The First World War was going on. The freedom struggle in our country was intensive and the British Government was ruthless against those freedom fighters and put a good number of them in jail. Khaparde and I were on the hit list. Nana Saheb Chandorkar was a Government Officer and was being shadowed. We heard that the Britishers have sent spies to cover devotees of Sai Baba. Baba had assured us – ‘Why fear when I am here’ and we were confident of his protection.
One evening, Khaparde Nana Chandorkar, and I reached Shirdi, and when we met Sai Maharaj, he profusely blessed us. Later we went to Dixit Wada to take a rest. We were thinking of police action and Baba’s assurance – ‘Why fear when I am there’.
I took out a book to keep them engaged. It was Greek poet CP Cavafy’s best-known and most memorable poem, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, possibly that of the ancient Roman Empire in its decline, awaited in fearful apprehension for the coming of the dreaded barbarians.
The narration dealt with the emperor having his throne placed outside the city’s gate and awaiting the coming of the barbarians, upon whom he will confer all the treasures and honors of his domain.
Composed in question-and-answer form, the poem has the resonance of a recurring refrain affirming the imminent and inevitable coming of the barbarians.
The poem built a crescendo, a drum roll of impending doom to our discussion on police action against freedom fighters. Chandorkar told us that Cavafy was born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, to Greek migrants from Turkey. His father ran an export-import business which took the family to Britain, where Cavafy took British nationality. Financial problems brought them back to Alexandria, where Cavafy worked as a journalist and later a civil servant.
However, his true vocation was poetry, which he published in newspapers and obscure journals. His itinerant, chance-ruled life, his exposure to different cultures, and his poetic vision of an uncompromising individuality as the English novelist EM Forster put it saw everything from “a slight angle to the universe”. We went to sleep thinking of Cavafy and his contribution to Greek literature
When we met Baba the next morning, he laughed at our discussion of the Barbarian whose coming we await. He asked me to gift the book to a library and instead asked us to worship at Hanuman Mandir. Soon after he left for Lendi Baug.
But what happens when realization dawns on us that Baba is protecting us so that no Barbarian is out there? That’s the world-changing question posed by Sai Maharaj, who is in the secret labyrinths of our hearts.