Volume 5 - Issue 01 JANUARY 2007
A Glimpse of Swami - A Day like No Other
At that time, Sai Geetha, Swami’s pet-elephant, had a huge vaulted roofed enclosure right in front of the Senior Boys’ Hostel. Apparently, hearing the sound of the siren, she rushed towards the gate and had it not been for her caretaker, she would have crushed it. She was out on the road even before the boys lined up. She seemed unduly excited that day, making it difficult for her mahout to hold her in check. Swami’s car approached and Sai Geetha moved forward. Everyone there, who had seen Sai Geetha raise her trunk in salutation whenever she saw Swami, were witness that day to an unusual scene. Her stocky trunk lay heavily on the bonnet of the car. She refused to budge despite urgings. Her ears were flapping at an alarming rate; she seemed disturbed.
“I want to go Geetha, come on, come on, move,” said Swami, reaching up to stroke her cheek. And suddenly a diamond glistened, a dew drop that was the coalescence of her love for Him, a silent expression of her feelings: a tear found its way down the very cheek upon which His hand rested. As the students and devotees watched, more tears coursed down and wet His hand. He looked up at her and nodded understandingly. Her ears stood still, unmoving, her massive domed-head drooping.
Devotion Turns ‘My Mind’ and ‘His Mind’ into ‘One Mind’
If you can feel for the Lord in every cell of your being; if you pine for Him every single second of your life; if nothing else interests you in this world except His form and proximity, then ‘my mind’ and ‘His mind’ will no longer exist, but will all become ‘One awareness’. You are then in perfect sync with God, just like Sai Geetha. Isn’t it incredible to see an animal having so much love for the Lord?
You can find parallels only in the ancient epics: in Hanuman, the greatest monkey-devotee of Lord Rama; or in Jatayu, the bird which sacrificed her life fighting for Mother Sita; or the cows of Gokul which became lifeless without food and drink if Krishna did not accompany them to the pastoral groves. You need not read the scriptures and imagine in your mind’s eye those beautiful scenes from the Bhagavatham to fill yourself with divine bliss. It is enough to just see Sai with His Geetha. The same divine leela is being replayed in this age. How fortunate we are! Sai Geetha’s life is a demonstration for all humanity of that pinnacle of deep love and surrender which every devotee of the Lord should one day ascend.
It was Time for the Sacred Saga to Unfold…
It was on a trip along with few devotees to the Muddumalai forest in 1962 that Swami first noticed the tender and tiny toy of joy that Sai Geetha was then. His love and affection for this infant elephant that had lost her mother immediately after her birth, was phenomenal. When the forest officers offered the elephant calf to Swami, He gladly accepted.
Soon arrangements were made and the little lady arrived in Puttaparthi in an airy and comfy vehicle escorted by four Sai volunteers. And since then the motherless child has never missed her parents. In fact, the love and warmth she has received, no other being in the whole animal kingdom - nay, the living kingdom - can dream of. She was blessed with a mother who made all other mothers in the world pale by comparison.
Yes, with Sai Geetha and Swami, from the beginning it has been a sweet mother-child relationship in every way. It was Swami who named her, fed and fondled her everyday, found medical experts to check on her, appointed people and allotted tasks to take care of her every need, and as a hardly three-feet cute kid she followed Swami everywhere, even into the interview room!
Years later, Swami confirmed this to Sri B. N. Narasimha Murthy when He said, “What you have seen is nothing, she used to come to my room along with me!” Her first living space was, in fact, right next to Swami’s bedroom.
A small shed with a thick cushion of sand-bed was constructed attached to the Prasanthi Mandir on the western side wall and Swami could see her anytime from His bedroom. Sai Geetha grew, enveloped in His loving and guarding grace, into a disciplined and devoted soul. She was an example to emulate even as a kid.
Daily ‘Appointment’ with God
Recalling the fun ’n’ frolic days of Sai Geetha, Mrs. Geetha Mohan Ram, who came to Swami as early as 1943, says:
“I have wonderful memories of Sai Geetha, the baby elephant, when she was first brought to Puttaparthi. We, the children, would follow her everywhere in the days of old when hardly a few hundred people would be present in the ashram. We were always amazed at her one-pointed devotion to Swami and her excitement as soon as she could sense His presence even from a distance. Swami, in those days, would quite often visit her shed and she would ‘know’ Swami was coming even before we had spotted Him.
“She would be up early in the morning at three and having been taken for a bath in the River Chitravati by the then caretaker Murali, would arrive looking very neat with the Naamam and Kumkum on her forehead to run around the Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir with us behind her circumambulating the sanctum sanctorum three times every morning. After this, she would patiently wait for Swami to come out near the lotus circle of the old days (where the students’ Vedam group now sit); and as soon as she spotted Swami she would spring forward to garland Him and touch His beloved Feet with her trunk.”
“This has never changed over the years,” Sri Pedda Reddy, her current caretaker confides and continues, “Though her agility, with age, has reduced. Even now, the first thing she does whenever she gets a chance to be in His presence is touch His Feet.”
