Somnath Shankar Deshpande was the son of Nana Saheb Nimonkar. He belonged to Brahmin community and served as Inspector of Police. He resided at Saniwar Peth, Poona.

Nimon is a village 20 miles off Shirdi. There they had their Vatan of Deshpande. Shirdi is on the way from or to Kopergaon. And at Shirdi, they had relations. Balvant Rao, Father of Madhava Rao Deshpande alias Shyama was Nana Saheb Nimonkar’s uncle and loved him very much. Once he took Nana Saheb Nimonkar to Sai Baba saying, “People believe he is a mad fakir. I doubt if he is really mad but you had better go with me, see him and give me your opinion.” Whenever Balvant had gone to see Baba, the latter kept him at a distance by taking up a brickbat and either flinging it or threatening to fling it at him. Thus he kept away people from going into the Mosque where he stayed. But when Nana Saheb went to see him, he flung no stones and they approached quite close to him. Nana’s heart was attracted to Sai as soon as he saw him and on his return home he assured his uncle that Baba was a Saint and not a mad man. The uncle wondered why stones were hurled when he went to Baba formerly but not on the present occasion. “That is because you doubted if he was mad, but I did not”, told Nana Saheb Nimonkar. Since then, Nana Saheb paid annual and later biennial or more frequent visits to baba - as his faith was steadily increasing.

Nana Saheb Nimonkar was an Honorary Magistrate of Sangamner and there he met Nana Saheb Chandorkar (the Collector’s Chitnis) who also was an admirer of Baba and both would talk together about Baba.

When Nana Saheb Chandorkar started the idea of rebuilding Baba’s Masjid and collected subscriptions, Nana Saheb Nimonkar contributed his mite and what is more he supervised the building operations. Baba would not let the workmen to go on with the work as he complained of their work and undid their work. The building was long being prevented from completing even its foundation. Baba however had great trust in Nana Saheb Nimonkar and he hurried on the work all night when Baba slept at that Chavadi.

Baba showed his faith in Nana Saheb Nimonkar by making him his banker during the years (1916-18) that he stayed with Baba. As funds came, Baba would hand them over to Nimonkar. Even Madhav Rao mistook them for gifts. Nimonkar stood in no need of gifts. We had about 500 rupees per annum from their Vatan and Somnath was sending him all moneys he required. Besides, Nimonkar also knew the truth of Baba’s often repeated statement. “Fakir’s money is forced away”. If one grasped at and swallowed a Fakir’s money, he will in due course have to disgorge it all, to the last pie.

Nana Saheb Nimonkar desired and got from Baba gifts superior to monetary gifts, i.e. temporal and spiritual welfare of his family. So Nimonkar paid up all the deposits for Baba’s expenses. Baba himself frequently called upon him for these expenses e.g. (a) Burfi would have to be purchased and distributed as present; (b) firewood on a large scale also had to be bought etc.. The family members of Nana Saheb Nimonkar used to call him as “Kaka” so did the villagers; and so also Baba called him “Kaka”.

To illustrate the spiritual benefit received by Nana Saheb Nimonkar, Somanath gives an instance. Nana Saheb Nimonkar wished to read “Bhagawat” etc., in Sanskrit as “Pothi”, but his ignorance of the language stood in his way. Baba once said to him:

S.B : Why don’t you read Pothi?

N.N : I do not know Sanskrit.

S.B : Never mind. Masjid Ayi will teach you Sanskrit, and gradually you will learn. Begin.

Then with faith in Baba’s words, Nana Saheb Nimonkar began the daily reading of Shrimad Bhagwat and its commentary - both of them in Sanskrit - without understanding what he read. Gradually he began to understand all that he read, and he advanced so far as to proceed (at Baba’s bidding) with the Gita and next with Jnaneshwari. All these he understood, and when Kaka Saheb Dixit and Jog had doubts he cleared their doubts. They were learned scholars and had regularly studied Sanskrit. But Nana Saheb Nimonkar had not, and so they said Nana Saheb Nimonkar’s understanding was inspired by Baba’s grace. But Baba once stopped his further explaining things to others. “Why should we explain things to others? That will make us puffed up with self-conceit.”

As for quasi-spiritual benefits derived by Nana Saheb Nimonkar, instances will be given presently of the cures he affected when he spent his last two months with Somnath here at Poona.

Temporal benefit may include not only the growing esteem in which he was held by all who knew him and the consequent increase of his influence, but also the safeguarding and advancement of the interests of all members of his family, including Somnath. Somnath had been taken to Baba from his infancy by Nana Saheb Nimonkar and Baba spoke to Somnath and spoke of him always affectionately giving him the sobriquet, “Somniya.”

