The Blessing Palm That Protected
Everything was unusually quiet; we were speeding towards the City of Kano in Nigeria, late in the night on the 22nd of December 1980. When we were just entering the City, suddenly I saw a crowd standing in the middle of the main road, about 100 metres away. Can they be armed robbers? The Nigerian driver managed to stop. He tried to reverse as fast as possible before we could be seen or trapped but it was too late. The crowd came shouting at us to stop. Then only the news headlines in the morning paper I had bought on the way flashed across my mind. There was widespread disturbance in the city and a number of people had been killed on the previous day.
I told the driver to stop, because running away may cause unpredictable damage to the car and life. I had a picture of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Baba, with the car documents and the passport. I collected them in my hands. The Blessing Palm of Bhagawan appeared to infuse some strength into me. Within seconds we were surrounded by the people who were fully armed.
Two of them, with two heavy iron crowbars, came and stood on either side of the car and brought their instruments to rest on either side of the bonnet making two deep dents on it. An elderly man who came shouting at me with a volley of questions both in Hausa and in English, cooled down when I told him that I had come to receive my wife and children, who were expected to arrive at the Aminu Kano International Airport on the next day. He waved his hands, indicating to the others around the car not to do any further damage.
We were driving slowly only to face another crowd at the junction 75 metres away. They also stopped us in spite of the shouting and waving of hands from those who had allowed us to proceed. This group examined the empty boot of the car thoroughly.
After this, they told us not to proceed on our journey, because they knew that the other groups waiting all along the roads will not permit any car to pass. They advised us to go to the Central Hotel or to the Daula Hotel to spend the night. Since these hotels were also far away from that place, an old man volunteered to take us to a safe place. His fete was painted white. We hesitated to give any answer. Without waiting for any reply from us, he simply pushed the driver to one side and took the wheel. Before we could realise what was happening, he turned the car from the main road and we were moving into the bush through narrow lanes and villages.
Finally the car stopped under a (Margosa/Neem) tree, in front of a Hausa pattern mud house. The man who was driving appeared to be the owner of the house. He got down from the car. Although it was midnight, the area appeared to be fully active and awake. Even children were around the car and were curious to find out more about us.
I took out the licence book with Baba’s picture and started sending an S.O.S. to Bhagawan. In this way I could shut out torturing thoughts presented by the unexpected train of events. Further, I assured my friend (who was highly upset) that Bhagawan Baba was with us and that there was nothing to worry.
The man who went inside the house, brought out two mats and requested us to relax under the tree. We thanked him for the kind gesture and told him to give a place for our driver to sleep somewhere inside.
Soon afterwards, a man came out from one side. He was commanding the respect of all the people present there. He spoke a few words with the owner of the house. Then he came straight to us and said: “You appear to be worried. Would you like to spend the rest of the night at the police station?” We gladly accepted and he offered to take us to the police station. He took the front seat and asked our driver to drive. The crowd that came with him were marching in procession in front of the car and were removing all the obstacles on the path to allow our car to pass.
This procession continued through the bush roads for about a mile and took about 30 minutes. At the police station the man introduced us to the officer in charge who was standing outside with a gun in his hand. We greeted the officer and turned round to thank the man who brought us safely up to that place. But the man was not there; we also never had any chance to meet him again.
The police officer pointed to a human body lying in the darkness at a short distance and said that he had to shoot him only a few minutes back. He was trying to run away inspite of the order to stop and surrender.
Our driver slept in the officer’s room and we managed to relax inside the car till 6.00 a.m. next day. We hurried out early in the morning and were shocked to see burnt cars and charred human bodies, some of which were still burning on the roadside.
The morning papers carried the news of a foreign reporter who was killed by a poisoned arrow on that night. The two dents on the bonnet of my car are there to this day; I treasure them as marks of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Grace that protected us all through.