I waited around at the Airport; the flight was scheduled to depart around 4 A.M. I was growing more and more sleepy, till finally, I felt everything important had been accomplished, and that I would be foolish to tire myself uselessly, as it would interfere with my Sadhana the next day. So, I took my leave of Baba Rama Das, the famous American Sadhu, and taxied back to Kailash Colony.
I was feeling spiritually elevated, as a result of my reconciliation with Rama Das. The hour was a familiar one to veterans of Nagarasankirtan. The western sky was still pitch dark and the eastern horizon was just turning deep purple, though stars could still be seen all across the heavens. The cool air was crisp and charged with spiritual energy. A few birds sent their first experimental chirps of the day into the traffic less quiet of the pre-dawn.
Feeling too good and too in tune with the call to witness the cosmic advent of the glorious morning, I about- faced from my room, and went for a walk. I turned down a deserted lane I had never explored before, which wandered between vacant lots away from houses and most reminders of civilised man. I felt wonderful.
A temple bell was ringing. All was well with the world. There was naught to disturb the all-pervading peace. All my psychic barriers were down. Then, suddenly, "Boiuinngggg….Plp.” My ear announced this surprising interruption to the silence, while the corner of my eye saw a strange event, by the glow of the distant street lamp.
A sparrow, probably on its first flight of the morning, struck an electric wire overhead, at the side of the road. I don’t think the sparrow received an electric shock from the well-insulated wire, but, the physical shock was sufficient to knock the sparrow out. While the wire continued to vibrate visibly and audibly from the repercussion, the sparrow plummeted obliquely across my amazed field of vision, to strike the ground at my feet with a sickening splat which bespoke irreparable organic damage.
In the moment of that birdie's plummet from the heavens, I plunged into veritable hell. In my state of psychic openness, this mini-drama of nature gripped me, and turned my mood inside out, over my head like a half removed sweater. The smashed creature lay about a step directly in front of me. Its neck was twisted and bent back and stayed at an impossible angle, which spells only `broken'.
The nearly unconscious and dying creature lay gapingly open-mouthed, while its surviving reflexes unsuccessfully struggled in fitful little gasps to draw life giving breath into the body. Not only was I filled with sympathy for the creature which a moment ago had been flying cheerily through the air on its way to breakfast, I was caught in a soul tearing conflict. Though it was probable that the bird would be dead within minutes, still, it seemed possible to me, that Nature being what she was, the bird would suffer on, for hours, before its life resources were drained.
Unable to tolerate the thought of such continued suffering, I felt it my duty to become the bird's rapid executioner. I visualised myself smashing the bird with a small boulder, and knew, even as I pictured it, that once I found such a stone, I could never bring myself to use it. As I stood there in a confused and conflict-ridden daze, a three wheeled auto rickshaw made its lonely way down the deserted street towards me. All I had to do was to step aside and the auto's front wheel would have finished the bird. But, my mind was too busy, searching for a way to kill the bird without committing violence, to comprehend the simple solution. So, I stood there fretting, and the rickshaw was forced to detour around me, thereby also missing the sparrow. At the time, I was only dimly aware of the rickshaw's existence, but many times later, as I relived the experience, I recognised Swami's touch of Cosmic Humour in that moment.
Finally, as I stood there, weeping, the thought of asking God's help surfaced in my conscious mind. I began to pray, and I remembered my package of specially blessed Vibhuti, waiting in my room, three minutes walk away. Baba hadn’t merely tapped this package in passing, as I'd seen Him do when blessing so many other packages of Vibhuti. Instead, He had walked over, and before I'd even shown it to Him, He proved He knew and was ready to grant my innermost wishes, by leaning over to me, hand extended, ready to bless the object sitting in my lap, hidden from His physical vision by the tightly packed row of people sitting between me and Him. As I lifted the package within His reach, He drew His Hand slowly and lovingly across its entire length almost as one strokes a cat.
So, I felt this doubly blessed gift of Grace might have the power to quickly and easily separate the sparrow's agonised spirit from its wrecked body. I tenderly lifted the bird and started carrying it to my room. About half way there, the entire body of the sparrow writhed in a sudden convulsion while lying on its side, which bounced it along the ground, in a semi circle of pathetic side hops, increasing the impression in my mind of a hopelessly destroyed life-system.
Scooping up the bird again, I held it firmly, as I proceeded to my room. As I went, I was nearly hysterical. I was supplicating Swami and, at the same time, berating Him for making me His executioner. I was still having a tantrum like argument with Swami in my mind, when I reached my room, where I quickly gathered together the Blessed Vibhuti package, and my favourite Puja Photo of Baba. Holding the sparrow in my open palm, I proceeded to wave it in a circular motion an inch above the Vibhuti, wondering if this would really help the bird to die quietly. Within two seconds of this waving, the bird flew out of my hand!
I looked across the room to where it had perched on my open door frame. Its neck was perfectly straight, and there was no sign of damage to its body.
At this point, I went completely berserk. I think I wailed and screamed. Eventually, I woke up some neighbouring disciples of my music teacher and tried to explain what had happened; but, I could hardly speak coherently. For, somewhere, the words of Jesus came into my mind, about `not a sparrow falling, without the Heavenly Father taking note!'
The bird stayed in my room, and ate some crumbs. I fed it till the late afternoon, when it finally left.