I got this long and well written experience from Kumar about his experiences with Sai Baba of Shirdi, His grace and His help, to be posted on this blog.
I entered the United States on the 11th of August 2009 through Newark (EWR). I am a student who came over to the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis for my Masters program. On entering the US, the first thing that happened was Customs check. I had been praying to Baba all through my journey and always felt his presence throughout. Everything including Customs and Immigrations checks happened very smoothly and I was very happy and kept thanking Baba.
I reached Minneapolis and settled down smoothly by Baba’s grace. By His Grace, I got a job very soon and was eligible to get the Social Security Number which is very important for those living in the US. I went over to the Social Security Administration office with all the documents and filled and submitted my application. There were several other Indians from the university who had come to apply for the SSN on the same day.
When I went to the counter, the officer looked at my documents for a while and then went inside for a long time, came back and returned the documents to me without saying a word. I didn’t know then what was happening. I was told that I can expect the SSN within two weeks. I returned and completely forgot all about it.
Two weeks later, I still hadn’t got my SSN. I happened to see the people who had applied for the SSN on the same day as I did and they told me that they had got the card within 10 days. I then started calling the office and the post office but it didn’t help. I then went over to the SSA office, stood in the long queue and finally got my turn and went in. The officer again went in for a long time, came back and told me that they were rejecting my application as my DOB didn’t match with that in the DHS records (Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Immigrations). I then realised that the Customs officer at the Newark airport had entered my DOB as 26th January 1989 instead of 1984. I was very worried as this meant a lot of trouble. They told me that I could contact the DHS (some other department) and get it rectified but when I came back home and started looking for their contacts, it was all hazy. One of the many bad things about the US is that most phone lines are answered by Interactive Voice Response Systems and they only have options for standard queries and problems and for such a strange and uncommon problem as mine, there was no option for me to dial – which meant I had to keep listening to these long recorded messages on the phone – it was irritating and creating a feeling of insecurity in me. There was no direct way for me to contact the DHS. Even the web-site said I could meet them on appointment only. When I chose to book an appointment, the earliest I could get was after two weeks. I had no option but to wait and pray till then and hope that it would be alright.
Two weeks later, on the 30th September 2008, I was ready to go to the place for the 8:45 appointment. As the office was quite far from where I stay (almost another town) I got up early, got ready, made sure I took all the documents and cycled down 1.5 miles to my place of work (and it was really cold), waited for the bus and boarded it. After boarding, I just wanted to make sure I had everything I needed and opened my bag – to my utter shock, my passport was not there. I was in total frenzy, got off the bus, had to take an overhead bridge to cross the road to get back to the other side. Went over, took a return bus back to the place where I work, biked back home – thankfully and unfortunately I had left my passport there. It was almost 8 then and I had my appointment at 8:45 in Bloomington which is quite far. Besides I had not gone to this place before which meant I had to go there (first figure out how) and then search for the place. I was in two minds – whether to postpone the appointment or to just go and apologize for the delay. I just kept praying to Baba decided to start anyways. I again biked back and took the bus, got off at train station and took a train to Bloomington (where the office is located). I was in the train at around 8:25 AM. In the train, I just kept praying and reading the Satcharita. Thankfully, I got off at Bloomington at 8:45 – this was surprising for me (this was quicker than usual) and ran towards the building as per the direction in Google maps. Finally I found the place with the help of a few kind souls. I ran and unfortunately, they didn’t complain about my delay. I again had to stand in the queue here too. When my turn came, the officer on seeing my details, checked his database and told me that my details were entered wrong. Infact he told me that not only my DOB but also my gender was entered wrong. He then told me that they can’t edit the mistakes themselves and that I must go another department in the Minneapolis-St Paul airport and contact them. Thankfully this time they gave me the phone number of the person I was supposed to contact. I immediately called him and took an appointment with him and rushed to the airport all the time asking Baba to help me through all this mess. (it was a real mess – not just DOB, even gender – it could mean a lot of trouble and suspicion). I went over to the office and again waited for a while and when my turn came, I explained my problem to him. He went in for a long time (I was beginning to hate this going-in-for-a-long-time business – our Indian Government officers are so much transparent and error-free than these). He came back and said that he has rectified my DOB but my gender can’t be edited – his system wouldn’t allow him to do that and he had no idea if that can ever be done. I was very upset and thought that I was in for a big trouble. I already had other things to worry about and this I thought was going to turn out to be a big problem. But I knew only Baba could save me from this. I asked him (the officer – Larry Minner) what I must do now. He told me not to worry and just go ahead and apply for the SSN again and said that they may not check for my gender and even if they did, they could verify it from secondary sources if they wanted. He also told me that I should suggest this to them in case they rejected my application the second time.
