Baba Ji mentioned he would be travelling for five days in Punjabi towns giving satsang, and wants us to come with him. However, the good doctor believes that in order to have positive long term results, these treatments should be consistent. We’re disappointed but we understand.
Happy day. Doug’s daily sessions with Dr. Sharma have provided much relief. It’s wonderful to see him feeling chipper and more like his old self. Once again Baba Ji invites us to travel with him. I pack clothes for five days. We’re good to go when I hear a knock on the door: it’s Jasbir with a message from Baba Ji telling us the trip has been postponed. Okay. I unpack our clothes, but just when I’m ready to work in the brickyard there’s another knock on the door. Jasbir stands in the doorway with a grin on his face and says,
“Well, are you ready?”
I answer,
“Ready for what?”
He replies,
“Baba Ji leaves in ten minutes for his satsang tour. He will pick you up in five. Be ready.”
He walks away then turns back to me, and says,
“Get moving!”
We can’t be late. I hardly have time to pack more than one change of clothes; clueless as to how long we’ll be gone.
Baba Ji and his driver are in the front seat, and us in the back. I honestly think I finished my first book travelling in the back seat of his SUV. Hard to believe we’re travelling with Baba Ji to his many satsang centers. Everywhere we go he is greeted like the great Saint he is. We spend the night in Ludhiana at the home of Tarsem Singh Bhullar who opens his home to Baba Ji whenever he gives satsang. Baba Ji knows I want to buy gifts for our friends in America. He tells his driver to take me to a little shop no bigger than a closet that sells unique handcrafted gloves, caps and Indian shawls I would never find anywhere else. When I return, Doug is outside waiting for me,
“Jen, hurry up, get in the car. They say we’re in for a surprise. We’re going to the main satsang center.”
We go on another speed-o-drive through the streets of Ludhiana. The moment we walk in, a door opens behind the dais where Baba Ji sits, when a swarm of little children rushes through with their hands over their heads holding pencils for him to bless and help them make good grades. There must be at least two hundred who want his special blessing. The closer they get to Baba Ji, the quieter they become. It’s easy to see he loves children and intends to stay until not one is left. What a wonderful experience to watch him laugh with these kids as he blesses their pencils. What a moment. In the morning we come downstairs where prantas, chapattis and chai are being served. To stand back and watch three or four Punjabi women prepare an Indian breakfast for Baba Ji in a small kitchen is something to behold.

An excerpt from India with Backpack and a Prayer

Sleeping in the Cradle of God

An excerpt from India with Backpack and a Prayer

I have big days and small days. Today is a small day. I woke up this morning with my throat feeling like sandpaper. Nevertheless, I walk to morning satsang, and afterwards to the shed to make chapattis, peel garlic, and chop cilantro with other women.

Sadna’s bone structure reminds me of women in the days of Caesar. She wears an Indian style scarf on her head, covering a mane of hair so raven-black it has blue highlights. She is quite beautiful in her own way. Sadna is at once shy, mischievous, and tough. Indian women have no problem showing affection if they like you. I recall something Maharaj Ji said about the differences between Indian and American families. He could spend two hours talking to satsangies in an American home, and leave without knowing anything about them. On the other hand when he visits Indian homes, he knows everything in five minutes. Sadna’s responsibility is no small job as she begins early each morning. She usually sits next to me to make sure I make each chapatti just right. We find a way of communicating; sometimes we chat through a translator, other times through mime. Doug says we are totally outrageous. I tease Sadna, “God forbid you don’t have your daily chapatti.” She wears an Indian style scarf on her head, covering a mane of hair so raven-black it has blue highlights. She is quite beautiful in her own way.

Chapatti to an Indian is chicken soup to a Jew. She laughs then answers, “Ja thade li ek Coke.”

Translation: Or Coke to you.

What I wouldn’t give for one about now. I’ll miss her when we leave.

A busload of 125 village people just arrived in a covered truck to lend a hand in the brickyard. They come only for the love of Baba Ji. Their lives are simple, and their acceptance of whatever he gives them is much appreciated. They love doing seva because they know who Baba Ji is. They are simple folks with a deep understanding of this Mystic path. I love being around them. By afternoon I have a full blown cold, sore throat, fever, and a nose that honks every five minutes. I vaguely remember telling Doug I needed ten minutes to rest. Maybe I’m having a dream, but call me crazy if there’s not a carload of kids in our room all whispering shhhhhhhh, and thanking him for the do-dads he bought them. Omg, they want to give me my daily Punjabi lesson. Doug tells them it really isn’t the time. While all this is going on, I begin to daydream about an elderly Indian woman I saw this morning tying rupees in her chuny* same as my grandma used to do. They lived in a poor Mexican neighborhood where the ice cream truck came by daily in hot summer months. My grandpa would yell from the other room, “Lily, loosen up the change from your apron. Some of those little “peckerwoods” out there don’t have money for ice cream. You know the ones.

