On my way back from Little India last evening, I expected to be stranded at the taxi stand since it was ‘shift’ change time. Cabs in Singapore are scarce between 4.30 and 5.30 any evening since that is when the morning shift cab drivers hand over the cars to the next shift drivers, so they are busy driving to their respective drop off destinations. That is the only time when a cabbie in Singapore may refuse to pick you if you are not headed in his direction. In India, we are familiar with this treatment irrespective of the time of the day.
With these thoughts in my mind, I lugged the six plastic bags loaded with vegetables, flowers and sundry ‘Indian’ grocery , when this red Trans Cab pulled up and the cabbie beckoned me to hop in. I thanked my stars for the good fortune to have found a cab without wasting time at waiting and gave him the address. He heard the address and quipped if I was stopping on my way to meet the God fatherly first PM of Singapore, MM Lee. Cabbies in Singapore love to strike conversations with you, especially if they sense you are up to one. Now who doesn’t like a cabbie with a perfect sense of humour, especially when he also showed up just when you needed a cab. So I indulged. I mentioned that the gentleman in question and we were practically neighbours.
Ten minutes into the drive when he had warmed up to me, he said I wasn’t going to believe him if he told me who he really was. I sat up to peek into the rear view mirror to get a better glimpse at him. He was an aging bald man and definitely a local of Chinese origin.The only people I would have recognized were Jackie Chan, Donyen or Jet Li, even though I seriously doubt if these men were balding. Incidentally, I had just read about Norway’s PM who was in the news and wondered if it was Mr.Lee Hsien Loong himself! He did not remotely resemble any of them. So I asked him to humor me.
“I am a God man” he proclaimed. I had the strangest conversation with the friendly, aging bald cabbie from that moment on.
He had just asked me about why I was carrying back fragrant flowers. I educated him about the daily puja ritual at home and that my husband was a religious man who believed in offering flowers to the Gods as a way of being thankful for favours received (If you have ever had to explain bhakti to a non Hindu foreigner then you would know my predicament). He frowned and asked me how I could equate offering prayers as religiousness. That was a profound statement if ever there was one. He continued, while I was busy gathering my jaw from the floor of the car, if I believed in karma. Now those of you, who know me well, would understand how these philosophical conversations confound me. I waited for the revelation of who he really was. My next question was to egg him to do just that – Are you a religious man, I asked.
“I am half Buddhist and half Tao. I have mastered the 18 sciences of medicine. I am not a college educated doctor. But I can cure diseases. Autoimmune diseases like Lupus. You know what I am saying?” He had this uncanny sense of knowing when I was looking at him directly in the rear view mirror. I nodded frantically.
He then told me about his visit to America to meet his Master. “I had to just see Lake Calgary and I understood everything; everything about medicine.” I was slightly in awe of him, while I wondered if Lake Calgary was in America. His eyes met mine in the rear view mirror. “Do you believe me or not?” If you have ever been asked by someone if you believe them or not while they stared into your eyes, you know how I felt right then. I nodded noncommittally, while I looked outside the window to see if we had reached destination.
I nearly jumped out of my skin with his next question. “Who is the God man who died in India recently? ” Saibaba? I whispered meekly and he almost smacked the steering wheel , “Yeah, Uncle Sai. He was born to Indonesian parents and learnt from my Chinese Master”. Now, that was incredulous! I may not be a pious Sai bhakt but I would surely know if he was Indonesian.
By then I was almost home. I would have wanted to find out more if the ride had been longer. But as I got off the cab, I asked him who his master was. ‘ Maashaloo ’ he said. I quickly made a note on my iPhone and promised to look him up on Google. He gave me a thumbs up and drove away.
As soon as I got home, I set about finding out what I had heard from the God man, to establish the truths.
And as for ‘Mashaloo ’ the God man’s master, I found out that it was Master Lu Sheng-Yen , The Living Buddha. Maybe the God man really knows something about Saibaba that the World is yet to discover.