Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Shri Sathya Sai Baba is called Swami by his devotees and Iam just one of those millions .
His mortal remains have disappeared deep under the Sai Kulwanth hall in Prashanthi Nilayam Puttaparthi ,Andhra Pradesh bringing a chapter lasting 85 years to a close ,but it had changed the lives of many.
The work he professed and blessed brought succour to thousands regardless of thier status ,be it financial ,social or religious .
For the ill andthe helpless his healing centres brought relief free of cost with only love taken as payment
I go back to my first awareness of Swami .
It was years back when I clenched the fingers of my father somewhere in the sixties as he took me along to attend a prayer meet in Guindy Madras ,I vaguley remember a big crowd and an orange robed person with a halo hairdo in the distance on a stage ,I knew no more in those days of innocence ,my father left me when I was 10 years old before enlightening me on that visit did he go out of curiosity to see the emerging spiritual master or was it out of faith I would never know ,to my father an expert in Sanskrit and a well read in Indian philosophy may have felt a need to meet the young man creating spiritual waves then . Years later I had visited an optholmologist again in Madras this time with my mother who went for an eye test. the doctor was a great Sai Bhakta
he took us inside his prayer hall and showed us Babas photos which regularly spewed honey and at times holy ash during bhajans .
Our family friend A.S.Menon uncle an artist by profession ( who painted so wonderfully )and his wife were ardent devotees .
To the childless couple he was everything , God and child rolled into one .
we often attended bhajans in thier house ,at that time I was more keen on the prasads that followed more than any immediate spiritual intrests .
It all happened years later after my daughter Shilpa ws born ,the intital shock of knowing about her disability took us to many quests to find answers as well as visits to several physicians .
We later moved to Kerala from Chennai
we worked together with a doctor friend who with her husband were Sai devotees who told us to visit Putaparthi with Shilpa and get his blessings .
I was sceptical and had a neutral attitude to that but we did go there as we never wanted to leave any stone unturned for Shilpa .
I still remember that day more than two decades back very well
The Huge hall in Prashanthi nilayam where Swami gives darshan was still to be built then and in its place was a huge ground .
Devotees lined up in neat rows conducted in an orderly fashion by volunteers and sat in seperate sections for men and women.
Thousands were there from all over the world and there was pindrop silence .
There was a general sense of expectation and calmness prevailed everywhere .
Discipline and neatness are the two hallmarks of Prasanthi nilayam and in all Sai centres .
I was in the back row in the men s section maybe in the eight row
my wife Premila with our Shilpa was somehere amongst the womens section .
I could see Baba stridng purposefully in front of the crowd and people craned to look at him
He was far away from me and I could see him waving ,blessing ,talking to some ,gesticulating ,smiling .frowning but his gaze seemed everywhere .
He was also beckoning a select few for a personal interview ,I just watched the proceedings but in my inner mind I was praying fervently not to anyone in particular but for my daughter .
To us those days everything was for her well being ,we knew not to accept any miracle trained as were in science but love goes beyond science in its needs .
My feelings should have been intense and sincere for I saw Swami leaving my area take a few steps walk back and looked at me directly from afar and beckoned me !
I looked on both sides not in the least expecting that the call could be for me
why should he call me when his dear devotees for years coming from far and wide wait for a call day by day .
I was very sure he meant someone else .
but others and the volunteers told me to come out as I was being called ,it was stunning and though transfixed I moved ahead to the interview room .in front of the large crowd There were 8 of us called that day for the interview and Premila brought Shilpa also as it was allowed for the family to join anybody called for an interview
Shilpa was already a bit irritated of the crowd and was whimpering
suddenly Baba arrived and looked at us standing with the child outside the room .
He looked at Shilpa and said in Hindi to us Kripakaro Aap bache ke Bahar lekhe jayiye
please take the child away .
I was furious and muttered but why ? he again said the same thing and left into the room ,I told Premila angrily let us go away after all we came for Shilpa and if he doesnt want to see her we will leave but my wife insisted that I go in and she would leave with Shilpa
I went in forlorn and glared at him sitting in front of us
to me he was nothing then
I was angry and sad forhis turning away my child
what was the reason I was burning to ask this question and tears were welling from my eyes .
why was he so cruel to such an innocent being at least he could have blessed her before dusting her off .
I sat through as he asked questions to the others cracked jokes and even told us that he had a red eye because his pet elephant Sai Geetha swiped the tail into his eye the previous day !