Her Pure Devotion and the Lord: A Match Made in Heaven
In the early sixties, the regular evening ‘appointment’ of Swami with Sai Geetha was a sight which devotees looked forward to with great anticipation and elation. She would wait at the gate on the ladies’ side (where Swami’s car now enters Sai Kulwant Hall) and if for some reason Darshan was delayed, she would get very impatient. Twisting and twirling her tiny trunk, intermittently flapping her lotus-leaf-sized ears vigorously, and her swift and strong legs jumpy and restless, she would eagerly look at the Mandir unable to bear the delay.
When Swami came, it was a divine thrill in totality, not only for Sai Geetha, but for every devotee witnessing the sublime play of pure love. Swami would first walk up to her and she would almost kneel down – her hind legs half-bent and front legs folded to the maximum extent possible. Her height now would be a mere two feet, and she would lift her tiny trunk up and down three times in salutation. After she had offered her prostrations at His feet, she would take a garland, raise her nimble trunk over the five feet frame of her beloved very carefully, and then with lots of glee slip it down Swami’s opulent hair onto His shoulders. Swami, in turn, would flash an enchanting smile, pat her cheeks so affectionately and would start speaking to her softly.
Time would stand still watching the Lord so much at ease with His dear devotee. Like a teacher who is never tired of talking to his best student, the Lord too is most happy to be with His perfect devotee. Swami would then feed her. There would be a bag full of fruits (all offered at the shrine in the Mandir) and a bucket of Teertham (consecrated liquid) for her to drink.
One by one, Swami would put each apple (her favourite) in her mouth and she would want to be fed no other way. “Even to this day,” Sri Pedda Reddy says, “she will not accept fruits from Swami on her trunk, she will insist that Swami put it personally in her mouth. But if it were anybody else, she will either refuse it or accept it only in her trunk.” Just like a child who is most comfortable and secure with her mother, Sai Geetha is in ‘peace and bliss’ only with her Swami.
The Neighbourhood of God
Only after Swami had spent considerable time with her, would she reluctantly let Him go and continue the Darshan every evening. So, this is the drama that used to go on for many years when she was still a ‘teenager’. Those days, she lived just next door and it was as if she was sharing the Mandir with Swami. But as the number of devotees multiplied, Sai Geetha had to be shifted and Swami instructed an ashram officer to erect a shed for her on the northern end of the Mandir facing Bhagavan’s residence, just in front of the Gopuram (where the idols of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita now stand).
Her small enclosure was airy, had a drinking well beside it, but faced the East, which meant Sai Geetha could not see Swami during Darshan. And this is something she could not bear; the face of her home had to face south for her to watch Swami coming in and out of the Mandir. Apparently, Sai Geetha was so upset with the orientation of her new shed that in a rage one day, she brought the whole tin-and-concrete structure down with her massive trunk and sheer muscle power. The officer was, of course, later reprimanded for ineffectively executing Swami’s command and Sai Geetha, in no time, had a new room which faced the South. The happy elephant could now see Swami uninterruptedly directly from her home.
Sai Geetha spent many good years in this home close to the Mandir during the late sixties and early seventies. But when preparations began for the fiftieth birthday celebrations of Bhagavan in 1975, Sai Geetha had to be moved from the Mandir premises to accommodate the mammoth crowd expected. (It was during this birthday that Swami gave darshan to the teeming crowds from a helicopter). Now, she was placed in a big shed in the South West corner of the ashram.
Rocks and Boulders – Not a Barrier
It was in this year that the Sri Sathya Sai Gokulam was inaugurated by Swami and soon Sai Geetha was relocated to live with the cows. For the first time, she was physically far away from her beloved, but that never diminished her devotion for her Lord even by an iota. Narrating a revealing incident during her stay in the Gokulam, Sri Pedda Reddy says:
“It was the year 1976. The primary school and the college buildings were under construction and these structures were coming up at the foot of two hills. The terrain was obviously undulating with big rocks, sharp-edged boulders and thorns. On Swami’s bidding, the engineers had constructed a bund (barrier) which would facilitate the accumulation of water flowing down the hill. It was primarily meant for the buffaloes of the Gokulam to ‘cool off’ and bathe with pleasure. The distance between the Primary School work site, where Swami would visit occasionally to oversee the construction work, and Gokulam, where Sai Geetha lived with other cows, was around four hundred meters. One day, when Swami was on one such inspection tour to the school site, Sai Geetha somehow felt His presence and immediately set herself free and ran in Bhagavan’s direction. Absolutely unmindful of the terrible terrain, she jumped across rocks, bounced on the boulders, cared least for the bund and in minutes crossed the half-kilometer ‘hurdle track’; and once at the feet of Bhagavan, she bowed down obsequiously and was a picture of peace and serenity. Swami was deeply moved with her love and devotion. He lovingly cared for her, caressed her and said to all the devotees around, ‘See her devotion, in comparison you are all dunnapotus (buffaloes).’”
Though an animal, truly Sai Geetha has divine instincts and we, though human by birth, give way to animal instincts many a time. Perhaps, one of the most profound demonstrations of her steadfast dedication and purity of devotion was an event that happened in the eighties.
