Late Mr. Soparkar and Markand Dholakia had been college mates and friends at Poona (Pune). The friendship continued even after the one had become the boss and the other a subordinate.
Mrs. Taraben Soparkar was a very devout lady. In September 1931 she became seriously ill and was confined to bed. One day, she thought she heard someone chanting a verse from Saptashati. She called out to her husband to go and see whether any Sadhu was anywhere in the vicinity. Soparkar obligingly went round the place and reported that there was nobody on the premises except himself and Markand who had just come. 'Oh' , she cried out gladly. He has come, has he ? Then he must be the person whom I heard. please bring him up.
Taraben looked at the visitor standing at the door and began to repeat slowly :
दुर्गे स्मृता हरसि भीतिमशेषजन्तोः स्वस्थैः स्मृता मतिमतीव शुभां ददासि ।
दारिद्र्यदुःख्ख हारिणी का त्वदन्या सर्वोपकारकरणाय सदार्द्रचित्ताः ।। दुर्गा सप्तशती अध्याय 4 , श्लोक 17 ।।
Durge Smritha Harasi Bheethimasesha Jantoh Swasthai Smritha Mathimatheeva Shubham Dadasi | Daridrya Duhkha Bhayaharini Ka Twaddanya Sarvaopakarakarnaya Sadardra Chittha || [ saptashathi 4 : 17 ]
She then asked if he had not been reciting the shloka. Markand nodded affirmatively but added that he had been repeating the lines only mentally without even moving his lips.
It was his favorite stanza and he often used to recite it. It means : Oh Mother Durga , on remembering Thee, Thou art removing all types of fears from all sources. On remembering Thee with an established mind , mood and meditation, Thou art giving discrimination and deciding intellect towards righteousness. Who is there except Thee to remove all misery and poverty ? Thy heart is full of mercifulness to shower Thy Grace on Thy devotee.
It was felt that Markand's presence was a source of comfort to Taraben who was on the last alp of her life's journey. So Soparkar persuaded his friend Markand to live in the house.
One day, the teacher employed to give tuition to Soparkar's daughter happened to ask a saint of Pandharpur [Shri Daasganu Mahaaraaj ] about the chances of recovery of his pupil's mother. "The patient's time is already up " , was the reply. But out of courtesy to a saintly person living in the house the lady is not taken away. The moment he leaves the house the patient will leave this world. " This strange prophecy was promptly communicated to the master of the house. Soparkar began to brood pensively over the information. He was neither sentimental nor superstitious. But this was a matter touching the life of his dear wife . In spite of his disbelief the thought flashed across his mind that disregards of saint's words might spell disaster. After much thought he came to the conclusion that a willing suspension of disbelief would be a wise precaution against the unhappy, though unlikely, event of the prediction coming true. Love for his wife triumphed over cold logic. He used his official position and friendship to insist that Markand should not leave the house on any pretext and that his official work should be done from the house.
A few days passed. Taraben was on her deathbed. Three eminent doctors from Bombay [Mumbai] , Kirkee [Khadki] and Poona [Pune] unanimously opined that the patient had but an hour more in this world. A large number of relatives stood in the hall, silently and sorrowfully watching the inert body swathed in blankets, cheeks pallid, eyes closed. The husband was a stricken man.
"When serious illness strikes, people call the doctor. It is automatic for most to rely on human professional knowledge and skill. But finally when attending physician gravely shakes his head, and says there is nothing more that medical science can do, then at last people cry out desperately to God." (Herbert Armstrong).
When the doctors left, Soparkar turned to Markand and said in a voice hoarse with agony and despair ," Can't you do something ?" As the latter began to gently shake his head, the stricken man continued more in sorrow than in anger ", Do what you can. I won't take no for answer. Don't be diffident. Do something. "
Thereupon , just to console his friend, Markand went and stood near the patient's head and began to pray. Tears rolled down his face and a drop fell into the patient's mouth. The result was marvelous. As if in answer to a given signal, changes began to take place in the motionless form. A gentle glow slowly suffused the cheeks dispelling the ghostly pallor, the pulse speeded up, there was a mild , ever so mild heave of the chest and the eyes slowly opened , Taraben looked at her guest and said in a low voice," I saw Mother. She said if you promise to fast for a day, I would get an extension of life by a week. Won't you promise?" The promise was given forthwith and within minutes Mrs. Taraben Soparkar sat up and drank milk. Gone was her illness, Gone was the misery of the husband. Gone was the gloom that had enveloped the house. It was as if she had never been ill.
Some called the incident a miracle. Others said it was luck. Yet others said the cure was due to the delayed action of the medicine given by the doctors .
Armstrong would not have been wrong if in continuation of the passage quoted above he had said," And if God intervenes and cures the patient, very few are really grateful ".
On the morning of the seventh day Taraben had fever suddenly. The husband realized the significance. He knew his wife would go that day. The extended tenure of life would expire that evening. He broke down and became hysterical. After a long time he became normal, thanks to ministrations of Markand.
In the afternoon a message came from the Secretariat asking for a confidential file . The papers were in his office under lock and key. They were so confidential that either he had to go or send somebody in whom he had absolute confidence. He could not think of leaving his wife. Markand was the only person he could trust , but sending him out of the house might be disastrous according to the prediction of the Pandharpur Saint. He was in dilemma. Finally preferring to remain with his wife in her last moments, he sent his friend with every strict instructions not to tarry for a minute after handing over the papers.
Mrs. Taraben Soparkar breathed her last the moment Markand stepped out of the house.
EXTRACT FROM THE BOOK : SAINT MAI SWARUPA WRIIEN BY MAI SHISHU U.G. MENON, MAI NIWAS, SARASWATI ROAD END, SANTA CRUZ (WEST), MUMBAI 400054 INDIA