Three Minutes Late…

Imagine a paradoxical situtation wherein one gets caught up to decide between two odd ends. Many of us get into these kind of situations often failing to handle the issue diplomatically. What would God do if he got into such a situation? Veteran devotees Dr. Vinayak Krishna Gokak and Dr. John Hislop had a unique experience of one such situation happened way back in 1974 just before Dr. Gokak’s return to India after his triumphant tour as Bhagawan’s ambassador to the Sathya Sai Centres of America. Read on the story as narrated by Dr. John Hislop in the January, 1975 issue of Sanathana Sarathi.

After a triumphant tour as Bhagawan’s ambassador to the Sathya Sai Centres of America. Dr. V. K. Gokak’s return flight to India was scheduled by his California hostess, Mrs. Elsie Cowan for an 8:30 a.m. departure on Oct. 7, 1974. But, for the first time in his life he was late and the plane departed minus one distinguished Indian passenger, namely Dr. Gokak.

How could this be? Could not Baba have delayed the plane for three minutes? Or, could He not have prodded Hislop, the driver of Dr. Gokak’s car to speed up a bit and thus gain a few minutes on the drive from Mrs. Cowan’s home to the airport? Or, on the other hand, could it be possible that Baba made obstacles in the way of the driver so as to make him slow and late?

Some would say that missing the plane was just an accident. But what is an accident and why does an accident happen?

Although it is true that Hislop resisted Mrs. Cowan’s proposal to depart Santa Ana at 5:30 a.m. with the argument that it was far too early for a short drive of 35 miles, nevertheless there still should have been plenty of time. Even though Hislop and Dr. Gokak did not wake up when they should have, Mrs. Cowan and Mrs. Hislop were up bright and early with coffee ready, and the party did get away by 6 a.m.

The trip started out fine and for the first 15 minutes the car sped along fast and easy. But then the trouble started. First, the traffic got thick as glue and the highway became almost like a huge parking lot filled with cars that were either stationary or inching along only a few feet at a time. The minutes and half hours passed by, but the car made little progress and every time the watch was consulted the temperature of the passengers rose another few degrees. The driver berated himself for not heeding Mrs. Cowan’s 5:30 a.m. starting schedule and although the passengers were polite it was easy to see that they had the same thought as the driver!

The slow pace became intolerable, and it was decided to leave the 8 lane highway and; take a chance on unknown side streets. What a relief it was to get off the highway! The first side street was almost empty and the spirits of the passengers rose along with the higher speed of the car. Surely now the airport would be gained in time to get Dr. Gokak on his plane.

But no sooner the sigh of relief than a new, never imagined obstacle arose. First, earth bound highway vehicles had stopped all progress. And now the heavens themselves moved swiftly to maintain the level of resistance to the car’s progress. Southern California is a desert—dry, dry, dry. September October is the dry brush fire season. Yet, despite the season, it suddenly started to rain, not just rain—it poured down in torrents from a canopy of thunder and myriad lightening flashes. The roads quickly became dangerously slippery and the opportunity to drive fast was immediately lost.

Still, at least the car was moving—but not for long! Now the inner city was reached and with it came the inner city traffic light system. One block of driving and then a red stop signal. Another block and another stop signal. Two minutes lost at each stop signal; miles still to go and only twenty minutes to plane departure.

By now even the calm Dr. Gokak was urging. “Speed up! Speed up!” And Mrs. Cowan urged, “Make the signals, I’ll pay the fine if a policeman stops you.” The fifth passenger, a delegate from Hawaii warned, “Talking to a policeman will take longer than the traffic signal.”

But the driver, throwing caution to the wind, did step on the gas and the last few miles of driving behaviour was surely no model for a law abiding citizen to copy!

At last the airport was reached. Dr. Gokak and Hislop, leaving the parking of the car to the others, took .the luggage and ran. Porters at the outer doors said, “Stop. You cannot make it.” The ticket officer, however, shouted encouragement, “Run! You may make it—even though I doubt it.”

As soon as the boarding ramp was sighted, the runners shouted, “Wait! We are here!” But the officers at the gate shook their heads, “Too late. The plane moved away from its mooring three minutes ago.”

Well, that was that; Dr. Gokak turned to the information office beside the ramp and asked the time of the next departure. Armed with this information, he and Hislop made their way towards the passenger lounge to sit down and wait for the others of the party to arrive and ask, “What happened?”

At this moment, a man came running up and, somewhat out of breath from hurry, said, “Oh, Dr. Gokak, you are here. Thank goodness I caught you before you got on your plane. I have a letter from me to Baba and I prayed to Him that I would be able to make it to the airport in time to give you my letter to give to Baba. Baba helped me. The highway traffic was terrible, but Baba must have cleared the way because I have got to you in time!”

Dr. Gokak and Hislop looked at each other and then broke into laughter. Dr Gokak said, “Well, here is the reason we missed the plane; here is the man responsible for it!”

The newly arrived devotee started to ask questions. By this time the other three members of the party arrived after having parked the car and were told the story. One person said, “What Baba will not do in order to please a devotee.” And someone else responded, “Yes, Baba will go to any length for a devotee, even to the extent of delaying other devotees!” This remark caused another round of laughter. Then everyone went to the airport cafe for breakfast and had a very pleasant and enjoyable time talking of the glories of Baba and of His Leelas. At 10 a.m. the next plane was ready for departure and Dr. Gokak was wished an easy flight for his homeward trip to distant India.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II