Sai Baba in 1907. At that time, he was greatly impressed with his simple way of living and his supernatural powers and became a staunch devotee of Baba. He had Gopal Rao Booty accompany him to Shirdi who after some years built a stone edifice in Shirdi, called Booty Wada which is the present Samadhi Mandir of Baba.
Once, Baba told Dhumal, “At every step of yours, I am taking care of you. If I did not, what will become of you, God knows.”
Dhumal’s marriage was fixed. An Urdu poem goes like this: ‘Pyaar mein zaroori hai zara antar bhi, Zinda rakhne ishq ko chahiye ye mantar hi’ — A little distance is needed in love. This is the only key to the survival of love. Dhumal read these lines and immediately wanted to get married. The woman said, “Only on one condition.” She was very cultured, sophisticated, and rich. Dhumal said, “Any condition is acceptable, but I cannot live without you.” She said, “First listen to the condition; then think it over. It’s not an ordinary condition. The condition is that we will not live in the same house. I have a vast land, a beautiful lake surrounded by beautiful trees, gardens, and lawns. I’ll make you a house on the other side, just opposite where I live.” Dhumal asked, “Then what’s the point of marriage?” She replied, “Marriage is not destroying each other. I’m giving you your space. I’ve my own space. Once in a while, walking in the garden we may meet. Once in a while, boating in the lake, we may meet accidentally. Or sometimes, I can invite you to have tea with me, or you can invite me.” Dhumal said, “This idea is simply absurd.” The woman said, “Then forget all about marriage. This is the only right idea — only then can our love go on growing, because we always remain fresh and new. We never take each other for granted. I’ve every right to refuse your invitation, just as you have every right to refuse my invitation; in no way are our freedoms disturbed. Between these two freedoms grows the beautiful phenomenon of love.”
Of course, Dhumal couldn’t understand and dropped the idea. But Sai Baba told him: ‘If this is possible, to have both space and togetherness, then…The winds of heaven dance between you.’
Love one another but make not a bond of love. It should be a gift, given or taken, but there should be no demand. Otherwise, very soon you are together, but you are as apart as faraway stars. No understanding bridges you; you have not left space even for a bridge. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Don’t make it something static. Don’t make it a routine. If freedom and love together can be yours, you don’t need anything more. You have got it…that for which life is given to you. Remember, the Oak tree and the Cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. Fill each other’s cups but drink not from one cup. Sing and dance together and be joyous but let one of you be alone. True love has an oxymoronic paradox to it. It ceases to grow in a state of suffocating togetherness.
By and by she became all right and the couple led a happy and peaceful life.
An Urdu poet Ahmadnagari corroborated the chemistry of togetherness through his quatrain: “Qurbat mein ulfat parvaan nahin chadhti” — “Love doesn’t reach its zenith; A little distance is required for it; A strong breeze extinguishes the flame; But mild air lights up the lamp.”
Dhumal was living with his wife in his ancestral house in Nasik and at that time, a severe plague broke out in Nasik. But Baba advised him not to leave Nasik. Baba’s reply was, “Why should we change our residence.” He simply obeyed Baba’s advice. In that locality even though there were many deaths daily due to the severe plague, nothing had happened to Dhumal and his wife and they were safe by the Grace of Baba.
After two years, Dhumal lost his wife in 1909. He went to Shirdi and consulted Baba. He stayed there and performed the monthly rituals for her at Shirdi. At that time, he was only 36 years old and did not have any kids. There was a lot of pressure from his friends and well-wishers, asking him to marry again. However, he told them that he would consult Baba about this matter and act accordingly. When approached, Baba told him not to marry again, and accordingly, he did not marry again even despite his comparatively young age. Such was his faith in Baba’s orders. Baba’s love for Dhumal was great and covered both his temporal and spiritual welfare.
A loyal attendee of Baba by the name of Raghu was wrongly implicated and convicted. The prosecution had built a strong case, but Baba directed Dhumal to plead on his behalf at a higher court. Dhumal was successful and the case was dismissed resulting in the release of Raghu and eight others.
In 1915, Dhumal was offered the position of Public Prosecutor in Nasik. But Baba replied in the negative and hence he declined the offer. Baba once gave Dhumal a self-photo, asking him to keep it for his good. Dhumal’s heartfelt desire was to have Baba’s portrait touched by Baba and thus he received Baba’s portrait through Baba’s hands. He had received it as a gift from Baba and preserved it with great veneration.
Dhumal received Government Nomination as the first non-official President of the Nasik District local Board and he served in that capacity from 1917 to 1925. Once he had to affix over 2000 signatures on some certificates. For three days he had not got the time and Baba miraculously had affixed Dhumal’s signature on all those papers.
Dhumal passed away in June 1940 and he was a blessed soul. Dhumal’s life is an excellent instance of Baba’s giving full temporal and spiritual support to all those who place implicit faith in him. Baba’s spiritual help provided sadgati to his wife, and a good end to Dhumal because Baba had kept him pure and full of faith in the Guru. Dhumal’s life is very inspiring.