At 5:00 my fever breaks. I bundle up and sit in the garden drinking a cup of chai Shanti makes for me. I marvel at how these flowers grow in winter. It’s no mystery Indian roses bloom in cold weather for Baba Ji. Summer heat is ungodly, monsoon very wet, and Punjabi winters cold. These people survive with no complaints. By the time we walk upstairs to see Baba Ji, my nose is a small leak compared to the waterfall this afternoon.

These people take each day as it comes by saturating themselves with service to Baba Ji. In so doing, they don’t have time to worry about security down the road. They laugh, they work hard, they love their children, and keep their focus on Baba Ji. As a result, they get more out of life. I’ll keep them close to my heart after we say our last goodbyes.


We are early. No matter. It feels good to breathe in fresh morning air. This ancient land has the most unusual mix of sounds one can possibly imagine. Morning satsang begins each day at 9:30 a.m., then again at 6:00 p.m. Everyone takes off their shoes before entering the Bhandara Hall and sits in rows, men to the left, women to the right. I’m greeted by Indian women, old and young, who signal me to come sit with them, especially Sadna with a smile and laughter so rare she could do toothpaste commercials if she lived in the U.S.
Once again Indian women cluster around me asking every imaginable question via mime, since they don’t speak English, and my grasp of Punjabi is hopeless. Doug puts on his shoes and patiently waits. As Jasbir pulls me away, he tells them in Punjabi that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Quite the contrary. We’re more like old friends getting reacquainted … hard to explain.
We walk upstairs to his quarters, take off our shoes and place them outside his door. Baba Ji sits without turban, a white knitted cap pulled down that touches his white beard glistening against honey colored skin. He wears a blue vest, white leggings, and white kurta*. His dark eyes scan our faces as he blesses us in ways that human language cannot describe. I continue to gaze into his eyes as he gives us darshan, an Indian word meaning the blessings received from a Mystic who glances lovingly at someone. He summons Parveen to bring tea. Sitting in the presence of a Mystic is no small thing. Wonder and awe best describes how I feel. I can hardly spea

An excerpt from India with a Backpack and Prayer

“Doug and I had no interest in each other as far as marriage was concerned. Little did we know what was coming down the road. Baba Ji told us we had a choice to marry in this life or take another birth to satisfy our karmic debt. Although we had known each other since 1968, the last thing either of us wanted was to marry, particularly to each other. The kicker was Baba Ji’s words,

‘Ki tuhanu iss jeevan vich viah na karan da faisla karna chahida ha, tusi ik duje nu aapne karman de darze nu pura karan layi ik hor janam lavoge.’

Translation: Should you decide not to marry in this life, you will take another birth to satisfy your karmic debt to each other.
We were stunned to say the least. I said I would never write another book after Tharon Ann, and that I would absolutely never marry again. Now here I am writing this book, married to this man. Baba Ji’s words left us little choice. He brokered our marriage and told us to meet the legal requirements of the United States, which we did. A minister performed a private ceremony in our home. For two weeks, none of our friends or work associates knew we were married. Several months later when he visited his American sangats, Baba Ji performed our ring ceremony Punjabi style. No sooner was it over than he whispered in Doug’s ear,
‘Tusi 2 saal deri naal ho.’ Translation: You are two years late.
One of our friends remarked that our initial union was more like Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Should you wonder how things worked out…so far so good.”

Excerpt from India With Backpack and a Prayer
by Jennifer Brookins, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon


India with Backpack and a Prayer

An excerpt from India with Backpack and Prayer

We arrive at Indira Gandhi Airport and go through the usual rigors of Homeland Security, passport checks, exhausted crabby travellers, and the endless wait for luggage. As for me, my thoughts are focused on meeting Baba Ji in Tarn Taran as promised. I am overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Delhi, the colorful style of Hindi and Punjabi dress, and rickshaws designed for two carrying three or four people pulled by one slightly built man. These manual drivers usually come from the lower strata of society and work 12-14 hours daily for a couple of rupees during monsoon season to cold winter months. I see Indians travelling on bicycles; orange-robed sadhus begging for money; Indian music piped from loudspeakers; whiffs of curry, masala, and other Indian spices.
Everywhere I look there are women beggars holding babies, children beggars, invalid beggars, elderly beggars, and homeless beggars sleeping on sidewalks. I thought the streets of New York were crowded but I’ve never seen anything like this. Delhi is a wall-to-wall mass of people. India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations and often referred to as the cradle of humanity. This ancient land seems so familiar to me. I continue to have feelings of déjà vu .As we head through the terminal exit I notice several Indian men smiling and waving their arms in our direction. Baba Ji sent Ashok Pabbi and two others to pick us up and drive to his home where we’ll spend the night with his family. Early tomorrow morning they will drive us to the train station. We’re minutes from his home when Doug, embarrassed many times over, says,
“I’m so sorry but I left one of our suitcases at the terminal.”
They are very gracious, and reassure him they will return to the airport before sunrise, retrieve his lost luggage, and exchange the train ticket for another later in the morning. How can we express our gratitude to such loving souls? Each time we try to thank them, the answer is always the same:
“Please. Baba Ji’s Grace.”
I’ve never met people like this. They are service oriented and give without expectation of reward or praise. Ashoks wife welcomes us as though we are old friends. She has prepared a late meal that is out of this world: fried prantas* filled with onion and potatoes, homemade yogurt, and chai made with buffalo milk. Yummy. Afterwards, we’re taken to a bedroom already prepared for our short stay. Tomorrow is a busy day. We sleep in our clothes for a few hours. At 4 a.m. Archana knocks on our door and says,
“Naashte da time ho gya.”
Translation: Time for breakfast Ashok and his team have already eaten but sit with us for morning tea. They look fresh, energized, ready, willing, and able. We look sleepless, frazzled, and half-alive.
No sooner do we finish breakfast than our luggage is whisked to the car. They drive us back to the airport to fetch one more piece of luggage, then race to the Delhi train station for an eight hour train ride to Amritsar. From there Baba Ji’s driver will take us to Tarn Taran. One thing I will never forget is how attentive Baba Ji is. Every now and then Ashok calls to let him know where we are, how we are and says,
“Yes, Baba Ji, their flight went well.”
Despite his age, poor health, and twenty hour days of travelling, giving satsang, dealing with satsangis and non-satsangies the world over, he continues to oversee construction at Dera. All this and he wants to make sure we’re okay. Regardless of his health Baba Ji always puts the welfare of others before himself. The Delhi terminal is filled with people lined up for tickets while others have their arms around loved ones saying their last goodbyes. Some look like they’ve lost their best friend, others frustrated because they can’t find the right platform to board. Doug and I look more like tired children, our hands held tight by Ashok and team to ensure we don’t get lost in this mass of international travellers. The world over train stations have the same smell: wave-like puffs of steam telling passengers it’s time to board. Baba Ji’s sevadars* guide us through a pushy crowd anxious to get a window seat. They hold our hands until we step onto the boarding platform, hoist our luggage onto the rack above and strap us in as the wheels begin to crank up. Call me crazy but this train’s about to leave
with them still on it. Smiling, they reassure us we’ll see them tonight for Baba Ji’s birthday celebration. As they leave, the train gradually picks up speed. They remain on the platform until the train is out of sight. I look out the window and watch their faces slowly fade away, hard to believe it’s still early morning. Each time we try and thank them, the answer is always the same:“No thanks, Baba Ji’s Grace.” In the states, we call this type of train a Red Eye, and the seats hard-tail. I quickly tell myself it doesn’t matter, that in a few hours we will be with Baba Ji. I doze off only to be awakened by my armrest hitting me on the head. I grumble to an Indian food vendor who doesn’t speak a lick of English. The more I try and explain, the more politely he doesn’t understand. Finally, I pantomime the armrest hitting my head. He laughs and says,
“Ah yes madam fix, fix.”
He pulls it back in place, tightens the knob, returns to his cart, and moves on. Doug tells me to adjust to the situation instead of complaining as I roll up my shawl to put behind his back. I think to myself,
” Easy to say for someone not sitting in an aisle seat with an warped armrest.”
Like clockwork every forty-five minutes it flies up and konks me on the head. Each time it happens, I flag the food vendor, point to the armrest against my forehead, growl as he adjusts it for the twentieth time, and remember Doug’s advice.
“Just flash him a big smile and thank him.” I think to myself,
“Next time I’ll hoof it.”
He smiles, shows lots of white teeth, and continues to push his food cart down the aisle until he hears my next ouch. There is a reason for whatever happens in life, better stated as the karmic law of cause and effect. Also referred to as “as you sow, so shall you reap.” I shouldn’t have lost my temper with the food vendor, but I did and honestly, let’s face it, I could have been killed. Why do I always make excuses? There is an old Indian saying,
“Jado v chela tyaar hunda, guru pragat ho janda.”
Translation: When the student is ready the teacher appears. I’ve had that experience. There are no grey zones on this Path. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, good grief it’s a duck! “