This was the time when Sai Geetha was staying in the high-rise shed constructed exclusively for her in front of the Senior Boys’ Hostel. She was moved here once the number of cows increased in Gokulam and a greater need was felt to give her more space, and increasing attention. The Central Trust then purchased this additional piece of land in front of the Hostel and thus was born this spacious fifteen-foot enclosure padded with thick beds of sand, surrounded by coconut trees and actually nestled in a mangrove. It had plenty of space for her to rove and relax in. Moreover the adjoining extra land was cultivated for her fodder. Of course, Sai Geetha was bereft of any company here but that is how she wanted her life to be. She was happy when alone, happier with her caretaker and happiest when Swami was beside her.
“She has come only for Swami” - Baba
It was during this time that certain elders mentioned to Swami the idea of sending her to the forest for a short while for breeding. Swami, from the start, never seemed convinced about the proposal. Nevertheless, He gave in, thanks to the dogged persuasion of senior members of the ashram. And so it happened that the reluctant Sai Geetha was sent to the forest along with two caretakers, Vasant Rao and Sathyanarayana. “It was a thirteen-day journey by walking with sufficient periods of rest on the way at various locations,” recollects Sathyanarayana.
“Once we were there,” continues the former mahout, “Sai Geetha was least interested in any elephant of the jungle; she would never go near the elephants of the wild, let alone to find a companion. We used to keep two baby elephants around her to kindle in her the desire to have a ‘family’; but she would allow the small ones to be with her as long as we were around and once we were out of sight, she would disinterestedly drive them away.
"On many nights, she would even quietly escape from the jungle and sure enough, she would be on the road to Puttaparthi. We would follow her big footprints and identification marks left on the soil by the thick iron ring and chain, to find her the next morning, usually six to seven kilometers away. It went on in this fashion for three months; nothing could ever budge her focus from Swami even to a microscopic extent.” The mahouts had exhausted all the options.
“It was at this juncture,” continues Sathyanarayana, “that Swami visited the Mudhumalai forest one fine day, totally unanticipated. The forest had a canal and Swami’s car stopped at the left bank while we were on the right bank. The moment I shouted ‘Swami has come’, Sai Geetha, who was grazing nearby, acted as if possessed by a gigantic force. Without a second thought, she jumped into the canal and started swimming vigorously. Concerned about her, I too jumped and tried to catch hold of her ears or neck, but nothing could stop her that day. If we reached the other shore safely that momentous morning, it was purely His grace.
“Swami immediately opened the door and Sai Geetha was in bliss as Swami fondled her, patted her and enquiringly spoke to her with utmost love and concern. It was as if the mother had found her long-lost daughter. There were bags of fruits for her in the car and Swami lovingly put a few apples in her mouth. Sai Geetha was too overwhelmed with joy to eat; she just let them be in her jaws, did not even chew or swallow them.
“After a few minutes, Swami got inside His car with instructions to me that we should stay on for some more time, and as the car moved off, poor Sai Geetha’s condition became pathetic. She just could not accept it. It was as if she was dropped from heaven into hell in an instant. She spat out all the fruits and started crying loudly. I had never seen anybody so depressed earlier in my life. I too wept. We were helpless. She was inconsolable. Dejected to the hilt, she went on grumbling; and from then on her ‘night escapades’ to Puttaparthi became more frequent..
“We concluded that she was never ever going to mate with any elephant and sent a message to Swami conveying Sai Geetha’s frame of mind. We were delighted when we received instructions that we could return to Puttaparthi.”
But the story does not end there. In fact, the divine drama begins now. After Sai Geetha returned to Puttaparthi, again at the insistence of elders, a veterinary doctor was called. Upon testing the urine of Sai Geetha, he pronounced, “She is pregnant.” Sathyanarayana and Vasant were sure beyond doubt that no crossing took place in the forest, but nobody believed them. Even Swami, apparently, held to what the doctor said. The news that Sai Geetha is going to deliver a baby spread like wild fire in Puttaparthi. The doctor who had come from Kerala stayed with her in the shed to attend to any eventuality and after a few days even declared, “Sai Geetha is going to deliver in a few weeks.” In no time, a fence rose around her living area to give her ‘needed privacy’ and everyone was now more than convinced that Sai Geetha was going to be a mother. Not only this, even Swami used to visit her often and enquire about her with the doctor. On one occasion, it is said He even pointed to Sai Geetha’s belly and said to Prof. Kasturi, “Kasturi, can you see the baby moving in her stomach?”
The d-day was approaching and the doctor finally announced that she would deliver in the next week. The much-awaited week arrived. The air was thick in anticipation, and everyone awaited the good news with bated breath and enthusiasm. One, two, three…slowly all the week days rolled by, but there was no activity in the Sai Geetha shed. People’s suspicions grew and the whole bubble brust when a month later, the doctor did a complete u-turn to say, “She is not pregnant.” What was Swami’s immediate reaction to this news we do not know, but we are sure He must have smiled heartily and mischievously. Now, the whole drama was an alluring mix of comedy and mystery, was it not? But one wonders, “What was the purpose of this divine play?”
Sai Geetha – The Epitome of Purity
It all became crystal clear when immediately after this episode Swami emphatically declared to the devotees around, “Sai Geetha is a Shuddha Brahmacharini (pristine and perfect celibate). She has come for me. She has never and will never mix with any elephant.” At this point, one is reminded of the appalling tests that Mother Sita underwent (in the sacred epic Ramayana), even though the omniscient Lord Rama was fully aware of her purity and integrity. Every single twist in the Lord’s story is to teach mankind a lesson. And He teaches it in a way that its impact resonates in the sphere of man’s mind for centuries to come.