To me he was just another orange robed person with a weird hairdo and nothing great to talk about ,most of my feeling were that of helplessness and frustration and anger at his behaviour to my child and it came out as tears which never stopped .
I saw him matirealise vibhuti and even a chain which he adorned on an young man he was particularly happy about .
Several acts of the the supreme are an enigma to us mortals for our knowledge is through only a small peephole and there is an ocean of ignorance filling our minds ,our concepts are taken from our immediate happenings and our meagre experiences which could be nowehere near the real truth which is seemingly unfathomable .
We were then taken in pairs to an inside room where we could talk on our personal problems and I went in with the coveted young man who got Babas attention he was patricularly sweet to him and enquired about his education and the like with me brooding totally ignored !
suddenly he turned to me and said so you are sad about your daughter I know she is mentally handicapped it is all due to the effect of Karma i know all( all this could be deciphered by any observant indivisual and there was nothing special so far ) so i just nodded and asked him what can we do ?how could swami help us ? then he told something which shook me
he told me she has a heart problem too ,a hole in the heart !
how did he know this that Shilpa had a ventricular septal defect not obvious for somebody from seeing her as she had no symptoms from that then !how could anyone know of this medical history and that too of a newcomers family .
i was genuinely suprised he just looked at me and softly said
I will give you special prasad and then ended the inteview
i came back strangely at peace
somehow i was stunned that he could know all about Shilpa without my uttering a word on her ! nothing happened and we left the place shortly and then as years rolled by
we now concentrated on Shilpas training with less visits to holy places
we could successfully get her hole in the heart closed thanks to the great cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Cherian and cardiologist Dr Haridas .(Dr Haridas is even today a well wisher of the school )
And then Shilpa left us when she was 11 years old and this sunk us into doom for a long time
Exactly a year later Shilpa School was born thanks to premilas dedication and passion to special children and her unrequited love to Shilpa .
some years later one of my Sai devotee friend Dr Raghus daughter Swapna who herself a keen devotee and a law student then gave me a book titled Special Prasad .
This was written by a long time Sai devotee from Trivandrum ,reading it I was surpirsed to see a similar story to ours .
they too had a child who was mentally challenged and they too had got an interview and were also promised special prasad and thier daughter too had left them like ours .
the only difference was after that when they went back to Putaparthi Swamis close Devotee Sri Kasturi told them was not reaching the lotus feet of the supreme being the best special prasad of all !
strangely the book reaching us was almost an answer to our questions !
Shilpa special school grew with his grace and gave us lot of contenment our other two children too grew
by then we had regular Saibhajans as the local samithi conducted weekly bhajans in our house
I for one was never much for these meets shying away from them though Ii used to read books on Swamis teachings and devotees experiences ,we went to Puttaparthi a couple of times My wife worked in the the super speciality hospital as a medical volunteer and once went out into the remote Andhra villages for a medical camp .
We attended some medical camps in cochin too .
What impressed me with all Sai activities was the sincerity and dedication of the particpants ,it was done with devotion and was evident in all the acts .
this was true with everything under Shri Sathya Sai Baba ,there could be accusations of him being a charltan magician or fraudster working our cheap tricks to impresss people but none can deny the selfless service by his followers under his stewardship .
Thousands have benifited from the superspeciality hospitals in Putaparthi and Bangalore
Free heart surgeries conducted by surgeons from across the seas and from within all parts of India ,in state of the art hospitals .
Everyone got a chance ,the witing lists were long but selection was beyond religion ,caste or creed ,every single surgery was totally free of cost with even food for the attendees
provided with love and care .
Excellent educational institutions where human values are taught along with academics functioned under the Sai umbrella .
The transformation of Puttaparthi from a dusty hamlet into a modern town with all facilities was also a wonder .
Swamis speeches and Bhajans were simple but sweet
The depth of his words brought forth expositons of the real truth to all .
he was everywhere comforting caring and cajoling
and he would be there in the hearts of every one of his devotees for ever and ever .
The drinking water schemes in Andhra Pradesh and in Chennai are yet another example ,so enormous even for the Government.
There are so many happenings the world over in the Sai family that I can hardly think of compiling in myhumble blog !
Prasanthi Nilayam itself was a small town where the world gathered .
there were people from even distant Russia and the South Americas
it had an airport ,a railway station ,planetarium, heritage museum ,post graduate instituions schools and colleges where the students who graduated were coveted by many out as thier education and training were of the highest calibre .
though he has left us his message and mission would continue to benifit mankind and assist man and his eternal quest for knowing divinity
some photos of our last visit to Putapparthi in feb 2011
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