In 1912, Somnath was a police Sub-Inspector at Kopergaon; and Shirdi was within his jurisdiction. As soon as Somnath got his first pay, he sent rupees two every month by Money Order to Baba. That was his father’s order and possibly his vow. He continued that payment every month up to 1920 i.e. till shortly after his father’s death. When he was at Kopergaon, Somnath and his father went down once to Shirdi. Then Baba asked Somnath to pay a dakshina of 10 rupees and he did as told by Baba. It appeared to have no significance at that time. But about six months later, he got the order that his pay was increased by 10 rupees from that date, (i.e. the date of his paying the dakshina to Baba). He got a transfer in 1912 from Kopergaon to Poona.

Another instance of Baba’s care for Somnath was mentioned by his father, even before Somnath got his service. It seems that Baba, sitting at his Mosque, would take up coins and be rubbing them with his fingers saying “Kakacha”, “Somyahca” etc.. Nana Saheb Nimonkar said, that showed that Somnath was often in Baba’s mind and that augured nothing but good for him.

Of numerous instances of Baba’s taking all care of them, Yogakshemam Vahamyaham the chief may be his looking after Nana Saheb Nimonkar himself during the last 3 years of his life. In 1916, Somnath’s wife was in the family way and they looked forward to Somnath’s parents to come here, so that his mother may help in the delivery. The family had no other help. Nana Saheb Nimonkar and his wife left Nimon on that account to go to Poona. But as Shirdi is near and as there were rumours that Baba was passing away, they first visited Baba. Once they went to Baba, he detained them and did not give them leave to go away- either back to Nimon or forward to Poona. Nana Saheb Nimonkar did not understand the reason for this refusal and Madhava Rao on his behalf asked Baba for leave.

Baba : Do you want to kill my people? Is Kaka eating away your father’s property?

Madhav Rao : But his daughter-in-law is pregnant and needs help.

Baba : Arre Kaka, why are you anxious? God will help.

Baba also said to Nana Saheb Nimonkar at that time, “Bury me and then go.” When Baba detained Nana, he tied a cloth bandage to his own arm which he kept on for three years and removed only four days before his death. Nana Saheb Nimonkar died four months thereafter. That is just what he anticipated and told Madhav Rao when he left Shirdi two or four days after Baba expired.

When Somnath’s parents were being thus detained at Shirdi, Somnath’s family at Poona was relying solely on their going to them for the accouchement and made no other arrangements up to the last. Suddenly one night Somnath’s wife told him “I feel that pains are coming.” At once, Somnath ordered a Tonga and took her at 10P.M. to the Poona Municipal Maternity Hospital and left her abed. The nurse that ought to have attended on her was talking with him in an adjoining room. It was about 11 P.M. At once they heard the cry of the new born child, a male child. The delivery was over without any help. It was a safe delivery. At that time - or rather just before delivery, Baba said to Nana Saheb Nimonkar at Shirdi: “There was a woman. She was taken to a place. There she was delivered safe, of a male child.”

Soon after the delivery, Somnath sent his brother with “Peda” which is usually presented to all on the birth of a child - to Baba and to his parents at Shirdi requesting that Somnath’s mother may go over and help them at Poona. Permission was not given to her to go. Nana Saheb Nimonkar then told Somnath’s brother of what Baba had said to him about the delivery on the very day of its birth. That was Bhadrapad 1916.

Another instance of Baba’s care for Nana Saheb Nimonkar’s family is this. In December, 1917, plague was beginning its ravages at Poona; and during X'mas holidays, Somnath started with his first son Gopal, then a child, 2 or 3 years, to Nimon where his brother’s wife had recently had a safe delivery. On the way, they halted at Shirdi. Baba in sending Somnath away with the usual Udhi said Porala jiv lav” which means “Save the child.” Interpreting it as a mere blessing intended for his Gopal, Somnath gave him the Udhi and started off in a Tonga to Nimon. When they reached that place, his brother’s baby, 12 days’ old, was in a precarious condition. It had become cold and chill and the parents lost all hope and thought the child was dead. Then Somnath bethought himself of Baba’s words at parting and found that he must have referred to this child and not to his son. He searched for the Udhi which Baba had given to him. But it had been lost during the journey. So Somnath took the baby on his lap and sent up a fervent mental appeal with all his strength, with all his soul entreating Baba to save the child. In 15 minutes’ time, the child improved and became alright gradually and is now called “Datta” i.e., God’s gift, in consequence.