The bond between Swami and Geetha only strengthened after this whole drama, and her unwavering devotion to Swami was an inspiration which no one could easily ignore. Whenever Swami used to go to Brindavan for long periods in those years, He would also make arrangements for Sai Geetha’s stay near His residence in Bangalore. On most occasions, Sai Geetha would walk the way to Bangalore, escorted by her caretakers and Sai volunteers, with proper rest stations arranged for her at appropriate distances along the route. An indelible part of Bhagavan’s life story, Sai Geetha’s moments and movements on this earth were closely intertwined with her beloved’s
There is a hilarious incident, which Sri B. N. Narasimha Murthy, Warden of the Sri Sathya Sai Hostel in Brindavan (Bangalore) narrates, concerning Sai Geetha’s arrival to Brindavan:
“This happened in the early eighties, when Swami used to stay in the ‘old Brindavan bungalow’ and Mr. Rama Brahmam, the caretaker of the Bangalore ashram, also used to sleep inside this building. One day, it was late into the night, maybe past midnight, when Rama Brahmam’s sleep was disturbed by weird sounds outside the doors and windows. It was not very loud, but was a mystifying muffled clatter, some kind of ‘hissing noise’ in addition to other sounds. Perturbed, Rama Brahmam looked through the window as it was strict instruction from Swami that he should not open the door unless he knows the person. What he saw through the window in that dark hour was only a trunk and he got really panicky. Interestingly, at the same instant, Swami came there from inside and Rama Brahmam at once blurted out, ‘Swami, something has come.’ Swami only smiled and calmed him saying, ‘Do not worry, it is Sai Geetha.’ And then Swami opened the door, pacified Sai Geetha who was hungry for darshan, made arrangements for her stay and only then retired to His room.”
Such is the Lord’s mercy. When the devotee’s love is pure, the Lord does not care whether it is midnight, mid-air, mid-forest or mid-ocean
Her Pure Love And Love Incarnate - Inseparable
Sai Geetha’s more than four decades of association with Swami is not only a love story, but also a tale which in its every facet demonstrates how inseparable the bond of pure love can be. Recalling a sweet experience from Sai Geetha’s days in Brindavan, Mrs. Geetha Mohan Ram says:
“As Swami was getting ready to leave, we could hear Sai Geetha trumpeting loudly from far behind Swami’s residence. She somehow knew that Swami was leaving and you could make out from her voice that she was desperate. Swami responded to her call and walked to the rear of the building. We followed Him as He marched towards Sai Geetha. Once there, He caressed her, gently stroked her cheeks, fed her with apples, and finally as He turned to leave, she put her trunk around His shoulders and pulled Him gently but firmly to her side. She held on to Him securely and would not let Him go. Swami could only sweetly plead and He kept telling her in Telugu, “ vidu Geetha, vidu Geetha, ne povala. Podaya bangaaru ne vegara vastanu! Vidu Geetha!" (Please leave me, Geetha; leave me, please; I have to go, it is late. Golden one, I will come back soon, leave me, please!”)
“It was after five minutes of gentle persuasion by Swami that Geetha let Him go reluctantly. And as He moved away, she lifted her trunk and still held on to His right arm and would not let go again for a few minutes. Swami tried offering her some fruits, but the apple was no consolation. She refused to accede. Finally, after a lot of cajoling, Swami extricated Himself from her, but by now His robe was covered by her saliva as she kept nuzzling Him all through. Unmindful of the dribble on His gown, Swami then turned to all of us and what He said then was very profound. He said, ‘Your devotion should be one-pointed like her. She is not even tempted by the fruit I offer. She only wants me and thinks of me at all times. When you are like her you then receive Darshanam, Sparshanam and Sambhashanam (the fortune of vision, touch and conversation with the Lord).’He then gave her one last loving pat and left. He had to go back to His room to change into a new robe and we were ready to leave.” How wonderful is her relationship with the Lord! How fortunate she is!
With Sai – No Pain, Only Gain
At the same time, it is not as if life has been always rosy-n-cozy for her, she has had her share of ailments and afflictions, and even now has difficulties mainly because of her advanced age; but these have least bothered her. “Somehow she does not feel the pain,” says Pedda Reddy, her current caretaker. Her mind is always fixed on the lord; and in turn, it is the same intensity with which Bhagavan looks after her welfare. When Sai Geetha suffered from a stomach disorder resulting in her tummy bulging inordinately, Swami immediately arranged expert vets from Kerala and Bangalore to attend on her; when the leather on the sole of her feet started peeling off due to Foot and Mouth disease, Swami encouraged the doctors to start treatment without any hesitation and assured them that she would be cured soon and that’s exactly what happened.
