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06. Bapu's Thoroughness
Narayanpur is a village in Noakhali. Bapu reached there at seven in the evening. We stayed at a poor weaver's place. On arrival at his destination, it was usual for Bapu to have his feet washed with hot water and to do some writing. Meanwhile, I would arrange for his massage and bath. He never used soap for his bath. He used instead a rough stone. This stone had been given to him years ago by Mirabehn. I had, however, inadvertently left it behind in the village where we halted last. I remembered it when I was arranging for the bath. I told Bapu that I had forgotten to bring the stone he used for his bath and that it might be at the weaver's. "I don't know what to do now," I added. Bapu thought for a while and replied, "You have no doubt made a mistake; I want you to go back and find the stone. Ask Nirmalbabu to prepare my meals. And you go alone and look for the stone. Only then, you will not forget it next time." I suggested with some trepidation, "There are many volunteers here. May I take one of them?" "Why?" asked Bapu. To this I could not reply. The forests of coconut and betelnut trees were so dense in Noakhali that a stranger might easily lose his way. Moreover, those were days of communal trouble. It was a lonely way and the few houses there belonged to Muslims only. How could I go alone? But I had to as I had committed an offence. And so I set out without answering him.
I asked myself what I would do if some goondas were to pounce upon me on the way. But with Ramanama (the name of the Lord) on my lips and following our footprints I went back the way we had come.
On reaching the village with great difficulty, I managed to locate the weaver's house. Only an old woman lived in it. She did not of course know that the stone was so precious. And so she had thrown it away. After a good deal of trouble I found it and I was overjoyed. Immediately I started back for Narayanpur. At one in the afternoon I reached home which I had left at half-past nine in the morning. I was very hungry. But greater than this hunger was the pain at the thought that I had been deprived of serving Bapu during that time because of this lapse on my part. Placing the stone on Bapu's lap I burst into tears. He said, "Today you have been put to the test. Whatever God does, he does for our good. On the very first day you came to me, you remember that I had warned and explained to you at length till two o'clock at night that it needs courage to join me in my sacrifice. If you falter even a little, you will be considered to have failed. You can even at this stage return to Maluiva if you like, but once the pilgrimage has begun you will not be allowed to leave. Thanks to the stone you have had your first test so early. You have passed. You have no idea how happy I feel. The stone has been my cherished companion for the past twenty-five years. Whether in prison or in palace it has been with me. Had it not been found it would have distressed me and Mirabehn as well. Moreover, you have learnt a good lesson to be always careful with every useful thing. One should not be careless, thinking that as many such stones are available one can easily replace a lost one."
I said, "But Bapu, if ever I took Ramanama with all my heart it was today. My heart trembled as I went along that deserted path." Thereupon he laughed and said, "Oh yes, one remembers the Lord only when one is in trouble!"