True Short Stories from India (A search for the purpose of Life)

By PF Sloan

Story 2: The Underground


Vince told me he returned to Sydney and began changing his lifestyle, somewhat. The parties were far and few in-between. He began a relationship with one woman for six months, but it seemed shallow and empty after his experiences in China. Not finding himself able to relate his new spiritual need to his girlfriend, it withered on the vine, and Vince took to drinking again alone. Working less and less and growing disheveled in appearance and not caring. He said he was waiting. That beautiful voice said he would be given instructions, and so he languished as if on holiday from life in paradise!

One evening an Indian woman introduced herself to him at a party. She mentioned that she had just returned from seeing a Holy Man in India by name Sai Baba. She showed him his picture and Vince just nodded his head. It wasnít till a few days later that he heard that Golden Voice again. He told me that the Voice told him that Sai Baba was the one who would take him on the next step of his journey.

Packing his bags he flew to South India for the first time, to a small dusty little town called Puttaparthie, where Sai Baba had a small ashram. During darshan one afternoon (darshan is what Abraham Lincoln called breathing the air of a Divine being), Baba asked Vince to give him his passport. Vince said he didnít really want to do that, but he did. On another afternoon Baba asked Vince to give him all his Chits. Chits are what the Aussies call subway tokens. Vince, said he understood the lingo but had no tokens on him to give, so he just shook his head in disbelief. Every day for a week Baba would come up to me, Vince said, and ask me for all my chits. I would say "I donít have any chits, Baba! If I did, Iíd give them to you." "I thought the man was batty", he said to me. "Asking for my chits!"

Six months later, Vince had little money left and is walking around the streets like a madman crying, "Please give me my passport back so I can go home, Baba!" But Baba wouldnít, Vince said. The new tourists would point to him on the street in fear and disgust and say, "Who is that man? Why is he ranting and raving?" Another six months passed when one afternoon Baba presented Vince with his passport and said, "Go home with My blessings! Vince said it was the happiest day of his life. He left the very next morning by bus to Bangalore, and caught the next flight home to Sydney.

It was about six months after I had returned from India that I found myself using the Underground one evening.
A beggar approached me and asked me for my chits! Vince said to economize he bought a month's supply of chits for the underground on sale, and for me to give them to this beggar wouldíve left me without any for a month, you see? So, I told him to buzz off!
"I hadnít been working all that much lately", Vince told me. "Lost my interest almost completely in the craft, you know. So no money was coming in." Watching me bottom line, he mimicked his own accent.
"Anyways, this beggar wouldnít take no for an answer. Heíd ask, Iíd refuse. Heíd ask again and Iíd refuse again and on and on, right? Then to my surprise one by one by one, the light bulbs in the ceiling above my head would pop as I walked ahead of the beggar. Each bulb would explode with a bang! This went on for a while and finally out of fear I surrendered all my tokens to the beggar. "Alright", I said, "if you want it so bleeding badly take em all!"
I sat down on a bench and suddenly remembered how Sai Baba had asked me repeatedly for my chits! I began to cry at the absurdity of it and at my own selfishness! It was then that I noticed that I was in the wrong station. I frantically looked in my pockets for a chit that I might not have given away. I realized that I needed the southbound express and I was on the north side! I began to laugh and cry at the same time", Vince said. "Finally, I just laid down on the bench and fell asleep. When I awoke, the southbound train pulled into the station in front of me! I was astonished!"
"How do you think that happened?" I asked?
"I donít know", he said. "I think the entire station was turned around! I know thatís impossible, he said, but how else can I account for it?"

When, he took me on a tour of the village shops, it was a lesson worth the learning. "How much for this bracelet?" heíd say. The vendor said, "20 rupees". Heíd laugh and say, "Oh, youíre planning on going to Hawaii, huh? Iíll be back tomorrow." Tomorrow, the vendor would say "10 rupees", and the next day "5". Thatís when heíd buy it! It took me a while to get the hang of it. Letting what I wanted go for another day. The urgency usually dictated its own terms, you know. Sometimes I would be able to contain myself; other times not. We went on other walks together but he just remained quiet! No more shouting and ranting and raving, no more acid wit. I didnít know what I felt for him. Was I envious of an inner peace which he displayed with power and discernment. I had been in awe of his charm and his ability to cause events, now he seemed on top of every situation.
Thatís the story as Vince related it to me..