“On one occasion when it was reported to Swami that she was sick,” says Sri Chiranjeevi Rao, who was caretaker of the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram for many years, “Swami created vibhuti and asked me personally to deliver it to her. Whenever I went to Gokulam (which was frequent those days), He would invariably ask me to visit Sai Geetha on the way and check if she is comfortable and well cared for. “Is she getting sugarcane leaves to eat?” He would enquire. Sai Geetha relished the sweet sugarcane leaves very much and Swami knew this too well. He was also aware that these leaves were not easy to come by in Puttaparthi, and so, He would say, “You must take pains to bring for her things she likes. Being an animal, she cannot express herself so categorically, but when we know what she wants, we should make all attempts to provide for her wishes and keep her happy. That is real service.”
Students Get a Role Model of Devotion
Incidentally, it was Sri Chiranjeevi Rao who was instrumental in building the new spacious shed for her with a high wall and lots of greenery around in the early eighties. Sai Geetha moving to this new location from the Gokulam in 1979-80 was the beginning of a new chapter in her life. Apart from having a comfortable place to stay, she was now the neighbor of Swami’s students, which brought along with it so many precious advantages. Her home now stood right opposite to the Senior Students’ Hostel.
“I remember this touching incident very vividly,” a former student tells H2H. “It was a bright festive morning – the exciting day of Christmas. After the captivating carol-singing and beautiful darshan in the Mandir, some of us just got up and prayed to Swami: ‘Swami, please come to the Hostel.’ We expected answers like ‘Why do you want me in the hostel? I am with you here all the time,’ or, ‘Wait….’, or, ‘Today I am very busy, see so many people have come from different countries,’ or simply a mischievous smile.
“But no, that day, Swami immediately asked, ‘Are you ready?’ And we loudly shouted, ‘Yes’ but within we were nervous to our bones. We had not made any arrangements, the dining hall was not decorated, the garden was not pruned, the entrance had not even rangoli and mango leaves, and then what about decorating Swami’s jhoola (swing)? What to offer to Swami? What programmes do we stage? Our minds were zapped. Even as we were lost in this avalanche of thoughts, Swami called for the car and said, ‘I am going now!’
“There was no time to even think. We ran like boys possessed. And by the time we reached the hostel, Swami was already there. Some boys, who would have undoubtedly broken national records in marathon running that day, reached the hostel well before Swami’s car and were fortunately there to welcome Him. And what a day it was! Everything was so informal. Swami was with us for half an hour and how He blessed each one of us: walking in the lawns, collecting letters, cracking jokes, blessing whatever we offered and obliging us in whatever we asked.
Sai Geetha Answers the Call
“But this is not what the highlight of this memorable visit was. The best part was yet to come and I remember those few moments so well: Swami standing at the entrance of the Hostel all smiles, looking so radiant with the rays of the morning Sun adding to His divine luster, and then calling out with a voice that was so sweet, ‘Geetha…’, ‘Geetha…’ as if singing a divine melodious tune. It was so soft; maybe I and a few others who were close enough to Swami alone could have heard it; but Sai Geetha, standing hundred meters away, felt it and immediately the ten-thousand-pound body of Sai Geetha galloped like a race horse! Excited and overwhelmed-with-joy, Sai Geetha presented herself before Swami in the next instant and the next ten minutes it was only Swami and Sai Geetha.
“The 'purest devotee of an elephant' went on caressing Swami, and how Swami, in turn, was so gentle and loving towards her, is a sight that remains etched in gold in my memory forever. Sai Geetha was least concerned about the fruits that Swami was offering, she only wanted Swami to touch her, look into her eyes, speak to her and be next to her. Even an inch of separation was intolerable. For me, it was the greatest demonstration of pure love.”
While Sai Geetha gets her precious opportunities whenever Swami visits the Students’ Hostel, everyday the boys have a living example and inspiration of true divine love. This is how Sai Geetha’s abode being right opposite to the Students’ dwelling has been such a wonderful win-win situation. Both love each other, but love Swami more than each other. Every time Swami has visited the Hostel, it has been a red-letter-day for her. Recalling another similar incident, Sri Y. Arvind, another former student says:
The morning session in the Mandir went off without a hitch. Swami granted us all Darshan wearing a Pitambara (yellow robe), the robe of Lord Krishna apt for the occasion of Janmashtami. The procession went like clockwork with Sai Geetha in the vanguard with all her majesty, all dressed up for the Lord – richly caparisoned in gold and silver with five foot silver ear hangings, gold brocaded saddle cloth on her back, beaten gold ornaments on her forehead – she looked royal. Swami walked down to her with a haste that belied His ‘impatience’ and His interaction with her was the cynosure of all attention – I would not be exaggerating if I said the cows were feeling jealous of her! Their Gopala (Lord Krishna’s another name literally meaning “caretaker of cows.”) was going to Sai Geetha!
But they too had their chance when Swami came to feed them with bananas. Everything smoothly led to the point when Swami signaled for the bhajans to start. The procession was on its way back to the Gokulam, the prasadam distribution was complete and now expectant faces looked at every minute gesture of Swami – waiting for the signal. He knew it, and He tantalized us all… till the last moment and then the smile bloomed… “Go… I will come”. Immediately, their energy levels tripled and in a trice, they traversed the thousand metres to the hostel jet set like.
When Swami reached the path that lay across the quadrangle, the boys brought His attention to the new garden. His eyes lit up at the new sight and He gently undulated towards the picturesque setting. Swami picked up the scissors offered on a velvet platter, and cut the saffron silk ribbon that lay across the primary arch leading into the garden.
