I Am The Air Raid Warden

A tall claim! What does He mean by saving my life?… wondered Gogoi, perplexed, looking into Bhagawan’s Eyes…. and then He revealed… I Am The Air Raid Warden… an interesting episode from the life of Gogoi, from Prof N Kasturi’s book – Sathya Sai Baba – God In Action…

There was a labour minister in England (at that time), who wanted to make India industrialised. He thought of collecting some young people from India, taking them over to England, putting them in some factories for training, developing in them a mechanical bent of mind, and then, sending them back to India. So, a few young people were taken over to England. One of them was Gogoi, a young man from Assam. They were all given scholarships and placed in different places for training.

Then, the war against England started. German blitz every day. Every night, a series of planes came to blast London. Every night, sirens used to sound and the people had to rush to underground shelters. After the enemy planes left, sirens would be sounded again and people would come out of shelters.

This young man from Assam, a poor fellow, could not pay a high rent and therefore, lived in an attic and cooked his food himself, because of his preference for vegetarian food. He was very earnest in his studies and was doing home work at night. Every night, when he was doing homework, sirens would be sounded and he would run to the shelter. He thought it was a nuisance and argued within himself, “Why should I run to a shelter, when the siren is sounded? After all, the German planes may not come at all and even if they come, they may not bomb this area, and even if they bomb this area, it may not fall on this building, and even if it falls on this building, I may not die!” and thought his chances of dying were remote.

In India, we believe in karma, in destiny and if your karma is such, you cannot escape death. You may not die of a German bomb, but die because of a cat! …And this young man, Gogoi, stuck to karmic theory and decided, “Today, when the sirens sound, I will not go out!” There used to be air-raid wardens and when the sirens sounded, they would go round and see whether everyone had gone to the shelter, and whether lights in the houses had been switched off.

On that day, when Gogoi had decided not to go to the shelter, the siren sounded as usual. He switched off the lights, pulled a rug over him, and lay silently, so that not even the sound of his breath could be heard outside! Soon, he heard the sound of boot steps of someone coming up the staircase. It was the air-raid warden! He banged the door and shouted, “Man! You in there! Come out. I know you are there! I am the air-raid warden, the police.” Gogoi was frightened. “Don’t wait to get dressed, come as you are, hurry!” shouted the air-raid warden again. Gogoi had to come out and ran to the shelter. He was the last person to go to the shelter. The air-raid warden followed him and stood at the entrance of the shelter, so that people inside may not come out, until the siren sounded again. When the siren sounded again, Gogoi came out of the shelter, went towards his building, and saw that it had been bombed and there was a heap of dust. He searched for the air-raid warden and didn’t find him anywhere. “Probably, he too has become dust,” he thought and was sad.

Gogoi stayed in England for some time and then, returned to India. He got some job, but was not satisfied with it. He left it to join Mahatma Gandhi’s movement, specialised in co-operative institutions, became a senior officer in the co-operative department, and later, retired. Then, when he was in Bombay, he heard of Sathya Sai Baba and went to Dharmakshetra. He was one of the fifty thousand people there. Because he went late, he was seated somewhere on the edge of the gathering. Then, a volunteer came running towards him. Baba had sent him. He had told that volunteer, “Look here! Right behind that last line, there is a person so and so and of such and such description. Ask him to come and sit in the first line.” The volunteer brought him to the first line.

Gogoi was surprised, “I just wanted to have a distant glimpse of Him out of sheer curiosity and He wants me to come and sit in the front line!” He was wondering what he was in for? Swami came and stood right in front of him, and said, “You must come and settle down in Prasanthi Nilayam. That is why I saved your life!” Gogoi thought, “What is it? A tall claim! What does He mean by saving my life? He Is seeing me for the first time!” Swami asked him, “Do you know the air-raid warden?” Gogoi answered, “Yes, I remember. He insisted on my going to the shelter. Otherwise, I would have died. He saved my life, but poor fellow, he died.” Swami said, “No. I Am The Air-Raid Warden!”

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II