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16

 

of dangerous riff-raff by night. In such surroundings, full of squalor and dirt, protected merely by an apology of a shelter improvised of gunny cloth, Babajan unconcernedly goes through all the inclemencie’s of the Indian weather and seasons, presenting a perfect embodiment of resignation and self-abnegation (Tasleem-o-Raza).

 

Within a decade of Babajan's presence, the locality underwent a metamorphosis surpassing all expectations. What with the featural changes in buildings all around, the electrified tea shops ringing with the clatter of cups and saucers, a concourse of people consisting of all ranks and creeds waiting for Babajan's darshana, a street bard entertaining the crowd with his music, the beggars clamoring for alms, easy-going idlers standing indiscriminately hampering vehicular traffic and the whole atmosphere heavily laden with sweet-smelling incense perpetually kept burning near Babajan, it presented a typically Eastern scene, leaving an indelible impression on one's memory.

 

The cantonment authorities became alive to the situation, and had it been possible, they would unhesitatingly have had Babajan shifted to some out-of-the-way spot. But they dared not risk a public demonstration in the matter. By now Babajan's fame as a Saint had spread far and wide and Char Bavadi became a place of pilgrimage for people from all over India. Backed by public opinion, a few elected members of the Cantonment Board successfully prevailed upon that body to build at their expense a decent and permanent structure in place of Babajan's shabby shelter. When the new structure, which was only a few feet away from Babajan's original seat, was ready, to everyone's surprise she refused to move there. The awkward situation was gotten over, however, by extending the structure a little more so as to include and embrace Babajan's original seat, as well as the neem tree.

 

Years rolled by, seasons kept rotating, the locality put on a new face, the number of devotees multiplied beyond all computation, but throughout all this kaleidoscopic evolution Hazrat Babajan remained unperturbed and unaffected.

 

When Babajan first came to Poona, people surmised her age to be not less than 90 years and thereafter even 30 years added to her life in the city wrought no material changes in her personality. Short in stature, firm and agile in gait, back slightly bent with rounded shoulders, skin fair and sun-burnt, face broad and heavily wrinkled, high cheek bones, liquid blue eyes

 

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