Simultaneously, one of us started the cascade and the murmur of gently flowing water added to the sacred atmosphere. Swami walked along the paths laid out and touched the chair set for Him on the rock, blessing it. Then He stepped onto the bridge spanning the pond. One of the boys offered Him a silver bowl of fish food with a spoon and pointed to the water.
Swami sweetly picked up the spoon and sprinkled a couple of spoonfuls and then He picked up the whole bowl and dumped it in at one go. Suddenly He seemed to be in a hurry! It was obvious, His gait quickened as He walked back to the main lobby. All of us were perplexed at the sudden change – then we understood, as we saw Swami make a beeline to Sai Geetha waiting outside the Hostel. He was speeding towards her.
All of us stepped aside and watched the show! Her heavy ornaments and other embellishments had been removed and she was oblivious to everything except her Swami. Baskets of fruits were offered, and Swami kept feeding her. His eyes were twinkling and His face beamed with a different joy as He patted her cheek, rubbed her trunk and murmured endearments to her.
She responded in kind, speaking to her Master in her language. No doubt they understood each other. Well! One should be there to see the sight. Three hundred and fifty boys and teachers, a large bunch of them around Swami and Geetha, two long lines extending on either side of the path leading out of the Hostel, lots of devotees outside…all of us enjoying Swami’s interaction with Geetha. If only we had an aerial photograph of the sight… for now, words will have to do. He spent more than ten minutes with her and then almost regretfully patted her good bye.
We offered Him aarti and hundreds of voices welled up in unison. She raised her trunk in salutation as Swami left the Hostel. Many of us took the opportunity to touch the one so much beloved by the Lord. After enduring the petting by all of us, she retired to her enclosure. But even as she crossed the road, she paused and turned towards the direction Swami’s car had left. She watched for a few seconds and then silently returned to her enclosure. At times, she seems more than just an animal. Her love for Swami is far greater than ours because of its simplicity. She exists only to Love and adore Him. That is the highest form of devotion: To exist only for the love of God.”
Yes, this is the lesson that she drives into the minds of everybody – be it student or devotee – that the whole purpose of life is to exist for the Lord and there is nothing holier or more purposeful. Swami has exalted her devotion often and asked students to learn from her. In a discourse to the boys in the Prasanthi Mandir on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi in 1992, Swami said,
“Those of you who are staying in the Hostel notice cars going up and down the road. On the other side of the Hostel is Sai Geetha. She takes no notice of the innumerable cars going on the road. But, without any notice, she ‘smells’, as it were, the passing of Swami's car and immediately comes out with a roar to greet Swami. That is her devotion to her Lord… It is steadfast love.”
Ever Alert for Her Beloved
Come what may, Sai Geetha’s focus has always been compass-like, pointing constantly in one direction. “The moment she hears the siren of the police jeep (an indication that Swami is on His way),” says Sri Pedda Reddy, “she will come off immediately from wherever she is; be it in the shed or in the tank and run to the road. Standing beside the tarmac she will scan every car that passes by and the moment she spots Swami’s car, she will trumpet in glee and sometimes make peculiar sounds of joy.
When His car draws near, searchingly she will see where Swami is seated – in the front or rear, and if the car window is closed, she will embrace the front windshield with her trunk, and wait for the door glass to roll down. If it happens, she is ecstatic; she will slowly slide her snout in and start nuzzling Swami’s hair and face.
She loves Swami’s crown; the Vibhuti smell enlivens her. She is in bliss. But if, for some reason, Swami’s car does not stop, she is crestfallen, devastated. She will start crying and grumbling and ‘hmm…hmmm…’ would go on endlessly.
Some days if she is very disturbed, she would even start shouting and trumpeting as if calling out to Him with all the wind power at her disposal. Only after half an hour of pacifying phrases of, ‘He will come’, ‘Maybe He is busy today’, ‘He saw you. Didn’t He? Do not worry.
Tomorrow He will come specially for you’, etc. will she reconcile herself. And it will take another hour to persuade her to accept any food. That is the intensity of her love for Swami and it is this fervent yearning which has rewarded her with so many beautiful blessings from Swami.”
Sai Geetha – The Royal Regal Elephant of God’s Kingdom
Yes, when one yearns only for God, he gets God and everything else too, just like Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God, and everything else shall be added unto you.” One of the lovely blessings bestowed on Sai Geetha, for example, is how she has become an indelible part of all major celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam, be it Birthday, Dasara, Krishnastami or the students’ Sportsmeet on January 11 every year. How does she feel being decorated like a royal and majestically leading the procession on special days? Does she get excited about it?
“Oh yes, very much,” says Pedda Reddy, who has been her caretaker for nearly two decades. “On any normal day, when I take her out for a walk, she will go about the whole process very casually and the few meters stroll would drag on for nearly two hours. But look at her going to Mandir on festival days, it is as if she has become twenty years younger! She wants to run. She knows she is going to see Swami and her eagerness takes the better of her.
In fact, in the early morning itself, when I apply turmeric on her feet (which is the first thing I do whenever she has to be dressed up for the occasion), that is her first hint, and from then on she is just waiting for my command and the gates to open to quickly glide into Mandir. She is still as a statue when I start adorning her with more than twenty-seven types of ornaments.
