"I am a punkahwala; come to repair
The Punkah Repairer
It was the hour when man, bird and
beast were still, wrapped in sleep. Everything had melted in the
thick darkness. The train was speeding along like a spangled
snake, along the Sub - Himalayan jungle track.
R turned in bed and opened his eyes, for there was a strange smell
in the compartment, something burning, he thought! The fan was
emitting sparks, like a Catherine Wheel! There was no one else in
the coach, except his wife who was fast asleep. There was no time
even to think out a plan. He put out his hand and fumbled with the
switch, but, good God, it was out of order! The fan could not be
stopped. It had to burn like that! ……. and perhaps, set the
compartment on fire!
Pull the alarm
chain? But, that will be a big sensation; it would involve delay,
for the guard has to investigate, come, diagnose, prescribe,
administer the treatment etc. The sparks increased ; the smell
smote the nose.
"Baba! O Baba, save
us, O Baba!" The prayer automatically rose from his heart, for
Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was his never failing succour. The
train slowed down just a wee bit. Was it a station they were
coming to? Well then, when it halted, he could wake the wife and
both could get down and tell the guard.
He rose and peeped
into the darkness, far out into the oncoming stage. Suddenly he
saw a man clinging to his door holding fast to the handle. How
could have possibly hopped up the running train in that forest
blackness? A nascent fire, a sneaking thief -what was he to do?
The man said, "I am
a punkahwala; come to repair the fan!" He looked a seasoned
mechanic; he had a screw driver in his hand; he wore a kakhi shirt
and drawers; he smiled in an appealing way. So, the doctor opened
the door and let him in. The train gained speed. The wife too
woke. It was all so easy for his skilfull hands; a few turns of
the screw and tap or two at the proper place; the sparks ceased ,
the fan whirred, swift and safe. He was a silent, skilful hand. He
then sat crouching in a corner and asked the doctor to lie down
and sleep. His voice was so sweet, his kindness was so
overpowering that the doctor lost all fear and suspicion. He laid
himself down and turned away from him and dozed.
But, the wife had
her own fears. She had read and heard of robberies in running
trains of even worst calamities and so, she had half an eye open
to watch the stranger's slightest movement. And, even while her
eye was watching him, he disappeared!!
A week later, they
get a letter from Baba at Puttaparthi, "How did you like my Punkah
Dr. R. himself
narrated this wonderful incident when he came for Mahasivarathri
"This is My Duty; when a call comes out of distress and devotion,
I hasten to the rescue", Baba said. And sure enough, Baba kept His
From the Sanathana
Sarathi, October 1961
E-Magazine, December 15, 2003