Plague was still prevalent at Poona when Somnath wanted to return. When he wanted to start form Shirdi back to Poona, Baba was loath to give him permission. But he had no “leave” to stay and must rejoin duty on 8-1-1917. So Nana Saheb Nimonkar put Udhi in Baba’s hands and practically forced him to give Somnath the permission to leave. So they returned on 3rd January. Somnath’s landlord was there down with plague and on the 4th, Somnath’s wife was attacked. They could not escape elsewhere; Somnath, children and all stayed there. Baba saved her and saved all the members of the family. Somnath’s wife recovered her health but her eye-sight was lost. At that time the question of leaving the town and going to a health camp was mooted before Baba; but he did not permit it. “Why leave home?” was what he said. The family followed his guidance and was safe. When Somnath’s  wife was unwell, they had also requested Nana Saheb Nimonkar to go to Poona. But Baba then told him again “Bury me and then go.”

In March or April, 1917, Somnath fell ill; it might be plague or Typhoid perhaps. Again Somnath wrote to his father to go to Poona. Again Baba refused permission, but said, “Why are you anxious? Your Somniya will recover and come here to see us.” Somnath had twenty-one days continuous fever and lived on water alone. Then he recovered. He took leave for a period of two or three months for convalescence and went first with his family to Belapur where the Samadhi of Vidyanandswami (who gave Somnath his regular initiation into mantra and bhakti marga) is. There he stayed for a while and his mother came there and took all of them to Shirdi. He had improved very little at Belapur and was very weak. When he went to Shirdi, Baba said he should be given a little Kichadi thenceforward. That was done. Somnath stayed there a month and picked up his health and strength.

Somnath was with Baba some days before he passed away. He was ailing and people were anxious about him. When Somnath wanted to start, he was unwilling to permit him to go. But he had to go and he went away to Poona.

Some three days after Baba passed away, Nana Saheb Nimonkar left for Nimon and then he went to Ahmednagar and thence at Somnath’s request (as Somnath was suffering from body pain) he came and stayed with them, at Poona. Here he continued till his death which was some two months after he came there.

Nana Saheb Nimonkar had intense dhyasa of (i.e. absorption in) Baba during the closing days of his life and he treated (or looked on) all persons going to him as Sai Baba. He was a Rama Bhakta all alone and he died with the words “Sri Ram” on his lips. Of course, Sai Baba and Sri Ram are not different.

Somnath was privileged to serve Sai Baba during his life for four days. Nana Saheb Nimonkar had been called away to give evidence at Ahmednagar and had to stay there four days. When he started for Nagar, he left Somnath at Shirdi to do every service to Baba that he usually did. There was one difference however. He did the service sitting being an old man. As a younger man, Somnath did the service on his legs moving around. He found the service was physically taxing all his energies to the uttermost. To be at the beck and call of Baba all day and till he retired to rest was no little effort. During those days, Somnath had a blessed vision. He was at the Mosque. Baba was in his usual place and Madhav Rao near the steps. Suddenly, Baba appeared to Somnath in the form of Maruti. There was no more Sai Baba’s usual figure. There was the Maruti body. Only he did not see if there was a tail. Seeing that form Somnath told Madhav Rao at once, “Take his darshan. See he is Maruti”. Baba was undoubtedly a Rama Bhakta. Baba on Chavadi days would stop opposite to Maruti Temple and muttering something wave his arm towards Maruti fifteen or twenty times. Somnath’s usual current of thoughts was worldly. But as he stayed near Baba, his usual current of thoughts was switched off and there was a new current of thoughts within him. However, he had very little touch with Baba - unlike Nana Saheb Nimonkar whose powers and nature seemed to have developed greatly by contact with Baba.

When Nana Saheb Nimonkar was at Ahmednagar about November, 1918, Somnath was suffering from body pain, as though it was the commencement of Appendicitis. So he wrote to his father and he came and stayed with him at Poona. He came and applied Udhi to Somnath and from the very next day, there was no more pain. Somnath’s brother was with him and he was showing signs of incipient consumption. Nana Saheb Nimonkar gave him Udhi and Tirtha and he recovered. Somnath’s nephew “Datta” had itch all over his head. Nana Saheb Nimonkar gave him ‘Udhi’ and cured the itch.

Nana Saheb Nimonkar was always orthodox and paying strict attention to his religious duties. Baba respected his orthodoxy and would not give him any prasad that an orthodox man should not take.

Somnath noticed Baba’s foot prints. There was a clear “Mat-sya” mark on one foot, and a clear “Dhanushya” on the other. Only great Saints can have such marks.

(Source: Devotees Experiences of Sri Saibaba by Poojya Sri B.V.Narasimha Swamiji; Photo Courtesy: Photo Courtesy:Prof.Hemlata Joshi Deshpande Nimonkar and Chandrashekhar Deshpande Nimonkar, Pune).