She patiently goes through the ‘make up’ session, which apart from smearing Vibhuti on her body, includes bedecking her with the exquisitely carved golden head-gear, the richly embroidered body blanket, shining silver anklets, the tiny, resounding golden bell, many dazzling necklaces, dangling earrings, gorgeous garlands and so on. In the procession, she enacts her role to perfection, walking gracefully and with regal air as befits the grandeur of the occasion.”
The most beautiful part is how Swami, just like a mother, who would be very particular how her child should be properly dressed for an important occasion, would be concerned about her. He would check with Pedda Reddy if her silver anklets were polished, if her dress was in perfect order, if all her ornaments were in tact and so on.
“Just a year ago before the eightieth birthday celebrations,” Pedda Reddy recalls, “Swami wanted to see all her ornaments. So I went to His residence and discreetly displayed all her jewels. A few seconds of inspection, and then Swami asked, ‘Where are all her ankle belts?’ I was taken aback; I thought I had preserved all her belongings securely. Only when He asked again, did I realise that I had, in fact, sent two of her ankle belts to Bangalore because they needed repair. Immediately calls were made and the next day she was there for the Rathotsavam festival immaculately decked up. When Swami came near Sai Geetha that morning, His eyes first went to her feet. Only when I explained that the anklets arrived last evening and they are fitting her perfectly now, did He look satisfied.
Incidents like this are numerous. Very recently when I put a gaudy synthetic garland on her neck, Swami said, ‘Why do you put the plastic garland there? It is covering all her gold and silver necklaces.’ On another occasion, He thoughtfully remarked, ‘Three elaborate silver bracelets on her neck is looking so cramped. Maybe you could try changing the position of some of them’. And so now I place two of her big shining bracelets on either side of the velvet jacket.”
For Swami, every detail about her is important; and for Sai Geetha, if there is anything significant, it is Swami.
Sai Geeta – Love, Fun, Joy, et al
And what is dear to Swami is dear to her too; and that is why even though she would always like to be left alone, one community for whom she has a soft corner is His students. She would allow the boys to touch her, be around her, speak to her and when in good mood, even play with them. Going down the memory lane and picking up one such exciting anecdote, Y Arvind, a former student, says:
“One evening I was in the Hill View Stadium when she came for her routine walk. I had finished a couple of games of volley ball and was sitting on the stone steps that run along the road leading uphill. Seeing her at a distance I climbed down and walked towards her. From afar I could hear her high pitched greeting. I felt a smile glow when I saw her patient eyes and sedate walk. She had all the time in the world. Even as she ambled up, her long trunk reached out sniffing at me. I gently patted her elephantine affection, grateful for the attention from someone so beloved of the Lord. Her trunk roamed over my hands and my pockets and with an indignant squeak she turned away. The boy who was accompanying her laughed and said, ‘You used to give her something to eat every time you met her, today you disappointed her.’
Then, the boys playing football kicked the ball towards her. Immediately she responded. Her huge ears flapped in excitement and she lumbered towards the ball and gave it a careful kick. It was so lovely to watch her raise her foreleg, swing it back and kick the ball. That was it! For the next twenty minutes, about thirty enthusiastic boys and one very jolly elephant played. Of course, no referee had the heart to tell her that using her trunk was against the rules but even so, the match was friendly and ended with a bell instead of a whistle. The hostel bell was ringing to call us in for Bhajans. It was with regret that she let us go and I saw many a head turn back and look at her as we returned to the hostel. She looked so massive, against the deepening sky of the summer evening; so huge, strong and powerful. I felt a vague stirring in me. Somehow a lump formed in my throat. She was missing her Swami, her Master. Her yearning was so intense. I sat down on one of the rocks that still dot the rear of the Easwaramma High School and watched her. She moved away and as though sensing that someone was watching turned back and threw one long look. I felt the lump dissolve and I was myself again. The grass seemed greener and the sky more vibrant with the colors of the setting sun. I smiled to myself as I carried the sight with me to the hostel.”
Perfect Love Exemplified
How many lives have been inspired by her exalted example! Even though she is a five-toed pachyderm, whenever people have looked at her, it is always with awe and reverence. Showering affection on an animal and getting love and loyalty in return is an occurrence which many can relate to. We know of dogs who have given their lives for their owners; of pets who give more unconditional love to their keepers than their best friends; of cats who act as stress-busters and provide instant happiness to their possessors.
But is there any pet in the world which has turned peoples’ attention Godward? What Sai Geetha has taught humanity without speaking a word is what saints and noble persons take years to learn and then decades to impart. Just by her presence and example, she has goaded thousands of students and devotees to practise ‘higher thinking’ and aspire for the Highest and nothing else. To demonstrate how noble her life is and how much esteem Swami places on her faith and devotion, Sri Sanjay Sahani, Principal of the Brindavan campus of the Institute, shares a revealing incident:
“It was one of those occasions when Sai Geetha had ‘sensed’ Swami’s arrival and was standing in full alertness beside the road much before we, the boys in the Hostel, heard the police siren and rushed towards the gate. If she is on the road, more often than not, Swami would invariably stop the car and that’s what happened this particular day too. Swami alighted from the car and went near her. We, who did not want to miss even a millisecond of the divine drama, rushed near Swami too. And suddenly there was a splash! This happens many times. Excited with happiness, Sai Geetha would start urinating. But that day, since it was on the tarmac it was splashing all over and so immediately many boys retreated and most of us were waiting and watching from a distance. But Swami was with her, standing right beside and His robe, evidently, was fully wet. After a minute or so, Swami looked at all of us and said something which sent shivers down our spine. “If you drink a cup of her urine, maybe you will get a fraction of her devotion,” He said solemnly. We knew at what level our devotion was and how sacred was this saintly soul, encased in an elephant body.
