January 1, 2010 – New Year Day in the Divine Presence

“Hope is the dream of a soul awake” is a famous French proverb. Hope is something that every person lives by. In times of despair, one hopes for better times and in the wonderful times, one hopes that they last forever. Little wonder then that the New Year Day is celebrated the world over.

It is a day that brings new hope and vitalizes the existing one! The thrill of the unanticipated good, if we can call it so! And everyone wants to begin it on a holy and wonderful note. That ensures that the Sai Kulwant Hall in Prasanthi Nilayam is jam packed on every New Year Day. Adding to this is the fact that the alumni of the Sathya Sai University have been blessed to congregate in the Divine Presence of their Chancellor every year on this day.

2010 arrived and it too joined the thousands of devotees in the Sai Kulwant Hall, waiting to see Swami. 2010 is a special year. It marks the 85th year of the Avatar's advent. The Sun also had risen early and seemed to be keen to see Him. The Veda chanting was done from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. after which the alumni began singing bhajans.

The bhajan session was wonderful and many eminent singers from the past three decades were there! As the clock showed 9:45 a.m. and the aarthi did not start yet, hopes of Swami arriving in the morning began to rise.

Once it became 10:00 a.m., it almost became clear that Swami was going to come. Sure enough, at 10:15 a.m., dressed in the pitambari yellow, Swami arrived! Ah! What a sight it was! Swami glided into the hall conferring New Year day blessings on all.

Some devotees had placed a rose on His lotus Feet near the Residence. It was a beautiful sight to look at those redeeming feet first thing in the New Year. Completing the darshan rounds, Swami moved to the portico where the New Year cakes had been arranged. Swami lit candles and cut the cakes.



Next Swami arrived on the beautifully bedecked stage. He had a look at the floral decorations and then sat there listening to the bhajans that were going on. The University Brass Band leader and his deputy strained to draw His attention to a card that they had made introducing the band programme. After a few minutes, Swami called for them. They moved up to the stage and sought His blessings for the programme. Swami agreed and the band leader spoke fluently offering gratitude to Swami.




The band played the popular bhajans, "Ganga Jatadhara…", symbolizing the joy of celebration from the peaks of Mount Kailasha, and “Gopala Radha lola…”, a number depicting the great love of Gopas and Gopikas for Lord Krishna.

Swami then asked them to play one more piece and conclude. That was the bhajan, "Durge Durge…" Even as they concluded, the band leader said in conclusion, "Swami, let us be your bangaru (golden) instruments just like these golden band instruments gifted by You! Make us hollow like the flute so that we carry Your Breath! "

Mysterious indeed are the ways of God. And on this day, as the Band leader made the concluding statement, Swami exhibited a sample of those mystery ways! He asked the band leader to call the boys who play the flute in the band. The two flautists moved to the stage and Swami posed for pictures with them! There was an applause and their expressions were of shocked delight! Swami then asked for some more bhajans and the band played another piece, "Murali Krishna…" which was a fast number and everyone was clapping along with it.


songs

After that, Swami asked the University singers to perform their programme. They began with a wonderful rendition of the Carnatic classic, "Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje". A Telugu song followed and that was backed by a Hindustani duet. A Thillana was the grand finale after which Swami said, "Enough. It’s late now!" It was 11:30 am. Swami then received aarthi and as He was leaving, the Maharashtra CM offered padukas to Him which He blessed.

A "mixed bag" presentation awaited Swami in the evening. It had been arranged by the alumni and they seemed pretty excited congregating at Prashanti Nilayam. Swami was welcomed into the hall by a procession of flag bearers and a veda chanting contingent. It was a royal welcome and Swami was flanked on either side by fan bearers and there was another person holding an umbrella over Him.


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Swami took a complete round and then arrived on the stage. He lit the lamp and then asked for the programme to begin. It started with a series of offerings by the alumni as a lilting chant was sung. Flowers and cards galore were presented to Him and He blessed everyone. Then three huge cakes were taken to Him, one by one. He lit the candle and cut them as applause rented the hall. Soon after that, the first part of the programme began.

The University Brass Band has completed 25 years of joyous existence, playing to the Lord's tunes! They wanted to celebrate that by playing for Him. They presented the card to Him and He blessed them to begin. The entire performance was interspersed with anecdotes which were both inspiring and touching. It showed that Swami was the "Doer" always, with everyone being only instruments wielding instruments!


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The troupe played four numbers, the first one, “The One”, was an offering to The One who has been their guiding force and spirit. This was followed by “Dharma”. “Power D”, the third piece, was an offering attributed to the Divine Power. The final piece, “Jai Ho”, was a tune attributed to the real maestro behind their success story. As the Band played on, nostalgic images were displayed on the LED screen that formed a backdrop for them.

After the band had done its bit, the alumni came in front to offer two more volumes of the bhajan CDs entitled, "A Bridge Across Time". Swami pulled open the ribbon and blessed the effort. Then Swami launched the Alumni website with the click of a mouse. After that, the music programme was presented to Him for consent. Swami blessed the singers and they began their programme.

After a couple of songs however, Swami told the boys to sing bhajans. Thus it was that bhajans began and now everyone joined into the programme! All the alumni now had the opportunity to sing out to their sweet Swami. As the bhajans went on, the display on the LED screen continued. Prasadam was distributed and soon, Swami asked for the aarthi.

Now came another "mysterious" way of the Lord that ended in a thrill of joy for everyone who witnessed it. Swami looked to His right and began to signal to someone. Thinking that He wanted His translator and announcer, Prof. Anil Kumar, the co-ordinating student called him. Swami then said, "Not him" and continued to point in that direction. The mike was now brought and Swami was not happy it seemed. Behind the mikes was the video camera tripod and the cameraman.

Swami wanted the cameraman! That boy now rushed to Swami and He asked him, "Speak". The boy clarified, "Swami, You want me to speak or will you speak?" Swami replied, "You sing!" The boy seemed in a daze when Swami waved His hand and created a beautiful heart-shaped gold ring studded with diamonds! He put it on his finger and posed with him for a photograph! The dazed boy slowly walked back to his camera trying to absorb the whole experience. Swami now asked for the aarthi to be done - again! After the second aarthi of the evening, Swami blessed everyone and retired to Yajur Mandir.

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