I again went and applied – this was my third trip to the SSA office. This time, the officer who attended to me checked the database and told me that my DOB still showed the wrong one (1989) and was not rectified and they can’t issue an SSN to me. I was all the more disheartened. I had earlier thought that atleast the DOB was rectified – now even that didn’t reflect in their system. She said she had no idea what to do and that the only thing she can do to help me is send the application and a photocopy of all my documents to their headquarters in Virginia for a manual verification. I requested her to do that. I came back and called up Larry Minner again – he said that he sees the updated DOB in his system but that doesn’t seem to be updated in that of the SSA database. There is some common database system between the DHS, USCIS and SSA which is not updated globally and hence the problem – this is the conclusion I came to. I had absolutely nothing to do but to wait. Within a week I again got a notice of denial from the SSA office – saying that my details didn’t match with that in their database. I went there again the following Monday but found the place so crowded that I had to return if I didn’t want to miss my class. I came back. I couldn’t go the next day due to some other work. I again went there on Wednesday but found that something was wrong in the set of documents I had with me and went back. Finally on Thursday after going to the temple in the morning and placing my grievance before Baba, I again went to the SSA office in the afternoon – this time it was another old lady who attended to me and she said she was almost helpless as she still saw the 1989 in her system and she had no idea what to do. I kept requesting her to help me somehow – she again said she will send for a manual check but I told her the cycle I had been gone through and requested her to check if there is any other way this can be sorted out. She asked me if I remembered the officer who attended to me the last time. Thankfully the lady was at the adjacent window and I pointed to her. She remembered me (nice lady again – Thanks to all the nice people Baba had arranged for me through all these problems). She said that the manual verification was not complete or that they hadn’t bothered to respond to her verification query and that they could send a reminder to them. These two women now called upon another woman – this lady was familiar with this DOB mismatch cases as she had attended to such problems earlier. She immediately called someone at the university’s International Students office who interacts with the Customs and reported this issue to him and asked him too to put in a word with the Customs. On my request, she gave me his number with his permission. I was greatly relieved as there was new hope now. I began to see the effect of Thursday and the surrender to Baba. I then got a feeling that Baba is looking after and as per my wish, he would give me the SSN before the semester ends.
I came back and waited. (Saburi). A few days later I called up this guy at the university – he told me that he knows my case and that he is working on it and it will be done soon. I happened to call him on a Thursday and there was a comforting answer. I again called him the following Tuesday (though I had wanted to wait till Thursday and call him, I couldn’t wait and so called him). He said that he was expecting to here from them soon and told me to get back to him on THURSDAY. On hearing this, my faith in Baba about handling this issue was confirmed and I realised that it was high time I just left it for Him to take care. I didn’t bother to call the following Thursday. Nothing happened for more than a week. The next Thursday, 13th Nov, 2008, I went to the temple in the morning as usual. I had wanted to do some voluntary work at the temple like cleaning, distributing Prasad etc., like I used to do in Pilani but I somehow never took the initiative myself. That day I didn’t think about this but after darshan, I felt like touching the feet of Baba (the main big idol) – I used to do this in Pilani (not all people in the temple are allowed to touch the main idol in most temples – in Pilani I could). I went and asked the person in charge who was cleaning the idol (Abhisheka). He said that the idol can’t be touched by everyone – only those who serve Baba regularly can do this. When I asked him what this meant, he said that I can choose any one day of the week, come to the temple (either in the morning or evening) and take care of things like cleaning, preparing and distributing Prasada etc.). I then realised that this was Baba’s plan to get me start serving Him in Minneapolis as I used to in Pilani. I was very happy and told him that I will come starting from the following Saturday which I did. I was very happy and pleased to realise that Baba is giving me this opportunity to serve Him and is always with me wherever I went (according to the promise made in Satcharitha). There was a temple very close to my house in each of the places I had lived all my life. It then stuck me that I had always happened to live close to a Baba temple (and this was not planned) and that now in Minneapolis too he had ensured that. (It is really Baba’s Leela that not only in India, even in a city like Minneapolis which does not have a big Indian population, I am staying close to a Baba temple – this can’t be by coincidence but only His Divine Grace.) There were so many universities I applied to and got admits from – none of them except this had a Baba’s temple close by (and that too so closeby that I can go over by bus in about 10 minutes). Infact, He also made me take a house that is closer to the temple than any other area/house I had considered at that time (at that time, I had no idea about the temple and about Baba’s plans).
This went over me over the weekend. On Tuesday of the following week, when I came home, my room-mate (he usually checks the mail for out apartment), had left an envelope from SSA on my desk. I quickly placed it before Baba and opened it and after praying.
It read like this:
This is a receipt to show that you applied for a Social Security card on November 13th 2008. You should have your card in about 2 weeks……
I had not gone to the SSA office on November 13th nor had I bothered to think about it as I had left it to Baba. Baba had taken care of it and just to confirm my faith he had got it arranged for that Thursday and that same Thursday he had recruited me to offer service to Him in Minneapolis. Is this not wonderful? Will you call this coincidence? In less than two weeks I got my SSN.
Thanks to Baba for being with me and my family through all the tough times. Ever protect us and all your loving devotees and keep us in your blessed loving care. We will not then be afraid of anything.
My first and other devotees experiences with Shirdi Sai Baba