Years later, when I quoted this incident in a small talk in Trayee Brindavan in His presence and said exactly what Swami had said on that occasion, Swami, sitting in the jhula and intently listening to the story, immediately said, ‘Aaunuu, Aaunuu’ in Telugu, meaning, ‘Yes, it is true, it is true.’”
That was a certificate which would surpass any other achievement in this material world. It was a testimony to the purest love that this silent yet salient four-legged being had for the Lord. As Sri Chiranjeev Rao says, “What she has for Swami is – Perfect Love.”
It is for this reason that she is always in Swami’s mind. Even when lakhs had gathered in Prasanthi for the eightieth birthday celebrations and there were a million arrangements to be made for the devotees, Swami never forgot her; He was more concerned about her missing ankle belt. (A cup of cow’s milk is more valuable than barrels of donkey milk, as they say).
A Palace of a Home for His Loved One
Very recently, when Swami gifted the students of the Institute with a world class indoor stadium christened as the ‘Sri Sathya Sai International Centre for Sports’, at the same time, He built a ‘palace of a home’ for Sai Geetha with exquisite carvings done by the same sculptor who had fashioned the beautiful domes that adorn the Prasanthi Mandir. But this was the culmination of another beautiful drama which began a few weeks earlier.
When the land was being cleared to start work for the Indoor Stadium, unfortunately Sai Geetha’s shed could not be spared because of the vast area the new multi-game sporting complex mandated. And when it was brought to Swami’s notice, He seemed upset.
He was concerned and issued a strict instruction that in no case should Sai Geetha be moved unless she has another proper and peaceful accommodation built for her. At that time, nobody had a definite idea where exactly to build her new home.
When someone suggested to Swami that a shed can be built for her beyond the indoor stadium, Swami immediately rejected the proposal saying, “No, it is too far, she will get afraid. She should be near.”
And that is how plans were drawn to accommodate her before the new stadium inside the Planetarium complex itself. Swami liked this idea but still had many changes to it. He did not want a shed for her, He wanted a palatial home. Also, He wanted it to be located closer to the road so that it would be easy for her to have darshan whenever Swami was passing by. But building this new structure would take at least a few weeks; then where is she going to stay in the interim period? This was Swami’s anxiety. And so, a new temporary shed came up in just two or three days behind the planetarium complete with a bath tub, relaxing area, etc.
Swami almost visited this site daily and only when He was satisfied with the temporary shed was Sai Geetha moved. Even after that, He would visit many times to see if Sai Geetha was comfortable and ask Pedda Reddy if she was ok and all her needs taken care of. Then He would inspect the construction of her new ‘grand home’ and seem pleased.
Looking at the grandeur of the new enclosure, many people would ask, “Is this the place where Swami would sit and watch the boys play in the indoor stadium?” That is how captivating the new residence of the Lord’s dearest devotee is. And that is what pure love can do. If anything matters to Swami when it comes to His devotees, it is devotion and devotion alone.
The Celestial Song of Love….
When we asked Sri Pedda Reddy what is the most precious lesson he has learnt in his twenty-year association with Sai Geetha, without thinking a second he said, “Devotion to Swami”. “I have not seen anybody crave for Swami like she does. That is the greatest thing I have learnt from her,” he says and continues, “In fact, I often pray to her and offer my gratitude saying, ‘Geetha, it is only because of you I get a chance to go near Swami, that He speaks to me and I have this wonderful prospect to serve. I am fulfilled by this sacred opportunity.’”
It seems, Sri Pedda Reddy is no less an ideal, or maybe, years of relationship with Sai Geetha, has metamorphosed his life into a shining example of loving service and devotion. That is what happens when one comes in close contact with ‘illumined souls’. And all one needs to be illumined, as Swami often says, is not scriptures, spiritual practices or sermons, but just unsullied love. Perhaps, it is to prove this to the muddled mind of man that Sai made ‘Sai Geetha’…the celestial song of pure love.
Five thousand years ago, Swami in the form of Lord Krishna, sang the song of “Bhagavad Geeta” to impart man the wisdom to lead a life of perpetual harmony, and now we have the Lord demonstrate this precious knowledge through ‘Sai Geeta’. Her life is a tale, which because of its immaculate purity and soul-entrancing sublimity, compels and inspires millions to transform their lives into beacons of beatific light, serene love and never-ending happiness. Maybe it will not be an exaggeration to borrow the quote of Sir Einstein about Gandhiji and modify it to say, “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such an animal as this, ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth."
- Bishu Prusty
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Vol 5 Issue 01 - JANUARY 2007
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