TOUCHING THOUSANDS OF HEARTS
( continued from the October 15th issue)
day, even the Super Speciality Hospital was covered. One may
wonder why. After all, the people in the Hospital residential
area are not poor. The reason is simple. The Hospital came
within in the zone of a particular village in that area, and
Swami's instructions were: "Distribute Prasadam to one
and all, making no distinction between the haves and the have-nots."
Swami also drew special attention to outlying houses, some
of which were quite some distance away from the main road.
Thus, when Mr.Chiranjeevi Rao came on his monitoring circuit,
he asked the boys serving in that area, "Did you go to
a house that is one kilometre away and standing all by itself?"
The boys replied, "Yes sir, we did." Later, passing
by the Sri Sathya Sai Airport, Mr. Rao spotted a group of
people repairing the road in preparation for the Seventy-fifth
Birthday. He stopped the car to check whether they too had
received Swami's Prasadam.
The distribution of clothes to the destitute
was handled somewhat differently. On account of various operational
problems, this was invariably done at a central place in the
village; if a school was available, then it was in the school
compound. The eligible persons were brought together with
the help of village elders and village officials [where available].
Before the distribution commenced, there would be a few Bhajans
and/or a prayer. After this, the senior devotees in Swami's
distribution party would be invited to give away the clothes
and the food. Considering the prevailing levels of poverty,
distribution of clothes was no easy task. However, by Baba's
Grace, everything always went off smoothly.
village visits highlighted many important facts. First of
course was the extent and the depth of the poverty. It was
heart-rending to see old and infirm people being even carried
so that they might receive Swami's Prasadam. Those who had
no human help, literally dragged themselves. For most persons
associated with the service project, all this came as an eye-opener.
It was difficult to believe that there were such places, barely
a few kilometres away from Puttaparthi. Backward though the
villages were, they were relatively clean. Another saving
grace was that there was no cinema, which mercifully kept
out the garish cinema-posters that disfigure walls in the
towns. Also, no TV! This was a real boon one might say! No
wonder the villages still retained their old-world character
that Swami always speaks so highly about. The schools, where
they existed, were neatly maintained though obviously lacking
in facilities. In every place, as per Swami's instructions,
food and laddus were distributed also to the school children.
It was heart-warming to see Swami's sayings and teachings
prominently displayed in many schools.
Midway through the service, the girl students of the Institute
and other lady devotees made a prayer to Baba: "Swami,
what about us? Why can't we also go to the villages and serve
instead of just packing the food here?" Swami immediately
granted them their wish and asked them to do service the following
day in Bukkapatnam the neighbouring town, to which, as young
Sathya, He had to walk everyday in order to attend school.
On the appointed day, all the senior women in the Ashram and
all the teachers and students of the Anantapur campus climbed
into the trucks for a change. The road followed was round
the Bukkapatnam tank, covering a distance about twenty kilometres.
The short-cut across the fields that young Sathya used to
take is about four or five kilometres. That path does not
appear to be used any longer, there being other roads.
In Bukkapatnam, there was a huge turnout,
with people there still feeling a special relationship to
main distribution centre was the town High School, and most
of the girls and senior ladies headed for that spot. The local
women had organised a Bhajan
session, and a small altar had been improvised under the flag-staff
of the school. Bukkapatnam turned out to be the biggest distribution
assignment faced up to that time but the ladies were more
than equal to the task. They not only handled the entire operation
with great efficiency and ease but also distributed food to
over a thousand teachers and staff of the school. Meanwhile,
the recipients of Baba's largesse were so moved that many
of them bowed and offered their salutations to Bhagavan's
photo before leaving. While all this was going on, Swami sprang
a surprise by sending several crates of chilled softdrinks!
So, when it was lunchtime, not only did the volunteers have
a nice campus with shaded trees all round to sit, relax and
eat but also softdrinks to go with the lunch! A real picnic
atmosphere prevailed, naturally. Thereafter, everyday Swami
would send fruits (apples, bananas, oranges, or whatever)
to go along with the lunch.
One of the unseen results of the Service
Project was the extra-ordinary sense of unity and co-operation
that it produced amongst the participants. There was an invisible
web of unity, Divine Unity, clearly generated and sustained
by Swami. There were innumerable opportunities for tempers
to flare up, but most remarkably, such a thing never
happened even once during the entire duration of the service
activity. At four O'clock in the evening when most people
were physically worn out, students and staff were ready to
press on and do more service if required. Swami says that
where enthusiasm, determination to accomplish, intellect,
energy, courage and bravery exist, there may be seen the Divine
Effulgence. This radiance was patently evident among the participants
of the service project, both in young and old and in men as
well as women. It was there on all days, from morning to evening.
In fact, as the trucks and the tractors rolled in one by one
into the Ashram compound in the evening, the boys would roar
like a thousand lions: Bhagavan Sri
Sathya Sai Baba ki Jai! [Victory and Glory to Bhagavan
Sri Sathya Sai Baba!].
(to be continued